Calm and Comforting Holiday Hosting

Baby James is a month old today, and oh how sweet this first month has been! He is getting little rolls and nothing cold make me happier! I will be sharing his birth story soon, but I seem to be having difficulty finding enough uninterrupted time to write it : ).

We shared five simple ways to prepare for all your holiday hosting here, and since we’re all gathering in our home for Thanksgiving again, I’ve been doing a little more putzing around the house than usual. Moving a few things from room to room and picking up a couple new, inexpensive items help me savor the joy of preparing for guests. Tasseled throws, velvet pillows, candles that delight the senses, and specialty maple coffee help to warm up our home and make it a place of comfort.

Although keeping the dΓ©cor and the traditions simple is key during this busy season, I try to make an effort to maintain enough routine and tradition that it’s motivating and inspiring to me and those that share our home. This special season of gathering with those we love is the perfect time to find joy in arranging cozy, spaces that are lovely and inviting.

We’ve all been most giddy and filled with excitement about cousins, siblings, grandparents, and great-grandparents gathering in our home for the upcoming feast. We’ve also been taking time to write down reasons we are thankful and sharing gratitude to the Lord for his steadfast love fills our hearts and home with contentment.

I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart;
before the gods I sing your praise;
I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things
your name and your word.
On the day I called, you answered me;
my strength of soul you increased.

All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O Lord,
for they have heard the words of your mouth,
and they shall sing of the ways of the Lord,
for great is the glory of the Lord.
For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly,
but the haughty he knows from afar.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve my life;
you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
and your right hand delivers me.
The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.

– Psalm 138

With love, Damaris


A Family of 9 Living on Costco for a Year

Over a year ago, I began a little project for the blog which I labeled “Costco”. It consisted of saving our weekly receipts and tallying all our food purchases. The project began the first week of October, 2017. So after our last grocery shopping trip in September, 2018, I enlisted a helper and a couple of calculators. Thirty minutes later, we had the grand totals of what a family of 9 spends at Costco for groceries and non-food items in a year.

For some of you our expenditures will seem like an exuberant amount, and for some it will appear to be ridiculously low. The point of this little project was not to point out the frugality or over-spending of anyone, but to sincerely reveal to you and myself what we tracked in a year for either reference or curiosity.

Here are a couple of things that have jumped to my mind as I’ve pondered on our trends in purchasing at Costco and about what we could do to be more efficient:

1. Natural Foods

If I look for patterns in the food we eat, I’m sure that eating healthy is cheaper. Eating healthy can be harder, though, because it usually means more non-processed foods with shorter shelf life. This means that it only helps our budget if I plan ahead. We always plan our meals at least a week in advance. Knowing what we’ll be cooking ahead of time means we can take one weekly trip to the store (which also saves on gas). But most importantly, we can plan ahead for how to use up any leftover ingredients to ensure nothing goes to waste.

2. Food Storage

We have a small chest freezer, and we use it to stock up on cheap meats and sale items. We also take time to cook and freeze in bulk, or simply make extra whenever we prepare a meal and then freeze the leftovers.

3. Eating Out

Since we are a homeschooling family, all of our meals are done at home. Nathan always takes leftovers, which he actually prefers to a sandwich. We never eat at a restaurant, but we do pick up 2 Little Caesar’s pizza ($5 for a large) or doughnuts on the weekend for a special treat sometimes.

4. Feeding the Troops

During this past year, we did some traveling and packed all the meals to take with us. The receipts saved throughout this year reflect our trip out east to Boston last fall, a ski trip in January, camping in late spring, and our end of summer visit to Washington DC.

5. Stuff Costco doesn’t Carry

We shop at Costco once a week. On some occasions, we stop at a smaller grocery store for herbs, ice cream, and random items that Costco doesn’t carry plus we rarely need. This could be candles, cosmetics for me, or a specialty ingredient before hosting a meal. We probably spend about $50 a month at the local market or Trader Joe’s.

6. Hospitality

Our family makes meals for friends or has friends over often which we needed to consider as additional food from Costco. On average we extend hospitality (hosted a meal) once a week throughout the year.

So….drumroll….from October 2017 to September 2018, we spent $6,090 on groceries!

For non-food items, we spent $1,714 at Costco. This total refers to:

pajamas

underwear

paper goods

ziplock bags

athletic shoes

shorts

athletic sweatshirts

batteries

socks

dish soap

laundry detergent

diapers

baby wipes

hand soap

flannel shirts

razors

shaving cream

deodorants

toothpaste

toothbrushes

cold medicine

band-aids

jeans

vitamins

probiotics

protein drinks

indoor and outdoor plants and bulbs

Do you shop at a bulk warehouse?

If you have any questions, suggestions, or comments, I’d love to hear your opinion!

With love, Damaris


15 Simple Fall Pleasures

Today I gathered all of our autumn books from the schoolroom shelves and brought them to the coffee table in the living room. This simple ritual seems to the official inauguration of the new season in our home.

I love autumn! While I am fond of the fall foliage, the quieting outdoors (no more toads, cicadas, nor crickets), and the abundance of apples and pears, what I truly love most is the change. Just the change. Each time I begin to feel it in the air, I am in awe of a God who delights in giving good gifts to his children. I can’t help but thank Him for the new colors, textures, and light of the moments that make the transition from summer to fall.

The other day, I sat down to write a list of things I can’t wait to enjoy in the coming weeks. I thought it would be fun sharing it with you!

