Making Your Mealtimes More Leisurely

Leisurely MealsHaving kids sort of sucked the joy out of mealtime for me.  It meant no longer focusing on myself and my own food.  I now had the full time job of cutting up meat, cleaning up spills, and trying to have an adult conversation over the din of childish chatter.  The thought of having a leisurely meal was laughable, and rather discouraging to boot.

But several years ago, I was blessed to learn from another family what taking leisurely meals with a lot of little ones actually looked like.  It was like a ray of sunshine in my day!  I realized I really could have a wonderful mealtime with my family, but it would mean letting go of a few preconceived notions and a whole lot of anxiety.

A glimpse of Heaven…

When we sit down to fellowship over food with our family, we need to keep in mind that this is a foretaste of our fellowship in Heaven.  Things are not perfect here, but they can still give us an idea of what we can expect when we are truly Home.

Start the meal calmly…

It is so easy to start a meal with chaos.  It happens all the time here.  If we don’t all sit down together, take a deep breath, and thank the Lord for His provisions, we end up resembling pigs at a feed trough!  Don’t expect a meal to be leisurely if you don’t begin it that way.  And if it does begin in chaos, it is never too late (unless someone has left the table) to start over.  Have everyone put their forks down, take a deep breath, and begin anew.

Be aware of your surroundings…

Sometimes we forget to even look up from our food, let alone take the time to notice and engage the other people at the table.  When you eat with adults, conversation typically naturally flows, but it isn’t the norm at a table full of hungry little people and tired parents.  You have to make the effort to look up from your food and smile at everyone seated with you.  Start with the littlest one and work your way up.  Ask each child a question or simply smile at them.  This is the start to healthy dinner conversations.

Expect mishaps…

Because this is not a perfect world, we need to expect mishaps and be as prepared for them as we can be.  Have a towel handy for cleaning up spills, and try to take the attitude that the little mishaps in life are not something to dwell on and fuss over.  Remember, a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver (Proverbs 25:11) – in other words, speaking calmly and kindly when mishaps occur is a thing of priceless beauty.  Don’t let your words be ugly over something as minor as spilled drinks, dropped forks, and the like.

Learn to be still…

This isn’t just for wiggly little boys, this is for wiggly mamas who jump up and head off to the next thing on her list after wolfing down the last bite on her plate.  Train yourself to stay seated after you are finished, or better yet, slow down your eating altogether.  Give your brain a moment to relax.  Put your fork down, take a deep breath, and wait.  You might even want to bring a book to the table that you can use as a read-aloud at the end of the meal to help everyone stay in their seats and learn to be still during mealtime.

Feast & fellowship…

We don’t often think of eating with our family as a time of feasting and fellowship, but it truly is!  It is a time to reconnect after everyone has been about their own business during the day.  It is a time for you to share and for you to listen as others share about their day.  It should be fun!  It should be a celebration!

That’s where my free gift to you comes in…

FREE 33 Family Dinner Games |

Our family has compiled 33 Family Dinner Games that don’t require a ton of forethought and preparation.  You can print out the list and instructions, and keep it handy in your dining room.  These 33 Family Dinner Games are FREE to subscribers of Raising Arrows and will be delivered to your inbox shortly after signing up so you can begin to enjoy your family mealtime tonight!

Get your Free Gift!

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Each game spans multiple ages and encourages an open and festive atmosphere for your meals!

Now, go and give those babies a big hug and kiss, do the same with your husband, and welcome them all to family mealtime tonight!

(Already a Raising Arrows subscriber? You’ll find the 33 Family Dinner Games on the Subscriber Freebie page!)

A Birthday & Two Super Exclusive Discount Codes!

Blake and Megan

Today, is my first born’s 16th birthday!  Wow!  Where did the time go?  He is an amazing young man and we are so very proud of him.  Happy Birthday, Blake!

Remember how I told you a few weeks ago about my new household binder system that was entirely paperless?  Well, I have an awesome discount code for the ebook that taught me how to set it up (it was a HUGE lifesaver during the move!).

Paperless 125Not only can you get Paperless Home Organization for 40%, this code will work for ANY and ALL of Mystie Winckler’s products!

