Wednesday, July 30, 2008

She's Sure Been Quiet This Week . . .

Why yes, yes I have, and that would be because somehow the stars aligned so that VBS and Bloggy Giveaways fell on the same week, so I've been kinda busy . . . not to mention that for some unknown reason inspiration struck yesterday & I got the basement mostly arranged, took a bunch of stuff up to the storage shed . . . yeah, it's been kinda busy around here. And I'll update on VBS and such later, but for now, I thought I'd share a few of the hundreds (seriously, over 700 last time I refreshed) of giveaways going on at Bloggy Giveaways . . .

A Land's End Backpack

$100 Jewelry Gift Certificate

A painted key fob

There's a slew of give-aways at Jo-Jo's Place, go check them out!

An item of your choice from The Green Yak's shop

A Coach Hobo Bag giftcard

An awesome stroller! From StrollerMama

Mabel's Labels

Mairzey Dotes

Target gift card

Starbucks gift cards

ShooShoos giveaway from Val's Views

A cloth diapering wet bag

And tons of others!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

First some quick "reviews" of some of the new recipes we've tried in the last couple of weeks:

Greek Macaroni Salad Did I rave about this? We had it a few weeks ago & we all loved this! Our family tends to be a creamy pasta salad kind of family (probably because none of us like vinegar except for cleaning LOL) but since this uses lemon juice, that wasn't an issue. My girls ate it by the plateful. DH ate it, and said he'd eat it again. My parents got here the evening after we'd had leftovers of it for supper & mom saw it on the counter, tried it & told me she needed the recipe (so mom, if you hadn't tracked it down before now, here it is LOL).

Lettuce Wraps This is not a "budget" recipe, but it's healthy & my girls LOVED it. DH wasn't as impressed, but I think he'd tolerate it once in awhile. I'll tend to make it on days he works late or doesn't come home for lunch or whatnot.

Maidrites I made this on Friday when dh was gone to a funeral, and my parents were here. Not sure what dh will think of it, but we all liked it. Very similar to the veggie burgers my mom makes, but easier since you bake it instead of frying it into patties.

Crockpot Chicken Enchiladas I thought these were good. I used this recipe to replace the cream of chicken soup and it worked well. And of course used vegetarian chicken. DH didn't like them (didn't really say why, just said he didn't) and the girls ate them, but didn't rave about them or ask for more, so we won't be making them again around here. But for less picky families, I'd still recommend them :)

And now, on to this week's menu. We have VBS this week in the evenings, so I may give up and just do sandwiches or something some nights. I'm hoping by using the crockpot a bunch, that will shift the cooking early enough in the day to make it work. We're also tentatively planning to take the girls to Hershey (the chocolate factory tour) on Friday, though as the week progresses, I'll decide if I think doing that AND the final night of VBS are too much for one day, in which case we'll shift Hershey to next week. But for now the menu reflects being gone to Hershey on Fri.

See other menus here.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Weekly Wrap-Up

No real "school" here this week. The girls enjoyed playing on their own, which is generally my preference anyway.

My parents came up Wed. night. A decided early in the week, that she wanted to set up a "restaurant" for Mama. I'd been meaning to put some strings up under the loft for them to hang playsilks & such from anyway, so I went ahead & did that. We hung playsilks as "doors" along the front edge of the loft & then also hung playsilks down the middle to divide the space into a "kitchen" an "dining room". A made a sign (the girls sounded out the words (not correctly, but still . . . ) all on their own) that said

C(A's name)C(L's name)

Translated: WUM = welcome TO R= Our RESR = Restaurant and the C's in front of the girls' names indicate that they are the cooks.

A also made a "menu" by drawing pictures of waffles, pancakes, eggs, tea (a rather impressive drawing of a teapot if you ask me), juice, milk and water.

They put a stool down for the table, covered it with a playsilk tablecloth, added a smaller playsilk as a napkin, and set the table with their doll dishes. They also put playsilks on the floor for a seat. And used a magnadoodle as an order-taking pad.

They had great fun setting it up & then showing it off to Mama when she got here.

Thursday, after much debating about the weather (weatherunderground said 80% chance of rain all day, said 40% chance of rain petering out to 20% chance as the day progressed, we had to decide who to believe LOL), we headed to Sesame Place.

The weather ended up being PERFECT!!! No rain, breezy enough to not be miserably hot, warm enough for water rides to be fun! And not too horrible of crowds since the weather reports were iffy.

The girls wanted to climb around on the overhead nets. Papa went up with them, but then left them to continue on their own. They loved it and did great! They've always wanted to do the nets but I refuse (I don't do heights, sorry . . . LOL) and Papa can do it sometimes but it's hard on his back, so they haven't gotten to do them often. Now that we've all determined they can go on their own w/ us just watching from the side, I think they'll enjoy the nets more often.

We also FINALLY talked them into going on the "Rubber Ducky". It's a waterslide where everyone rides together in a big (up to 6 people) innertube w/ a floor it does down some short chutes with waterfalls & such spraying you, and then at the end there's a longer drop. I was pretty sure the girls would LOVE it. It's not as fast or as long a drop as the other water slides they love, and being all together makes it fun. But the fact that the overall ride is SOO tall freaked them out. Finally this time (probably my parents' last time at Sesame Place this summer) Mom & Dad decided they wanted to go on it for sure. So they said they were going, girls could go w/ them or do something else with me. L decided right away that she was willing to try it. A went back & forth for awhile. The lure of being w/ Mama & Papa battling against her not wanting to go on the ride. I told her I'd take her on one of the other water slides or to play in the wave pool or whatever while the rest went on the ride if she wanted, but also reiterated that this slide wasn't as fast or as steep as the other water slide that they LOVE. Finally, A decided she'd try it. I think it helped that as we stood in line we saw LOTS of smaller kids going on the ride (the line goes over the final drop of the ride, so you get to watch everyone else on the ride while you wait) and they weren't acting scared. We talked while we were line about who was sitting next to who and, not suprisingly, the girls wanted Mama between them & A wanted Papa next to her as well, which left me next to L. Ended up that L cuddled closer to Mama and A cuddled closer to Papa. They LOVED it! We got to the bottom and A was leading the pack to go get back in line & go again. So now we have another "new" ride they enjoy.

