Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Traditions :: A Cookie Exchange



This year, I began a new tradition - a cookie exchange. The experience was an absolute delight filled with friends, children, and scrumptious desserts! If you've never hosted a cookie exchange, but would like too, keep reading to discover how easy it really is!

First, set a date, time, and venue. I had my exchange Monday evening at Jason's Deli. I could have had it at my house, but with 13 adults and 16 children, we may have been a little crowded. The plus side of having it at Jason's: no dishes, clean-up, or anything else to worry about!

Decide how many bakers you would like to attend. I initially decided upon 12 people baking 3 dozen cookies each to ensure even amounts. However, we ended up with 9 bakers and had plenty of sweets.

Send out your invites with all the pertinent information. I created a Sign-Up Genius form to use for RSVPs. I left a slot for participants to let the group know which type of treat they were bringing to help avoid duplicates.

Pick up some simple decorations; table clothes and a few centerpieces make for a nice decor. While you are out, you may want to purchase treat boxes from your local craft store for your guests to take home their goodies, if not, suggest they bring an empty container to take them home.

Bake!!! You definitely want to get your cookies baked a day in advance if they are a softer style cookie to ensure they do not crumble in transport. Besides cookies, some of my friends brought chocolate covered pretzel sticks  and homemade candies.

Before everyone takes turns around the cookie table, have each baker tell what they brought. It's also fun to share stories about why you made a certain cookie or if your first batch didn't turn out just right (guilty!). Some of those attending also brought printed recipes for each guest to take home.

At the end of the night, I handed out party favors for my guests. Here's a link to those.

You can make this event as formal or casual as you wish. You can bake as many cookies as you desire. In fact, it's your exchange and you can tailor it to your needs.

Looking back on Monday, my friends and I truly had a wonderful evening of merriment and I can't wait to do this again!

{I do apologize for the lack of pictures as my camera had once again lost its SD card. In fact, I'm kicking myself, because the cookies were beautiful!}

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Pinterest Production :: Simple Christmas Gift for Friends


This week, I made a few small gifts for some of my friends. One of my favorites involved soap, ribbon, and a cute name tag. This simple, but adorable, gift made me smile when I saw it on Pinterest and I knew I just had to share them.

Let's begin!

First, gather some fun holiday ribbon. I found mine for $1.99 at the local thrift store. It was brand new!

Next, create your tag. I loved the saying, "Wishing you Peace, Joy, and Hope," with Hope crossed out and Soap inserted. Too cute! {If you'd like the file, please let me know!}

I used Microsoft Publisher to design my tags and sent them to Kinko's to get a really nice print out.

To cut them out, I used my rotary cutter to ensure straight edges. I hole punched the center of each tag and tied them onto the pump soap bottles using a piece of string. I adore Young Living's Thieves Foaming Hand Soap because it smells wonderful! One of my friend's sons was so excited when he saw the bottle - I guess he loves it too!

Then, I fashioned a bow out of my Christmas ribbon and viola, friends' gifts completed!

Cooking with Children :: Christmas Candy Pretzel Sticks



My two boys have lots of friends in our homeschool group and wanted to make something special for them for Christmas. They decided on creating Christmas Candy Pretzel Sticks; a fairly easy task for two young boys to accomplish.

I drove them to Michael's (our craft store) where they picked out a Christmas mold featuring a tree, a reindeer, and Santa. They opted for green and dark chocolate candy melts, as well as festive bags. We already had the large pretzel sticks at home from a previous event.

After dinner, they prepped their work area and set out to making candies. Using my Wilton Chocolate Pro melting pot, they melted the green chips to make trees. Carefully, they filled each tree cavity, first, with the melted chips and then inserted the pretzel stick to ensure maximum mold coverage. After the stick was pressed into each mold, they covered the portion of the pretzel showing with chocolate to get an even appearance.

Once all the cavities were filled, they carefully moved the entire mold to the fridge where they cooled until the candy was again firm and easy to pop out of the mold.

They repeated the process until all the green chips were used and they began again with the dark chocolate chips for the reindeer and Santa. A bag of 12oz. candy melts made approximately 14 candid pretzel sticks.

They wrapped each stick in a seasonal treat bag and plan to share with all their friends at our next park day!

Weekly Goals :: 12/17 - 12/23/2012



Weekly Goals for 12/09-12/16/2012

Home:
1. Finish raking and bagging leaves and pine needles
2. Begin getting tax information together

Family:
1. Get youngest feeling better
2. Take the boys to see The Hobbit

Volunteer:
1. Set dates for next year's JMG class, Little LEGO Club
2. Finish laying out museum exhibit story boards

Personal:
1. Start a new book
2. Begin new craft project

Weekly Goals for 12/17 - 12/23/2012

After last week and all the unfathomable sadness, my only goal this week is to enjoy my children. I wish you all the best and I do apologize for the lack of posts this week, but they are my priority. - Michelle

Friday, December 14, 2012

My Heart Breaks :: Our Nation Morns

 


Today, parents in the city of Newtown, CT had the unthinkable happen. They lost their children.

This event saddens me to the core. I cannot begin to imagine the grief, loss, and heartache parents and community members are sharing this evening.

Our nation cries. Children are our heartstrings. They are our world. They are our joy. To loose them, is unbearable.

As a nation, we can pray for those grieving; for those who have lost the most precious things on Earth; for our country; and for all of our children.

