No-Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Bars

Finger-licking good and healthy to boot.

That’s exactly the type of snack these little bars are.

easter wreath, chocolate nobake bars 033

They are honey-sweetened and feature peanut butter, dark chocolate, and coconut.

Oh yeah, and oatmeal too.

easter wreath, chocolate nobake bars 034

See? Healthy and good. And maybe a little bit addictive.

Perfect for a little snack to accompany your coffee or a sweet treat to put in a lunchbox.

easter wreath, chocolate nobake bars 030

In addition to being healthy, this is a no-bake snack, so it’s easy to make a full pan of these without even turning on your oven.

I don’t make these THAT often, but when I do they’re usually gone by the second day.

Trust me, it’s good stuff.

Here’s the recipe if you’re interested in whipping some up for your family:

1 C peanut butter
1/2 C honey
1/2 C coconut oil
2 C rolled oats
1 C flaked coconut
1/2 C nuts or dried fruit
1 1/2 C dark chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla

Melt the first three ingredients in a heavy bottom saucepan. Add in the rest and stir until chocolate is melted. Press into a 9″x13″ pan and chill for a few hours. Cut into bars.

Homespun Easter Bunny Wreath

To help usher in Spring, I made a new wreath, this one wrapped in homespun yarn.

easter wreath, chocolate nobake bars 013I was really fond of the blue and green color palette of this yarn, as well as the nice fuzzy texture.

easter wreath, chocolate nobake bars 018

To make this not just a Spring wreath, but an Easter wreath, I added this sweet little felt bunny that I made and stitched together. I added a layer of stiff interfacing in between two layers of felt to help give it structure.

easter wreath, chocolate nobake bars 021

I also made up a bunch of these felt flowers in light neutrals, along with a navy blue and one shade of green for pops of color.

easter wreath, chocolate nobake bars 015

easter wreath, chocolate nobake bars 014

Happy Spring everyone!

–Rachel

Dear Winter, I’m Breaking Up With You

Saturday was a teaser. A beautiful almost 60 degrees and a good deal of sunshine.

I could be comfortably outside minus a heavy coat and felt an extra pep in my step. Oh the possibilities of spring! I can’t wait to plant a garden! Paint my kitchen! Clean out the garage!

Then the next day came, bringing with it that familiar icy chill in the air and snowflakes falling once again overnight.

I’m not even gonna ask you if you’re fed up with winter. I KNOW you are, unless you’re some arctic-loving freak—oops, I mean person.

I have had enough (actually, I had had enough by early February) and here are my personal signs that it has been a heck of a long winter:

1. Kids are starting to get disappointed when it’s a snow day. For real? Yep. They’ve had enough too.

2. Every activity that me, my kids, or my family is involved in has been cancelled or postponed at least twice. Every plan on the calendar I now automatically think of as tentative.

3. Never thought I’d be jealous of someone living in Alaska in the winter, or of the outside event spectators at the Winter Olympics. Now I can say I have.

images (7)

4. If I see another Facebook post with a picture of a ruler stuck in the snow I’m going to whack that person upside the head with it. Same goes for the car thermometer pics.

5. My kids’ snow pants are no longer in good enough shape to be a hand-me-down. The snow boots aren’t too great either.

download (10)

I finally broke down and bought Andrew a real, not-from-a-thrift-store pair of new boots because I was tired of duct-taping his old pair.

6. Not only do we have a “Normal” school day routine, but a “Snow Day” routine and a “Two Hour Delay” routine down pat. A lot of the snow days I had 2 of my nieces as well. (Yes, if you are counting that is 7 children here and yes I’m still sane. Sorta.) It’s kind of sad when they think a Snow Day at Aunt Rachel’s is just the norm.

download (11)

7. Our family has gotten more than their money’s worth out of Netflix. Sadly, we have now seen every single episode produced from several different series.

8. Our van went for several weeks on the same tank of gas. This happened a few times. My excitement over not spending as much on gas is overpowered by the realization of how much we are paying for heating fuel.

download (4)

9. I have now heard of the terms Polar Vortex and Thundersnow and can tell you what they mean. My kids are on a first-name basis with all the weathermen and weather girls.