They also spent probably close to an hour on the "Little Bird Rapids" ride (a small innertube waterslide for children under 7 only (no adults allowed). They'd go down the slide then carry the tube right back up & around to do it again. I have no idea how many times they carried those big tubes up the hill to go again. And I think they'd have done it longer but L slipped and fell while they were in line and decided she was done.

We finished off the day (other then the parade, that always ends the day) by playing in the sand. They found some other kids to play with & had a blast building sand castles and such.
The rest of the pictures, along w/ the fireworks pictures and pictures from our previous trip to Sesame Place are here.

Friday morning Papa got our Reverse Osmosis water system set up. I have to go to the basement to get the water, but I'll take it :) And Mama, the girls & I went berry picking. The girls also helped Papa assemble the table for doing projects in the schoolroom.

Today we went to SS and church and then, after lunch, dh took the girls to his mom's for another sleepover, and I'm hoping to wrap up my "curriculum planning" for this fall while they're gone.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Works For Me Wednesday - Herbs

As I was preparing our meals yesterday (which was all done at one time thanks to a pasta salad for lunch (fix it, put it in the fridge to chill, forget about it) and crockpot pintos for supper), it occurred to me that there might be people out there who don't realize how easy it is to grow your own herbs. Seriously, an expert gardener I am NOT. I don't even enjoy gardening! But a few years ago, as I started doing more cooking from scratch, I was stunned at how expensive fresh herbs are in the grocery store. And I'm cheap. So I figured I'd at least try growing them for myself. Oh my goodness! So many of the most used herbs literally grow like weeds! Even if you don't have space outside you can grow them in flowerpots on a windowsill somewhere (which reminds me, I should be starting my winter herb seeds so I have plants on my windowsill this winter). Basil, the key is to use it often. The more you use it (or give it away) the more it grows. The downside of basil is it's an annual so you'll have to start new plants from seed (or buy new plants at a greenhouse) each year, but still, I LOVE basil! Oregano, Thyme, Sage, Lemonbalm (makes yummy tea!) and peppermint are all members of the mint family & they are perennials that are seriously WEEDS! Don't plant them too close together (I made that mistake at my old house) they like room to spread LOL. And don't be afraid to chop them back! Fun added bonus, they're creeping plants, so if you find someone who has any of these, ask them to dig up a cutting or two, chances are they'll be glad to (if their plants are well established) and there you have it, FREE fresh herbs. Rosemary, I just bought a new plant for our new house and I'm hoping it does even 1/4 as well as our rosemary did at our old house. It turned into big gorgeous bushes all across the front of our house (only problem, I didn't know it would get so big, actually it's a "tender perennial" so I wasn't even sure it would survive the winter) so I planted it right in front of my lavender bushes & it kind of hid them from view). I like having my herbs planted right near my front door (or kitchen door, if I had a kitchen door) that way as I'm cooking I can run out, cut what I want, wash it off & have it to use. And added benefit, some herbs (like rosemary, lavender, etc) are bug deterrents. So planting them around the yard, near the patio or front porch or near where your kids play, is a great natural way to keep the bugs away.

And that works for me!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Gratituesday: Rasberries

We are so loving having wild raspberry bushes all over the property here. It's been SOO HOT this week that it's been harder to get out there, but we went out first thing this morning and it wasn't TOO horrible. It gets us some exercise too, traipsing around the ponds and such. I'm so thankful to God for bringing us to this spot, with it's seclusion, birds, proximity to dh's office and now BERRIES too!

Random raspberry trivia: apparently sinkbugs LOVE raspberries, there are tons all over the plants, many of them itty bitty baby ones. Poor A, is NOT impressed when they end up in her bucket though, we finally figured out that L is willing to get them out of A's bucket for her :)

Gratituesday is hosted by Laura here.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

We're going to Sesame Place again on Thurs, and I think dh is taking the girls to Grandmom's again for part of the weekend (since they enjoyed Sabbath School this past weekend, we want to go back this coming weekend for some continuity, so they'll leave after church (not sure if they're staying here for lunch first or what, so I do have Sabbath dinner on the menu, but reserve the right to just heat something up if I'm on my own LOL). Oh & our shopping this morning took longer then expected so we switched things around and ate the leftover spaghetti for lunch and I'll make the lettuce wraps for supper.

So, here's this week's menu:

Go to OrgJunkie to see more menus for this week.

What Have I Done?

We went to the grocery store this morning & Goodwill is right next to it so we peeked in there too. I've been thinking it would be great to have a food dehydrator to make dried fruit to take along as snacks and such, so I keep hoping to run across one at Goodwill or something LOL. ANYWAY . . . the girls discovered the toy shelves there. L found a playschool toy sewing machine (that's probably as old as me, or close to it LOL), and A found a doctor set, so they dug into their piggy banks (conveniently I'd recently counted their piggy bank money so I knew they could afford it. THEN since I'd tried on a couple dresses while we were there, A decided she wanted to look at clothes too. At that point L was saying she didn't so we looked for skirts & shirts for A (A wears skirts & shirts 99% of the time, L wears dresses 99% of the time) found a bunch of stuff to try on, and went to let her try them on. L decided trying on clothes looked fun, so after we were done w/ A's stuff we had to go back & look at the dresses for L. A actually found a church dress she wanted too (and it IS adorable), and we found a bunch of dresses for L to try on, though several either didn't fit or had some other reason we didn't get them. But we left with several things for each of them :)

So, a fun time was had by all. And now we're home and L is busily "sewing" her doll clothes and A has already "doctored" all of us LOL.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

I Scream, You Scream . . .


Did you know that July is National Ice Cream Month?
Did you know that From Dates to Diapers is hosting an Ice Cream Social with fun ice-cream prizes?

I LOVE ice cream! I'll take ice cream over cake any day (or a DQ ice cream cake, YUM!! (DQ is smart enough to make their ice cream cake JUST ICE CREAM instead of throwing cake in with it like the other brands, bleh!)) I blame my parents . . . I was only a few months old when they went to Baskin Robbins. As I sat on mom's lap watching her eat every bite, they, being kind, loving parents, thought it would be great fun to give the baby a bite of ice cream & see her make funny faces because it's so cold . . . but I fooled them! I LOVED it!!! Took the bite & opened my mouth for more (don't try this at home (or at the ice cream parlor) feeding a young baby pralines and cream ice cream is begging for allergy problems, but I was fine and my parents didn't know any better LOL). ANYWAY . . . I've loved ice cream ever since. . .

