Ladies and gentlemen, we now interrupt our regularly scheduled post in order to search for a water leak!☹️

    When your water bill keeps creeping upward, the toilet test doesn’t show a leak, and you can’t find a soggy or surprisingly green area on your property what do you do?

    Yup, break out shovel and get to digging!

    No, we haven’t found it yet, but we are not done searching.

    Even so, as we were taking turns with the shovel I couldn’t help but think how many things about this scenario I should be grateful for.

    • We have ready access to fresh, clean water.
    • We live in an area where the ground isn’t frozen this time of year.
    • We have tools and our health to aid in the search.
    • We discovered an area with twelve plus inches of topsoil and far fewer rocks than many places here in the hills. (I may be able to have my garden after all!)

    Finally, I am glad the Lord saw fit to bless me with a family. My “babies”who are rapidly passing me up vertically, make every day better! I wouldn’t trade them for anything!

    As the preacher who married Handy Hubby and I often said, we live in a thorny world.

    And yet when we let gratefulness leak in it brings joy with it!

    Praise God!

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    Meditation, emptying your mind, being perfectly still…. these are things that I am NOT good at.

    When we were dating I frequently asked my (now husband,) “What are you thinking about?” He frequently replied, “Nothing.”

    This same man and I now have sons together and on occasion I ask them the same question with the same end result and I am still blown away. How? How is it possible that you are thinking nothing?

    I am unable to completely blank my mind. I have tried. I am always thinking something.

    It usually goes something like this.

    My intentions: Just focus on the verse you read.

    I wonder if the boys remembered to feed the dog.

    I need to remember to research the prices of topsoil. Maybe I should make quick note of that in my phone.

    No, no! You are meditating. Focus!

    Is that burning I smell? Better see if someone left the burner on under the cast iron skillet.

    Whew! Burner off, vent on high!

    Now where was I? Oh yes meditating!

    Hmm which verse was it again? I dumped everything on the floor when I jumped up for the burning smell?!

    Knock knock

    What’s that? Is it important? Ok, yes you can come in.

    Son: Sorry to bother you Mama I can wait.

    Me: It’s okay, you are in here now. What did you need?

    Son: Shakes head and starts to leave.

    Me: No you said it was important. You are here. What did you need?

    Son: I just didn’t know where you were and I wanted a hug.

    Me: Sigh, okay come here.

    Son: (with face smooshed to my shoulder) Sorry, Mama.

    Me: It’s ok. I love you booger. Have you done your devotional? Ok. Go do that and brush your teeth.

    Son: Yes, ma’am.

    Me: (With a voice raised to carry out the door) and ask your brother if he fed the dog?

    Now, where was I?

    Right meditating.

    Hmmm, on what?

    Oh yes!

    Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

    See, I told you that I am not good at meditation.

    But then, maybe being good at it isn’t the point. He knows every curly hair on my head. So, He surely knows all about my tangled thoughts. I guess I just need to stop being so worried about the idea of meditating and knock on the door and ask for a hug?

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    At one time we placed this quote above our main exit door.  When I selected these words, which come from Thoreau’s Walden, they really resonated with me.  You see, we had just moved to a beautiful property with an inspiring view!  We were beginning our homeschool journey! We were joyously pursuing our dreams!

    But then, we decided to move and live in a more as my friend called it, “Dave like” (ie. less expensive) home.  However, even before and all during the process of moving and then working to make our new spot a home there were the details, the options, and decisions that all serve to create a feeling of………overwhelming CLUTTER.

    I have always said that for me clutter on the outside creates clutter on the inside.  At a certain point of messiness I really must clear it all off and put things where they belong before I am able to think straight and make forward progress. Please tell me that I am not the only one who feels this way.