10. I am starting to think we can easily combine graduation parties with 4th of July picnics. You know, a Two for One deal.

Okay, I’ll stop there as I’m sure you are positively sick of reading about people who are sick of winter. I’m sure you have your own list on the topic too.

Let’s focus on Spring and Summer, shall we?

This sign says it all…

images (8)

Tips for Selling on Ebay

My favorite way to make a little money on the side while getting rid of extra stuff is selling on Ebay. I have sold things here and there for the last few years, going for spells without listing anything and then picking it back up and listing a whole bunch of things at once. I can’t claim that I’m an Ebay pro or anything, but I do feel like I’ve learned some useful tips along the way. Spring is coming (It Is Coming, there is an end in sight to winter!!), I feel as if this is a timely post since people like to de-clutter when they spring clean. Here are a few things I’ve learned through my Ebay experience:

download (7)

*List as many details as possible. Buyers are often looking for something very specific, so fill out as many details as you know on what you’re listing. List measurements if possible. Also put as many details as you can in the title of your listing. Don’t be vague. If it’s something you don’t know a lick about, try to research it first.

*Take good pictures. Use indirect natural sunlight if possible and include some nice close-ups of your product. I often like to use a sheet of white foam board as my background. If selling a clothing item, I will even do one of the inside tag. Also, if it is something that has a maker’s mark or is a numbered item, I will include a picture of that too.

*Be honest about any flaws. This sounds like it would drive people away, but at least they know up-front whether something is in perfect condition or not. Usually they will still bid on it if it is something they really want.

download (8)

*Ship it out quickly. I put a 3 Business Day handling time, but after receiving payment I like to get it out within a day or so. A lot of my positive ratings from buyers have comments regarding how quickly they received their item.

*Package it well. When preparing an item to ship, make sure everything is very secure. You have no idea what a package goes through until it reaches a destination, so prepare for the worst. If it is even remotely breakable, have it marked “Fragile.” I use lots of clear packing tape when I am readying my things to ship.

*Include a Thank You. Not everyone does this, but I think it adds a nice little personal touch. Nothing real time-consuming, just one or two lines hand-written with your first name as a signature. Even if something sells for low, I still try to remember this.

*End an auction on Sunday night. I remember reading this somewhere shortly after I really got into listing things. There is truth to it as a lot of people are online Sunday nights. You can snag some of those last-minute bidders this way.

*Don’t short yourself on the shipping. Know just about what that item is going to cost you to ship before you even list it. I have gotten burnt a few times for the shipping before, so lesson learned. On the other side, don’t overcharge for shipping either.

images (6)

*Go postal. This is again a personal preference, but I have had pretty decent luck using the postal service for shipping. Flat Rate boxes and envelopes can be picked up there for free. Recently I discovered that they can pick up your packages straight from home for free when delivering your regular mail. It has saved me lots of trips to the post office–just request your pickup the night before online. Also I print out my shipping labels and pay for it all through Ebay via my PayPal account.

*Check for messages. Sometimes people send messages with questions about your item, so it’s good to respond to these in a timely manner. If not you can potentially lose a buyer.

Well, those are the main things that come to mind. In a nutshell, be a seller that you would want to buy from.

Ebay is a great tool and a pretty easy way to earn some cash from home. I have fun seeing what sells and what doesn’t. It is really surprising sometimes. Just a FYI–not everything will sell, even if you think it’s wonderful. On the other hand, I have listed some oddball things that have gone unexpectedly well. Now that I have some experience under my belt, I have an idea of what can go and may keep my eyes open at yard sales for potential things to flip on Ebay.

