Jul 13 2014

Legitimate Work at Home Ideas – for Married and Single Moms

Most of these ideas could probably apply to dads too!


This topic has come up a LOT recently. SO many people saying that single moms can’t work AND homeschool (I work from home, volunteer with church, homeschool my son, am paying down school debt and my home is open to guests at any time… I am NOT supermom, nor do I want to be; I was not “privileged” to have any financial backing when I started (I kept our current apartment by the grace of God alone, with 3 eviction notices in a 2 year span of time))….


And then there are the moms whose husbands provide entirely for their families but who would like to supplement the family income – with lots of little ones running around at home.


So – just some ideas in random order as they came to me in the past week or so – combined in multiple ways, in varying degrees, modified to meet your family’s needs, these are TRIED and TRUE:

  • take in babysitting – a full in-home daycare, or just one child. Registered/licensed with the state or unofficial (most states allow a certain number of hours of childcare in your home before licensing rules kick in). Licensed in-home daycares also have access to the Federal Food Program which, in low income areas, can slightly more than cover the cost of food. If your household qualifies, you can receive credit for your own children as well (up to age 8 in the state I had a family daycare).
  • craft skills – take some time to make something you love. Make as many as you can/want. Sell them at craft fairs, post them on Etsy (20 cents a listing that lasts 4 months or until it sells – final sale prices apply). Etsy is easier than Ebay, and there are other websites available for such sales.
  • craft skills related to more practical items – items could be made ahead or take orders for custom items. Clothing, soaps from scratch (if you can set up a safe area and/or time to work with the lye without little-little ones underfoot) — find your personal niche and zero in on that audience. Find out their other interests and explore what more/different you can do from there.
  • Create something that self-replicates – a file that can be purchased and downloaded without additional work on your part (or that you e-mail to those who purchase it).
  • Take in small odds and ends projects – no more than you can commit to in the next couple of weeks, or by the month — so that you can work around the needs of your children. Sewing (full-blown new creations or repairs), small organizing (client hands you a box of photos and you are to organize them into photo albums), large organizing (can you take a day or a couple of half-days to give to a client to organize a room or an area of their home).
  • Housecleaning – can be done with a little one in a sling if all-natural cleaning products are used. By “all-natural”, I actually mean food-based and/or otherwise safe and inexpensive – not the expensive all-natural cleaners.
  • House repair or maintenance at others’ homes.
  • Offer services as a doula or a birthing coach.
  • Yes, I will list selling things with multi-level-marketing companies. Not all are bad. If you are looking for minimal effort, you might join a few (one at a time!) and be available to take orders on any of them, without doing any particular parties or shows. I know a mom who works with 4 companies, she rotates through each one, focusing on one each month with an online “book show”, while maintaining a company-based website that allows for orders to be taken at any time as well. Sure, she’s not getting all the high-level benefits, but she brings in enough to cover her particular family’s lifestyle choices so that those choices are not a financial burden – and she makes a little extra to boot (think make-up/clothing, candles, essential oils, that sort of thing).
  • What skills or knowledge do you have that you can share with others? Either in-person talks or seminars, or something you can videotape and sell (self-replicating idea from above) – or a video-conference that you offer to a limited number of people for a small charge; repeat again in a few weeks for a new audience.
  • While preparing your meals, can you prepare twice as much and sell it to a busy family who is not at home to cook their own meals and would like freezer meals to heat up? (this is a good ministry too – taking home-prepped foods to shut-ins)
  • So think: what do you LOVE? What can you DO? What can you MAKE? Then think how to market that – what is your audience? Does this need to be out of your home or can it be done IN your home? With your children or without? (after bedtime, or can the children help and make this a family venture)
  • Someplace part-time you can take the children; or husband takes the children (if you are married; or the father has visitation) – page at the library, manning the desk of the community center.
  • Sell unneeded items. The less clutter, the lower the budget needs to be. I don’t entirely understand how this works, but it DOES.
  • Doesn’t bring in money but consider: being home, you can maintain things better/longer – making your own minor repairs (or sometimes even major repairs!), homecooked meals even if not from scratch are still cheaper than fast food, keeping the home clean and organized so that things are not re-purchased for being damages, lost or misplaced.
  • Consider areas you can cut back on expenses – make-up and cleaning products and other consumables. What can be modified or removed altogether; things that take time and/or money?


What have I done in the past that was successful? 

