Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sign Up for Those Samples

I got a can of soup in the mail last week.  Yeah, weird I know, but it was also totally fun!  Actually I got a can of soup, and, in a separate mailing, a small box of cereal!  It may seem pointless and random to sign up for samples on-line, but it makes for some really fun mail.  And it actually stretches my groceries a bit.  That can of soup made for a great lunch for me one afternoon.  It was also really low in Weight Watcher's points for those of you who are taking that journey.  The cereal is a great snack when we're driving somewhere.  And being small like that, I can throw it in my crochet bag and whip it out when someone whines says, "I'm hungry!"

So sign-up for those samples!  Instead of a mailbox full of bills, you just might get a mailbox full of soup!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Weekends are for knitting...

Well, at least this past weekend was for knitting!  Some weekends are for crochet.  But I found this pattern for a five-hour baby sweater and I gotta tell you, I love it!  I started it at around 10 AM and finished it about 5 PM.  That's a little longer than 5 hours, but I made lunch for the Big Dog, Big Mac, T-bone, and two friends that came home from archery lessons with the boys.  I also made supper for that bigger crew.  So, it may have only taken me about 5 hours to make this sweet sweater. 

Then, with the bit of yarn left over, I made a hat from the 101 Designer One-Skein Wonders book. I made the Baby Squash hat.  All together, they make a sweet little set for a new baby.  The hat might be more toward the newborn size and the sweater for a slightly older baby.  What do you think?

This sweater pattern is one of those patterns that you just have to trust.  It is a completely typed pattern with no fancy pictures or fonts, but it will be my "go to" baby sweater.  As I was working the beginning of the sweater which turned out to be the yoke, I thought, "This can't be right.  This makes no sense!"  You were increasing and decreasing at seemingly random times.  But as I was working on the sleeves, I looked back and saw that a beautiful neck band and yoke had developed just by following the directions.  So trust the pattern.
You know, I said that recently to a friend of mine who was turning the heel of her first sock.  I told her to trust the pattern.  When I knitted my first sock, I did not understand what the pattern was telling me to do, but I did it anyway.  And, eventually, I looked back and saw a heel.  That's the way this baby-sweater works.  Just follow the directions and you'll see a sweater develop before your eyes.  

Do you see the life lesson here?  I sure do.  Trust the pattern for your life.  Now, I hate to break it to you, but the pattern is not random.  There is a Master Designer with a plan for you and you have to trust Him and His pattern for you.  And if you do, you will look back and see a life knitted with God's threads.    There are times when we all say, this CAN'T be right!  But trust the pattern, or better yet, trust the Designer, and you will, one day, see how it all worked together.  

Romans 8:28 says:
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

There is a master plan for your life.  There is a pattern being followed.  You just have to trust that God wrote your pattern and it's going to all turn out just the way He intended.   That's not always easy to do.  Believe me, I know this is true.  But it's about growing in faith and believing in the Designer. We can do that right!

Just trust the pattern.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

I Gave Up Facebook for Lent

Well, if you read the title for this post, then you may not feel you need to read the rest, but let me explain.  We've been observing lent as a family since the boys were small.  In my family, growing up, I was aware of what Lent was because my BFF then (and now) is Catholic.  But as a family, growing up, we did not observe Lent.  I've written to you in the past about how we celebrated Easter week and the treasured memory that is for me.

Anyway, this year, we began our Lenten season with Ash Wednesday service at the church we attend.  We are also working through a devotional that the entire church is working at the same time which has been excellent:
Seek God for the City 2012
But I wanted a personal choice that would make this Lent different for me.  I was looking for something to sacrifice or fast.  Many things came to mind, sweets, lattes, but as I was praying, I knew that those things weren't "it."  And then I spent the morning surfing through Facebook.

As usual, I read the posts of friends, relations, and acquaintances.  I got drawn into people's posts, spending time thinking about what they were saying and what others were saying to them.  Now, it is not a problem to be part of people's lives.  I firmly believe wants us to be people-people.  But when I realized the time that I was spending reading all the posts and replies, and then add to that the time I spend concerning myself with those posts and replies, I knew that Facebook was going to be my Lenten fast for 2012.

