Search This Blog

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Weekly Goals: January 31-February 6

Jesse snapped this picture of me reading to the kids earlier this week.  Pretty much sums up life these days.  I love when he catches these moments!

Last Week's Goals:
  • Start reading Luther and Katharina. Done!
  • Test at least one new muffin recipe for the new book. Done! I made lemon blueberry, but I need to work on the lemon part of it a bit more.
  • Continue my KonMari of craft supplies.  Not done.  My dad actually brought us a big box of papers and markers from cleaning out his office.  So I think that may have been a step backwards (although it's not backwards if you'll actually use the things, right?).
This Week's Goals:
  • Test at least one new muffin recipe for the new book.  I'll either retest the lemon blueberry, or start testing chocolate peanut butter banana. Or both.
  • Do the February church newsletter.
  • Meal plan for the beginning of February, including our annual Superbowl Appetizer Dinner.
The Things That Are Saving My Life Right Now (as inspired by this post):
  • Homeschooling flexibility.  We've taken several unscheduled days off already this year, and I love having the space to breathe.  To catch up.  To do "life" things instead of "schoolwork" things.  It's happened a lot more than I expected it to happen, and there's a part of me that feels like we're behind with each day we take, but then I remind myself that freedom from a strict schedule is part of the reason we chose homeschooling.
  • Sticky note tabs.  I've been using them to mark up books, to hold places in my organ music for church, and even occasionally in my planner if I need to mark a list.
  • My ONE THING category in my planner.  Even if nothing else gets done and the day is a disaster, I have my one thing of peace and respite in the day.  
  • Bulletproof Mochas (my recipe here).
  • That it hasn't been too frigid to send the kids outside to play in the snow pile.  They have way too much energy for inside!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Kids Life Skills List

You all know me and my lists.  My newest list endeavor is something I call the "kids life skills list".  I was feeling overwhelmed by thinking about all the new things Elizabeth will be learning in the next year: getting rid of her pacifier, drinking from a sippy cup, using a fork and spoon, sleeping all the way through the night (hopefully), and on and on.

Then I thought about multiplying new skills times four kids, and all of a sudden I had too many things going on in my head.
So I stopped and made a list for each child.  Now instead of having everything in my head, even the things that we aren't working on right now, I can just focus on the next thing.  This is inspired a little bit by David Allen's Getting Things Done, where the point is to get everything out of your head and into your note-taking system, and then just dealing with things as you need to.  I don't use the system, but I think that this is a helpful way to glean an idea from it.

Jonah and Matthew are learning how to wash their own laundry.  Hannah is working on getting dressed by herself.  Elizabeth is just about ready to move on from learning to use a sippy cup to the next thing, which will probably be using a spoon.  (We already got rid of the pacifier.)

Because we're working on just one thing, I can focus a lot more.  I know we will eventually get to everything on the list, and if I think of new life skills I want the kids to learn, I just add them to the list and keep working on what we're working on now.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Books I've Read: January 2016

Teaching From Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakeable Peace by Sarah Mackenzie.  Having already watched the three-part video series where Sarah walked through this book, I kind of knew that I was going to enjoy it.  So I ordered a paper copy of this book back when Amazon had a coupon code last month.  The basic premise of this book is that teaching from a state of rest doesn't mean that there is not work involved, but instead that you have an attitude of peace, trusting that you when you work diligently, God will take care of everything else.  Simple in theory, but it takes practice to actually do it.

I found myself constantly nodding and underlining and making notes in the margin as I read, so I'll just share a few of my favorite quotations from the book.

On relationships: "By definition, to be efficient is to achieve maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense.  But relationships don't flourish or grow that way.  Relationships need time, spent lavishly. Homeschooling is all about relationships, and relationships just aren't efficient."  This is such a struggle for me, relationships vs. productivity, and it's something I'm really focusing on this year.

