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Monday, November 30, 2009

Not Me! Monday

I did not go through the whole toy room yesterday and find a bag of toys to donate. I would never purge the toys without the children's consent. It was not a long overdue project that I had been putting off. And I did not feel a big weight lifted off of me after I got the whole room cleaned and organized.

I did not let hubby put the Christmas tree up all by himself, for the second year in a row, because it annoys me trying to unravel lights, put the branches exactly where they go, and hang all the ornaments as three children flutter about getting in the way. I am the super mom that enjoys these moments so would never brush the tree trimming off on hubby. Not me!

I did not come down with yet another cold this past week. :(

I did not leave one of the pumpkin pies that I baked for the family gathering at home so we could eat it all by ourselves. We did not devour that whole pie in one sitting...five people eating one pie means a little too much pie for one or two of those people!

It sure wasn't me who ventured out on the day after Thanksgiving for some Black Friday shopping with an 18 month old at 6am. I didn't run to our dinky Walmart to score some of the cheap $2 movies or other goodies that I just had to have for Christmas. Only crazy people do Black Friday shopping!

I am not trying to find the perfect Scooby Doo action figure set for my 4 year old for Christmas, only to be outbid on everything on Ebay and to find it sold out at Toys R Us and too expensive on Amazon. Ugh!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

May I Be Excused?

This year there have been a few things that have happened with family and friends that have left me shaking my head and just generally confused. Actions that seem to not have a lot of good judgement behind them or decisions that are life altering. And things, that in the life of a Christian, are against our beliefs and morals.

But it isn't so much these actions and decisions that confuse me. Even as Christians we all make mistakes and don't always use our best judgement. Those things are ultimately between ourselves and God and it is He who we must seek forgiveness from.

But I do get angry about certain things, and just recently I came to realize that it is the excuses that I am tired of. It seems that no matter what someone does they tend to put the blame on someone or something else. It is similar to when we are children and a toy breaks and we blame it on someone else so that we don't get in trouble. But as we grow up, one of the first steps in becoming an adult is accepting that we have a choice in our life, and that on some level we are to be held accountable for what we decide. And what we decide to do in life also affects our children, or our spouse, or younger brothers and sisters that look up to us, or parents who have raised us and just wanted the best for us. So when we do fail or do wrong is it okay to just brush off that wrong with an excuse? To blame the problem on someone or something else entirely? Or does it help us grow as a person and show others that sometimes even when we make a mistake we can take accountability for what we did and still move on, instead of shifting all the blame onto something else.

It is similar to if a child was physically or emotionally abused as a child. That does leave lasting scars and issues in that child's life. And in part, it can shape who they become. But as an adult it is not a reason for that person to abuse another person. Or to say "I steal because I was missing something as a child". Or to cheat on a spouse "because they were never shown love as a child". Because those are just excuses. You can not accept, admit, and ask for forgiveness in a wrong-doing if you won't even acknowledge that you were at fault for it or had a part in it.

Yes, everyone makes mistakes. Big ones, small ones, and in between ones. But we shouldn't be making excuses.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Know What Else I Miss?

Besides missing garage sales because of the colder weather, I especially miss the freedom of summer. The kind of days where you can run outside with bare feet or throw on a pair of flip flops to run to the store.
Now it is such a production to just get ready to go somewhere that I have been staying home a lot more often. It is hard work getting three small children ready to head to the grocery store or library when it is cold outside and one must get properly bundled up. Searching for six socks, three pairs of matching shoes (why is it that my children each own several pairs of shoes but when I need a pair all I can find are the odd couples?).

Jackets or coats (we are still in the in between stage where we need one or another on any given day). Sometimes mittens and hats (where was my second glove today when it was time to walk the dog?!). Just lots and lots of stuff that takes forever to put on. And takes forever to put away once we return home.

And who, just who!, designed this house with zero, zilch, nadda a closet in the whole downstairs?! No coat closet, no where to store all this stuff. We make do with our coat rack and some hooks behind the basement door. But it would be so much easier if someone had thought to put a closet in the downstairs. Somewhere, anywhere! I guess in 1880 they just didn't think of these things.

