Saturday, December 31, 2011

My "Word" for 2012

A friend posted on Facebook yesterday, "What's your word for 2012?" I love this. What one word would signify what I want to accomplish or see in the upcoming year? Oh, so many words came flooding to my mind. Yet this morning as I think of the goals that I started to create for myself during the weeks leading up to my mid-life crisis, err, I mean birthday...the one word that summarizes it all is LESS. Less body fat, less exhaustion, less stress, less debt, less clutter, less wasted time which all leads to more. I know, less is kind of a boring word. It's not happiness or peace or any other "pretty" word. My word could be MORE or ABUNDANT (now that's a good word!) but then my focus would be on the end product. I want my focus to be on the journey. Less is the means to more.

What's your word for 2012?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My New Addiction

I'm addicted to my Nook, which I received from Hubs for my birthday (I know, didn't he do a great job??) and The Hunger Games trilogy. Both of my kids have been encouraging me to read The Hunger Games, which I put off. When do I have time to read? Usually my reading consists of reading non-fiction, how-to books or trying to keep up with my favorite blogs. I have little time to read so when I do squeeze in some reading time I want it to be "educational" as in how is this going to help me better provide for my household.

But then on a whim I decided to download the first book.....and then I couldn't put it down. Despite the guilt of "pleasure reading", I continued to spend my evenings reading. I was obsessed as I  was pulled into the world of Panem. I was cheering on Katniss (yes, at one point I did audibly shout out, "YES!"). I was crying when she cried. My heart raced as she fought for survival. I loved her courage, her strength and her compassion for others. In less than a week, I had the series completed.

I had planned on blogging each day this week on the highlights of 2011 but instead my nose was stuck in my nook-book. My other goal for this week was to get some big-time organizing done so that I could start 2012 with a head start. Needless to say my house is no more organized than it was a week ago BUT I did get the Christmas decorations packed away. That has to count for something.

I'm anxiously awaiting the movie but until then I have grounded myself from my nook so that I can accomplish some of my other goals. I may even get to bed on time tonight instead of quietly reading in bed until wee hours of the morning. And then again, I did download a new book today.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me


I'm blaming my daily email deals from Zulily as well as hormones (rash, hormonal decisions is one reason that I could never run for president) for my selfish purchase which I made a few weeks ago. I balanced my selfish purchase of shoes by also buying cloth diapers. But I think guilt caused me to promptly forget about the shoes.

I was pretty excited this morning when UPS dropped off a big box, although I thought the box would contain new cloth diapers. I was even more excited when I opened the box and found the new shoes that I had forgotten all about! My shoes arrived on a day which wipes all the guilt away. :) What a sweet surprise. Happy Birthday to Me.

BTW, don't you think my chickens are going to LOVE my new mud boots??

Monday, December 19, 2011

Mid-Life Crisis

The big 4-0 was really no biggie for me. In fact I welcomed it as a passage, a new stage of life. When I turned 41 it bothered me a little. Since I can never remember my age, when asked how old I was I'd respond with a shrug and a "I don't know...I'm "OVER 40". The sound of it made me cringe. With my birthday fast approaching, I've been filled with anxiety. The difference between 40 and 42? I'm feelin' it. I am tired, my body aches and the impending doom of menopause has me shaking in my tennis shoes. The past couple of weeks I have been making a mental list of the changes that I want to make in my 42nd year. Maybe if I share my list I will feel a little more accountable. Then again, maybe I won't. But I'll share anyway.

PHYSICAL HEALTH
  • Eat less, move more.
  • Less sugar, more real food.
  • Go to bed earlier (I know, that thought makes me SOUND old but I know that it will help me FEEL young).

FINANCIAL HEALTH
  • Spend less, save more. I ain't gettin' any younger and my years of waitressing and self-employment have done nothing for the retirement fund.
  • Pay off credit card debt. Most of this debt occurred when I first began my daycare business. I was a single mom with a house payment so groceries would get paid with the credit card. I shake my head in shame at the thought that I am still paying off the gallon of milk I bought in 2006.