I ran a family daycare for 3 years. I LOVED it. I would so do it again, but where we live now, it is simply an impossibility. I closed the daycare to move across the country for Montessori training. I made good money; while not regretting the Montessori training, I did long for those last several months of in-home daycare, pining to return to the income I made, while working at home, tutoring those children, homeschooling my own son, preparing home-cooked meals, etc. Each eviction notice drove that knife home deeper into my heart. As a single mom, I allowed my home to be open 24/7. I had a limit to the number of children I could have at one time, but not over the course of a day or week; I was rarely at “full capacity” and I routinely had hours or days without children so that we could still visit family, continue Catechesis of the Good Shepherd training and volunteer at the local church. I lived in a low-enough-income area that I qualified for the food program higher reimbursement level and with the business deductions, the tax obligation was entirely doable. I paid down debt, paid for continuing bachelor’s degree classes, and saved up for the year of upcoming Montessori training. I even was in a position to help neighbors/friends in crisis mode.

I also babysat in others’ homes, took in random sewing projects (some creations, lots of repairs), did some housecleaning and home organization projects, painting (walls and small items), minor repairs on what I could… and my son learned a lot alongside his mother and the people I have worked with over the years.



What did I do in the past that was not so successful? (at least for me)

Those sites where you are paid to write articles. I love to write. But it didn’t take off for me.

Sites where you are paid to help with various problems or questions. Again, it just didn’t take off for me, although I provide pretty much the same service with my Keys of the Universe online support. Go figure ;)

Selling cloth diapers as a re-seller. I think if I’d had the right website from the get-go, it would have been better; but by the time I traded tutoring for learning how to set up a website, I was ready for more than just selling infant/toddler items.

Working outside my home in almost capacity. If it was known to be temporary going in, I did fine. If the plan was for the job to be ongoing it always fell apart.


What do I do NOW?

I prepare and sell Montessori homeschool albums. I am also adapting them for the varying needs of my intended audience. I started with the core albums, noted questions, concerns and suggestions – as the original albums sell, they “buy” me time to prepare these off-shoots, while I no longer directly advertise my Garden of Francis site (which is still doing well, despite delays on material preparations due to the limitations of my living situation – no saws in my own home so I travel to a friend’s for wood-cutting, for example). Moving forward in time from those moments of wishing I could return to the family daycare (I would still do it in a heartbeat if we find the right home to move into – which we are looking for!), the self-replicating creations are covering that amount and then some, with the Garden of Francis business maintaining itself quite well.

So, yes, Garden of Francis continues (homemade basic soaps, lingerie bags, snack and fruit/veggie bags, some clothing, lots of Montessori and Catechesis of the Good Shepherd materials and more). I set up my own website with the help of a friend with whom I traded tutoring services; then I set up on Etsy…

and starting setting up “simple” websites for friends and acquaintances who had money but not the time to do so themselves. I list this here, though it is not a huge source of income, because it IS a nice little extra income here and there. And worth mentioning that sometimes those little things can provide enough of a side income (let’s say you are a stay at home mom of 4 and just need a little something extra for Christmas gifts, or to pay the mortgage down a bit faster, or to stretch the husband’s income just enough to cover the final bits of the budget). This money should not be ignored.

Off and on, we also sell off used homeschool materials, toys, clothes, etc. that have been outgrown or no longer meet our needs. This not only helps declutter but helps offset the costs of bigger clothing, and changing needs of a growing child.

I did not place in the general list above, because it is trickier with certain ages of children; but something that works for us in our situation is substitute teaching. With my Montessori background, schools are generally open to me bringing my son with me (more so when he was younger actually, due to the dynamics of Montessori elementary environments being more difficult to “join” for a few days then disappear).



Just random thoughts; I may update this post in the future (especially if I receive some more great ideas!).

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Jun 14 2014

Natural Living

In living out my vocation as Mother, open to a vocation as Wife, and seeking to always live out the Biblical commands of stewardship, wisdom, and mentorship, I find myself living a more and more “natural” lifestyle.


Instead of expensive or even inexpensive cleaning products, I purchase mostly food products and create my own: homemade dish-liquid smells great, is effective and is so inexpensive; vinegar spray with some essential oils makes a fantastic all-purpose cleaner and disinfectant (please note that the combination of apple cider vinegar and hyssop DOES grow on a person! Tea tree oil is a much slower growth ;) ).


