Monday, January 28, 2013

Once a Month Cooking

For the month of January I got this idea that I would do once-a-month cooking.  

What is it about you ask?  

Well the idea is that you spend one horrid day cooking EVERYTHING for that month, freeze it, and then you will have meals every night to just thaw out and eat.  So we did our grocery shopping...
 I used this book.  It was my mother-in-law's and I snagged it at a garage sale at her house.  I was very intrigued.  She told me that she had never used it.  I read it and thought I could do it  It assured me that you can fit a month of food into a standard freezer.
I was a little leery however, as our new fridge (isn't she beautiful???) has a pull out freezer drawer.  Also, the prepared meals weren't going to be the only thing in our freezer, so I just knew that there was no way it would all fit.

 So I did two week cooking.  Which this book has a plan for by the way.  Two actually.  A regular two week plan and a low fat two week plan.
I was going to do this after church on a Sunday, but we had a sick little one, so I was able to start early in the morning.  I had the meat out.  
 I chopped all of the vegetables for all of the recipes.  I had to chop a lot of onions!
 One of the first things I made was marinara.  Dumped everything in and let it cook for two hours.
Here it is all canned up.  It is so super yummy!

After this part I basically stopped taking pictures because I was in too much of a  rush to get things done.  Now I would consider myself pretty familiar with the kitchen.  I do a lot of cooking and baking.  So when it told me it would take all day I was a little over confident and thought that surely it wouldn't take me that long.  But seriously! Let me tell ya, I cooked from the 7a to the 7p.  Sunup to sun down, yo.  I was exhausted.  Exhausted!!!

I could not imagine doing a whole month as I only did 2 weeks, but it was so worth it.

As we approach the end of the month, we had one more meal and then we are done.  The two weeks of dinners has worked perfectly for us.  Here's why...I do like to use cooking as a way to express creativity.  Sometimes I like to play with cooking and try new things.  So I've probably cooked like that once a week.  The rest of the time has been us eating sandwiches on the run between classes we are carpooling too.  We also eat at Nick's mom and dad's once a week when they take one of the kiddos a week.  And a couple of times we have eaten out.

So that's it.  Once a month cooking for us was only two weeks worth of meals, but it was so worth it.  I can't wait to do it again because I am hoping (hoping being the key word here!) that I will get better and faster with the processes and will be able to accomplish more in less time.

For this next month I've been researching new recipes to use.  This FabuLESS website looks amazing!!!  I am a HUGE Money Saving Mom fan and she has some great recipes and advice as well.  And I haven't checked it out too much yet but I can't wait to dive into the Thriving Home's website about freezer cooking.

So there ya go! I know I talked about this before with some friends and I am so, so sorry that it has taken me about a month to get this written.  And please let me know if you have any questions.  I would love to help!  And I am getting ready to do my freezer cooking for next month, so maybe we can all do it together :)
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Monday, January 21, 2013

DIY: Valentine's Day Wreath

Every year I loathe the day Nick tells me that I have to take down the tree. 
I really wish I could be one of those crazy cat lady people who keep it up all year. 
That's not weird, right?
But alas Cal's Birthday is the 7th of January and we like to have a party and so I have to get all of the Christmas  crap items cleaned up before people come.
This year in an effort to not cry every day after the tree is gone, I've decided to decorate for Valentine's Day early.  Usually Valentine's decorations consist of me throwing stuff up about a week before the day. 
But not this year my friends, not this year! 
But alas I found, I had no wreath!  How can one not have a Valentine's Day wreath? So I decided to make one!!!  (Impressed aren't you???) Here it is friends:
What do you think?  Cute? 
 I started with these items.  I am considering this a free craft because I didn't go out and buy anything for it...but of course I had to of bought them at some time, right? I bought the wreath form a huge long while back, but then could never figure out what to do with it. 
The yarn I bought from Goodwill when Emma had a kitty cat party and we hung yarn from the ceiling...I got a trash bag of yarn for $2.00.  Not bad for yarn I never really had a use for...until now!
 So I wrapped the yarn around the hoop thing (was that some type of pioneer game?  No?)  for what felt like a kajillion nights of tv.  until the darn thing was done. 
By the way, I know you're loving my utensils on pajama pants are hot, let me tell ya. 
 Then I free-styled some felt hearts and hot glued those puppies on.  Just felt pieces I had left over from other projects. 