EMOTIONAL HEALTH ~ this category and list may seem disconnected but I believe getting this list in order will give me peace of mind.
  • Cleaning out the excess stuff in my home and getting organized! My laundry room/craft room/extra kitchen storage room/everything room needs help. I thought about posting a picture but I'm too embarrassed. The rest of my house isn't "out of control" but that room alone could be seen on hoarders...ok, maybe it's not that bad. Or maybe it is. I don't know but regardless it needs to be cleaned out and organized.
  • Hobbies. I want them. Knitting, chickens, and bees. And a bigger garden. More soap and lotion making. Which is why I need to work on the physical health part. After a 10-12 hours work day with homeschooling squeezed in, I am too tired for the things I want to do. I justify my wants because I believe my hobbies contribute to the family. Everyone needs socks, eggs and honey.....right?
As I look over my list I'm feeling a little tired. I think I'll go pour myself a cup a coffee and eat a cookie. After all, I only have two more days of being 41.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tutus and Dishclothes

My first dishcloth!!
Last week I took a class to learn how to crochet a dishcloth. For the first hour of class I really struggled and if it wasn't for pride I would have walked out and never picked up a crochet hook again. But I had to prove to these ladies that I was smart enough to figure this out. Since the class I have made five, maybe six, dishclothes. I'm hooked. I sit in front of the tv at night and crochet away. My fingers, which often have problems with cramping and numbness, have adjusted to this new activity and seem to be working better. At least my fingers are getting some exercise. For some reason I can't get the edges quite straight so I'm not sure if these will be used for Christmas gifts...maybe next year when I've perfected the art of dishcloth-making!


Four tutus down and seven to go. My first attempt didn't go so well. I was tightening the tulle too much and trying to squash too many strips of tulle onto the tutu. The tutu was HUGE, as in ugly -"what in the world is it?" huge. Now that I know what NOT to do, the tutus are not only more beautiful but I'm also using less tulle and creating each tutu more quickly. These are Christmas gifts for all my daycare princess'.

My hope is that in the coming year I can learn a few more skills (today a friend is teaching me how to knit!) so that most of my Christmas gifts will be homemade. Still brainstorming on what skill I need to learn to make a gift for hubs. I don't think he wants a tutu or a dishcloth. :)




Friday, December 16, 2011

S-t-r-e-c-h-i-n-g Meat

Chili, burrito pie, and my lunch (burrito pie served on top of spring greens and tomatoes.



I try to make meat stretch by adding starches, veggies and/or beans. On Sunday, after a two week grocery strike in which I only prepared foods found in my freezer and pantry, I bought my groceries for the week. I know all the planners and home organization/management gurus stress the importance of menu planning BEFORE grocery shopping but I do it a little backwards. I had a vague menu planned before heading out but my planning often occurs in the meat department after I find what meats are CHEAP. I would love to say that I buy only organic, grass fed meats but my budget doesn't make this a reality. Compromise is sometimes necessary. So on Sunday night I found that ground beef was cheap ($2.24/lb) and I also found a 4lb. ham on sale for $5.99. Now I was able to come up with a menu and shop for the needed supplies.

I bought two pounds of ground beef which created two burrito pies (I usually make burritos but have learned that burrito pie also stretches the ingredients into two meals rather than one) and a batch of chili which would feed us one night, feed The Boy on the night of ham and bean soup (he prefers chili over ham and bean), and also feed The Boy on leftover night (good thing The Boy likes chili). One burrito pie was used for dinner on Monday night and one was lunch for the daycare kiddos on Tuesday.

The ends were sliced off, covered with water and northern beans, and allowed to cook in the crock pot all day. After slicing the ends off I sliced up half of the remaining ham for hubby to use in his lunch time sandwiches. The other remaining half was diced up. I filled three containers for the freezer which can be used for ham fried rice, more soup, omelet, etc. A handful of the diced ham went into the soup and another handful was used to make ham fried rice.

MENU:
Monday ~      lunch: homemade Mac and Cheese
                      dinner: Burrito Pie
Tuesday ~       lunch: Burrito Pie
                      dinner: Chili
Wednesday ~ lunch: Ham Fried Rice
                      dinner: Bean and Ham Soup
Thursday ~     lunch: Ham Sandwiches and leftover fried rice
                      dinner: Finish up chili and soup

I still have a bowl of soup leftover which will be a good lunch for someone on Saturday.

