Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Chores for Children :: Ages 2 to 12

Children as young as two can begin learning how to be helpers around the house. I remember when my youngest was two and he would rinse beans before I put them on to cook. He didn't think of it as work; albeit, he played quite a while. Yet, the entire time his play was work.

Today, both my boys have chores gauged for their level of maturity and capability. I think it is important for parents to understand the need to account for both of these factors before assigning chores, as every child is different.

{As a side note, my boys do not use commercial chemical cleaners or any products considered dangerous to children. Make sure you research products before allowing your child to use them; and please don't leave your children unattended while they are working on chores.}

Ages 2-5

A young child in this age range is essentially Mommy's or Daddy's helper. Anything you ask them to do must be monitored well.
  • washing beans or produce in the sink
  • folding dish towels (don't expect them to be perfect)
  • matching socks
  • picking up toys
  • sweeping small messes with hand broom (no glass!)

Ages 5-7

I love this age range of helpers most because they enjoy being a helper without being asked. One should still monitor this group in order for them to get a good grasp of chore fundamentals.

  • carrying in groceries
  • dusting
  • cleaning windows
  • pulling weeds
  • cleaning up after pets
  • emptying small trashcans
  • making up bed
  • picking up trash in car
  • help making simple lunches

Ages 8-9

This age range has a big transition in chores as more responsibilities are learned and perfected.

  • folding and hanging laundry
  • feeding pets
  • watering the garden
  • unloading the dishwater
  • vacuuming
  • making lunches and simple dinners
  • setting and clearing the table
  • cleaning baseboards

Ages 10-12

My eldest son falls into this age range. He enjoys taking on the chores of a young man; it gives him a sense of accomplishment and a little bit of spending money. His favorite is mowing the yard, but he also enjoys cooking dinner, too.

  • mowing the yard with supervision
  • sweeping and mopping the floor
  • cleaning the bathrooms
  • organizing the patio
  • washing own laundry
  • detailing out car
  • putting away groceries
  • making dinners
  • bathing and training pets
These chores worked well in our household for these age ranges. I am still adding new chores as the boys' age and skill level increase. If you have chores for older children, or some I haven't mentioned, please feel free to share.

Monday, July 30, 2012


Actions are ours;
their consequences belong to heaven.

Weekly Goals :: 7/30 - 8/5/2012

Last week I posted a few of my weekly goals. I've crossed out and added to the goal list. Did you get your goals accomplished? Did you set new ones?

Weekly Goals for 7/23 - 7/29/2012

1. Make a party supply list for youngest's birthday
2. Laundry
3. Organize back patio for party
4. Update book inventory list We're a little busy right now for this goal, so I'm moving it back for sometime in Nov. when things tend to slow down.
5. Reorganize school supply cabinet

1. Continue working on Physics curriculum
2. Piano class for eldest
3. Vacation Bible School this week
4. Library summer reading program
5. Science experiments

1. Call the Caddoan Mounds for field trip
2. Find seeds for JMG's fall garden

1. Complete travel binder updates
2. Mail in food show registration
3. Complete baking for next 2 weeks
4. Begin reading Giants in the Land by Clark Burbidge and Travelers Rest by Ann Tatlock.

Weekly Goals for 7/30 - 8/5/2012

1. Pay bills
2. Touch up paint in kitchen and living room
3. Plan menu for next two weeks
4. Refill feeders (seeds and hummingbird)
5. Clean foyer

1. Finish party plans and have a party for youngest
2. Order eldest's birthday present
3. Create school journals with boys
4. Sew up youngest's shirt collars
5. Bathe Duchess and get flea meds from vet

1. Continue working on 4H One Day program
2. Outline fall JMG classes
3. Prep JMG garden bed for fall planting
4. Decide on meal to make for new Mom

1. Start planning Fall crafts
2. Continue reading Giants in the Land by Clark Burbidge and Travelers
    Rest by Ann Tatlock

Friday, July 27, 2012

Cooking with Jake :: Roasted Tomatillo Soup

Have I told you how amazing my husband is? I'm sure I have, but he truly knows how to make a girl smile!