And this week I'll be sharing some random bits of ice cream trivia . . .

Monday's Trivia Bit: Portland, OR consumes the most ice cream per capita of any state.
Tuesday's Trivia Bit: 25% of Baskin Robbins' ice cream sales are for plain vanilla . . . this shocks me! I love ice cream, but I can't imagine going into Baskin Robbins and ordering plain vanilla!! Unless maybe that's counting the ice cream they use in their milkshakes & such, which is primarily vanilla ice cream w/ toppings added? Maybe?
Wednesday's Trivia Bit: A Baltimore company first sold home ice cream makers to stores in 1851.

And a Bonus anecdote from my childhood: When I was little, the local Baskin Robbins was owned, or at least run, by a husband/wife team & they had a daughter about my age. Going out for ice cream gave me time to visit with a friend while I ate ice cream. AND they were always nice enough to give me an empty cup so that I could eat my bubble gum ice cream in a cone, but still have the cup to save all the bubble gum in for later (whenever we went to OTHER Baskin Robbins I had to get it in a cup and just push the bubble gum to the side while I ate my ice cream).

This Week's Wrap-up

This was a week of berry picking. The wild raspberry plants on our property are doing great! It appears we can go every 2-3 days and come back with a good haul. Friday afternoon we picked a quart & a half (at least I think that's the size corningware I filled w/ the berries when I got home) and would have probably been close to 2 quarts if A hadn't eaten most of hers LOL.

We also put up our toad house & A was thrilled to find a frog (or probably a toad, I didn't see it) in it one morning when she went out to add water to the dish. We found a toad in the yard yesterday too, and the girls took it over & put it in the toad house. Not sure it appreciated being transplanted, but oh well . . .

For the weather section of our Nature Notebooks we made windsocks. I wasn't too impressed w/ the directions, but they sort of work. I could get them to catch wind, but the girls couldn't (but it was a pretty still day), we'll try again on a windy day.

A is very into the wool stuff we're doing. We teased the wool, talked about carding wool (I know I bought 2 wire dog brushes (before we moved) to use for carding the wool but I can't find them, so we just talked about it). And we tried our hardest to use the drop spindles that Papa was kind enough to make for us but I couldn't figure out how to make them work. So, we abandoned our wool and jumped to purchased wool yarn. The girls really enjoyed winding the wool & each of them wound a whole skein in one sitting. I have to admit, I found it rather addicting too (but I only had 2 skeins of wool yarn so I wound a small skein of cotton yarn, I was amazed at how much more . . . I'm not sure how to describe it, just warmer somehow . . . the wool yarn was, compared to the cotton.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

I'm putting myself out of a job!!!

The girls have really "exploded" in helpfulness recently! I've already told you about them needing their own mops. A has totally taken over the weekly mopping of the bathroom & L does a wonderfully thorough job on a section of the kitchen while I do a quick, much less thorough job on the rest of the kitchen.

And I think I've also mentioned that they figured out to work together to unload & load the dishwasher by one standing on the stool & the other handing the clean dishes to her, then the one on the stool taking the dirty dishes out of the sink and handing to the other to put in the dishwasher. This is seriously SOOO helpful! And I don't even care about the added "cost" of less efficiently loaded dishwasher, I love that they can do this!

And NOW, they vacuum too! Since the beginning of the "mop obsession" A has also been following me through the whole house w/ her toy vacuum "vacuuming" right along with me & I'd commented to dh more then once that I really wished they made an affordable REAL kid sized vacuum so I could hand the vacuuming over to her. She's a strong kid, but I just don't think she's strong enough or tall enough to take over the Dyson by herself (and considering the cost of Dysons, I'm not willing to let her try until I'm confident she can do it). BUT when I was looking for the mops for the girls, I noticed a rechargeable vacuum that claimed to work on carpet & hard floors. So when I was back at that store this week I looked at it abit closer & decided it was worth trying to see if the kids could use it. The verdict? Its definitely lightweight enough for the kids, they even carried it up the stairs on their own. It does a great job of picking up the crumbs on the hard floor. I'm pretty sure it does NOT pull any ground in dirt up out of the carpet, but does a quick job of getting any loose dirt up off the carpet at least. The girls FOUGHT over who got to use it (compromise, A vacuumed the downstairs & L vacuumed the upstairs). So, my current thought is that we'll use it on the hard floors before mopping and kind of alternate weeks using it upstairs or downstairs on the carpet so I don't have to carry the Dyson up & down the stairs so often (so, for example, at the moment the Dyson's on the main floor. Next week I'll use the Dyson on the carpets on this floor while the girls use the sweeper on the hard floors & all the upstairs floors. Then the next week I'll carry the Dyson upstairs and for 2 weeks I'll vacuum upstairs & the girls will use the sweeper on the downstairs carpets. That's my current plan anyway . . .

The girls are tickled pink to be able to REALLY help. And I seriously stood there kind of trying to decide what I should be doing while they vacuumed & mopped the house for me LOL (actually when they were upstairs, I used the time to unpack some boxes in my room since there's still plenty of unpacking to do, but still . . .).

DH also tells me that last weekend at Grandmom's house the girls each took a turn actually flipping the pancakes so basically if it were safe for them to use the stove alone they could completely make pancakes all by themselves at this point!

Sniff, my kids are growing up WAY too fast.

