Thursday, February 04, 2016

Five Frugal Things, Dinner Edition

Several blogs I read do a "five frugal things" post, which I find interesting. So I thought I'd write one of my own.

During dinner prep tonight I did the following frugal things:

1) On Saturday I cleaned out my pantry shelves, and made a list of random things that I need to use up. One of those things was 3/4 cup of a wild rice mix. I was making rice and fish for dinner, so I mixed that rice with regular brown rice in order to have enough for dinner.
2) I sautéed some onions and garlic to go in the rice, and then thought I'd add a few vegetables that were still very edible but not very pretty looking: a few mushrooms, and some carrot sticks.
3) Mavis and her trash challenge has me thinking of reducing our own garbage output. So tonight I pulled out a bowl and collected anything compostable as I made dinner. We have a compost bin, but I haven't been using it over the winter. I'm going to start making that trek out to the compost - it will be that much less garbage to the curb!
4) I rescued a dilapidated lemon by juicing it and then adding it to homemade salad dressing, sprinkling it over the fish I was baking, and making a quart of lightly sweetened (with maple syrup) lemonade.
5) I peeled and sliced seven withered apples and made an apple crisp for dessert.

Friday, January 29, 2016

What I Learned in January

:::The New Year is not always glitter and gold. It's OK to start the New Year on a down beat, it doesn't mean that this is how the year will progress. I've had some things on my heart and mind and it just carried into the beginning of the year. Nothing "major"...just an unrest and "things" hard to put into words and/or things not really shareable in an online type of way.  It really bothered me at first to not be super duper excited about the New Year! Resolutions! Fresh starts! but really, it is OK and I am OK!

:::Just because someone you love 1) lived a long life and 2) is now in heaven and 3) is no longer in pain here on earth does not mean you will not miss them. The passing of my grandpa was harder than I ever thought it would be. I am, of course, happy for my grandpa beyond measure. But I am sad for me. I miss him and knowing I'll never see him here on earth or hear his "praise the Lord" until I reach heaven myself has just been difficult. He passed away on January 3rd. I don't normally call my parents on Sunday, but I called my parent's house and my dad answered. My grandpa had just passed away and he hadn't had time to notify me yet. Grandpa was 90 years old.

my grandpa and me three years ago, the last time I saw him
:::My daughter loves to do crafts! Someone gifted her some craft projets and she has been coloring and stitching up a storm! My next project to do with her will definitely be with fabric! Besides these little projects, she has also been making coasters with one of those weaving looms (the type with nylon loops). She loves to give the things she makes, so that has been an incentive for her to keep on making!


:::Computer issues are frustrating! My laptop died. Just...kaput. So Kevin bought me a new one. After a week or two of using that (and the hassles of transferring pictures and programs), that one went kaput. Seriously??? So Kevin bought me another one, and that one was a piece of trash. So then we went to Best Buy and came home with yet another computer. Here's the thing: at one time we had five laptops in the house! My old, old one. My old one, and the three new ones. We got the other two returned and now I'm settling into my new, new, new laptop. Haha. The thing is, I still don't have my pictures on this one. I need to get that figured out, but we have them all backed up. I don't like this "One Drive" thingymabob. I don't want my pictures in a cloud, I want them on my computer!

:::And lastly, I hate being cold. Oh wait. That's nothing new.

Brrr


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Projects 22 through 26

I've been having computer issues since November, thus my lack of posting. I have some project pictures to share from 2015.

Project 22

"Clay" ornaments

One afternoon I was at a friend's house and I made "clay" with baking soda, cornstarch, and water so we could make ornaments. All the pictures on Pinterest showed lovely examples of hand-crafted, beautifully finished ornaments. Maybe I did it wrong, but mine cracked as they dried (in a very low oven). Next time, I'll stick with a real modeling clay.


My daughter decorated them with markers and we hung them on the tree. So all was not lost. Plus, I had all the ingredients on hand, so it didn't cost anything (extra).

Project 23

Granny Shawl


Blog readers may recognize these colors, as I used this very same yarn to crochet an afghan for my daughter, then make a pom-pom wreath for her room. I still had plenty of yarn left, and my daughter had been pleading for a shawl (because 6 year olds need shawls...). So I made this for a Christmas gift. I did have to buy one more skein of yarn to compete it. That was around $3. Not bad!

My daughter loves it! It didn't take too much time to make, which was a good thing since I wanted it to be a surprise. I had to work on it in the evenings.

Project 24

Two knit star ornaments


One for my tree, one for a friend. The yarn has tiny sequins in it, so pretty and sparkly for the tree! I had this yarn, and the pattern was free, so: free!

