Thursday, December 19, 2013

Homemade Kombucha

My first go and it looks great! In 5-10 days we'll see how it tastes :)

My friend Beth at church brought me some starter tea and a scobe (aka - baby). She sent me this website for a really easy way to make it! Kombucha is like bread...the basics are easy and then you can add variations the more familiar with the craft you get. It's fun!

I finished my batch this morning but ha loads of left over starter tea so I went ahead and bottled some mixing it with fruit and juice (both ideas friends suggested). I'm learning that the main batch of kombucha you don't want to flavour or mess with; let it grow by itself. But once it's done and you bottle it in smaller, ready to consume batches, that's when you can get creative :)

Here's the link I used from my friend Beth:

Explanation of the picture above - Top left: The bottles and juices for the left over starter tea I had; the red coloured juices and fruit I used were 100% Cranberry juice with pineapple, and 100% Organic Pomegranate Juice with strawberries (I cut up the fruit quite small).  I only filled about 1/3 of the bottle and then the rest with tea; far right: that's my kombucha batch! I'll let it grow for 5-10 days and then start getting the tea out to bottle with fruit and juice.

All my supplies
Here are some more pictures:
My "mother" and some scobies

Cooling my tea


Monday, October 21, 2013

October Memories; Remembering my Dad

One of our last pictures together. August 2011. I loved making him laugh :-) has been a while!  I'm glad to report that my lack of writing (outside of recipes) is not because of anything bad, simply because it was a great last few months of fun summer activities!  It is nice to have bright days again :)

 In this post I want to share about my Dad.  On October 21st, today, it is 2 years since he passed away.  I haven't really been able to talk about it, except to close friends.  I want to share what it was like the few weeks leading up to his death.  Don't worry...this post won't be morbid.  Any of you that know me know I'll have some comic relief!  It is quite long, so just a heads up.  There may be parts that aren't too clear...I don't have a lot of emotional energy to do my own editing, just enough to get it written down.  Sorry if it is confusing; at least I got it out on paper, hehe.


This time of year is always more difficult than the rest of the year.  Weather changing.  Less sunlight.  Some normal seasonal changes, but those seasonal changes always trigger memories of what my family went through during this time 2 years ago.  (Side note- I will only be sharing from my perspective.)

I am very grateful that the months my Dad was sick and near me, I did everything I could to be near him.  I remember thinking multiple times during those 4 months that if he did die (still was an "if" in my mind), I never wanted to regret not being near him as much as I was able.  So that was a priority to me. Most days, it was really uncomfortable.  What daughter wants to see her strong Dad not be strong?  But I never will regret being near him.

I think it was during this month that I felt the Lord teach me something new about His love.  On October 16th, it was Phil's birthday (still is...every year! He likes BIG presents ;)).  It was the first day when we actually thought Dad was going to die.  I went to Mom and Dad's condo and we called the family because he was really fading...we also canceled a party we had planned for Phil's birthday.  Some of you may remember that.  It was about 2pm, and I remember we all calmed down after calling the Hospice nurse and worrying that this was "the day," and then Dad started perking up a bit and asked, "So what time is Phil's party again?"

" almost just DIED!  HELLO!  We canceled his party because we didn't want it to get you too tired and be loud."

"No.  Call people back.  We are celebrating Philip!  We are celebrating Life.  Philip is alive, so that means we will celebrate!"

Dang.  I'm sure one thing Dad loved about dying was people hardly EVER argued with him! Ha.  Who wants to argue with a dying man...especially when he's coherent and making TONS of sense! (it's okay to laugh here!)

So...we called people.  However, we were purposeful in who we called back.  By this point Dad had lost a lot of weight and didn't look good.  For me, it was hard to see him, so I knew it would be harder for people that barely knew him.  Phil chose some specific people to call back and re-invite to his Birthday.  And we celebrated.  The friends we had come were such a blessing.  No one acted weird or uncomfortable.  Dad sat in his chair and watched us all.  And I know, without a doubt, he enjoyed seeing Phil be celebrated so much!

It was this day that I learned something new about love.  It can be very uncomfortable.  I remember thinking, "I don't really care if people are uncomfortable being around my Dad.  I love him so much I just want to be in the same room as him...even if he looks sickly!"  And I felt the Holy Spirit speak to my heart...."Hannah, this is how I am with my kids...I just want to be in their presence."

Wow.  I'll never forget that.  I think I even shared that at my Dad's funeral in Ireland.  God simply wants to be in our presence because He loves us.  My Dad literally sat and did nothing for the party...but I could care less.  I sat at his feet, or by his chair, because I just couldn't get enough of him.  It was so incredibly hard...but my love for him completely overtook my feels of discomfort and I didn't care.

I miss that.  I know, it's a strange thing to say.  I do.  I miss just being in my Dad's presence.

It was after Phil's birthday that Dad started to decline pretty steadily.  I still don't remember if I thought he was actually going to die.  Silly me?  Maybe.  But I had never experienced death before.  The process of death I mean.  Phil's birthday was on a Saturday, and on Wednesday, a hospice nurse (sent by God himself I am sure!) came to check on my Dad.  Just routine stuff.  It was something she said though that changed me forever.  She was talking to my Dad about how he felt...he wasn't eating anything really and us "living" people were freaking out because hey, people are supposed to eat!  So we were concerned.  She explained to us that when our bodies are preparing to die, it's actually not good to eat.  People lose their appetite on purpose.  The body knows how to die.  Food and drink actually could have the effect of suffocation or drowning.  I think this was what started the conversation about dying...which none of us still really accepted.

She said to Dad, "Why are you fighting so hard?"  I can't remember quite what he said, but I'm sure it was around the lines of, "I'm fighting to stay alive"...probably for us and he still felt he was called to do stuff here on earth.  What the hospice nurse said next changed our lives.  "I know you are waiting for a miracle from God.  He is big enough to do the miracle of healing you but you do not have to fight to stay alive."  (Some of you are probably saying, "WAIT A SECOND! Yes you have to fight to stay alive!"  Hold on a sec and maybe you'll change your mind like we did.)  She continued..."We are always told to fight to live, but no one ever shows us how to die.  It is okay to die.  It does not mean giving up.  You are not giving up on God, you are allowing Him to really come through with your miracle."