Sabbath School

The girls weren't overly impressed with the church we went to a couple weeks ago (& then the last couple weeks we (or at least they) have been at grandparents' houses on Sabbath) so this week we tried the other church in our town. When we first got there I thought we were in trouble. We found our way to the Kindergarten classroom and there was nobody there (& it was well past starting time so it seemed unlikely that everyone was running late) we stayed there for a few minutes & I started reading in the bulletin (actually looking to see if there was some indication of a kid campout or something that might have taken all the kids away) and I saw that they listed Kindergarten & Primary as the same teachers. So on a hunch, I went hunting for the Primary room, could hear activity in there so peaked inside & asked if K was included there. They said yes, so I went & got the girls and we went to Primary. There were only 2 other kids, both obviously Primary age, and the program was the Primary program. At that point I was still figuring that the girls would decide the other church wasn't SO BAD since it was at least for their age group LOL. But then they had a craft & it was FOOD!! The lesson story was Baby Jesus so the craft was to use graham crackers & pretzel sticks glued together w/ marshmallow cream to make a "manger" then fill it w/ shredded wheat "hay" and add a "baby" made out of one of those orange candy circus peanuts wrapped in a piece of fruit roll up). As we were leaving they handed out the lesson papers & that confirmed what I suspected when the story was Baby Jesus (I found it highly unlikely that Gracelink would put Baby Jesus in July instead of December) they use My Bible First which I've seriously considered getting and using on our own instead of or in addition to the Gracelink that most SDA churches use. I feel rather strongly that the younger kids (Beginners thru Primary) should be learning the Bible Stories chronologically & it's frustrated me greatly to have to try to explain to my kids why their SS lessons jump around so much, I also feel that in some cases, the story was chosen to "make a point" w/o consideration as to whether it's truly one of the most important Bible Stories (my kids are halfway through the Kindergarten curriculum (for Gracelink) and have yet to hear the story of salvation in SS. Too many kids, even kids whose families are church members, ONLY get their Bible instruction for SS, it seems more important to me to make sure the kids are learning about God's great gift to us and our need to accept that gift rather than using the story of Nicodemus to try to represent "true friendship" (I still struggle with how the story of Nicodemus being ashamed to come see Jesus publicly teaches us what true friendship is, and finally stopped asking "do you want to be a friend like Nicodemus" when I read the story each night because MY answer to that question would be NO, I should publicly acknowledge Jesus, not hide it like he did). . . but I digress. So, I was thinking "man, we finally have a nearby church who's using MBF and they don't have a Kindergarten class. BUT the girls were unanimous & adamant that they want to keep going to this SS. I think they liked that they were "big kids" going to Primary. And honestly, I think they'll do fine. I think the smallness of the class means it won't be a huge deal that they can't read (and Primary classes generally assume kids can). And I think having a different part of the lesson story to read each night instead of reading the same story all week will keep their attention much better. Added bonus, at least right now, the extra story in the lesson paper (can't call it the Little Friend or Primary Treasurer, but the MBF equivalent LOL) is a continued story about Ellen White. The girls really enjoy Ellen White stories (my parents have several kids' books with stories of her life & they choose them often). I happened to notice that while we were in church, and that this week's paper had part 2 of the series. So during the Children's story I leaned forward to the teacher (who was sitting ahead of us) and asked if it would be possible to get last week's paper too, so we could have the beginning of the story. We read the first part on the way home from church :)

The downside is, apparently this church doesn't do VBS (or it's already past, anyway there was nothing in the bullatin about it, and if they did it earlier, it was never on their sign out front, since we drive by there w/ some regularity), but the other church IS doing VBS week after next, so if the girls want to do VBS we can go there.

So, at least for the time being, we'll be attending this church (added benefit, it's only a couple miles from our house, whereas the other one is 7 or 8, neither is FAR obviously, but still . . .).

Oh, and one of the members who welcomed us in the parking lot afterwards turns out to be the man who has a garden plot on our property. When he heard we were living here he mentioned that he might have to share some of his extra garden produce with us, since the tomato plants I put in seem to be dying, and I'm missing frequent access to Grandpa's garden that I had when we saw my parents weekly, I'm keeping my fingers crossed on that one LOL.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


  • We're FINALLY continuing on from seeing sheep sheared and learning about teasing, carding, spinning . . . etc. So, I pulled out our lamb puppet to have for circle time and such. During circle time this morning A told me "I like armadillos alot, but my MOST favorite animal is a lamb because it's the animal people used to have to kill to remember Jesus". WOW! I'm amazed sometimes at what these kids have remembered and comprehended from our reading. She went on to say "it's sad AND happy. Sad because the little lamb had to die, but happy because the people were thinking about Jesus."
  • It occurred to me today that if the girls worked together they could actually put most of the dishes away when they unload the dishwasher (they've been doing the silverware for a long time, and sometimes will "help" me unload the rest, but it's always just meant they hand me the dishes & I try to put stuff away as fast as they hand it to me, so definitely doesn't really HELP me, and tends to frustrate me, and them). So today it finally clicked w/ me, that they climb on their stool and get cups OUT of the cupboard on their own, if one stood on the stool & the other handed her the dishes, they could put them away. So they unloaded the WHOLE dishwasher! (all I had to put away was a few things that went on the even higher shelves, but that was no big deal) and THEN they decided they could load it too. It definitely wasn't loaded EFFICIENTLY, but they emptied my sink of dirty dishes :)
  • As we were going outside to bring in the laundry today A asked me "if you had a baby, would you leave it in the house while you went out to do laundry?" I said that no, I'd probably wear the baby in a sling. So she had to go upstairs & find a sling for her doll. She ended up grabbing one of the toy MeiTais that mom made them a few years ago (for point of reference for those not as ummm . . . obsessed . . . with baby carriers as I am LOL, this is an example of a MT) and I suggested that she was probably old enough now to be able to put the MT on correctly (she wants to "do it myself" so ends up just kind of wrapping the MT and straps around herself however she can do it that semi-holds the doll, then gets mad if the doll falls out), she finally agreed. It took some working on it, but I think she has it! She put baby in & out of it MANY times this evening (dolls are MUCH more tolerant of "mommy" learning a new carrier than babies are LOL). So, that was her accomplishment for the day.

Works for Me Wednesday - Berry Picking

One of our weekend discoveries was that there are a bunch of wild raspberry bushes scattered around the property where we live. That, in and of itself, WORKS FOR ME!! Free raspberries, there for the picking, no cultivating required :) But, that's not so helpful to the rest of you so here's my tip for the day. I stumbled upon it by accident . . .

Yesterday the girls & I went berry picking (they've been keeping the bush in our back yard picked clean, eating while they pick, but we wanted to venture abit farther afield and actually pick some to bring home). The girls each had a small bucket that worked well for them, but I needed to find something for me to pick into. I grabbed a basket that I hadn't filled w/ anything yet, but I didn't want to relegate it to permanent berry basket by getting raspberry stains all over it so I grabbed a couple of the cheap washcloths that we use instead of papertowels and lined the basket w/ them. It wasn't till I got home & was transferring the berries to a pyrex bowl to put in the fridge that I discovered a lovely fringe benefit of my cloth lined basket. Rather then trying to dump the fragile berries from the big basket into the smaller bowl, all I did was gently roll all the berries to one end so they were all one one cloth, then I picked the cloth up by it's 4 corners & gently poured the berries from the cloth into the bowl. Easy Peasy, simple as pie (as my children would say). So now, even if I DO end up designating a basket for berry picking, I'll be making sure to line the basket w/ an old dish towel (which would have been even easier than having to gather them all to one end to get them all on one cloth) for ease of transferring them to a bowl later. And that's what Works for Me today.