I do not wear make-up because of the need to wash my face daily – without make-up I can wash my face much less frequently and it is healthier with almost no acne, need for lotions or creams or moisturizers (except in the middle of winter’s need for much internal drying heat) or chemical drying agents – my face is, most of the time, balanced in oil and cleanliness – a quick splash of cool water is all I need. And I look 20 years younger than I am… of course that might be genetics, combined with avoidance of harsh chemicals ;)


I do not dye my hair, use hair spray, etc. so simple shampoo and conditioner takes care of it, with occasional bouts of baking soda/vinegar. And it doesn’t need to be washed every day or even every other day (when it’s hotter or I have sweat a lot, a water rinse takes care of it).


We make our own liquid and bar soaps with lye and fats/oils. I would make my own shampoo, but I have a couple of “chemical stuff” (leaning towards the natural side, but not all-natural) bottles left to use before I go that route. Laundry soap is homemade and I sell it, along with a homemade carpet cleaner. Febreeze is made at home with vinegar and essential oils; or baking soda in water when I just need some neutralizing action.


I don’t do cloth diapers anymore simply because my son is 10. He’s good ;) I do use cloth items of my own (read between the lines on that one), but I make these myself and my homemade laundry soap takes care of it.


Insect repellents and sunscreens are covered with essential oils, clothing, and proper diet.


So for those friends of mine who wonder why I am not supporting their businesses, or who offer to purchase from me if I purchase from them (which doesn’t actually get either of us financially ahead, by the way… so it’s only a benefit when there are rewards for reaching a certain sales level in a month, or a particular need to get rid of certain merchandise) — no offense. It’s not YOU! It is my need to stretch my income, minimize what we own to only what we truly need, and assure our genuine needs are fulfilled.


I don’t buy make-up or lotions or cleaners, but I do purchase the following: lye, essential oils, fresh/dried herbs, goat’s milk, olive oil, coconut oil (other oils on a lesser level), candles, beeswax, homemade honey, homemade maple syrup and fresh produce – in bulk – anyone wanting to plant a field of strawberries just for me, I’ll buy the produce from you ;)


I am Catholic however, and I do use candles. I LOVE Partylite candles because they burn nicely, leaving little leftovers if any, are safer with little ones around (burn at a lower temp, so the melted wax doesn’t burn sensitive skin), smell nice (using good oils), and can be had for a good price when you watch the sales. I do not make all of our own candles, though I am open to the idea and do it on a very small scale from time to very rare time.


I keep considering picking up Partylite sales again, but something always puts a brake on the idea again. This little thing called TIME. When I get Keys of the Universe projects covered, and get my websites fully upgraded, then I might get into Partylite or essential oils on a VERY part-time basis, mostly for my own discount on those items ;)


I am looking forward to having our own land where we can have bees and berries and chickens and maybe even some maple trees.

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Feb 20 2014

Montessori Economic Geography Stamps

The Economic Geography Stamps are now available for pre-order at Garden of Francis. (click here)

They will begin shipping out prior to March 1. I am taking pre-orders to see if it is worth purchasing the tackle-boxes and the wood holders in bulk, or just buy a few at a time as I need them.

My son is so excited! 

(ok, I am too!)

I am so happy to be offering these for substantially less than the ONLY other set available anywhere online that I can find – and they correspond with our KotU geography album!

By the way, side-note: if, as we are using them, anyone wants a different stamp image made, the process I’ll be using can very easily accommodate this! In fact, after this first batch of these ones, I am going to look into making stamps of other images for other themes.

Montessori Elementary Economic Geography Stamps – corresponding with the Keys of the Universe Montessori Elementary Geography Album chapter on Economic Geography.

Each  polymer (not rubber, but like rubber) stamp image measures 3/4 inch at its widest; mounted on a 1 inch square cube – with the image imprinted on the top of each cube for easy reference.

Select which set you would like: the core set contains 26 images of mineral, plant and animal resources; the supplementary set contains 14 additional images in more specific items.

Each corresponding tackle-box comes with a cardstock print-out of the included images for that set.

CONTENTS CORRESPOND WITH AMI MONTESSORI ELEMENTARY TRAINING ALBUMS. And are most specifically designed for Keys of the Universe albums.

Purchase your own ink pads according to the color designations of your choice (see the elementary Montessori geography album for further details).




With the process we are using to make these stamps, we can VERY easily create custom orders and we are looking to create designs related to the Faith (especially as related to the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd):

true vine, grapes, chalice, paten, altar, Good Shepherd, sheep, cross, dove, flame, shooting star, etc.

We are definitely taking suggestions! We can make them from 1/2″ up to paper size…..



