Thursday, December 29, 2011

Curly Girl

I've had curly hair forever.  My dad's hair was naturally curly, but all my life he's been bald.  When I was little the women at church would look at my curls and say, "Oh you have your father's hair!"  I would look at my daddy and think I literally had his hair, since my daddy was bald.

Growing up, I hated my hair.  My sister has this beautiful head of thick STRAIGHT hair!  She can get that cute little bob haircut that I always wanted.  I used to drag a brush through my hair to try and make it look straight.  Of course, that just made me look like I was wearing a brown cotton ball on my head.  My mother's favorite school picture is the one where I was too sick to fight her about my hair.  I had missed the first picture day because I had strep throat.  On make-up picture day...I had strep throat again. (a year ago I had my tonsils removed)  My mom made arrangements to take me to school through a side entrance just for my picture.  I didn't feel well, so she got to do my hair and make it look natural.  It was the one and only elementary school picture where I didn't have a forced part on the side of my head because I had brushed and brushed and brushed.

My hair has often been the bane of my existence.  I've had trouble finding hairdressers because although it may be 6 inches long when you cut it, my hair will sproing to a 2 inch tight spiral as soon as it's dry.  A hairdresser has to be able to anticipate that.  It's also incredibly dry.  I've used tons of special shampoos and even bought really expensive shampoo, conditioner, and styling products before the boys were born.  But even with special potions, my hair was still hard to manage, dry, and humidity killed it!

Then I found curly girl.  I actually learned how to take care of my hair from a group on  Ravelry is a knitting and crochet community.  My girlfriend told me that there is a group on Ravelry just for those with curly hair.  That's where I found curly girl.  As you can see from the picture above, I still have my curls, but I don't have the frizz any more!

I learned the details of caring for curly hair from this blog post.  But here's the summary:

  • I "wash" my hair with suave coconut conditioner.  I scrub my scalp and hair and then rinse the conditioner completely.
  • I put in Garnier Nutrisse triple-conditioner for dry/damaged hair and leave it in while I finish showering.
  • I only partially rinse out this conditioner.
  • When I get out of the shower, I don't use a towel to dry my hair, and my hair stays pretty wet.
  • I add lots of suave Max #8 gel to my hair and scrunch it into my wet hair.
  • I let my hair dry naturally and I don't touch it.
  • Once my hair is completely dry, I scrunch out the gel.

Using this method, the humidity doesn't turn my head into a frizzy mess.  I get thicker curls with this method too.  Long story longer...I actually like my hair!  I haven't really liked my hair for most of my life.  It only took 40-something years, right?  So, I wonder, do you all like your hair?  Let's weight in on this.  Am I the only one?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Trying to eat with a Penguin...

Penguin is our very spoiled, less than one-year-old puppy.  He loves to wrap himself around your shoulders like a cat would.  One night, the Big Dog was trying to eat a snack and our Penguin wanted to know what he was eating.  The video above are the results.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Traditional After Christmas Soup

Tonight we had the soup I usually make shortly after Christmas.  You see, our traditional Christmas dinner includes a Cornish game hen for each of us.  When the meal is over, I take all the bones, fat, and skin from the hens and pile it into the crock pot.  I add the tops of some celery, an onion (with the skin) sliced in half, a couple carrots snapped in half, two garlic cloves, and a small palm-full of peppercorns.  Then I pour cold water over all of it to fill the crock pot and turn it on low for 20 hours.  After cooking, I strain off all those solids and I'm left with a beautiful rich broth.  That goes into the refrigerator so the fat can solidify on the top.  I remove that fat and I have an almost fat-free beautiful rich broth.  That is the basis for our traditional after Christmas chicken noodle soup.  I'm not a traditional chicken noodle soup fan, so I thought I would share this with you because it's really good, if I must say so myself.
Remember that fat that I spooned off the top of the cooled broth?  I start with a couple tablespoons of that and melt it over medium heat in a large stockpot.  Then I add two carrots, two stalks of celery, and an onion roughly chopped. I sautee this in the chicken fat for at least 5 minutes until the onion is translucent and the veggies are soft.  Then I add two minced garlic cloves just for a few seconds before I pour in the chicken broth and the leftover chicken (maybe about 2 cups).  THEN I add two regular-sized cans of cream of chicken soup.  Tonight I used the 97% fat free variety.  As the broth gets warm, the cream of chicken soup melts into it and thickens it slightly.  Oh, I also add a large pinch of salt and several twists of the pepper grinder.

Once this is all boiling, keeping it at medium heat, I add an entire bag of noodles.  Tonight I had rotini noodles that were various veggie colors (green, orange, red, and regular pasta colored).  Usually I use a bag of egg noodles, but I didn't have any tonight.  Spaghetti noodles broken in half or in thirds would be great too.

After about 5 minutes the pasta is cooked enough and SO flavorful and your soup is ready to serve.  Both of our boys had four servings.  No that is not a typo.  The boys had four servings tonight.  Give it a try!  It's such great flavor.  What are some of your traditional holiday meals?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Good News Bad news

We had a bit of bad news last week. The fireplace insert we have been using for many years is not able to be repaired. We have supplemented our expensive oil heat by burning wood in a fireplace insert that blows the hot air through our small home keeping it quite comfortable. Well, by the end of the week, the insert had been removed and we had an empty fireplace. So what did we do? We made lemonade!

You've heard that saying, right? When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade? We got a few large jars from the cafeteria at my husband's work; washed them; and placed a small pillar candle in the bottom of each jar. Here's the non-romantic pic:

Ah yes, but HERE's the money shot:

For a few dollars in thrift-store pillar candles and five free gallon-jars from the cafeteria, we have a very lovely look for our now-empty fireplace. I think I like it! What do you think?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

How to Take Pictures of Christmas Lights with an Inexpensive Digital Camera.