Wow.   Pause and re-read that.  No one ever teaches us how to die.  It's okay to die.

You know what, she was right on.  I think, especially in the Church, we think it a failure to die...especially if from a disease because we should believe for healing.  Let me tell you, this moment in time set my Dad free to die.  It was...beautiful.  He stopped a good way.  He allowed God to be God in a way that he was never shown before but inadvertently showed me how to do.  Death is hugely scary...even for Christians who know where they are going!  That day, my Dad taught me how to die.  I will never be the same.  And let me tell you this too, I think of healing and death in a whole new way now too.  I completely believe that God heals today, in the present.  But I also know that death is not to bad and nothing to be feared.  Sure, easier said than you see from my experience.  I don't get mad any more when God doesn't heal.  I think I learned more from my Dad in his dying than I did when he was praying for a miracle.  I know not many of us can say that, and I don't say it lightly.  I cannot wait to talk to my Dad one day (in heaven, face to face) and ask him what went on in those last days when he was halfway with us and halfway Home.

The next few days kind of blurred together...emotionally anyway.  I didn't leave my Dad's side for the most part.  It was that Wednesday night, when he let go and allowed God to show him how to die, that he asked to "gather the gang."  This meant, John-Michael and Candace and Haddie, Phil, and call Uncle Bill and Aunt Joy and Tori.  Earlier that week he had also asked for his friend Uncle Mike to come and see him too.  And my Dad's brother, Uncle Randy was able to be with us.

These next few days were especially tender to me...because, whether it's really how things were or not, it felt like it was just me and my Mom and Dad.  The hospice nurses flooded the condo in a very non-intrusive way to take some burden off of my Mom and me for administering meds and giving baths, etc.  Dad's body started to shut down, but no one really knew how fast that would happen.  On Thursday the nurse had said probably another week at earliest because Dad was so strong.  It was this Thursday that he still winked at Mom as she walked out the door with "that look" ;) and it was still this Thursday that he grabbed her butt to flirt with her.  What an incredible man.

Let me back up a bit.  Wednesday night we put him in his bed (he needed support to walk) and he wanted to talk to my brother alone.  I think this is when they said their good-byes.  Me and Dad never had a formal goodbye...sometimes I wish we had.  You know, to have a single moment that I can know we said goodbye (I like closure).  But the next few days I felt we became so close...I became his confidant.  We were so similar that I think this comforted him because he knew that I knew how much he loved me.  It was almost like we didn't need to say anything because in our relationship we were very intentional about always saying what we needed to.  I do remember that Tuesday night (I think) was when I sang for him for the last time.  This was really special for me.  My Dad always loved hearing me was almost like he heard something no one else ever heard, so I always loved singing for my Dad.

I sang my favourite Genny Owens song...quite fitting for what we were facing.  And I sang with all my heart...completely fearless.  (And I remembered all the words! Ha.  For those of you that know me, I am awful at remembering words of songs!  Not the best quality for a worship leader, lol.)  I sang as though he were the only one who needed me to sing.  That is quite empowering.  I remember this whenever I am afraid to lead worship...because I know God is the same, He delights in my singing.  Not because I'm fabulous, but because He knows where it is coming from.

I sang,

"The pathway is broken and the signs are unclear.  I don't know the reasons why you brought me here. But just because You love me the way that you do, I'm gonna walk through the valley if You want me to.

"Cause I'm not who I was, when I took my first steps.  I'm clinging to the promise that You're not through with me yet.  So if all of these trials bring me closer to You, then I will walk through the fire if you want me to.

"And it may not be the way I would have chosen, when You lead me through a world that's not my home.  But You never said it would be easy, You only said I'd never go alone."

"So when the whole world turns again me and I'm all by myself, and I can't hear You answer my cries for help, I'll remember the suffering Your love put you through...and I will go through that valley if you want me to."

That night was the first of many nights we all slept at Mom's condo.  I stayed up most of Wednesday night with Dad.

When our bodies are dying, they become very antsy.  Dad would be sitting, resting, and in a second be jumping on his feet needing to go somewhere!  It was a bit scary because he was hooked up to all his medicine and morphine drip so one of us would always run over for fear he'd accidentally rip something off!  I would walk him around the condo.  I remember on Thursday morning, it was just me and him, (hospice nurse was just quietly reading at the kitchen table) and we went for a walk around the condo and sat on the futon which was in their office...for a change of scenery.  We didn't say anything to each other.  Just sat there holding hands.  I'll never forget that.  We would walk outside for a few moments, then would have to come back in because it would get too cold.

Now thinking back, it was as though Dad were just waiting.

In those last days, he would often say, "I need to go home.  Take me home."  Maybe this was his conscience leaving his body already, but I really know that he meant Heaven.  He was getting ready.  Wednesday I think God met with him and let him know he was heading Home very soon.  So Dad waited.  I'm not sure what he was waiting for...probably just his body to catch up with his mind because he was ready to meet His Beloved.  (Again, can't wait till I can ask him all these questions).

Thursday was mostly a blur for me I think.  Uncle Mike flew in, and so did Uncle Randy.  I had some more tender moments with Dad...again, when it just felt like him and me.  I think this is what I most remember of those last weeks.  On Friday I went to pick up Uncle Mike from where he was staying and when I got back, Uncle Bill and Aunt Joy and Tori had already arrived.  This was the last time Dad made any physical responses; he was mostly unresponsive starting early Friday morning.  But when Uncle Bill leaned close and told him he was there, Dad squeezed his hand.  This blessed me so much.  Uncle Bill and Aunt Joy have been in my life...well, for my whole life.  Uncle Bill was Dad's best friend and to see the depth of their friendship, in this last moment, was incredible.