"We must...decide what is true about how we operate best, then base our homeschools on those truths, playing to our strengths and providing for our weaknesses."  I've found this to be so true - I'm really good at planning things, and if I try to fly by the seat of my pants, nothing happens, because I can't function day-to-day without a list of what needs to get done.  Even when we deviate from the list, we still accomplish much more than if I had just said my plan was to "do the next lesson in each subject".  I don't work that way.

And finally, a few ideas that I've found because of Sarah's blog, which are also mentioned in this book:
  • Looping, which I actually use for my own chores more than for school, but the idea is awesome!
  • Commonplace book, which I've just started, but love having all my favorite inspiring quotations and things in one place
  • Morning Time, which we don't do yet, but which I've seen and read a lot about and we may start at some point.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain.  I borrowed this one from the library, because I saw it pop up when I was searching for a "quiet" book for letter Q week for homeschool.  This was one where I found myself nodding a lot while I read, because I'm very much an introvert.  I really enjoy pop psychology books like this, where there's a lot of information, but it's mixed in with anecdotes and stories so it doesn't feel so heavy.

I did think it was kind of funny that Cain spent about half the book talking about extroverts, but it makes sense to compare the differences between extroverts and introverts.  She also talked a lot about the "extrovert ideal", that American culture really values a lot of extrovert tendencies, which is pretty accurate in my experience in school, work, and such.

Another interesting tidbit for me was her discussion on Free Trait Theory - the idea that while we have certain personality traits that are our default and preferred behaviors, we can act outside of those traits "in the service of personal projects".  If you have something you really care about, you can behave the opposite of what you prefer to work towards that thing.

And finally, a quotation, because I can't write a book review without a quotation:
"We all write our life stories as if we were novelists...with beginnings, conflicts, turning points, and endings.  And the way we characterize our past setbacks profoundly influences how satisfied we are with our current lives.  Unhappy people tend to see setbacks as contaminants that ruined an otherwise good thing ('I was never the same again after my wife left me'), while generative adults see them as blessings in disguise ('The divorce was the most painful thing that ever happened to me, but I'm so much happier with my new wife'). Those who live the most fully realized lives - giving back to their families, societies, and ultimately themselves - tend to find meaning in their obstacles."

Luther and Katharina by Jody Hedlund.  I got a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.  I picked this one because it sounded interesting, and it was October, so I figured I would read it before Reformation and it would fit.  And since you're reading this review at the end of January, you can see how well that worked.

I think I was a little bit discouraged by the length of the book, because at 380 pages, it's fairly long.  But it was actually a really fast read once I started - it only took me about four days.  Historical fiction is one of those categories that I almost always enjoy, but I get really confused about what's accurate and what's not.  So I appreciated that the author included a little note in the back about which characters and situations she completely made up.  I still feel like some may have been a bit embellished, but overall that was helpful.

The book got just a bit long-winded for me in the middle.  Obviously knowing history, I knew that Katharina and Luther were going to end up together, and it felt like there was just one too many hiccups.  Again, I'm not sure if that was just the author taking a bit of liberty with the story.  Otherwise, this was a good love story with just the right amount of excitement.

I don't expect I'll make it through another book before the end of this month, so I'm posting my book reviews today.

Total books for the month: 3.  

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

When You Let Go Of Stuff, Except You Don't

As I've posted before, I've become a big fan of the KonMari method of decluttering as outlined in the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.  So far I've gone through clothes, and books, and papers, and I'm on to the miscellaneous.

But here's the problem.  The bins of clothes still sit in our entryway because the money-minded trying-to-pay-off-debt part of me wants to sell them rather than donate them.  We took some books to a used bookstore for credit, but the ones they didn't want are still in a crate in the garage.  We went through the boys' Legos, and weeded out some of the less-played-with packs so they don't have so many, but the unwanted ones are still in a box.

I've gotten rid of things, except I haven't really.
I've tried setting dates.  If I don't sell this by __, I'll take it to the thrift store.  And then I ignore those dates.

The good news is that we're not using any of the stuff I've "gotten rid of".  The bad news is that it's still in the house.

Why can't I let go of this stuff?  Why am I letting it take up space in my house?  Why am I so bent on making pennies off of things instead of just clearing them out and enjoying the space?