Each year we kick off our Christmas season with a trip to see the "Sweet Lights" in Hershey. Since my dad works as an EMT for Hershey Entertainment, he gets to be part of an employee preview a week before Thanksgiving. He graciously takes the Big Dog, the boys and I to see the sweet lights during that employee night.

We have an inexpensive digital camera that is a few years old. And I LOVE the light displays at Christmas time. SO I needed to figure out how to take quality pictures of the lights. If you want to know how I did it, I'll tell you:

Our camera has a scene setting. It is marked as SCN on a dial at the top of the camera. When the camera is set to scene, there is a sub-menu that you can scroll through on the screen. If you would like to take pictures of the lights at Christmas, choose "fireworks" from that sub-menu.

Now, when you take a picture on this setting, you will have to be REALLY patient. You click the button to take the picture and then the shutter stays open for a really long time to capture the picture. DON'T MOVE! Hold your camera as steady as you can until the picture is taken. You may think that something has gone wrong with your camera. It hasn't. Hold your arms still and keep them pointing at your object. After several long seconds, you will hear the camera take the picture and see the image on your screen.

The seconds it takes to take the picture seem like an eternity, but do not despair. Keep your arms as steady as you can and your camera pointed at the picture you want and you will be rewarded. This is the best way I have found to take pictures of especially low-light situations. And, as you can see, I get pretty good results with light displays. Give it a try!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Love Notes

I was finishing a load of laundry after everyone had gone to bed. I was tired and just wanted to have this chore finished. And then I stopped all I was doing. There was a message for me on our basement floor. Yeah doing the laundry isn't so bad after all.

Reduce, Reuse, Re-recipe

I was sitting at the table while Big Mac was finishing up his math. I had a few recipes on the table and a new magazine. Of course, when you flip through a new magazine, you end up with a bunch of those little subscription cards all over the table.

One ongoing project for me is to take all of the recipes I have and put them onto cards that will fit into my wooden recipe box. It's a slow process and I'm not great at getting through my hundreds of recipes. But tonight, those little subscription cards gave me total inspiration! I could use these perfectly-sized cards for my recipes.

A few minutes later, after cutting the recipes and pictures and pasting them onto the cards, I had a pretty attractive recipe card and I didn't have to use a notecard, or throw away a perfectly good piece of cardstock!

So, reduce, reuse, re-recipe and put those sub-cards to good use today! Here's my ending result:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Supper tonight

This was tonight's supper. Stuffed pepper soup in the crockpot and my Weight-Watcher's-ified Rachel Cresent Sandwiches. The original recipe is here. But my version used fat free thousand-island, reduced fat shredded cheddar, and reduced fat crescent rolls. Oh, I also used leftover turkey from the roast turkey I made last week instead of the lunchmeat. It came it at 7 WW points for 1 serving if you cut the 9x13 casserole into 8 pieces.

The stuffed pepper soup came from a recipe from my dear friend Robin. Add all of this to your crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours:

1 bottle v8 juice

1 box beef stock

4 large peppers, chopped (when chopped they use up about 1/3 of a 12-cup crock pot)

1 large onion, chopped

salt & pepper

2 pound ground venison (you can use ground turkey, or beef)

A one-cup serving is only 3 weight watcher's points!

And the double-bonus is that I got to use my new plates again! This time, for soup and sandwich night.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Thrift Store...uh...Sunday?

I did get to go to my favorite thrift store on Thursday. The Big Dog was home with me and we dropped the boys off at youth group and had a date! It was lovely. I got a bunch of candles, another pair of dressy earrings, and these luncheon plates with cups:

I just really liked them and thought they were sweet. The mug sits in a special spot that has been marked out just for it. I had visions of putting muffins and tea on them for an afternoon tea-time; or maybe a sandwich and small cup of soup in that sweet little glass mug.

Fast-forward from Thursday to last night, Saturday. I had been away with my knitty friends for the afternoon. I put supper for the Big Dog and the boys in the crock pot and they ate a late lunch. So by the time I got home a little after 6 PM, everyone was hungry. I brought chips and salsa home and was planning to just put out a stack of paper plates and the snacks. Then, Big Mac said, "We sould use our new plates!" And THIS was his idea:

Salsa in the mug and chips on the plate. These little luncheon plates are PERFECT for this snack.

I have seen these plate sets at the thrift store in the past. Maybe you can find a set for you and your family to use for snacks, sandwiches OR chips and salsa!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Michael Vey

I received a copy of the book "Michael Vey The Prisoner of Cell 25" by Richard Paul Evans to read to the boys and review here. This book had us riveted from the very first chapter. It is definitely an adventure fit for our boys, but any student loving a good adventure where good triumphs over evil will love Michael Vey. This book has clearly defined good and evil characters, which I love. I'm disheartened to see where popular media has taken beloved heroes like Spider Man and shown them flawed, selfish, or whiny. So anytime we can read a book where you know clearly who the good guys are and they accept their tasks with bravery and courage, I'm a fan.

I am a fan of Michael Vey. Richard Paul Evans has written a nail-biter. This is a book that you will want to flip to the last chapter just to make sure it all works out ok, but don't do it! The plot unfolds at just the perfect rate and you will be pleased with the ending. But the ending leaves you anxious to read the next book. And there will be a next book.

If you're a homeschooling parent, or older student, there is a great homeschool packet (57-page PDF) at But this book totally stands alone as a good read and is not a homeschool-based book. This is just a neat supplement that can allow you to use the novel as a learning experience.

So, if you know me at all, you know I'm a quote collector from everything I read. I collected four from Michael Vey, but I'm going to share two with you now:

page 260: "You don't really nave to be smart to get good grades. Just good at what they tell you to do."

page 279, my favorite quote: "I was filled with gratitude for my unseen friends and I learned that harboring an emotion as powerful as gratitude has power of its own."