Over the weekend, he tried his hand at a home-made soup using tomatillos, peppers, and a few other ingredients. Without a recipe to work with, he created a unique and flavorful soup I'd like to share with you. However, there is a caveat: this recipe is spicy. If you don't like the heat, just substitute the warm peppers for a sweeter, milder pepper or use less of the spicy peppers.


3 lbs. tomatillos, hulled and quartered
2 pablano peppers, cut into chunks
2 cayenne peppers
3 jalapeno peppers
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 medium white onion, sliced
salt/pepper to taste
2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 cup cream
3 cups of chicken, beef, or a combination of both broths
1/2 stick butter

In a large Pyrex or stone dish, roast all vegetables, salt/pepper, and olive oil at 450 degrees for 25 minutes.

In a large pot, combine the broth(s), butter, and roasted veggies and bring to a boil for one minute; then, simmer for 17 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, blend the veggies and soup mixture until smooth. Remove the pot from heat and slowly add the cream. Mix well and serve warm.

Cheese or sour cream make a great garnish. Serve as a main dish or accompanying homemade chicken taquitos. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Travel Texas :: The Northeast Texas Rural Heritage Museum and the Ezekiel Airship

A few weekends ago, our family visited the Northeast Texas Rural Heritage Museum on a whim (we just happened to be in Pittsberg). I had never heard of the NTRH Museum, but when I saw the sign regarding the Ezekiel Airship, my curiosity was peaked.

Upon entering the museum, visitors are directed to the section regarding railroad memorabilia. The boys oohed over the telegraph machines while my husband and I caught up on local history.

The next exhibit room included early Americana industries featured in the region, along with their implements: farming, logging, oil, etc. The exhibit also housed an extensive collection of Caddoan Native American artifacts. However, the highlight of the museum lie in an entirely different building.

Filled with a firetruck, a steam engine, a wildlife diorama, and a small art gallery, this building was home to something of even more appeal: the Ezekiel Airship.

When I turned the corner and looked up, it was like looking at something di Vinci may have created. As a scaled down replica, this Ezekiel Airship was not the one that flew, however, it was built to spec from the original design of Reverend Burrell Cannon, a local Baptist minister. It is said that the Ezekiel Airship flew a whole year earlier than the Wright Brothers' plane at Kitty Hawk in 1903. While there were no official records, a museum film provides generational witnesses, as well as the story behind the Reverend's inspiration for this flying machine.

I found it very interesting the basis for this craft came from the book of Ezekiel, chapter 1 verses 15-22:

As I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the ground beside each creature with its four faces. 16 This was the appearance and structure of the wheels: They sparkled like chrysolite, and all four looked alike. Each appeared to be made like a wheel intersecting a wheel. 17 As they moved, they would go in any one of the four directions the creatures faced; the wheels did not turn about as the creatures went. 18 Their rims were high and awesome, and all four rims were full of eyes all around. 19 When the living creatures moved, the wheels beside them moved; and when the living creatures rose from the ground, the wheels also rose. 20 Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, and the wheels would rise along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. 21 When the creatures moved, they also moved; when the creatures stood still, they also stood still; and when the creatures rose from the ground, the wheels rose along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.

In conjunction with the museum exhibits, ticket holders may also visit the farmstead. We didn't go this particular trip as we had previous plans, but I do hope to return in the future. If you go, make sure you allow time to visit both portions of the museum and leave about 20 minutes to view the documentary on the Reverend Burrell Cannon and his Ezekiel Airship.

The Northeast Texas Rural Heritage Museum does not have a website; however, I've added pertinent information below.

