Friday, December 18, 2009

Decorating with the Word

This year was a challenge when it came to decorating.  1) It is our first official Christmas in this house.  There are several spots that could use a Christmas-y touch, but I just do not have deocorations to fill it all in.  I would prefer to do it over time and add a little each year.  2) It did not help that after several moves about half of the decorations I had were broken.  I figured at least it got me to clean out!  I may not have chosen those particular ones, but that's ok!  3) Most importantly, I really want to make sure that everything we display points to the real meaning- the birth of our Lord Jesus.  I know myself and I can get carried away with the decorating and spend more time and effort there than on actually celebrating the Birth. 
So, I have come up with a few ideas.  Some I will use next year so that I can get some after-Christmas deals.  This one I wanted to go ahead and do- decorating with the Word and quotes.

I used cardboard (from a curtain rod package) and cut it into rectangles.  I glued a piece of wrapping paper on to cover the cardboard.  I printed 6 scriptures or quotes and glued them over the paper.  Then, I just taped them to the inside of the cabinet door with raffia ribbon.  It did not take long at all.

I love walking by and catching a glimpse of these words that remind me of why we are celebrating.

Here are the quotes/ scripture:

“…stand up and lift up your heads,
because your redemption
is drawing near.”
Luke 21:28

Let every heart
prepare Him room

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him...
Isaiah 11:2

Bethlehem Bound!

Come, Lord Jesus, come!

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in His word I put my hope.
Psalm 130:5

Snow day!

Snow-soggied clothes now drying by the back door.  Leftover hot chocolate sitting on the stove.  Warming chilly feet by a toasty fire.  It was fun playing in the snow this morning!

A beautiful day already!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Just a good day

I am sitting with my four year old in his room.  He is supposed to be napping, but we compromised.  So I am now "working" while he plays on the floor.  He is using his truck (he named Craney), a washed out yogurt cup and some smarties to play.  He has such a creative mind. 
Jeff is wrapping things up at work.  The rest of the students will be heading home after the end of finals today.  This officially marks our Christmas break.  We are so excited to have daddy home to ourselves for a few weeks!  We LOVE the students, but this break in schedule is nice.
We were going to head to Asheville tomorrow to get a few things.  It looks like some wintry weather is coming in.  So, that trip may be postponed and instead we will have hot chocolate by the fire and (maybe!) play in the snow!  Either way, we will be together. 
My goals for the upcoming week:
1.  Get Jeff to wrangle to boys for a couple hours one day while I CLEAN!  I am oddly excited about this. 
2.  Make a packing list for our trip.
3.  Make some decorations I just had an idea for- using God's Word (more to come on that!).
4.  Stay caught up on laundry. 
5.  Enjoy my family!

Now I think I will head down to the floor and see what my wonder boy has come up with now.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Hot tea- I am totally doing a post on it!

I made tea the other night and thought how silly it would be to take pictures and do a blog on it.  Not to mention that my husband came in as I was "posing" the cups with the tea... he might just think I've totally lost it.  I have really gotten into drinking hot tea the last few months.  It is so comforting.  Not only that, it is GOOD for you.  So, of course, I wanted to see exactly how good it is.
Here are just a few benefits of drinking hot tea:
  • Helps you relax and concentrate
  • Contains antioxidants- slows down effects of aging
  • Temporarily increases short-term memory
  • Protects your bones
  • Aids in digestion
  • Helps fight infection
  • Reduces risk of heart disease
  • Can reduce the risk of several cancers (skin, breast, lung, colon, esophageal, and bladder)
Here's how to make a yummy cup of tea:
Use fresh water (lots of tea drinkers say filtered water is best).  I use tap, let it run for a few seconds, then fill the pot.  Bring to a boil.  Here's where it could get tricky.  For white, green and oolong teas the water does not need to be at a full boil before pouring over the tea.  Let it stand for about 30 seconds when you take it off the stove.  Black teas need to be very hot at a rolling boil.

While the water comes to a boil get your tea ready.  Using pre-made bags is easier, but may not have as much flavor or be as fresh ( I still use some!).  Loose tea needs to be measured- about a teaspoon per cup- and poured in the bag or strainer. 

Let the tea steep for 1-3 minutes.  I used to think the longer the tea bag was in, the stronger/ fuller the tea would taste.  WRONG!  No wonder it was always so bitter!  Some teas can steep longer, just check the instructions.

