Monday, December 19, 2011

Salted Peanut Bars

These take a little more time than my regular Salted Nut Roll Bars but are worth the extra effort (which isn't really much). :) They are tasty and have totally satisfied my bar-craving (along with the Twix Bars I just made). It's a great recipe for me because I had most of the ingredients in my house and I really needed to use up that little bit of Rice Krispies left over from Rice Krispie bars.

Salted Peanut Bars

1/2 cup soft margarine
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups mini marshmallows

2 cups Rice Krispies
2 cups salted peanuts
2/3 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup oleo or butter
2 tsp vanilla
1 (12oz) pkg peanut butter chips

Crust: Mix all crust ingredients together, except the marshmallows, in a large bowl until crumbly. Press firmly in to a greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes. Sprinkle with the marshmallows and return to oven for 2 minutes, until marshmallows begin to puff. Cool while making topping.

Topping: Combine corn syrup, oleo, vanilla and peanut butter chips in a large pan until melted and smooth, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in peanuts and Rice Krispies. Spoon over marshmallows and crust to cover. Refrigerate until firm. Cut into bars.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Twix Bars

I'd have to say that The Hull Christian School Cookbook is my go-to for baking. It has some great recipes for cookies, bars and snacks. It's my favorite for homemade goodies. I had to call one of my dear sisters-in-law for some clarification as she grew up using this cookbook just like me. :) With her help and a call to her mom, these Twix Bars turned out delicious!!

Twix Bars

1 tube refrigerated cookie dough
1 (14oz) pkg caramels
1 can sweetened condensed milk
3/4 stick oleo (I used margarine)
1 (12oz) pkg milk chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter

Spread cookie dough on a greased jellyroll pan (it will make a thin crust). Bake in a 350 degree oven until golden brown (about 12-14 min). Melt the caramels, sweetened condensed milk and oleo, and spread on cookie crust. Refrigerate 1 hour. Melt chocolate chips and peanut butter and spread on caramel layer. Refrigerate until firm. Then cut into squares.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

House Update

I've been doing all kinds of little projects around the house but thought I'd keep my promise and take you all along for the ride. That's really hard to do, being a perfectionist and all. So here are a few pictures from around the house and I'm sure I'll take time to tell each story and give you a tutorial I'll be sure to give you a quick overview. :) These pictures were taken in November hence the fallish decor.

Here's a bookshelf that's in the process. I just used some old fruit crates and stacked 'em. The top "display shelf" is built out of an old wooden palette. I made the bunting for the bathroom but had a little extra so I added it to the shelf for some color.

Here's part of our kitchen/office area. I made the curtain out of some flour towels and some scraps of fabric. It's really too short for this space but I haven't had the heart to move it to the window above the sink (not as tall) because I'm going to have to alter it and I'm not too excited to do that. You can kind of see our aqua cabinets that I love! We haven't gotten the doors on them yet and I don't know that I'll put the top doors on as I'm really enjoying having them open. I also got the idea to hang our colander's on the wall from a family at church. This is one of my favorite areas to be in during the day. I can be on my computer, watching the boys out the window and enjoying a cup'o joe. But looking at that curtain in the picture is paining me so that's maybe next on my to-do list. 

This little light is in our kitchen. It's made from an old milk-separator I got at a junk store. My husband turned it into a light for the kitchen and I love it's feel. You can also see where I proudly display my recipe books. I love the way the red contrasts with the aqua. :)

Here's our school calendar. Since it hangs in our dining room I wanted it to be functional but not make our dining space look like a kindergarten classroom. I got an old screen window from a friend and I spray painted it cream and then sanded it to make it look rustic. That way a little of the rusty read shows through on the edges. I really like how it turned out. I used some scrapping paper to make the calendar outline and then designed some squares to fit. It was a long process to decide what to do about holidays and birthdays but I made some generic birthday/anniversary cards and we use a wet-erase marker to write names of family and friends. They are all attached by velcro so it makes changing things easy. We use the little red paper clip to mark what day it is. I really like how it turned out - functional and vintagey all at the same time.

Here's a picture of our bathroom. Well, to be specific our shower/tub. I made the bunting (the same that's on the bookshelf in the living room) to add some color to the room without having to buy a shower curtain that was patterned. This way I can change the color or feel of the room without having to buy a new curtain. I still need a little something to hang over the toilet but it looks better than it did when it was all white. :) Oh, and we got one of those "fancy" hotel curtain rods that create a little more "space" in the shower. It's been really nice!!

This is a picture of the shelving that's in our bathroom. We decided to keep the doors off the top half of the built-in and paint the back wall of the shelves the same aqua that's in the kitchen. I really like the idea of keeping the colors the same throughout the main rooms of the house so if you want to "redecorate" things in one room you can just move items around. Makes redecorating cheap and easy. :) I added red cloth bins for storing larger items. 