Michael Vey The Prisoner of Cell 25 is available at all major booksellers. Get a copy and read it with your pre-teens or teens. It will get you talking. It will get you reading. It will get you together. There's nothing better than that.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of "Michael Vey the Prisoner of Cell 25" in order to review it here on my website. I did not have to give a positive review. This is my true opinion. We all loved this book.

FFH's Christmas Albumn

Aroung our house, I'm not allowed to listen to Christmas music until AFTER Thanksgiving! So, when I received a copy of FFH's new Christmas Albumn to review, I had to sneak a listen before Thanksgiving. I'm so glad I did. This has been my go to Christmas albumn ever since I received it.

Filled with a combination of secular and Christian Christmas music, "One Silent Night" is enjoyable, entertaining, and also uplifting. There are a couple songs that I would love to use as part of a Christmas worship set. There are some of my secular favorites like "Baby It's Cold Outside" mixed with songs about Jesus' birth that will become your new favorite's for the season.

FFH has a facebook and a twitter presence. So if you are a fan of their beautiful blends (of which there are MANY on this new Christmas albumn) then you should find them and friend them. I have been a fan for years and 'One Silent Night' is just another reason to be an FFH follower.

"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


I received a downloadable copy of Brittany Hargest's new albumn 'Love All the Way' to review. All I can say is SO FUN! I loved this CD. The music is uplifting and inspiring, but also very danceable and entertaining. If you know someone who is into pop music, they would love this albumn. But 'Love All the Way' is also inspiring, so giving it to a music-loving friend would also give them encouragement in the Lord.

This is a great albumn that I thoroughly enjoyed. It will be on my ipod for a long time to come. It's really great walking music because most of the albumn is so upbeat. If you want a sneak preview, check her out on Youtube.

There is also a

Facebook Page and Twitter Account for you to get to know Brittany better. She was formerly with Jump 5 and this albumn has a bit of that fun feel to it, but it is definitely more mature.

Finally, get your copy of this CD on iTunes You'll be glad you did!

"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Monday, December 5, 2011

Vegetable Tart

I saw this recipe in an email from our grocery store and I had ALL the ingredients for it, so I gave it a try. It was so good! This is a little bit of a variation from the original, so mine didn't look EXACTLY like the version above, but I assure you, it was delicious.

Autumn Vegetable Tart

6 cups of assorted fresh vegetables. (I used 2 C. broccoli florets, 1 sliced onion (about 1 C.) 1/2 a sliced red pepper (about 1 C.) and baby carrots cut into quarters (about 2 C.))

3 T. Extra virgin Olive Oil

1 tsp. dried thyme

2 large cloves of minced garlic

1/4 tsp Kosher salt

1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper

1 refrigerated pie crust

15-oz fat free ricotta cheese

1 egg

1/4 grated parmesan cheese, plus 1 Tbs.

dried rosemary

Toss veggies with 2 Tbs. olive oil. Roast at 425 degrees for 25 minutes, tossing once. While the veggies are roasting, roll out the dough to an almost 12-inch diameter. I rolled it right on my big round stone baking pan. Mix ricotta, parmesan and one egg really well. Spread that mixture onto the pie crust leaving a 1 inch ring around the outside of the pie crust. When the veggies are done, spread them evenly on top of the ricotta mixture. Sprinkle the top with the 1 Tbs. of parmesan cheese. Fold the outer ring of pie crust up to make a crimped edge around the outside of the tart. Put back into the 425 degree oven and bake for 20 minutes. When it comes out of the oven the last time, drizzle 1 Tbs of the olive oil over all. Cut into wedges and serve.

This was even good cold for lunch the next day!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

"New" Curtains in the Kitchen

Disclaimer: This is not an original idea! I know I saw this idea somewhere in the blogosphere, but I can't remember where.

I recently changed the valances in our kitchen. I found several vintage aprons on a recent thrift store trip to add to my collection. I love aprons and wear them on particularly busy-efficient-gotta-get-stuff-done days. I have a collection of them that I work my way through during the week. But when I saw the idea to use aprons as curtains or valances I had to give it a try.

So a few weekends ago I took down the old valances I had made from tea-towels, wiped down the windows and sills, ironed my aprons and pinned them to the curtain rods. I used wooden clothes pins to attach the aprons to the rods. The pictures below don't do them justice. They're really cute! (if Ihave to say so myself) Check 'em out!

Here are two of them over our kitchen sink. This window looks out over the "screaming porch." Most normal families would call it a screened-in-porch.

This is our kitchen door. It's the door we use the most, and leads out into the mud room and then into the driveway.

And finally, this is the window near the kitchen table. All of these aprons I bought for a few dollars total at thrift stores. I spent a little time deciding which aprons go together the best and ironing them. So for a few bucks and even few hours I have a new look in my kitchen. And I love it! What do you think?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thursday at the Thrift Store

It's Thursday. I love Thursday. On Thursday afternoon's the boys go to "Edge" which is a youth group/gym time. They spend two hours playing games and being active, as well has having devotions and, sometimes, worship. I spend two hours visiting my favorite thrift store, having a latte and squeezing in an errand or two. Want to see what I got today?

All the cute novelty buttons you see here were $.75. I just love them. There are some cute strawberry themed buttons, a set of fall buttons with leaves, birds and bird nests. A complete package of flowers with two flower pot buttons. And another set called "wedding" that have a sage green color running through them. They are very beautiful. Oh, and there was one Beatrix Potter "Peter Rabbit" button that I just couldn't pass-up. It was too sweet!

Next, I got the "Roll-o-Ruler." This is the coolest ruler! It has a rolling bar on it. So say you want to draw two lines that are two inches apart. You draw the first line and then you roll the ruler backward or forward and watch the measurments tick-off on the rolling bar until you get to two inches. Then you draw another line. And voila! You have two lines two inches apart.