Go here for more Works-for-MeWednesday posts.

Gratituesday: My Kids

I'm a day late, but oh well . . . Monday night I woke up w/ a stomach bug that kept me up most of the night so I wasn't good for much of anything yesterday. Which brings me to what I'm grateful for. After dh left for work I told the girls I wasn't feeling good and needed to rest. They played nicely & semi-quietly together most of the morning. I didn't get "quality" sleep, keeping one ear open to what they were doing, but I was able to rest enough to at least function the rest of the day. I'm so thankful for kids who are kind and understanding when Mommy's not feeling 100% and willing to help me out.

For the rest of yesterday's Gratituesday posts, go here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

Our internet was down this morning, but FINALLY here's this week's Menu.

Other menus for this week can be found here.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Friday Projects

As I mentioned in the previous post, my parents helped w/ projects around here on Friday. Mom & the girls helped me unload the minivan that I'd never gotten unloaded from last weekend's trip to the old house (that rain all week slowed down projects like that) and then they helped to collapse the moving boxes that I hadn't yet collapsed & then we loaded all of them into the minivan and took them up to the storage area as well (a neighbor has said she wants them, but I'm tired of tripping over them while i wait for her to come get them, now they're out of my way until she asks for them LOL). The girls honestly did most of the box carrying at both ends LOL.

Dad had built the printer table for the playroom before they came so he assembled it, and mom & I moved it, and the printers & copier into place. I sent the playstands (that I'd been using as a printer stand) to mom & dad's house since we don't have a good place for them here.

Dad's main project (that took pretty much all day) was doing the lighting in the girls' room. When he built the loft bed, he took down the ceiling light because they would've hit their head on it going up & down the loft ladder. As a temporary solution (since he was short on time that weekend) he turned the ceiling socket into a regular plug & we got some "under counter" lights that he mounted on the top board of the loft railing & we plugged into that plug. So Friday he re-did things to the permanent solution. He'd found a flush mount fixture that was small enough to put in the ceiling socket so he put that there, then he put a switch on on post of the loft (underneath) and put 2 larger under counter lights under the loft to give light under there (which looks great) and also ran wires so that the original under counter lights could be plugged in and not on a switch and he moved them to be on the inside of the railing instead of outside so now they make perfect reading lamps when the kids are in bed. I think L, especially, is going to be thrilled with that aspect of it. So now we have decent light for the room as a whole, good light under the loft, and reading lamps for each bed. Woo-hoo! The girls haven't seen any of it except the ceiling light though, since Dad did most of that after they'd left for Grandmom's. They're on their way home now, I'm anxious to see their reaction :)

Mom also remembered, after the girls had left on Fri, that another time when she was here & she & the girls had gone "exploring" over by the creek, she'd noticed some "weeds" that looked like they might be blackberry or raspberry bushes. So we went hunting and sure enough all along the creek, and edges of the woods there are TONS and TONS of some type of wild raspberry (looking at the pictures on this site, I think they're thimbleberries, whatever they are, they taste yummy LOL) and a few black raspberries. There are even some of the thimbleberries right along the edge of the woods in our backyard, so the girls will be able to pick those whenever they want (the ones by the creek, they'll have to wait & have me come with them). So I'm excited to share this discovery w/ the girls this week as well.

Homeschool Last Week

We didn't do much "school" last week. I was busy trying to fit a week's worth of chores & such into a couple days. The rain made that more challenging. One of the things we SHOULD have done was our "Mammals" activity for the Nature Notebooks. It involves looking for animal footprints & would be best done right after a rain, we had plenty of rain last week but anytime it STOPPED raining I was rushing to do laundry (& hang it on the clothesline) or re-arrange the storage building (it's far enough from the house that I at least wanted the kids outside (where I could go look around the corner to check on them occasionally) while I did it. Ideally I'd have liked them to come up the hill w/ me, but they were too busy LOL. Washing doll clothes by hand and hanging them to dry didn't happen in week when I was scrambling to keep up with the regular laundry (because I wanted to hang it on the line, not use the dryer (note to self, basement is entirely too damp to hang clothes to dry down there, if I need to hang clothes to dry in the house it's going to have to be up in the bathroom). Plus, even on the days it didn't rain, there was a high enough chance of rain each day that I didn't want to risk doing the doll laundry & then having it rain & the girls be upset (if MY laundry got rained on I either pulled it in before the rain started or, if I hadn't caught one, would've just let it get wet & re-dry, but I wasn't sure the girls would be so philisophical about that).

So, we did circle time, and that was about it. Even putting out the toad house, the girls were "too busy" w/ other things when I suggested doing it.

So what DID we do all week?