Tonight and tomorrow and next week and every day after, give your children a gentle squeeze and tell them how much you love them, how much they mean to you.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction…" 2 Corinthians. 1:3-4


Thursday, December 13, 2012

DIY :: A Busy Bag Exchange



A friend of mine recently set up a Busy Bag Exchange for the little tots in our life. While my boys are, for the most part, way beyond Busy Bags, I have a new niece who will need a few in the future. I was pleased the Mommies with littles let me take part; in fact, I had a really great time making my Busy Bags and playing with all the ones they made!

For those new to the Busy Bag concept - A Busy Bag is a small project, puzzle, craft, etc. which captures the attention and fosters learning and creativity of a child. They can be made for any age range, however, I've mainly seen them for the 5 and under group. These items are kept in a gallon sized plastic bag and are brought out throughout the day or on special occasions to help keep a child busy while the caregiver is focused on housework or schooling older children.

How do you host a Busy Bag Exchange? It's simple, really!

First, ask a group of Moms, Aunts, Grandmothers, Sisters, etc. to be a part. My friend used our Church Facebook play group as her inviting forum. She gave us about two weeks to get our bags in order, which was plenty of time.

Have each attendee decide on what kind of Busy Bag they will be making and bringing to the exchange. It's a good idea to let the group know exactly what you are making to reduce duplication.

Keep your group to under 10 people. You can always have another exchange and incorporate new participants, as well as bag ideas.

If you don't have any ideas for Busy Bags, check out Pinterest or Simple Organized Living. The Busy Bag I created was about cupcake decorating. The template for it can be found at Money Saving Mom.

We each made 8 bags for this exchange, with one going to the Church welcome desk for new families to use during the ceremony. We traded out bags with one another one morning at the church.

I came home with some super adorable things - Pop the Popsicle, Stuff it In, Felt Fishing, Eye Spy Bottles, and a wonderfully bound and laminated Play-Doh mat set.

I can't wait to see my niece play with all these items. My youngest has enjoyed giving them the initial playability test!

If you've made a Busy Bag in the past - which has been your child's favorite?


Great Deals :: BYGO Starbucks Dec. 13-16 ONLY!



Like holidays, drinks are best shared. So rekindle your favorite holiday moments with someone special. December 13-16, from 2-5pm, buy one holiday beverage at Starbucks and they'll give you a second one of equal or lesser value to share. At participating US stores only.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Simple Living :: Paper Making with Children

 
 
Recently, I held a Junior Master Gardening class and taught the children how to make paper. I'll be completely honest with you all and go on record to say, "I had no idea how to make paper before we started this endeavor!"
All that aside, making paper (at least this kind) was extremely easy, not to mention fulfilling and fun.

Materials:

  • Half a gallon to whole gallon plastic baggie filled with one square inch pieces of newspaper. Fill baggie with water and allow to sit overnight.
  • A blender - not your best for sure! I got mine at Wal-Mart for about $15. You might can find one at a thrift store.
  • Screens - Using window screen replacement material cut rectangles or squares in adequate size for your needs. Tape edges with duct tape to prevent tears, frays, or cuts to your fingers. The frames I used were about 6.5 x 7.5 inches.
  • Paper towels - you will need an entire roll!
  • Styrofoam plates
  • Various cookie cutters (If you're wanting sheets, try the large rectangular cookie cutters used to make ginger bread houses)
  • Embellishments: flower seeds, colored raffia paper, etc.
Let's begin!
 
 
1. Fill your blender approximately 1/2  full with shredded paper and the rest of the way with water.
 

 2. Pulse blender until shredded paper turns into paper pulp. The blender may clog, if so, unplug and stir pulp with a chop stick or wooden spoon.



 3. Place a paper towel down on your work surface. Then, place the screen on top of the paper towel. Next, place your desired cookie cutter on top of the screen. Using a spoon, add a small amount of pulp in the center of the cookie cutter and spread evenly with your fingers.
{Warning: You will get messy! I advise removing rings!}
 

 
4. When spreading out the pulp, you want it to be as thin as possible, but not have any visible holes. Once I get the pulp spread out in my cookie cutter, I remove some and spread it out again to fill the vacant hole. Do this step until you can no longer spread it thinly without holes forming.
 
 
5. After the pulp is spread to the desired consistency, push down on your cutter and gently lift it off as if you were pressing out a cookie from dough.
 
 
 
6. Take another paper towel and press hard onto the paper shape. You want to remove as much water as possible. Gently remove the towel so as not to tear the paper.
 
 
7. Place a paper towel on a Styrofoam plate. Turn the plate and towel upside down over the paper cut-out and screen. Carefully, lift everything and flip it over so the plate in now on the bottom. Peel the screen back slowly from your paper.
 
Viola! You've made paper! Now, let it dry for about 24 hours.
 
If you want to add wildflower seeds to make your paper plantable, do that in step 3 after you've got the desired consistency of pulp. You can also add colored raffia at this stage too.
 
Once dry, you can write or paint on your paper; turn it into an ornament or name tag; and even use it for crafts. Experiment with different types of recycled paper for texture and color variety.

Christmas Traditions :: Helping Others



 

Our family is blessed in many ways, and because of that I want our children to help others and be a blessing to those in need, especially during the Holidays.

Each December, the boys select a child or two from our local ELF Tree to adopt for Christmas. I enjoy watching the boys carefully select items from the lists and also add something they think might be enjoyed by the children. Some years, all that is asked for are toys; other times, clothes are at the top of the list.

The boys may know the child's circumstance or may not, but I explain how important it is for us to help others throughout the year and throughout our lifetime.