Uncle Mike helped us rearrange the condo so we could put Dad on the hospice bed in his own room.  John-Michael (my brother), Philip and me all carried my Dad from the living room into his bedroom.  This may sound weird and maybe even hard for some of you to read, but it was so natural.  Who better to carry Dad but his kids?  He was so light...the boys took one arm each and I took his feet.  I know there is something symbolic in it...John-Michael was under his right side, Phil on his left.  Again, even in his dying, he taught us so much.

For the rest of the day, we waited...for what, we weren't sure.  Since the hospice nurse told us he was so strong we didn't think he would be gone just a few more hours...but I really believe it was God's timing.  Everyone was there that needed to be, and the Lord in His great mercy allowed the waiting to be just as long as it needed to be.

Someone was always with Dad.  Mom didn't want him to be alone.  It was this day that it really hit me that my Dad was going to die.  I was exhausted.  I tried to sleep, but maybe just dosed.  It was hard to see my Dad unconscious.  I did make sure that Dad, Mom, John-Michael and me all had time together though.  There was some unspoken anxiety that I carried for years that I needed to talk about before Dad left.  We did that on Friday.

At 9:45pm, my Dad walked into Eternity.  I think he had probably left a few hours before, but his body was just catching up.  The state a person is in while dying is unlike anything else you've ever observed. There is a song I play now because I think it describes the state my Dad was in for these last hours.  It's a upbeat song...but I think Dad was excited to see Jesus.  Think of it, in the moment of my greatest pain, my Dad got to see Jesus with his very own eyes for the first time.  Talk about perspective change!  Wow.

When Dad had passed away, there was a tangible presence of God in the room.  It was...beautiful.  I sobbed on his right arm...I just wanted him to hug me one more hold my hand.  I couldn't let go of his hand.  And you know what I miss the most about his physical presence, to this day?  His hands and his hugs.  I know a part of me died that day when my Dad died.  I've never experience so much anguish in my whole life.  So much pain.  So much loneliness.  And the only person who I want to talk to most days when I feel that way is my Daddy.  It's hard to describe...but when you are so connected to someone, and they die, you know they are gone...but it doesn't feel like it.  Maybe that's what people mean when they say they are in our hearts?  Because it really does feel that way.

We sang after he died.  Sounds weird.  But Mom really felt we needed to sing and praise God.  That is something that God spoke to both her and my Dad through all this...healing comes in worship.  Healing didn't happen how I was wanting it to...but we worshiped and sang anyway.  It was powerful.  I have no idea how we did it.  None.  But we did.  With my Uncle Randy there with us.

After our singing...the hospice nurse suggested to call the undertaker to take his body.  This made me panic a bit.  If his body was taken, that meant I had to say goodbye...permanently.  I think this was when the little girl inside me started to scream and cry.  I just wanted my Daddy.  Thankfully we were able to wait for a few hours before anyone had to come get his body.  I needed closure.  I needed to say goodbye to his body.  Even though Dad was no longer there, it brought a great deal of comfort having his body there still.

I watched the undertakers take his wrapped up body up the stairs and put into the van.  They were so respectful.  I appreciate that even now.  That night before I went to bed, I cried because I had forgotten to have my Dad write in my Bible.  I had meant to ask him for months, actually over a year, but kept forgetting every time I saw him.  I cried myself to sleep because I realized he would never write in it.  It was the little things that struck me...the small things that confirmed he was I would never have new pictures with my Dad...never see new handwritten notes.  Those little things were hard to process.  For month actually I had a really hard time going up the stairs at my Mom's condo because all I could see what my Dad's covered body being taken up those stairs.  It was always hard to walk into the condo, go into his room, see his chair.  The memories would often times overcome me.


I know this all may sound so heart wrenching and miserable...but it actually gives me some strange solace in telling all these details.  It reminds me that it really happened.  I am very grateful and blessed that I had my Counselor walk through this all with me.  I don't think I would have gone through it without her patience and listening.

I feel blessed.

I know who I am.  Dad taught me.  I know my Dad loved me SO flipping much!  I know that he loved being around me.  I know he loved hearing me sing.  I know he loved hearing all the cool things God would show me.  I know I am so similar to my Dad it's scary, hehehe.  I know that I will never have anyone like him in my life again.  I know that I am blessed.  I know it is good to grieve...outloud.  I know it is good to grieve by yourself at times, and with others at times.

Something God told me after Dad died...and promised me was this, "It's a New Day To Live In Hope."  That is where my blog was birthed from...a way for me to live in a new day of hope; by giving myself a voice again.
Although it sure didn't feel hopeful for most days, I held tight to this...It's a new day to live in hope.  I pray you get to experience your new day of hope.  You may have to chose it in the midst of pain.  It's always a choice.


P.S. I would love to hear how my Dad impacted your life, so if you would like to share, please comment and share your thoughts.  If it's a specific story you have, or just a thought...I would love to hear it.  I love talking about my Dad and hearing how he touched others :)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Easy Homemade Bread!

I did it! I made my very own bread!!!! If only I had tried this sooner because it was surprisingly easy. I'm really enjoying making things from scratch because then I actually know what is in it!  I'm glad my first try was today, because I've been celebrating my Dad in the kitchen today because tomorrow is the 2 year anniversary for when he died.  He would be very proud that I just made my first loaf of bread :)

I got this very easy recipe from my friend Lori who's been telling me for a couple years how easy bread making really is...but I secretly thought she was lying because if she wanted to, she could be a professional chef! Ha! But this recipe is SUPER easy...I'll do it from memory (just popped my loaves in the oven so it hasn't been long).

Comment below and let me know how your bread turns out because you HAVE TO TRY IT! :). 

I love organic ingredients but I haven't had it in our budget yet so I'm hoping to get some organic flour next month. Just in time for Thanksgiving!!!!!!

8 cups of flour (I used 4 of whole wheat and 4 of white whole wheat. You can use any kind you want, my only tip is to stay away from bleached and enriched.)
1/4 cup sugar
1 package of yeast (I used Red Star. I have been told you can get yeast in bulk and simply stick it in your freezer for like a year!)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 oil (olive or vegetable...or butter as I just learned tonight!)
2 2/3 cups of warm water; very warm water.