I don't have answers for any of this.  I think part of it is I'm hoping that putting it out there will motivate me to actually take care of the stuff, even if that means taking over part of the garage to store things until we can have a garage sale (because January in Iowa is not prime garage sale season).  If nothing else, maybe I'll make someone else feel better about their efforts.

Tell me I'm not alone.  Have you started decluttering and then stalled on the actual getting-rid-of-it part?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Weekly Goals: January 24-30

This is hands down one of my favorite pictures of Elizabeth thus far.  She's figured out how to climb up in these little chairs we have, and she's absolutely proud of that fact.  Never mind that she hasn't figured out how to get down yet.  She just perches up there and watches everyone else.

Last Week's Goals:
  • Mail a few packages of craft supplies to friends. Not done, but ready to go tomorrow!
  • Do oatmeal testing for my muffins ebook. Done, although I still need to run the test one more time and take pretty pictures.  
  • Start working on the additional content for the muffins book. Done!  I wrote the introduction and the disclaimer.
This Week's Goals:
  • Start reading Luther and Katerina, a book I got last October (!) and haven't read yet.  
  • Test at least one new muffin recipe for the book. I'm thinking lemon...
  • Continue my KonMari of craft supplies.  So far I've found yarn and doilies to mail to friends who will use them, and I've made cards with the pictures I had.  But I still have a bunch of other things to use.  Maybe I'll find something appropriate for the Hearts & Flowers Challenge for Iron Craft this week.
Interesting Reads:

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Quick Tip: Save Your Breadcrumbs

Here's a quick tip for my fellow bread-baking friends:  When you cut a loaf of bread into slices (or croutons, in the case of this picture), save the crumbs in a freezer bag.  You can also blend up the heel ends of store-bought bread, which in our house are known as the "butts", and add those to the bag as well.  Save your crumbs, and you won't need to buy bread crumbs next time you need them!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Iron Craft Challenge #1: Fifth Anniversary

It's the fifth year of Iron Craft challenges, and that means challenge #1 is the fifth anniversary present ideas: wood, silverware, or daisies.
Of those three options, I was immediately drawn to daisies.  I love flowers, and I've been wanting to add some more art to the girls' room for awhile.  So why not make some myself?  
I got a Hobby Lobby gift card for Christmas, so last week when we were near one, I picked a few crafty supplies, including a 14x18" canvas.  Can I confess something?  I've never felt like enough of an artist to paint on a canvas.  And also?  I haven't painted a picture since high school.   So the canvas just sat there for several days, waiting for me to be brave enough to put paint on the brush and start.
For awhile I was kind of paralyzed by fear of how it was going to turn out.  I actually just finished it about an hour ago.  But in the end, I just started.  Amidst children building Legos and reading books, I pulled out some newspaper and my paints, and started.

They all stared and wondered, and it was actually really cool to be able to explain to them some of the techniques that I was using that I hadn't even thought about in 10+ years.  I was also really proud to be creating something in front of them.  It's so good for them to see me doing something creative that isn't about them!  I forget that sometimes.

I've participated in at least a few of the IronCraft challenges every year, although I have yet to come close to completing all of them.  Will this be the year?

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Weekly Goals: January 17-23

I've been KonMari-ing my craft supplies over the past week or so, including going through my card-making materials.  I had pictures that I had printed in 2010.  From a trip in 2009.  So I finally made the 78(!) cards with those.  And now I'm well stocked on regular and Christmas thank-you notes.