These pictures are bittersweet. They were taken just a couple weeks ago, while we were in Ohio and experiencing some not so common warm November weather. It's great seeing how much fun they were having, but sad knowing it will be months before they have that freedom again.Winter hasn't even arrived yet but our days are already being spent mainly indoors. It isn't even that cold out yet but I have to force my outdoor girl outdoors, and she comes in within minutes claiming to be freezing. Joe would stay out all day if I let him, not even letting his frozen blue hands stop him from having fun outside. But honestly, it's just not fun outside when it is cold. Oh sure, the first snow is wonderful, and having a snowball fight or building a snowman is fun a few times, but it is the warm summer sun that I am missing right now. And anyone in the Midwest can tell you just how long our winters last. I try to avoid thinking of that so as not to depress myself.
We do have our first snowfall yet to look forward to. And I have to admit that Christmas just wouldn't seem like Christmas without the snow. But I would be happy if winter only lasted one month, instead of six!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Check Your Magazines

This month several national magazines have a $5 coupon good at Hallmark. The great thing is that this coupon is good on any purchase, and even sale items. So you can go buy something for $5, hand them the coupon, and walk out just paying tax! I went to our local Hallmark store this evening and found an adorable little keychain, with a bulldog on it, on sale for $3. I had been admiring this at Petsmart where they are $12! I also found Yankee votive candles on sale for 90 cents. So I ended up buying a votive, my keychain, and another small gift for a family member and after the coupon I only had to pay $2.38! What a great deal!
So check your magazines to see if they have this special insert. If not, I am offering up a coupon here. Leave a comment and on Sunday, the 29th, I will draw a name and send it via snail mail to you. Scoring $5 of free stuff is awesome, or using this to save money on a bigger purchase is grand too!

Happy Thanksgiving

While today is actually not Thanksgiving I doubt that I will be spending time on the computer tomorrow so wanted to post ahead. I have the pumpkin pies in the oven, the peach cheesecake already made, and pumpkin roll on the brain (which I will probably be making tomorrow morning) so I am basically set to shuttle my family off to my parent's house for the get together tomorrow. It is so much less stress to go to a get together, rather than host one. One of my friends is hosting her in-laws this year and with three little children I think she is one brave woman! It is horribly hard just getting the house ready and the food perfect, but with three small children following along it is 100% harder. If you are going to a get together this year be sure to thank the host and hostess!

Thanksgiving is a perfect time to realize just what we have to be thankful for. Many families have the tradition of going around the table and naming one thing that everyone is thankful for. Today, let's go around the blog and name our thankfulness.

1. My husband and children. To have my OWN family is something that I will forever be grateful for. They are the soft spot where I can fall if I need to. They are the strong arms around me or the tiny hands hugging me "just because".

2. My extended family. While we can't "choose" who we are related to I have been blessed by a pretty good bunch! My parents taught me between right and wrong in life and my brothers and sisters were there to torment me and also teach me the real meaning of life. It is wonderful when you can say your family is also your best friends.

3. My husband having a secure job in this economy. Secure enough that we don't have to wonder where our next meal will come from or how we will pay that next bill. Secure enough to be comfortable. And comfortable is good.

4. A warm home, food to eat, and warm cozy clothing. Who needs more than those basics, when many don't even have that.

5. Friends who are there to be a listening ear or shoulder to lean on. Friends who get it. You know who you are and I am very thankful for you all!

What are you thankful for this holiday season?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I Miss Garage Sales!

Now that winter is approaching our garage sale season has been closed down long ago. And that is one thing that I miss about spring and summer. I love finding good deals and getting things that I need or never knew I needed at such excellent prices. I am already looking forward to next year's garage sales, which typically start up in April. Just five months to go!

But tonight at TOPS we had a small auction to raise money for the group. We all brought several items that were laying around our home that we no longer needed and auctioned them off. Things went fairly cheap but we were still able to raise over $80 for the group! I came away with a few bags of notecards, some magazines, and some knick knacks. And it was just as fun as going garage sailing. I was able to not only get some neat items at cheap prices but also help out our group in the process.
And an added bonus is that in the last three weeks I have lost 3 1/2 lbs. according to the scale at TOPS! Yay!

I not only miss going to garage sales but I also miss having ones of my own. My mom and I and sometimes other family members pool our stuff and have two to three garage sales a year. I am often selling outgrown children's clothing, toys that are no longer being played with, books, and the like. And I often make $50-$100 per sale; last spring even making $150! It is a great way to make a little extra spending cash and also clear clutter. I love the feeling of selling off things that I no longer need and making money by doing so. It will seem like a long five months before I can have another garage sale. But lately while I have been setting aside extra special items for my garage sale in the spring I have also been donating a lot while I have been purging the house and trying to get organized for the holidays. It makes me feel good to know that my no longer used items are going to someone who needs them or making money for organizations that help others. If you, too, are doing a lot of decluttering of your house in preparation of the holidays remember your local thrift shops and donation centers and help them out!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Not Me! Monday

It's that time again...confessions from a not-so-perfect-at-times mama!