This is not a judgment on Facebook, my Facebook friends, or those who use Facebook.  Please read that again.  I will be back on Facebook.  I'm not giving it up for life or saying it's wrong to be a Facebook user.  I am just stepping away for a season in order to repurpose and refocus.  I want to see what the next 40 days or so will be like without that hour or two that I spent on Facebook.

The ironic thing is that this post will post on Facebook and so everyone who reads the title will know what I've done.  Ah well, I guess my Facebook existence will be sustained during my fast.

I hope you all have a meaningful Lenten season.  Write and let me know what you are doing to make your understanding of Easter more meaningful.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Reading Eggs

I wish I had Reading Eggs when our boys were beginning to read.  They have always enjoyed PC Games.  Much of the early learning they did was with a Sesame Street game on our old PC.  They would have loved Reading Eggs.

My time with Reading Eggs began with a test to put me in the right level.  The test was really great.  There were questions like "click on the word 'cat'" but there were also more complicated questions like, which word rhymes with... or click on the group of words that are pets.  This was not an easy test at all.  

After the test, you are able to complete any number of activities.  But you have to complete lessons to earn eggs.  You can play games in the arcade with eggs you've earned from lessons and activities.  You can write your own stories and put together your own books.  There are puzzles to do and music to listen to.  It's a really fun site and SO educational.  I know if I had Reading eggs when the boys were learning to read, they would have learned a lot and had fun doing it.

You can get a free reading eggs trial period by signing up on their site here.  Let your child get in there and take a few lessons and play a few games.  You'll see it's a great site for emerging readers.

If your child is older, Reading Eggs has created a website for children up to age 13 called Reading Eggspress.  There are e-books for older readers as well as lots of comprehension exercises there all in a graphic and fun environment.

If you would like to contact Reading Eggs for additional information, do so here.  

Their pricing plans are available here.  

Reading Eggs could really be a do-it-yourself reading and spelling program for your early elementary student.  Check it out today!

Disclaimer:  I received a membership to Reading Eggs in order to complete this review.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Valentine's Cards

I didn't intend to, but it seems that I live-blogged through our Valentine's day.  Well, no Valentine's day is complete without greeting cards/Valentine's right?  Well, of course, I made my cards for The Big Dog.  I made two, actually.

The first card has four little crocheted hearts on the front.  I found the heart pattern here.
Then, I used these instructions to make this pop-up card.  Every time I look at it I think about the line from the movie, "Master of Disguise" when Dana Carvey opens the instruction manual and says, "It's a popup!"
And this ends our Valentine's celebration!  It was a really fun day.  Over lunch, the boys and I listened to an Ozzie and Harriet audio about Valentine's that was really cute.  The day was filled with prizes, crafts, food, and fun!  What do you do to make Valentine's day special?  I'd love to know for next year for us!

(In)RealLife conference

Have you heard about the upcoming (in)RealLife conference April 27-28?  This is a really interesting on-line conference with the purpose of bringing people together and encouraging, or (in)couraging women.  The cost is very reasonable at $10 per registration.  And there's the option of hosting.

I think the hosting idea is really interesting.  If you host, you invite a group of women to come to your house for the conference.  So often with on-line events, we are all sitting alone at our computers and calling it fellowship.  Well, the (in)RealLife conference is trying to get us to actually fellowship with other women and bring them into our homes to attend the conference together.  If you choose to host a gathering, you can register as a host and receive tools to help you in your hosting duties.

This is a time of encouragement and fellowship no matter how you attend.  And for $10 you can afford to be encouraged!  Check it out!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Supper

For our Valentine's supper I always place little gifts and cards on everyone's plate.  We have a special dinner as a family and use the special table cloth, square plates, and cloth napkins.
Big Mac and I have been planning our Valentine's supper for 2 weeks.  We wanted to make an elegant meal for our family celebration of Valentine's.  We celebrate Valentine's as a family and make kind of a big deal out of it.  Here was tonight's Valentine's menu:  bacon-wrapped venison loin, roasted fingerling potatoes, asparagus, and brussel sprouts.
For dessert, the boys made brownies, but Big Mac plated them.  He cut the brownies with the heart cookie cutter and then put a scoop of vanilla ice cream beside it with a drizzle of heated fudge sauce and a mini Reese's peanutbutter cup.  He really has a talent for plating food and arranging a menu.