  • I got things shifted around in the storage building so that there weren't any cardboard boxes on the floor (plastic tubs on the floor, cardboard boxes all on the shelves) and to make room for more stuff coming up later in the week
  • Our friends who used to live about an hour from our old house, then moved away & now that we've moved are, once again, about an hour away, came to play (the girls took quite awhile to warm up to the kids since it had been quite awhile since they'd been together, but in the end it worked well. The 3 "big kids" (my girls & J) had great fun working to fill in the hole that the landlord is SUPPOSED to be filling in in our backyard (I'm not holding my breath on the landlord doing it anytime soon) and then, when it started raining, had a blast playing in the rain (An (not quite 3) got in on that play as well). Interestingly, while there were some conflicts between the girls & J, they did quite well w/ An & baby M. Part of the rain play involved filling a cup w/ water (from the major gutter leak right over our front steps (another thing on the landlord's to do list, but one that I will begin to bug them about w/ increasing frequency as winter approaches, since it will make the steps quite dangerous come freezing temperatures) and dumping it on each others' heads. Both my girls were quite obliging in bending down so that An could reach to dump water on their heads LOL. They also helped her navigate our steep stairs once we got everyone dried off & they all came inside to play. And were gentle, helpful w/ Baby M as well. Overall, despite some drama revolving around kids they don't know well, and I think A either wasn't feeling good &/or had anxiety about this weekend, which added to the overall drama of the day, it was a good day!
  • Thursday we went to Sesame Place (my parents came up again). The girls re-discovered the "Little Birds Rapids" ride that they enjoyed when they were 3, but were afraid to try last summer. They now thoroughly enjoyed it and, thanks to a short line, went on it at least 7 or 8 times. It was overall, a relaxing day for me with them either going by themselves (Teacups, Bed Bounce, Fountain pool . . .) or with Papa (there's a kid version of a gravity drop thing there that he took them on a couple times, and he also took them across the overhead nets (that I refuse to do). After watching them this time, if they feel the need to do it again, as long as there are at least 2 adults in the group, I'd be ok sending them on the nets alone, so my refusal to crawl around on nets suspended many feet in the air shouldn't be an issue going forward) and a few w/ Mama. I think the only thing I went on was the Flying Fish (like Dumbo at Disney) since Dad doesn't like "spinning" rides (but enjoys the Peek-a-bug which makes me dizzier than flying fish, but whatever) and of course I went to the show & Parade w/ them. And while they were in the fountain pool I sat in a lounge chair w/ my feet in the water & let the girls splash me, hee hee. We determined that trying to just eat lunch in the park makes for too exhausting of a day for the kids, so going forward we'll go back to going out to Taco Bell (only a couple minutes away) for lunch not only to give us a filling meal (instead of snacking on cheese & crackers & such) but also because it appears to give the girls a much needed "rest time" even if they're not laying down or really resting.
  • Friday my parents helped w/ projects around here & dh & the girls left early afternoon to go to Grandmom's for the weekend (my parents "left" before the girls to avoid any tears about leaving Mama & Papa here, and then came back to finish Dad's project that wasn't done yet).

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Works for Me Wednesday - Google Docs

A year or so ago I had a laptop that liked to kill hard drives. Now, in THEORY dh had it set to automatically back up to a desktop in our house but in practice . . . not so much. TWICE in a 6 mo period or thereabouts I lost a ton of files, scrambled to recreate some from old backups and generally . . . SCRAMBLED. Pictures I'm religious about double backing up, so they were ok, but I had lots of Word & Excel files documenting stuff for my business, the co-ops I run, and just life in general. Those were what had me scrambling. After the second time, a friend told me about Google Documents. This is Google's version of spreadsheets & word processor. It can't do EVERYTHING Excel can, then again, I probably use alot of Excel features that most people don't. But they're good basic programs and the lovely thing is, it's 100% web based. So, I can save my spreadsheets & word documents in Google Docs and access them anytime from any computer. This means next time my computer crashes, I'll still have all my basic files (though backing up is still important) and not only will I have them, but I can access them from dh's laptop or the girls' computer, or wherever instead of having to access a backup disk or something. You can upload Excel/Word files you already have into Google Docs or you can create new files. You can also download them back into Excel/Word if you need to add functionality that Google Docs doesn't support (or access them when not online). Another feature that has been INVALUABLE to me in the co-ops I run is the publish feature. Once you've created a file in Google docs (or uploaded it into Google docs from elsewhere) you can choose to publish all or part of the file to the web. That allows others to go to a specific link and view a read-only version of your file. Which means when a co-op is done and people need their totals I don't have to type everyone's totals into an e-mail and send it out I can just publish a summary page of the spreadsheet I used to calculate the totals. As people pay I can mark them paid (for my records) and they can also see whether or not I've received their payment. . . I've also used the publish feature to give my mom or dh access to some spreadsheet I'm working on w/o having to physically send them the file & so that, if it's a work in progress, they can always see the up-to-date version. File sharing is also an option. I don't use it as much as the publish feature but, for example, a friend & I who regularly buy things for each other or otherwise owe each other money for this or that have a shared spreadsheet set up so that either of us can enter an amount that we owe or are owed, and then when it starts leaning too much toward one or the other of us, we can both see it & know when we need to pay up.

Google Docs works for me. Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer hosts Works-for-Me-Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


While we were at my parent's this weekend Dad gave me the pictures he took when we went to Sesame Place a few weeks ago. Here's a sampling . . .

L's on the left (w/ the bandaid)

The carousel was new. A's making a weird face.

A highlight this year was being tall enough to ride some of the rides without a grown-up (grown-ups who tend to get dizzy on said rides were equally thrilled with this LOL)

Going to Ernie's Bed Bounce (& other rides) during the Parade (we'd gone to the parade the day before) meant EMPTY attractions, woo-hoo! That's A facing the camera.

A & Papa, waiting for the Peek-a-bug ride to start.

You can see all the pictures here.

Gratituesday: The Expressiveness of Childhood

This weekend we went to see fireworks. I love watching fireworks anyway. And I especially love going to this particular place to see fireworks because there aren't that many people, and they shoot them off w/ a backdrop of mountains and nature and it's just GORGEOUS!! But this year, it was made even more fun by listening to L exclaim in delight after every single firework! She's my chatterbox anyway (they both love to talk, but L especially talks ALL the time) and she just kept a running commentary the WHOLE time! I love seeing things through the eyes of kids, they make the wonder of it all that much more apparent as they experience them for the first time (or not, but a year's a long time for a little kid, so they don't remember them so much from year to year).

For more Gratituesday posts, go here.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Weekly Wrap-Up

We're home from our weekend, now to catch up . . .

Last week was a good week. We got the school room essentially set up (& last night I hung a toy clothesline rope above the windows and we'll use clothespins to hang artwork on it woo-hoo). The girls helped clean (& fought over who got to do what, not sure if that's good (they want to clean) or bad (they're fighting) LOL).

We started working on the Nature Notebook they got for Christmas (the move delayed everything but in this case it's working out well, much easier to do "nature" stuff w/ all the nature around us than it was in the subdivision where we used to live LOL). They had fun making leaf prints to put in their notebook we planned out a toad house but then Daddy came home & they opted to play w/ Daddy instead of actually setting up the toad house. Plan was to do it today but umm . . . it's pouring so we shall see . . . On the bright side, if it ever stops raining it should be ideal for doing the mammal (animal tracks) activity that we didn't do last week because it needs to be done when there's mud around. Should be plenty of that now LOL.