Project 25

Cinnamon ornaments

I thought I took pictures, but apparently I did not. While I was not happy with how the baking soda "clay" ornaments turned out, I was very happy with the cinnamon ornaments, and even tied a few to some gifts. I'll be making these again! It was a quick and easy project. I bought the ingredients at Aldi, so it wasn't too expensive, right around $3 I want to say.

Project 26

Knitted stocking ornament


I just got a quick picture of before I packed the ornaments away for the season. This was a free pattern I found online. I modified it a little, but mostly stuck to the pattern. I had the yarn, so this was free to make also!



At the beginning of the year, I made a goal to complete 52 projects in 2015. That turned out to be a little unrealistic, but I made it halfway through, which I'm very happy with. Many of the projects were made from materials I already had on hand, and turned into gifts. The goal was not met, but one of the points of this challenge was to see how little I could spend and still craft quality items. I think I demonstrated that by using materials in my home and sourcing materials carefully (with coupons, on sale, etc.) creating does not have to be very expensive!

I don't have an exact total because the above projects I did not keep the receipts for. But with my estimates, the grand total for the year was $57.05. That's an average of $2.19 per project!

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Pictures

We went to South Carolina for Thanksgiving this year. It was a very nice time with family. I'm the oldest of nine children, and seven of us, and my parents, were gathered together. That's quite a feat, considering we came from all over: Michigan, Tennessee, Oregon, and California. It has been a while since we've personally been able to be with so many family members at one time (almost 3 years), and I had a nephew (1 1/2 years old) and a niece (2 years old) whom I hadn't met yet!

The weather was gorgeous while we were there. Warm! And no snow or threat of snow! :-) 

My sister took some pictures of us, the first one we were joking around, but I really love it. Just Kevin and me having a fun time together.



And then we got serious for our picture:


Last month I turned 39. So close to 40...anyhow, I decided to change things up and get a different hairstyle. I like the way it turned out! But I'm still trying to get the hang of styling it, so we'll see how long it lasts! :-)

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Oh, Pinterest...

Dear Pinterest,
I used to really love you. "Used to" being the operative words here.

I know everyone has to make money. But seriously? I don't have a friend named "Picked for you"! And if I did, I would unfollow her. She goes overboard with the pinning! She floods my feed with copycat pins. She can't be original, noooooo. She looks at my pins and then copies them. She sees me pin one idea (which I probably liked because, you know, I pinned it). But then she quickly searches and finds as many pins as possible that are somewhat related and then that's all I see!

Let me demonstrate:


Do you see how out of control user "Picked for you" is???

So, Pinterest, since I can't unfollow Picked for you, I did a quick search, and discovered this. I quickly installed the bookmark, and now this is what I see when I go on Pinterest:


Pinterest, you're ruining yourself and missing what people like about Pinterest.

Signed,
a disgruntled user

Saturday, October 24, 2015

52 Projects (Project 21)

I'm not even going to comment on the number of weeks left in which to finish 52 projects. Except I just did.

Doll Dress



This morning I decided to do some sewing, just for fun. I have been wanting to sew but there have been so many things hanging over my head that I just haven't made time for it. The house was reasonably clean(ish) and so I pulled out a pattern and got busy.

Soon my daughter noticed I was sewing and asked to look at my patterns. In the time I sewed, she drew 10 dresses that she wants me to make for her. While I will probably not make ten dresses for her any time soon, I have to say it was a happy span of time, as I sat sewing and my daughter sat chatting nearby.

I had everything I needed (pattern, fabric, notions), so this was completely free. I had enough for the skirt if I cut it in two pieces rather than on the fold, so I used ric rac to cover up the seam going down the middle. The dress fits pretty well, but it is a little tight at the neck.

This doll is Rebecca from American Girl. She was a gift to my daughter for her birthday but she hasn't been playing with her until recently. I figured since she was playing with her she could use some more clothes. When she first got her I was looking for patterns that were in the same era as Rebecca but then I realized my daughter doesn't care about that!

Cost: $0
Running Total: $51.05

Friday, September 25, 2015

Happy Fall!

It's fall! To celebrate the first day of fall, my daughter and I visited a local apple farm and got donuts and cider. Yum.


Also on the same day, our butterfly emerged from its chrysalis. Our pastor's wife gave us a caterpillar and the next day it became a chrysalis, and then we waited! And this happened:


God is so amazing! To think that a lowly caterpillar could become a butterfly is mind-boggling!


The weather here has been so lovely. It has been warm in the afternoons, though there is a slight chill in the wind to remind us that fall is indeed here! This evening we spent some time as a family walking and enjoying the weather.