To wrap up this post, here’s a little anecdote from last year. An Ebay success story, if you will: Early last fall I was scoping out yard sales and did a drive-by of one that was listed in the newspaper. Upon finding the address, it didn’t look too appealing, but I kinda felt bad for the people and stopped (plus they saw me drifting by in my Mom van, so guilt ensued). Anyway, I got out and perused what they had to offer. I happened upon this pretty red Christmas tablecloth that most definitely looked vintage. It was either 50 cents or a dollar, so I scooped it up, intending to use it at my house over the holidays. After arriving home, it somehow got placed under some other things and I didn’t unearth it until several months later. I happened to do a search of it on Ebay and found that it was a more rare print of a desirable vintage brand. Suddenly willing to part with my treasure, I listed that tablecloth and it immediately had watchers and lots of views. My 50 cent or a dollar tablecloth ended up selling for over 60 bucks! I was thrilled. (I also picked up an old GI Joe with a box of other boy soldier/gun stuff. Little did I know that it was one made the first year GI Joe came out and he sold for a lot too!)

How We Homeschool Without Homeschooling

It may come as a shock to some of you dear readers, but I do not homeschool my children. Neither do they attend a private Christian school. Yes, my friends, this product of public schooling sends her brood of children to public school. (Gasp!) A lot of people think we do homeschool, and I really take that as a compliment.

Don’t get me wrong, I can see the wonderful aspects that homeschooling has to offer. I really, really do. Many of the Moms on my personal “Most Admired” list homeschool their kids and do an awesome job of it. However, I also know a LOT of highly admirable, godly Mothers who send theirs to public school as well (and their kids are doing great). And lest I not forget, some who choose private schooling for their kids.

**Don’t take this post as an offense to any of these categories of schooling!** Oh yeah, and please don’t judge me for sending my kids to the big-bad public school. I personally believe that every family is different, school districts are different, and each one has to choose what they deem best for their family. That’s what we all really want for our kids, isn’t it?

Since Day One of entering the world of having school-aged children, this is a decision that so far my husband and I have stuck to. However, just because we don’t homeschool doesn’t mean our kids don’t get “homeschooled,” if you get my drift. Though I desire a great education for my kids, I have an even greater desire for them to love God, learn His Word, and want to share that love with those around them. I believe that we can still instill this in them on an everyday basis. Some days I really do a cruddy job of this, but this is something we really work towards doing at home and in our daily interactions.

e9d1d6221eef17cf087406280b50933b

So, how in the world do we “homeschool” without homeschooling? Here’s some examples I have thought of that our own family does. While you read this (hopefully you haven’t tuned out by now!) please don’t think I have picture perfect kids or that I’m some picture perfect supermom. I can assure you that we are most definitely NOT. This is what we TRY to do to instill values, a love of learning, and godly character in our gang.

* Be involved in their schooling. Anyone who knows me can assure you that though I don’t homeschool, I am very actively involved in my kids’ school lives. I know their teachers, know their friends, am on PTO, volunteer in classrooms, and make sure they do their best at whatever they’re learning. We do homework Every.Single.Night and if someone is really slacking or struggling in a subject, you’d best believe I’m in the trenches trying to help them conquer that area of weakness.

*Read, read, read. We are a household of readers, and I love it. You can find books in literally every room of my house. (Even the bathroom, you say? Yup.) Though my crew isn’t homeschooled, I have some boys who are off the charts whenever their reading levels are tested. Though all can read independently now, we still like reading chapter books aloud to them most every night. Parents who love to read usually (though not always) have kids that learn to love reading. Together we have been on many adventures to faraway lands without even leaving our home. Most of the crazy random facts and knowledge my older two can spout off was learned through independent reading.{Just as an aside, I have noticed that on library days my daughter always brings home fiction and my boys drag home non-fiction books. One day it was a book all about FEMA. I’m like, really?}

snow days Feb2014 ebay2-6-14 026

*Experience things together. Summers are especially great for this, but it can be done any old time of the year. Visit a museum, an art gallery, go fishing, take a hike, cook a meal, grow a garden together–it doesn’t matter what or where, just doing things together is important. Kids learn by doing and they need our time as well.