CODE:  raisingarrows
gives you 40% off:
Paperless Home Organization
GTD for Homemakers
and/or Simplified Dinners
{expires 3/1/14}


And I have another code from another company near and dear to our hearts – DrinkBands!  They are celebrating a milestone just like my son -whose DrinkBands color happens to be blue!

The Miller family has owned the company a whole year now and they are celebrating by offering Raising Arrows readers a super exclusive discount code!

CODE:  rafirstyear
gives you: 20% off
your entire DrinkBand order!
{expires 2/28/14}

My Favorite Homemade Cleaner {3 ingredients!}

My Favorite Homemade Cleaner {only 3 ingredients!} | RaisingArrows.netWhen you allow children to do chores, the need to have child-safe cleaning products becomes super important.  But, even mamas need to consider what kind of cleaners they are exposing themselves to.  I don’t want to sacrifice a clean home for a natural cleaner and I don’t want to sacrifice my family’s health for a commercial cleaner that really works.  I was certain there was a way to get the best of both worlds – safe, natural AND clean!

Now, before you tell me, “just use vinegar”, let me explain something.  My husband does not like the house smelling of vinegar, and no matter how much essential oil I add to my vinegar-based cleaners, he can still smell it.  So, I knew vinegar wasn’t going to be an option.

I also needed an easy recipe.  I have a large family, which equals large messes, which in turn equals a lot of cleaning products.  If I was going to have to make a recipe several times a month, then it would have to be simple.

It also needed to be all-purpose.  I have no desire to spend precious time making a cleaner that can only do one thing.  It had to be able to clean a multitude of things.

The original basis for this recipe comes from Lisa Barthuly’s Homestead Simplicity.  I highly recommend Lisa’s ebooks.  You can find them on her webiste or on Amazon.)

This recipe smells great, is easy to make, and is a workhorse!  You can tweak it a thousand different ways depending on your needs, so feel free to experiment with it.

3 ingredients to make your own all-purpose cleaner! | RaisingArrows.netAll you really need are a 32 oz spray bottle, water, and liquid Grapfruit Seed Extract.  HOWEVER, notice the little essential oil bottle in the photo above?  That’s where the tweaking begins!  The Grapefruit Seed Extract and water are a must, but that little bottle of essential oils can be as unique as you are!

Steps to making your own all-purpose cleaner |

A quick note about the GSE:  

I purchased this as a nutritional supplement for one of our children who proceeded to spit it out every time I made her drink it.  I finally gave up and resorted to using it to disinfect my cutting boards.  However, one little bottle of GSE goes a LONG way, so I was thrilled to find a way to use more of it!

All-Purpose Spray |

In our home, we use a mixture of Tea Tree Oil and Lavender.  These are good all-around cleansing oils and I like the way they smell.  We use this spray to clean counters and floors, toilets and bathtubs, and just about anything else you can think of that would typically be cleaned by an all-purpose, harsh-chemical spray.  I’m sure you will find this cleaner becomes a staple cleaning product in your home as well!

{p.s.  I wanted to write about this cleaner before I dove into Homemaking Basics because I will refer to this cleaner a lot!}

Make your own all-natural, all-purpose cleaner |

How to Make Your Own All-Natural, All-Purpose Cleaner

1.  Fill a 32 oz spray bottle with water.

2.  Add 35 drops of Liquid Grapefruit Seed Extract.

3.  Add 20 drops of essential oil like tea tree or lavender.

4.  Shake well.

5.  Label bottle and place in convenient location.

I keep 3 bottles of this on hand – 1 in each bathroom and 1 under the kitchen sink.  Not only does this make it quick and easy to clean up messes, it also keeps the kids from fighting over the cleaner during Home Blessing chores on Friday mornings!  Win-Win!

So, whip up a batch of this cleaner, figure out what essential oil combinations you like best (don’t forget to ask the kiddos!), and let’s get to cleaning!

Make your own all-purpose cleaner! |

Replace Those Potato Chips! {the REAL food way}

Replace Those Potato Chips with Real Food! |

Last month, I decided my go-to side of potato chips needed a revamp, so I did what all modern homemakers do when they have a question…

I asked on my Facebook page!

Screen Shot 2013-09-25 at 5.12.09 PM

I got so many GREAT ideas, I thought I’d share them here!  (I added some links to help give you a visual.  There are affiliate links in this post.)