Selecting children to purchase Christmas gifts is just one way we help in our community. In the past, we've helped raise funds for a new hearing device for a deaf child, sold cupcakes for Tsunami victims, held a food drive, and delivered flowers to the elderly. As the boys get older, I definitely want to help in our local food pantry or work on a Habitat for Humanity team, but for right now, they enjoy playing Santa for children in need.

What ways does your family help during the Holidays or throughout the year? If you're looking for some ideas, depending on age, here are a few:

  • Purchase gifts for children on your local Angel Tree
  • Drop off presents at Toys for Tots or Blue Santa programs
  • Donate your time at a homeless shelter or community kitchen
  • Give generously during Food Drives
  • Support your local organizations that aid those in need
  • Donate to the VFW to help military families with Christmas dinner or Christmas trees
  • Open your home to those who may not have family for Christmas, especially the elderly, college students, and military service members
  • Be a Bell Ringer for the Salvation Army

Weekly Goals :: 12/09 - 12/16/2012



Weekly Goals 12/02 - 12/08/2012

Home:
1. Have a sock matching party for all those loose singles
2. Scheduled A/C 6 month maintenance
3. Begin preparing holiday treats and freezing

Family:
1. Take boys to a Whoville Christmas event
2. Take boys to the Christmas parade
3. Start working on Christmas cards
4. Movie night with family

Volunteer:
1. North Pole Express
2. Finish program for local toy store
3. Teach Junior Master Gardener class

Personal:
1. Make cupcake busy bag for group exchange
2. Pick up Christmas child donation card
3. Finish any of last week's errands
4. Plan cookie exchange

Weekly Goals for 12/09-12/16/2012

Home:
1. Finish raking and bagging leaves and pine needles
2. Begin getting tax information together

Family:
1. Get youngest feeling better
2. Take the boys to see The Hobbit

Volunteer:
1. Set dates for next year's JMG class, Little LEGO Club
2. Finish laying out museum exhibit story boards

Personal:
1. Start a new book
2. Begin new craft project

This week, all the major plans went out the window with my youngest son home sick. We've been extremely busy the past few weeks and I guess it was just time to slow down. We are enjoying our time together this week and staying home more than usual. How is your week shaping up?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas Traditions :: Nightly Christmas Stories

 

Each year after Thanksgiving, we begin decorating for Christmas. My sweet husband brings down all the Christmas tubs from the attic and the boys and I set to work. One tub in particular is especially heavy as it is filled with all sorts of Christmas and holiday stories.

In addition to our daily reading of Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol, the boys and I also read one other book from the Christmas tub each night. It has taken several years to build up our Christmas collection and it seems each year a story is culled and a new one takes its place.

If you would like to build a collection this year or add to your current one, please consider adding a few of these beloved titles:

  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
  • The Polar Express  by Chris Van Allsberg
  • The Berenstain Bears Meet Santa Bear by Stan & Jan Berenstain
  • Hanukkah, A Counting Book by Emily Sper
  • The Jolly Christmas Postman  by Janet & Allan Ahlberg
  • The Friendly Beasts, an old English Christmas Carol by Tomie dePaola
  • Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson
  • The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore
  • The Christmas Story by Jane Werner Watson
  • Home for Christmas by Jan Brett
If you don't have the space to store a Christmas book collection, you can always create a digital library using a Kindle, Nook, or iPAD. Another option would be to visit your local library and peruse their holiday shelves.

What are some of your family's favorite Christmas or holiday stories?

Weekly Goals :: 12/02 - 12/08/2012



Weekly Goals 11/25 - 12/01/2012

Home:
1. Finish decorating the house
2. Find Christmas Cards to mail out
3. Finish any outdoor projects before the cold sets in
4. Take new Goodwill donations

Family:
1. Finish Advent Calendar
2. Purchase a few new Christmas books to add to the collection
3. Gather supplies for Christmas crafts with boys
4. Enjoy a day with Jake and the boys

Volunteer:
1. Board Meeting
2. 4-H cooking time
3. LEGO Club
4. Meet about the Secret Garden

Personal:
1. Freezer cooking this weekend - Ended up heading out of town so we simply ran out of time.
2. Pick up anniversary gift
3. Type up blog articles
4. Go for a long walk

Weekly Goals 12/02 - 12/08/2012

Home:
1. Have a sock matching party for all those loose singles
2. Scheduled A/C 6 month maintenance
3. Begin preparing holiday treats and freezing

Family:
1. Take boys to a Whoville Christmas event
2. Take boys to the Christmas parade
3. Start working on Christmas cards
4. Movie night with family

Volunteer:
1. North Pole Express
2. Finish program for local toy store
3. Teach Junior Master Gardener class

Personal:
1. Make cupcake busy bag for group exchange
2. Pick up Christmas child donation card
3. Finish any of last week's errands
4. Plan cookie exchange

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Christmas Traditions :: DIY Advent Calendar


Our family has several Christmas traditions we practice each year. Some are only for a day, while a couple last through the entire month. It isn’t quite December yet, however, I would like  to share a few of our traditions with all of you this Holiday season.
On December 1st of each year, the boys open the first piece of the Advent calendar. When we started using the calendar, they opened little doors to seek out verses and tiny chocolates; with the tradition evolving more each year. 

This year’s Advent calendar is a hand-made stocking garland. Made from burlap, twine, clothespins and Christmas ribbon, this adorable calendar gets two thumbs up from the Norris boys.
With a little bit of sewing skills, you still have tune to make one before the 1st for your family!

Supplies:

2 1/2 yards of burlap
Hand-made stocking template 5 inches tall and 3 inches wide
Various Christmas colored ribbon and buttons
24 hand-made tags (or stencils and paint)
24 miniature clothespins
Twine
Craft glue
Scissors

Let's Begin!
 