In this batch of bread, because I used whole wheat flour, I had to add some extra water to get the right consistency. So you'll have to play with it if you use something other than white flour. My next batch will be white.

Oven: 350•

1. Put water, yeast, sugar and salt into a large mixing bowl. Mix together. Then add flour and oil.
Step 1

2. Mix dough with a spoon (or dough hook if you have a kitchen aid mixer) until it is clumping together and coming away from the sides of the bowl.
Step 2

3. Put ball of dough onto an oiled counter top and knead it well.
Step 3

4. Place into an oiled bowl, put a towl over it and let rise. (My friend Lori warms her oven, then turns it off and places covered bowl in to have it rise faster...only 30 mins!)
Step 4

My risen bread

5. After it has risen, put dough onto oiled countertop and knead again.

6. Cut into half and place either in two loaf dishes or on a cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes!
Step 6

7. Put loaves onto a cooling rack and you are done!

My Signature Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Tomorrow is the 2 year Anniversary for when my Dad died (Oct 21). I wanted to do something that reminded me of him and that would also be something celebratory. A few weeks ago the thought of making his favourite cookies came to mind...thus, I made my killer Oatmeal Raisin Cookies!

Growing up he would always LOVED when I made these cookies so I thought it would be fun to share the recipe :)


3/4 stick of butter (Kerry Gold is in my opinion the only butter anyone should use, lol! We get ours at Trader Joe's)
1 1/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla (I'm making my own extract an will post on that soon!)
3 cups quick oats, uncooked
1 cup all-purpose flour (try to stay away from bleached and enriched)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup raisins
Optional: 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Heat oven at 375°F. 

Grease baking sheet.

Place sheets of foil on countertop for cooling cookies. 

Combine butter, brown sugar, egg, milk and vanilla in large bowl. 

In another bowl, Combine oats, flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Mix into creamed mixture at low speed just until blended. Stir in raisins (and nuts). 

Drop rounded tablespoon fulls of dough 2" apart onto baking sheet. 

Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool two minutes on baking sheet  and then remove cookies to foil to cool completely.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Fruit Crisp

I had loads of apples given to us by our neighbour's friend's apple tree. I didn't want them to go to waste therefore I had to bake something!!! ;-)

Tonight I made a really yummy fruit crisp! This is another really easy easy I made it at night :) I even have some pictures!

I got this recipe from the best cool book ever...every house should have one, "Better Homes & Gardens Cook Book"
Let's get started:

Oven- 375•

The guts/fruit:
5 cups sliced, peeled cooking apples, (or pears, peaches, apricots, frozen unsweetened peach slices, cherries, rhubarb or berries) 2 to 4 tablespoons of granulated sugar. Note: The picture shows my chunky apples (done with an apple slicer). But I sliced them smaller after using the slicer.

The glory, aka- Topping:
1/2 cup regular rolled oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, ginger, or cinnamon (I have an apple pie blend I use) 
1/4 cup butter or margarine Optional: 1/4 cup chopped nuts or coconut. 

The nitty gritty:
1. For fruit filling the fruit it frozen. Do not drain. Place fruit and a 2 quart square baking dish. (Or as I did, you can use a pie dish or 11 x 7 dish).

2. For topping, in a separate bowl, combine oats, brown sugar, flour and nutmeg combination; cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs and then stir in nuts. Sprinkle topping over the fruit that's in your baking dish.

3. Bake in a 375° oven for 30 to 35 minutes (40 minutes for thawed fruit) until fruit is tender and topping is golden. 

Serve warm with ice cream! Done and done!

This recipe makes enough for one dish, but I had so many apples I simply doubled it and made two! No complaints here :-)

All baked and ready to eat!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Coconut Bars/Yummy Bars/Magic Bars/Hello Dolly Bars

These bars have lots of names to choose from! This is my first try at making them but so far they are SUPER easy so I wanted to share :-)
1/2 cup butter
1-1/2 cups of graham cracker crumbs (Marie biscuits in Ireland)
1 can (14 oz) sweet and condensed milk
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1-1/2 cups flaked coconut
1 cup chopped nuts (optional...I didn't use them)

Preheat oven to 350• (325• for glass dish)

1. In a 13x9 inch baking pan melt the butter in the oven. Take out and sprinkle cookie crumbs evenly over the butter; Pour sweet an condensed milk evenly over crumbs (or...if you're my Mom, she would drink half and use the other half ;)).

1. Graham crackers and sweet & condensed milk

2.  Top with remaining ingredients (chocolate chips, coconuts and nuts).

2. Other ingredients

3. Press down firmly.

Bake 25-30 minutes or until lightly brown.

Cool and cut into bars. Store loosely covered at room temperature.

They taste yummy and are great for parties!!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Cleaning tips!

By Margaret Briggs & Vivian Head
I just got a book yesterday that is blowing my face off!!!!!  Phil (my husband), bought me a book when he went to Barnes & Noble.  What makes him even sweeter is he bought it with part of his special gift card!  Brownie points for him!  :)  The book is called Green Cleaning; Natural Hints and Tips For the Eco-Friendly Household.  It's on sale right now so you should buy it! :)

Now, the environment isn't really one of my passions.  I mean, I care about the environment...but I care more about Phil's and my future babies not swallowing poisonous chemicals or being around poisonous chemicals, and I like the idea of Phil and me not being around toxic chemicals too.  (It's okay if you think I'm a hippie, I come by that quite honestly (thank you Dad!)).  I just love natural remedies and solutions because they don't harm anyone.

If I could, I would probably re-name this book from something other than Eco-friendly to Human-friendly!  That's all this book is...great ideas, using non-toxic ingredients, to clean your house beautifully and efficiently!  Plus garden tips...laundry tips...and the list goes on.  Seriously, it's fabulous!  I already cleaned my hot water kettle this morning after reading the first HALF of this book yesterday.

