Keepers #15 (2013-2014)

There is nothing like a simple sewing project to lighten the day. After several weeks of more difficult sewing projects, we decided to slow things down a little. Our project of the week: bookmarks!

These bookmarks are super easy and quite fun! We found the idea on Pinterest and quickly decided this was a must for the girls. All you need is a length of ribbon, a button, and a small band of elastic (we used a rainbow loom piece).

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Based on previous projects, I expected the girls to take more time with these. Surprisingly, they finished more quickly than anticipated. Their sewing skills are starting to increase! (Of course, there was a little less sewing involved as well.)

Everyone seemed to enjoy these projects and I hope they will find them useful. I know our girls can never have enough bookmarks; we are just a bookworm family!

Have you ever made your own bookmarks?

Keepers #13 (2013-2014)

The month of April finds us Keeper girls still focusing on our sewing lessons. Unlike March, however, we have decided to tackle a few projects. Hopefully, the girls will find these less stressful and intimidating than a few of the stitches previously taught.

We brought along our handy-dandy sewing kits, ready to conquer the project of the day. While most sewing projects involve fabric, our first venture entailed paper!

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Sometimes it’s hard to guess what little fingers will find challenging or not. We thought we had picked an especially simple project, however we discovered several of the younger girls still struggled with this. In addition, being that we were ‘sewing’ on paper and not fabric, a few of our girls lacked any interest in this project.

We are pleased to note that most of the young ladies were excited. They thought the animal cards were adorable and really enjoyed adding the sewn embellishments to their projects.

The girls were encouraged to be creative with their cards. While we did give them suggested colors and a thread count for their embroidery floss, they were free to experiment with different amounts of thread (less or more) and to mix their colors for a more dimensional affect.

While none of our girls finished all four of their animal cards in class, most completed at least one in the hour given; some had a second one almost complete. They were encouraged to take them home and finish when an opportunity arose.

Lest you think I have a creative bone in my body, the images we used and the idea itself were taken from THIS awesome website. I highly recommend heading over there yourself. You’ll be inspired and encouraged to take on your own sewing adventure.

Hopefully, next meeting’s project will be even more successful; we will be sewing fabric animals!

Keepers #12 (2013-2014)

Wow! Our Keepers year is almost finished! Four more weeks to go and we are through. It seems hard to believe that an entire year has almost come about. Where does the time go? Before we get ready to relax for the summer, however, we want to finish strong. There are still a few more weeks to go and there is much to learn.

March saw us focusing on our sewing skills. Last time we were together, we spent the bulk of our time putting together the most adorable sewing kits using mason jars. At the end of our meeting, we did have a few moments to learn one stitch, the running stitch, but not much else.

This week, we wanted to review those skills learned previously and add a few more to our repertoire.

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We opened up group with a little practice time. The girls threaded their needles, knotted them, and practiced their running stitches. After a few minutes, we pulled them over to a side table and taught them a few new tricks.

The first stitch we taught them was a back-stitch. They caught on very quickly and seemed to enjoy a little diversity in their growing skills. We gave each of the girls an 8×11 piece of white felt and had them trace three lines down the middle. They were asked to practice their running stitch down the first line and the back-stitch down the second. The third line was for either stitch they preferred. We specifically instructed the girls to use colorful thread, so we could inspect their work and so they could more easily see their progress.

After a few minutes, we had the girls review tying off their stitches and once again pulled them over to the side table. This time, we taught them how to do a hemming stitch.

The hemming stitch proved to be a bit more difficult for the girls, but most of them caught on after a few moments practice. Even some of our adult ladies had yet to learn this stitch, so this was a fun, growing experience for all of us!

Our third, and final, new stitch of the day was the catch stitch. I think this stitch is lots of fun; you get to make X’s with your thread! The girls thought this was cute too, but they did have a little trouble catching on. I spent a little time walking around showing them individually and then they seemed to grasp the concept.

A few of our girls found these exercises to be entirely frustrating. Patience is definitely a must when learning to sew by hand. I really wish we’d had more grown ladies on hand to give more person-to-person assistance. Over all I think we did well though.

A few of the girls mentioned they had been working on their own projects during our break. This is always encouraging to hear; the girls being inspired to take what they’ve learned in group home and create something for themselves.

Next month will find us continuing our sewing, but this time we will have a specific project with which we are working. Hopefully, the ladies will find this entertaining and educational.

Till next time….

