Friday Favorites: February Edition

In spite of my best intentions and no end of ideas for blogging, I somehow have not managed to blog all month! Can I blame it on the fact that I was babysitting full time until this past week, and then had a sick kiddo to care for? We will go with that… Anyway, I am happy to say that Little Miss and Little J are both taking a nap right now, the laundry is going, and the dishes are clean; so I truly have some time to do a bit of writing! I was thinking last night it would be fun to go with the Friday Favorites theme, and one of my favorite things to do, as I have shared in the past, is listening to podcasts!

The last time I listed podcasts I was enjoying, they were all knitting related. Right now, though, I pretty much only listen to podcasts that have to do with homeschooling, mothering, and self-education. So, without further ado, here are my current top ten (coincidentally, and in no particular order) favorite podcasts….

1. Read Aloud Revival with Sarah MacKenzie: if you love reading aloud to your children, or if you wish you did and need some inspiration, this is the podcast for you! Sarah’s bubbly personality is totally infectious, and she always has interesting guests on discussing some aspect of forming a “family culture around books.”

2. The Homeschool Snapshots Podcast with Pam Barnhill: This is just one of Pam’s great podcasts. She interviews homeschool moms and gives a “snapshot” of their style of home education, talking about everything from daily routines, special needs kids, and families both small and large. It is just an all around encouraging podcast for us homeschooling mommas!


3. Your Morning Basket is Pam’s second podcast, and it is another very encouraging, inspirational listen. In these episodes, Pam and her guests discuss how they use some form of “Morning Time” to bring their families together to share the riches during their homeschool days. She always features a fun, practical downloadable freebie for each episode, too. Who doesn’t love freebies!?

4. At Home with Sally, hosted by Sally Clarkson and Kristen Kill: Whenever this podcast comes up with a new episode, I cannot wait to sit down with a cuppa and get ready to listen in on Sally and Kristen’s conversation. Anybody who is familiar with Sally’s ministry to moms will know that her heart is to inspire, encourage and challenge women to live fully into their roles as wives, mothers and homemakers in order to disciple those in their spheres of influence. Kristen’s own sweet spirit also comes through on each podcast, and together, their talks remind me what is really important at this stage of my life.

5. Schole Sisters with Brandy Vencel, Mystie Winkler and Pam Barnhill: This new podcast hosted mostly by Brandy, with Mystie and Pam cohosting various episodes. The discussion centers on different aspects of fostering “schole” in our lives and homeschools. The concept of schole, as I interpret it anyway, centers around a return to restful learning and an atmosphere that encourages deep thought, wonder, good discussions and focussing on what is truly important. I have enjoyed all their topics so far and look forward to hearing more in the future!

6. CiRCE Institute Podcast Network: Speaking of schole, this collection of podcasts from the CiRCE Institute is one way I am  trying to foster a bit of restful learning in my own life. Their are several sub-categories within the podcast network, and the two I listen to without fail are The Mason Jar, hosted by David Kern and Cindy Rollins, and A Perpetual Feast with Andrew Kern and Wes Callihan. On The Mason Jar, Cindy and David discuss classical education using the Charlotte Mason method, often answering listener questions or having a special guest on a specific topic. Cindy’s defence of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy as a classical approach was what really caught my attention to begin looking into CM as an option for our homeschool, something I hope to write about another time. A Perpetual Feast is a totally different sort of podcast, one that both challenges and feeds my intellect. In other words, listening to Kern and Callihan talk about Homer leaves me feeling both dumber and smarter all at the same time. I love it! (But I may be an odd duck, so don’t blame me if you listen and it does nothing for you!)

7. The Masterpiece Mom with Amanda Bacon and Anne-Renee Gumley: I just recently started listening to these ladies, but they had me at the first episode I heard! Two Christian wives and moms talking about real life, how to be more grace-filled in the midst of busy, chaotic days…it is definitely what I need right now!

8. The Simple Show with Tsh Oxenrider: This is another relatively new podcast for me, but one I have been enjoying so far. Tsh has such a variety or interesting guests discussing a wide range of topics, but every one has an inspiring story to tell, whatever their walk of life. 

9. A Delectable Education with Emily Kiser, Liz Cotrill and Nicole Williams: Another podcast I just recently added to my playlist, A Delectable Education is all about the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling. If you are new to CM and want to know more, this is a good podcast to get your feet wet!