Valentines's Lunch

Hot dog hearts.

Valentine's Day Breakfast

Toast with nutella and toast with peanutbutter. My heart-shaped cookie cutter did most of the work. And that's a marshmallow peep heart floating in my cocoa!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Our First-ever Planning Weekend

It all began with an innocent conversation.  I told the Big Dog about Phyllis Sather and her Purposeful Planning resources.  He was intrigued.  You know how it is with husbands, sometimes you tell them something and they say, "Oh that's nice honey."  Well, this wasn't one of those times.  He was really interested in the idea of taking some time to plan out the year and talk about important matters.

That was a few months ago.  Then, in January, we got a postcard from a hotel in Lancaster County that was running a special.  We could stay for nearly half their regular price.  We have stayed at this hotel many times in the past.  There are two indoor pools and a jacuzzi, which we all enjoy. So we started to talk about when we could take advantage of this great deal.

And then the light-bulb went off!  We could take advantage of a little winter getaway AND do some planning.  I pitched my idea to the Big Dog and he loved it.  We determined the best weekend to get away and made arrangements for the animals.  Then I got to work.  I read  Phyllis Sather's Purposeful Planning e-book.  This was easy to read.  As a matter of fact, I got through the entire text the first time when the boys were working on their lessons at the kitchen table.  I would read some, do some instructing, then read some more.  

After reading the e-book I had an idea of how to work through our weekend.  So I went back through the e-book and made a list of all the subjects that she suggested and added a few of my own.  Under each subject, I listed all the different sub-headings that would fall under these subjects.  For instance under the heading of Celebrations I listed Birthdays, Lent, Valentines, Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day, Anniversary, Advent, and Christmas.  

So, armed with my notebook of subjects to discuss, the four of us headed out to a weekend away!  We began our planning process at the restaurant we stopped at on our way to the hotel.  We began by going through everything we did as a family in 2011.  When we finished our list it was 4 pages long!  We went back through that list and put a star beside all the things we wanted to repeat.  This was a great exercise because we saw, first, everything we accomplished, and second, we began a list of plans for the new year.

Our weekend continued after that covering many subjects from the Big Dog & my relationship, the boys and their goals, homeschooling, church involvement, and home repairs.  We talked about lots of other subjects too.  If you'd like to see a complete list of the subjects we discussed, just leave a comment.

Over this weekend, we discussed things that we never discuss.  Quite often life just happens.  We haven't planned for it or given any thought to what's happening, and yet it happens.  But we came home from our planning retreat armed with a plan.  Now, we all know that life is going to happen and it won't be on our plan, but those things we are able to plan have been put on paper.  

And even though it's only been a few weeks since our planning weekend, I see how we are being more intentional.  The Big Dog has already tackled a few home repairs.  We found a place the four of us could swim over the winter months (T-Bone's request).  I've begun to work toward a couple goals for me.  And we have an excellent plan to study the Civil War over the summer using books, games, and videos.  (this was totally from an idea in Phyllis' book.)  There's much more too, but I can't list it all here.  Suffice it to say that this will be an annual tradition for the four of us.

And things came up that I never would have guessed.  For instance, our T-Bone asked me not to work on weekends.  I had no idea that he was even concerned with my work schedule.  The boys talked about their relationships to us and what they see happening with us.  We had time to listen and talk about things that don't always get time in our harried lives.

Please consider a planning weekend for your family.  It is never too late to plan 2012.  Just begin now!  Check out Phyllis' resources.  There's an audio if you don't want to read the e-book, and she even has a workbook-type e-book that will give you all the headings they use for planning their year.  All the Purposeful Planning Resources are really useful and well-priced.  You can do your planning weekend at home if you can't afford a weekend away.  I am so pleased with the change of focus that came from planning our year together.  You will find us in early January, or possibly even December, away for the weekend with a note on the door that says, "Gone Planning!"  Won't you join us?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Start Looking to the Skies.