Keepers #11 (2013-2014)

Every once in a while, it’s fun to tackle a large project, instead of working on smaller ones which offer instant gratification. This was our thought process for handling the planning of both March and April. Instead of four smaller skill sets, we chose to pick one large one which would span all four meetings. Our project of choice: teaching our girls how to sew by hand!

I should probably note… I have no training in this field. That meant one of two things. Either I was going to be really bad at teaching because I have little experience in this OR I was going to be a decent teacher because the girls were going to be learning from someone who is not going to assume prior history and is at just a slightly higher level than they. That said; our time together was incredible!

Instead of immediately starting in on a major project, I thought it was important to begin with the basics. Our girls should learn how to handle basic sewing notions before they try to complete a project. I also wanted to get the girls started with their own sewing kits. This was our starting point.

Last summer, I “pinned” THIS amazing website to aid us in our sewing endeavors. I thought our girls would really enjoy creating personal sewing kits, making it their own. These mason jar sewing kits were the perfect fit! They are simple to make and incredibly adorable.

After creating our kits, we spent a few moments filling them with various notions and explaining the purpose behind each item. We made sure to include a mini-lesson on various needle types and thread variations, as well.

What good is a kit, if you aren’t going to use it? Each young lady was given a medium-sized rectangle of felt, a ruler, and a marker. We encouraged each girl to draw a few lines on her felt and then our first sewing lesson began! We taught them how to thread their needle (both by hand and with a needle threader); how to tie off their thread; and one basic stitch, the running stitch.

It took several minutes for the girls to learn the running stitch, but before long everyone was doing just fine. We gave the girls a little time to complete several lines of practice and then taught them one final skill for the day; tying off their stitches.

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After our meeting, one of my girlfriends alerted me to a new offer by Joann’s and Craftsy. For a limited time, you can sign up for free, online classes to help you become more proficient in sewing. Need a little help figuring out your sewing machine? Interested in learning how to piece together hand-made garments? Would you care to learn more about quilting? This offer just might be for you!

If you’re looking to get your littles involved in a few sewing endeavors, Skip to My Lou might be just what you’re looking for. There are tons of awesome ideas to help you and your child start their sewing adventure, with lots of projects to tickle your fancy. If you go nowhere else, definitely stop here and take a gander.

So far, our lessons are going very well! The girls are having a great time and they are excited to be learning a new skill set. I’m glad they are having fun because we aren’t done yet! There are several more stitches for us to learn in our next meeting, followed by a two-part project we’ll begin in April. We can hardly wait!

Who taught you how to sew and was it with machine or by hand? Have you taught this skill to your own children yet?

So, You Want to Start a Group?

I didn’t want to do this, not really. My selfish thoughts ran more along the lines simply being present and lending a helping hand once in a while, not to leading the entire program. I wasn’t looking to organize, I was looking to receive. (sigh) The Lord, on the other hand, had an entirely different plan.

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Five years ago, the Lord pushed (and I do mean pushed) me into starting a Keepers at Home group. There were very few in our area and my girls had specific ideas about what they were looking for. With a lot of prayer and a great deal of planning, we started out. As it turns out, this is a great deal of fun! We’ve had such a blast and we’ve enjoyed so many special moments!

Since then, I’ve been asked several times how we did it. What helped us get things organized and what did we learn along the way? For those considering their own KOF group, perhaps some of these tips might come in handy:

Pray!: (Notice the exclamation point.) Our first step was to do a lot of praying. I wanted to make sure this really was God’s calling and not me jumping the gun. Any ministry which is taken on out of selfish gain or pride, is not of the Lord. Pray that He would give you direction, guide your steps, and make clear what He would have you to learn.

Define Your Purpose: Before you can really get down to brass tacks, you need to determine what you (and/or your child) want to get out of this group. Are you hoping to merely socialize or learn more specific skills? I would highly recommend picking a mission verse and statement to help you; this removes guess-work and makes it easier to share your goal with others who might like to join in.

Time Manage: Organizing a group is much easier when you have a predetermined time and date set in place. Decide how often you want to meet and how long you would like each meeting to last. This will help you plan out which activities are feasible or which might need several weeks worth of work. (Our group meets the first and third Tuesday of each month, from 3-5p.m.) Find out what works best for you (as you are going to have to lead and be present for each meeting) and then go with it!