I love the look of vintage blue Ball jars. Here I put two on the counter to store cotton balls and cotton swabs. There are some on the shelf too, that hold shells and other little cutesy items. I also love how the gray towel pulls the gray out of the jar lids. It's the little things that make me happy.

This is our living room. You can see that little crate bookshelf next to the door that goes to the garage. We hung coat hooks by the garage door and the front door. That way we have a home for our things no matter what door we enter. The embroidery hoops over the couch are filled with fabric cut from fat-quarters from our local quilting store. And I made the "V" with buttons from my Grandma's button tin that I got after she passed away. I added a few red buttons in the "V" to add a little color. I made the pillows on the couch from our old throw pillows. They matched the couches that are in the basement and they do not look good with the current theme I have going so I decided to recover them with slip-covers so I can wash the drool right off of them. :) The first one is made with some turquoise fabric and then I made some bunting with red-polka-dot pennants. I think it turned out pretty cute and didn't really cost me a thing. And the cream pillow behind it has some stacked flowers sewn on it. They're both pretty simple and the best part is that I can wash them.

 The next two pictures are just some decorations I put up for fall. We don't really decorate for Halloween and I want to remain frugal so I decorate for the season instead of the holiday as it lasts longer. This is a little print I made of the hymn, Come, Ye Thankful People, Com. And I used some scrabble tiles to make the words "Give Thanks." The candle is a generic one with some twine tied around it. And it's all setting on top of a piece of burlap that I use as a table runner.

This is an idea I got from Maggie. Her mom had something similar to this in her home and I loved it. It's a pie tin with an old cheese-grater. It's filled with potpouri and the best part is that there's a candle under the grater. The light makes little stars when it's lit. Right now I have pine cones in the pie tin and a Christmas candle underneath to make it smell like we have a fresh tree when ours is a plastic as they come. 

Well, that's a short preview of some of the things we've been doing around the house. We've officially stopped on the major decorating/renovating as unexpected things have been popping up that need our attention and our funds more than the aesthetic things we were focusing on before. Hope you enjoyed this little tour and hopefully I'll have more exciting things to show you in the future. :)

before and after's to come "soon"

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Five in a Row: Weeks 5-12

We are finally caught up after missing a week of school in October due to two bouts of stomach flu - not pretty. So I wanted to update you on all our goings-on in our little schoolhouse. We've enjoyed many books through Five in a Row and have really enjoyed using our world map on a regular basis. Some weeks we do a lot of activities inspired by the books we read and some weeks we do the minimum as our schedule allows. Without further ado here's what we've been up to. :)

Week 5 - The Rag Coat
This was the week that Asher was sick so we did the minimum. We enjoyed reading about the Applachian experience through reading The Rag Coat. The only activity we did during this week was quilting. Yep, I let my little boy use my sewing machine - with LOTS of supervision. Plus he was terrified of getting stuck with a needle so he was pretty respectful of the machine. We took old scraps of fabric and sewed them together and added a piece of fabric to back it. It worked out well but I don't think I'll scare him with the sewing machine for a while. :)

Week 6 - The Glorious Flight
 We really enjoyed this book and learning some French names was a highlight (Blair-You). The boys loved laughing like French men, "Hugh, hugh, hugh!" :D Made me laugh!! We colored paper and made them into paper airplanes flying them across the yard. We also took a trip to the local airport to watch planes land and take-off but since this is a relatively small town, there wasn't any action. The boys were disappointed but were equally distracted by the McDonald's we picked up on the way. We also took a little trip to the grocery store and bought a French baguette. They thought it was so fun to be able to just rip off a chunk. If I had really been on the ball, I would have made this airplane as a craft, but again, some weeks are better than others.

Week 7 - A Pair of Red Clogs
 This was a book that interested my boys as they were so interested in the little girl's clogs. We talked about taking care of our things and being responsible - even with our shoes. I was preparing them for winter when they have to keep their tennis shoes out of the snow. We tossed our shoes to "predict the weather" and then we waited til the next morning to see if our "predictions" were right. I had him draw the Japanese flag in his journal along with drawing different facial expressions. Overall it was a good experience and I would recommend reading this book again.

Week 8 - The Clown of God
 This book, on the other hand, I had a little more trouble with. I found some activities but I had a difficult time explaining the meaning of the book. I talked about how important it is to be a light everywhere we go. And that our light shines to show Jesus' love as the monks showed love the the clown. When the clown dies in the end of the book (sorry to give away the ending) I explained out important it is for us to do our best for God all through our life. That we can give glory to God until the day we die. And I left it at that. I didn't want to go into the details of the statue changing its face and I'm glad they didn't ask for an explanation. :) I got a kit from the library with a CD and different color scarves so we danced and jungled along with the CD. The boys had a lot of fun with that. I had him draw pictures for the vocabulary words: juggle, eggplant, zucchini, torches, and monks (brothers). I don't know that I would necessarily teach this book again, but after reviewing what we did I think it was sufficient and they seemed to enjoy the activities we did through the week.