Last Week's Goals:

  • List at least 5 items on eBay.  I listed 3 Lego sets in one auction, and then 4 kids' dressy outfits.  We'll see if anything sells!
  • Read Quiet by Susan Cain.  I have 3 chapters left, which means I'll have to renew it, but I should finish this book this week.
  • Do some essential oils research.  Not done, but I did diffuse one of my KidSafe Germ Fighter oils this week.
This Week's Goals:
  • Mail a few packages of craft supplies to friends.  As I clear out my stash of stuff, it's a lot easier for me to get rid of things if I can pass them on to people who will use them.  
  • Do oatmeal testing for my muffins ebook.  Spoiler: I'm writing an oat flour muffins ebook for recipes like this one.  I want to test quick oats, old fashioned oats, and steel cut oats to see if there's any differences in the amount of oat flour that each makes.
  • Start working on the additional content for the muffins book besides the recipes.  I've been really inspired by the free ecourse on becoming a best-selling author by Chandler Bolt (as recommended by Crystal Paine) to get working on this book.  It actually won't take that long to put together other than getting the recipes for sure ready to go (and tested - more about that soon!).  But I can work on the rest of the content now.
What I'm Reading:
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links.  If you purchase something through these links, we get a bit of diaper money at no additional cost to you.  We have three kids that use diapers at least part of the time.  It adds up. We appreciate your support!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

How I'm Using My New Planner

I've mentioned my planner a few times before, but here's a peek at what goes on inside.  You know.  The good stuff.
Largely, my planner is where I keep my to do lists for each day.  It also includes appointments or specific events happening on those days that have them, and start dates for tv shows or specials I want to watch, because otherwise I won't remember that they're on.  I don't watch very many, but especially when it has been awhile since something has been on, I don't even think to look for it otherwise.

On the day shown above, I also made a project list because I felt like I had several things going on (I ended up not having as many as I thought, but it felt good to write them down!).  So sometimes I brainstorm in the extra space for projects or blog posts or what have you.

Once something is done, it gets an X.  If I don't get to it, I put a dash next to it and it gets moved to the next day, or just deleted.
I have also been trying something new.  I write down my ONE THING each day.  This is something that I want to do, something that will make me feel better once it's done.  Many days lately it's been to read a chapter in whatever book I'm working on.  A few days ago, it was EXTRA COFFEE!!! (all caps and exclamation points needed, because we were up for 3 hours in the middle of the night).

Most of the time it's something fun for me, because that fills my well.  Occasionally, it's a chore-type thing that has been bothering me, like "take all the cardboard and paper recycling out to the garage" shortly after Christmas, because it was taking over our entryway.  The house felt much cleaner after I did that, and that made me happy.

I've also written down cute things the kids say, so at the end of the year I can go back and read through those as well.  Maybe even someday start a kids' quote book.  Or maybe not...

Aside from my planner, I have a wall calendar that I copy events and appointments onto, and our town's recycling schedule, because I never remember that either.  And I use a notebook for meal planning.  But otherwise, everything is in here.  Now that I'm in the habit of using it during the day, and writing my list for the next day before I go to bed, I'm getting more things done, and I'm not forgetting things (most of the time - I actually did forget Elizabeth's shots appointment until we were done with school for the morning, but luckily they were still able to fit her in a couple hours later).

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Cheesy Potato Corn Chowder

Here's another warm and filling soup for these cold winter days.
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 russet potatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen corn (or one can of corn)
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in large stockpot.  Add onions and celery and saute until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook for one more minute, until fragrant.  Stir in potatoes, broth, and corn.  Heat to a boil, then lower to medium heat and simmer until potatoes are fork tender.  Add cheese and half and half.  Stir until cheese is melted in.
The second time I made this soup, I forgot the corn.  It's still good, but I was trying to figure out why it didn't make quite as much as the first time!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Weekly Goals: January 10-16

The creature power discs actually worked out how I wanted them to!  I used the pdf pictures found here, and resized them to 60%, which was the perfect size to fit on a poker chip.  I printed in black and white, then shaded them with blue and green colored pencils and punched them out with a circle punch.  A layer of mod podge later, and they were ready to play!
Last Week's Goals:
  • Write thank you notes. Done!
  • Make Wild Kratts power discs to go with the boys' new power suits. Done!
  • Do yoga every day. Done!
This Week's Goals:
  • List at least 5 things on eBay.
  • Read Quiet by Susan Cain. I got this from the library and it's due a week from tomorrow!
  • Do some essential oils research.  I bought several oils around Christmas time, but I guess I'm still intimidated by them because I haven't used them yet.  I also just got a diffuser, which I'm more comfortable with than topically applying them, but I'd like to learn more in general.  I have Essentials of Essential Oils by Rachel Ramey , DIY Natural Remedies by Nina Nelson, The Essential Oiler's Handbook, and Using Essential Oils Safely by Lea Harris from ebook bundles, so I think I'll start there.
Interesting Reads:
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links.  This means that if you purchase through these links, I receive a small commission at no additional charge to you.  Thanks for your support!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Books I've Read: 2015