Northeast Texas Rural Heritage Depot and Museum. From US 271 take Jefferson St./Hwy 557 west into downtown. Turn south at Mt. Pleasant St./Hwy 238, then make an immediate right onto E. Marshall St. Two blocks, on the left.
Th-Sa 10 am - 4 pm. (Call to verify)
Adults $4, Students $2.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Up, Up, and Away :: Balloons Take to the Sky

The best way of travel, however, if you aren't in any hurry at all, if you don't care where you are going, if you don't like to use your legs, if you don't want to be annoyed at all by any choice of directions, is in a balloon. In a balloon, you can decide only when to start, and usually when to stop. The rest is left entirely to nature.
— William Pene du Bois, The Twenty-one Balloons

I'm not writing a blog post today...in fact, I'm calling in sick...I've got balloon fever! It's highly contagious; I promise. In fact, I think it may take a week to recover from it.

Fear not, I should be fine once Saturday has passed and the Balloon Glow has long ceased to fill the evening air with an orange hue.

For those avid readers, I'll post here and there each day, but not early in the morning as I typically do. No, this week is reserved for ballooning. It's not on my to-do list or goal sheet, because ballooning is a magical whimsy and I don't want it tied to any list.

If you happen to be in the Longview or Kilgore area of Texas, you are in for a real treat. Hope to see you all out searching for balloons; and remember, eyes to the sky!

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Pinterest Production :: Tomatillo Avocado Salsa

I've been slowly adding interesting recipes to my Food board on Pinterest, but I haven't recently made any until now. Be on the lookout for a lot of new recipes!

Now, this recipe came from a lady who got it from a lady at a church pot luck. The salsa was offered to guests as a garnish for their pork carnitas. I eat this as a traditional salsa, but I can imagine how delicious this would taste on Street Tacos. I've adapted this recipe from the original.

Tomatillo Avocado Salsa


1 lb. tomatillos, hulls, washed, and quartered
1/8 medium white onion
1 clove of garlic
1 jalapeno
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 avocado, peeled and seed removed
1/3 bunch of cilantro, chopped

Combine all ingredients (except avocado) in a blender or food processor, until well blended.

Add the avocado and blend until everything is nicely combined. Serve cold with chips or warm tortillas.

This makes approximately 1 quart jar and may last up to a week in the fridge (my jar barely made it through the weekend).

{If you add 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of sour cream (or more if desired), the salsa becomes a green dip like served in many Tex-Mex restaurants.}

Weekly Goals :: 7/16-7/22/2012

Last week I posted a few of my weekly goals. I've crossed out and added to the goal list. Did you get your goals accomplished? Did you set new ones?

Weekly Goals for 7/16 - 7/22/2012

1. Outsourced bed weeding to eldest, check on progress
2. Weekly chores
3. Teach eldest how to do his own laundry from start to end
4. Plan out next 2 weeks' menu
5. Reorganize pots & pans

1. Library summer reading program
2. Deliver birthday invitations
3. Shakespeare Festival play
4. Pick up a wedding gift before Saturday
5. Pump Jacks Baseball Game We were not able to attend, but we did find a home for our tickets!

1. Follow-up calls regarding 4-H One Day program
2. Email 4-H Food Challenge participants
3. Complete painting project for VBS
4. Continue working on Homeschool Fall/Spring Field Trips
5. Prep for JMG class

1. Take a nap
2. Continue working on my household binder updates
3. Read The Stars Shine Bright by Sibella Giorello for an upcoming review
    and online party.

Goals for 7/23 - 7/29/2012

1. Make a party supply list for youngest's birthday
2. Laundry
3. Organize back patio for party
4. Update book inventory list
5. Reorganize school supply cabinet

1. Continue working on Physics curriculum
2. Piano class for eldest
3. Vacation Bible School this week
4. Library summer reading program
5. Science experiments

1. Call the Caddoan Mounds for field trip
2. Find seeds for JMG's fall garden

1. Complete travel binder updates
2. Mail in food show registration
3. Complete baking for next 2 weeks
4. Begin reading Giants in the Land by Clark Burbidge and Travelers Rest by Ann Tatlock.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Last Night's Tragedy :: Hope Amongst the Grief

I received a letter this afternoon from one of the book companies I review for and I wanted to share it with you, my readers. I think after what occurred last night in Aurora, this may help some of you, as it did me.

Here is what Chris Sigfrids had to say:

I woke up this morning and my wife said to me, "Something bad happened in Denver last night."

