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My Thrift Store to Fabulous Kids Space Decor

July 17, 2013

My plan this summer was to turn a corner of my family room into a creativity spot for my daughter.  There had to be a space in my home that displayed my “trash to treasure” flare.  It started out with an old table I bought from a neighbor’s garage sale.  I used it earlier this year as the Royal Banquet Table for my little girl’s Princess Birthday Party.

I was given an opportunity to shop at A Second Thought Resale Shop to share with others what the store has to offer.  When I arrived to shop on that Saturday, I was excited to find out it was Buy One Get One Free day! So, for less that $20, I was able to buy lots of stuff to turn this shopping cart of items into an beautiful adult space that was still fun for kids.

PicMonkey Collage Thrift store kids space

First, I transformed my old table by sawing down the legs,  spray painting the top with chalkboard paint and painting the rest of the table white.


My daughter is able to use the table as a train table or to draw her own make-believe town.



I had an idea to make a spinning art supply organizer to place at the center of the table.  On my trip to A Second Thought Resale Shop, I found exactly what I needed, a Lazy Susan spinning tray.  With my collection of empty soup and tomato sauce cans, I simply covered them up with rolled burlap that was purchased at a Micheal’s craft store.



Because my family room has a neutral color palate with natural elements from our vacations, I didn’t want the colors from the arts and craft sections to be overwhelming.  So, I decided to keep the furniture and accessories neutral allowing the color to come from the art supplies and toys.


With such great finds at the thrift store, I was even able to decorate a wall in the room.  I found 2 floating shelves, a lantern, and a small fish bowl.  To compliment the adjoining wall of my photographs from Martha’s Vineyard, I added shells, rocks and a stone turtle from our trip to the Cayman Islands.


But, wait. There is more!

With the BOGO sale, I was able to get things to help with crafting and learning.  I purchased 2 muffin tins to help hold paint or to use for sorting; a tin cookie sheet to use for magnetic activities; a flannel-backed vinyl tablecloth to protect the table from craft activities; and skirt/pant hangers to display artwork or hold paintings while they dry.




I also bought this wooden shutter that makes a great stand to hold learning cards.  There are countless creative ways to use an old shutter!


For my small eat-in table, I found these beautiful quality placements in my daughter favorite color, purple.


And, to help me organize our activity schedule in our new craft corner, there was this cork bulletin board in excellent condition.


Now our new creative corner is complete.


It is amazing how far your money can go by purchasing items from a thrift store, especially one with BOGO sales.  What’s great about shopping at A Second Thought Resale Shop is that proceeds from the store support the international ministry program of Heritage Christian Services that helps people with disabilities in Guatemala.  So, not only did I add creative beauty to my home, I was able to bless those in need of spiritual and physical care.  That is truly the treasure behind the decorating.


A Lovely Church Tea with Author Faith Bogdan: Becoming a Well-Loved Woman

July 9, 2013

Cropped tea centerpiece women's teaWhen things aren’t going well, we sometimes invite the devil over for tea. ‘Misery loves company,’ they say. So when we open the door to the spirit of insecurity, lack, poor self-image, hopelessness, bitterness, resentfulness, … you name it, we welcome into our heart the lie of the enemy that says we are not loved.

How can we as Christians experience the acceptance we need to prosper in our daily life? At a recent church tea hosted by Word of Life Christian Fellowship in New York, author Faith Bogdan shared this word:

Christianity is a paradox. The more I loose myself, the more I find my true self.

Becoming a well-loved woman only happens through the love of God. The power of this kind of love changes us. What women want is to be accepted for who we are. We must realize that God pursues us just the way he made us, so that He can do the work through his grace, while we rest in our faith.

Faith spoke from the book of Song of Solomon where we read about the pursuit of a woman who says to Solomon, “don’t look at me because I am dark” (Song of Solomon 1:6) We see that Solomon pursues this “unlikely lady” and even calls her the “lily among the thorns.” Guilt and shame prevents us from receiving the healing love that we need. Freeing ourselves from our own ideas of what pleases God, allows us to focus on a more intimate relationship with God. He desires to spend time with us, to change us, to reveal the beauty in our being among the challenges of life.