I hung it with some sweet lace that Nick's Aunt gave us.  I love when people bring me huge boxes of remnants and say "here"  LOVE's like a treasure!

So voila!  Look around and see what you can create today!  Has anyone made any fun (and maybe cheap) crafts for Heart Day??? 
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Friday, January 18, 2013

My Buys: Carter's Clearance

Yesterday we went to the Outlet Mall near our house.

We all went and it was so much fun.  It was pretty cold but it was sunny and beautiful outside.  On the way Emma was telling us that while there we should look for pajamas "Because seriously guys, everytime I put p.j.s on I wake up and am an inch taller.  So we need new pajamas."  She's so silly!  And while she may be exagerating a teensy-eensy bit, she was right, she's growing right out of all of her clothes!

Starting last weekend, I had been getting emails regarding sales going on at different stores there.

One of them was Carters. 

We scored some amazing deals!  If you have a Carters near you I encourage you to go.  Run!  Hurry. 

Here's what I got, in order of the pictures:

Blue half zip sweatshirt/track jacket for Cal: $3.19 on sale from $30.00

Shirt for Emma (I thought this would be super cute for her gym class!): $3.19 on sale from 18.00!

2 piece purple pajamas for Emma: $3.19 on sale from $32.00

3 piece pink pajamas for Emma: $3.19 on sale from $34.00 (that's a 91% savings, y'all!)

3 piece space pajamas for Calvin:$3.19 on sale from $34.00!

I should tell you that I do not usually find anything at Carters.  For the quality a lot of time their clothes are just too expensive for me.   I usually prefer to shop at Gymboree, Hartstrings, Hanna Andersson.  But I always look. 

Yesterday I saw this super cute red tulle skirt for Valentine's Day!  It was some crazy price like 38.00 or something.  Wha???  I just can't fork over that much money for something she'll wear once, maybe twice.  Yoinkers.  But like I said, I always look.

So I guess if you are on here looking for a little snippet of advice, it would be to not disregard stores for deals.  I mean, honestly, it has been probably 2 years since I've found a deal at Carter's, but I look every time I go there.  Nick thinks this is a huge waste of time, usually...but not yesterday!  And really he doesn't hem and haw too much, he knows what I am doing and trusts me to hurry it up if I'm not finding anything. 

And if you will need Christmas pajamas for this Christmas, they had oodles on sale!!!  I had my eye on some super cute ones but they didn't have any matching ones in the sizes we will need.  Oh well! 

So super happy with what I found.  The Lord always provides!

Happy Shopping!!! :)
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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Buried Treasure

This is my coffee station in our kitchen.  Before this I had a janky microwave stand that we had gotten from a garage sale.  All it was was a stand with a shelf below on wheels.  All of our business was out in the open and it got real wobbly, real fast.

One day I went downstairs and spotted this little beauty hidden under the basement stairs.  I asked Nick to drag it out.  It was hideous, dirty, and covered with just, ew, gag me, grossness.  We measured, figured out it would work in the spot where the "lovely" microwave stand was and ta-da, we have a coffee station.  It took a lot of scrubbing and painting and just tidiness to get it to where it is today.

I love it!  The big drawer hold all of my bags and canisters of coffee, the upper small drawer holds my coffee filters, scoops, and sweeteners.  The lower small drawer holds the dog's canned food.  The cupboard holds the dog food container and onions and potatoes.  It works perfectly!

Anywho,  fast forward to the past two years of life.  I've always wondered about the top of this table.  I figured it must have had something, but Nick assured me it was probably long gone.  Nick had this upside down cabinet shoved in the back of the basement that held paint and other crap.  I asked SEVERAL times if that was something worth while and he always said no.