Week 9 - How to Make Apple Pie and See the World
 We really enjoyed this book as we had been on a field trip to the apple orchard a few weeks earlier. We enjoyed "traveling" around the world for all the ingredients to make and apple pie since the grocery store was closed. I printed out a world map and we used a ruler and red marker (like Indiana Jones) and drew out our trip to each country. We also journaled all the countries and the ingredients we picked up while we were there. I found pictures of each mode of transportation, each country, and each food item. We pasted them into the journal and recorded the details of the trip. We made apple crisp on Friday to enjoy as dessert. It was a great week and we had so much fun traveling the world together.

Week 10 - Sick Week
 This is the week I had the flu, so needless to say, we didn't get much done. We rearranged some things so that I could rest and the boys could play instead of having school. Lots of books were read while cuddling on the couch. Also, dad cooked dinner almost every night. :) That's looking at the glass half-full.

Week 11 - Papa Piccolo
 This was not what I expected at all. I expected this book to be about music, but it was about cats as the cover easily displays. And my boys LOVE cats (I am very allergic so I don't really enjoy them too much). We found Venice, Italy on the map and looked at pictures online of their "roads" which are really a series of canals. We talked about how much fun it would be if we traveled by boat instead of car. Or if we had to walk nearly everywhere. They thought that sounded like a great idea. We journaled drawings of the vocab words: canal, sardine, chime, carnival, glum, and gondola. We made a color wheel and practiced our addition using kitten counters. The boys loved talking about kittens and next time I would like to take them to the Humane Society to visit some kitties and cats.

Week 12 - Grandfather's Journey
We didn't really get into this book. It was a little more difficult as the timeline of the book moved quickly and I don't think they realized that the character was the same because he aged so quickly through the book. We did take another look at Japan and made some hats out of paper - origami. We talked about days in a week and months in a year to note how time passes. We also discussed family generations - Great Gramma, Grandpa, Dad and them. And how each one has their own experiences because of the years they lived. We didn't really get into WWII but did discuss how each generation has ties to different parts of history.

And last week we played catch-up from the week when I was sick. So, we are back on track and that feels so good!! :) We've had a lot of fun incorporating other fun activities into our school days including:

Hi-Ho Cherry-O!
The Farming Game Kids

Star Wars
Read, Build, Write
Super Mario Brothers

site word games and counting lots of objects.

It's been a great experience so far and we are really looking forward to our next books: Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, Katy and the Big Snow and Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.

What are you learning in your homeschool classroom? What are some good books that you recommend?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Pie is about the easiest pie you can make. I always use my Betty Crocker recipe and it never fails to satisfy us. It's a simple recipe out of my first cookbook - Betty Crocker's Cooking Basics: Learning to Cook with Confidence. I received this cookbook from my parents upon moving into my first apartment and it has served me well. It would make a great gift for a high school graduate or a new bride.

Anyway, on to the recipe...

Pumpkin Pie
from Betty Crocker

1 frozen deep-dish pie shell
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 can (16oz) pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 can (12oz) evaporated milk (not sweetened condensed milk)
whipped cream or Cool-Whip

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Set out frozen pie shell to thaw.

2. Beat eggs slightly in a large bowl with a wire whisk or hand beater. Beat in the sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, pumpkin and milk.

3. To prevent spilling, place pastry-lined pie shell on a cookie before adding filling. Carefully pour the pumpkin filling into the pie plate. (There will be extra so don't let it overflow - I put the extra in a little ramekin to enjoy later.) Bake 15 minutes.

4. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Bake about 45 minutes longer or until knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Place on a wire cooling rack after baking. If after 4-6 hours the pie has not been served, cover and refrigerate.

5. Serve pie with whipped cream or Cool-Whip. Cover remaining pie up to three days.

Easy-peasy. Enjoy!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Prepping for Thanksgiving

This year for Thanksgiving my sister and her two kids are coming!! We are so happy to host them in our new home and are so thankful for the extra room so they can stay with us. Therefore, I've been cooking up a storm! And I love that kind of weather. :)

First of all, I did all my non-perishable and frozen shopping last week and this week I picked up the fresh produce and my regular items. It made the shopping a lot less overwhelming. 