A well-loved woman loves God well.

A well-loved woman loves others well.

A well-loved woman loves herself well.

~Faith Bogdan

As a mother, there are time when guilt questions my parenting. As a wife, sometimes I wonder if I am providing all the love that is needed. One thing that I know is that my love comes from the Lord. The only thing I shall invite over for tea is the love of God.

May you be encouraged to live your life as a Well-loved Woman. Here are a few more lovely photos from the tea to inspire you, as well.

Tea sponsored by the Women of Promise

Tea sponsored by the Women of Promise


Inspirational tea bags printable by Creative Ladies Ministry


Faith Bogdan with Sheryl McNeill (wife of paster Philip McNeill of Word of Life Christian Fellowship)

Faith Bogdan writes and speaks to moms and general audiences about living “well-loved” by God. She is the author of Who are All These Children and Why are They Calling Me Mom? and serves alongside her husband as co-pastor of Wellsburg Neighborhood Church in Wellsburg, New York. Faith resides in a “little cabin in the big woods” with her husband Dave and their four girls.

Summer Learning Fun: Reading to Build a Well in Africa (part 1)

July 2, 2013

This summer we will help provide clean drinking water to people in South Sudan just by reading books!  Our local library has joined the town-wide effort, led by “Water for South Sudan” (a not-for-profit organization located in Penfield, NY) to dig a well in Africa.  A Penfield resident issued a challenge to “fill the library well” with paper water drops earned from meeting each week’s reading goal.  When the well is filled with enough water drops, this generous community member will sponsor a well in South Sudan in honor of all the children’s reading this summer.  Isn’t that awesome?


First thing first.  We signed up for our very first library card!


Then, we signed our summer reading contract.  Our goal is to read at least 20 minutes every day.  In our case, I do most of the reading while she points out sight words.


After our first week of reading, we returned to the library to play the reading game.  A roll of the dice moves our game piece on the game board landing on a particular reading assignment for the next week.  A prize coupon is given for each reading day completed.  We, also, get to write our name on the paper water droplet to “fill” the library well.


At last… the prize table.  My girl wanted to cash in her coupons right away the first time we played the reading game.  The second time, she decided to save up (yes!) for a pricier stuffed animal.  That made me proud.


The reading program goes on until August.  So, I will have a Part 2 update at the end.  Already, in addition to reading, the program is teaching us delayed gratification and serving others through charity.  Is your community doing something fun and creative to keep children reading this summer?  Be sure to join in or at least visit your local library regularly while school is out.

Summer Learning Fun: Making GAK and 3 Other Sensory Play Recipes

May 30, 2013

I’ve never heard of GAK until last year while I was researching how important it is for kids to develop their fine motor skills.  Fine motor refers to the use of the small muscles in the hand which is necessary for skills like handwriting.  Sensory play activities like playing with GAK (or play dough, clay, etc.) makes developing those little muscles fun!  GAK is a mixture of glue, water, and Borax that forms a slimy putty that is irresistible to play with.

My daughter’s elementary school mailed us an information packet months ago to start preparing for kindergarten.  In it are recipes for sensory play activities.  We’ve been trying to do as much as we can, particularly because my little girl has an alternate pencil grip.  She has her own way of gripping a pencil partly because she insists on it!  Her preschool teachers assured me that it seems to work for her, and everyone keeps encouraging her to try the traditional way.  And, if not, that’s fine with me.

The first of the recipes we made is GAK.  Here is how we made it along with 3 other sensory play recipes we plan on making, also.

GAK sensory play recipes picmonkey


2 Cups white glue (four, 4oz. bottles)

2 1/2 Cups water

Food Coloring

3 tsp  Borax (found in the laundry isle)


In one bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups of water, 2 cups white glue, and food coloring.


