Thursday, April 17, 2014

This and That and Weekend Plans



Good Morning World! Today and this weekend are all shaping up to be a whirlwind of activity.  Our daughter has declared that her room is a little girl's room. The only thing she wants for her birthday is a "big girl beach room." We're not talking about a blissfully peaceful, demure beach inspired room. We're talking about an over-the-top-tourist-condo inspired bright and colorful beach room for a soon to be 9 year old. We are "transforming" her room tomorrow while she's at school as a surprise.

As part of this activity, I'm making a body pillow for her out of a really pretty coral patterned fabric. I'm not the best seamstress in the world so I've enlisted the help of a friend for today's project. She is a seamstress. I know it'll be beautiful with her help.

My parents are coming to visit this weekend for Easter, and during all of this activity I've got a selfish goal: to read a new book! That's right, I'm taking some "me time" out of this busy weekend. You can see from the picture above that I've already creased the beautiful cover.  If all goes well, I'll have my first book review posted by Monday. Cross your fingers everyone!

Even if I don't accomplish that goal, I'll have lots of pictures to share with you. I'll post before and after pictures of the beach bedroom transformation, and I promise I'll show you how well the pillow turns out. (It won't be because of all my sewing talents!!!! But shhhhhh, don't tell anyone!)

Oh, and one more thing....... We HAVE to put safety knobs on all of our doors this weekend. My adorably cute little monster has learned to open doors. It's scared the crap out of me the past two days. We've got to find those knob covers that slide around the knob when little hands turn them. Follow that very technical description?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Ahh... Finally Spring!


I apologize for my long absence. Winter is such a hard season for me. It seems like everything is a struggle. I can't imagine how hard it is for you folks with snow!

January and February are a hibernation blur. March is spent waking and trying to get caught up. And so here it is April. 

But the sun is shining, the weather is warm, and the grass is cut. Seasons come, seasons go and with it different activities and energy levels. 

I always try to overcome it but maybe the real wisdom is going with it?

How was your winter? Do you hibernate for part of it or is that just me?

Friday, January 17, 2014

I Wasn't Dressed For My Day

Today, I was reminded of a rule. "Always dress for your day first thing as you wake."

I had gotten away from this rule during Christmas break. I'm having a bit of trouble getting back into the swing of things.

What reminded me? My Husband's boss waiting in my drive way. I knew my Husband was giving him a ride but didn't know he was outside my door. And there I was in yoga pants and a sweatshirt, greasy hair, unwashed face. I was embarrassed.

It did provide a kick in the (yoga) pants to get back into a normal rhythm.

Now I just need to get everything else around here done too.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Goals 2014



I've been thinking about goals since before 2013 ended. I believe in goals, I do. I'ts just that they've always been so much work and have created so much worry about failing at them.

For the last several years I've done one word contemplation's, or concentrated on one area of my life. But this year I feel the need for a more formal commitment. Maybe it's because I just finished reading Jon Acuff''s Start. Maybe I'm feeling a little middle age-ish.

Either way I wrote down real goals in my real journal for the first time this year. But knowing I need some accountability have decided to share them with you as well.


My 2014 Goals

Health
Lose 35 pounds. (I know, I know. So cliche.)

Kids
Less TV, more outside play.

Marriage
Learn German together
Have more dates

Personal
Write more. A lot, lot, more.
Craft more- Some specifics are, I want to make soap. As in lye, science equipment soap. I also want to                          craft some Christmas presents.
Learn to use the computer better.

Homemaking
I want to keep the house clean and organized, pretty and useful. On a regular basis!

Financial
Save, save, save.

Volunteering
Get CPR/First Aide certified.
Become an Honor Troop


Since I have so many I've decided to break them up into seasons. My winter season is January and February. (I'll write more about how I break up the seasons in another post but for now just go with me on this.)

Some things will be a multi-season item and others are just for one.  I have ideas on how to break these bigger goals into smaller more tangible ones. I'll share next week's plan in a few days.

What goals, resolutions, contemplative words, or area of life are you working on?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Greetings!

We have stepped back into our loud and busy lives, but still retain the inner glow of this special place.


The work, the rest, and the simple un-busy-ness both renews us and stretches us.


And so, this blog, this dream, has also been renewed and stretched.


I hope you as well have a place of rest, in which you can pick up a new dream or rediscover an old.


I hope you as well have a place of stretch, in which you're encouraged to flex the muscle needed to grasp those dreams.