10. What Should I Read Next? with Anne Bogel: New to me and new to the podcast world, What Should I Read Next? will likely be popular with the booklovers out there. I will admit that I am not an avid reader personally, not because I do not want to be, but more because I just have not formed the habit and do not have a wide library at my disposal. But I enjoy listening to people talking about books, and maybe some of their bookish habits will rub off on me in the meantime!

Little Happy Things

Ah….the little people in the house are all taking naps (for the moment), giving me some much needed time to rest and think without someone crying or tugging on my clothes or trying to eat things off the floor. Moms, you know how it is, right?! I have been babysitting a sweet little toddler girl several days over the last two weeks while one of my friends (her usual sitter) is on maternity leave after having her own precious fourth baby! This curly-headed little gal is good as gold, but adding an extra tiny human to our house and routine for the majority of our waking hours is still a bit draining. She and Little Miss are learning to share toys and space, and germs, too. Sadly, Curly Girl had a cold virus and gave it to Little Miss, so I have dealt with droopy, snotty, cranky, sleepy, coughing babies for over a week now. Needless to say, this quiet time while everyone sleeps today feels pretty blissful after all that! I have been wanting to blog for so many days now but felt a bit too frayed to write anything that made sense. I have so many topics swirling around in my head, but for today, I thought I would just share a few happy things that are refueling and refreshing me right now.

1. Tea and cookies! 


I have become a serious tea addict this winter, not that I didn’t already love tea before, mind you. But I have recently become a two cups of tea a day kind of girl, one cup at breakfast and another in the afternoon. I can attribute this change to two things: real farm fresh cream (yum!) and switching from whatever black tea was cheapest to Tetley brand tea. Major difference! I need to up my herbal tea game now, too, since I also often want a cup of something hot and soothing before bed but do not want to have any caffeine in the evening. Celestial Seasonings options are ok, but I want to try some Teavana soon because I have heard great things about their unique blends. The cookies are a new-to-me recipe for gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, and they are excellent. I could have tried harder to make them have a pretty shape, but we (ahem, I) eat them too fast to care how they look!😉 Here is the recipe link in case you want to make some for yourself.

2. Pandora Relaxation Radio


This has become my go-to listening when I need some background music without words to distract me. And if something I don’t like comes on, I can just hit the thumbs down button and not hear it again! Pandora is a pretty genuis app!

3. New favorite podcasts


I plan to do a whole blog post about some of my new favorite podcasts. I did one a while back when I was listening to knitting podcasts all the time. After having Little Miss, the knitting podcasts went off my radar just like my knitting and crocheting did. But I recently found a bunch of great new podcasts that I love so much, many related to homeschooling in some way, but not all. When I am cooking, cleaning, or sorting laundry, I really enjoy having something engaging to listen to, and these all fit the bill nicely!

4. Knitting

Surprisingly, for the first time in months I have a new project on my needles! I have taken a long break from any fiber arts, just doing enough in the fall to get a baby gift or two done. I really needed some time away. I would miss it a little every now and then, but not really enough to pick up anything. I just did not feel like I had the mental or physical focus and space for it in the evenings when I actually have both hands free. But I am finally starting to feel like some of my mojo is coming back in that area. And Little Miss will need a new cardigan for spring and summer, which is what inspired me to dig out some yarn and needles and get a project going. I am quite pleased with the pink and green stripes on the yoke. The body of the cardi will be finished in green. Perfect for spring!

And now I have a couple of little girls in my lap, looking at books, which is a different sort of happy thing!

What is making you smile today?

Sunday Scripture: the Holiness of God

In spite of my best intentions to do a #SundayScripture Periscope broadcast this afternoon, it just was not meant to be. Our schedule is so busy on Sundays that I am usually pretty tired as it is, but this past week I also started a short-term babysitting job to fill in for a friend who is on maternity leave. So, I have been getting up earlier than usual and running around after an extra toddler during the day, meaning that I am even more worn out today than I would normally be! Thankfully, my little charge is quite an easy toddler and is fitting in nicely with Little J and Miss A. Even so, when the baby went down for her nap this afternoon, I knew the best thing for me to do would be to sit down and rest, rather than get all wound up doing a scope. Instead, I decided to share my Sunday Scripture here on the blog. 