 
1.       Cut out 48 stocking shapes from burlap approximately 5 inches tall and 3 inches wide. You can create a template by free-handing a stocking .

2.       Layer two stocking cutouts on top of one another. Stick around the edges. Turn inside out. Viola! You’ve made a stocking, now make 23 more!

3.       Make 24 little bows out of various Christmas ribbon. Our Advent calendar uses red, green, brown, and gold. You can customize yours to fit your Christmas d├ęcor.

4.       Attach ribbons and buttons to each stocking.

5.       Make number tags 1-24. You can make these anyway you like. Be creative! Attach them to the clothespins using craft glue. You can also paint or stencil the numbers onto the clothespins or stockings, if you like. {I’ve seen a variation of this Advent calendar using small canvas drawstring bags instead of the stockings. The numbers had been painted onto the bags.}

6.       Using the smallest 3M command hooks, hang your twine under your mantel and ensure it is secure. You could also use this as a Christmas tree garland in in which case, omit the 3M command hooks.

7.       Decide what to place in each stocking. This always seems to be the hard part. Below are some ideas for your Advent Calendar.
 

Advent Calendar Ideas:

1. Hot chocolate party
2. Hobbit movie passes

3. LEGO minifigures
4. Hand-made chocolates

5. Make a craft: paint ornaments or make an animal/bird  feeder {This is a fun and easy craft using a toilet paper roll, peanut butter, bird seed, and a piece of yarn. First, punch holes in the toilet paper roll and tie the yarn to allow the feeder to hang. Then, have children spread peanut butter onto the toilet paper roll. Then, sprinkle bird seed onto the peanut butter. Hang feeder from a branch.}
6. A cookie recipe for you and your children to bake together.

7. Schedule a playdate with friends.
8. Have a day where you take your children to purchase toys for the needy.

9. Look through your newspaper for local events to add to specific dates in your Advent calendar; i.e. Christmas parade, see the lights, etc.
10. Create a gingerbread house

11. Make Christmas cards or gifts
12. Create the nativity

13. Bible verses

When it comes to filling the Advent calendar, the sky is the limit! I like to pick things that I can have my children do or make for each other, our family and those needing a little more Christmas cheer. We also add a few of our traditions  to the mix – on the 24th we always take the boys out to purchase stocking stuffers for each other, get hot chocolate and drive around looking at Christmas lights.
What are some of your family's traditional inclusions into the Advent Calendar?

 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Weekly Goals :: 11/25 - 12/01/2012

Weekly Goals for 11/18 - 11/24/2012

Home:
1. Take down holiday decor from Attic
2. Dust, clean floors, wipe windows
3. Prune roses for winter
4. Freezer delivered
5. Finish laundry and drop off at Dry Cleaners

Family:
1. Prep Thanksgiving foods
2. Term 1 Exams
3. Need to get animal meds before holiday
4. Gather Advent items
5. Enjoy the week with the boys and Jake

Volunteering:
1. Work on exhibit ideas
2. Deliver Food Challenge Box - Delivered this Thursday.
3. Meet with Museum contractor

Personal:
1. Reply to emails, clean inboxes, update blog
2. Write new Dandelion Moms article
3. Begin online shopping for remainder of gifts

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday! We sure did!

Weekly Goals 11/25 - 12/01/2012

Home:
1. Finish decorating the house
2. Find Christmas Cards to mail out
3. Finish any outdoor projects before the cold sets in
4. Take new Goodwill donations

Family:
1. Finish Advent Calendar
2. Purchase a few new Christmas books to add to the collection
3. Gather supplies for Christmas crafts with boys
4. Enjoy a day with Jake and the boys

Volunteer:
1. Board Meeting
2. 4-H cooking time
3. LEGO Club
4. Meet about the Secret Garden

Personal:
1. Freezer cooking this weekend
2. Pick up anniversary gift
3. Type up blog articles
4. Go for a long walk

Enjoy this week! Can't believe we have made it to December : )

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Holidays and Sensitive Children :: 5 Tips to Avoid a Meltdown

 

I often think about the hustle and bustle of the holidays and how that affects the sensitive child. As we approach this season of joy, I thought I would share a few tips on how to make this time of year sensory friendly.

·        Plan ahead: Be sure to schedule your holiday visits, parties and gatherings in advance and avoid any last minute changes when possible. By knowing what events are in the future, your child will be ready for the situation or venue and know what to expect. Oftentimes, I find it is the unexpected that makes a child anxious. Plus, you will also know what items you may need to bring along to make events more enjoyable. For example, headphones may be needed at a Christmas Symphony.
 
·        Ask: As parents, we sometimes schedule the day to day routine of our children without asking them for input. Yes, The Nutcracker Suite has a great cultural merit, but if your child has no interest, it might prove advantageous to pass on it. By avoiding sensory overload,  you are helping your child from becoming overwhelmed.

·        Be Proactive: You know your child’s limits, but your extended family may not. Let them know your child’s triggers so the holidays don’t become tedious for all those involved.  

·        Keep it Simple: If you’ve ever been to Wal-Mart on Black Friday and experienced being overwhelmed by the mass of people or the onslaught of purchasing choices, than you can relate to a child with sensory issues. Now, imagine feeling this way day in and day out regardless the time of year; to this, add the holiday stresses we all feel. It really is no wonder our sensational children dread November to January. Keep it simple – pick a couple of low crowd events to attend; choose one party to the eight your invited too; and avoid those things which are an ill fit for the child with sensory needs.