And if you are richly blessed, as I am, those places are one and the same. May you never let go of the memory of it, nor the gratitude for it.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Simple Advent

Our family is celebrating Advent for the first time this year. For several years now I have been struggling with a way to get the real meaning of Christmas through to my daughter.



As a child there were several years where my brother and I received one present each, or none. I am grateful for that. It taught me that Christmas was not about getting gifts. It was about love, and family, and choosing to be happy.  As the narrator on the Grinch movie says, “Christmas didn’t come from a store. Christmas meant a little bit more.”

But, I couldn’t bring myself to not by presents for my kids when we can afford it. Then, someone at church mentioned Advent was coming up. That sent me on a search as to what exactly Advent was. I found lots of Chocolate calendars, elf’s on shelves, Jesse trees, and small gifts given out every day for 25 days.

Then I discovered the Advent wreath. No candy, no presents, no extra work for me. Just light a candle and contemplate on God with your family. Perfect! We are enjoying it immensely, even my toy driven 8 year old. (She gets to light the candles at dinner.)


Do you celebrate Advent? How?

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Birthday Celebration & An Owl Cake!

I took an unintended week long break. It was Katie's 8th birthday with 2 sets of Grandparents staying with us from out of state. So we had a fun houseful!



Katie's friend party was at the bowling alley. The kids had a great time! I bought a cake to keep my stress levels down and since I had no clean up to do I got to enjoy the party as well. I even got to bowl some!

Then we had a family party at home. Splitting up the partys allowed Katie to concentrate on just her friends and then just her family. For her home party she chose Subway style sandwiches. I surprised her with an owl theme and she helped to make the cake! She loved that part, especially making sure the icing was good.



I gotta tell you how proud I am of this cake! Until a few years ago I couldn't ice a cake from a box with a tub of icing. I always peeled the top layer off it. The last time I tried to make a cake for a special occasion was Katie's 2nd Birthday. I ended up sending Curt to buy one an hour before the party was to start.






As per Katie request the cake was red velvet. (No she has never seen Steel Magnolias.) I started with a 9x13 sheet cake. I drew the owl,wings, and feet on construction paper and then used that as a template. Icing was a standard butter-cream. Mostly I just winged it. Which usually never works out for me.

Happy Birthday my little baker!




Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Perspective

I wasn't having a very good day. The USB ports on my new computer have broken. Katie has lost her second DS. I haven't gotten any of my weekly cleaning list done. There's still laundry from Friday to fold. Ben was clingy all day.

Then I turned on the TV.

I think I'll go read to my children, and contemplate the important things in life.


My prayers go to those in Boston, especially the parents who lost their eight year old boy.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Need To Rest

A daily rest. Mandated by law we get breaks and time for lunch.


At a paid job that is.

But in a home with kids there is always something more to do. Piles of stuff  pop up like mushrooms after a spring rain and need constant picking up. When you cook three meals a day at home from scratch there is always a pot to clean and food to prep.

 In an effort to get it all done I was ignoring my children and wearing myself out. I wasn't stopping, even after dinner. Now, I know a mothers job is never done but my days were a race to see how many things I could check off my to do list. There was always a last minute push to add just a few more check marks to that paper before finally collapsing in bed unable to finish another thing. I was exhausted. I was burned out. I needed to stop.


Stop.

That was the answer. I just needed to stop. Not cleaning or cooking, I'm past the days of living in filth or eating fast food for every meal being OK. No, I needed to stop for the day.

So I'm calling an end point to the endless. A point where I can move on from the cleaning and laundry and into the listening and playing and being present.

Mine is at 2:45 to be exact. That's when I leave to pick up Katie from school. I know I'll still have to cook dinner and wash dishes after that. But what if I took the time to sit next to her while she works on homework? What if I listened to her practice piano? What if I greet my husband when he comes home instead of waving at him and hurrying on with my task. What if I cuddle on the couch with Ben before nighty night instead of a "Good your tired lets put you to bed".


My relationship with my family is so much more important than a shiny sink or a scrubbed floor. I need to stop and remember nurturing a family is not just being the maid. Stopping and turning my attention to them and away from the structure of this home is more important.

Do you need to STOP and focus on your family? Has your checklist taken a higher priority in your life than it should? When do you say enough is enough and STOP for the day?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Our Southern Peach Tea

Tea. It's important around here. We consider it a staple pantry item as much as flour and sugar. And we drink it sweet. In fact, in my house it's the only beverage beyond milk and water we have. Lately, we've had several people ask us how we make tea at home. I have to say I was a little shocked! I thought everybody made it at home. One family said they buy the ready-made stuff which is as expensive as soda and always taste like a plastic bottle to me. The other uses Nestea instant iced tea. (Yuck, just Yuck!!)