We also wrapped up what we're going to do in Children and Painting. It's a book I expect we'll revisit in a couple years, lots of good ideas if/when they'd like to really learn more about painting. I am noticing that they are more willing to try specific techniques and such then they were even a few months ago (for most of this curriculum they've thoroughly balked against doing specific painting "assignments" preferring to do their own thing) so they're getting there. We'll come back to it at somepoint I suspect.

Friday was the parade in the rain.

Then Sabbath we went down to my parents' house. A did all the packing for herself & L. They spent the afternoon tiring Mama out, then Sat night we went to fireworks at a resort community where some of my parents' friends life. They are my absolute favoritest fireworks EVAR! You sit so close & they're right up overhead & the backdrop is the mountains and it's just so amazingly gorgeous & peaceful! We went there 2 years ago for the girls' first fireworks experience & they enjoyed it but were abit freaked out by it all. Last year we went to Antietam's fireworks (another favorite of mine, especially since it was dh's & my first date (16 years ago!). This year the girls were old enough to really appreciate the absolute amazingness of the fireworks without being scared. I think L kept the whole group well entertained w/ her exclaimations of "HOW COOL!!!" after LOL. When Grandma asked her (on Sunday) how the fireworks were her description was "at the end it went boom boom boom . . . . I thought it would NEVER stop!" hee hee.

Yesterday we stopped by to visit Kim and family & meet the new baby. She's a dream baby (slept the whole time we were there, and Kim said that's normal). And the girls had fun playing w/ the other kids for awhile while we visited (& I got to cuddle a sweet sleeping baby). Then we went back to the old house & loaded up the LAST load of stuff to bring up here. Woo-hoo! The girls are having an increasingly hard time w/ the back and forth, so I'm glad we're done. Interestingly, L had a minor freakout when we loaded her old bedframe onto Dad's trailer to take to their house to store. Once I pointed out that sending it to mom & dad's house meant we WERE keeping it & leaving it at the old house would mean we weren't keeping it, she settled down LOL. Anyway, I think it's a good thing that we're done going back.

And now we're home. It's raining, so much for my plan to get caught up on laundry (and hang it outside) today, sigh . . .

Menu Plan Monday

Kind of a weird week. My parents are coming up so we can go to Sesame Place again on Thurs, so Thursdays meals reflect my best guess on that day (not sure yet if we'll take picnic-y stuff to eat for lunch and stop somewhere on our way home or if we'll go out to Taco Bell for lunch and eat sandwiches on the way home in the car, but either way, those are most likely that day's meals. Breakfast will be either cereal before we leave or something we can eat in the car on the way. Friday my parents will still be here in the morning & then in the afternoon dh is taking the girls to his mom's for a weekend sleepover so I'll be all by my lonesome for the weekend, which means I can't be bothered to menu plan. But, such as it is, here's this week's menu:

To see other menus for this week go here.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 4th!!

The town where dh's office is located (about 10 min from here) has a 4th of July Parade every year. I figured we'd check it out & see if the girls enjoyed it. They were all for that idea, and then we woke up to a steady rain (mind you, said 30% chance of scattered showers all morning, it was a very STEADY 30% ALL morning LOL). So, parade was supposed to start at 10am, raindate was set for tomorrow. When it was still steadily raining with no sign of letting up at 9:30 I figured it was a given that they'd be doing it tomorrow instead (and we're not around tomorrow). Girls were sad, but no total meltdowns over it (when I told them about the parade I did so w/ the caveat of "if it doesn't rain"). DH had been planning to work this afternoon anyway, so decided he could go ahead & go in to work & drive by the parade route on his way to the office to see for sure. Turns out they DID have the parade. So, dh called me, I threw kids in the car (w/o even bothering to hunt down umbrellas) and we met him over there. we were near the end of the parade route so we had plenty of time before the parade got to us, despite being late. The girls LOVED it!
  • They got flags to wave (actually since we were late, we JUST missed the people that came through ahead of the parade handing out flags to everyone but an older couple standing near us noticed that we didn't have flags & gave theirs to the girls)
  • Gathered a whole handful (or more accurately pocket of my tote bag-full) of candy that was thrown at us from various parade participants
  • Miss Laura (from Kindermusik) would've been proud to hear the girls naming the various instruments they saw in the marching band, etc.
  • Uncle Sam on stilts absolutely AMAZED them
  • People dressed in revolutionary war costumes thrilled them "Mommy look, they look like the REDCOATS" (nevermind that they were blue, they had the era correct anyway LOL)
  • There were various "categories" that people could enter and the girls loved the "pets" category. Their favorite was a tiny little dog riding in a stroller.
  • Firetrucks are always fun.
  • One of the firetrucks was an antique one. When I said it was a "really old" firetruck, they asked me "as old as George Washington?" nope, not quite, but thanks to the sign on the side of it telling me that it was 1947, I could tell them that it was "about as old as Papa" they found that pretty impressive . . . "wow, that's OLD!!!"
So, the day was a success. We walked over to the park afterwards to see what it's like. But at first glance anyway there was very little food options for the girls & me (mostly hotdogs & such) and it was STILL raining steadily and they announced (soon after we got over there) that the kids' games (not sure what exactly they'd have involved) were cancelled because of the rain so we opted to go ahead & leave.

And other fun stuff in our world . . . yesterday when I was cleaning A was enjoying being helper girl, and wanted to help me mop, but I only have one mop & I don't think she could've really done much w/ it since it's taller than her, and I didn't really feel like standing and watching her try to use my mop, so I told her maybe next time. So . . . when dh got home yesterday afternoon I ran out to do some errands w/o kids having to come along. And at Target I found a "mop" that is actually one of those long handled things to clean bathtubs & such with, but it's got a microfibre pad & looks like a small mop and the handle is "extendable" and at it's shortest setting is just the right height for the girls. So I got one (since L hadn't shown any interest AND I wanted to make sure it would work as a mop), I also found kid sized (or maybe they have extendable handles too, I don't remember) brooms so I got them too. When I got home, you'd have thought I'd gotten A this year's equivalent of Tickle Me Elmo. She was SOOO EXCITED to have her own mop & L wanted to know how they were supposed to SHARE one! So today we had to re-mop the bathroom floor & they both tried it & declared it acceptable so I guess next week we'll have to head back to Target & get a 2nd one. Now fingers crossed that they continue to think it's fun to mop LOL. Once the rain goes away I'm going to set them to work on the patio w/ those new brooms too :)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Works for Me Wednesday - Five Ingredients or Less Edition

This edition of Works-for-Me Wednesday highlights easy summer recipes with 5 ingredients or less. Click over to Rocks In My Dryer to collect a ton of yummy, easy recipes. Here are my additions to the list:

Tomato Basil Salad

Green Shake (this is a great, healthy snack on a hot summer day)

Crockpot Pinto Beans (I'm loving crockpot recipes because they don't heat up the kitchen!)