And I've learned that it is ultra-helpful to have a plan when you have guests coming. So, here's the plan (and some of the recipes) for Thanksgiving:

banana bread (bake on Wednesday)
cinnamon rolls (refrigerated from the can)

11am - appetizers
BLT dip with Wheat Thins (prep on Wednesday and mix together on Thursday)
veggies and dip

1p - Thanksgiving
turkey (Thursday)
mashed potatoes (Thursday)
sweet potatoes (cook on Wednesday, bake on Thursday)
green bean casserole (prep on Wednesday, bake on Thursday)
stuffing (prep on Wednesday, bake on Thursday)
dilled corn (Thursday)
brown and serve rolls (Thursday)
cranberry sauce (Wednesday)
7-layer rainbow jell-o (Wednesday)
layered lettuce salad (Wednesday)

3p - dessert
pumpkin pie (Wednesday)
scotcheroos (Tuesday)
chex mix (Tuesday)


It's been fun using all the pots and pans in my kitchen. Finding my casserole dishes still packed in boxes and using my Pampered Chef chiller veggie platter. My boys have also been handy in the kitchen and we've had lots of fun learning together. They're learning how to pour and stir without spilling, how to clean up as you go, how it's important to taste everything (they really like that part), and how to have fun. I've been learning how much they love being in the kitchen and that they're more likely to eat the food that they helped make. I've also been learning to let them have fun, and that includes being messy. I am teaching them to be careful, but I'm not the neatest cook in town so I shouldn't expect them to be either. And it's been fun singing to Christmas music while we cook.

How do your kids participate in the holidays? Do you dare ask them to help in the kitchen? :)

Happy Thanksgiving to "all" my readers!!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Planning a Superhero Birthday

This month my youngest turns four! He's been requesting a superhero birthday party for a few months (without changing his mind - a miracle) so we're going with that. He's requested a "Scooperhero" birthday cake since we received this as a gift from two former students:

He uses this delightful spoon to eat his breakfast every morning but I'm wondering how that's going to make it onto a cake. And he's also requesting that we change the colors to cardinal and gold for Iowa State (his favorite team). So I've been trying to accommodate his requests while not driving myself to the loony-bin.

Here's a few ideas I've been focusing on...

We want to keep it simple so we're thinking cupcakes, a few snacks and some drinks.

chocolate cupcakes with toppers (from Fabulous Features)

other fun snacks with these "labels" (from 3 Sweet P's)

I thought about bottled pop so I can put a cute "FIZZZ" label on them, but we're dealing with preschoolers so we might be sticking to juice-boxes instead...or sippy cups. :)

Again, focusing on keeping it simple, we're going to have a few signs around and maybe a banner or two. And food is always a great way to decorate simply.

great signage (from Love the Day)

Party Favors
In our area it's customary to send home some treats/favors for each child attending the party. I don't want to spend a lot of money on this but I still want it to be fun.

a mask for each guest when they arrive, adults too? (from 3 Sweet P's)

a Superhero lollipop (from Zakka Life)

and maybe a Superhero bookmark and some Pop Rocks all in a cute Superhero bag.

And then I'll purchase some plates, napkins and cups and we'll call it good. That means I have some work to do.  :)

Have any great Superhero-party-planning advice for this Super Mama?
These next two passages of Scripture speak about worshiping God with our thankful hearts through music. It's a great thing to be able to praise God with our voices when we listen to music, sing along, sing with a group, or when we make a joyful noise. :) 

No-Complain November :: Day 3
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.Colossians 3:15-17

No-Complain November :: Day 4
Come, let us sing to the Lord!
      Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
 Let us come to him with thanksgiving.
      Let us sing psalms of praise to him.
 For the Lord is a great God,
      a great King above all gods. Psalm 95:1-3

May you be blessed today as you worship God in whatever you do.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Come, Ye Thankful People, Come

Every autumn the song Come, Ye Thankful People, Come gets in my brain. I think a lot of it has to do with growing up in a farming community. The writer (Henry Alford) of this hymn is calling the people together to praise God for the bountiful harvest He has supplied. But it's also pointing us to the future harvest when Christ will make is triumphal return. I am blessed to have grown up singing this hymn and now I want to share it with you.

Come, Ye Thankful People, Come
Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home;
All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied;
Come to God's own temple, come, raise the song of harvest home.

All the world is God's own field, fruit unto His praise to yield;
Wheat and tares together sown unto joy or sorrow grown.
First the blade and then the ear, then the full corn shall appear;
Lord of harvest, grant that we wholesome grain and pure may be.

For the Lord our God shall come, and shall take His harvest home;
From His field shall in that day all offenses purge away,
Giving angels charge at last in the fire the tares to cast;
But the fruitful ears to store in His garner evermore.
Even so, Lord, quickly come, bring Thy final harvest home;
Gather Thou Thy people in, free from sorrow, free from sin,
There, forever purified, in Thy garner to abide;
Come, with all Thine angels come, raise the glorious harvest home. 