    Lately, I have been feeling the need to declutter everywhere, inside and out! You see, hopes, wishes, dreams and, yes, even goals have started to feel like clutter on the inside that can sometimes overwhelm and weigh me down. I have good intentions and I really despise regrets. Thus, I wrestle endlessly with all the details surrounding each and every dream on my list until I am exhausted and don’t know where to begin the big things much less the smaller day to day stuff and it steals my joy! Which is terrible because I am much too blessed to allow a barrier between my heart and the joy of these blessings!

    So, lately I have been praying for God’s wisdom in prioritizing (the big picture and each day’s events.) I am so grateful for his provision!

    Last week hubby and I had the very best “budget summit” in preparation for 2019 that we have ever had! Last night I decided to read through the Bible this year and today when trying to decide what to write for you this quote came to mind. What’s the connection between this quote  and these recent events? Well, as I looked up the origin of these particular words I ran across another quote of Thoreau’s,

    “Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.”

    Ahhhh! Deep sigh…yes, simplify.

    So, now before I make to do lists I will pray and then run my plans through this filter: Does this plan give glory to God? Can he bless this plan?  Will I be ok if he changes this plan?

    Seriously, He wants me to seek Him and he wants good for me! I exhibit obedience just in the asking.  Will I still experience trials and pain? Yes. However, as I ask repeatedly for guidance I feel relief. I no longer need to fear regret to the point that I can’t make a move and it seems to help me see which dreams to go for and which to postpone! We serve an amazing God!

    Ahhhhh and exhale!

    Thank you Jesus for grace and guidance!

    Now please excuse me, I must go help my youngest “simplify” in his room (wink, wink.)

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    Howdy All!

    We took a short break here at the Homeplace to count our blessings, celebrate our Savior, and recover from colds! Yup we were kinda sniffly but mostly happy!  If you have to be sickly it helps to have family to love on you, warm drinks to soothe, and a cozy fire to cheer you! Which brings me to…..

    Ain’t she purty!

    Now, now don’t panic! I haven’t lost it. This is what our fireplace looked like when we first toured the house.  Very lack luster and (you can’t see from this angle but) it had large holes in the sheetrock on each side and of course the makeshift closets flanking each side.  Clearly, this space had recently been used as a bedroom.

    Fret not, it is a bedroom no more! You can’t see it in the picture because they are hidden behind dark curtains, but just past each closet rod are beautiful oversized french doors which lead to the dining room!!

    Therefore, we reclaimed this room as a living room and its main need was a fireplace and mantle overhaul! Now, we originally hoped that there would be brick behind the sheetrock but no such luck.  The sheetrock, which we surmise was installed in the eighties when this house was moved here from in town, was not speaking to me. Well maybe it was speaking to me, but all it was saying was blah!

    SOooo…we decided to replace the surround with lap and gap and then completely reconstruct the mantel.  Hubby and his Dad routered the edges of 1x4s one weekend and then the priming, sanding, painting, installing, and caulking began.

    Hubby took several mantel ideas that I found on Pinterest and tweaked/combined them to fit the scale of our living room with its high ceilings.

    Yes, I know I am so very blessed to have him.  I can’t draw worth a lick. So, I struggle to explain my ideas, gesture with my hands a lot, show him pictures ( and then say, “but not exactly like that more like this”), followed by more gesturing.  Somehow, eventually he gets me.  It is one of the many reasons that I know God chose him specifically for me!  Hallelujah I am soooo grateful!!

    The process took us about a week working in the afternoons after school.

    Here is a time-lapse video of the progress.

     

    Lastly, here is the finished product!  Just in time for the holidays!

    Hurray for warm hands and feet, flickering flames  and fireside cocoa and coffee!!!

    We welcome 2019 with grateful hearts! As we look forward with positive attitudes, goals , and dreams may we always remember lean on the Lord and lend a hand to our neighbor!

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    Nativity scenes, snow, evergreen trees, twinkling lights, ringing bells, turkey or ham, and whiffs of cinnamon- all of these things and more call to mind the Christmas season!!