In another container, dissolve 3 teaspoons of Borax in 1 cup of water.


Blend both mixes together and enjoy the fun!


Store in a ziplock bag.  It can be played with again and again.


Thousands of brightly colored bubbles floating in a blend of cornstarch and water.  Play with the bubbles that are inside the bags


5 teaspoon cornstarch

1/2 cup vegetable oil

food coloring

1/2 cup water

1 egg

quality freezer ziplock bag

Place all the ingredients in the bag.  Add food coloring: 2 drops each of blue and green or red and green.  Seal the bag with duct tape.


1 cup cornstarch

2 cups salt

1 1/3 cups cold water

Combine the salt and 2/3 cups of the water in a pot and bring to a boil.  Mix cornstarch with the remaining water and stir well.  Blend the 2 mixtures and knead into clay.  Mould a sculpture, let dry and paint.  Keep unused clay in a covered container or plastic bag in the refrigerator.


1 box of cornstarch

1 1/2 to 2 cups of water

Add water to the cornstarch until it is semi-firm.  Store covered in the refrigerator.  As it becomes dry in storage and/or from handling, add water to soften it.

We made our GAK about 2 weeks ago.  And, it’s still in excellent shape.  My daughter likes to ball some up and pretend that she is feeding scrambled eggs to her stuffed animals.  I’ll update this post as we I take photos of the other recipes.  Until then,  get those little fingers moving and start playing!

Summer Learning Fun 2013 Blog Series: Find Out What’s in Store!

May 29, 2013

We are Southern folks living in upstate New York where summer lasts about 2 weeks.  Well, that’s what it feels like.  Back home in Louisiana we are able to enjoy many outdoor activities during most of the year without it being so cold.  One of my favorite funny things my dad used to say to me and my mom is that we like to “keep the road hot.”  Yes, mom and I love to travel, see, and learn new things.   Now that I am a mom, I’m doing the same with my little girl this summer.  We are hitting the road and “keeping it hot”  like last year’s Summer Learning Fun 2012 which was such a blast, I just had to plan another one.

Also, my daughter just graduated from preschool and it’s countdown to kindergarten for us!  Our Summer Learning Fun will also share home projects and activities that help preschoolers with kindergarten readiness.

Here are some of what we plan to do and where we plan to go:

  • Sensory Play Activities with Recipes
  • Springdale Farm’s Robotic Milking Center
  • Spanish Scavenger Word Hunt at the Rochester Public Market
  • Summer Reading Game at the Public Library
  • Train Ride at the New York Museum of Transportation
  • Exploring a Historic Lighthouse
  • Learning About the Middle Eastern Culture at an International Food Market
  • Benefits of Jump Roping for Health and Learning
  • A Step into Africa at Seneca Park Zoo

The road is heating up and we are exited to enjoy our summer break.  Learning doesn’t stop outside the classroom, especially at our house.  In fact, the best way for kids to learn is by enjoying the experience.   Scientific studies show that the positive emotions children feel while learning is like the glue that makes it all stick.  Follow along with us this summer.  And, be inspired to make your Summer learning fun, too!

The Lion, The Witch And The Lesson About Child Predators

May 16, 2013

Right before news broke about the kidnapping story that occurred in Cleveland,Ohio,  I had purchased the picture book The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe based on the original book by C.S. Lewis.  I wasn’t sure if my 5 year old would like or be scared of the evil characters in the magical land called Narnia.  She saw the book and was instantly drawn to the pictures.  So, at that moment, we sat side by side reading the book and entered the  new world filled with wonder.

It wasn’t until after we read the book a couple of time, that I realize the story can also serve as a way to teach my daughter the dangers of child predators.  The whole story is a classic tale of good against evil.  And, one thing that I want my daughter is know is that evil exists in this world.  In the story, four children enter Narnia through a strange old wardrobe in the spare room.  The youngest, Lucy, was the first to experience the mysterious new place.  But, before she could persuade her brothers and sister that a wicked White Witch exists in Narnia, her brother Edmund went through the wardrobe to see the land for himself. It was the actions of Edmond that I used to discuss the following teaching points.