·        Enjoy the Season: More importantly, make sure to enjoy the season with each other. There are many ways to make memories at home. Reading stories, making gifts and enjoying hot cocoa are some of our family’s favorite activities. Pick those things which your child delights in and go from there. You may be surprised at the kitchen helper’s Christmas cookies or the beautifully wrapped presents by your little artisan. Not only will this approach alleviate stress, but it will also encourage your child to view the holiday season in a positive light.


Readers, please share any of your family’s useful tips to help children with sensory issues avoid overload this season.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Simple Living :: Hiatus from the Internet

Last week, I did the unthinkable. I walked away from the Internet. For someone who relies on it for the majority of her communication and information, it created an interesting dynamic - but I was up to the challenge!

Monday - It was very difficult to not check my emails. Before I signed off, I had a lot of conversations going on and a few problems I was trying to solve.
 
Tuesday - Travelling to Palm Springs this morning. Scanning news headlines is one way I usually pass the time while I wait. Today, I'm having to watch the news - I really dislike watching the news. I'm also a little worried about finding attraction information regarding my destination, but a nice lady just gave me an armful of tourism pamphets. I'm set!
 
Wednesday -  While my normal morning routine consists of emails, blog updates, checking Facebook, and reading headlines, I am thoroughly enjoying the moment. I'm eating a chocolate croissant next to a waterfall on a gorgeous morning - it doesn't get better than that!
 
Thursday - Internet? What's the Internet? How about a day filled with art, sculptures, wine and cheese, fantastic company, and perusing night time festivals!
 
Friday - Spent the flight talking with my best friend and discovering humus really isn't that bad. Ready to see my boys and spend the weekend at the lake with family.
 
Saturday - My youngest, his Mimi, and I spent most of the day at an auction and local antique stores. My youngest now has auction fever!
 
Sunday - Time to get ready for the Holidays and unpack from a wonderful week. Not looking forward to tomorrow's inbox checks. Ugh!
 
In reflection, I like life better without the constant barrage of emails; the simplicity of not feeling what I like to call 'email urgency; and not being tied to the computer every morning. I came home to over 300 emails and 20 Facebook notifications. I'm glad I prefaced my hiatus or I suspect there would have been many more.

I will say I did have a few instances of when the use of the Internet would have come in handy. On our trip to the Salton Sea, I wanted to research a little bit more about the history of the Sea. But, I did find a Barnes & Noble with books about local history later that day and fulfilled my thirst of knowledge.

I learned a little bit from this social experiment and I definitely didn't miss all the drama on Facebook. I'm going to start checking my emails three times a week and Facebook once a week. I'm going to work on lessoning my time on the Internet and enjoying my time off of it!

If you've got the time and will-power, give it a try! I promise you won't be disappointed!

 
 
 
 

Weekly Goals :: 11/18 - 11/24/2012

Weekly Goals for 11/18 - 11/24/2012

Home:
1. Take down holiday decor from Attic
2. Dust, clean floors, wipe windows
3. Prune roses for winter
4. Freezer delivered
5. Finish laundry and drop off at Dry Cleaners

Family:
1. Prep Thanksgiving foods
2. Term 1 Exams
3. Need to get animal meds before holiday
4. Gather Advent items
5. Enjoy the week with the boys and Jake

Volunteering:
1. Work on exhibit ideas
2. Deliver Food Challenge Box
3. Meet with Museum contractor

Personal:
1. Reply to emails, clean inboxes, update blog
2. Write new Dandelion Moms article
3. Begin online shopping for remainder of gifts
 

Monday, November 12, 2012

While I'm offline...

Feel free to peruse my back articles, send me an email, or check out my Pinterest page...I'll get back with everyone next Monday and give you all a peak into my week without Internet : )

Weekly Goals & Internet-Free Challenge :: 11/12 - 11/19/2012

Weekly Goals for 11/5 - 11/11/2012

Home:
1. Learn how to patch up dry wall holes - One of these days...
2. Weekly chores
3. Take items to Goodwill
4. Freezer cooking

Family:
1. Boys to their activities
2. Date night with Jake
3. Work on holiday crafts

Volunteering:
1. LongviewWOW meeting
2. 4-H Food Challenge practice
3. Find paper pulp for JMG class

Personal:
1. Visit with friends
2. Update wardrobe
3. Continue reading Courting Cate
4. Take some Fall landscape photos

I met most of my goals for last week. This week, however, instead of listing out goals to meet, I've decided on a challenge for myself : a week without the Internet! Possible? I bet so, but I haven't done it in well, forever. So, I'm going to give it a shot before the Holidays! If you're up to the challenge, especially before all the online shopping begins, join me! I'd love to hear how your week goes!
~ Michelle

Friday, November 9, 2012

The English Garden :: A Dandelion Moms Article







Head on over to Dandelion Moms and read all about creating an English Garden in my newest series, Gardening Styles!
 - Michelle

A Texas Girl Speaks Out :: Americans, Please Listen!

While I am usually not one to voice political views on the Internet, I do want to encourage each and everyone of you (regardless of party affiliation) to stop sometime over the next week or so and view the UN Arms Treaty, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. All three of these will be making their way to the Senate very soon. If ratified, these treaties become the Supreme Law of the Land and trump our States' laws and our Constitution. 

 Opposing these treaties is something every American should consider just on the notion that someone else can tell Americans what our laws should be. On the flip side of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, there is a large push to add the Parental Rights Amendment to the US Constitution solidifying the rights of parents in this country (Something all parents should pay attention too!).