    These sights, sounds, tastes,  and smells bring forth memories and sometimes a sense of tradition. They are so familiar to most of us that they seem as though they might be common to us all and yet I was recently reminded that they likely are not. That is to say that each person has different traditions and memories surrounding this season.

    You see my family attended a Christmas party recently and we played Christmas movie bingo, which included movies such as: Miracle on 34th Street, Elf, Home Alone one and two, It’s a Wonderful Life, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, White Christmas, Scrooged, Charlie Brown Christmas, A Christmas Story, etc.etc…… I imagine that many of you are thinking of Christmas movie titles that aren’t on this list right now. There are so many! Yet, my husband and I were complete Christmas movie bingo failures! It was pretty clear that this is one holiday tradition that we have not kept up with. We had only seen a few of these very popular movies. “Keep the change you filthy animal!” was our bright and shining moment! Yes, we finally knew one!

    This got me to thinking about the traditions that we do keep!  We celebrate Christmas eve night and Christmas morning at HOME every year.  We read about our Savior’s birth in Luke, then we read the ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, and The Littlest Angel every Christmas eve.  Presents are always opened Christmas morning and then followed by cinnamon monkey bread!  Then we relax and soak in our blessings: forgiveness, grace, mercy, family, and love! It is truly the ONE day in the year that we set completely aside to bask in God’s goodness!

    Now, since I have shared my little Hallmark moment with you let me share a Christmas custom that is part of my heritage and might surprise you! If this is the meal you dream of for Christmas then it might surprise you to know that when I think of Christmas foods I think of tamales!!

    Yep, you read that right, the girl with the Irish name craves food with Spanish names this time of year! Pork, chicken, bean and cheese, even raisin I like them all and even though you can get them at restaurants year round in Texas they taste best at Christmas time! You see I grew up in deep South Texas and every year about the time that Wal-Mart takes down their Halloween displays tamale trucks would start appearing on the side of roadways.  These were local families earning money to buy Christmas presents for their families by supplying other families with their Christmas feast! It is tradition!

    So, I ask you dear readers what are your favorite Christmas traditions (quirky or otherwise)? Share the things you love about the season in the comments so that we can all enjoy, and as you tuck into your turkey just think of my family eating tamales, pozole, buñuelos, and pan de polvo!

    Merry Christmas or Feliz Navidad!

     

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    You read the title to the tune of the 12 days of Christmas right?!?

    When we moved into the fifth wheel and onto our new property we brought with us a small flock of laying hens. Three of the ladies were a year and a half old and three were old.??

    We were at the stage where we should cull the older birds and bring in some young ones. However, they fairly consistently laid 3-5 eggs a week and honestly we just couldn’t see adding any more tasks to our plate. So we just kept going with flock we had. Egg production slowed down during winter, as expected, and then picked back up as it warmed up. This summer we lost two birds to extreme heat and one to a predator.

    We were down to three hens. Two that were still laying and one that needs to go. What’s more,the boys had finally saved up funds to purchase replacement juvenile hens!

    Now in the past we have always purchased gold or red sex links from someone local with great results. We got birds that were bred to be outstanding layers and we bought them as juveniles which means they came home to us ready to lay. Which is so convenient.

    However, this time around we had slightly different goals. We wanted a breed that lays well, but carries a bit more meat, also known as dual purpose.

    So we researched.

    We want a rooster sometime in the near future and we like the idea of having hens hatch out chicks! Sustainability yay! So breeds with good brooding (mothering) instincts are desired.

    It gets hot in the Texas Hill Country so heat tolerant breeds are a must on the Homeplace.

    After much searching and discussion we choose to order six juvenile buff Orpington hens from a hatchery.[​IMG]

    We chose juvenile birds because it means that they will begin laying within weeks of their arrival and because fall for us means whitetail deer hunting season (and processing) and a variety of weather (meaning 85 degrees F one day and 28 degrees F the next.) We did not want to be nurturing baby chicks along in the midst of this AND the usual busy-ness of our life. Plus, this Mama hates buying eggs from the store.