I get teary-eyed every time I sing that last verse. "Gather Thou Thy people in, free from sorrow, free from sin" - I am anxious for that glorious day.

Do you have any special songs that you enjoy during the harvest/Thanksgiving season?

No-Complain November

You've seen our family's experience with No-Spend March and No-TV February so now I introduce to you:

No-Complain November

I thought November was the perfect time to focus on all the things we are thankful for (pretty obvious) and it's a great time to put my whiny voice away. We want to set an example for our boys who have been bitten by the "Complain-About-It" bug. And honestly, I've been dealing with my own infestation of the dreaded CAI bug.  God's been so good to us and we want to focus on His blessings this year instead of our worries, doubts, and wants. I will be posting verses (and also on Facebook) as daily medication for the CAI bug.

No-Complain November :: Day 1
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7

No-Complain November :: Day 2
I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart;
  I will tell of your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and rejoice in you;
  I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High. Psalm 9:1-2

I pray that this month you can overflow with thankfulness to God for the many ways He blesses you. It's gonna be a great way to get into the Advent season.

So, wanna play along? :)

Something to get you started: One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
(on sale now at DaySpring - One Thousand Gifts and God In the Moment perpetual calendar set)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Christmas in October?

I'm busy baking Triple Chocolate Sour Cream Brownies and listening to the Christmas Blues on Pandora (you heard me right, Christmas music). It's so relaxing. A few days ago our basement had a slight flood (more on that another time) and we had dishes galore after not being able to use water for a day. And I listened to Christmas music then too. It helped me get the job done with a smile on my face.

Today I was thinking why I am so in the mood for Christmas this early in the year. I wondered if it's the amazingly warm temperatures we've enjoyed throughout October (74 degrees this week). I wondered if it's because we've been moving our Christmas stuff around in the basement trying to organize all our crap precious things.

It was during my prayer time that I realized that I'm just excited about Christmas this year. I'm excited to be in our new home. I'm excited to take out our Christmas decor and deck the halls. I'm excited to shop for my family. I'm excited to work on some extra special crafts to make the holidays more jolly. I'm ready to get out the Advent calendar and plan some special things for our family to do together to remind us of the gift of Jesus. I'm ready and I'm excited.

I think this happiness is oozing from me because last year I just wanted to make it through the holidays. Last year was filled with loss, depression, fights with God, learning hard lessons, rededicating my life to Christ and God's will, being humbled and filled with God's grace and righteousness. And I was hurting a lot last Christmas. I put on my happy face for my boys so that they would still remember Christmas as a happy time. I reluctantly decorated the house but there wasn't any real joy in the process. We skipped our Advent adventures all together last year. I barely got gifts wrapped and under the tree by Christmas. It was just a sad time of year for us.

I'm sure that this Christmas will have it's share of tears - happy and mournful - but there's a bounce to my step that wasn't there last year. I pray that God continues to show me grace as we get closer to Thanksgiving and that it can truly be a time of thanksgiving. And as we approach Christmas, that our Advent days will be filled with the hope of Jesus Christ.

So, if you hear me humming Christmas tunes while shopping for groceries, don't roll your eyes. I'm just ready to celebrate!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pumpkin Swirl Brownies

The other night I had a craving for some pumpkin and chocolate and instead of heading to Dairy Queen in this chilly fall weather I made these Pumpkin Swirl Brownies from Betty Crocker. I am a lover of all things pumpkin and this is a quick go-to recipe if you don't have time to make pumpkin pie or if you don't want to run out to DQ. :) Enjoy!

Pumpkin Swirl Brownies
from: Betty Crocker

1 pkg (3oz) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
1 egg
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (I use fresh)

1 box Betty Crocker® Premium Brownies Ultimate
ingredients listed on box

1. Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pan). Grease bottom only of 9-inch square pan with shortening or cooking spray. In small bowl, beat all filling ingredients with electric mixer on low speed until smooth. Set aside.

2. Make brownie batter as directed on box, using 1/4 cup oil, 2 tablespoons water and the egg. Spread 3/4 of the batter in pan. Spoon filling by tablespoonfuls evenly over batter. Spoon remaining brownie batter over filling. Cut through batter several times with knife for marbled design. 

3. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted 1 inch from side of pan comes out almost clean. Cool completely. Cut into 4 rows by 4 rows. Store covered in refrigerator.  

They don't make good leftovers so you'll have to eat them all in an evening - so invite some friends over to share. :)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

"Vintage" Baby Quilt

My dear friend Wendi and I share a love for vintage things. She has more of a shabby-sheik flavor to her vintage and mine is more farm-house. For instance, she owns a vintage chandelier and uses vintagey pink in her decorating. :) My colors or more red and aqua and I have a barn light hanging in my kitchen. We enjoy junking together at barns out in the middle of no-where Iowa and stopping at little shops that repurpose old things into new treasures.