Add your honey, milk or lemon (not supposed to add milk AND lemon because it will curdle).  I always use honey and sometimes lemon when I have a cold.

Ahhhh... sit back and enjoy...

Teas currently in my cabinet:
Strawberry & Champagne
Orange and Hibiscus (drinking as I type)
Green Tea & Raspberry
Cold & Flu blend (pre-bagged)
Acai Green Tea (pre-bagged)

One of my goals for 2010 is to learn to crochet.  Here's one reason why:

Find it here.

Now off to finish my cup o' tea!

Monday, December 14, 2009

One of our Christmas traditions: Looking at lights

Since our first year of marriage, Jeff and I have enjoyed the fun tradition of driving around, looking at Christmas lights.  A couple years were a bust, but mostly we have seen cozy set-ups and amazing displays.  All varieties are fun to look at.  We always wear comfy clothes and bring a warm drink & snack.  This year we went out on a brisk, foggy night.  Bear had hot chocolate and a granola bar.  Little Buddy had juice and a Mum Mum (love those things!).  They got warm and toasty in the back seat.

Here is handsome daddy Santa.  He is so good about making things fun.  I love that man.

And there was a picture of me, but it was so crazy bad I had to delete it.  These are my babies' memories, for crying out loud!  We were supposed to snap another, but forgot.  Don't think I'm not above getting back in the van and taking another picture (just a few days later, in the light of the day, fresh hair and make-up maybe??).  Oh well.

We had a good time, though.  I love looking forward to this.  Bear was really excited, too.  This is the first year he seems to understand all the different aspects of the season.  We are trying to think of another fun, family adventure/tradition to do. 

Our sweet and simple Christmas decorations

We moved into our house 3 days before Christmas last year.  Needless to say, we did not decorate!  I was excited this year to see the house in festive bloom!  Because we did not have a lot of extra money, I made no new purchases (except for some dollar store goodies!).  I have a good idea of a few things I might look for after Christmas. 

Front door

Our good friends have a tree farm, so we got to go pick ours out and cut it down. 

Because we do not have a mantle we hung garland from these vents with ornament hooks.  It was perfect to hang the stockings.

I got these stockings at World Market before we had the boys!  I bought 2 extra- for future use.  This is our first year to have all 4 up.

Beethoven gets a hat every year.  :-)

In the dining room, I was trying to make an ornament wreath (SO not as easy as it looked here).  What I ended up with was a cluster-type thing.  I kind of like it.

Just some knick knacks on the hutch.  This might get some after-Christmas love.

I do like these jingle bells from the Dollar Store!

We are doing a Jesse tree for the first time. We started late, but I have really enjoyed the devotions. Bear likes the ornament hanging part. :-)

Close-up of our pretty nativity set.  We bought this in Ecuador on a mission trip.

Some gingerbread in the kitchen!

We tried to keep things simple.  I have so many ideas about what to do all over the house, but I do not want that to get in the way of why we celebrate. It will be fun to add a little here and there, though.  It's hard to have a healthy balance between the spiritual and physical sometimes, but we are trying!

I do really enjoy seeing how these super creative people decorate!

Christmas Tour of Homes with The Nester

Friday, December 11, 2009

My dirty microwave got me thinking

Usually, I keep the microwave pretty clean and disinfected. With the holidays and leftover chili, however, I have been in too much of a rush to wipe it out each time (because that would take a whole extra 30 seconds each time, right?).  So, it got a little funky:

I can't see all the greasy, filmy stuff in this pic- but it's there!
 As I was wiping out the greasiness and crusties, I began to wonder if it was actually bad for you to have stuff left on the inside surface, what is the safest way to clean them, are microwaves healthy in general ...?
Here's what I found.
FYI on what a microwave actually is- microwaves use elctromagnetic radiation to vibrate molecules inside the food.  This, in turn, will cause the food to heat up.  I am just waiting for my husband to say something (anything!) about the microwave so I can astound him with my new knowledge!