Another great thing about this book is it only has about FOUR, yes, 4, chapters!  In these chapters it highlights 5 simple ingredients that can be used to clean practically EVERYTHING!  (Can you tell I'm a fan?)  Vinegar.  Lemon juice.  Baking Soda.  Tea-tree oil.  Borax.  Salt.  Done and done!

Every time I make a new solution or try it out, I will post it on here for you to read and try yourself.    I'll keep back to update them.  This book is definitely the thing I needed to have in order to get me on track for making my own cleaning products because it always sounded like too much to me before.  I hope you enjoy all these tips as much as I am!  Leave comments with feedback if you try any non-toxic homemade cleaners, or if there are any other fun books similar to this that you would like to recommend.


Ps-  If you're interested in homemade deodorant (using baking soda) that really does work, check out that post here...and the update on how it keeps working, here.

Cleaning tips I've tried and continue to use:
1.  Cleaning your kettle:  Put 2/3 cups of white distilled vinegar (you can get a gallon at a supermarket for like $5; it'll last a good while!) in with the water and boil like normal.  My kettle was really bad with hard water deposits caked on, so I boiled it a few times, rinsed it out, and put in another round of vinegar and water.  It looks like brand new now!

2.  Cleaning work surfaces:  Wipe all kitchen surfaces with full-strength white distilled vinegar to clean them and reduce bacteria (pg34).  Just did this and it works very nicely!  I also just read about lemons being a natural I'm planning on getting some lemons and getting some stains out on our white counter tops!

3.  Multi-purpose cleaner:  2 1/2 cups of warm water, 1/2 white vinegar, 2 tablespoons of baking soda. 1 spray bottle.  I would recommend measuring out the baking soda and vinegar and combining those first.  Let it fizz and bubble away, then add the warm water.  Stir, and then transfer into the spray bottle and wa-la!  There you have an all-purpose cleaner.  I use mine for my kitchen and bathroom mostly.  Be VERY CAREFUL if you spray stainless steal...just make sure to wipe it all off so it doesn't erode.  It's a grate cleaner for stainless, but you just want to make sure you buff it off too.  Sometimes I add an essential oil such as Tea Tree or Thieves for some extra kick, and nice spell!

2 Peter

The part in this weeks reading that really stuck out to me was in Chapter 3.  Verse 9 says, "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient..."

I know it might be taking it a bit out of context because Peter is talking about the day the Lord returns and His promise to come back, but this part of this verse is really encouraging to me and reminds me that the things God has promised me, happen in His perfect timing.  It may seem slow in the natural, like He's just taking His sweet time, but in the supernatural it is happening right when God chooses as the perfect moment.  He is patient and doesn't get distracted or rushed.  I just love that.  He is patient.

It's a short and sweet Thought this week, but be encouraged that God's timing is perfect, and He is simply being patient to bring things to pass in your life.

Saturday, May 18, 2013


Forgiveness is probably one of the most challenging, if not the most challenging things to do in life.  Forgiveness needs to come from our heads and our hearts.  Sometimes we can forgive in our head, but not in our heart.  I think when we forgive in our hearts, that is when freedom comes into our lives.

That is what my journey has been these last few months.  Back in February the Lord showed me I had a lot of unforgiveness in my heart towards people and how they treated or didn't treat me after my Dad died.  Before February, I had no idea that I even struggled with unforgiveness.  I would call myself a very self-aware person.  When things come up, I think I do a pretty good job in addressing them in a timely matter and figuring out what the issue is and how it can be remedied.  So when God brought this unforgiveness to my attention, I was honestly quite shocked!  I don't think I had ever really had to deal with this before.  Where do I start?  How does one forgive?  Do I actually have to forgive if I was the one wronged?

From that moment, God started me on a journey of forgiveness.  It has been one of the hardest things I've ever walked through because forgiveness means you lay down and surrender the fact that you are completely justified in being angry and hurt.  It means that you actually have to trust God to have vengeance...not you.  It means you have to let go of the hurt that has been caused to you that you now wear as a cloak around you for security.  It means you trade that cloak in for one you don't see yet, but one that Christ has offered you.

Anyone who says these things are easy is a liar.  Laying these things down is completely opposite to our human nature.  And if anyone has a justice heart like myself, laying these things down seem to go again almost everything you thought was just and fair!  Fight for the weak and victimized...even if that's you!  The person harming you should be punished and brought to justice!  Laying these things down is probably the hardest thing our heart has to do in our whole life, especially in cases that you were the one severely wronged.

That is the place I have once again found myself in.  God knew that the journey He started me on  back in February would be a warm-up for what I face now.

One night this week, God tenderly ask me, once again, to forgive...this time, in a situation which feels like there's more hurt, pain and anger.  Full of justification for those feelings.  I told the Lord this person did not deserve forgiveness because they probably didn't even know how wrong and awful they had been.  They need to know!  They need to pay for that and answer for what they did!  I mean this person broke my heart!  They need to be punished before I can forgive and let this go.  I need justice.  I am worth more than how they treated me!  It's not fair that I forgive when they think that they are in the right, where's the justice in that, God?!  I am so angry.  They don't deserve forgiveness! 

In the Lord's mercy and grace, He sweetly spoke to my heart and said, "These things are true, Hannah.  You are right.  They have been awful to you and they don't even know the extent of it all.  You do deserve to be treated better.  And they don't deserve forgiveness.  You are correct.

"However, my Hannah-girl, you did not deserve to have my Son die for your sins...but He did it anyway.  This, my girl, is why you need to forgive.  Because of what my Son did for you, not because of whether or not someone deserves your forgiveness.  You need not hold that anymore.  Allow me to protect you, watch over you and comfort you.  Let this go and forgive.  I desire freedom for you and that is found in forgiveness.  Allow Me to hold your heart and protect it.  I will do a far better job at that than you ever can, my girl.  Choose to forgive.  I want you to walk in freedom, but you must choose to forgive."

"Oh Father," I cried, "You love me more than I will ever know."