1.  Don’t go off alone when you are suppose to be with others.


There is safety in staying with a group or under the care of others.  I told my daughter that she should never go off alone, especially to a place she has never been to before.  God has put people in authority like teachers, the police, and our parents to help keep us safe.

2.  Evil strangers know how to trick you by being friendly and offering something nice.


When the Witch met Edmond, she saw that “he was just the kind of boy she could win over with a box of her enchanted Turkish Delight.”  She tempted him with more if he could bring his sisters and brother to her house.  Evil strangers know how to pick which kids to hurt.  Many times those kids are alone, sick, or not paying attention.

3.  Never go inside a stranger’s car or house without mommy or daddy knowing.


Once Edmond went to the Witches’ home, he realized she was not nice at all.  Kidnappers and criminals often try to lure kids inside their car, home, or a secret place.  There, they reveal their true intentions to harm you.

4.  Strangers that want to hurt people can keep kids away from their parents to do mean things to them.


The evil White Witch tied Edmond up and treated him as a prisoner.  Sometimes, kids are really hurt by strangers.  It helps to stay strong and never lose hope.

5.  God always knows where you are.  But strangers will make you feel like you can never be free.


Aslan, the great lion that created all of Narnia, promised the other children that Edmond would be saved.  But, when Edmond was found,  the White Witch argued that he was a traitor for agreeing to exchange his own family for more candy.   Edmond felt trapped by his own action.  But, God is always on our side.

6.  Even when bad things happen, God loves you and wants you to be safe and happy.


The great Aslan offered his own life to save Edmund’s.  God is always ready to forgive us.  And, He wants all of those who love him to be free and happy.  That is why He sent his son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins.   Like Jesus, the character Aslan also resurrects from death.

7.  There will always be people looking for you and to help you get better if you are hurt.


In the battle against good and evil, it was Edmond who stepped out to save the day.  He was badly wounded.  But, with the healing power of a special drink, Edmond was made whole again.  God has poured out his Holy Spirit which has the power to make us well again.

8.  The power of Good will always defeat the power of Evil.


In the end, the children along with Aslan restored peace, good living and laughter in the land of Narnia.  Everything in the world is not nice.  But living a good and faithful life is more rewarding.  In Heaven, we will reign with our Heavenly Father forever.

Do you have a creative way of teaching “Stranger Danger” with children?  Is there a book that you like to read that shares a similar lessen?  Please share.  I’d love to hear about it.

An Interview with Cheryl Alquist, Mother of New York State Teacher of the Year Greg Alquist

May 8, 2013

The family of this year’s New York State  Teacher of the Year is a family of faith.  By God’s grace, Greg Alquist, a teacher in the Webster Central School District , was honored last month at the White House for the award in teaching excellence.

greg at white house 2

Greg Alquist at top left along with the other State Teachers of the Year

It has been a privilege to get to know Greg from our church, Word of Life Christian Fellowship.  Even more so, it has been a blessing to personally hear him teach outside the classroom in bible study and as a church leader.

pic of greg 3

Greg Alquist, 2012 New York State Teacher of the Year

Can you imagine what it must be like, as a mother, to see your child excel as a teacher?  The mission of my blog is to share parenting wisdom to raise healthy and smart kids in the spirit of faith.  So, how wonderful it is to be able to interview Greg’s mother!

Cheryl pic

Cheryl Alquist

Cheryl Alquist raised her two children as a stay at home mom.  She, herself, grew up in a Christian family with Jesus always having a place in the home and in life.

Here are few questions Cheryl answered that gave me plenty of insight as a mother.

What influenced Greg to pursue a career in teaching?  Was there anything you did as his mother to nurture his gifts?