THEN I got the movie Sleepless in Seattle. I'm a sucker with any romantic comedy especially if it has Meg Ryan in it. I watch You've got Mail about six times a year, at least. So this was a good addition to my movie collection. I also got four votive candles and two brand-new pillar candles. Now that the days are shorter, it cheers us all to light candles all around the living area of the house. Getting candles inexpensively at the thrift store allows us to burn even more!

I got these three plates. I just LOVE the pattern. I wish they had four, but they didn't so I took what they had. And they were only $.25 each! These are little saucers, but I'll use them to serve muffins for tea or maybe a few cookies.

So far, so good right? I got a bath mat for $4. I forgot to take a picture of it, but it's a cotton bath mat with light blue, dark blue, white and yellow stripes. It's kind of beachy. It's one of those that doesn't have the rubber backing on it so you can wash it to your heart's content without having it fall apart! Yay! I was just telling the Big Dog that I wanted a new mat that didn't have the rubber on it. We priced them at Wal Mart and they were at least $15.

Finally, just for me, and just for fun....these earrings. I LOVE them! They make me smile. They're surprisingly light in my ears and they DO make a statement, don't they?
So have you snagged any good bargains lately? Have you wished for something and had God provide it for you on the shelves of a thrift store? Share! Share!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Effectual Gratitude

That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.
Philemon 1:6

I read this and thought, "It can't be that simple." Sharing my faith has always been a point of concern for me. I want to live out Jesus in me, but I fear rejection. That's a pretty scary truth to admit to you, but the truth it is.

So this morning I read this verse in Philemon. You know Philemon, right? That little 25-verse book near the end of the New Testament is Paul's letter to a slave-owner. Paul encounters a run-away slave and leads the man to Jesus as his savior. Now, this runaway needs to make his life right and return to the owner from which he ran. Paul writes a letter to Philemon, the owner, to tell him that the slave is now a Christian.
But its verse 6 at which I paused this morning. Let me read it to you again: "That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus."

I read this verse this morning and quickly scanned through as many "good things" as I could in my mind.  The list is exhaustive.  Paul says that acknowledging every good thing in me from Jesus will make taking about my faith "effectual" or sound, strong, powerful, successful! Could it be that gratitude will lead others to Christ? Yes! If I acknowledge every good thing that's in me from Jesus, which is EVERYTHING, then people will see Jesus in me. Sharing Jesus with others can be as simple as showing gratitude to the one who gave you everything in a public way.

I have a friend, Rachel, who said once that she decided not to leave a place without sharing Jesus with someone. Even if she went to the grocery store, she wasn't going to leave unless she told someone about Jesus. But it was her definition of "telling someone about Jesus" that was interesting. She didn't think she had to full-on witness to a person everywhere she went. She just made sure to acknowledge God publicly every place she went. So, using that grocery store example, if Rachel ran into a neighbor and the neighbor told her about their new dining room table, Rachel would say, "Well, I think that's terrific that God would allow you to buy a brand new dining room table. Praise God for His provision." She acknowledged God everywhere she went, even if it was just through gratitude.  And, by her definition and apparently Paul's definition as well, she shared Jesus in her world.

Gratitude seems like such a simple thing. I mean, I have so much to be grateful for. Just being grateful seems like a too-easy way to share Jesus with others. But according to the book of Philemon, verse 6, acknowledging who gave me these many blessings could change lives.  Who knew?


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Strange Devotional

I have a devotional I use sometimes that probably wasn't meant to be a devotional.  And yet it's a very inspiring resource.  One time I talked to you about not overlooking a resource just because it's not meant for children your children's ages.  Well the same can be said about overlooking books with Christian spiritual content that could be used as devotions.  Here's a picture of the book I'm talking about:

Yep, it's a hymnal.  It's an older hymal published in 1941 for youth.  It's thin, with some hymns I've never heard of.  Not only are there hymns, but also a lot of supplemental readings.  There are great responsive readings at the back that are all scriptural.  There are pages entitled "Prayers and Collects" that have some beautiful writings.  There is poetry and extra readings meant for special services.  And then of course there are the hymns.  Some of the hymns I've never heard of, but they are beautiful and always apt.  I manage to find a reading, hymn or poem in this book that encourages me every time I pick it up.

It's an unlikely book to think of as a devotional, but it points me to God when I read and it's definitely inspiring.

So, don't overlook older books that are Godly but not necessarily meant as a devotional.  You will be inspired.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The View is Still There

I was reading a devotional this morning and my mind drifted from what I was reading. The devotional talked about a hiker coming down from a lovely vista only to be swallowed up by a sudden black storm. As the devotional continued in a different direction, I thought, “Yes, but the vista was still there, even though the hiker couldn’t see it.”

There are some days when it’s easy to be confident in who you are and the nurture of your family.  Some days, you spend the day walking around in gratitude for all that you have.  And then there are those days.  You know the ones.  There are those days where we spill the coffee in the morning tripping over the dog’s dishes that were supposed to be put away after the evening feeding.  The children wake up grumpy and getting them organized for their day becomes a near impossibility.  On those days, it is a battle to be grateful to even see what there is to be grateful for!
But, here’s the thing, the vista is still there.  Just like the hiker who couldn’t see the beautiful mountains or the colors on the trees when he was engulfed by a dark storm, that doesn’t mean the mountains and trees were no longer in existence.  He just couldn’t see them for the storm that surrounded him.

We may not feel like being grateful.  We may not even be able to SEE what there is to be grateful for!  But it’s still there.  All those things that you were able to see a few days ago when your day went better are still there.  It’s just a little too dark for you to see them right now.
And so, that’s a good reason to keep a gratitude journal.  A gratitude journal is simply a notebook where you write down a few things that you are grateful for each day.  It’s an important practice, the practice of gratitude.  Discipline yourself to write down at least three things every day that you are grateful for.  On those days when, maybe, you can’t think of a single thing to write down on your gratitude list, look back for those days when you were able to list dozens of things and remember that those things for which you were grateful last week are still here.
Sometimes, our perspective just shifts.  We are unable to see the “forest for the trees” as they say.  Your gratitude journal will help you to keep your focus on the many blessings the Lord has given you.