Do dirty microwaves contaminate food?
  • It is argued that the food splatters inside of microwaves can contain bacteria.  However, if used frequently, heating can kill the bacteria.  Food particles that sit for a longer period of time between microwave usage can have more bacterial growth.  So, beware if you are somewhere using a microwave with gunk inside and you do not know how long it has been there!
  • The more proven problem with food splatters is that as they coat the inside of the microwave, the heating ability is hindered.  So, foods may not be heated properly and it could ultimately shorten the life of the appliance.
Your best bet is to keep it clean!  How?
Natural cleaning tips for the microwave:
I have used the bowl of water trick to create steam and loosen food particles inside the appliance.  Here are some other ideas:
  • First and foremost- wipe up after every usage.
  • Add cut up lemon or a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice to a bowl of water.  Heat for 2-3 minutes.  Add more lemon to help with stronger cooking odors.
  • Use baking soda sprinkled on a sponge.  Wipe surface with a clean cloth to remove residue (it is not a chemical residue like some other cleaners).
  • Mix 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar and 1/2 cup water in a microwave-safe bowl. Bring it to a rolling boil inside the microwave. Wipe clean.
*Be very careful when handling the bowls of liquid as microwaves are known to superheat them and can cause serious burns. 

Does microwave use cause cancer or other conditions ? Here are 2 views:
  • The radiation produced by a microwave oven is non-ionizing. That means it does not have the cancer risks associated with ionizing radiation such as X-rays, ultraviolet light and high-energy particles. I still do not feel comfortable standing right in front of one while it is cooking! This site claims it is also okay to cook in the microwave stating that all cooking methods affect the nutritive value of foods due to heating.
  • This site goes all out to explain how microwaves do cause food to develop carcinogenic (cancer causing) properties as they are heated. He sites a few studies, but seems to think the negative effects will be evident later (I guess similar to cigarettes or maybe cell phone use... another topic!). The results of some of the blood studies are intersting, for sure (different groups of people were given foods cooked in a variety of ways, including microwaved and then had their blood tested).
"Significant changes were discovered in the blood samples from the intervals following the foods cooked in the microwave oven. These changes included a decrease in all hemoglobin and cholesterol values, especially the ratio of HDL (good cholesterol) and LDL (bad cholesterol) values. Lymphocytes (white blood cells) showed a more distinct short-term decrease following the intake of microwaved food than after the intake of all the other variants. Each of these indicators pointed to degeneration."
Here pretty much sums it up- microwaves may or may not cause cancer, but there is not conclusive evidence either way!

For my family I have been trying to find alternative heating methods for food that I would usually stick in the microwave (like re-heating leftovers on the stove, actually taking meat out to thaw the night before...).  Oh, I still use it frequently.  I am just trying to cut back and maybe, eventually forgo it altogether.  Until then, here's my girl all cleaned up:

Oh- and when I turned around for 10 seconds to snap the picture, this is what happened:

Normally I would not have stopped to find the camera... I just had it "on" and in my hand already!  FYI- he opened it himself.  He likes to get into e-v-e-r-y-thing. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The skinny on smart grocery shopping