I did not let my six year old daughter run around the neighborhood alone looking for the dog that she let out of the house. I was not tired of chasing that darn dog and tired of reminding the children to not let him out of the house. I did not sit in a warm house while she spent 15 minutes looking for him, only to have another neighborhood girl return him a little while later. Not me!

I did not eat two slices of the pumpkin roll I made yesterday, even though I will be hogging down the pumpkin pie and food later this week. I did not force myself to finish that second piece of pumpkin roll even though it wasn't tasting too good after the first piece and the cream cheese frosting was getting to me. Nope, not me, I'm not a pig after all!

I did not make my cold seem a little worse than it was yesterday so that I could spend some time in the bedroom in the evening reading and watching television while hubby held up the fort downstairs. I did not enjoy my time immensely and hardly feel guilty at all. By the way, staying in your pjs for the whole day makes it seem that much more believeable!

When I forgot to call about jury duty one weekend I did not get a letter stating I never showed and that I was to be held in contempt of court if I did not call in my reasoning. After getting that settled I did not receive on short notice last week that I was to report for jury duty the very next morning...and this was when my kids were dripping green snot and hacking mucousy coughs. I did not call in the next morning stating that I could not get a babysitter (it's almost impossible for me to get a babysitter when my kids are healthy, much less sick!). I did not have to speak directly to the judge to be excused. Really, this makes me wonder how in the world they expect people to remember to call in each weekend and how we are just expected to show with such short notice. I have kids, people, I need weeks notice! And now I have to deal with this the next month and a half. I DID NOT put off registering to vote for this sole reason alone!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Frugal Friday

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Did you know that you can make your own laundry soap? Did you also know that not only is it better for the environment, but it also ends up being cheaper than buying it at the stores. Most places break it down to being about 5 to 10 cents per load when using the homemade product. And it is easy! There are liquid recipes that involve cooking and stirring the product but I just make the dry recipe, which ends up as a powdered laundry detergent.

You will need a bar of soap. Zote or Fels Naptha is usually recommended but you can use just about anything, just check to make sure it isn't leaving a film on your clothing. I used to find Fels Naptha at a small grocery store but they stopped carrying it. I was overjoyed when I found it at Lehman's for $1.50 for a huge bar, I end up using just half a bar per batch. You will also need Borax and Washing Soda (not to be confused with baking soda). Washing soda can usually be found near the Borax. Our Walmart doesn't carry it so I get it at our grocery store.

Grate the bar of soap up. Many people use a food processor for this job. I just use a cheese grater. I usually use the smallest grate possible but with the Zote it was softer and just wasn't grating up so I used the bigger side of the grater. I have had no problems with it no dissolving in the washing machine, but I recommend you trying to grate it as small as possible.

Mix equal parts of Borax and Washing Soda into the soap shavings. I used 1/2 a bar of Zote and about 1/4 of the box of Borax and 1/3 of the box of Washing Soda. You can experiment to see what you like. You can also add a cup of baking soda if you would like. Mix thoroughly and it should look like this...

I just store this in an old extra large pickle jar that I have.

Use 2 to 4 Tablespoons per load of laundry. I use two of those small scoops that is on top of the jar. This does not suds up like regular laundry detergent but it gets the clothes clean and leaves a light, clean scent on them. One of these jars should last us over a month and that is for washing clothing, bedding, and towels of five people and lots of pets. It is economical and works!

To continue on about my pantry cooking, I will recap the meals we have recently scrounged from the cupboards. We had tuna helper, brussel sprouts, and a pumpkin roll for dinner yesterday. Popped popcorn was for a snack.

For breakfast today I had Cheerios and the kids had frozen waffles. For lunch the kids had a cheese sandwich and crackers and I had a peanut butter sandwich. We have been snacking on celery and yogurt. For dinner I will be making french toast, eggs, and turkey sausage links. Tomorrow morning will probably be oatmeal or cocoa wheats. And then we will go shopping!

I have been clearing out the cupboards and using food that I forgot about. I have been saving money as well. It has been a win-win situation and I am going to try doing this at least once every few months...skipping a whole week of shopping and just using things from the cupboards, freezer, and fridge. Just think, if my weekly grocery budget is around $75 and I skip a whole week of shopping (except for bread and milk) that means I save us $75! A win-win situation!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

24 Hours of Pantry Cooking

It's been 24 hours of pantry cooking and I just wanted to share how it has shaped out so far. Yesterday for lunch the boys and I just had a corn dog and Becca had a cheese sandwich (her choice). We snacked on yogurt and fruit. For dinner we had macaroni and cheese, baked beans, corn, and mandarin oranges. Later in the evening everyone had air popped popcorn (which we bought the seeds at Lehman's in Ohio!). Everyone was full and happy.