And that brings us to last week.  I guess I should explain to you that I do not go into the basement because it is dark and scary and horrid.  Well not as horrid as it could be, but it is Nick's space with tools and everything.  Besides it is a Michigan basement, which for you non-basement or old house people, means that our basement is brick/cement part of the way and the rest is "why hello dirt".  Yep, just opened up to the dirt under our house.  So now ya know...if Nick goes missing, start digging :)

In our basement is also the original "dorothy of wizard of oz" storm cellar stairs, which would have led outside.  They now lead to the underside of our solarium's floor (an addition) and do a great job of holding paint cans.  Nick got the idea that we could find another place for my paint can obsession and make that into a root type cellar for overflow of paper towels, and potatoes, and the such.  How handy this will be!

While he was moving things around, he went to this nook area of our basement behind that furnace.  This is the part that meets dirt so we really just don't go back there.  We've lived in our house for close to 8 years and we've peeked into that area once. ONCE.  Not joking.

So Nick decided that would be a great place for shelves for said paint cans, but first all of the junk back there would have to be moved.  Junk that came with the house.  Junk that wasn't ours, but is now.  I guess it's been our junk for 8 years but I digress....

While he was back there he found a lot of really cool stuff!  I'll have to post what he found...I need ideas for what to do with some of the stuff and I would love to year y'all's opinions and ideas.

So Nick was cleaning and he called me down to show me what he had found.  He showed me the near cleared out space and we had to pass by this upside down cabinet that caught my eye...
I looked at it and then passed by it again and REALLY looked at it.  It looked like a hutch for my coffee station flipped upside down.  I looked closer.  The latch was the same...the wood was the same...the hinges were my last straw...

they were the same!!!

I made Nick drag it out of the dark nasty corner to check it out and ...

It's the top of my coffee station area.   Based on research I've found it's from Coppes Kitchens in Nappanee, Indiana.  I need to do some research (and some scrubbing and cleaning and painting on this nasty thing) but I am so excited!  I am such a nerd, I know, but I thought this was neat that it was hiding in our house this whole time.  Very vintage...lead paint and all, oh joy!

I'll post pictures of it was we progress.  I'm so excited!!!
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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

My Big Accomplishment

There's this table that we have had since we got married.

We got it at Ikea.  

Anyone else out there in love with Ikea???  

I could spend a substantial amount of time there!  These days I usually walk out with an apron and a box of drinking straws, but's nice to look.

Well when we were married the closest Ikea to our college was about 6 hours away and no one had really heard of it yet in our small po-dunk part of the world.  So we borrowed Nick's dad's truck (did I possessive that right???) and headed off to the great land of Ikea.  I had things circled in that catalogue like people had never circled before.  After all, we were setting up our home as a married couple, I felt like a lot rode on this.  Well, as much as can ride on people who find shopping at Ikea an extravagance.

Oh how far we've come!

So we bought pretty much everything from Ikea.  Bed, dining room set, rugs, kitchen ware, lamps, and last but not least, this table.  It was our coffee table.  Very sleek and modern.  Aside from our bed and our dining room table it was the biggest piece of furniture in our first apartment.

Nick hated it there...we'd always whack our shins on the corners due to there being hardly any room to walk  around it in the shoebox we called home.

Then we moved to a bigger apartment in the city and it was great!  When we moved to our house it was used to hold the TV....we was all fancy!

And lastly when we finally, finally, FINALLY could afford a flat screen we hung that puppy above the fireplace and moved the coffee table up to the third floor.

For a long time it was just a place where I could take pictures for my ebay-ishness.  But since we've been homeschooling, we've been using it for that.  It's a great place to play games, do crafts, just sit and think.  Whatever.  It's all Japanese-ish of us as we sit on the floor on mats, but we like it.

And until now (at least this year) it's been holding all of my ju-hunk.

As in, there is no way any one will ever be able to use this table, you couldn't even see it.  Ugh.

Until now my friends...until now.

It's cleaned off!  The Christmas business has been put away!  The books have been refiled, spilt beads's all off and waiting to be trashed again, I'm sure.

It's the little things around here that make me feel accomplished.  I know, it's not much, but it's one area in our home that I have tackled.

Now onto the other 99.9% of things .....

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Monday, January 7, 2013

Happy Birthday Baby Bear

Today our youngest, Calvin, turns 5 years old!