This morning’s worship service at our church centered around the theme of the holiness of God. Our pastor is currently doing a series on the attributes of God, and that was the characteristic that stood out to me from today’s sermon. As a musician, the music of the worship service often speaks to me as much as the Bible teaching, especially since the music my husband chooses often comes straight from the Word of God. Today’s song selections were certainly no exception. From “Come Thou Fount” to “Holy, Holy, Holy” and newer songs like “Revelation Song” and “We Fall Down,” it was easy to get caught up in praise and adoration of God Most High. So today’s Scripture passage is fitting because it describes an incredible worship experience the prophet Isaiah had himself:

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;

the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” 

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”  —Isaiah 6:1-8 (ESV)

I could say so much about this passage, but I know I would not do it justice. These verses are so rich, so full of imagery. I challenge you to meditate on each verse, each description of the Lord’s glory, as well as Isaiah’s response to God. Let His Word wash over you and sink deep into your heart and mind. See the glory of the Most High God; then, like Isaiah, be humbled and moved to repentance. 

“Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly…”  (Colossians 3:16a)

Words to Live By in 2016

Here we are at the the tail end of 2015, and what a year it has been down on Lemon Lane! This past year we had a new baby, joined a new church, embarked on a new journey in homeschooling, and had many other experiences and events that made 2015 a full, busy and blessed time for our family. It was not a year without its stresses and struggles, of course, but I feel like the difficulties we have had are serving to shape and sharpen me and my husband into more of who God wants us to be.

Normally I do not do a whole lots of planning around the changing of the calendar in January. I find autumn, the start of the harvest and new school year to be more invigorating for change and fresh starts than the dark, bleak midwinter when I am just trying to recover from the busyness of the holiday season. This year, however, due to a lot of thinking and reading and listening I have been doing lately, I have felt led to take a small step or two toward creating a fresh outlook at the turn of the year.

Not being the sort of person to make New Year’s Resolutions, I instead decided to imitate the example of several popular bloggers I follow and choose some words to be a sort of focus or theme for me in 2016. Along with each word I chose a theme verse that embodies that word to guide me in the coming year.


My Words to Live By in 2016 are Seek, Thrive, and Rest. I could probably write a whole separate post for each of these words, but I will try to briefly explain what I hope to focus on as I contemplate these words in the coming year. Seek is my BIG one and the first priority in terms of application. This word focusses my attention on seeking God, knowing Him more through His word and asking for His guidance through prayer. I will seek to become more Christ-like in my attitudes and actions and likewise be an example to my children of how to live for Him. The theme verse I chose for Seek is a pretty obvious choice:

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  -Matthew 6:33

As I am seeking God more, I believe I will begin to Thrive more in all areas of my life. I do not want to just survive each day, barely making it through and crawling into bed at night only to wake up and begrudgingly do it all over again. I want to find ways to celebrate life, to choose joy and to make small moments matter. I want to model a life of praise and gratitude and joy for my children and to bless my husband by being a woman who thrives.

He will be like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and its leaf does not whither, and in whatever he does he prospers. -Psalm 1:3

Finally, I need to Rest in the coming year. This word not only points to actual physical rest, which is both a necessity and luxury as a mother of small children, but also spiritual rest. My hope in focussing on the word Rest is that I will continue growing in faith and trust in the Lord. Trusting in His power, His timing, His provision and His protection will allow me to fully rest in Him. This is not laziness or a lack of action on my part, but it is active surrender, daily giving every care over to the Lord, believing that He is working all things out for good.

Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him and He will act. He will bring forth your righteousnessas the light and your justice as the noonday. -Psalm 37:5-6

In coming blog posts, I hope to expand on these ideas a little bit and to share what I am doing practically to apply the concepts of seeking, thriving and resting to my life.

How about you? Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? Have any goals for 2016? What words would you choose to contemplate and put into practice in the coming year? I would love to hear from you!

Christmas in our Homeschool 2015

Just when the kids in traditional school are getting all excited about having a break from classes and lessons, here I am in our homeschool getting all excited about the extra fun learning activities we can do this time of year! Our Classical Conversations group has the rest of the year off and will start back up in January, so we have one more day at home for the next few weeks. That always makes this introverted, homebody of a mom happy! It means we can relax a little on our memory work, reviewing a little here and there while we take a break from learning new material. It also means we have more time for our other lessons and activities.