So I am posting my husbands tea recipe. 

Our Southern Peach Tea

You'll need:
a gallon of cold filtered water
4 family sized tea bags
2 peach tea bags (We like celestial seasonings Country Peach Passion)
1 c sugar (or more to your taste)

Starting with cold filtered water is a must. Just like you can't make good coffee with bad water you can't make good tea with funky water either. Heat your water to very hot but not quite boiling. We use an electric tea kettle but a pot on the stove works just as well. Pour the hot water into a pitcher. Add the sugar, and stir till it dissolves. If this step takes more than a couple of seconds your water isn't hot enough. Now add the tea bags and push them down gently into the water with the spoon. Don't stir and always add the tea bags after the water so you don't bust one. Let cool. When the tea is a dark chestnut color, gently lift the tea bags out and toss. Stir and chill. 

Making homemade tea is simple. Paying attention to the details makes all the difference. 

Do you make tea at home? I'm interested in how much sugar you do or don't put in. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

What I learned...In College


Would you like to know what I learned in college? My Bachelor's degree can be summed up in three sentences.

Read every day.
Write every day.
And edit, edit, edit.

I have done two and am off to do the third.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Simple Easter Celebration

Easter is suppose to be a time for family, God and nature. A Celebration of all three. But like most Americans I have a "bigger is better" mentality. We think our celebrations have to get better every year.We say things like "I'm going to make this the best year ever!" We need the biggest Christmas tree yet, the best Valentine's present, our anniversary party needs to be bigger than the original wedding.  And Easter is no different.

I found myself making our family's Easter plans, and I admit to worrying. Were my Easter eggs fancy enough? Should our egg hunt be more elaborate? Did I have enough stuff for their Easter baskets?

Then I realized that I was letting myself be a victim of advertising and peer pressure. My Mom had mentioned that she saw beautiful eggs in a magazine using temporary tattoos. A friend had told me about how every year she does an elaborate scavenger hunt with written clues leading to her kids Easter baskets. I looked through my favorite stores ads. They show big toys and bigger stuffed animals in their baskets. And should we even talk about the pastel Easter dresses and matching ties with white suits?

But then I thought of Easter celebrations when I was a kid. The Bunny hid the eggs. We got a simple basket with some chocolate and a few small toys. We ate a special meal. Did I ever feel slighted for the simple celebration? No. It was peaceful. Full of family and the promise of spring.

Simple.

It seems to be a recurring theme around here lately.

So this year we will dye some eggs with simple food coloring and our imaginations. The bunny will hide them in the house due to unseasonably cold weather. My kids will find Easter baskets by their doors with a chocolate bunny, a secondhand book, and some bubbles. We will go to church in clothes we already own. We will eat ham and a few simple sides. I will make a small cake or pie. The four of us will eat using the same dishes we do everyday. I may buy a small bouquet of flowers to put on the table. We will talk about rebirth.

And it will be lovely.



Proofing your life from a Layoff

So you see lots of stuff on the internet about what to do in order to get by after a lay off. However, the time to prepare for any disaster isn't after it happens but before. A layoff is no different. We live in an unstable job market.  Layoffs and redistribution are common and looks like it will stay that way. It's not fun to prepare for the worst but you will have such a peace of mind knowing you are.

Here is my list of actions you can take now to make getting through a future income loss easier:


1) Always keep up to date on doctor's appointments.  This includes dentist, eye doctors, cardiologist, gynecologist, etc. As soon as you are eligible, go in for that checkup. If you are up to date you can usually put off anything until you can get insurance back on line.

2) Keep an extra month of medications on hand. You can ask your doctor for a 1 month prescription on your usual meds. This is also good to have for emergencies. Remember to rotate your supply.

3) Keep private life insurance even if you have it through work.You don't have to worry about your family's finances even more in case something happens to you. It's also good in case you ever have a major medical issue and can no longer qualify for life insurance.

Note: Do not keep private disability or health insurance if it's offered through your work. They are expensive, and unlike life insurance, they don't coordinate benefits. This means they both don't pay out their full face value, and the two insurance companies usually end up fighting over who is responsible for what.

4) Keep up to date on all professional licenses. That way you're not looking for a job with expired credentials.

5) Eat right, exercise, and don't smoke. This keeps insurance costs down if you have to buy private insurance and keeps your out of pocket costs down while in between insurance.