This morning the kids all had Cheerios and juice. I just had a cup of tea and yogurt since with this cold my appetite is not what it usually is. Becca just helped me stir up a pumpkin roll and it is in the oven baking and later Jacob will help me mix up the frosting. This is one of my hubby's favorite desserts and we happened to have all the ingredients on hand so this will go with dinner tonight. I'm still not sure what dinner will be yet, but I will keep everyone posted. I think lunch will just be sandwiches, chips with dip and celery slices, and milk. So far so good!

How are you creative in the kitchen? What are you making tonight for dinner? Please share!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pantry Cooking

I once mentioned to someone that our funds were running low that particular week and so I would be doing pantry cooking for several days. "What's that?" they asked. Well, it basically boils down to searching your cupboards to see what you have and making meals out of those ingredients. Otherwise known as making do with what you have or trying to scrape by. It happens to all of us every once in awhile...the grocery money is scarce for the week, someone is sick and doesn't feel like going to the grocery store, or you have a lot of odds and ends in the cupboard and fridge that need to be used up.

That is where I am at this week. Last Saturday I actually spent $93 at the grocery store and have no idea what I ended up with because our cupboards are fairly bare. I was tired and needed to just grab a few things after our week long vacation and ended up just spending too much because I hadn't planned ahead. I could run to the store today and stock up on real food this time around but after spending $93 (which is above our weekly budget) I do not want to go shopping until this Saturday. Plus, I am coming down with a cold and just don't want to go anywhere. So that leaves me with three days worth of meals that I need to plan by looking through the pantry and fridge and seeing what I can come up with. Breakfast will be easy as we have plenty of cereal, oatmeal, and cocoa wheats. Lunches can still be fairly easy as we have peanut butter, some lunch meat, macaroni and cheese, and a few cans of spaghetti o's. It will be dinner that I will need to become creative with. My hubby arrives home hungry and likes a big dinner most days. There are the lazy nights where we just eat a frozen pizza or even just grab a bowl of cereal but most nights I enjoy cooking for the family and making a good meal. Now I need to find some good meals out of our limited supply and I am looking at this as an adventure. There IS food in this house, I just need to come up with some creative ideas to make a good meal out of this food. Frozen chicken breasts and potatoes will surely become one of those meals. We have plenty of frozen and canned vegetables and fruit so that will round out the meals. I have yeast and flour on hand so can make my aunt's famous rolls (Hi Auntie Jane!) that my whole family adores. So the next few days will be finding me being creative in the kitchen and using up some food that is just sitting in the cupboards. It teaches you not to run to the store for every little thing and while I may need to pick up a loaf of bread or gallon of milk at the convenience store, I will be steering clear of the grocery store this week.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Going to the Zoo

I loved going to the zoo as a child. We didn't live close to one so I was only able to go a couple times while growing up. I still love zoos. So when I knew we would be near Cleveland I asked Ben if we could go to the zoo there. I'm glad that some of the in-laws had the same idea and planned a day that we could all go there together. We got there a little late so only had three hours to look around so did miss a lot of the exhibits but the kids were thrilled by what they saw.

This is Jacob, and if you look closely you can see a black shape next to him which is a monkey that was just sitting there. He loved seeing it up so close and I just wish this photo would have turned out better.

I thought Joe would be terrified at seeing this big guy up close but he just watched him move about the enclosure.

This snow leopard was enjoying his pumpkin and then noticed myself and another lady pulling out a camera. He actually smiled for the camera!

This shark was probably one of Jacob's favorite exhibits. He stood there for at least five minutes just watching it swim around with another shark.

And this monkey? There was another monkey in the enclosure that kept bothering her, I am assuming it was her baby. She tried getting a drink and it came over and bothered her. She tried clinging to a branch and it followed her. She tried coming up to the window to look at us and it was right beside her. Finally she just flopped down in exhaustion and gave up trying to get a moment alone. She reminds me of someone...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Welcome to Lehman's

I'm not sure how many of you have heard of Lehman's before but it is an awesome store in Kidron, Ohio that is somewhat out of the 1800's. Lots of old time country things for sale and just such a neat store to walk through. I've seen the catalog before and loved looking through all the products so I was thrilled when Ben's step-dad and his wife asked if we'd like to drive up there with them!

I bought my camera and was all prepared to take several photos of the inside but became so engrossed in looking around that I forgot until the very end, when we were in the room which had all the electric and wood stoves for sale. Unfortunately, as you can see, that photo did not turn out too well. But I at least have proof from the above and below photos that I was there!
It is easy to overspend at a store like this so we tried to only buy what we really wanted. We ended up with a coffee mug (which I have been using every morning for my tea), two magnets, several post cards, a soy candle, soap homemade by the Amish, some old fashioned candy, and three bars of Zote soap...which I will be showcasing in a recipe later this week here!