Here are the Simple Fall Pleasures that have me all giddy lately:

  1. candles flickering all day

  2. pumpkins on the porch

  3. deep bowls of chili

  4. crunchy leaves under my feet

  5. visits to the cider mill

  6. brown paper bags of warm donuts

  7. plaid flannel shirts

  8. lamps lit early

  9. hot drinks to warm my hands

  10. slow simmering soups

  11. picking apples

  12. collecting colored leaves

  13. hikes in zipped up sweatshirts

  14. warm cups of cocoa and a game of Masterpiece

  15. pumpkin spice everything

What are the little pleasures you’re delighting in this new fall season? I’ll love to add some to my list : )

With love, Damaris


A Candle in the Window

While I sit here on the porch swing on this gorgeous afternoon, my mind is replaying all of the kids’ excited chatter about a recent experience our family had to host through A Candle in the Window.

If you have never heard of it, A Candle in the Window is a hospitality ministry that provides a network for Christian families around the world. When you sign-up, you can offer your home for conversational dinners or for folks to stay the night if needed. A couple of weeks ago, we received our first email request from a father and son who were on a long-distance road trip and needed a place to stay for two nights. As we cleaned and cooked and prepared beds for them, the children grew more and more curious as to how it was these “friends” were coming, but we knew nothing about them. Meeting new people from far away places can be intimidating, but it didn’t take long after their arrival for us all to feel comfortable and blessed to have the opportunity to welcome them into our home as family.

A Candle in the Window, provided an opportunity for us to learn to be gracious and generous, and it was a good chance for the children to practice being engaging and well-mannered. While we were prepared to provide for our guests’ physical needs after long days of travel, we all were spiritually filled.

During the couple of days of hosting, our family had the privilege to have other believers join our table, sharing their testimony, and speaking of God’s goodness in their lives. It was such blessing for us and our children to be exposed to God’s working in the homes of believers clear across the country! We also enjoyed their musical talents at the piano and the accordion, we shared in family worship, sang together, and stayed up late talking about our families.

This was our first A Candle in the Window experience, and our whole family was enriched and blessed. We’re excited about opportunities to host again. Do you think this sounds like something your family would enjoy too?

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,
for thereby, some have entertained angels unaware.”

Hebrews 13:2


Holiday Hosting: Five Ways To Prepare

We’re so excited about hosting Thanksgiving this year! Last year was the first time we all gathered in our home, and it filled the feast with more meaning than ever before. Of course, there’s no shortage of eating, and we always plan for a walk and for leftovers for days! We don’t get to see cousins but twice a year, so you best believe we’ll be savoring every morsel of time together!

The joy of preparing our hearts and our space happens long before they come through our door. Even as the table is set for the feast, it’s more than a cozy family gathering, but the knitting of hearts in gratefulness. Welcoming others into our home isn’t so much about the space, but about our readiness to prepare a place in our home and hearts.

As we plan for the upcoming holiday gathering in our crowded household, I was reminded of these five ways to help us prepare:

  1. Take time to fill your own soul so can give to others.

  2. Pray that we walk humbly so that our guests (family or friends) can see our failures and the all-sufficient grace of Christ.

  3. Pray that we may lighten someone’s load.

  4. Don’t grow weary in all the doing so we aren’t tempted to grumble. Remembering that serving others is the same as serving Him. (Matthew 25:31-46).

  5. Welcome them generously!

I have prayed for you as you prepare to open your home to family and friends, that everyone will leave deeply nourished beyond the feasting and aware of God’s abundance.

with love. Damaris


Fall Essential Oils

I’ve shared on here before how much I love change! A delightful way to revamp your space is by filling the air with the beloved fragrances of fall.

I am quite the candle addict. Even just lighting a candle is a relaxing ritual to me. There’s nothing I love more that walking around the house greeted by the spicy scents of fall! A flickering candle makes me all warm and cozy inside. The sweet aromas of “Pumpkin Cupcake”, “Warm Sugar Cookie”, “Hot Maple”, and “Caramel Butter” evoke all my favorite feelings about crisp autumn days.

I would love to burn a candle in my home all day long, but they get expensive, and many candles are not free of toxins. I don’t feel deprived, though! There are many essential oils that we’re pretty excited to use this fall season, too!

This is the diffuser we have. If we’re running it in the living room, I add 15-20 drops with the water. If we use the diffuser in a bedroom, we do 5-10 drops. Whether it’s upstairs or downstairs, we always set it to be intermittent. On this setting, it will last all night.

~ 9 drops sweet orange (I use this for moping too)
~ 6 drops cloves

These two are the basic elements for that festive autumn fragrance. A couple more favorite oils to add to the basic recipe are ginger and cinnamon bark. This is an inexpensive way to add freshness too and enhance the smell of your rooms! Also, if it’s a cold-air diffuser, you’ll profit from the therapeutic benefits.

What are some of your quintessential fall scents?

with love. Damaris


Seeking Autumn

The sun begins to make an increasingly early descent toward the horizon. Shadows lengthen. The first leaves flicker gold, and our maples cast amber prisms. This is the season to brew more pots of tea, bake sweet pumpkin loaves and some spice apple cakes. This is the season when the world turns cooler, dusk comes sooner, and we shelter in the comforts of home. We seek to make a safe place of nourishment and joy, filling our family’s and friends’ hearts with all manner of beauty.

Home takes center stage as we gather early for night-time read aloud, spending longer evenings piled on the couch with heaps of blankets.

The last kiss of warm afternoon sun beckons us to the orchard. Pears and apples are brought in by the bushel! Harvest is the time to recognize home as a place of abundance. Reveling in the bounty of fellowship and rest renews and replenishes those we bring into our homes.

Autumn gives us so much opportunity to create a cozy-warm dose of generous love. We remember to stock the pantry, keep the soup pot simmering low, and have stacks of wonderful books; not to prove curated homes, but to provide goodness for little souls – a resting place to find Christ. Our hearts overflowing with His grace will beget more grace.

“Delicious Autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird,

I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”

– George Eliot, 1841

with love, Damaris