6) Keep a 6 month emergency fund. Yes, it's more fun to spend it and really hard to save that much, but you need it. You'll be under much less stress if you know you have 6 months' living expenses covered while you search for a perfect job.

7) Keep up with house repairs and car repairs. That includes tires, oil changes, etc.

8) Keep cash on hand. We operate in a cashless society, but you need to keep some at home. If your accounts get frozen you can buy food and gas. It's also important in emergencies in case the electricity is down for several days and debit card machines are unusable.

9) Don't have or use credit. That includes car payments and ultimately a house payment.

10) Stockpile. No, you don't have to hoard, but even an extra bottle of shampoo can give mental relief and room in your budget.

11) Keep pets up to date on shots and extra flea, tick and worm medicine on hand.

12) Stay on a budget and keep up with your bills.

13) Keep learning! Whether it's expanding your college education so you can qualify for better jobs, acquiring more professional abilities, learning things that are totally unrelated to your current area in case the field you are in declines, or even a skill like sewing, computer repair, or teaching piano that you can use as a side income.

14) Have multiple streams of income. Use rental properties, a small business, mystery shopper, or alterations. Have them up and generating income now. That way there is no layover of income while waiting for them to start generating.

15) Invest in people! Keep up with your relationships with family and friends  They will be the ones who are there for you long after the company has given you the brushoff. Yes, long hours are required for many jobs today. Remember spending all your time and being great at your job will not keep your head off the chopping block in today's work world.

But the most important thing you can do to help yourself is knowledge. Know that it can happen to you at any time and for any reason. No one is safe from a loss of income.


Friday, March 22, 2013

Tips for the Home- Beach Gear



Today's tip comes from my husband's cousin. Who I shall not name cause I didn't ask her if I could use her identity yet. 

Use nylon mesh laundry bags to keep beach toys in. So simple! So brilliant! It let's the sand sift out, the toys dry out, and corrals them all for transport. My garage would be an even  bigger mess without you!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Menu Plan for March 21-26

Everyone knows how menu plans are good to save money and eat healthier but it can be a daunting task when you first start out. I'm not going to give you a tutorial on how to menu plan. There are plenty of websites to look at that explain it much better than I could. But I will offer these tips to those just starting out...

1) Start by planning dinner menus only.

2) If thinking about a week makes your head hurt plan 3 or 4 days only. I still do this as we vary our menus a lot from season to season, sale to sale, and by whats left in the fridge that needs to be eaten.

3) Keep some staple meals in your pantry. Some examples are  Tuna noodle casserole (canned tuna, can of cream of mushroom soup, egg noodles, can of peas)  & spaghetti. (canned sauce or tomato sauce and staple spices & noodles.) No their not culinary masterpieces but they will get dinner on the table quickly and the ingredients will keep in the pantry for months or even years.

Here's my menu for the next 6 days. You can see that it's dinners only. Lunches are usually leftovers and breakfasts are cold cereal or the occasional pancake, eggs and bacon deal. Snacks are fruit and popcorn with an occasional special treat.

Thursday- Beef Stew in the Crock pot, Brussels sprouts, fruit salad
Friday- Mexican chicken, fruit salad
Saturday- Sloppy joes and cole slaw
Sunday- Baked chicken, sweet potatoes, salad
Monday- Spaghetti with either chicken or ground beef (whatever is left), salad and bread
Tuesday- Ham and beans, cornbread

Monday, March 18, 2013

My Birthday Bargains!

(A teaser for all you northerners. Hi family!)

Yard sales are in full swing down here in these parts! Saturday I packed up both kids, handed Katie a few dollars of her own which always makes yard sale shopping more enjoyable for all of us, and headed out. The community yard sale I went to was a bust but I stumbled across a gem. And it just goes to show that you never know what your gonna find. This yard sale had kitchen stuff galore! I picked up a Cuisinart mandolin still in the box for $2. Our mandolin had lost a piece and was unusable. A trifle bowl still in the box. I had just wished for one at valentines day. And a salad spinner for my husband who has just talked about getting one. I have no idea why though. So my birthday luck was pretty good. 

Oh and I wish you all a belated Saint Patrick's day! Which is a family holiday for us!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Elevating the Simple in Cooking

I don't usually post recipes. Why? You see, I can cook. I can even bake. I can't get dinner on the table. I don't know why. Even when I have a menu planned and all the ingredients bought, I end up with some of the dishes burned and some not even started yet. None of them are ready at the same time. Ever. My husband comes home from a long day and then has to rescue what he can in order to serve us all food. By that point, I am usually in tears, screaming at the kids, covered in food splatter and ready to hide under my pillow.