Burrito Pie (makes two pies) ~ Easy, easy, easy.
1 lb. ground beef
Can of refried beans (I need to try making these myself)
Salsa (amount determined by your preference)
6 tortillas
2-3 cups of shredded cheese
Seasonings (I used Wildtree's Fajita seasonings)

Brown meat, add beans and salsa. Layer in pie tin one tortilla, a scoop of meat mixture, sprinkle on a little cheese, repeat, add final tortilla and top with cheese. Cover in foil and bake 15-30minutes (baking time depends on if you are cooking this all in one shot or fixing ahead of time). These can also be made ahead of time and put in the freezer.  Top with any fixings your heart desires ~ I like guacamole, sour cream, lettuce and diced tomatoes!

Ham and Bean Soup is so SIMPLE!
I know, a ham bone would be preferred, however this soup is still very good. Before going to bed I put my beans in water to soak overnight. In the morning I drained and rinsed the beans and put them into the crock pot along with the ends of ham, a handful of diced ham and topped it with water. I let it cook ALL day. I didn't add any seasonings but the soup had great flavor. If I would have had time I'd have added dumplings. Next time.

My chili is also easy. Hamburger, onions, home canned tomatoes, kidney beans (again I used dry beans which I soaked overnight), and Wildtree "Leslie's Chili Blend". Brown meat and onions, place in crock pot with the remaining ingredients and simmer all day.

Stir fried Rice is simply two cups of cooked rice (I usually make brown rice), onions, ham, eggs, soy sauce.
I heat a little grapeseed oil and saute the onions (I used green onion which I had dried this fall), scramble two eggs, and then add the rice, ham and soy sauce. Again, easy.

I like easy. I also like cheap.


Shared on Frugally Sustainable's Frugal Ways, Sustainable Days

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Christmas Elf in My House

I'm sure some of you are familiar with the "Elf on the Shelf" book which comes with an elf. That's not our elf. I'm too cheap...I mean frugal. The book/elf combo costs around $30. Last month I found an elf (with no book) at Hobby Lobby. On sale for under three bucks. It pays to be cheap.

The day before Thanksgiving I introduced the daycare kiddos to our new house elf. I told them that he was Santa's helper and that he would be watching to make sure we all get on the "good list". I did not put much emphasis on this as I try to focus more on Jesus than Santa. Instead I made a big deal out of the fact that he was OUR elf so we had to pick a name for him and that he'd be traveling around the house at night so every morning we would have to look for him. The kids have had so much fun with both of these tasks.

When I asked for suggestions they all started yelling out names. I threw in the suggestion of adding something "Christmas-y" such as holly, jolly, jingle, and the likes. Somehow all of the kids miraculously agreed upon Jolly George. The kids love searching for Jolly George. Sometimes they come racing through the door in the morning in search for Jolly George. Even the two year old searches for our little elf exclaiming, "Dares Dolly Deorge! I find him!" So cute. I love the excitement in the voices of the kids as they search for Jolly George and the joy in the their faces when they find him.

Can you find Jolly George?


How 'bout now?



Friday, December 2, 2011

Day Three: The Creation Museum

 
Much like the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, the Creation Museum far surpassed my expectations and was so incredibly amazing! The Creation Museum is located just over the Indiana and Ohio borders in Petersburg, Kentucky. The Boy and I had planned on getting up early so we could go for a swim before spending the entire day to explore the museum but I had a hard time getting him out of bed........

 I let him sleep in a bit, we skipped the swim and arrived shortly after the 9am opening of the Creation Museum. The place was already packed! The Creation Museum made the Bible come to life as we visited exhibits of Eden, the building of the ark, figures of prophets, the Tower of Babel and more. Every exhibit was filled with biblical truths and scriptures that portrayed the amazing love that God has for us.



Adam in the Garden of Eden

Noah planning the ark

Building of the ark

Noah on the ark

Isaiah with his namesake

DINOSAURS..........