Hope your fall is fabulous! :-)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

52 Projects (Project 20)

Say, I do believe I'm a little behind in projects. Does canning count as a project? No? How about homeschooling? No? (That's taking more time than any other "project" I've undertaken so far.)


Painted Acorns


One of my sisters sent me this link and I thought it looked simple and fun. One day, after a very long and hard school day (this post is encouraging for those hard days!), we needed to push "reset". I took my daughter to a park and we wandered around in the warm sun collecting acorns. We each had our own bag. When we came home I baked them at 170*F (as the link recommends) and then my daughter painted hers.


It's been almost a week now and I just got around to painting mine yesterday afternoon. I chose acrylic paints from my paint box that I've purchased for various reasons over the years, so this project cost nothing out of pocket!


Scavenged acorns: free!
Paint: on hand (so: free!)

I did buy a glass candle holder at the dollar store but I plan on using that for candles and other decorations year-round, not just for acorns. That was $1 but I'm not counting that as part of the cost of the project.

Cost: $0
Running Total: $51.05

Edit: After a few weeks, the acorns were covered with mold. I'm thinking it was because I baked them but I'm not really sure. 

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

September Past, September Now

Today I was reading through my blog, looking back at all the September archives. Some things change as the years go by and some stay the same.

September, 2014: sharing about canning and homeschooling

the shelves Kevin built last year

September, 2013: sharing about pansies and homeschooling (that reminds me, I should plant pansies again!)


September, 2012: a chattier month, but boiling it down I'm still talking about educating my daughter (though she hadn't started school yet), gardening and canning.

some of the sweet potatoes we grew that year

And this year? Well...the garden is slowing coming to an end. I panicked and bought tomatoes so I'd have enough for everything I still wanted to make. Our garden did relatively well this year but we had a few less plants than last year. And we're getting into the swing of school. This year I'm determined to be scheduled in the mornings. So far (1 + week in) it's working.

On Monday we were together with friends for Labor Day. They have a baby so I got lots of baby snuggles in, and in the process was adorned with drool, spit-up, and pee. I forgot how very liquid babies are, you know? I loved every minute of it, though I did hand him off to be changed when I got wet on. ;-)

With that, I'll leave you with this picture thought:



This is what life feels like right now, back and forth, back and forth! Wind in my hair, it feels like I'm really moving and going somewhere. I'm busy-busy-busy. But in looking back? Life is pretty much the same as it has been for a while. That's not bad, rhythm is good! And with the back and forth, the sameness of the months as they pass through, progress and growth are happening. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Homeschool First Grade: Looking Forward

School is coming around again! We're going to start a little earlier than the area schools, on August 31st, so we can get a head start! This will give us the chance to take a few extra days off as needed, and still finish mid-May. First grade, here we come! :-)

My school books and supplies, in the corner of our living room. 

This year, I am using all ABeka. There are many reasons why I really love ABeka, especially for these early years. I am probably going to switch things up in years to come, especially for history, science, and math. But for now, for this year, I am looking forward to ABeka! One thing I did this year was to spend HOURS buying my curriculum. I made a spreadsheet, compared prices, and sourced almost everything used. And then after all was said and done, I realized that I saved about $30-60. So next year, guess what? I am saving my TIME and buying directly from ABeka! I feel like individually, I got really good prices on everything. But collectively, I did not save a substantial amount of money!

The basket full of flashcards! Everything fits in one basket.

...and fits nicely on the shelf.

 I love ABeka! Have I said that already? K5 was super user-friendly. And then I went to organize everything in my school cabinet for 1st grade. Let me tell you, I had some moments of panic and frustration. It shouldn't be that hard to organize books! LOL I guess I just wanted everything in the perfect place! To help with organization, I did something that I am hoping will be a big help throughout the year. I took my three teacher manuals to Staples and had them cut the bindings off. Two of them had holes already punched, and the other one I brought home and punched myself. Now all three are in one big binder, which stands up nicely in the cabinet. We'll see if this helps or not!




As I mentioned in a previous post, we are not continuing on with Classical Conversations. We had our daughter registered and I was planning on being a tutor. The decision to pull out was kind of a last minute decision that has been in the works for almost two years. One thing that "clicked" with me this year at the training seminar was that Classical Conversations Foundations (the program for the younger children) is primarily to lay the...wait for it...foundation...for the upper grade levels. This is probably abundantly clear to many people but it is something that I hadn't fully comprehended about the program until the training seminar this year. Since we have no intention of taking CC to the upper grade levels with our daughter we decided now was the best time to leave CC. 