I hate standing in the kitchen 20 minutes before lunch or dinner wondering, "What should we eat?!"  There have been times that I have pre-planned, shopped smart and had a week's worth of meals posted on the fridge.  I have tried clipping coupons, shopping sales (with coupons), made a menu off of what we had at the time in the freezer and pantry and thrown countless meals together at the last minute.  I want some consistent ORDER in my kitchen!  I have been reading a lot on the subject trying to see what is realistic for me.
Here are some options I have found:
1.  Coupon Clipping
No doubt the stories of buying $150 worth of groceries for $22.16 are inspiring.  There seems to be tons of info to help you get started.   Some tools needed for this method could be coupons, subscriptions to coupon sites, coupon filing method and pre-planned menus.  At you can get a course on clipping 101, printable coupons and they even compare weekly sales for certain stores.  These- and allow you to also print coupons online.  Just do a simple search and find more resources. 
The basic gist I get is that coupon clippers buy one or more newspapers every Sunday.  They also get the weekly paper with grocery ads.  They either clip or store the entire coupon flyer.  They match up coupons with sales to get the biggest bang for their buck.  Food menus are made according to what's on sale.  I admit, I get a little jealous when I see a super-organized mama with her trapper-keeper full of coupons (I just want to hold it and flip through each beautiful coupon-stuffed page). 
2.  Stocked Pantry Method
This is where you shop to stock your pantry.  Some tools required for this could be a price book (more to come on this), quality storage containers, food inventories, pantry space, extra freezer, menu plans and grocery list(s).  While still trying to take advantage of sales and coupons, this method works off some serious up front planning.  Cleaning out and taking an inventory of cupboards and the fridge/freezer is a good place to start.  Getting input from family members regarding favorite meals and foods will help with the menu planning.  Take time to put together menus of tried and true meals as well as new ones you want to try.  Make a master grocery list of weekly items you need to purchase.  Here's the getting your pantry stocked part- make another "wish" list of things you want to buy to bulk up your pantry.  Each week set aside an amount of money to make these purchases.  They could be certain spices, baking goods, pasta, etc.  As sales or clearances occur, you can really stock up.  Build your pantry slowly.  Eventually you will have enough that you can "shop" from your stored goods to supply the ingredients for your menus.  Your grocery lists will help you to know when to replenish.  Your lists will be determined by your family's needs.  You can do a search of "stocked pantry lists" to give you an idea of what to look for.
3.  Other methods that can be used with either of the above or on their own are a) Eat certain foods each night of the week.  For example, Monday is chicken, Tuesday is beef, etc.  b) Make sure to include leftover night.  We call ours Left-over-palooza.  Let everyone try to come up with their own creations using the leftovers.  c) In your menu planning, designate meals for eating out at restaurants or with family/friends.  This will give you something to look forward to.  And since you are saving money from actually cooking at home, when you do eat out it will be much more appreciated. 

The few times I have gone all out and done the coupn clipping/sales, the savings were definitely noticeable, but... I do not seem to be programmed for this right now! I can't remember to buy a paper on Sunday much less sit down with the coupons, ads, computer, cute trapper-keeper, and cook book!
I have not shopped to stock my pantry.  I am a little hesitant because of all the up-front work and then... what if I do not stick to it.  However, I feel like if I can get that part done (and it will be nice to get soooo organized) the method itself really appeals to me.
My plan:  I am going to tackle the stocked pantry. I will make 4 different weekly menus that we can recycle each month.  I will add in a new dish here and there to keep it interesting.  From that I will make my master grocery list.  Then, I will make a "wish" list for the other stuff. 
We do not have a pantry, but we do have decent cabinet space.  Here where most of the food is stored:

I may rearrange some things as I get going.  I am excited to finally have a system figured out!  BTW- I first got a great glimpse of this method here. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Our old house home tour

Before we moved to NC we lived in Georgia where my husband was a student minister.  When we felt God lead us to put our house on the market we did a H-U-G-E clean out.  We did not know what God had planned for us, where we would go, if we would stay... So, we just decided to get rid of as much stuff as possible.  I wish I had pics of the yard sale- it was massive!  I love seeing home tours and since I happened to take pics of all the rooms for selling purposes, I thought it would be fun to post it.  Look for Bear hiding out in some of the pictures!  :-)

Front View

Garden outside front door
 This was special because we planted the bushes right after I had the miscarriage and it made the space so beautiful.

Living Room

From the LR into the kitchen/ DR

From the kitchen


Laundry room leading out to garage

This is Bear's room when he was in a crib...

by the time we sold the house he was in a big boy bed.

Master BR

Master bath- I only included this b/c I MISS a master bathroom!

Deck out back

I was a great house and a wonderful blessing to us!  I like looking at these pictures to inspire me when I need to clean out!
I was a little nervous about the sale, since the housing market was already so tough and we had several houses in our neighborhood for sale.  God is good!  It sold in 6 weeks!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Kick back

My boys take a minute (or 10-15) to wake up in the morning and after naps.  This is a great chance to sneak in some extra cuddles.  Here, they each kicked back on some comfy pillows. 

It's not often that they are both still, at the same time.  I had to capture the moment.

Kid's Chores

I have thought long and hard about how to begin official chores for Bear.  He is 4 now. I realize lots of people start earlier (or later), but I think I finally found what will work for us.  I saw this idea a long time ago and it has stuck in my head ever since.  Make a card for each chore.  You can use clipart and insert a picture and then label it, free hand a drawing or simply use the name of the chore.  I am going to take a picture of him doing the chore and then label it.  After the cards are made punch a hole in the top.  Hang them in a row in a spot where you and the child can see them throughout the day.  Make a tack strip or use the Command Hooks (this is what I will do).  As each chore is complete, the child gets to turn the card over.  You can flip them all back over before the next morning.
Here Bear is doing one of his chores.