She didn't know or say what it was as I rushed out the door for work.
On the drive in, I turned on 850 KOA, the largest radio station in Colorado. It was non-stop coverage of a shooting that had taken place just seven short hours ago.

I listened as one of the authorities recounted what happened: 12 people have been killed and 38 wounded in what is being called the "Theater Shooting" in Aurora, Colorado. Witnesses say a masked gunman, dressed in black, walked into the theater with a gas mask on, threw gas canisters into the theater and then opened fire on the crowd. (Hear two witnesses account of the tragedy).

If God Is GoodAs I drove down I-25 listening to what had happened, just 50 miles up the road, I began to consider what the appropriate response was. Should I be angry? Should I forgive? Should I get a concealed carry permit? Should we have tighter gun laws?

I arrived at work and went to chapter four in Randy Alcorn’s book, If God Is Good (download it here).

After spending 10 minutes with just a portion of Randy's book, I felt comfort. I had answers. I found my orientation amidst the flood of possible responses.


I hope by sharing If God is Good with you all, your questions will be answered as well. Praying for those involved in this tragedy - Michelle

Simple Living :: Tip for Arranging Fresh Flowers

This is one of the neatest tips to arranging flowers I have ever stumbled upon. It works with any size vase or bowl and any type of bloom.

First, I went into the rose bed and clipped all the new blooms. Then, using cellophane tape (scotch tape), I created a tape grid. Once done, I trimmed the roses and inserted them into each grid space.

I think this may be how I do all my future arrangements!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

DIY :: Upcycle an Ordinary Glass Jar

To get this look, take a leftover food jar (I used an olive jar) with the labels removed and write a word or saying on the jar using a marker. Then, using a hot glue gun, trace over your written word(s). Allow the glue to dry and remove all wispy glue extras. Using quick bursts, cover the jar with your favorite spray paint color. I used metallic silver. Once dry, add your favorite flowers or accents.

The Review is In :: Linnea in Monet's Garden

If you haven't read Linnea in Monet's Garden with your children, your family is missing out on a wonderful story about a little girl's journey to the garden of one of history's greatest artists.

First written in 1985 by Christina Bjork and illustrated by Lena Anderson, it has been re-released this 25th anniversary year in printed formats, as well as e-reader formats.

The story begins with Linnea dreaming of Monet's garden with her retired friend, Mr. Bloom, whom encourages Linnea in her art studies. The pair take a trip to Paris together and visit the little pink house where Monet and his family lived. She takes pictures of the famous Japanese bridge and of the variety of flowers amid the garden. She and Mr. Bloom discuss Monet's style of painting: impressionism, as well as his family's interesting dichotomy.

Amid the pages, the reader discovers modern pictures, Monet's art, black and white family photos, sketches, and lively original illustrations. Bjork discusses Monet's failing sight issues and even shows readers comparison views of his drawing as his sight failed.

At the end of the story, Bjork supplied the reader with a list of things to do in Paris including museums, gardens, and markets. She also left a timeline of Monet's life and his family tree, as it can be a little confusing.

What I found lovely was Bjork's use of reality in her story about Linnea. She spoke with Jean-Marie Toulgouat and Philippe Piguet, Monet's step-great-grandsons, whom shared the family photos shown in the story.

An all around wonderful story, but also a very informative biography; I highly recommend Linnea in Monet's Garden as part of this year's top reads.

Caution: There is a section in the story regarding Monet's family history. At one point, Monet lived with his second wife before they were married and before she had officially separated from her husband. I wanted to disclose this as it might offend or catch some parents off guard.

{Disclosure: This book was provided to me in digital format free of charge by the publishing company Sourcebooks.}

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Lesson :: It's all in Who you Know

We have a saying here in Texas, "It's all in who you know," and I'm almost certain this saying is prevalent in other states, too.

Last week, I was asked by our youth ministry leader to create five foot tall letters out of cardboard or wood for our church's upcoming vbs program. The letters were to be used as an acronym for the vbs slogan Play to Lose. Of course, I said, "Sure, I'll take care of that for you," without really knowing how I would, just that I would.