I can’t say I really did anything special to nurture his gifts other than to pray for him and claim God’s Word that He had a plan and purpose for Greg. (For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Jeremiah 29:11).  Greg got his Bachelor’s degree in History and intended to get his doctorate.  He received his Master’s degree from the University of Syracuse and then the Lord shut doors that prevented him from pursuing  his doctorate.  He got a second Master’s degree in Education from Brockport.  God continued to open the right doors for him to get a job at the high school from which he graduated.

Was it easy for you to decide to be a stay-at-home mom?  What would you say to other moms who feel the need to work outside the home?

I was blessed to be able to stay at home and not have to work outside the home for financial reasons.  The majority of moms were at home and I had a network of moms who were close friends.  We all took care of our homes, volunteered in the school, went to Bible studies and got together for coffee.  It was such a blessing for both the kids and me that I was able to be home in the afternoon when they got home from school.  This was always a special time for sharing.  Each mother must make her own decision regarding how and where she is to spend her time.  God makes each of us unique – He has not used a cookie cutter for moms or children.  No one else can tell a woman what her decision should be.

Homeschooling is quite popular now among Christian families.  What was your decision then and what would it be now?

At that time, I really did not even know anyone who was home schooling.  However, I did pray that God would give Greg the right teachers and friends to help him become the man of God He intended for him to be.  A public school education was a little different at that time.  Today’s culture has changed.  I have never regretted our decision for the public schools.  I feel being in a public setting, which is part of the world, gives the students an opportunity to gain education for interacting in the world as well as education from books.  Since I was able to be at home, I could always be there to help our children sort out the good and the bad.  Communication is always important whatever the setting.  All of our grandchildren are in public schools and I feel it is good for them.  That is what I would probably use as a measure to determine whether or not I would choose to home school today.

What were some of Greg’s favorite childhood books and toys?  What did he like to do as a young boy?

We read a variety of books.  Richard Scarry was one of his favorite authors for fun books.  We always read Bible story books, and later children’s translations of the Bible, before he went to bed.  I made a tradition of always giving each of the children a book for Christmas that was either a classic or prize winning book.  As far as toys are concerned, he liked Legos, Lincoln Logs and Star Wars action figures for indoor toys.  Outdoors, it would be any kind of sport.  He and his sister would make forts in the family room and they were often found at the kitchen table playing with play dough, drawing or coloring.

How is life for you now as a grandmother?

I love being a grandmother!  I get the joy of the children without the 24/7 responsibility.  One of my primary goals as a grandmother is to be sure I support the parenting choices of the parents and not enforce my ways.  Each couple chooses their own way to parent and there is nothing anyone is more protective of than their choices regarding raising their children.  Both our son and daughter and their spouses are great parents, but each couple does things differently.  I respect that.  Another of my primary goals as a grandmother is to be an interested loving listening ear for all our grandchildren.  I now have two 14-year old granddaughters and I want to keep an open relationship with them.  I want to be someone they can confide in and one who has time to listen to and care about them.

Do you have any specific wisdom pearls to share with other moms?

One of my favorite scriptures for how to be a mom is found in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”  I particularly like the word “should.”  I once read a commentary on this verse that said “should go” refers to the way God has planned for them according to the strengths and weaknesses He has included in their makeup.  Each person has unique gifts given to them by God.  The job of the mother is to guide her children in directions using their gifts and leading them away from areas where they might fail simply because this is not how God has equipped them.

I always find great value drawing from the experiences of an elder.  The older generation is to help teach the younger generation.  Speaking with Cheryl, I learned communication is important in all stages of a child’s life.  Books and Legos will continue to have their place in my home.  My prayers will be for direction on the way my daughter “should go.”  These words ,and more, are valuable wisdom pearls for me.  And, I pray they will be a blessing for you, too.

Cheryl Alquist blogs about Christian living on her blog An Apple of Gold. “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” Proverbs 25:11

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