I cannot believe he is 5!

I love this picture.  Is there anything cuter than a little one in mouse ears?  I don't think so friends...

This little one has been our biggest challenge.  From not talking to Autism, we have been over whelmed and over joyed with all God has given us.

I call Cal our a-word kid.  No I don't think he's an a**!  But see what I mean?


That's been the progression of his diagnosis.

And one day, in 8 years we will deal with the big A...


Oh goodness!

For now I think I'll enjoy our five year old, who still insists I call him baby bear, loves to snuggle, build, imagine, and can do a mean grover impression.

Happy Birthday Baby Bear!  I am so utterly blessed to be your Momma.  You take my breath away...
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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Homeschool Angels: How God Provides for Our Needs

These past couple of days have included a lot of organizing around our house.  I am sure that it has been that way around your house too. 

There is a reason afterall why all of the sales flyers have nothing but organizational supplies on sale. 

Well, those and workout gear, right? 

Anyway, one of the things that I have been organizing has been our classroom.  It hasn't been that bad really.  I did have this one pile in a corner though that has been sneering at me for months.  It knew it was better than me.  Driving. Me. Crazy.

So I tackled it.  Well most of it.  And as I was organizing it and filing and putting things with other things and doodads with whose-a-whats-its, I came face to face with the reality of our homeschooling...

We have a ton of stuff.  And most of it I haven't paid for at all. 

Amazing right? 

I am a really good thief..

Just kidding. 

The truth of the matter is that we are blessed.  Knock you naked blessed by God, totally undeserving, blessed folks.  Off the top of my head here are some of things we have been blessed with by whom:

Our neighbor Peggy one afternoon brought over a sack of art supplies, school supplies, beads...all kinds of stuff for art projects. 

Our neighbors Randy and Diane gifted us with a Ginormous box of supplies they used when they had an inhome daycare.  Those are mainly what the one eyed, one horned pile in the corner consisted of.  She gave me so many amazing things!  Art supplies, books of ideas, project sheets with instructions, letter sheets for Cal, wall hangings, the works.  It's all so amazing!  And while I don't think I am using it all as I should be, it has all been such a blessing as there is for example, a volcano project that we are getting ready to use with our science studies.

Our cousin Lisa.  I cannot explain to you all how much I love this woman and her heart.  She gives to our family what her children are done with. This summer she invited me over to look at some books she was going to sell in a garage sale but then decided to give us a crack at first.  I could not believe what "some books" meant.  Boxes and boxes of books.  And of what?  Tons of childrens literature and historical books, a lot of what we would be studying this year.   A lot of the books and educational games you see came from their family.  Lisa was a teacher before her babies came and she has such a good eye for things. 

Garage Sales- this summer I was able to hit up some amazing garage sales early in the morning because my husband faithfully watched the children.   A lot of our math games I was able to snag for some crazy price like $1.00 because I stalked the papers for teachers having garage sales. 

Goodwill-Emma is a model for Goodwill and with that I've been able to talk to some of the big whiggs and figure out the Goodwill system.  You won't find me at Goodwill often, but I do know which Goodwill keeps there stuff at that one store and that one store gets a ton of old school books.  I'm talking sets of Boxcar Children books that have never even been cracked open.  Yes I'll buy those for 25 cents apiece, thank you.

My Aunt Jan-My Aunt never fails to always give the coolest gifts.  One year she gave Emma a cash register and it has fake money and all of the food and signs for a grocery store.  We use that in homeschool to learn about money and to break up the monotony.  This Christmas she gave Emma a book set where you can write a book and then end up having it published and sent to us!  I am so excited for this because Emma has been really interested in the book writing process and has talked about writing a story...this will be perfect for us!   

My Grandma- I'm pretty sure the old lady was dead set against us homeschooling.  Too Granola for her, I'm sure.  But she has seemed to have a change of heart with the way our kids are really learning.  Anyway, she's always calling me with some books she has for me or something she wants to give me or look at.  She has given me a lot of children's literature.  And as you all know, I am totally old school, so reading books from the 60's with the kids is such fun for me!  She also has given me stuff from her pastor's wife that she's passed on to me because 1) she's awesome and 2) because she knows we homeschool.  It helps to get the word out!