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Outline Activities: Now that you know which days you are meeting, write those down for the duration of your “year” and start plugging in activities you’d like to cover. You can use activities from a book, online inspiration, personal projects you wish to tackle, or even Pinterest. Our group attempts to cover one new subject each month, with a patch earned for each one. Don’t feel you need to move as quickly though! Do one per quarter or one per semester; whichever works best for your group or family.

“But all things should be done decently and in order.”  I Corinthians 14:40

Cash Flow:  You have all your ideas tentatively set into place, now comes the practical portion of the planning. Do you plan to collect dues to cover expenses and how much will you need to cover all of the materials? Would you prefer each girl to bring her own materials instead and pay nothing? Honestly, the best method is to determine how much money will be needed on a monthly average and charge dues. You will not need to worry about girls forgetting materials or not being prepared. You can have everything ready to go and meetings run more smoothly. Take into account how much families can afford to pay, especially if they have multiple children. Is fifteen dollars per month too much? Is five too little to cover expenses? Go back over your outline and get a feel for the money flow. If you find some activities might be too costly, you might wish to switch to another or perhaps make it a long-term project, where finances can be stretched out over several months to accommodate it. Collect dues at the beginning of each month, this way the girls become familiar with the pattern.

Note: I would suggest your first month of meetings be on a social level, with no materials being needed. This allows you to build up a treasury, without having to “pay yourself back” right from the get-go. Your first month’s dues will fund your second month’s activities and so forth; no paying yourself back for money paid out-of-pocket!

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Prep Work: Okay, one last time…. Go back over your outline and determine if any of these activities require too much prep time on your behalf. The purpose of this group is for the children to do the work; not you!! Don’t overwork yourself with prep, which can be time-consuming and take away from your own family time. If any of your activities require a great deal of prep time, consider making that one meeting in-and-of itself, with the girls doing all the prep. If that is not an option, wait until the girls are bigger to go with that activity; unless, of course, you are willing to spend hours getting materials ready to go. That is completely up to you!

Additional Activities: Hooray! You know what the purpose of this group is and you have your activity outline. Now, it is time to start putting in the finer details. Do you want to include a short devotion at the beginning of each meeting? If so, where do you plan to get your devotion and who will be giving it each week? Do you want to include a snack time? Who should provide snack and what type? If you plan to pass out awards/patches, at what time would that work into your routine and where do you plan to obtain those awards?

(As an example, our group meets from 3-5p.m. We start with ten minutes of free time, then have devotion for twenty minutes, do our activity for an hour, have snack for fifteen, clean up for ten, and then finish with awards/patches; closing in prayer. Our devotions are currently being given by myself, but we have had other mothers step up and teach as well. Snacks are provided by the girls; one girl signs up each week and brings a homemade dish which she prepared herself.)

Determine Involvement: One thing you need to take into account with any new group, is how much involvement you would like to receive. Determine how many children you will allow into the group before capping it off. Decide the age group which may participate. (I’ve had mothers of four-year olds who want to join ours, which is a bit too young.) Also, be firm about parental involvement. Is it an option for parents to leave or do they need to stay? If you are starting a group specifically for girls or boys, be clear about which gender of parent may attend the meeting with them.

Keepers #5 (5/14)

Registration/Insurance: I would love to tell you that all will run smoothly with your group and all the parents will be actively involved; that, unfortunately, is not always the case. For your own safety, have a registration form for all participating kids. This form should not only have an emergency contact number, in case parents don’t stay, but an insurance release portion. In the event of emergency, you will not be held liable for anything which happens to other children. This might also be a good time to determine if any children have an allergy issue, like peanuts, which might need to be accommodated.

Be Flexible: No group runs smoothly from the get-go. Test out a few meetings with close friends and start to refine your routine. Don’t get discouraged if things are a little bumpy at first, work with the group and figure out what works best for you. 

Keep in Touch: Groups work best when everyone stays informed and communication is open. Use emails to keep your group informed of upcoming meetings, materials they might need to bring (such as an apron), reminders of who is bringing snack, or other pertinent information. Your group will appreciate it and it will make your life that much easier.

Seek Permission: If you are planning on running this group through your church, this is the last step you ought to take. After all your organizing is accomplished, go talk with your pastor’s wife or whomever is in charge. It is always a good idea to keep your church informed of internal goings on, especially if you plan to invite other members of the body. This is a great opportunity for them to impart wisdom, offer assistance, and simply pray with you. If not, no worries then; you are free to get busy and have some fun!

Wow! Was that an eye-full or what? Who knew there was so much involved in organizing a KOF group?