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Dec 22 2013

Advent Jesse Tea

Published by under Family Life,Scripture


I had some fantastic girl-time this past Saturday, with some of the sweetest girls in my corner of the world.



The theme: Salvation History via the ancient symbolism of the Jesse Tree – except, instead of a tree, we used a tea ;)


The Goodies

1. “Jesse Tea” – TEA – we had peppermint tea; peppermint/peach tea (YUM!!!); and hot chocolate for the non-tea drinkers, with a touch of peppermint — peppermint? it’s winter, the weather is CRAZY – so… health benefits! (we had some sugar, but mostly healthy items — yet to be aware of the time of the year and how things DO go around — and in thanksgiving that the 5 families in attendance have ZERO sick girls right now, let’s keep the health going). Plus it helped with breath ;) 

2. “Adam’s Apple” (Genesis 3: 6) – APPLE with 1 gummy worm (the girls opted for quartered apples)

3. “Noah’s Ark” (Genesis 9: 12-17) – 3 GUMMY WORMS in rainbow

4. Abraham’s Stars (Genesis 15: 5) – CUT THE APPLE during the presentation to show the star

5. “Isaac’s Bundle of Sticks” (Genesis 22: 6) – 8 PRETZEL STICKS

6. “Jacob’s Ladder” (Genesis 28: 12) – Same pretzel sticks, built into a ladder

(isn’t it interesting how God can take our weaknesses and turn them into strengths? *HE* can work all things for good…. so we can re-use these same objects to show us something new and better)

7. “Joseph’s Coat of Many Colors” (Genesis 37: 3-4) – 4 GUMMY WORMS (2 folded in half for the “body”, with one on each side bent at 90 degrees bottom half as part of the body, top half as the arms extending out)

8. “The Burning Bush” (Exodus 3: 2-3) – BROCCOLI AND RANCH (3/4 cup of ranch is dyed with 1/2 tsp turmeric to show the “fire”)

9. “Moses’ Tablets of the Law” (Exodus 34: 1) – MILANOS (we did raspberry/chocolate – YUM – and least cost per ounce)

10. “The Root of Jesse” (Isaiah 11: 1 and 10) – CARROTS

11. “David’s Star Tea Sandwiches” (1 Samuel 17: 12-51) – STAR-SHAPED SANDWICHES – cut into triangles then top half turned to create 6-pointed star. 

12. “Bethlehem, House of Bread” (Matthew 2: 5-6) – DONUT HOLES (could have made scones or small biscuits – short on time and the donut holes were calling my name)

13. “John the Baptist’s Honey” (Luke 1: 41; Matthew 3: 3) – HONEY in tea (could have had honey on biscuits/scones if I’d made those)

14. “Angelic Messengers”  (recall various angelic messengers we know about in the Bible) – ANGEL-SHAPED SANDWICHES – cookie cutter

15. “Pure White Cakes for Our Blessed Mother” or “Flowers of Jesse” or both – TOMATO AND CELERY for flowers (thought about doing a white frosting made of cream cheese, powdered sugar, touch of milk, homemade vanilla – spread on graham crackers, but with the donut holes instead of bread, thought against it this time)


 Left-overs and bread trimmings? Went to the “boys” (my son; the father and brother of one of the girls at the tea party — who all went off for a few hours so we girls could just be girly — in our fancy hats!)

Hm. No picture of me. I had a santa hat because my two fancy hats were on loan. 


The Ladies


The Ladies again
couldn’t decide which I liked best :)
Best Jacob’s Ladder constructed with pretzel sticks


“This sandwich is SO GOOOOOOD!!!!”

(apparently so is the white-sprinkled chocolate donut hole ;) )

This young lady is so full of joy –

she finds it everywhere –

and spreads it everywhere!

AHA! She CAN be serious!
but apparently not for long ;)

(she was tipped sideways to sneak into another picture for this one)

LOVE her 3rd lip there ;)


Enjoying the tea-party


So sweet!And such shining eyes :)


Trying to avoid her photo being taken.Gotcha anyway!


Thank you everyone for coming!


Have a wonderful remainder of Advent and a fantastic Christmas season!


God bless!


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Dec 10 2013

Homemade LIQUID soap


There are so many sites out there in the internet-world describing how to make liquid soap – and most of them can be described in one word:


Seriously? The same bar soap just liquified needs to be THAT hard?


I think not.


The problems with what is out there:

1) store-bought bar soaps (and many soaps bought online, but not all) have the glycerin removed during the soap-making process. Therefore glycerin needs to be added back in to the soap to help it “be” liquid.