*Read God’s Word together. One of the best Christmas gifts we received this past year from my parents was Jesus Calling for Kids. It is a daily devotional that has a short bit to read everyday and then some verses to look up. We have taken to doing this at dinnertime and they remind me when I forget– “Mom, we didn’t do Jesus Calling!” I read the page out loud and they take turns looking up the coordinating verses.

a6e38b7d1c53ae124774c331fdbb52f5

*Go to church and Sunday School. As a child, my family went to church every single week unless we were half-dying. My kids also know this is just what we do. It is not an option. We love our church family and they love us. Many of them have taught at least one of my kids in some capacity through either VBS or Sunday School or Children’s Worship and I cherish that. I have taught each of my kids in Sunday School as well. Our small group convenes at our house and they hear us praying corporately together. They know that we are invested in the ministry of our church and we are invested as a family. Church is not just something we go to, it is what we do.

*Serve others together. Our kids know that their Dad and I want them to look for ways to serve others, not serve themselves. Whatever my husband and I are doing, we try to get the kids involved too. An example of this is my husband’s role as Head Trustee at our church. He has done this for years and completely rocks at it. It is a habit that whenever he goes to the church to do trustee work, at least one if not several helpers go along with him and he puts them to work. And you know what? This is something they look forward to, don’t complain about, and also ministers to others.

*Be a good example. Live it out. Show them that you love to learn new things. Be respectful of others. Use manners. Let them see you studying the Bible. Treat others as you want to be treated. Talk about Jesus, what he has done for us, and how he loves us. Show your kids and your spouse unconditional love. Serve your family without grumbling or complaining. The list could go on, but you get the idea. Some of this stuff is caught, not taught.

e3c1e75c50f9d41b1867d40d5e7080c1

I’m going to stop right there with my list, but I hope you get the picture. I really, truly believe parents can raise awesome, godly kids while still sending them to public school. What’s really great about this is that they can then shine their light to those they encounter there. We need to be focused on raising kids that are in this world, but not of this world. We are called to be salt and light wherever God has planted us. I have a couple kids that think nothing of popping their Bible into their backpacks. My one son has witnessed to other kids already and is completely unashamed of what he believes. Hallelujah! A former teacher has told me with tears in her eyes how she still thinks about some of the things one of my boys said to her when he was her student a couple years ago. My heart leaps with joy whenever I hear something like this.

peach jam, 1st day of school 2013 023

For now we feel like this is where God wants our family. I’m not saying that I’ll never, ever homeschool. I can see some really great benefits of it. However, if God is using my kids for His glory in the midst of a public school setting, then so be it. Use us, Lord, and use all the other Christian families out there wherever and however they “do” school.

Gingham Wrapped Favors

Today I am sharing an idea for favors that could be used for a banquet, party, shower, or even a wedding.

B & G favors 2014 006

If you’re into gingham, that is.

I made a bunch of these recently for a cub scout banquet, also known as the “Blue and Gold Banquet” that is held annually. Basically I wanted to make something that looked non-girly but was still cute.

B & G favors 2014 003

Inside each one is an individually wrapped mint. Since I had to make over 100, I bought the mints at a bulk foods store.

These were incredibly easy to make and I could see them working with a lot of different color schemes. Also since these were for a Blue and Gold banquet, I used a blue and white gingham and a yellow cotton yarn.

B & G favors 2014 011For the gingham, I cut squares that were right around 5″ by 5″ a piece.

I can’t really explain how I wrapped them, but pretty much like you would a present and so no raw edges of the fabric were sticking out. After cutting about a 12″ piece of yarn, I wrapped it around the fabric one way, then crossed the two pieces and wrapped them the other way. Each ended up with a simple little bow on the front.

B & G favors 2014 010

B & G favors 2014 009

As I mentioned earlier, I could really see this same general idea used for a variety of occasions. I would totally use this idea again for shower favors or even for a wedding. Gingham can be found in a whole plethora of colors, plus they could be wrapped with twine or any kind of ribbon.

To see another one of my favor ideas, check out this post from almost two years ago. It’s one of my most viewed posts ever!