So what can we do? We can call our Senators and let them know our viewpoints as well as share this with our family and friends. Please know, I understand we all have different views on many hot topic issues, like marriage, women's rights, and the economy, but this is of even more importance, because at some point one of these treaties will effect you or your family - they will effect Americans.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election 2012 :: Your Vote Matters!



Today is the day - everything will either change overnight or continue on its path. With many people wondering if their vote matters, please know that it does. However, more important than mattering, please understand, as an American, you have a privilege many in the world battle their governments for - the right to vote; to have a voice, no matter how large or small, in our government. Please take the time today to help decide the future of our country - vote.

Here is a video from Khan Academy regarding our voting practices and the Electoral College:

Electoral College: How we elect our President in the United States

Monday, November 5, 2012

Guest Post by Sheri Rose Shepherd :: Building Up the Men in Our Lives

Over the next couple of weeks, I am pleased to share with you all guest posts written by best-selling author and Bible life coach Sheri Rose Shepherd. Sheri is currently in the midst of releasing her newest book and Bible Study, Your Heart's Desire. In her own words, Sheri describes her novel as,
"...written for every woman who has ever loved a man, the married woman who loves her man but struggles in her marriage, the single woman who desires to find a good man to love her, the divorced woman who believed in her marriage only to have her man walk out and for the mothers of sons who desire their beloved boys to become men of faith. This book is written for you and every woman who wants to find the courage to take a step of faith and believe that God is bigger than any statistic and that He still has the power to rebuild what is broken and restore what is lost between men and women today."
I hope you all enjoy these guest posts and glean something meaningful from them. -- Michelle

 
Building Up the Men in Our Lives
He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends. (Proverbs 17:9, NIV)
By Sheri Rose Shepherd
Bestselling Author and Bible Life Coach
learn more ▶
When our husbands let us down, it's hard not to voice our anger and disappointment. We don't do it to hurt or embarrass our husbands. We are women, and we're wired to share our hearts with another person. We definitely need one another to become the women we want to be, but we need to be careful not to cripple our men by uncovering their weaknesses to everyone.

Obviously we all need someone to help us sort through our feelings. I think it is best to find one or two trustworthy people who are in favor of our marriages and won't repeat our conversation to others. I have two best friends to whom I tell everything because they help me see things from my husband's perspective and help me fight for my marriage by praying and sharing wisdom from the Word. I am careful, even with them, not to overshare in a way that would humiliate my husband, Steve.

Think about how we would feel if our husbands talked about our weaknesses at their workplaces. Let's commit to covering our men and not exposing them, and let's pray for them to grow as leaders.

Don't Enable . . .
For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her. (Ephesians 5:25)

Because we women are so good at leading, many times we leave our men in the dust or allow them to become weak leaders. How are they ever supposed to learn to lead if we do everything for them? We are not their mothers; we are their wives. Christ asked them to love, lead, and take care of us the way He loves the church.

It's important that we not try to do things that are our husbands' responsibility unless they are absolutely necessary. Even if we can do their job better than they can, we're not helping them become the men they long to be; we are enabling them. They will see us as their mothers and not their wives, which will make us bitter toward them and produce the fruit of self-hate in their lives.

Do What You Can to Empower Him . . .
Sarah obeyed her husband, Abraham, and called him her master. You are her daughters when you do what is right without fear of what your husbands might do. (1 Peter 3:6)

I used to think it was strange that Sarah called her husband "master." I thought maybe she was even putting her husband before God. But today I realize she was a wise woman. She was empowering her husband to find his place as her leader. We can also help our husbands become godly leaders for us. Even if they do not rise up right away, we shouldn't give up on them. We can keep praying and empowering them. Whatever they do, big or small, let's encourage them. Let's be like Sarah and do whatever it takes to empower our men to be great.

For more teaching from the Your Heart's Desire book and Bible study, visit www.biblelifecoaching.com.

Watch the trailer:

Watch the trailer

Weekly Goals :: 11/5 - 11/11/2012

Weekly Goals for 10/29 - 11/4/2012

Home:
1. Finish rose bed and yard
2. Dust ceiling fans
3. Call Terminex to poison fire ant beds in yard
4. Learn how to patch up dry wall holes - Between Opening Weekend and a new niece, this just didn't get accomplished last week!

Family:
1. Date night with Jake
2. Boys' events for the week
3. Work on Christmas gifts

Volunteering:
1. WOW North Pole Express
2. Little LEGO Club
3. Junior Master Gardening
4. Finish Shooting Sports things

Personal:
1. Prepare for homeschool Fall Festival
2. Begin reading Courting Cate
3. Write Dandelion Mom's Articles.
4. Meet my new niece!

Weekly Goals for 11/5 - 11/11/2012

Home:
1. Learn how to patch up dry wall holes
2. Weekly chores
3. Take items to Goodwill
4. Freezer cooking

Family:
1. Boys to their activities
2. Date night with Jake
3. Work on holiday crafts

Volunteering:
1. LongviewWOW meeting
2. 4-H Food Challenge practice
3. Find paper pulp for JMG class

Personal:
1. Visit with friends
2. Update wardrobe
3. Continue reading Courting Cate
4. Take some Fall landscape photos

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Fall Recipes :: Easy Peach Cobbler

 
I absolutely love Peach Cobbler, especially when I can make one while putting together dinner. You will not only enjoy the taste of this cobbler, but you will also be pleased with the simplicity of the recipe. 