Keepers #3 (1of 9)Please keep in mind, all of this is completely optional. You can, and ought, to run your own group in the manner God leads. As I mentioned from the beginning; pray! Allow Christ to lead your group; with Him in charge, you can’t go wrong!

Okay, KOF leaders…. What helpful advice would you give to new groups, just starting out?

“Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live… Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good…..” – Titus 2:3-8

Keepers #10 (2013-2014)

Wow! You blink and two weeks of your life flash by. Before you know it, another Keepers meeting is at hand and there are a multitude of things which need to be done. This meeting, we chose to spend a little more time on teaching the girls how to prepare some tasty treats.

Our second meeting of February was on the subject of chocolate! There is so much to talk about when it comes to this delicious topic: where it grows; how it grows; how it is made; various types of chocolate; and more!

One specific topic we discussed with the girls was how to properly melt chocolate. Most of us probably do not own double boilers, not being chocolatiers and all. However, there are also various other methods of melting chocolate. You could use your microwave or buy candy melts. One handy tool which you might want to consider… your slow cooker!

Yup; that’s right! You can use your slow cooker to melt chocolate. Who knew? (Well, apparently someone clever figured this out and was kind enough to share it with the rest of us.) Simply dust off your slow cooker, fill it about half way with water, turn it on (I sometimes forget to do this; sad, I know!), place your chocolate into a glass container, and then place the glass into the warming water. Allow about twenty minutes to a half hour for the chocolate to melt and then, go for it!

For our purposes, we used glass mason jars and filled them with chocolate chips. I did this instead of one large glass container because I knew we would be distributing the chocolate amongst about fifteen girls; one container for all of them to share would have just been chaotic. Instead, I used mason jars and just doled out chocolate into smaller dishes which they had in front of them.

A few notes on using your slow cooker as a double boiler… First; when using this method, do not put a lid on your crock pot. Condensation, would do harm to the chocolate; making it thick and hard to work with. Leave the lid off! Second; be very careful not to get any water into the chocolate while working with it. Again, water and chocolate do not go well together. Lastly; if you want to use candy melts, instead of good quality baking chocolate, forgo the water and jars, placing the melts directly into the crock pot. Stir the candy every few minutes and then use when fully melted. With either the double boiler or the candy melt method, the chocolate will stay smooth for several hours! There is no need to rush through your project, you have plenty of time; making this method of melting chocolate quite superior!

After those important notes were attended to, we got to the fun. Bananas, apples, sprinkles, Kool Whip (a good substitute for those with lactose intolerance), cherries, and raspberries were made available and the girls were free to have some fun!

Chocolate Delight

Chocolate Delight #2

Notice the squeeze bottle, which also contains chocolate. Such an easy method of having melted chocolate on hand for fancy decorating!

Chocolate Delight #3 Chocolate Delight #4 Chocolate Delight #5Our girls had so much fun. Once the materials were handed out, they were free to explore their internal chocolatiers! Plus, who doesn’t like a bit of chocolate now and again?

How do you melt chocolate for your baking needs?

Keepers #9 (2013-2014)

Our last Keepers meeting knocked me for a loop. We discovered one of our girls was being put on a stricter diet, thus eliminating a few key ingredients for this month’s activities.  Eeeek! I needed to make a few quick adjustments in order to help accommodate our girls and help everyone feel comfortable.

While the task was a little more challenging than I anticipated (who knew eating gluten-free/lactose free could be so involved?), I am proud to say we were able to find exactly what we needed. Hooray!

(Mommies who choose or need to be on a more strict diet, you have my utmost respect.)

For the month of February we wanted to focus on sweets. It is the month for Valentines, is it not? What better than a few goodies to help us celebrate. Sugar is always fun, but we also wanted to expose the girls to a few healthy alternatives which are just as tasty!

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Going over some of the finer details of the recipe, before getting to the fun.

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Gathering our ingredients and learning to measure properly.

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Starting our no-bake, energy bites. Yummy!

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Digging right in and making a fun mess!

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Look, mom; messy hands!

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Look at those hands! Hers are the cleanest in the bunch, having licked them fully! (Too cute!)

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All of our ingredients were gluten/lactose/peanut free. No easy feat!

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We ended a little early, so we ran outside to play. When asked why the girls thought we ended so quickly, they loudly replied, “IT WAS FOOD!”

THIS recipe proved to be a huge success! Not only did the girls have fun, but it was incredibly delicious. We had a great time getting our hands dirty and learning a new recipe.