This stack is my "to be read soon" pile from our bookshelf at home.  

In 2015, I set a goal on GoodReads of reading 30 books, which I thought was a pretty reasonable goal.  I ended up finishing 17, and I think a big part of that is that I let other forms of entertainment steal the little bits of quiet time that I had.  So this year, my goal is 25 books.  That's two books per month, plus one extra somewhere in there.  I think it's doable, as long as I consistently make an effort to read.
Before you think I'm forcing this upon myself, let me tell you that reading is my favorite hobby.  So why don't I make more time for it?

I'll be sharing more about the ways I'm using my new planner in the next week or two, but one of my tricks is to write down my ONE THING every day.  This is one thing that I want to do, that I want to make time for, and a lot of the time, it ends up being reading.  By writing it down, I'm more likely to make it happen.

But before we get too far into this year, here's what I read last year (the month name is a link to my reviews for that month):


  • Confessions of a Raging Perfectionist: Learning to Be Free by Amanda Jenkins
  • Brick by Brick: How Lego Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry by David C. Robertson.
  • The Loyalty of Pawns by Theron Couch
  • This Is What You Just Put In Your Mouth? by Patrick Di Justo
  • The Frugal Life: The Simple Path to Living a Good Life on a Budget by Michelle Stewart
  • The Unexpected Joys of a Tight Grocery Budget by Carissa Casey
  • A Faerie Fated Forever by Mary Anne Graham
  • Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin (this one got its own post)
  • A Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
  • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  • The History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig
  • What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
  • The Masque of the Black Tulip by Lauren Willig
  • Money Making Mom by Crystal Paine
  • Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin (I don't think I ever posted a review on this one, but I enjoyed it for the most part, and I think it's a really good guide to push women into studying their Bibles with practical steps on how to do so)
Some were really good! Some were okay.  Only one was really awful.  I enjoyed the non-fiction more than the fiction this year, but maybe that's because I had really high expectations for the books that I chose, and they just didn't quite live up to them.  

Do you set a reading goal for yourself each year?  Or are you on GoodReads?  Come be my friend and I'll stalk your book list for good ones check out what you're reading...

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Why I Don't Make New Year's Resolutions

You can find the blank printable for the word of the year (or just for a thought bubble chart in general) here, under "Getting Organized for the New Year".

I don't make New Year's resolutions for one very specific reason.  A year is too long.  I do really well for the first couple days, maybe even a few weeks, but then life pushes those ideas and thoughts to the back of my mind and I forget.  I forget that I wanted to write so much or do these projects or lose this weight.  Because life is full of other little things.

I moved on to monthly goals for awhile.  Those kind of worked, except it usually went something like this:
  • Write the monthly goals post at the beginning of the month.
  • Immediately do the easy thing (I always included one easy thing).
  • Forget about the list for 3 weeks.
  • Go to write the monthly goals post for the next month and quickly try to do the rest of the things on it.
So that didn't work too well either.  I moved to weekly goals, and I think I've finally found my sweet spot.  A week is short enough.  I can remember things for that amount of time, or they can live in my new planner, or on my marker board, a reminder to get crossed off, but not there for so long that I don't even see them anymore.
So you might wonder why someone who forgets things after a week would choose a word for the year.  For the entire year.  That's like asking for failure, right?  And perhaps it is, although I hope it isn't.  I tried this once before, and it kind of fizzled out.  

The difference is that this time I actually took the time to break it down.  