Snakes Alive Program at the Creation Museum

Awesome, awesome, awesome! The program was so awesome that not only does Isaiah want a snake but now mama does too.  Rick Teepen put on a fabulous show weaved with snake facts, scripture and praising the Creator for these magnificent creatures.



Rick Teepen with his corn snakes

Necklace of corn snakes, aren't the colors fabulous?

Cool snake but this one won't be living at our house!
The Gardens and the Petting Zoo

The first two days of our trip were cold and windy but for our final stop, the wind had died, the sun was shining and it was a beautiful, warm day. Perfect not only for visiting the outside gardens and zoo but also perfect for eating outside!
Our lunch time view from the patio. During our travels we had eaten fast food junk far too many times so I was thrilled when I saw a hummus veggie wrap on the menu. Yummy! After eating it was time for a walk through the gardens which would also led us to the petting zoo.







Isaiah and I were playing with the goats because, like my son, I can not resist petting and playing with farm animals. Someday, God willing, I'll have my own hobby farm filled with animals to pet and play with. Maybe when that time comes the novelty of a petting zoo will mean nothing to me.  For now I have only my big dog and my chickens so I'll take every opportunity I can get to play with some goats. I love the way goats play and practically demand attention (and food) from anyone who enters their pen. Isaiah and I coaxed a couple goats up on the balance beam and when they got bored with us we moved on.

 Horse? Zebra? ZORSE!

She's even smiling! :)

Even a twelve year old can't resist a camel ride.

After spending eight amazing hours at the Creation Museum it was time to start driving in the direction of home. 


DAY ONE

The Boy gets a hair cut but what I really want to know is WHERE DID MY LITTLE BOY GO??

I've shared before that I don't spend a lot of money on haircare. I make my own shampoo, I don't use any other products in my hair and I get my hair cut once or twice a year. The Boy on the other hand will only have Barber Dave cut his hair. Granted this doesn't cost me a great deal of money. He likes to grow his hair a little shaggy between cuts so he averages about two to four haircuts per year. However NO ONE but his beloved barber can touch his hair. Except in 2009 when I somehow convinced The Boy to buzz his hair......and now (now meaning in October...yes, I'm a little behind). 


Summer 2009 ~ LOOK it's my little boy!
    

Fall 2011
 


The Finished Look (man, I need to finish that hoop rug)
and WHO IS THIS YOUNG MAN??


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Resources for Homeschooling ~ The Homeschool Buyer Co-op

A couple of years ago I stumbled across The Homeschool Buyer Co-op. which is not only a free homeschooling organization for homeschoolers but also a source in which to purchase curriculum, supplements and homeschooling supplies at a discounted price. Sometimes these discounted prices are HUGE! This morning I ordered HISTORY Multimedia Classroom, Western Europe set, which retails for $110, for $39.99! YEAH!


Western Europe CD-ROM Lesson Plan Set 6 with DVD

Here's what the History store says about this series:
"Explore Western Europe through a look at the Middle Ages, the birth of the Italian Renaissance and the reign of Elizabeth I. The Western Europe 3 pack Lesson Plan Set includes The Plague, Da Vinci and the Renaissance and Elizabethan England. These CD-ROM lesson plans include short video clips organized by theme, primary source documents, maps, and other historical images, discussion and review questions, internet-based student activities and more."
 
 

Check it out the other materials available at The Homeschool Buyer Coop:
The Homeschool Buyer Co-op is a free homeschooling organization for both new and veteran homeschoolers.  Co-op membership is free and confidential, and entitles homeschooling families to discounts from over a hundred educational suppliers.  They also sponsor "Group Buys" for curriculum packages that save homeschooling families lots of money. On the site you'll find lots of free information, such as databases of free curriculum, field trips, and educational contests and scholarships. Highly recommended. CLICK for more information.

What's your favorite homeschooling resource?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I'm Still Here!

Twenty two days ago I started a new post which would wrap up final day (or two) of our MEA trip. But after six hours I had only accomplished writing one paragraph and adding three photos. This was not writers block. It was "my computer is old and dumb and can't keep up with my thoughts" so I decided to call it quits (for the time being). That's the main excuse. My secondary excuse is crazy busy days of schooling, daycare, cooking, cleaning (although I've lowered my expectations in the "clean" department - it has taken loads off my shoulders and helped me be a happier mama).,,,I'm sure many of you can relate.