She designed her baby's nursery around a vintage pink and aqua. And it's gorgeous. Love the touches she added around the room. Since this was her third baby and her second girl, I thought it would be nice to make her something special so I suggested a quilt and she loved the idea. After a great day of driving through the countryside looking at some great refunked junkery we stopped at our local fabric store (which is amazing, by the way) and she picked out some perfect fabric for her baby's room. I finally got to work when I heard she went into labor. :D

It didn't take me long to sew this quilt as I had a great plan (drawn out for me by one of the employees at said fabric store) and got to work. I took one afternoon to cut all the squares and sewed them together. The next morning (while waiting in the car for my husband to give plasma (that's what pays for his seminary classes)) I hand-quilted the whole works together. And then that evening finished the edges with the machine.


Honestly, I had a hard time giving this quilt away. It was the first quilt I made that looked good. I've made some cute quilts but this one was good. The squares were even, the quilting was sweet, the edges were perfectly sewn and there wasn't a lumpy back which always seems to happen to me.

And then there's the fact that any time I make something for a baby gift, I think of my babies. My babies who are now little boys and my babies in heaven. I feel like I put a little of myself and my boys into these projects. It may seem weird, I know, but those blankets and burp cloths are made with a lot of love and it really is hard to give them away, but it's also very therapeutic for me. Giving someone a gift helps me cope with my loss. Creating something with love calms my spirit and I am thankful to God for that gift.

For your viewing enjoyment, here are a few more pictures of the nursery. :)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Cleaning the Basement

We are finally tackling the basement and all the stuff it stores. There's some junk that we need to sift through and decide if we want to hold on to things until next spring and have a garage sale or just dump it off give it to Good Will or Salvation Army. There's a pile of kitchen gadgets that need a home until I need to use them. And lots of filing to do.

There's also this huge daunting pile of maternity, post-maternity, 0-3T clothes sitting in a corner. There's a box of baby shoes. A box of burp coths, bottles, liners, breast pads and nipple cream sits among the pile. Then there are the mixed boxes of outgrown clothes that didn't fit into the original sized box: a 2-T winter coat, some 3T jeans, a 24 month long-sleeved white onsie, a bunch of baby-sized hats and mittens... The list goes on and on. And this stuff takes up so. much. space.

I look at it and wonder if it's worth keeping. Seriously, it's the bulk of our storage items and it's really hard to look at it. We're wondering if the attic would be a better storage option because we don't know when or if we'll ever use this stuff again. And that just breaks my heart. Today I put away a pair of booties that I kept out for Elihu last year. I found it in a box of mis-matched items that were thrown together for the move. We're wondering how long we should hold on to this stuff until it's time to get rid of it. To have the best garage sale ever with boy clothes from 0-3T, maternity clothes from small to extra-large, and lots of baby supplies. If we ever do have that sale (and if it's because we weren't able to have more children) I don't think I'll be able to be at that sale. It will just be too hard to watch my precious baby's things sold for a quarter. I will hold on to a few meaningful items and maybe even regift some unopened items (you've been warned) but most of it will be sold. And I don't know if I'll be able to witness that.

I know this is a lot of hypotheticals and worries but I just needed to get some of them out of my head. My heart is burdened by all that stuff in the basement as I wonder about God's plan for our family. I pray that God grants me peace no matter what happens and that I can willingly open my hands and let my stuff go as God calls me. For now, the items will sit lovingly piled in the basement along with our box of wedding memorabilia, kitchen gadgets, crystal bowls, fondue pots, and decorative items.

Friday, September 30, 2011

A Recent Blog Find

I stumbled upon The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking the other day and really enjoyed its content. It's a fairly new blog but have already picked out several favorite posts including this:

The Five Stages of Housework (from Feb 2011)
1. Denial: My house isn't dirty, it's lived in.
2. Anger: You peed on your sheets on purpose, Didn't you?  Didn't you?
3. Bargaining: Maybe if i put this laundry basket in the hallway, the clothes will actually make it to the laundry basket...
4. Depression: Make the bed?  Why?  I'm just going to mess it up again later....
5. Acceptance: Well, nobody else is going to do it...

I can totally relate to this. :) Here are a few more of my favorites:

32 Ways to Beat the Winter Blahs (from Feb 2011)
This is a great list with some really easy and creative ways to keep entertained this winter.

10Ways to NOT Make Your Home a Haven (from Nov 2010)
I can see how perfection is a stumbling block for me. My home will never be perfect so I need to stop waiting for perfection before I invite people over. This was a really refreshing post for me.