    We received an email from the hatchery stating that the hens would arrive the week of October 29. We fixed up their new home and waited with excitement Monday and Tuesday for a call from the post office saying the chickens were ready for pick up. Halloween day dawned dreary and grey. We continued about school and our regular activities concerned that the evenings Trunk or Treat plans might be disrupted by rain. Two hours before Trunk or Treat setup time (that would be 3pm with no rain or calls from the post office) we donned our costumes loaded our trunk decorating supplies and head off to run some errands before the festivities. As we were pulling out of the drive it began to rain. By the time we had completed two errand stops it was pouring. That’s when we got the call.  ” Mrs. Cummings, we have some birds for you.” Ugh!

    So we hurried to the post office picked up our little paper crates of chickens (so cute) and then dashed home to change out of our costumes and into work clothes which would become SOAKED as we held an umbrella and carefully welcomed the ladies to their new home  and set out feed and water and then carefully closed them into the coop for the night.

     

     

     

    Now it was time to dry off, throw the costumes again and head off to Trunk or Treat!

    As you can see there were no trunks involved in this Trunk or Treat. The rain sent us all inside, but everyone still got their fill of candy and fun!

    All in all, it was a wild but fun evening! Come to think of it that is an apt description for much of our time here at the Homeplace!

    Look for a special DIY post very soon detailing all of the modifications we made to the new chicken coop as well as our new feeding and grazing plans!

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    This is a lap desk.  My sister made it for me when I went off to college a loooong time ago and it is still in use. (Good job sis!)

    I am showing this to you because last year it (along with the tiny travel trailer table) was the host of all our homeschool/office work. It was chaos in close quarters.

    So this year it was time for a change! Our house has a long, narrow entryway or parlor which leads directly into two more long narrow nondescript hallway/rooms. The first room off of the entry is directly in the center of our home and we deemed it to be a good spot to centrally locate the internet access, ie. the laptop, desktop and charging station for all of the technology. For this to work, we needed a double desk space.

    Now something like this would be period correct for our home, but it only seats one person.

    I found quite a few double work space desks for purchase, but frankly none of them were exactly what I wanted and I am just too practical.  I was not willing to spend hundreds of dollars on a piece of furniture that wasn’t really what I wanted. Now, Handy Hubby would love to build me a great custom piece of furniture. However, as great as that would be, I really need for him to remain busy with, you know, bringing home the bacon so that we can keep feeding these boys and putting this old house back together.

    So, what should I do? Oh convince my sweet middle son to help me build our desk! That’s right we built our double desk for cheap, and I am no carpenter.

    We started with these plans.

    For the record, this desk is very nice, but not my ideal! It is, however, my ideal price range!

    So we printed out sawdust girl’s plans and went out and purchased the supplies.

    We followed the instructions in cutting the table top pieces, clamping and gluing them together.

    We then moved on to the leg boxes. When we got to the instructions for the x pieces for the legs we ran into some trouble.  The directions say to cut 48.6 degree angle and a 41.4 degree angle.  However, my husbands miter saw does not cut more than a 45 degree angle.  Not gonna lie, hubby was out of town and the carpentry skills of my 12 year old and I combined are limited with me as the team handicap. So, I was ready to just go with a plain table top and rectangular leg boxes unadorned.

    But that kid of mine….he just kept saying, ” Come on, we have the lumber let’s just take a chance. We don’t want it to be boring.”  So we came up with the idea for v legs instead of x legs. I wish that I could tell you the method that we used to create these legs, but I can’t. We are such novices that all we really did  was hold a spare 2 X 4 up to the inside of the rectangular table leg, mark the angle we thought we needed and continue to make small cuts until the angles fit. Then once we had the v cut for one end of the table we used those two pieces as a template for the other v.