But I'm still blaming my lack of blogging on the computer so I'm buying myself a birthday/Christmas present of a new laptop and I so EXCITED! Checking my email will be faster. I'll be able to read my favorite bloggers again...and I'm sure I'll be able to keep up better with all the other demands in my life when I have a new, fast computer. I'm sure of it. {slight eye roll}

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Day Two: Springfield, Illinois


In Springfield, Illinois, we visited the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, which was AMAZING! It exceeded all my expectations. This is not just another "boring" history museum but a museum that captivates it's audience. We started our tour by entering a log cabin that was much like the one he spent a portion of his childhood. This first "wing" of the museum shows Lincoln's life before becoming president. We learned about the his many jobs, his love for learning and his courtship with Mary Todd and his campaign in 1860.
Union Station
After learning much about Lincoln's pre-presidential years, we headed to the Holavision Theater for "Ghosts in the Library". Isaiah and I were in awe. I can't even find words to describe how fantastic this presentation was....far more than a documentary.

Catch'em off guard...only way to get a genuine smile. Look at that smile!
Of course, by this time The Boy was famished and wanted to eat at Subway before continuing on our Lincoln adventure. Luckily Subway was just down the hall. After eating "fresh", we stopped at Mrs. Lincoln's attic, which essentially is a children's play room filled with dress up clothes, toys, play kitchen and lincoln logs.
Never too old to build with Lincoln Logs























The Lincoln Family
Behind the Lincoln family lies the White House Years exhibits. One room shows Mary Lincoln sitting on the bed of her dying son, Willie, as President Lincoln peers in from the doorway. Another room shows Mary grieving her dead son. Knowing the love that a mother has for her children, I could imagine the pain that Mary felt.....and yes, I teared up a little. So many of the rooms showed the "realness" of the Lincolns. I gained not only knowledge about their life but felt a more personal understanding of what life may have been like for them.

My least favorite room, The Whispering Gallery, was full of political cartoons and caricatures of President Lincoln. The first few cartoons I viewed were laughable, meaning that I was able to laugh at the stupidity of the racist beliefs of the time. But many were so harshly cruel and the ignorance (mostly racist ideas) sickened me. I couldn't help but think about how our generation, and some of our ignorant ideals, will be viewed a hundred years from now.

The room that brought me to tears was the "Lying in State", a re-creation of the Representative Hall in Springfield's Old State Capitol. With the coffin displayed, I felt as if I had stepped back in time and was paying my respects to President Lincoln. I felt a great reverence, respect and sorrow for the man who created great change in our nation.

We finished our visit in The Union Theater viewing "Lincoln's Eyes" which was a perfect wrap up of what we had learned about Lincoln's life. The presentation was just as amazing as the rest of the museum. My words do so little in revealing what I learned but, even more importantly, what I felt as I looked at the life of President Abraham Lincoln. Truly incredible. I spent the rest of the afternoon driving towards and through Indiana pondering what I had seen and learned.

"My concern is not whether God is on our side;
my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right.” 
Abraham Lincoln

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hurstville, IA Pit Stop

Cruising down the highway, somewhere between Dubuque and Davenport, in a town I'd never heard of, I see this:
Traveling too fast in the wrong lane, I was unable to make the turn off to investigate. I decided that I'd turn around. I needed to stretch my legs anyway. The next turn on the divided highway brought us here:
We visited the Hurstville Interpretive Center first, which gave a little background of the area, before heading back to take a closer look at the kilns. The Center included a great interactive display of beekeeping plus a viewable, live "bee box", a bird display, information on area wildlife and plants, and information on how the kilns where used. Very cool.



After visiting the interpretive center we headed back to the kilns.











Isaiah, also ready for an adventure, disappears up the flight of stairs. I follow....

At the top of the stairs and down a little path I find this building hiding behind the trees...
 

following another path I find Isaiah tucked into a hiding spot.
 




 Legs now well "stretched", I was ready to get back on the road. Next stop - Springfield, Illinois!