Homemade Wool Dryer Balls (from Apr 2011)
A really handy tutorial that I'd like to try this winter.

Demystifying the Seasoning of Cast Iron (from May 2011)
I have a cast iron frying skillet and do not use it as often as I should. I don't know what to cook in it and I'm not sure how to take care of it. This is a great post to help me with the latter, but does anyone have any suggestions for what to make in my cast iron skillet?

Make sure you head over to The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking for more homemaking tips from the real world.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Five in a Row: Weeks 1-4

We've been having a great time schooling at home this fall. It's been such a blessing to watch my boys learn! And to see how God has created their brains to keep learning - takes a lot of pressure off of me.

We've been enjoying the Five in a Row (FIAR) series and will continue throughout this kindergarten year. It's been fun to include our 3 (almost 4) year-old in our activities each day. Some of the books are easier to get through than others but overall it's been great for us.

Our first book was The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack. Our boys loved hearing about Ping avoiding a "spank" and how he had to face his discipline in the end, but was just happy to be with his family again.

Social Studies: We looked up the Yangtze River online and read the blog of our friends who live right on the River. The boys had fun looking at the different landscapes that the River runs along.
Language Arts: We discussed the word "fiction" and tried to use it throughout the week. We practiced telling fiction (make-believe) stories to each other.
Fine Arts: In the book water is drawn in different ways and we practiced drawing the different types of water.
Math: We colored Ping's family (by Shari F.). It was fun to watch him count all the cousins.

The boys really enjoyed this book and learning about the yellow river. I'm glad we have it in our home collection.

The second week we watched the story of Lentil by Robert McCloskey (one of our favorite authors). Our library doesn't have it in print so we watched it on video. The boys thought it was pretty cool that they got to watch a movie everyday and they really enjoyed the music from the film.

Social Studies: We talked about Ohio being the friendly state O-hi-O. :) We talked about where we live in relation to Ohio and planned a road trip on Google to find out how long it would take for us to drive there and what cities we would go through to get there (we planned fun  things to do along the way).
Fine Arts: We listened to Blues Traveler - Hook online to hear some really good harmonica music. We loved dancing in the kitchen to the song as we played it over and over and over. We also picked up a harmonica at a toy store downtown and they have enjoyed playing it (and I have too). :)

The third book we read was Who Owns the Sun? by Stacy Chbosky. Miss Chbosky was fourteen when she wrote and illustrated the story. We thought that was pretty neat to have a book published when you're still a kid.  This book was a little heavy for us. I had a hard time explaining slavery in the South. It seems so far removed from our lives but I want them to know that it's a part of our American history. I related it to slavery in the Bible when Moses had to get the Israelites out of Egypt. But it was still a difficult subject for me to teach.

Social Studies: We talked about which states make up the South. I tried to talk about why the white people had black slaves but that raised a lot of questions that I was not prepared to answer. So we talked about how the slaves worked on the farms for very little to no pay and how some of the slave owners weren't very nice. We talked about how slavery is wrong and that God created all people in His image and how we need to love everyone - not just people who are like us.
Fine Arts: I introduced new colors - fuchsia, teal, melon, mauve, goldenrod, burnt sienna and forest green. My son picked forest green, fuchsia and goldenrod as his favorites and we use them on his seat work throughout the week.
Math: We counted different objects in the book - fence posts, flowers, tree stumps, stars...
Science: We talked about the seasons and how trees can help us tell what season we're in. We colored four trees for the four seasons.

Last week was our favorite book so far, Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans. I love a good illness story so this was great. I got to use my nursing skills to teach my boys about their digestive systems and their appendixes. We also enjoyed learning about France and praying for a former student who now lives in Paris. Crazy to think we really know people who live all around the world. :) This week we created our first lap book. We created different elements throughout the week and then on Friday put them all together into a book. They really enjoyed seeing their work displayed together.

Social Studies: We took a "Tour of France" and matched the pictures in the project to pictures in the book. They had a lot of fun matching and gluing.
Language Arts: I made a rhyming page for him to complete. There were three picture (rhymes) and the first picture had the whole word written, the second was missing the first letter and the third he had to complete on his own. He doesn't particularly care for writing so this wasn't his favorite project.
Fine Arts: We colored two pictures of the Eiffel Tower - one monochromatic (in blue) and the other in full color.
Math: We talked about symmetry and looked at all the symmetrical pictures in the book. I had him create symmetry by drawing the missing half of different shapes (circle, square, etc).
Science: We colored a picture of the digestive system and talked about the other systems in the body and how they each had an important job to do. We then watched The Magic School Bus as they take a trip through Arnold's body. They liked that a lot.