Last month I wrote to you about the Celestial Almanack.  Well I had an opportunity to review the February issue this month and I jumped at the chance.  Truthfully, I would have purchased this month's edition if I wasn't offered a review copy.  The graphics are just gorgeous, the content is easy to get through in a day or two, and you really LEARN about the night sky with the Celestial Almanack.

I've learned in the past couple years that I'm a really visual person.  I respond to color and good graphics.  Maybe that's what drew me to the Celestial Almanack when I first reviewed it in January.  But, of course, I started reading aloud to the boys.  After reading it, we all began to look at the stars differently.  We were really able to recognize some of the constellations from just a few days of reading and looking at graphics in the e-book.

As a matter of fact, the other night we were driving home and T-bone looked out the window and said, "That's Venus"  Big Mac said, "No it's not."  T-bone said, "Yes it is.  Our book said so."  He was right.  We are looking at the night sky differently.  It's so cool.

As I said, the graphics drew me right into each of the Celestial Almanack's I was able to review.  But it's the content that keeps me returning to this great resource.  I am understanding the moon phases, the arrangement of the stars, and the planets that appear in our night sky so much better after reading the Celestial Almanack for two months.  I will continue to buy this monthly resource (you can get your copy here) every month.  I really like knowing more of what's going on up there.  I like being able to look into the sky and say, "Oh, there's Taurus."  Or, look, you can see Venus and Jupiter tonight!  I've always wanted to be able to read the sky that way, and the Celestial Almanack is the tool that is helping me to do that.  I highly recommend this monthly e-book!  Grab a copy today.

Disclaimer:  I received a complimentary copy of the February edition of the Celestial Almanack in order to complete this review.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Game Day

I've written in the past about our game days.  We love games of all kinds.  I've even had a chance to review a game or two, which we always enjoyed.  I love game days because it puts the control in the boys' hands.  Do you remember feeling like you didn't have control over anything when you were a kid?  I did.  So I introduced game days years ago.  Once a month, the boys get to pick a day for a game day.  We set aside all normal lessons and each of us picks two games to play.

As we've had a game-day once a month for the last five years, the competition has gotten fierce.  Usually, we just keep mental track of who wins each game and then give the Big Dog a report in the evening.  But today, T-Bone cleaned one of the blackboards in the kitchen and kept track of the game winners.
And it was a tie!  T-Bone won 3 games and Big Mac won 3.  SO, a tie-breaker game had to be played.
And so a final game of Battleship had to be played to determine the winner... T-bone!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

We Have a Winner!

OK, so I'm an hour and a half late, but we have drawn a winner for the Vineyard Worship CD.  And the winner is...
"Ready to Defend" you will received a download of Vineyard's newest worship CD, "I Love Your Presence."  Congratulations!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Getting Ready for Convention Season

It's hard to believe but for my homeschooling friends, convention season will be upon us really soon!  Our big event in PA is in May.  Some people love Great Homeschool Conventions for their encouragement and entertainment.  Truthfully, I haven't been to a convention for a number of years.  I opted to save my money and put it toward curriculum and books instead of spending it on a day out.

BUT, if you are convention-bound, I just read this great post on making a convention notebook at Peace Creek on the Prairie.  I've just discovered and started following this blog.  It's a treasure!  Check out her convention notebook.  If I go to the CHAP fair this year, I'm making one of these!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Veritas Press

I love Veritas Press.  Although we don't follow their curriculum, I drool over the beautiful books in their catalog.  I remember talking to a friend on the phone after receiving the catalog one spring.  When she asked if there was anything she could do for me, I said, "Yes, buy me one of each thing in the Veritas Press catalog."  She said she would buy for me if I would, in turn, buy for her.  And these books are not just for home schoolers.  These are beautiful books, often classics, books on many people's "must read" lists.

Right now, Veritas Press is running a really cool promotion.  If you click here you will get a $5 credit to use for anything VP sells.  THEN YOU will be given a link that you can promote like I'm doing.  If anyone clicks through using your link, you earn more to spend at Veritas Press.

So, check them out and start making your wish list!  If you're not familiar with Veritas Press products, get familiar.  You'll be glad you did!