I found this whiteboard for only $6.99 at Aldi. Perfect for our little school area!
School-wise, I'm content with what we have in place. What I'm still praying about is the social aspect that we lose by not doing CC. I'm wanting to sink back into our homsechool days and enjoy learning at home together. I had planned on attending a group for girls twice monthly but just got word that it is canceled this year. I was disappointed, and at first had thoughts of creating my own group, but I feel strongly that this year is to be a year of rest for us. And creating and running a group is not restful! So instead of frantically searching, I am going to be praying for the right opportunities for us!

Even though I was homeschooled (5th-12th grades), in many ways I am learning along with my daughter. We're learning what works best for not only our daughter and our home, but for her teacher: me! It's all a work in progress! I am personally looking very much forward to first grade. My daughter is not quite as enthusiastic about school as I am, but I'm hoping that her attitude will improve and she'll catch my excitement! :-) 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Homeschool Kindergarten: Classical Conversations

We wrapped up Classical Conversations for the year last April. I was glad we did it again last school year. The first year was so hard. Sooo hard. If I had it to do again I probably wouldn't start with my daughter so young. However, I'm glad we did it because there were benefits.

This year the tutoring was SO MUCH easier. I knew how to do preparations ahead of time, and so I spent about eight hours or more working on things over the summer, which helped immensely.

I liked CC for my daughter for the following reasons:
:::great overview of history (through the timeline and history sentences)
:::the skip counting (counting by 2's, 3's, etc.) is a great base for multiplication
:::the fine arts and science experiments and projects are good exposure and provide memory pegs for later learning.

As with almost anything in life, there were downsides to CC for our family:
:::my daughter didn't always want to cooperate with learning the memory work at home, and learning to behave well in a classroom situation continued to be a struggle for her the first half of the year
:::in so much as it is very part time, tutoring is still a job and while I enjoyed it, it did take time every week to prepare for.

And if you've noticed the past tense of my statements, it is because, while we truly enjoyed and found benefit from CC, we decided not to continue in CC. I'll write more on that in my "looking forward" post.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Homeschool Kindergarten: Curriculum Choice

For our Kindergarten year, I used the following:

:::Classical Conversations
:::ABeka

Beyond that, we started out every morning with a time that included Bible stories, singing hymns, Bible verse memory, and me reading aloud from a chapter book. During our school year we read: Little House on the Prairie, Little House in the Big Woods, Betsy-Tacy, Betsy-Tacy and Tib, and Farmer Boy. This was my favorite part of our homeschool day. I loved just sitting on the couch next to my girl and going through these things.

I will admit that we didn't "do" much with the Classical Conversations (CC) curriculum at home. I focused on phonics and math for most of our school time. We did the memory work for CC, most of the time. What I found best for implementing the memory work into our homeschool was to listen to the memory songs during lunch. The focus on memory work wasn't there (my daughter just didn't do well with the "Let's listen to our memory work and memorize everything" approach), but my daughter still picked it up quickly. Of course, we attended every week at CC, which gave us science experiments, fine arts projects, and class time.



I love ABeka, especially for their great phonics program! It is so good. I loved how my daughter progressed in her reading skills. I feel like it is such a good base for reading. It is a structured curriculum. I know that some of my fellow homeschoolers would rather pick their own curriculum and make choices based on each subject. I understand, but at the same time for me personally, it just took a lot of the guesswork and piecing together a curriculum away - I bought the curriculum set and worked through it day by day and voila! my daughter went through Kindergarten. ;-)

This was a year of simplicity in our curriculum. Nothing fancy. Nothing extra. Just straightforward letters, sounds, phonics, reading, writing, numbers, math. It went fairly smooth. My daughter complained some. I imagine if she were going to school anywhere she'd still complain, so I'm not changing my curriculum based on her whining!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Homeschool Kindergarten: Homeschooling an Only Child

I've had several homeschool posts recapping Kindergarten sitting in my draft box and I wanted to post them before next school year starts. Some of them got a little long, so I'm attempting to edit them down a bit! But still, I broke them into several posts so it wouldn't get overly long. As I post them, I'll update this post with links.

Homeschool Kindergarten:
Homeschooling an Only Child
Looking Forward

Homeschooling an Only Child

The choice to homeschool is a very personal choice and one which I'm glad we have the freedom to make. Michigan is a great state to homeschool in. As of right now, there are no barriers to homeschoolers. There are many homeschool programs and classes to choose from in our area.



Socialization

So. We have an only child, and we're homeschooling. I think anyone on the outside would say, "but what about socialization???" but then they haven't met my daughter! She is very articulate and loves to socialize.