For those who are concerned about allergies, feel free to substitute any of the ingredients with healthier options. I used hazelnut butter, in place of peanut butter; gluten-free oatmeal; and gluten-free flax-seed in our recipe. Goodness all around!

The girls had so much fun, we ended quite a bit early. They decided they wanted to head outside for a little fresh air and exercise, so we did!

Another successful Keepers meeting under our belts! Only seven more to go before the year is over. If you would, please keep this group in prayer. I think the Lord is going to bring about some major changes in this department during the coming year. As always, we wish to align ourselves with His will and bring Him glory. Thanks!

Do you have a favorite energy bite recipe? (There so many out there!)

Keepers #8 (2013-2014)

Well, we are back in action. I confess, I was very nervous the night before. Did I have everything; was I ready; were the girls going to show? As usual, I needn’t have worried about a thing; God had it all under control.

To start off the second half of the year, we wanted to review healthy eating. After the holidays, it can be very hard to put a halt to our sugar intake and refuel our bodies with things more healthy to digest. This was the perfect time to go over the food pyramid, proper portioning, and learn a few new recipes.

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Eating fruit salad, sweetened with honey and freshly squeezed blood oranges.

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Making our own ranch dressing with buttermilk.

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The girls were anxious to mix their own dressing….

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…and give it a try! Eating our salad was yummy.

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Adding buttermilk to our dressing.

Our recipe for salad dressing came from THIS awesome website. I made the ‘bulk’ spice mixture at home and prepped our salad, but in group the girls made their own dressing. We used condiment bottles easily found at any Wal-Mart or Target to shake up and serve our dressing; this made things nice and easy on the girls. They were free to take their bottles home so they could use them in the future on other cooking projects or to recreate the dressing on their own time.

After exploring the world of homemade dressing, we spent a little time talking about fruit salad and enjoying a sample. We talked about the importance of not using sugars in the fruit, but instead supplementing with local honey and freshly squeezed oranges. We also spent a little time talking about the benefits of vitamin C, not only bodily, but in the presentation of the fruit itself (it keeps apples from browning).

Interestingly, after all that food, we still had snack! This brought up an interesting dilemma. It appears one of our girls switched over to a gluten-free/lactose free diet unbeknownst to us! I didn’t know what to do. Luckily one of the little girls who provided snack brought oranges.

However, now I am going to have to come up with a game plan for future meetings. Perhaps I should bring a plate of gluten-free chocolate chip to each meeting, just in case? I don’t want all of our families to worry about this, so I think it should be on me. I suppose I could ask the little girl’s mom to bring a personal snack, but that doesn’t feel right. Hmmm… this might take some thought.

What is your favorite, healthy snack?

Keepers Meeting #7 (2013-2014)

Wow! Our Keepers meeting this week was so much fun! We chose to spend this meeting focusing on the joy of Christmas. There were Christmas carols, the Christmas story, a cute craft, tons of snacks, and adorable goody bags for all!

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Our goodie bags; one for each girl, filled with holiday fun.

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Our lovely group of girls.

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Learning more about the wonderful Christmas story.

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Our craft for the day; snowmen pencil toppers.

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Showing off all our hard work.

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Enjoying a well earned treat. Gotta love the holidays.

Time flies and before you know it, the meeting is over! This week seemed to go particularly fast. Six whole weeks until we meet again. I pray all of the ladies will be safe over the holidays and that their Christmas is blessed.

We wish you a merry Christmas, we wish you a merry Christmas….

Keepers Meeting #6 (2013-2014)

Another Keepers meeting went off without a hitch. This week we finished up our lessons on fall crafting, learned some table etiquette (just in time for the holidays), and got a few new patches to show off our hard work.

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Teaching the little ones how a proper table is set.

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Creating crafted candles for our holiday tables.

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Building our candles with cinnamon sticks.

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Great job; keep up the good work!

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That looks so nice!

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Snack time!

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Our birthday girls.

Today’s craft was so much fun and fairly easy! The tricky part? Getting enough cinnamon sticks for all these girls. Who knew it took so many? Thankfully we had just enough to get us through.

Our lessons in etiquette came just in time for the holidays. Hopefully these ladies will be shining examples of proper young ladies, no matter where they spend their holidays.

With two patches earned today, both for etiquette and fall fun, these girls put in a lot of good work! Next time… our Christmas celebration! That should be a lot of fun.