We had a pastor who was fond of saying, “God is good.”  To which we would all respond, “All the time.”  Then he would say, “All the time” and we would say, “God is good!”  He is good ALL the time.  Sometimes our own circumstances just make it difficult to see that.  So, join me in keeping a gratitude journal to help us see through the darkness.

NOTE:  If you’re looking for a great book about gratitude, read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts.  I am SLOWLY working through this book.  It's one of those books that I never want to end and I want to consume in small bites to make it last longer.  And it is one of those I could never loan to another person, but I would give as a gift over and over again.  We’re talking life-changing stuff here.

Monday, October 3, 2011

DVD Winner

Congratulations go out to:




You've won a copy of Beverly Lewis' The Shunning DVD!  I know you will love it.  I certainly did.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Another contest winner

About a week ago, I told you about the CD, Furious by Jeremy Riddle.  I'm thoroughly enjoying this CD and I know you will too.  I ran a quick contest with the people who commented to my original post about the CD.  Today is the day to pick a winner!  Since there was only one comment, picking a winner was easy.  Our winner is Bobbi!

Congratulations!  You'll  get that CD very soon.  I hope you enjoy it!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Winners from my Molly Green Interview

Almost a week ago I posted an interview with Molly Green.  At the end of that interview, I offered up two great prizes for anyone who posted a comment on my blog.  I had   comments and from them, I picked two winners.

First, the winner of a one-year subscription to The Old Schoolhouse Digital Magazine:


Congratulations Phyllis!

And now, the winner of The Schoolhouse Planner:


I know you will love BOTH of these prizes.  Jennifer, I love-love-love my planner and use it on a weekly basis.  And the line up of writers for The Old Schoolhouse is phenominal.

Enjoy your prizes!

If you didn't win, I've got two other contests ending soon!  Leave a comment to win a copy of the new "Furious" CD here.  Leave a comment to win "The Shunning" DVD here.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Come to Lancaster County with Me

I have read most of Beverly Lewis' books.  She writes about the Lancaster County Amish.  Often, her books come in three or four-part series.  They focus on a community of Amish families not far from the town in which I grew up.  As a matter of fact, every Fall, my mom, sister, and I spend a weekend in Lancaster County and we drive among the horse and buggies, and meet Amish men and women as we shop and eat.  I love Mrs. Lewis' books, however, because they give you a glimpse into the intimate details of the Amish lives.  You learn so much about their lifestyle and practices while in her books.

The DVD, "The Shunning" is based on Mrs. Lewis book of the same name.  And it is the glimpse into Amish life that I also receive when reading her books.  As a matter of fact, I promised my mom, who has also read all of her books, that she could watch this DVD, and yet I want to keep it because I feel somehow connected to the characters.

Check out the movie trailer here:

Beverly Lewis' The Shunning - Video | Hallmark Channel.

The shunning is the story of a young Amish girl who is a talented musician in a community where instrumental music and anything not found in the Amish hymnal are strictly forbidden.  Katie Lapp is also struggling to come to grips with the loss of her first love who disappeared years ago, assumedly dead.  Although her life continued, and she plans to marry the bishop, her heart is still back several years with Daniel who has been missing for years.  And then, a mysterious stranger from the city of New York appears on the scene and suddenly Katie's life is turned upside down, leading her to take actions that require her Amish friends, family, and church to shun her.

As I said, you will get emotionally connected to Katie at one viewing of this DVD.  I really did.  However, I do have a spoiler alert:  Just like Mrs. Lewis books, this movie does not tie up all the loose ends neatly.  That's why I am really hoping for a sequel!

I enjoyed Beverly Lewis' The Shunning very much and I think you will too.  If you would like to win a copy, simply leave a comment here.  That's all you have to do.  Leave a comment.  You will be entered to win one copy of Beverly Lewis' The Shunning mailed directly to your home.  So, leave a comment and buy some popcorn, this is a movie the whole family can watch!  Leave a comment today.  The winner will be drawn Monday, October 3, 2011.


"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services
mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I
only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.
I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255:

"Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Last Sunday, I was really struggling to worship at church.  There have been a lot of struggles at the church we attend, much "water under the bridge."  And I guess I just couldn't get my mind and heart in the right place.  I'm sure it was my short-coming.  So, I took those struggles home and they carried with me into the afternoon.  Then I took a walk...

I was given a copy of Jeremy Riddle's new CD Furious recently and I decided to listen as I walked.  Well, I found that worshipful spirit I was seeking earlier in the day.  As I walked down the dirt road near our home listening to Jeremy's smooth style and really poignant lyrics I felt convicted and at the same time uplifted.  I can't even point you to one song.  So many of the songs just spoke to me, and not just on Sunday.  These are really great worshipful songs.

I really encourage you to check out Jeremy Riddle's new CD.  He also has a Facebook presence here.  If you like what you hear or read, come on back here and leave me a comment because I've got a Jeremy Riddle CD to share with you!  Yep, it's another contest!  Just leave a comment between now and Saturday, October 1, 2011 and you are entered to win one copy of Furious by Jeremy Riddle.  So, leave a comment today!




"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services
mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I
only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.
I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255:
"Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, September 23, 2011

I Get Some Time with Molly Green!

Have you seen the new Homeschooling with Heart Blog?  It's pretty fun!  There are daily giveaways, and freebies, as well as articles, and information.  As a matter of fact, go here to get a really terrific free gift from Homeschooling with Heart Blog.  It's the Curiosity Files 9-pack of e-book unit studies.  I wrote some of the history sections on these Unit Studies and the boys and I have completed one of them so far.  They are fantastic!  AND they can be adapted for ALL ages.  I mean it...ALL ages.  You can make these unit studies work for High School OR elementary school.  So go get yours.  But wait!  I've got a great interview and giveaway here for you!  So don't go anywhere yet.  Read the whole way to the bottom to find out about the giveaway contest...there are TWO prizes!