The rest of Nick's extended family has also given me so much here and there.  I am so truly blessed by them.  His Uncle has returned from a garage sale with art curriculum from a school, never opened.  His cousin Tracee has given us science kits and chairs and art supplies when we dropped in to say hi. 

Nick's cousin Jodee has given us scads of worksheets and books and so much stuff that we use on a daily basis. 

All in all what this has created for us is a virtual smorgishborg of materials and I could not be happier.  We have so many things to use and so much to look at and work with.  And it's all because of the power of prayer, and these amazing people who have freely given.  If you were mentioned, we thank you from the bottoms of our hearts.  And if you've given us stuff and I've forgotten you, thank you and sorry!!!

I just wanted to share this with you to show you that God will provide!  And you don't have to spend a lot of money to homeschool.  Just pray and trust God and know that He will provide.  I can't wait to see how He shows up in 2013...whatever ways it is you can be sure I will be shouting from the rooftops how amazing He is!
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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Why, Hello There 2013!

I must admit, I am not a huge New Year's Celebrator. 

Never really have been. 

One of my all time favorite New Years' was when we rung in the new year with good friends watching Mary Poppins. 

Yep, you read that right. 

So if you don't like reading what nerds have to say, you might want to just stop reading now.  Right here.  Here. 

But if you, like me, are somewhat of a dweeb, then you get me and you will keep reading...

Anyway, this year not too much went on for New Years. 

Would you like to know what we did?

Well, my mom wanted to have the kiddos for the New Years so we dropped them off for the night. 

And then we partied...not so much

Then we went and did a little shopping with Christmas Gift cards we had received.  I am way into this kick of "we are getting this place organized and in some sort of shape that we can actually use" so a-shopping we  go. 

We then got some Chinese.  It was yumm-o.

I ADORE Chinese food.  Usually it involves the kiddos fighting over pot stickers and then telling me how gross this food they are fighting over is.  Why do kids fight over food if they think it is gross? 

Then we went home, I wore gross sweat pants (which definitely sets the mood for some and then we watched television on the comfort of our couch. 

Next, since I am somewhat of a night owl and my husband worked all day and was tired, I organized and he slept.  I'm telling you folks, this is the stuff marriages are made of!

Truth be told we didn't buy too much in the way of organization except for new plastic containers for food.  That counts somewhat right?  And even though it seems like a small thing, it helped me to reorganize and get rid of the old gross containers that we were still using.  

And since I am stupid I didn't take a "before" picture.  But I did take some after pictures.

This is all of the crap that I threw away or found a new home for.  How in the world did  I accumulate all of this junk?  And how do I always end up with lids that are missing the containers?  How does that happen??? And somewhere I am missing two Popsicle mold stick things.  Do you have them???

Here's the after picture of our container cabinet.  It's so nice and organized and tidy.  Please excuse the ghetto-ness of the wood of our cabinets.  We have over 100 year old shelves, y'all.  I love them by the way...way roomier than new cabinets.

Here's the top containers for foods, glass jars I use, grater, and the blender bottle.  I also kept some of our old ziploc containers for when we have loads of people over for a potluck or something and then I have to have something to send leftovers home with them in.  Now I have these  can use just for that and not getting them back is no big deal.

Here's the bottom shelf.  New containers, some old containers left (there's only 3 there, promise!), more glass jars, and our cutting boards.

I am so excited that I had the umph to get this cleaned!  This is that spot that has been so disorganized for so long.  It was impossible to find stuff and junk would fall out all over the place when you tried to take one thing out.

So there ya go, our remade container cabinet.

I am not a resolution kind of girl but I do like the freshness that comes with the dawning of a new year.  Time to dust off our viewpoint and see everything in a new light and recharge ourselves for life. 

We only have this one life God gives us.  I often get so bored with living the everyday instead of seeing the awesomeness of everything and realizing the potential of things.  That's what the coming of a new year does for this old lady.

So that's what I strive to do when the New Year comes around.  Hope you all have a happy New Year!
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