For 24 weeks of our school year we attended Classical Conversations once a week. She also attended our church's weekly Wednesday night program, which involves games, a lesson, and learning verses.  She enjoys these things. The thing I need to work on more is unstructured play with others. This one is a harder one for me because it means having others into our home and doing so on purpose.

Education

The big super plus about homeschooling an only child is that when you are done for the day you are done for the day! There's no juggling of lessons to accomplish. My daughter gets my entire attention for her school and then it is done.

On the "con" side of the equation, the cost of curriculum is higher because I am only able to use it once. However, I have found that the curriculum does somewhat hold its value, and is resalable. If I turn around and sell it as soon as I'm finished, I am still selling the current edition, so I suppose that is a plus! Also, I don't feel like I have the wiggle room to try different a curriculum if one isn't working, as it just wouldn't be cost effective. So far, I've been happy with my curriculum so this isn't a problem I've encountered thus far, but I can see how it could become an issue.

Life Outside the Home

As far as other homeschoolers are concerned, I personally have a hard time feeling as though I "fit in" at most homeschool events. This is not to say that others are unkind to me or make me feel unwelcome! It is just really hard to relate to someone who has six children under the age of 10. (I've met at least three people with this scenario.) Most of the moms I have talked with on a more personal level have been very gracious. A few months ago, I was at an event and ended up standing in line in front of a mom who was expecting #6. As we chatted, she was quick to point out to me that though she is busy, she could only imagine the unique challenges of having just one child - because there are no built-in play mates for my daughter. It was sweet of her to be so understanding! She knows how long her children play together and realized that if she had just one child she'd have much more "entertaining" to do.

I'm SO thankful that we have the opportunity to homeschool. If I struggle with anything related to homeschooling it is really just not having time during the day to myself (to do the fun things like, you know: dishes and laundry). And I'm sure this is something that most homeschool moms have a hard time with anyhow.

All in all, I truly love homeschooling and couldn't imagine school any other way!

Thursday, August 06, 2015

52 Projects (Project 19)

Men's Apron

I've had the pattern, fabric, and notions to make a sturdy men's apron for about 8 years now. If I recall, I spent around $13-15 for everything. Recently, I decided to make it as a gift for a male family member.

After cutting it out, I thought about adding something "more" to it, but couldn't figure out what. I didn't want it to look cutesy, so I finally settled on contrasting topstitching. It is kind of hard to see in the pictures, but in person it shows up very nicely.


At the fabric store, I picked out thread specifically for topstitching, and then headed over to the needles. On my way, I asked one of the employees if I needed a different needle for topstitching. My correct question should have been, "Will you help me find a topstitching needle, since your store has about 50 different needle options and it's all so confusing?" but I just asked if it was necessary. And she, being the hard-working person that she is(n't), looked at the thread and said, "no" in a very "meh" sort of way. She's not my favorite employee anyhow, she once told me not to shoplift. Do I look like the typical shoplifter??? And where did the fabric store come up with so many incompetent employees that neither sew nor care what happens to other people's projects?

Anyhow.

I was standing staring at the needles and along came a very helpful employee who showed me the exact needles I needed and told me exactly how to use them. (Bless her!) And for the record, if you use topstitching thread you will need a topstitching needle! It has a longer eye to accommodate the thicker thread.



The topstitching isn't perfect but I'm happy with it. It adds a little decorative punch without being too over the top! My machine didn't super love the combination of the heavy fabric and thick thread, but I soldiered through it.


It's hard to take a good picture of something so large! (Gah! Are those dead leaves already falling? Summer is passing too quickly!)

The cost of the thread and needles was $5.92.

Cost: $5.92
Running Total: $51.05


Saturday, August 01, 2015

52 Projects (Project 18)

Two Skirt Makeovers

My daughter loves to wear skirts! So when we were given a skirt and it was too short for her, I figured out a way for her to still wear it. Without altering or cutting the skirt at all, I added a ruffle from fabric in my bin:


Then, when we were shopping at Goodwill, she found a skirt that she had her heart set on. It was size 6 but the waistband was too loose and it was not adjustable. She pleaded for me to buy it, and I caved. :-)


One afternoon about a month ago, I tackled it with my seam ripper and scissors. I took off the elasticized part completely, leaving the rest of the skirt intact. 


And today I added a contrasting waistband with elastic that fits to my daughter's waist. The fabric isn't the same but it goes quite nicely with all the other fabrics used on the skirt!



I'm happy with how these skirts both turned out. Since I used material scraps and a piece of elastic that I had on hand, the cost of both of these skirts together was just under $1.60! Not bad for two garments!

Cost: $1.58
Running Total: $45.13