I get the great privilege of introducing you to one of the new regular columnists at The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Molly Green from Econobusters.  Molly has produced TONS of great e-books with tips and tricks for frugal living.  In the current economy, we can all use more tips and tricks, can't we?  I got to know Molly better when I attended the last two Schoolhouse Expos.  Her seminars were so informative, I could listen to them over and over again.  SO, without further ado, please meet Molly Green:

- How can we teach our children to be frugal money managers? Is it even important to do that?

Absolutely, it is important! In fact, I’d go so far as to say that training kids how to handle money is one of the best gifts you can give them. If you can teach your children to love the Lord, build good character, work hard and handle money well, the rest is just gravy. The great thing is that it’s never too late to start.

As with many aspects of parenting, our greatest impact is most often the example we set. That means you must not only be a good money manager yourself, but that you must talk with your children about why you make the choices and sacrifices that you do. Here are a few of my top tips.

  • When talking about money, I suggest that you use “positive” language. Rather than saying, “we can’t afford it”, explain that “we are choosing to stay out of debt/save for $XXX”. It’s important to show that you are in control of money rather than playing the part of victim.

  • Let your children help you with couponing and show them how much you save. Make it even more concrete and meaningful by saying, “Because we saved $XXX on groceries we can afford to . . .” go to the movies, put that money toward vacation, or add this to the car fund.

  • Demonstrate ways to stretch your dollars by buying used (thrift stores or Craigslist), frequenting yard sales, bartering, couponing, etc. The point is to talk about what you do and why. When spending their own money, my kids often ask to check out the thrift store first. They may not find what they want, in which case, they’re fine with purchasing new. But why spend extra money unnecessarily?

  • Weigh your options out loud. Consider a family vote. Rather than just spending without giving it much thought, try this approach. “We were considering going to the movies, but that will cost $50 for all of us. Would you rather rent a movie, make popcorn and put $40 toward vacation.” If they agree, be sure and make a large visual of some sort (a graph or thermometer) showing how much you’ve saved to date.

  • Brainstorm alternatives with your kids. If you’d like to go on a family ski trip, talk about how it could be made more affordable. Perhaps your area offers a “two-fer Tuesday”. You might be able to borrow equipment from a friend, or perhaps the slopes offer a discount for afternoon arrivals.

As you talk with your children and exemplify financial responsibility, making wise financial decisions will become a natural part of their life.

- What are your very favorite tips for moms who want to know some easy ways to be frugal?

Wow! This might surprise you, but that’s a tough one. I say that because each of us is so different. I think frugality sometimes gets a bad rap because we view it as having to give up and sacrifice everything we love. However, that’s not my view. I view frugality as becoming financially aware and responsible. It doesn’t mean not spending on luxuries. It means determining what is important to me and letting go of those things that are less important, so that I can have what I truly enjoy.

So many people spend unthinkingly and out of habit, without really evaluating their choices. For example, I could suggest the typical, “Cut out two mocha’s a week and you’ll save $XX.” That advice might be great for many, but what about the person that truly loves her daily mocha? She’d much rather drop her monthly gym membership and take up bicycling if she could still have her daily mocha, and that’s great!

Just as with physical dieting, where success is most often determined by tracking what you eat,  financial dieting requires that you keep a strict spending log. Only when you know what you’re spending your money on, can you evaluate your budget. Even if you think you know, I bet you’ll be surprised at some of your findings. Once you know where your money is going, determine what is and is not important to you. Knowing where you’ve been and where you want to be, will put you on the right path. Your personality and passions will determine how you get there.

I get a kick out of saving a ton on groceries and the organization and math skills required come easily to me. Therefore, that’s an easy way for me to save, considerably. For someone else, that would be akin to torture. Perhaps that person would love to spend hours cultivating, canning and freezing her own produce, something I view as much more work than pleasure. That’s why I say there is no right answer. I think the key is in analyzing, understanding and making your own plan. Be a scrooge in areas that don’t really matter to you and feel free to spend on the luxuries you truly enjoy. Likewise, invest your time and energy in saving or making money in the ways that come most easily and naturally to you.

Thanks Molly!  I appreciate your thoughtful answers.  I can't wait to read your articles in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine this year!

Now, I told you I had two items to give away as part of this entry.  Well, here you go!


Giveaway Time!

Today, we're giving away two great gifts from TOS. One winner will receive a one-year digital subscription to The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, and a second winner will receive a digital copy of the 2011-12 Schoolhouse Planner.

One-Year Digital Subscription to The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine

What do you look for as you homeschool? Motivation? A little encouragement? Perhaps a unit study? Maybe an art activity? Within each issue of The Old Schoolhouse® you’ll find amazing resources, candid interviews with business owners, glimpses into the routines of other homeschools, articles from the experts in homeschooling, as well as up-and-coming innovators helping our days run a little more smoothly. Find them all in our pages along with their insight, expertise, and honesty as we all homeschool together!

Along with your subscription, you'll receive free access to Teacher's Toolbox, our exclusive, subscribers-only website packed with daily recipes, "This Day in History" lessons, printables, unit studies, and more!

E-Book: The 2011-12 Schoolhouse Planner

Jump into a great year with The 2011-12 Schoolhouse Planner! Erase the frazzled feel of disorganization with the 2011-12 Schoolhouse Planner and bring order and efficiency to your school year. Packed with relevant articles, clever calendars, useful forms, handy lists and so much more, this planner is the key to meeting your many goals for the 2011-12 school year. We put our heart into the 2011-12 Schoolhouse Planner so you'll have more time to put your heart into your home. Click here to view sample pages from the Planner.