    Once we had the v leg boxes put together and the glue was all dry on the tabletop, it was time to screw it all together and then sand, and wood fill the cracks, and then sand, and sand some more! We filled cracks carefully and sanded thoroughly because it was really important to me that this desk be a smooth writing surface. Finally it was time to pretreat, stain, and polyurethane the tabletop and paint the legs.

    And then, we had this…..

    It may not be fine craftsmanship, but y’all it is getting the job done!! During the homeschool day two kids can work at the same time and I find folks completing their writing assignments here because they have room to spread out.  When blogging, I can type a post on the laptop while my oldest edits photos.  It is smooth, sturdy, and with a $60.00 price tag, functional!! Makes me smile!

    In short, this post really isn’t a tutorial, but an encouragement! If there is a project that would vastly improve the function of your everyday life do not be afraid to create your own “outside of the box” fix!

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    Ahhhh! Sleeping in our own beds in the “new to us” house!!! Yay!

    But for a moment, let’s stop and give credit to the room that made all these exclamation points possible.

    The oval office. That’s right, the bathroom.  Specifically, the boy’s bathroom.

    You see, we didn’t mind moving into the house without a finished kitchen, but we did require at least one fully functioning bathroom!

    This is the before picture.

    Dirty, smelly, and gross!! To begin, there was the vanity with its single sink. Said vanity had a leak at one time which had slowly warped and ruined it from the inside out. This same vanity, was also located in such a way that made closing the bathroom door almost impossible.

    Once a person stepped into the small bathroom, they would apply great force in closing the door as it scraped the vanity. With the door closed, a person would then discover that the reason the door wouldn’t open any wider than shown in the picture is that behind it there stood a cabinet with the water heater in it. At this point the person (me) would decide that they must escape this small foul smelling room!

    We quickly determined that most everything in this room should go and that it should be reconfigured.  To begin with, the water heater was moved to another (less cramped) part of the house. The vanity, tub, sink, and toilet were removed. As was the water damaged sheetrock and the disgusting tile.

    Now you might ask, why we didn’t simply clean the tile and grout, instead of tearing it out.

    Good question. You see we were on a mission to maximize space.  We planned to flip flop the entire room.  The left hung door would become a right hung door. The door would swing open with ease to reveal a compact double vanity on the left and the toilet on the right. The tub/shower combo would remain on the same wall but with the fixtures on the left instead of the right. When you switch all the plumbing around the tile is going to be damaged. So, you might as well replace it !

    So, without further ado….

     

    The double vanity/sink combo are from IKEA.

    The medicine cabinet is as well.

    Now, when I think of Ikea I usually think modern furnishings, but we have been very pleased with how these pieces look and function in this limited space! Two sinks are fantastic at tooth brushing time!

    The floor is penny tile .

    Paint colors are Sherwin Williams Silver Strand for the walls and Sherwin Williams Alabaster for the trim.

    Finally, we replaced the beat up hollow core door with an old door we salvaged and vintage hardware that we love!!

    We are so pleased with how this all turned out and especially thankful that this room made it possible for us to move in!!

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    It was moving day…No Moving Day…..No, MOVING IN DAY!! Woohoo! We woke up on a Saturday morning in April pumped because this was finally the day that we were going to move into our new/old house!!!

    No more hauling the septic, no more laundry at the laundromat, a full size bathroom, and personal space!!!

    Now remember, our travel trailer that we have been living in for seven months while we renovated this home was parked on site.  So, Handy Hubby went to the storage units where all of our furniture was being stored to meet the movers at 9AM while the boys and I began carrying kitchen, bath and bedroom items from the travel trailer to the house.  Back and forth we went carrying sheets, towels, dishes, instant pot, and school books.  Around 11:30 AM we had carried over most of the everyday necessities and my (always hungry)children were beginning to make noise about lunch.  So I called Handy Hubby thinking that it was likely that the truck was close to being loaded and that I could have sandwiches waiting for our family and the movers.  I just needed to know how many movers there were. So, I called Hubs up.