Later that day, I spoke with my mother-in-law and asked her about some ideas for getting the letters LOSE cut-out. I'm not much of a wood worker, so when she and my father-in-law offered to cut them out, I was thrilled!

On Saturday, they came to visit, have breakfast, and drop off these huge letters. I thanked them and told them "I didn't have a clue how I was going to pull this off." She replied, "It's all in who you know," and she's right.

Because I knew someone with wood working skills, I was able to complete a small task asked of me by our church. I know lots of people with many talents and skills and I often ask for help or advice, but what was profound about this quote was its simple truth.

It's all in who you know - I began thinking about everyone I know and then it dawned on me - I know Jesus; I know God. Do you? For, by knowing them, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). Mercy, hope, faith, love, forgiveness, and more are all obtainable.

Could you imagine having known Jesus when he walked this Earth? Would you have been in awe standing in his presence, knowing you knew him and he knew you? Yet, then and now really are no different. For he knows you today, as you are, and loves you none the less. He will be by your side and help you when you need it most...

While needing 4 letters cut out of wood really isn't as amazing as knowing Jesus and God, I enjoyed the lesson behind the letters. I hope you do too.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Gardening with Children :: Create your Own Compost Bin

In a past Junior Master Gardener class, the children and I created our own compost bins from plastic storage tubs. I recommended the children use a 3 to 5 gallon tub, but I choose to use a larger 18 gallon tub as I had it on hand. Any size worked well.

Let's begin!

Place your storage tub lid down. Using a small drill bit (1/8 in to 1/4 in) and drill, drill holes along through the bottom of the tub. This will allow for drainage and encourage decomposers to help in the composting process.

Gather your materials: Potting soil, sphagnum moss, greens, browns, and kitchen leftovers.

This compost bin uses the sandwich layer method. Here is the order of the following layers:

1. Potting soil; cover the bottom of the tub with one inch of soil. The soil naturally contains living organisms and will be the beginning of your compost.

2. Add the layer of browns you have collected. Browns such as dead plant material, dried tomato and potato vines, garden debris, and leaves add carbon to the compost.

3. The next layer is the greens. Greens are considered grass clippings, chicken manure, green garden debris, vegetable scraps, eggshells, and even rabbit droppings.Using greens in the compost bin adds nitrogen to the soil.

4. The fourth layer of my bin is sphagnum moss. It is a light dusting to separate the greens layer. It retains moisture allowing decomposition to occur more rapidly.

5. This is the second layer of greens in my bin, but these are accumulated from kitchen leftovers.

6. Once all the collected layers are distributed, approximately 1/2 inch layer of potting soil tops off the compost bin. This layer is slightly moistened to promote healthy bacterial growth and aide in decomposition.

Place the lid on your storage tub and sit in a sunny place to begin the composting process. If you choose to do so, you may decorate your composting bin using acrylic paint. Tip: once the paint is dry, spray the decorations with an acrylic sealer.

Every 4 or 5 days, turn or mix your compost and begin layering again. If you feel heat coming off your compost than it is working as it should. Also, please note, when using city water to moisten your compost, keep in mind it contains chlorine which may affect your decomposition rate as it could kill off your bacteria.

Don'ts of Composting:

  • Don't place meats, dairy, fish, or bones into your compost.
  • Avoid using glossy magazine paper.
  • Do not add diseased plants or dog, cat, pig, or reptile feces.
  • If you need brown materials, you may use shredded newspaper, but not too much.
  • Try not to use pine needles or hair, unless you have too as they both decompose slower.
  • Avoid hay in your bin as it will contain weed and grass seeds which would not be pleasant in the garden.
Happy composting!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Great Deals :: Children's Place (7/16)

Yesterday, I took the boys to the Children's Place to find some back-to-school clothes for my youngest. There was a fantastic sale going on and we scored $97.83 worth of clothes for only $24.36.

4 polos, 2 long sleeves, 1 tee, and missing from pic is a set of pj's.