I recently joined a new facebook group that stemmed out of the Periscope videos by Julie Bogart of It is primarily a group of homeschool moms seeking to support one another and share encouragement and resources. One of the other members challenged some of us to do daily Scopes on different topics throughout the past week. (If you do not know what Periscope is, essentially, it is live video with chat. I don’t want to go too far off topic, so I won’t go into it any more than that today.) I really wanted to scope Friday because she asked what we were doing in our homeschool for December. My day just was not condusive to that, however, so I decided to blog about it instead!

Here is my short list:
Jesse Tree devotions and decorations
Making GF cut out cookies/gingerbread cookies
Reading Christmas poems/stories
Watching the Nutcracker Ballet

As I posted earlier in the month, we are doing a Jesse Tree for Advent. This replaces our Bible lessons this month, and it is the first thing we do each day for school. Here is a poorly lit photo of the decorations we have up on our mini-tree so far!


I think next week Little J and I will be making some Gluten-free cut-out cookies, probably gingerbread because those are just tastier than plain old sugar cookies. I have used this recipe from Gluten Free On a Shoestring before and liked the end result. I think J will enjoy decorating some Gingerbread men of his own, and maybe while they are baking we will read a version of the story of the Gingerbread Man. (That is about as unit-study-ish as we get around here, folks!) Since it is just our little family here for the holidays, I do not go all out on baking treats. We really do not need all that sugar anyway.


On days when we do not feel much like doing book work, I plan to read some Christmas poetry and other holiday stories and such that I found in some children’s literature anthologies we have on our bookshelves. Just the other day we read an interesting story called “Christmas in the Piney Woods” by Charlie May Simon. It is set in the Arkansas woods and features a little girl who wishes for a baby doll for Christmas and gets a different surprise instead! I am wondering if it is an excerpt from a larger volume, but I have not taken the time to research that. We found the story in our set of Childcraft books (circa 1961) that my grandmother passed on to me. IMG_2519

Today I have been feeling poorly (just a chest cold combined with lack of sleep!), so Little J and I sat down and watched the Nutcracker Ballet together. I have only watched two variations in their entirity online, but my favorite is this one starring Mikhail Barishnakov and Gelsey Kirkland. It is just such a classic, and the dancing can’t be beat, even though it is missing a few of the dances! But this time I decided to share the New York Ballet’s version with him, since it has children dancing and a bit more narration. He seemed to enjoy it and was following along in the book we have that also tells the story of the ballet. Now he is coloring a nutcracker paper doll/puppet that I found as a free printable here, and when it is finished we will assemble it.


So, there you have it–our homeschool plans for this December! I would love for you to leave a comment telling me one special activity you and your family will be doing this Christmas season!

Gluten-free Biscuits (and Gravy): My Tried and True Recipe

Let me give a disclaimer right off the bat here. I am NOT, I repeat NOT, a food blogger! I do not take good photos of food. I am not able to come up with completely original recipes. But I do frequently tweak, adapt and otherwise make recipes I find elsewhere my own. So don’t go expecting a bunch of gorgeous pictures of these big, beautiful biscuits dripping with delectable sausage gravy, so perfect you can almost smell them. It just is not going to happen. Sorry! I barely had enough time and presence of mind while plopping food down on the table to snap a quick picture of these biscuits with my phone before everyone scarfed them down!

I will admit this recipe is not going to make the lightest, flakiest, buttermilk biscuits a la Paula Dean. This is gluten-free baking we are talking about here, and I like to keep things simple if at all possible…so, give me a little grace!😉 All that said, these are pretty good biscuits, whether you prefer them with butter and honey (or homemade jam, yum!) or smothered in creamy gravy.  The thing I like about this recipe is that it requires few ingredients, all pretty commonly found in a gluten-free family’s pantry. I think it would also be possible to make them dairy-free if you happen to have palm shortening to sub for the butter and unsweetened almond or rice milk (plus a little lemon juice) for the buttermilk, although I personally have not tried that.