 
Ingredients:
½ cup butter
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 can of peach pie filling (or 2 cups of any fruit)

Directions:
Melt butter in a 2 quart baking dish. Mix the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl; stir in milk. Pour mixture over butter, making sure not to stir the two together. Gently pour fruit over batter; spread evenly. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until crust lightly browns.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sweet Things :: Our Family's Newest Addition


Every child begins the world again. ~ Thoreau

Yesterday, I had one of the sweetest opportunities life brings - I got to meet my niece. I'd love to share her name with you all (because it is adorable), but I hope you understand for safety reasons I cannot.

She is definitely a cutie and quite aware of her surroundings. She was born with a head full of curly red hair like her Mom and Aunt (she has three of us and two Uncles). I'm tickled pink and so is Jake; this is our first opportunity to be an Aunt and Uncle and we're thrilled!

Here's a glimpse of our family's newest addition:



 

Happy Halloween :: It's Pumpkin Time!

I'm not sure why I enjoy pumpkin patches as much as I do. Maybe it is the cool weather, the vibrant colors, or the gleeful squeals of children, but visiting pumpkin patches is one of my Fall favorites!







Happy Halloween!
 
 {All of these photos were taken at Ellis Home and Garden.}

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Fall Cleaning ~ Are You Ready Yet? :: Task #14 (Last One!)

Fall Cleaning


Each Spring, homemakers across the country begin in the yearly ritual of Spring Cleaning. We break out our mops and dust clothes in an effort to ready our homes for the warmer weather. However, did you know, we need to do the same type of cleaning in the Fall?

Fall Cleaning is not as arduous as it's Springtime counterpart (thank goodness!), but it is necessary to ensure our homes are ready for the season and holidays.

This past weekend, I was able to complete many of my Fall Cleaning goals, but I still have a few to finish. Over the next couple of weeks, I will remind everyone of tasks they can do each day to accomplish their Fall Cleaning; thus, making the season a little less hectic.


Today's task:
  • Wrap outside faucets for early preparation. If you're not ready to wrap for winter due to your climate, go ahead and purchase the materials you will need in advance. This will save time when temperatures drop below freezing and others are rushing to hardware stores.
 
 
 
This was the last of the Fall Cleaning task list. If you've just joined in, please look back for past posts!

Weekly Goals :: 10/29 - 11/7/2012

Weekly Goals for 10/21 - 10/27/2012

Home:
1. Weed flower beds, mow and rake yard - We got a little bit of this accomplished.
2. Clean my section of the garage - How did it get so out of control?
3. Replace the A/C filter

Family:
1. 4-H Harvest Festival
2. Take boys to Ensemble and Theatre
3. 9th week of school - 4 weeks until exams!

Volunteering:
1. New field trip sign-ups
2. Work in the Garden
3. LongviewWOW Board meeting
4. Shooting Sports - finish by-laws, budget, and grant list - I love to help and volunteer, but I'm a little behind on this.

Personal:
1. Make dish towels from fabric I purchased at Sew What! - Can't wait to finish these up : )
2. Organize craft bins
3. 30 minutes a night of nothing but quiet and stillness

Weekly Goals for 10/29 - 11/7/2012

Home:
1. Finish rose bed and yard
2. Dust ceiling fans
3. Call Terminex to poison fire ant beds in yard
4. Learn how to patch up dry wall holes

Family:
1. Date night with Jake
2. Boys' events for the week
3. Work on Christmas gifts

Volunteering:
1. WOW North Pole Express
2. Little LEGO Club
3. Junior Master Gardening
4. Finish Shooting Sports things

Personal:
1. Prepare for homeschool Fall Festival
2. Begin reading Courting Cate
3. Write Dandelion Mom's Articles.
4. Meet my new niece!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Fall Cleaning ~ Are You Ready Yet? :: Task #13

Fall Cleaning


Each Spring, homemakers across the country begin in the yearly ritual of Spring Cleaning. We break out our mops and dust clothes in an effort to ready our homes for the warmer weather. However, did you know, we need to do the same type of cleaning in the Fall?

Fall Cleaning is not as arduous as it's Springtime counterpart (thank goodness!), but it is necessary to ensure our homes are ready for the season and holidays.

This past weekend, I was able to complete many of my Fall Cleaning goals, but I still have a few to finish. Over the next couple of weeks, I will remind everyone of tasks they can do each day to accomplish their Fall Cleaning; thus, making the season a little less hectic.


Today's task:
  • Dry clean and mend any formal wear for your upcoming holiday events. Purchase new shoes and/or accessories, if needed.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Simple Living :: 5 Staples in My Pantry/Fridge by Stacy

I’m in the process of getting back to blogging, so recently I took a look at a post I was tagged in several years ago for my top 5 items in my pantry or fridge.  My items are a little different from a few years ago.   But isn’t that something you can always count on – change?  One thing that I’ve been slowly working towards in my family’s eating life-style is the goal “easily digestible.”  We have not turned our eating upside down with this, but it’s at the forefront of our mind when making food choices.  The kids can even tell others what processed food is....and were happy to let a family member know that their cheese was “fake!”  Here’s to hoping we don’t turn into food snobs, but take time along our journey to encourage others to think about what they’re putting in their body.

Mom’s Best Naturals Quick Oats - $1.95 for about 11 servings

This is our go-to breakfast for Sunday morning.  These are the best oats ever.  “Why?” you might ask.  Well, because the oats are small; almost as if they’ve been ground a bit.  I also use these in a recipe for high-protein pancakes – my family loves these! (See recipe below.) 