I chose the word Relationships this year.  I feel like I've let a lot of my relationships take a back burner, and I'd like to fix that.  I went with specific categories of people, and then wrote down some specific ways I could improve my relationship with each one.
  • God
  • Jesse
  • My kids, both generally as a parent, and each child specifically
  • My extended family - parents, grandma, siblings and their families
  • My friends
  • My church family
  • My kids' relationships with important people in their lives
Once I separated those categories out, I thought of specific ways to work on building and improving each of those relationships.  Things like writing to my grandma once a month, or having the kids send pictures and notes to their godparents.  Things like actually calling people (I'm an introvert who hates phone calls, so I put them off, but I do actually love talking to family and friends).  

I gave myself time frames and lists of things to do, and while putting aspects of my relationships on checklists might seem really weird to some of you, I think it will help me to make sure I don't put off the important people in my life.  

Do you pick a word for the year?  Set any resolutions or goals?  Make checklists of people to call?  Tell me about it...

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Weekly Goals: January 3-9

Jonah drew this family picture for me this week.  We all had a good laugh at his depiction of me holding Elizabeth, because that's not what we saw at first!  I love little kid drawings!

Last Week's Goals:
  • Do a bit of toy clearing out and decluttering. Work in progress, but we've done some.  The influx of new things is over now, so we'll continue to work on this.
  • See how many thank you notes I have and maybe make some more.  I got them all in one place, but didn't make any more yet.  If we need them, I'll quick make some simple ones this week.
  • Write thank you notes. Not done.  
This Week's Goals:
  • Actually write thank you notes!  I always seem to put off this task, when really it doesn't take very long.
  • Make Wild Kratts power discs to go with the boys' new suits.  They got these Wild Kratts power suits for a present, and I'm going to mod podge these pictures onto poker chips to make more animal powers for them.  At least that's the plan in my head.
  • Do yoga every day.  I've been easing my way into yoga for the past month or so, doing a workout about 3-4 times a week after the kids go to bed.  So now I'm upping that.  I have big goals here.
My parents came to have Christmas with the kids on New Year's Day.  It was such a fun time!  
Stuff I Like:

  • In Defense of Food: A Documentary by Michael Pollan, based on the books he's written about the subjects.  You can watch it here.  I actually made Jesse watch this with me when it aired on tv.  Eat food. Not too much.  Mostly plants.
  • My planner.  I've been using it since December 28th, when it started, and I love it.  Plenty of space for me to write my daily to do list, plus a few other things I'm keeping track of.
  • Mosaic Coffee.  I got a free sample of this for entering a blog giveaway over at The Humbled Homemaker, and it's really good!  Okay, coffee in general.  That could make my list of stuff I like probably every single time.
Disclosure: A few of the links in this post are affiliate links.  If you make a purchase through these links, I receive a bit of pocket change, at no additional charge to you.  Thanks for your support!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Handmade Christmas: The Rest

Now that you've seen the two big projects we worked on - the handprint calendars and the felt animal book - here's everything else!

One of my cousins and his family lost their Christmas tree and all of their ornaments because their basement flooded last year.  So another cousin sent out a request to send them ornaments, which I was glad to do!  I made some fake wedding invitation ornaments like I usually do for wedding gifts, using their names and anniversary info.
I also "minion-ized" their family, and I think that turned out pretty well for freehand drawing.
For several relatives we made these colorful bauble ornaments, using pipe cleaners, ribbons, and sequin mix.
There were a couple Packer ones, a Mickey Mouse one, and one that was simply purple-themed.
I also made coordinating dish cloths to go with most of those.
We made treat plates for the neighbors, and the kids had fun helping deliver those.  (We may have used some of our leftover treats from church, along with our homemade goodies, because we got so many treats!)
And everybody always loves the Ritz sandwiches, so I made two batches of those to include with gifts as well.
And then I got to wrap everything up and mail it away.  
Helpful Links:

Whew!  That was all a lot of work!  This year I'm hoping to start working on projects sooner.  Then again, I always say that...