Dried fruit

Popcorn (try it with some natural flavorings!)

Nuts (almonds, walnuts, peanuts, etc)


Ideas from Kitchen Stewardship’s Healthy Snacks on the Go

Stacy’s Pita Chips (or make your own pita chips!)

Make your own potato chips in the oven or microwave.  (Pampered Chef has a potato chip maker or you can use your oven or your own dehydrator)

Dehydrate salted slices of sweet potato, squash and zucchini or beets (also try these with olive oil and other seasonings or cinnamon on the sweet potatoes!)

Make kale chips (you can season these too!)

Dehydrate apple & banana chips

Plantain Chips

Cubed cheese

Cheese Crisps


Mini rice cakes

Pretzels (or Pretzel Crisps)

Check out the snacks listed on 100 Days of Real Food (I really like this site!)

Veggie chips like the ones shown above (or make your own in the oven!)

Crackers (regular or gluten free)

English cucumbers with Irish cheese

Green Bean Chips

Dried Okra Chips


Laughing Cow Cheese

Hard boiled eggs

Slices of bacon

ak-mak Crackers

Greek yogurt

Food Should Taste Good Chips


Snap peas

Wasa Crackers

Non GMO Corn chips & homemade salsa

Veggie Straws

Sunflower seeds



Granola bars

Spiced Nuts

Real Food Power Balls

Lentil Crackers

Seaweed Chips

Cheat Thins

Roasted Chickpeas

Homemade Gluten Free Chex Mix

Make your own Crackers or Crackers or Crackers!

 And if all else fails…

go ahead and eat potato chips, in moderation, of course. ;)

Meal Planning as the Backbone of Your Day

ORGANIZING_mealsDon’t miss the DrinkBands Giveaway at the end of this post!

Meal planning is the backbone of your day as a stay at home mom.  Without it, you never feel in control or on top of things.  You always feel like you are scrambling, hurried, stressed.  In fact, I feel so strongly about this that I would encourage you to take a look at your meal planning FIRST if you are feeling overwhelmed by your life right now.  Get the backbone in place and work from there.

Over the years I’ve followed many different methods of meal planning.

Once a Month shopping

I really like to shop once a month and plan an entire month’s worth of meals at once, but sometimes that isn’t feasible.  Sometimes a rotating list of meals needs to be put in play in order to simplify your life.  Sometimes you need to only plan a week at a time.  Sometimes you are lucky to get a few days done and send your husband to the store for those items!

Recently, I decided to change from my old method of a grab-n-go meal list to a more formal meal plan.  (See an example HERE - the photo below is also an example of that list.)

menu list

My grab-n-go list was easy to plan and convenient to use.  I could choose a meal based on what kind of day I was having.  However, it did not allow for any meal forethought, so if I hadn’t thawed the chicken or put the roast in the slow cooker, I was up a creek.  In a large family, this doesn’t work out so well.  I also ended up only choosing the easy, no-prep meals and left the other (potentially more healthy) meals for “another day” – a day that never seemed to come.

While visiting a friend, I noticed her weekly menu plan posted on her refrigerator.

weekly meal planner

Lo and behold, they were from my friend Jamerill’s blog!  They were exactly what I needed!  As a homeschool mom, I need breakfast, lunch AND dinner planned.  And it helps tremendously to have snacks in place as well.

So, let me give you some tips on meal planning that will help you pull together one that provides a great backbone to your day:

1.  Choose where you will get your recipes from.  Sometimes I use cookbooks I have on hand, sometimes recipes from my recipe binder, but lately, I find most of my recipes are coming from my Pinterest boards!

Pinterest recipe collage

Sometimes I can knock out a menu in an afternoon.  When planning several weeks, it can take me several days to get the whole thing finished.  I never wait until I’m out of food and desperately needing to head to the store.  Start early and avoid the stress!

2.  Write in pencil!  Your meals will change due to unforeseen circumstances.  Our stove stopped working a couple of weeks ago, so I had to revamp our menu to reflect this.  Also, any meal you don’t end up using can be erased from its day and written in a new day or at the bottom of the page to carry over to another time if so desired.