The sales rounders were full yesterday and I imagine they still are this morning. Any item on sale is being reduced at the register 60% more. Stack this 25% off entire purchase coupon and you will receive some major savings. Note: This coupon is only good for today, July 16, 2012.

Make sure you get into your Children's Place store today and if you get a great deal, tell me about it!

Weekly Goals :: 7/16-7/22/2012

Last week I posted a few of my weekly goals. I've crossed out and added to the goal list. Did you get your goals accomplished? Did you set new ones?

Goals 7/9 - 7/15/2012

1. Clean out rose bed and prune flowers - With all the rain we've had, I just haven't managed to complete this task. In fact, it has now been outsourced to the eldest son.
2. Change oil in car and clean out car
3. Take clothes to resale shop (I've never done this before so this might be
    experimental more than anything.) I've decided I'm keeping these to make new things out of to share with all of you!
4. Weekly chores and pay bills

1. Search for more books for this year upcoming school year's curriculum.
2. Start our last 5 weeks of the 2011-2012 school year before our second
    summer break.
3. Library summer reading program
4. Get tickets to the Shakespeare festival
5. Pick-up gifts for b-days and weddings - Still need a wedding gift before Saturday
6. Create invitations for youngest's birthday
7. Piano lessons for eldest

1. Email regarding a 4H meeting.
2. JMG class - composting
3. 4H meeting regarding fundraiser
4. Homeschool field trips
5. Meeting regarding church vbs decorations

1. Set up an interview with an author
2. Update my home management binder I'm still working on some new printables and my filing; almost finished though.
3. Mom's Night Out - I didn't get to go last time...hopefully next month!
4. Read Unstuck by Arnie Cole and Michael Ross for a review

Weekly Goals for 7/16 - 7/22/2012

1. Outsourced bed weeding to eldest, check on progress
2. Weekly chores
3. Teach eldest how to do his own laundry from start to end
4. Plan out next 2 weeks' menu
5. Reorganize pots & pans

1. Library summer reading program
2. Deliver birthday invitations
3. Shakespeare Festival play
4. Pick up a wedding gift before Saturday
5. Pump Jacks Baseball Game

1. Follow-up calls regarding 4-H One Day program
2. Email 4-H Food Challenge participants
3. Complete painting project for VBS
4. Continue working on Homeschool Fall/Spring Field Trips
5. Prep for JMG class

1. Take a nap
2. Continue working on my household binder updates
3. Read The Stars Shine Bright by Sibella Giorello for an upcoming review
    and online party.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Pinterest Production :: T-Shirt Scarf

If you've been on Pinterest lately, the upcycled T-shirt Scarf is all the rage. I can't tell you how often I see them and think - "How cute! If only I had one." Well, now I do.

My first attempt at the T-Shirt Scarf had me perusing through our Give-Away bin. My husband recently placed a plethora of shirts, both collared and tees, in the pile, so it was ripe for the picking.

I decided to go with a striped poly-cotton collared tee because the material was dual colored and super soft. I grabbed my shears and set to work.

I cut a strip about every inch; don't worry if your lines are not straight, it won't be noticeable. Depending on your tee's type of fabric, the cuts may be jagged or smooth; mine were jagged. 

Once you finish cutting, stretch out your loops. You don't have to be gentle with the stretching unless your fabric is dainty.

I ended up with 14 loops, you may have more or less. Since my fabric was two toned, I opted to layer the colors in a pattern. I matched the seams up before I tied 13 loops together with the 14th loop cut into two strips.

When wrapping one of the straps along the seams, make sure you pull tightly and evenly. Tie off the ends to finish the wrap. Repeat on the opposite end of the scarf where the other seams align.

Viola! Your scarf is complete. You can wear it in a single layer or in a double layer as shown below.

Each scarf will take on its own unique look depending on colors, fabric textures, cutting styles, and even knotting techniques. I can't wait to experiment with the rest of the shirts in the Give-Away box and see what types of scarfs I can make!

Have you made T-Shirt Scarfs before? Do you have a favorite technique you use when putting these together?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Norland Day & Freebie Friday :: Oh what fun!