Then I had a revelation! OK.... so a friend of mine told me. You see, she was able to feed her family a home-cooked meal every night and not need rescue! I asked her how she did it and she told me the super (everybody but you knows) secret..."I serve simple meals." Okay. What does that mean? I'm not trying to cook veal parmigiana with peppered parmesan crisps, ya' know. Well it turns out that sandwiches and raw vegetables are an acceptable dinner. Tacos with ground meat and cheese and lettuce and some canned salsa is a fine meal.

I had this thought that maybe I should make simple meals slightly special. A cold cut sandwich may not seem like a decent dinner, but toast it and serve some poached Brussels sprouts and the family all says yum and eats. End of heroic efforts and deep pits of despair. So, here is the recipe I made for dinner from leftovers.

Throw some butter in a skillet to melt. Chop up an onion and add to the butter. Let that caramelize while checking e-mail and rescuing medicine dropper from toddler's nose.

Take rye bread and smear on some mustard. Not too much and the cheap kind not the fancy brown or sweet. Add small piece of Swiss cheese, layer leftover corned beef & caramelized onions, layer another small piece of Swiss cheese, add top piece of bread.

Bring to a boil chicken stock in a large pot with some leftover onion pieces and garlic, salt and pepper. Throw in Brussels sprouts put a lid on and set timer for 5 minutes.

Put sandwich back in skillet with a little more butter to toast.

Put it all on plates and eat.

I took what was going to be leftover lunch meat sandwiches and turned it into a tasty and sorta healthy dinner and it took me 20 minutes.

"Elevate the simple, Jenn." 
Repeat to self every day at 5 pm. 
"Elevate the simple."

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Goals for the Week of March 10-16


Goals for this week are:

Find a CPR/1st Aide class to take.

Write 2 blog posts.

Deep Clean the Master Bedroom.

Find a Food Journal app I like on phone.

Finish 1st half of Tsh Oxenreider's Organized Simplicity.

Work On Hannah's Skill book.

Finish updates on Homemaking book.

Pretty simple but we have a busy week ahead. And my Birthday on Saturday!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Renew

I want to talk about new beginnings.



"But wait," you say. "January is behind us."

Why yes it is, thank goodness, and February too!

You see, I'm not fond of January or February. In fact, it could be said I loathe both months. Trying to set goals in January is a terrible idea for me. My only goal is to get through those two months with some good humor left and not too many extra pounds. When I do goal setting for the entire year in January, I either never start making progress because I feel I have plenty of time, or I start all of the changes at once, dooming them all at once. By March the goals I've set are either broken or forgotten.

I like to restart in the spring and fall. Nature is changing and that spurs me to change as well. I also like to keep my time frames short.  Three months gives me the sense of urgency and the knowledge that it will be over soon. I can deal with anything for just three months.

For me, I break the year in to 5 season or semesters. Spring semester starts in March and runs through May.

This semester I am concentrating on the theme of service.

Service to others - finish my Girl Scout training and planning.

Service to my home - This is a big area for me to work on. I plan to do a deep clean of every room in my house. I have 11 so one a week is the goal. I also plan to revamp my Homemaking Book.

Service to myself - lose 10 pounds in 12 weeks and write 20 blog posts in 12 weeks.

Service my kids - Make Katie a Skill book and plan her birthday party. Also set up some better routines for all of us to follow.

Service my husband - I would like to do something special for him at least once a week. What that will be I don't know yet.

So what are your goals? Did you already abandon the ones you made in January? Is it time to regroup and rededicate or perhaps change your goals entirely?



Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tip for the Home- Buy Kitchenware from a Restaurant Supply Store

Today's Tip for the Home is brought to you by my in-laws.

(Sorry, no picture today as the camera is taking a business trip to Toledo!)

     My air bake cookie sheets had broken seals, my muffin tins were black, we didn't have enough spoons to serve friends soup and ice cream. I needed some new kitchenware.
 I have bought dozens of pans from different stores over the years and they never last. Enter the Restaurant Supply Store. The silverware can be as plain or fancy as your area has restaurants  I picked out a shell pattern for my own home. The great part is that they are sold separately  So I can double up on soup spoons and skip the tea spoons. The pans are made to withstand constant hard use and last!
    Most towns will have a supply store but it might take some searching to find it. Or you can ask the chef at your favorite place to eat. While there pick up good knives and cheap salt and pepper shakers too.

Just another way to make the most of your square inch!