Eggs in a Basket

Healthy Strawberry Shake

Southwest Roll-Ups

Fried Rice (depends how you make it how many ingredients it has, but it's so easy I had to include it)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Setting Up the Playroom

We're still working through unpacking and organizing and figuring out what needs to go where. I have a to do list a mile and a half long (all in my head) of things I WANT to do, but it seems to be slow going. OrgJunkie's Monthly Organizing Round-Up for June was the Playroom. So I decided that was a good excuse, combined with the girls' renewed interest in "school" which has had me scrambling to find all our supplies that were still in boxes, to really focus on the Playroom/Schoolroom.

This is the 3rd bedroom in our small house & as I thought through the logistics of settling into this house I decided it would be best used as a playroom/school room. With the girls' loft bed providing much more play space in their room than originally anticipated, the play/school room can focus mostly on the school side of things, though the girls spend lots of time playing in both rooms (and every other room of the house, they "travel" so much in their play LOL)

So, here are the before pictures . . .

Standing in the doorway. Random stuff on the bench. Boxes to unpack (there were lots more boxes to unpack stacked in a storage area). . .
Other side of the room , still from the doorway. More boxes and random stuff to unpack & put away.

And the final view of the other corner of the room before. More stuff to unpack & put away. The playstands that I'd thought would be in this room but now I'm thinking w/ the loft arrangement we will store them . . .

This room is still very much in progress, but for the time being, here's what I've done (& what I still have plans to do)

I put down foam mats over a tarp on part of the floor so that if we want to paint & do crafts up in this room we can. I have a small table similar to the one the computer's on that I need to get put together (but I suspect that will be easier done with an electric screwdriver, so that will probably wait till Dad visits again, though I might see if dh will put it together using Dad's electric screwdriver while we're at Sesame Place) and it will sit on the mat area. I might also go ahead & cover the whole floor w/ the foam mats, I haven't decided yet . . .

Also in the above picture. I set up the CD player & some CDs and such in the corner of the bench. The blanket in the windowsill is part of something the kids are doing. Hard to see, but I hung a globe beach ball on some yarn & hung it from the little piece sticking out above the window that blinds were once attached to. And I hung one of our recent "art projects" on the wall. I'm still pondering a good way to be able to hang our art projects on the wall but change them out frequently. I'm toying w/ magnetic paint on a section of the wall but that might be cost prohibitive. And the landlord would probably be annoyed but since they left us w/ bright yellow faux finish I figure that room is anything goes LOL. I might also just hang a "clothesline " near the ceiling and hang our paintings & such from it . . . still thinking it all through.
The wall where the door is. There are still a couple boxes. The fruit box holds the things we'll need over the next month or so to finish up the preschool curriculum we've been using. The basket above it holds what we are currently using on a daily basis, with the overflow "reference books" on the floor between the boxes. The metal bulletin board I want to hang, but I'm still trying to decide which wall I want it on, so for now the unpacked box of random craft stuff is making a nice stand for it. The basket in front of it has alphabet magnets. The white board on it is where we write our daily schedule. The small table that you can just see a corner of I was going to get rid of & then decided it would work well for a nature table. So the plan with it is to probably drop at least one leaf of it so it doesn't take up much room & have it in the rounded corner of the room w/ playsilks on it to use as a nature table. BUT the girls took it over and are using it as a desk so until I get the other table built, we're skipping the nature table (summer nature table is always hard anyway since summer stuff is all GROWING) and they're using it as a desk and such.

You can see the future nature table better in this picture. And at the moment the chairs are around it instead of at the computer. The upside down stool is generally used as a doll seat, I assume that's why it's on the chair. The playstands, I plan to store. And one of the many projects on Dad's to do list is to build a table that the big printer will sit under & the copier (that I haven't carried upstairs yet) will sit on top of. So, once Dad builds that the playstands will leave but for now they're doing a pretty good job of holding the printer.

And finally, all the craft supplies and games and any toys that aren't in the girls' room. We have a huge upstairs hall closet that I put shelving in & am using as my "homeschool closet" this is just one piece of it (there are 3 doors to access it & there's another shelf above the part you can see in the picture) but this gives you an idea of how I have all our craft stuff organized. Games and various things are similarly on these shelves.
And that's our play room/school room. I'm excited to have walls to hang things on. If I decide I want more storage IN the room I can move a bookcase up from downstairs but at the moment I'm liking all the open wall space.

Oh I didn't think to take a picture of the back of the door but it's utilized space too. There are hooks on it that hold a bag with our no-spill paint jars, the girls' binoculars, their "tool belts" w/ tools that Mama made for them last Christmas, and some of their backpacks.


Laura at Heavenly Homemakers hosts Gratituesday each week. I love the reminder to be grateful in all things (I've blogged about the importance of this verse in the past), so thought I'd join in here, as a weekly reminder to myself to not only be grateful in all things, but to express that gratitude.

Today I'm SOO thankful for the big beautiful old shade trees that surround our home. I would never have imagined WANTING to turn the a/c off and open up the windows but in this house I CRAVE it. We had the a/c on for awhile this weekend and I hated not being able to hear the birds and feel the breeze (not to mention that with the windows open I can hear the kids playing outside). The big old trees that surround our house allow us to be comfortable (not 70 degrees, but comfortable) with the windows open even when it's in the 80s. The main floor is consistently a few degrees cooler then it is outside and the upstairs is generally about the same as outside. Our previous house was typical new construction with all the trees removed and a few small ones placed away from the house. That house & porch got SOO HOT. I wouldn't have been able to fathom going w/o a/c when the temps approached 80, much less went past 80. So today, I am grateful, once again for the house God led us to & the appreciation of nature that it's helping us learn!