If you ever get a chance to swing by this store I highly recommend it, or else stroll through their website to see what they have. I told Ben that if we lived closer it would be a store that I would frequent often.

Another original store that we stopped at was Planktown Country Market in Shiloh, Ohio. My mother-in-law shops there often and when she mentioned it was a Mennonite store I was intrigued and had to visit. It is a wonderful small grocery store that has a little bit of everything, many things being natural. I picked up some spices, homemade apple butter and strawberry rhubarb jam, sweet pickled garlic (don't knock it until you've tried it!), black strap molasses, and a few other goodies. It is my dream store...I wish we had something like that around here, I would shop there weekly. The meat and cheese looked delicious and the produce was sold in huge bags for a steal. It would be an awesome place to get wholewheat flour, raw sugar, raw honey, and more. Those who live around that store are awfully lucky!

Do you happen to have a favorite "original" store in your area? I'd love to hear about it!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

There's No Place Like Home

We arrived home on Friday and I have been trying to catch up on sleep and household duties ever since. Surprisingly, the ten hour trip to Ohio went amazingly well and all the kids behaved and hardly fussed once. This may be because we left at 4am and they slept half of the way but I am still in shock about how well they did going there. On the way back, not so much. We once again left early in the morning and they slept for several hours but the last four hours of the trip Rebecca got car sick (over and over again) and Joe got extremely fussy. Even Ben and I were terribly tired of the long drive by then and just itching to get back home. We only stopped once, to get breakfast, and drove the rest of the way through.

It's true, there is no place like home. While the vacation went well and we were able to visit several family members and friends and see many local attractions (more about all those later this week) it is just plain difficult to be away from home for a whole week. The kids started to get whiner and whiner as the week went on and I started to loose track of what day and date it was. It still went much better than I expected, considering that Joe has never been out of the house for an overnight stay and the older two had only done that once when we stayed overnight when visiting a zoo. This was the first time the kids, or I, have ever been away from home for a week. It was fun but it is also good to be home once again. I never thought I would say that there is just so much vacation that one can take!

I'll be posting pictures and more about our vacation later in the week. For now I need to catch up on laundry, get some food on the table, and get back to all my regularly scheduled household duties!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Check Back Next Weekend

New postings will be up starting next weekend (the 14th). For now my family and I are on our first vacation in seven years!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Scrubbing Day Is My Favorite Day!

I doubt many of you can name the show that the line above is from. It's a running joke in our family because when I was little my cousin and I watched Pippi Longstocking and she was sliding across the room with her scrub brushes on her feet scrubbing the floors, singing that song. My cousin and I didn't have any scrub brushes, so we stuck a couple sticks of butter on our feet and slid around the kitchen like that. You should have seen (and heard!) how angry her mother was when she walked through the door!

I always think of that incident and that song when I am scrubbing my own kitchen floor. And scrubbing day is not my favorite day, one of the least favorites in fact. I love my clean floor after all the scrubbing but it is amazing how messes tend to gravitate towards a newly washed floor. It seems that on floor mopping day is when the kids decide to walk into the house with muddy feet, or spill sticky juice on the floor. It never ceases to amaze me how the floor can be sparkling clean one moment and look terrible within an hour. But for one hour it really is clean enough to eat off of.

I have been cleaning like a crazy woman the past few days and still have quite a bit left to do. We are leaving for vacation soon and I want this house to be inviting and cozy when we return so that we can just relax for a few days. It is next to impossible to accomplish such a task when I have three small children making a mess behind me. For example, I worked in the kids room yesterday for over half an hour while the kids played in the playroom. When I was finished with the kids bedroom I noticed what a mess the kids made in the playroom. This happens everytime I work on one room...they are busy messing up another room! It's exhausting and downright maddening at times.

And today I had such high hopes in getting the floors scrubbed, some more packing done, and the dining room and office room worked on. But I had forgotten about Jacob's speech therapy so we will need to run there first. And now the cat is getting a Urinary Tract Infection (which she gets several times a year) and I can't leave her while we are on vacation like that so I need to run to the vet's office 20 miles away to pick up a prescription for her. Believe when I say it is not fun trying to get her to take that medicine. She knows what it is and knows that she doesn't want it and does everything in her power to escape while I am giving it to her and try and puke it up when I am finished. Wrapping her in a towel and holding her down only helps a little. Amazing how a 12 lb. cat can become so strong at a moment like that.

This has been my week thus far! It is SO exciting!!


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