To enter, just a leave a comment here! Winners will be randomly selected from the comments ON FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2011 and will be notified via email.

Rules: Must be 18 or older to enter and provide a valid email address. TOS employees, contractors, product reviewers, and Crew members are not eligible to enter.

Meet Theo!

As the boys were growing up, they enjoyed the Veggie Tales DVDs.  I remember Big Mac watching Josh and the Giant Wall over and over and over again.  I do enjoy those vidoes, but the thought has occurred to me that although they tell some great bible stories, quite often I would like to see a more direct or deeper meaning.  I want to see a salvation message, or truth about our relationship to Christ, but at a child's level.  Well, meet Theo.

The Theo videos are very well produced.  The graphics are excellent, the characters well-developed.  But that's not what I like about them.  The first video I watched was about how sin separates us from God.  The Big Dog watched with me and said, "You know that's a concept that's really hard to understand even as an adult."  They did a great job of making this an understandable subject for children as well as adult.  These are not videos with just a good bible story.  These are videos with bible TRUTH.

And this is a company you will want to support.  For every Theo video that you buy, Whitestone Media, the producers of Theo will donate one video through Child Evangelism Fellowship to a child in need.    You can get the first Theo video at Amazon here.  The total video is 28 minutes long and it includes three brief episodes.  I hope that Whitestone Media will be producing a longer feature video in the near future.

Another thing I love about the Theo videos is that they have developed a Sunday School curriculum around them.  Lifeway Christian Book Stores is the distributor for this curriculum.  It is based on sound theology and will really teach young children about salvation, forgiveness, and what Jesus did for them.

So, check out Theo.  If you are seeking Sunday School curriculm, REALLY check it out.  I've never seen content run so deep for children.



"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services
mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I
only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.
I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255:
"Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Quotes from Fablehaven

About a month ago, Big Mac needed something to read, and he wanted a new series.  We went to our favorite book store and coffee shop, which has now closed (sad face) and he asked a clerk for a new series to start.  The clerk directed him to Fablehaven by Brandon Mull.  He picked it up and was hooked.  About a third of the way into the book, he told his daddy that he "HAS to read" this book!  Well, Fablehaven has now been passed to Big Dog, T-bone, and finally me.  The boys have read book two and are anxiously awaiting our purchase of book 3.

Since I just finished book 1, Fablehaven, I wanted to share my favorite quotes with you.  I love to collect quotes from what I read.  I note whatever little nuggets I find in a pink notebook with white dots.  Here's what I collected from Fablehaven by Brandon Mull:


"Vanity curdles into misery."  p. 133


"Sometimes powerful magic is accomplished by simple means."  p. 124


"'Need a hand?' Kendra asked.

'Mine are plenty'"  [Lena replied] p. 112


"Mortality is a totally different state of being.  You become more aware of time."  p. 91

Friday, September 16, 2011

Weekends are for Crochet

Since my weeks are pretty full with working, homeschooling, and taking care of home and family, I try to squeeze in as much knitting and crochet as possible.  Last weekend, I got two projects started and finished.  I also finished an afghan a week before that, so I'll share that with you too.  For more information on the patterns and yarns I used, check out my ravelry account. my username is crochetlu.

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="489" caption="Another pattern but I used some really different yarn."][/caption]


[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="498" caption="This one I finished a couple weeks ago. It's a wedding afghan for my nephew and his new bride."][/caption]















[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="493" caption="The bride and groom who received the afghan."][/caption]

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

I'm announcing the winners of TWO giveaways today.  First, I held my "first ever contest" over a month ago for some yarn and a crochet hook.  I am WAY overdue in drawing the winner.  So I am happy to announce our winner is...

KRISTEN!  I'll be sending you a box of creative fun.  Contratulations!

And next the winner for the Ginny Owens CD giveaway...

Congratulatins Bobbi!  I hope you love this CD as much as I do.  I listen to it at least once a day.  I can't wait to tell my family and friends all about it.

A Poem by T-Bone

Roses are brown.

Violets are brown.

Hey you stupid dog

Get out of my garden!













And this has been a poem, by T-Bone.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Quick Pic

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="546" caption="Sometimes even lifting your head is just too much of an effort."][/caption]

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Get in I'm Driving - Win a Copy!

I received this new CD by Ginny Owens entitled, "Get in I'm Driving" this week.  I gotta tell you, I have a new favorite.  I can't stop listening to this CD.  It's phenominal.  If I were to compare her style on this albumn, I would say it reminds me of Nora Jones, or Corrinne Bailey Ray.  If you'd like to purchase one of her songs to see what I mean, "Before you Fly" is available on iTunes here.

Get In Cover

I love this CD.  It's sort of jazzy, very uplifting, and really good music.  You can really hear Ginny Owens' heart for encouragement in every song.  Many of the songs will become your "theme songs" for life.  You can learn more about Ginny Owens and her music by going to her website.  Sample some of her music and then COME BACK HERE because I have a CD to give to you!

ALL you have to do is leave a comment on this blog post to be entered to win.  BUT this is going to be a quick contest.  Get in, I'm Driving is released tomorrow, September 13, 2011.  SO if you want to win a copy of this CD, you need to enter a comment between now and tomorrow, September 13, 2011.  The boys and I will draw a winner on Wednesday, September 14, 2011.  You will definitely want this CD.  I TOTALLY loved it.  So, leave a comment and be entered to win!  I'm WANT to win this.

"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services
mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I
only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.
I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255:
"Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

SAT prep in 8th and 9th grade? You Betcha!

We've had almost 2 full weeks off of lessons.  First, the Big Dog took a stay-cation.  We spent the week having fun and relaxing.  THEN we got back to lessons the day after Labor Day.  THEN the flooding began Tuesday night in Wednesday morning and that was all she wrote.  And so tomorrow we begin again.  And when we do begin, we will complete our next lesson in our SAT Prep book.