It will take some time up front to get it together. I have a list of chores I think will work.  I will just have him do them all and follow with the camera.  He might enjoy the newness, so I can get some smiles! 
Here are the cards I plan to make:
Brush teeth, hair
Make bed
Get Dressed
Pick up toys
Sweep kitchen
Great attitude
Read Bible

Clear table
Brush teeth, hair
Pick up toys
Great attitude

I wanted to start with some stuff we already do and will add more as necessary.  You can also make up extra cards for chores you want to throw in that will not be for every day.

There are charts galore online, too.  These can be a great, tool, as well. 

Now, how long 'til he can cook and do dishes?? :-)

Controling the Baby Clutter

No doubt about it... babies take up a LOT of space.  There is a gadget for everything we could need or desire, it seems.  We were fortunate to have several things loaned or gifted to us with Little Buddy.  We had precious few things left over from when Bear was a baby, so I was very excited to have so much gear.  But, boy, it accumulates quickly!  Because we had just moved into out house when Little Buddy was only 3 weeks old, most of my time was spent trying to get unpacked.  I was so used to setting up house in less than a week from our previous moves.  This time it took months and months.  Needless to say, baby organization was not at the top of the list (not when I could be sleeping instead!).  Here is what the living room looked like at the pinacle of THE BABY IS TAKING OVER!:

Here are the tips:
For the big items (like exersaucers, swings, bouncy seats, etc.):
1.  Determine what the baby really enjoys and purge the rest.  Take one to a relative's house you visit regularly, donate one to the church nursery or pass one along to a friend who needs it.
2.  Make stations thorughout your home.  Do you need 4 contraptions in one room?  Keep one in the kitchen, your bedroom, dining room, etc. so you have a place to safely keep the baby while you are in those rooms.  You can move them around to keep it interesting for baby.
Baby toys:
3.  Give guidelines to relatives regarding your desires.  They are usually more than willing to purchase something they know you really want, rather than waste their money. 
4. Make a wish list and give it to Nana, for example, and ask her to help make sure the family goes by it or as close as possible..
5.  Ask a friend to help.  Many hands make light work and she will likely be able to move more quickly through the purge than you, as she is not as emotionally attatched. 
6.  Keep a box and bag by the changing table.  When something gets too small you can check it for stains or wear.  If it is in bad shape, throw it out.  If you want to save it for future babies, toss it in the box.  What you do not want to keep can go in the bag for donation.  When the box is full label it with the size and store it.  When the bag is full go ahead and drop it off. 
7.  Every 2 weeks or so do a a quick purge of all the clothes to pull out sizes that no longer fit.  This will only take a few minutes and will help you see what you have and keep from forgetting about outfits that were buried. 
No closet for baby clothes? 
8.  Use a wire shelf mounted on the wall.  It does not even have to be the type specifically for clothes hanging.  They are more expensive.  Baby clothes are small enough to work on the standard shelf.  One or 2 hangers will fit in each notch.
9.  Use a drying rack tucked in the corner to hold clothes on the hanger.

Just remember, the first year goes by so quickly and before you know it all the baby stuff is gone.  The less you have to tame, the simpler your life will be.  Enjoy this season while you have it and don't obsess over absolute order!

Figuring Out the Curriculum, part 1

So I have been reading everything I can get my hands on regarding homeschooling, looking at a gazillion blogs (lots of good stuff out there!) and talking to a few Mamas I know who have done it. There are so many curriculum options! Do I "start" the official schooling next year when Bear is 5 or wait? Am I behind already because I have not been doing specific studies? Will I scar him if I try to make him read or write too early? Aghhhhh!
After taking a break from the homeschool brain saturation I have decided to make a general plan. I will get a few aids I have read about, make up some unit studies, pick and choose from various book lists and use the ol' internet for lots of free stuff.
Here are some sites I have stumbled upon offering free resources:

Now... what from these sites will I use? Not sure yet. I need to make a getaway date for myself to start the serious planning. I will post an update for The Homeschol Plan of Action when I get it together.
I plan to use a lot of hands on learning, as well. Play, play, play!
In a future post I will explain my grand ideas for organization. I'm a little giddy about that one.