Del Monte Fruit Salad - $2.00 for 1 lb 16 oz (Wal-mart) 

The best deal for your money is to buy the bulk size, but since it’s on a different isle, I don’t always remember.  I’ve been making fruit salad for years thanks to my Auntie.  With this canned salad, I take out the squishy-green-gross grapes and replace them with firm red seedless. They make the salad oh-so-pretty.  Sometimes I add extra maraschino cherries.  And when we have pecan pieces, I add a handful of those.  This makes a great dessert and is definitely my go-to when we’ve run out of fresh fruit right before pay day!

Tilamook cheese – I prefer the 2.5 lb.  extra sharp cheddar at Sam’s for $9.98. 
At our Wal-mart, we can get 2 lb. of mild cheddar for the same price.  These cheeses are aged, and therefore easier to digest.  The longer a cheese is aged, the harder the texture becomes and the less lactose remains.  I use to buy whatever was on sale, shredded, and sometimes still do (Super 1 had a great deal last month - $10 for 4 lbs. – couldn’t beat that!).  Because this is a higher-quality cheese, you need less (although may not want less) when you use it.  It shreds up well and can be sliced for sandwiches. Now, if I could only keep my 8 year old son out of it...my boys know this is “real” cheese.

Avocado and Almonds – previously these were a luxury, but now they are a staple! 
Unless they are on sale, the best buy for avocado is at Sam’s for about 5 of them for less than $4 (although I’ve been recently seeing them packaged together at Wal-mart).   My almond purchase varies, but these are great with cut up apple (my husband’s favorite snack).  I don’t have a go-to brand for almonds, although when at our local health food store I buy the NOW brand.  I’ve come across some cinnamon coated (without sugar) almonds and they are too good to keep in the house!

Goat’s Milk – I haven’t done the research (but others have) and goat’s milk is great for kids. 
We’ve been purchasing goat’s milk from a local goat farm for about the past year.  I’m not sure what we like better – drinking the goat’s milk, or seeing the goats when we go to the farm!  They also have a Llama, chickens, peacocks, turkeys…yep, we’ll keep going back!

So, what’s in your pantry or fridge that is a must have?  Tell us about it!

 

Extra Protein Pancakes


1 c. oats

1 c. cottage cheese

2 eggs

2 t. sugar

1 t. vanilla

1 t. cinnamon

I run my cottage cheese through the blender because I don’t like it chunky, so the last few times I’ve just put all the ingredients in the blender to make it easier.  I cook these up in a non-stick pan with canola oil spray, waiting till I see the edges firm before flipping.  We use NOW Maple Syrup and the family gobbles them up!  Easy to reheat in a toaster oven if you have any left-over (so you might want to make 2 batches if this is your desire).  One batch makes about six to seven 3” pancakes.  This may not sound like a lot, but they are filling.  My kids eat ½ the amount compared to my regular homemade pancake mix.

 _______________
Stacy has been married to her best friend for 18 years and is mothering two fabulously active boys. She is intent on maintaining her sanity while homeschooling her boys, so they spend lots of time outdoors.  Their newest family fun has been taking down the old fort/swing set to be replaced by a large fire pit and picnic table to enjoy during the fall and winter.  Currently she is writing bible studies and teaching in a new women’s ministry at her church, Generation M, “women living the legacy of Christ.”  In her spare time, she enjoys reading fiction and has recently happened upon “Downton Abbey.”  You can find her revamping her blog at Against All Hurry:  achieving leisure one day at a time.  

             

 


 

Fall Cleaning ~ Are You Ready Yet? :: Task #12

Fall Cleaning


Each Spring, homemakers across the country begin in the yearly ritual of Spring Cleaning. We break out our mops and dust clothes in an effort to ready our homes for the warmer weather. However, did you know, we need to do the same type of cleaning in the Fall?

Fall Cleaning is not as arduous as it's Springtime counterpart (thank goodness!), but it is necessary to ensure our homes are ready for the season and holidays.

This past weekend, I was able to complete many of my Fall Cleaning goals, but I still have a few to finish. Over the next couple of weeks, I will remind everyone of tasks they can do each day to accomplish their Fall Cleaning; thus, making the season a little less hectic.


Today's task:
  • Every six months, carpets should be cleaned. If you have a carpet cleaner, clean your carpets according to manufacturer's directions.  If you do not have a carpet cleaner, contact a local professional. Area rugs should be professionally cleaned.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Made in Texas :: Sew What!, East Texas' Newest Quilt Shop



Texas Homemaking


On Saturday, I had the pleasure of taking part in the Grand Opening of Sew What!, East Texas' newest quilting shop, located in Palestine, Texas. Co-Owners Paula and Nikki Chaffin have hopes of taking Sew What! to the next level in quilting experiences by not only offering fabrics, notions, and Janome machines for sale, but also through providing sewing and quilting classes, homeschool class opportunities, bridal shower events and so much more!

Texas Homemaking
 
 
Texas Homemaking

Featuring the newest Moda and Riley Blake fabrics, as well as automated (long arm) quilting and embroidering machines, Sew What! expects to provide quality products and fantastic customer service to its patrons. In the near future, Sew What! will provide online product ordering.
 
Texas Homemaking

For more information on classes beginning in November and other upcoming events, please visit this link. Like Sew What! on Facebook to keep up with current offers. If you enjoy Pinterest, you can also find Sew What!'s recent pins and boards here. If you happen to be in the Palestine area, stop by and peruse the newest shop in Palestine.

Texas Homemaking

Sew What! is located at 619 W. Oak, Palestine, Texas 75801.
The shop's phone number is (903) 729- 2889.
Hours:
Monday - Wednesday: 9:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Thursday: 9:00 AM - 8:00 PM
Friday: 9:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Saturday: 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM