A Craft Box
A craft box is a rich resource for rainy days, sick days, or bored hours. We always kept a few boxes of supplies in a corner downstairs and brought them out whenever creativity or restlessness struck. A few ideas for what to stock:
Every little child should know the fun of playdough, with its nontoxic, colorful, twistable fun. (If you don’t want to buy the commercial kind, there are many easy and inexpensive recipes available online.) For the older creative child or adult, polymer clay can offer hours of intricate fun. These little crafts can be baked to harden and can make lovely gifts.
Over time, we collected several boxes of stamps—some large and intricate, some small. Whenever a rainy day came, a thank-you note was needed, or boredom struck, a few hours of stamping provided a great deal of possibility. Eventually we invested in colorful inks, an embosser, and high quality paper that allowed the kids to create lovely, giftable (and sellable) stationery.
Markers, crayons, colored pencils, paints and brushes
We just kept a big box into which every orphan pen and pencil went. Charcoal pencils for sketching, colored pencils for nature books, markers for vivid signs—all were kept at the ready. Paints were more likely to be purchased for specific projects, but we could almost always find a box of watercolors or a few tubes of acrylic paint.
We tried to keep a wide variety of paper as well—construction paper, scrapbooking paper, cardstock, and finer paper for charcoal.
Whether simple plastic stencils for younger children or the more intricate patterns to be purchased at a craft store, these were excellent for something a little different; we used them to make cards, decorate walls, paint shelves and boxes, and so on.
Bits and basics
Glitter, stickers, yarn, fabric scraps, glue, scissors, tape, hole punches, string, pencils, and erasers are all wonderful for sparking creativity.
“Finds” from nature
The great outdoors is a fabulous source for crafts. Interesting sticks, leaves and grasses, pinecones and seed pods, and pressed or dried flowers can all become elements in something beautifully crafted.
Game Night Ideas
Some of our game-night staples are listed below. Most are available commercially for a reasonable price, but check out thrift stores and yard sales for used versions—or make up your own games!
A charades-like game for words. Contestants are given a phrase or a word and have to describe it without using the actual word. Hot-potato style, whoever is in the hot seat when the timer runs out loses a point for his or her team. This proved to be our best crowd game, as we could make teams of large groups of people, and the game created loud laughter and encouraged participation by all ages.
Another game similar to charades, except instead of describing the word or phrase, contestants draw it. Team members take turns trying to get their team to guess what they are drawing before the other team does or before the timer runs out.
What to believe? In Balderdash, a category is chosen and a phrase, acronym, title, or something similar is read out, and contestants write out a definition—either the correct one (if known) or a fake one. Then all the definitions are read aloud. Points are awarded to those who choose the correct one and those who persuade others to believe in their fake definitions.
For word-oriented families like ours, there’s nothing more fun than playing that triple-word-score winner!
A fun word-based game in which a list of categories is given for each round and a letter from the alphabet is chosen. Each contestant must find a word starting with the letter in question that matches the category given (for instance, birds, distinguished occupations, or car companies.).
A map-based game in which each player attempts to gain more territory through strategic moves. Our boys sometimes invited friends over and pulled all-nighters playing for world domination.
Assorted card games
It is amazing how many games can be played with a single deck of cards. Some of our favorites are hearts, spades, cash, gin rummy, spoons, and golf. (If you don’t know the rules, they’re easy to find online.)
A Hospitality Stash
A big part of hospitality is preparation—thinking ahead to stock items that will make visitors feel at home. Here are some items that have worked for us over the years:
Magazines and books
These abound throughout our home anyway, but I try to keep a few “fresh” ones for folks who spend time in our home.
Keeping a box of tissues in my seating areas has helped quite a few friends who had sadness they needed to share.
It’s now been quite a while since we had a baby of our own in our house, and grandchildren aren’t on the immediate horizon. But baby guests are common in our household—for overnight stays and for the moms’ Bible studies I lead at home. So we make a point of being baby friendly so the moms and dads who come here can enjoy our hospitality. We keep a crib, several soft blankets, baby-safe toys, sippy cups, rocking chairs, colorful baby books, and CDs with lullabies ready for any who might need them.
I keep an assortment of DVDs on hand—Winnie-the-Pooh cartoons, episodes of the TV series Road to Avonlea, and some classic children’s movies. These have kept many a child entertained so we can talk with adults in our home
A surprise box for children
By being prepared to meet the needs of our little visitors, we’ve found that many moments of frustration can be avoided. I’ve held on to LEGOs, puzzles, stuffed animals and puppets, plus a variety of games from when my own kids were home. And I keep a treasure box supplied with sidewalk chalk, bubbles to blow, puzzle books, paper airplane books (with paper), blank paper with markers, and coloring books and crayons or colored pencils.
Stocking a Pantry
A well-equipped kitchen is certainly central to the comfort and cultivation of home. A homemade meal, a batch of cookies for tea, a quick loaf of bread for breakfast—these are all quite easy to produce if the ingredients and equipment are right on hand. It all comes down to preparation. A bit of planning, a strategic shopping trip, a small dose of organization, and you have a home stocked and ready for a sudden blizzard, an unexpected guest, an impromptu celebration with those you love.
So we Clarksons always set aside a stock-up day for each season—a day to make lists, to check available supplies, to shop, to envision the meals we might eat, the recipes we might try, the parties we might throw. We tried to make it a festal day as we prepared for the celebrations to come, ending a major shopping trip with a special meal or cup of hot chocolate by the fire. Our autumn stock-up day was always our favorite—the best time to gather in, to savor the shelter of home. For autumn, of all the seasons, is the one when the urge to draw back, to invite others over, to gather the ones we love close to the fireside, is strongest.