SAT & College Preparation Course for the Christian Student

When I was planning this school year, I had a TOTALY different plan for Language Arts than what I'm using now.  Just before beginning our new school year I received a copy of SAT & College Preparation Course for the Christian Student, by Dr. James Stobaugh.  As I began reading it, I said to the Big Dog, I think I'm changing our Language Arts Plan for this year!  And that is just what we did.  This year, and for the next three years, the boys and I will be working through the lessons in SAT & College Preparation Course for the Christian Student.

This books is easy to pick up and get started.  There is very little teacher prep required.  We began with the first lesson, and each of the boys selected books to read from the recommended reading list.  Last week both boys finished their first book from the list, and had to pick a new book to read.  Now, Dr. Stobaugh suggests that students read one book a week.  Since our boys are not used to this amount of reading, we have adjusted it to be one book every two to three weeks.  Anyway, when they finished, I handed the book to Big Mac and said, "Pick your next book."  There is a book list broken down by grade, beginning with grade 9, in the back of the book.  Big Mac picked 11 books from that list that he would like to read.  And these are classic books, not popular fiction, so I think that's pretty impressive that he had so many he wanted to read this year.

As I mentioned before SAT & College Preparation Course for the Christian Student is laid out to be completed in three years.  There are weekly lessons with a reading comprehension, and writing exercise, test-taking tips, and a math challenge among other things.  It does not take us long to complete and the lessons are actually a lot of fun.  The boys each have a notebook in which they write their answers or their essays for each lesson.  We try to take our time and work through each lesson without a time limit.

After reading their book, there is a form at the back of the book that I've scanned and copied for the boys to complete as a book report.  It's called the Reading Journal.    I plan to have the boys complete one of these forms for each book they read and place it in their yearly portfolio.  At the bottom of the report form is a place for a parent to sign and date the report.  We are having Big Dog read the reports and sign them.  He is reading with a critical eye and asking the boys questions about what they've written.  It's a great way to involve him in the process.

The SAT & College Preparation Course for the Christian Student book has a great 30-minute devotional guide.  We already have our devotional plan in place, so we are not using it, but the book stresses time in the Word is key for SAT success.

There are sample essays and essay practice opportunities galore.  There are book lists for all three grades (Dr. Stobaugh believes that 12th grade is the time that you spend focusing on college applications) with enough books to keep the boys busy.  Dr. Stobaugh stresses that reading with a critical eye is essential to SAT prep.  And he guides the student on how to read critically in each lesson.  He also encourages the reader to read their books with a stack of 3x5 cards at their sides on which to write vocabulary words.  We have adjusted this slightly and the boys are keeping their vocabulary words in their notebook.

Each lesson has a scripture to read and discuss, as well as a portion of one of the classics on the book list.  But the test-taking tips are my favorites.  I am sure to read them to the boys each time we complete a lesson and it has really changed my perspective on preparing for the SAT.  As a matter of fact, you can become friends with Dr. James Stobaugh (the author) on FaceBook and Twitter.  He gives pointers and tips there all the time.

I really think this book is best if begun in 9th grade.  Since we do everything together, our 8th grader, T-bone, is also working through the same lessons.  That's working fine for us.  But the point is that I think you should start this book early, don't wait until 11th or 12th grade to begin SAT & College Preparation Course for the Christian Student. We will be completing one lesson a week for the next three years.  We will also continue to read from the book list working up to where the boys are reading 1 book a week.  It is easy to adapt the SAT & College Preparation Course for the Christian Student to your children and your family situation.  I also think that it would be a great book to hand to your older student to work independently while you work with younger children.  It's an excellent resource and will be our spine for Language Arts Literature for the next three years.

If you would like a copy, they are available at most of the major book retailers:  Amazon, Christian Book Distributors, and Barnes and Noble.  Right now (9/11/2011) Amazon has it for $19.88, not a bad price to pay for 3-years of curriculum.  So, check it out!


I received a copy of SAT & College Preparation Course for the Christian Student by Dr. James P. Stobaugh from New Leaf Publishig in order to complete this fair and honest review.  I was not required to be positive.  All opinions are my own.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

I'm SOOO late!

Well, as you will read in my next few blog posts, I am late on a bunch of stuff!  I have TONS of excuses, but none of them will do.  I need to get better organized with our little blog here.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="560" caption="Even the package label was cute!"][/caption]

I NEED to tell you about a swap in which I participated.  I founded it while surfing homeschool sites over the summer and immediately signed-up.  I love getting packages in the mail.  This swap was a way to get and send a package just for fun.  I was paired with this lovely family from England and after we exchanged a bit of information about each other, our likes and interests, we packed up a box and sent it their way.  Right around that same time, THEY packed up a box to send to us.  It was a happy day when our parcel arrived.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="547" caption="The boys were excited to open the box."][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="549" caption="And they couldn't wait to unpack it!"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="530" caption="We received lots of treats."][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="547" caption="Some beautiful deep purple wool, and a knitting magazine for me!"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="553" caption="AND some dangly earrings with a matching necklace!"][/caption]

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="533" caption="And here's the contents of the entire box."][/caption]


I'll never be able to remember everything that was sent, but our new friends "across the pond" really thought of all of our interests.  There were bottle caps for Big Mac who collects them.  There were key chains, also for a collection.  There were treats, and edible lovelies.  There were pictures of dragons for T-bone.  And finally these REALLY cool puzzles.  I had no idea about the geography of the UK, putting these puzzles in was brilliant!


This was so much fun.  I don't know if I'll be able to do it again because I was so late in this post.  But it was certainly a total treat.  I don't know which was more fun, picking out the things to send in our box, or receiving a package of fun things from another land.  Check out your swap opportunities at the Homeschool Post!