3.  Make notes as you go.

notes on menu plan

Remember, I said this is the backbone of your day.  Your meals are a direct reflection of your life.  Write in notes about your day on the menu plan itself.  I have piano lessons and my Weight Watchers meetings marked.  I also have notes like “order Azure” and “make ranch dressing” noted at the top of my page.  But also mark down things like “thaw hamburger” and “soak beans” in the appropriate places.  For instance, say I want to serve beans on Wednesday night.  I need to soak them overnight on Tuesday.  I make a note to myself off to the side of the Tuesday Dinner box so I remember to do this.  Having these little notes is KEY to making your meal plan work.

4.  Make your grocery list as you go.  Don’t wait until you are finished with your menu to go back and input all you need.  Do it together.  Find a meal, list it in a good spot on your planner, scan ingredients and mark down what you need.  I use a Master Grocery List that helps me keep track of staple items as well as new things needed to make the meals on my list.  (Note:  You can find my Master Grocery List HERE, but be aware that your list will probably be different.  In fact, this list is 5 years old and is VERY different from our current list!  Use it as a guide to create your own!)

5.  Plan everything!  Plan your sides, your snacks, even your beverages!  Put Special Night on there and Potluck on there.  Do your very best to pull together a “backbone” that can withstand the pressure of your day.

6.  Look at your menu plan every day several times a day.  Mine is on my refrigerator.  It has to be in a prominent location where you will be able to glance at it over the course of the day to be sure you are on track.  (Mine is next to the Table Chores list and my At-a-Glance Schedule.)  Do you need to get something out of the freezer for tonight?  It’s on there!  Need to prepare for a coming birthday?  It’s on there!  Again, this is your backbone for the day.  Using it to its full advantage is necessary!

Looking for more meal planning related links? Try these:
Large Family Recipes
Once a Month Shopping Series
Menu Planning ebooks from Sheri Graham – I love her stuff and yes, that’s my affiliate link!
My ebook 10 Days to a Peaceful Home has a section on meal planning too!

Click here for more ideas from other bloggers:
ORGANIZING_meals…and here’s a FANTASTIC giveaway for you from a company that has made meal time at our house SO much easier!


That’s right!


You can win a set of 18 DrinkBands (9 large, 9 small). This is a quick giveaway (today and tomorrow), so enter to win now! {if you are reading via email, click here to enter!}
a Rafflecopter giveaway

My Azure Order This Month & Some Great News!

Covenant Ranch Trucking for Azure

I thought I would share with you my August order from Azure Standard to give you an idea of what types of things I order and how I use them.  I usually order every other month because I don’t typically have $50 worth of order every month.  I just put things in my online cart as I go and then place my order near the cutoff date.

Here’s this month’s order:

   Panda Raspberry Chews – 7 ozs. (these are a special treat!  Mmmm!)

   Montana Milling Wheat Flour, Unbleached (with germ), Organic – 25 lbs.  (we like to keep unbleached on hand for those things that really need a lighter, whiter flour.  I recently made Plymouth Bread from Martha’s Family Cookery Book using unbleached flour – it was YUMMY!)

   Celtic Sea Salt Celtic Sea Salt, Fine – 1 lb. (I haven’t been finding sea salt locally that I feel is a good quality.  This is a new buy for me.)

   Earth Circle Organics Carob Powder (not roasted), Organic – 1 lb. (This is what we use instead of baking cocoa.  It is a lighter color and VERY yummy!)

   Bulk Buttermilk Powder – 5 lbs. (This is simply so my husband can make Elvis Biscuits without taking a trip to the store for buttermilk.)

   Red Star Yeast, Dry Active – 1 lb. (I buy yeast in bulk.  I keep an old yeast jar in the cupboard and freeze the rest of the package, filling as needed.)

I also want to share some really GREAT news about Azure Standard!  Covenant Ranch Trucking is EXPANDING to offer Azure in more places!  Two new places will be

Atlanta, GA
Asheville, NC.

But those aren’t the only ones!  And guess what?  You can actually REQUEST A DROP SITE simply by clicking the link or calling their office at 785-380-0034.  Covenant Ranch is committed to great customer service and they welcome your questions or comments.

Also, don’t forget to Like their Facebook page and join the community there!

Those of you who are already Azure customers, give me some ideas of what you order!  I’d love to check them out!