Gluten Free Biscuits (and Gravy)

Biscuit Ingredients

1 1/2 c. Superfine white or brown rice flour, or a blend of the two (Sometimes I will even throw in some sweet white sorghum flour to change things up.)
3/4 c. Tapioca starch or potato starch (not potato flour)
1 Tbl. Baking powder
1 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Baking soda
1/4 tsp. Xanthan gum (optional, but will help biscuits not be as crumbly)
6 Tbl. Unsalted butter, cold
1 c. Buttermilk or sour milk


Whisk together all dry ingredients in medium bowl. Cut in cold butter using a pastry blender until mixture resembles very coarse crumbs, leaving some larger pieces of butter. Slowly stir the buttermilk in using a fork, using just enough to form a firm dough. (You may or may not need the whole cup of milk.) Do not overmix. Gently kneed the dough to incorporate dry bits of flour and make a ball. Roll or press out dough on a lightly floured surface, about 3/4 inch thick. Cut with biscuit cutter and place on cookie sheet. Reroll and cut dough as needed. Bake at about 400 degrees Fahr. for 15-18 minutes or until light golden brown. Serve warm and enjoy!

How I make Gluten-free Gravy:

If I am making sausage gravy, I will brown the sausage in a large pan, then remove it from the pan, reserving any drippings. I then add enough butter or lard to equal about 1/4 cup of fat, letting it melt completely in the hot pan. Then I whisk in around 1/4 of my gluten free flour blend. So, for example, when making this last night, I used a little more than 2 Tbl. brown rice flour and a little less than 2 Tbl. tapioca starch. Make sure the fat and flour are fully mixed and smooth before adding any liquid. Gradually whisk in 2 cups of broth, or a combination of broth and milk (for a creamier tasting gravy), stirring the whole time. I like to use my homemade chicken or turkey broth, sometimes subbing up to half the amount with cold milk. Keep heating and stirring the gravy until bubbly and thickened to your liking. Add salt and pepper to season as desired. Then you can stir the sausage back into the gravy, and it is ready to serve!

Our First Jesse Tree: Advent 2015

At 7.5 months old, Little Miss is quite the mover and shaker. She is always, always on the go, unless she is sleeping, and naps taken anywhere not on Mommy are a luxury these days. Having a crawling, pulling up, getting into everything, putting everything into her mouth baby means that I do not have time for a whole lot of extra activities beyond what it really necessary on a daily basis. (You know, things like keeping everyone fed, in clean clothes and diapers, and just generally making sure everyone is healthy and relatively happy.) Homeschooling Little J has also taken some extra time, of course. Even though we usually spend less than 2 hours total actually sitting down to his lessons each day, it is still time that I might otherwise be doing something else.

All that is to say that planning and decorating for Christmas has been put sort of on the back burner this year. To be honest, Thanksgiving and the end of November rather took me by surprise! Suddenly, on November 30th, I realized that it was time for Advent, and I had nothing planned. I also failed to order the next set of Bible lessons that J needs to continue in our ABeka Bible curriculum, so I needed something to supplement with in the meantime, ASAP!


Enter, the Jesse Tree! If you have never heard of this Advent tradition before, it is basically a way of following the story of the Bible from Creation to Jesus’ birth. The name comes from Isaiah 11:1 which refers to a branch coming from the “root of Jesse” (father of King David) as a prophetic announcement of the coming Messiah, Jesus! During each day of advent, you read a new Scripture passage and hang a new ornament on the tree, each one symbolizing the reading for that day. There are many ways to make ornaments for a Jesse Tree, some very simple and some quite elaborate! You can even purchase ornaments if you are not inclined to makeyour own.

I, of course, chose one of the simpler variations for us this year! Little J loves coloring right now, so I used a free printable from Life Your Way for the ornaments and printed them out on card stock for him to color. I need to get some red and green card stock to mount them, and then we will hang them on our miniature tree with ribbon. I found a lovely set of short Jesse Tree devotionals at My Favorite Kind of Crazy, so I read these while Little J colors. He is excited to see what the new picture will be for each day, and I like that it is something easy enough that we can do it while I feed the baby!

I have to say thanks to Kristi at Raising Clovers for inspiring me with her post about their own Jesse Tree party. Maybe some other year we will get all fancy and make some neat ornaments like they did with their friends!

How are you celebrating Advent this year? Have you used a Jesse Tree in your Christmas celebrations before? I would love to hear from you in the comments!