* It's easier for us to have "Bible" together as a family at breakfast. That's when we will read our weekly story and spend time in prayer together. I'm a night owl and so getting up early enough to plan for "Bible" has been difficult so you can pray for discipline for me to get to bed on time so I can get up on time and not feel rushed in the mornings. :)
* Last week our kindergartner started his first PE class on Mondays and had so much fun. The instructor is great and so are the students that help out in the class. We are blessed to have this as an option for our home school.
* We decided to not have school at home on Fridays as we are involved in our local home school enrichment program and he is taking a class on Friday mornings for two hours. We'll do some handwriting on Friday afternoons and also a lot of reading but we won't do much with seat work and workbooks. It's a nice break for me too and he really enjoys the time he spends with other students.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Kindergarten 2011-2012


Last week Monday we started kindergarten. It was a bitter-sweet event as most of the children we knew were headed off to school with their loaded backpacks to meet their new teachers, unpack their fresh school supplies and visit with new and old friends. Meanwhile, we were headed to the kitchen table where there were fresh supplies, fresh workbooks, and big smiles. I'm sure it will get easier when people ask my son if he started kindergarten and where he's going to school. But right now, it's hard to explain our reasoning to strangers in the grocery store during a 2 minute "conversation."

But my kindergarten son was excited and so is my three-year-old. He's participating in schoolwork right alongside his brother and mom. :) It's a blessing to be able to school them at home. I'm excited to see what God's going to do this year in our home. And we're also participating in our local homeschool enrichment program. It's through our public school system and will be a blessing to our family. Through the program we will get a supervising teacher (which you would normally have to pay for), PE classes once a week and an enrichment class once a week. During the enrichment class they will work on computer skills, calendar skills, learn some conversational French, writing/reading assistance. And the biggest blessing is that a lot of the women that work there are all born-again believers. Even though the program is funded through the public school there are many believers who make the program possible and that's exciting for us as a family. Another thing we're finding out is that not all parents homeschool because of religious reasons. We have come to find that there are more reasons parents are choosing to school at home. We are excited to know that there is a mission field for our littles as they attend HSAP activities and classes but we are still giving them a "Christian education" at home. It's really exciting for our family. :)

I decided that it would be best for our family to have school at the dining room table. I know that if it were in another more inconvenient location (the closer to the kitchen the better since I spend most of my day there) I we would have trouble getting my our work done. And I didn't want our dining room space to look too much like a kindergarten classroom so we purchased some shelving from Ikea and our workboxes are on wheels so they can easily be wheeled out of the room for important guests. Our calendar work and Letter of the Week info is on hooks and can also be easily removed for dinner guests. I'm still trying to paint window trim, sew curtains, and add some extra decor but this is where we're at with our dining/homeschool room.

Alright, as for what we're planning this year....

Five in a Row - book 1 (fall); book 2 (spring)
Horizon's Math
Explode the Code Phonics (all consonants this fall and vowels this spring)
Handwriting Without Tears

We're also utilizing the workboxes again this year. It's a great way to push me into adding fun things for him to do. Otherwise it just becomes worksheets and coloring. This way I add games, puzzles, crafts, activities into our school time.

Preschool 3/4 yr
Raising Rock Stars Preschool
Letter of the Week by Confessions of a Homschooler

We're really excited to be using this program again. There are some things that are a little over his head as it was created for 4-year-olds but he's really been enjoying it. There are so many fun elements to RRSP and LOTW. I even take some of the activities and put them in the kindergarten boxes for some review work. Plus it's fun when he can accomplish something quickly after working hard on another box. I did not purchase the RRSP or LOTW downloads; I only use their free printables.

We have also been using some great games created by Homeschool Creations. They have been another great asset to our homeschool curriculum this year.

That's what we have planned so far. I'm excited to see where God will lead us this year and we'd appreciate your prayers as we begin this adventure. :)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I Like to Move It, Move It...

Some of you may have wondered where I've been for the last month, but we finally bought our house. And we've been working our tails off to make it home. It's a long process - that will probably last until we sell it in 20 years. But it seems as though we mark one thing off our "to do" list and add three more things. :) I've heard that's the way it goes with home ownership.

Today I thought I'd give you the "before" tour. I really don't want to give the "after" tour until all our projects are complete, but that may be until Christmas. :) So, I will work on some "in the process" pictures to show you some time next week.


That's the end of the "before" tour. :) We are so thankful and blessed to have a home!! We've also been blessed with very hospitable neighbors that have brought over cookies, lemonade and their phone numbers. We are so thankful that God led us to this home and we pray that He will continue to bless our ministry efforts while we live here. 
Oh, and I don't have any pictures of the backyard to show you yet, but I will soon. It's great to say "go play outside" and they can. :)