    However, I could tell that something was not right as soon as he answered. The movers (the same moving company that had moved us out of our previous home and into these very units), were a no show.  They hadn’t met him, as agreed upon, at 9AM.  He called at 9:30AM, no answer.  He called at 10 AM. They told him they were having trouble with one of their trucks, but would be there by 11:00AM with a different truck.  It was now 11:30AM and they are nowhere to be seen and no longer answering his phone calls.  Handy Hubby told me to feed the children and he would drive over to the moving company’s office to find out what was going on.

    The boys and I ate lunch and waited and waited…..and waited. At 1:00PM Handy Hubby drove up. He quietly told us that he did not think that the movers were coming.

    I said he was quiet, but y’all he was really, really quiet!! I knew he was furious! Our children, however, could not figure out what was going on! Daddy doesn’t get really angry very often and these kids just were not reading the signals correctly!

    When are the movers going to be here?

    Why do you think they didn’t show up, answer their phone, bring me my legos?What are we going to do now?

    I gave Daddy some lunch and then pulled my little darlings aside and begged them to please not ask Daddy anymore questions, I told him that yes Daddy and I wanted answers to all of their questions.  However, we did not have satisfactory answers just then and Daddy was just as upset as they were and that he was working hard to control his temper.

    Once Hubs had eaten I asked if he didn’t think that we as a family could go to the storage units and pull out just our beds. If we had our beds, we could sleep in the house that night.  He agreed that we could use our flatbed trailer to haul the beds but warned that getting them out would not be easy. Since they were packed into the units like a giant tetris game!

    He was certainly right, but we were motivated! All the beds came out and were set up! That night when we showered and climbed into our very own beds again for the first time in months we were so grateful!

    Yes, we can do hard things!

    Yes, the Lord is faithful!

    As yes, biting your tongue is sometimes necessary, advisable, and quite commendable!

    P.S. We got a recommendation for a mover who actually showed up on time Monday morning and moved all the rest of our belongings into the house!

     

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    After all that searching, though it was hard to believe, we had a contract on a new home!!  An old home, which needed a lot of work.  So, we had the house professionally inspected. The report said we needed to have a new roof and some foundation repairs.  The sellers quickly lowered their price to accommodate the cost of these repairs. And just like that, we finally knew where we were going!

    The new plan was to park the fifth wheel travel trailer on the property near our new house. So, that we could be on site to work and oversee any work that we had contracted!

    So into the fifth wheel we moved! We closed and set up our new digs on August 14, 2017.  (I remember this exact date, because it was also our 18th wedding anniversary!) We expected the renovations to our new house to take 3-4 months.

    We finally moved out of the fifth wheel and into the new house in March of 2018. Yes, that’s seven months in the fifth wheel and no the renovation was not complete. Far from it!

    You see, after all these months of living close together, slowly working on ALL THE PROJECTS, cooking almost exclusively in an instant pot, hauling the portable septic to empty into the main tank, paying to store our belongings, and homeschooling in a fifth wheel (oh yes school must carry on) we were DONE waiting!!!

    At least my kids and I were done! You see one Friday evening we called my husband on his way home from work and told him that when he got home we needed to have family meeting!!

    We explained to him that we had one fully functioning bathroom, the bedrooms were complete and the kitchen had counters and a sink and we wanted to move in pronto!!

    Only one bathroom did not bother us. It was full size!

    No oven, no problem. It was supposed to be delivered the next week. So what was one more week of the instant pot.

    The living room and the study were not completed. Not to worry, we would figure something out. Guaranteed there would be more room to recreate than in the fifth wheel.

    The exterior of the house still needed scraping and painting. NO WAY were we living in a travel trailer until that was completed!!

    Handy Hubby got the picture and agreed to move us in as soon as possible!

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