2) Alcohol and other additives can be DRYING. These are not necessary – neither for preservation (most liquid soap keeps itself preserved, or one can use particular essential oils for preservation – vitamin E is great too) nor for any other reason (I had a second reason but have now forgotten it).

3) Starting with liquid soap kind of defeats the purpose. Seriously.

4) Dr. Bronner’s Castille soap is great – but a little secret: castille soap is simply olive oil soap. Guess what!? You can make that at home.

5) The ones that do provide a recipe from scratch, want you to use a different form of lye – Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) instead of what is typically used in bar soaps: Potassium Hydroxide (KOH). I do NOT understand this. I have put out some requests and have heard no responses. If YOU know why, please respond, because I genuinely want to know the reason why a different form of lye would be needed for liquid soap.
Now. Why would you want to start with bar soap (that was liquid during the soapmaking process to begin with) and liquify it? Because not everyone can have lye around. It’s dangerous stuff with little ones or if you don’t have the greatest coordination. I think I’m pretty decent and I’ve had a couple of minor incidents with yellowed curling finger nails and one spot on my arm. All is well now, but it was pretty scary (and stinky). If you cannot have lye in your home, purchase a “full body bar soap” – this is MY terminology alone, not an official label. What you are looking for is a simple, all-natural soap containing ONLY the ingredients YOU want (you can add more if you want during the process, but make sure there is nothing in there you DON’T want) – and make sure the glycerin has not been removed (this is what I call “full body” – it’s all the soap, nothing removed). Grate it up into a saucepan and add twice as much water as the amount of soap you have. Bring to a gentle simmer and stir almost constantly until the soap has melted – add any additional ingredients you want. Allow to cool – if it gets too thick, warm it back up and add water about 1/2 to a full cup at a time (you can gauge the amounts based on the thickness – very thick, add more water; getting close to what you want add less at a time), stirring and cooling until it gets to the thickness you like. After a time or two making it like this, you’ll recognize the thickness it needs to be when “hot” to be the consistency you want when “cool”. This is how I always used to make our soap.



So how do *I* make liquid soap now?

Those of you who visit my home and recognize the pitcher: Rest assured I do watch it. Remember that my alternate dish soap is this SAME soap plus coconut oil soap. It’s JUST soap ;)


I had 2 more of the “smaller” jars as well. From that one pitcher of soap!!!

Start with making olive oil soap, adding the highest amount of the required range of water. When any soap is made, a typical lye calculator will give a range of water amounts to use – use less if you want to set up faster; more if you want it to set up slower. Olive oil soap takes a while to set up anyway, so I typically use on the lower end if I am making bar soaps. For a recipe of 32 ounces of olive oil, I need 4.2 oz of Sodium Hydroxide (lye) and 8-12 ounces of water. I made a recipe last week with 15 ounces of water (I didn’t want to over-do it because I did want the oil and lye to be close enough to saponify well. This all perfectly fit into my beautiful glass pitcher.

I used a stick blender to bring it to trace, but I used to wait and stir and wait and stir – sometimes up to a full day to get the olive oil soap to trace. I LOVE stick blenders ;)

Then I separated it into two large old spaghetti sauce jars, filling each about half. I filled the rest with water and stirred. Added essential oils (in this case I used lavender, tea tree oil and grapefruit essential oils as well as vitamin E – to personal scent-preference). Let it sit. Stirred the next morning – it was THICK. Poured some out into 2 other jars and filled up with water again. Within 12 hours: thick again.


Poured into 2 more of the smaller jars and some into our current soap dispenser, adding more water to bring it to consistency in the dispenser.


The stuff in the glass jars is still thick though very close to the consistency I want and I will thin it as we use it.


That is a LOT of soap – for almost NO work. Next time, I’ll stick with 16 ounces and I’ll probably fill up this same amount of jars with soap at the proper consistency.



I didn’t use any of the complicated process (one site says you can’t make liquid soap using cold-process soap-making – ummmm, this is my second time making liquid soap from scratch and the ONLY way I like to make soap is the cold-process version. I abhor heating it up and dealing with the curds – I do it only when absolutely necessary – and liquid soap-making from scratch works just fine in cold-process, thank you very much).



I don’t do any of the other more complicated steps, because frankly – this method WORKS – we are getting ourselves clean – it is simply liquified versions of my bar soaps – so why would I go to more trouble for a liquid than I do for the bars?


Lazy Mom syndrome again ;)


Or maybe I just want to spend time with my son….






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