So...after struggling a lot with my anger, hurt and pain, I chose to forgive with my heart and not just my head.  The thing is, nothing has changed; my circumstances are the exact same today as they were yesterday--but I know that I am experiencing more of God's love today than I did yesterday.  Not because He has changed, but because I am now allowing His love to flow in the back corner of my heart where I so tightly held the hurt and pain.

Forgiveness takes trust.  Trust that God is all He says He is.  I want to trust Him with all my heart...and sometimes, often times actually, that means I must let go of what I think is just and fair and instead hold on to His promises and will for my life.  I want to love God more than I hate what has been done to me.

I don't write all this to have you think I'm awesome and a super-Christian.  I actually write this to maybe encourage you that you're not the only one holding on to things that are justifiable; you are not the only one who needs to let things go and forgive with your heart and not just your head.

Maybe forgiving with you heart is what Jesus meant when He told us to forgive 70 x 7 times (Matthew 18:22).  Not specifically that the same person or situation harms you 70 x 7 times and for each time we must forgive (which I'm sure He meant as well), but that everytime the memory of that harm comes back, we need to choose to forgive each time.

I think forgiveness from the heart is the most difficult thing we will ever do as a Believer.  Because it means letting of the justice we see to be most fitting and instead allow and trust that God's justice is actually the most fitting.  He's better at being Judge than you or me.

I'm still on this journey of forgiveness.  It's hard.  I have to daily say, "I forgive..." out loud.  I do know that one day this situation will become a little further away and that Christ's love will flow a little more freely in that corner of my heart.  I think He just wants us to just start somewhere.  His grace will be very evident once we take a step.  This won't be the last time you or I will be wronged, but maybe next time it won't take us as long to choose to forgive.


Thank you God for forgiving my sin and calling me your own.  I am seeing more and more, that I did not deserve that act of kindness from You, but still You did it for me.  Thank you.  Thank you that I am Yours.  Thank you that you love me with an everlasting love.  Thank you that I am a blessing to you.  I love you Papa.  Amen.

You are loved.

This song I wanted to share with you is written by JJ Heller.  She is one of my favourite singer-songwriters.  She has a gift of capturing thoughts, moments, ideas and perspectives in her songs.  This song really spoke to me and reminded me that I am loved.

I think we all need to spend more time thinking and remembering the fact that we are loved...because too often we walk around as though we are not.  I think it's easy to forget that the Creator of the Universe is madly in love with us...even while we were/are yet sinners.

Head up, shoulders back.

Remember.  You. Are. Loved.

Loved by JJ Heller.


Words and Music by Dave and JJ Heller
Do you dream of a home you never had
An innocence that you cannot get back
The pain is real
You can’t erase it
Sooner or later you have to face it down
You have to face it down

You are loved

Do you keep your thoughts inside your head
Will you regret the things you never said You have a voice
You have to use it
You have a choice
Don’t let them shut you down
Don’t let them shut you down

You are loved

Do you feel the ache inside your soul
You know you’ll never make it on your own
Sorrow is too great for you to hold it 
You're gonna break
Why don't you lay it down

Freedom comes in letting go
Open up the window to your heart
Freedom comes in letting go
Open up your heart

You are loved 

1 Peter

Foundations are so important. God has been speaking to me a lot lately about what are the foundations in my own life. It is often said that you build something from the bottom up, not from the top down. This is why a foundation is so important because everything else is put on top of it and it has to be solid and strong.

Foundations aren't glamorous or cool. When you think of a huge house with large rooms, cool windows, big screen TVs etc you wouldn't walk up to that house and say "Whoa! Check out that sweet foundation!!" We would more likely say "Check out that huge swimming pool" or "Did you see that sweet TV?" A foundation is that unseen thing that make those other things possible.

In 1 Peter he talks about Jesus being the cornerstone of our faith:

4You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor.

Traditionally a cornerstone was the first stone placed in a building and all other stones where placed in reference to this cornerstone. Jesus is the cornerstone of our faith and everything that we bring into our lives and everything we do must be done in the context of him being our cornerstone. Sometimes we get distracted by the stuff that we do, good or bad and we forget the thing that's holding it all together. Don't neglect the cornerstone that is in your life. Don't let it become old or cracked but continually return to it so that it goes from strength to strength so that you too can go from strength to strength.

Written by Philip Day

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

2 Kings 18-21

If you haven't had a chance to read the last Thought, jump back and read that real quick...this Thought will be a continuation from that one.

I love reading about King Hezekiah.  We are told that Hezekiah did what was right in the eyes of Yahweh, just as his father David had done.  Get this, he even removed ALL the high places and sacred stones and poles that the people had been worshiping.  He broke pagan sacred things into pieces!  We are also told that Hezekiah trusted in Yahweh and that he held onto Yahweh in all times, keeping His commands that were given to the Israelites so many years ago.

I don't know about you, but this is a GREAT breath of fresh air after reading about all the kings that were being so wicked.  And it gives us great encouragement and instruction that all the sin in our lives needs to be removed...not just the bad stuff.  That's not saying we are to be perfect, because that's impossible.  It tells us though, that we need to be actively surrendering what holds us in bondage.

This chapter really encourages me that in the midst of darkness, God can bring light.  Hezekiah had loads of wicked kings that preceded him and followed after him.  He could have easily followed the may examples of being disobedient and worshiping idols and not tearing down all the idols...but he didn't.  And he is the one that stands out so much in this book.

What made Hezekiah different from all the other kings, even some that did right in Yahweh's eyes was this---he tore down everything that didn't reflect God and he trusted Him in all circumstances.  In later chapters of this week's readings we read about how he fervently sought Yahweh for deliverance from the king of Egypt and for healing of his own body.  Hezekiah's life is as different from his predecessors as night and day.  This is the kind of leader and Believer that I want to be.  Tearing down the high places and everything that doesn't reflect God in my life, and trusting God no matter the circumstances.

Be encouraged that God is faithful and answers us when we call Him, just as he did to King Hezekiah.  He will help you tear down and crush all the idols in your life, if you would only ask for His help.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Update on "Making Deodorant" post

Here is my update on how my homemade deodorant is working out:

It's been over a month, and I am STILL smelling fresh!  I am really impressed because usually my deodorants all work the first while I use it, but then stop.  Not this stuff though!  Coconut oil is seriously a secret weapon for making all sorts of things!  (I just found another recipe I want to try for non-toxic bug spray.  Stay tuned for all the details) :-)

Two thumbs up for this Deodorant recipe!  A HUGE thanks to!

My only heads-up for you, if you are going to try this, would be sure to have a short jar to store it in (like Katie suggests)!  I didn't have one, so I used an old honey jar.  Since it hardens, I have to scrape it out each day to apply with my finger tips.  In a short jar, you could probably just use your finger tips to loosen it up in order to apply.  I'm not sure how it would work in a reused deodorant container since it hardens, but if you try it, leave comments and let me know!

Also, since it needs to be applied with finger tips, sometimes you'll just need to give yourself a little more time to apply.  The nice thing is that you don't have to let it dry!


August 2013 (that's right, I didn't need to make more for 5 MONTHS!)
For my second round of deodorant-making, I used what Katie Riddle suggested, an old, cleaned out deodorant container.  The kind that I think works best is from a hard deodorant stick because it has the twisty wheel at the bottom to push up the deodorant stick. Here is what is looks like-

Home made deodorant in an old deodorant container

It was quite messy when I was putting the deodorant mixture into this container.  Once it was in, or at least most of it, I put the container in the fridge because we don't run our air conditioning constantly at our house.  The fridge helps it apply a little easier.  Whenever you need to raise the level on the top, just leave it out of the fridge over night and push it up in the morning, then apply, and put back in the fridge.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Happy Birthday Mom!

My Mom just left my house today (March 4th) and before she left, she anointed me with oil.  This is the thought that came to mind---My own Mom sees me as a daughter of the Most High and treats me as such.  What humility it takes to own the fact that you're own kid is not actually yours, but God's first.  She does not take credit for my intimate relationship with Christ...which she has absolutely had an influence over.

Having a parent look at me and treat me as a Child of God, and not just their own child, is something that blesses me the older I get.  Maybe it's because I am feeling less like a kid, or maybe it's because I am feeling more like a kid with age.  Whatever the case may be, that is something I am realizing is rare...when Mom and Dad see you as God's kid and not just their own kid.

I have learned so much from my Mom through my life.  It was from my Mom I learned about how the Bible can be used to be relevant in our everyday lives.  One memory that always comes to mind is when I was in high school in California.  It was the furlough that we stayed for 2 years so that I could finish my last two years and so that my Mom could finish her Masters Degree.  In this time I was having a hard time with some of the students on my bus; they were so different from my friends in Ireland who respected me and my life (being a Christian).  I told my Mom about it all, and the next day she came back with a little piece of paper with scriptures on it...and a note reminding me that being naive towards evil and behaving in a wise manner towards those outside the Christian circle was what we as Believers were called to do.  This lesson I still hold on to and live by even all these years later.

I still have that little piece of paper.  It reminds me that my Mom is one of my biggest fans.  That's the kind of Mom I want to be.  For my kids to always know that I am cheering them on; in good times and hard times.  And as most of you know, we've had both.

Today is my Mom's birthday and I wanted to take this time to honour her.  Something that I have often thought about since my Dad died is how grateful I am that I didn't lose both of my parents that day.  Since Dad died, I have reminded myself to be intentional about being grateful for my Mom as well.  I don't want to lose sight of the fact that I still have her even through the loss experienced of losing my Dad was and is so great.

As I have grown older, my Mom has become one of my best friends.  We went through a few years when I was younger when my Mom was the LAST person I ever wanted to see or talk too.  It all changed, literally in a moment.  And ever since that moment, my heart towards my Mom has been different.  God did a work in my life and I chose to embrace His softening of my heart and allow my Mom to be a part of my life.  It hasn't been easy.  I was the one that changed and took steps towards building our relationship.  Mom was gracious enough to wait for me.  We have had to really fight for our relationship.  After everything we have experienced in these last almost 2 years, I know God was forging our relationship to be able to withstand the pain we've gone through recently. 

I am blessed to have a Mom that wants the best for me...and that she is willing to let me go and grown and have adventures of my own when I'm sure there were times she didn't want to.  She has taught me how to be a beautiful woman.  Not just on the outside, which let's all admit, she's GORGEOUS! :-)  But she has taught me how to embrace Christ's love as a woman of God and to not be ashamed to walk in that beauty.  I am honoured to have a Mom like Ann Dimond.  I know I am blessed and never want to take that for granted.

My prayer is that I love and treat my daughter how my Mom has loved and treated me.

Lastly, I'll leave you with some stunning pictures of some special memories of my Mom and me.

A few of my favourite pics of mostly Mom and me :-)

Dear Mom,

Thanks for being my best friend.  Thank you for being my Mom too.  I know we have been through a lot that has helped mold our relationship and I am just so overwhelmed at times of how you have embraced all that through the years.  Thank you for showing me what a beautiful Daughter of the Most High looks and acts like.  Thank you for being honourable.  Thank you for showing me what an incredible wife looks like and mother.  I know you think you didn't get it "right" all the time...but I had and have the privilege of seeing you as you walk that journey.  Thanks for showing me what a strong and humble woman looks like.  That is very rare to see strength and humility, so thank you for that.  I love you.  I'm excited for the years to come that we get to share together :)

Monday, April 22, 2013

2 Kings 15-17

What catches me is this week's reading is an accumulation of what we have been reading the last several weeks--Israel's sin again God.

Time and time again, Israel didn't turn away from ALL their sin.  Whether it was worshiping at high places, participating in rituals of other nations that God had driven out before them, or secretly doing things against God, they kept on sinning.  They continued to do just as they did before God saved them and continued to do things that God continued to tell them to stop doing.  I see over and over again in these chapters how the people didn't fully turn back to God.  The people may have thought "but I've stopped doing the really bad things against God, I'm sure these small things aren't a big deal."  We see that God wanted all of them, not just parts of them; He wanted their hearts along with their actions.  Because they did not give Him all of themselves, or turn from their wickedness, the scripture tells us God was very angry with them and removed them from his presence (17:18)...they were then taken into exile.  Even when they were in exile, they tried to do what God had commanded, but still, they worshiped other Gods as well.

That's the same today.  God wants all of us...not just some of us.  He wants us to tear down all our high places, not just some of them, or the "really" bad ones.  And this could look different for all of us.  Our high places all look different from one another, but God still wants all of them destroyed in our lives so He can have all of us, not just parts.  We see that when God gave them His commandments, it was to keep the people safe, not just to be a stickler for the rules.

Ask the Lord what high places you may be preserving in your life.  Ask Him to help you tear them down.  He wants all of you, and loves ALL of you enough to give you the strength, encouragement and the gusto to tear them all down.  He wants all of you.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

2 Kings 11-14

Chapter 13

I have another short Thought for this week. What struck me in this section of our reading was the Mercy of God. The author tells us that Jehoahaz did evil in the eyes of Yahweh... "So Yahweh's anger burned against Israerl, and for a long time he kept them under the power of Hazael king of Aram and Ben-Hadad his son. Then Jehoahaz sought Yahweh's favour and Yahweh listened to him, for he saw how severely the king of Aram was oppressing Isreal" (vs 3-4). The author goes on to tell us how God provided a deliverer for Israel and freed them from Aram's oppression. They were able to live in their own cities.

Even though Jehoahaz did evil in God's eyes, God had mercy and delivered him and his people when he sought the Lord. How encouraging is it to know, that God's love for us is so deep that He will come to our rescue when we call...even if we've been doing evil in His sight. Now that is not to say we can do whatever we want and then just apologize or ask for God to help us later. No, it means that whenever we truly seek Him...we find Him. I love that He is the God we serve!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

2 Kings 8-10

I want to discuss obedience again as the opening section of chapter 8 highlights a great example. We read of the Woman in chapter 8 previously in chapter 4 where Elisha had healed her son. Elisha gives her a word from the Lord telling her to leave:

1Now Elisha had said to the woman whose son he had restored to life, “Go away with your family and stay for a while wherever you can, because the Lord has decreed a famine in the land that will last seven years.” 2The woman proceeded to do as the man of God said. She and her family went away and stayed in the land of the Philistines seven years.

So the Woman spent 7 years in a foreign land and returned. The Lord was faithful to her as all her property was returned to her that she had abandoned 7 years earlier:

6The king asked the woman about it, and she told him.
Then he assigned an official to her case and said to him, “Give back everything that belonged to her, including all the income from her land from the day she left the country until now.”

This woman chose to obey the voice of the Lord and left to a foreign place. Famine was widespread in her homeland and she left for an unknown land. Her story has some similarities to a lot of our own stories. We may not have left our home because of famine but most of us left for somewhere foreign because our family obeyed the voice of the Lord. What's great about this story is what the Lord restored to the woman. Not only did she receive the land she left behind but also all the money/income she would have made from her crops.

Obedience is so important in our relationship with God. Often our obedience means we sacrifice something. The woman sacrificed her home and her livelihood. We often have sacrificed friendships or material things when we've followed the voice of the Lord. More importantly was that we chose to listen and act on what the Lord spoke to us. By putting God first the woman sacrificed but the Lord restored what was lost more abundantly. If you're concerned about things you've missed out on don't dwell on whats gone before but focus on the opportunities that are ahead in the knowledge that the Lord is with you. 

Written by Philip Day

Monday, April 8, 2013

Farther Along...

I was introduced to this Artist a few months ago by my Mom.  His name is Josh Garrels.  My Mom shared this song with me regarding everything we've gone through in losing my Dad.  Somehow this song crossed my path again this week and I am so blessed every time I listen to it.  I hope it touches you and reminds you that presently, we only see through the glass day, all will be clear.  I'm looking forward to that day.  But for now, I know that God is faithful and always in control.

I like this version the best because it has lyrics and gorgeous pictures from nature;  
I always feel closer to God and my Dad when I'm outside.


Farther Along

Farther along we’ll know all about it
Farther along we’ll understand why
Cheer up my brothers, live in the sunshine
We’ll understand this, all by and by

Tempted and tried, I wondered why
The good man died, the bad man thrives
And Jesus cries because he loves em’ both
We’re all cast-aways in need of ropes
Hangin’ on by the last threads of our hope
In a house of mirrors full of smoke
Confusing illusions I’ve seen

Where did I go wrong, I sang along
To every chorus of the song
That the devil wrote like a piper at the gates
Leading mice and men down to their fates
But some will courageously escape
The seductive voice with a heart of faith
While walkin’ that line back home

So much more to life than we’ve been told
It’s full of beauty that will unfold
And shine like you struck gold my wayward son
That deadweight burden weighs a ton
Go down into the river and let it run
And wash away all the things you’ve done
Forgiveness alright


Still I get hard pressed on every side
Between the rock and a compromise
Like the truth and pack of lies fightin’ for my soul
And I’ve got no place left go
Cause I got changed by what I’ve been shown
More glory than the world has known
Keeps me ramblin’ on

Skipping like a calf loosed from its stall
I’m free to love once and for all
And even when I fall I’ll get back up
For the joy that overflows my cup
Heaven filled me with more than enough
Broke down my levee and my bluff
Let the flood wash me

And one day when the sky rolls back on us
Some rejoice and the others fuss
Cause every knee must bow and tongue confess
That the son of god is forever blessed
His is the kingdom, we’re the guests
So put your voice up to the test
Sing Lord, come soon



from Love & War & The Sea In Between, released 15 June 2011
Vocals, Guitar, Organ, Piano, Dobro, Electric Guitar, and Drum Sequencing by Josh Garrels
BGV by Annalisa Nutt
Accordion and Bass by Jay Kirkpatrick
Electric Guitar 2 by Scott Frantz