If you’ve never stocked up on basic ingredients before or seen your own home as a place to gather resources, here’s a list to get you started. These could also provide ideas for an old-fashioned “pounding”—the practice of outfitting the kitchen of a new household with a pound each of basic ingredients that might be needed. (Poundings were usually held for newly married couples, but they would also be great for single people in their first apartment or just-moved families needing to stock a new house.)
You should, of course, alter the list according to your preferences and needs. (In the Clarkson household, we look for organic versions whenever possible.)
- Flour (whole wheat, organic, unbleached white, bread)
- Sugar (white, light brown, dark brown, confectioner’s—we mostly use organic turbinado or raw cane sugar)
- Salt (regular iodized salt, kosher salt, sea salt)
- Cornmeal (white, yellow, self-rising—we often grind organic popcorn kernels)
- Cocoa (dark and semisweet)
- Baking powder and baking soda
- Dried herbs and spices (allspice, basil, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, garlic, ginger, nutmeg, oregano, sage, thyme)
- Herb and spice blends (chili powder, curry powder, and our favorite—herbes de Provence)
- Chocolate chips
- Nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts)
- Grains (barley, dried corn [for popcorn or grinding for fresh cornmeal], millet, oatmeal, quinoa, rice [brown and white], and wheat [for fresh grinding if you have a mill])
- Pastas and couscous
- Dried legumes (pinto beans, black beans, navy beans, split peas, lentils)
- Dried fruit (raisins, coconut, apricots, cherries, cranberries)
Canned, Dehydrated, and Bottled Goods
- Beans (white, garbanzo, navy, kidney)
- Vegetables (corn, peas, green beans)
- Fruit (peaches, mandarin oranges, pineapple, cherries, pears, applesauce)
- Pie fillings (cherry, apple, pumpkin)
- Tomatoes (crushed, sauced, diced, whole, tomato paste)
- Jams and jellies
- Pickles and chutneys
- Ethnic foods (green chiles and jalapeños, enchilada sauce, salsa, soy sauce, coconut milk, spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce)
- Nut butters (almond, peanut, mixed)
- Oils (olive, peanut, coconut, avocado)
- Condiments (mustards, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice—many of these will need to be refrigerated after opening)
Fresh and Refrigerated Goods
This supply will be constantly renewed, of course, but the following items are good to have on hand:
- Dairy (milk, cream, half-and-half, yogurt, sour cream, butter)
- Fresh vegetables, preferably local and in season (onions, peppers, tomatoes, avocados, and a variety of salad mixes)
- Fresh fruit, preferably local and in season (berries, apples, pears, oranges)
Soup and Bread Combos
So here I list a few of our favorite Clarkson soup and bread pairings. Tweak and add your own; the possibilities are deliciously endless.
- Potato soup and whole wheat herb and onion bread
- Cream of chicken and vegetable soup with featherbed rolls (my mother’s light-as-air whole wheat ones)
- Navy bean and ham bone soup with cornbread
- Broccoli cheese soup with buttered whole wheat toast
- Vegetable beef soup with oatmeal muffins
- White chicken chili with green-chile-and-cheese cornbread
- Butternut squash and apple soup with cranberry-walnut rolls
Gifts for Our Home Graduation Ceremony
A fun part of our family graduation celebrations was the practice to bestowing gifts to remind the graduate of our values, traditions, love, and unique family heritage. Each gift was wrapped up with bows and paper and presented with appropriate Scriptures and an explanation of its symbolism. The general categories were always the same, but the specific gifts would be custom selected to fit the graduate.
A family portrait—
to refresh their hearts in remembering that we were a unit of love, loyalty, and commitment to one another, and that we would always be here for them. The Scriptures that accompanied this gift spoke of God’s love for children (and our love for them) and God’s desire to bless each generation with offspring (Genesis 1:28, Psalm 127:3), our family’s stewardship to pass on His messages to each generation (Psalm 78:5-7), God’s particular message to women (Titus 2:4-5), and His admonition to men (Joshua 1:9).
A study Bible—
a charge to remember that God’s Word would guide them and light their pathways through adulthood (Psalm 119:105-116, 2 Timothy 2:15 and 3:16-17).
An oil lamp or lantern—
a reminder for them to keep the light of Christ burning brightly inside as well as to take His light into a dark world (Matthew 5:14-16, 2 Corinthians 4:6).
A towel and pitcher—
reminding them of our call to serve others in humility (John 12:25-26 and 13:13-17).
because that’s the way we roll! Our family is all about messages and ideas, so we gave them some special ones to spur on their love for words and for crafting words (Philippians 4:8, Luke 2:52).
Music CDs of worship music and favorite artists—
a special legacy of our family, to carry on music (Psalm 57:7-11).
A journal or writing paper—
representing stewardship of writing gifts (2 Timothy 1:6-7, 1 Peter 4:10). Believing that each child in our home needed to learn to be a message maker, regardless of personality (because they were made in the image of the Word, Jesus), meant that we gave them many opportunities to write or to speak both at home and in public. This gift was to remind them of our training in this area.
A calligraphy print—
representing creativity in a Christian home (Proverbs 24:3-4 and Proverbs 31). A love for art and for artistic creations has been a life value for us all.
A teacup or mug—
a special token to the Clarksons of drinking God’s portion for our lives as well as serving others His love, hope, and comfort. This gift also was intended as a reminder of the ways we celebrated life together as a family (Hebrews 13:2, 1 Peter 4:9, Romans 12:13).
A copy of Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If”—
representing endurance in the Christian life (Hebrews 10:36, 12:3). We would then either read it aloud or recite it by memory—since most of our children had been required to memorize it as part of their schooling.