A few months ago, I shared a bit about a holiday that is personal to our family - Norland Day. It isn't a real holiday for anyone outside of our household, unless you think its great and by all means, join in the fun!

This Norland Day just happened to coincide with two companies' freebie days: Chick-fil-A and Starbucks (my two favorite places). Needless to say, this has been one of the best Norland Days ever!

We started the day off by getting all of the work out of the way so we could play. School and chores had to be accomplished, so we got up early and set to work.

Once done, we made "cow" costumes for the boys and I. (Yes, I said cow costumes!) Every year, Chick-fil-A hosts a Cow Appreciation Day and passes out free meals or entrees to patrons depending upon their level of cowness. They even supply cow costume kits online for attendees to print out spots and signs that read Eat More Chickin.

This year, cut out spots from white muslin and safety pinned them onto brown shirts for the boys and a black summer dress for me. We looked hilarious, but we did get a combo meal and two spicy chicken sandwiches for our silliness!

Earlier in the week, I received a $10 off a $10 purchase card from Kohl's to use today (Freebie Friday). I was not in need of anything, but I have a niece on the way who will be needing a few things. I found an adorable baby outfit made by Carters originally prices at $20 and on sale for $10. Wow! Another freebie!

After lunch, we went to Starbucks to try their brand new Refreshers. The tea based drinks come in two flavors - Cool Lime and Hibiscus Berry. Today, Starbucks offered they for FREE from 12 to 3 pm. The eldest and myself opted for the enjoyable Cool Lime, while the youngest choose the sweet and crisp Hibiscus Berry. The verdict: "Refreshing!" as the youngest put it. He cracks me up sometimes...

While we sipped on our drinks, we headed to Brookshires. I received a e-coupon in my inbox this morning regarding a free 24 pack of bottled water without any other purchase. How can you resist that?

Midway through, the boys wanted to go bowling. As I've previously mentioned, we signed them up for the Kids Bowl Free summer program. Since they already have bowling shoes, we just printed out our coupons and the bowls enjoyed 2 rounds of bowling on the house.

We also landed at the new Splash Pad after bowling. It doesn't cost anything to play there and it made for a nice outdoor activity in between the rains.

The day's still young and we have many more activities planned for Norland Day. I'm almost certain I'm going to need a nap!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Produce for Kids :: Get Healthy, Give Hope Campaign

Did you know Kroger and Produce for Kids partners together for the annual Get Healthy, Give Hope campaign throughout the state of Texas? Celebrating 10 consecutive years raising money for Texas Children's Hospital and other local Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals®, this year's initiative also partners with Sprout®, as well as LazyTown.

Now through July 24th, you can be a part of the Get Healthy, Give Hope campaign by shopping the produce section in your local Kroger store. Produce for Kids will offer store shoppers collectible Ideal Meals (quick and easy healthy meal ideas) which are free and can be found in displays featuring LazyTown characters from the popular, health-focused, children’s series airing on Sprout®.

If you're a busy family craving fresh foods prepared quickly, Ideal Meals offer nutritious and culinary solutions for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert centered around fruits and veggies. Below, you will find a couple of Ideal Meals recipes.

Have you already tried Produce for Kids' Ideal Meals? If so, which one did your family enjoy most? The boys and I made Chocolatey Fruit Skewers this afternoon and they were an absolute delight to eat. I can't wait to make the Smoothie Pops for my youngest's birthday party in a couple of weeks. What a healthy way to beat the heat!

Chocolatey Fruit Skewers

Serves 4
Preparation Time: 12 minutes

·   1 premade pound cake
·   8 strawberries, whole, leaves hulled
·   8 raspberries, whole
·   1 cup pineapple, cored, chunked
·   4 Tbsp. chocolate syrup
·   4 (6-inch) bamboo skewers

1. Cut pound cake into 4 1x3-inch rectangles and 8 1x1-inch squares.
2. Place 1 1x3-inch piece cake on plate, stick skewer in middle.
3. Add strawberry, raspberry, pineapple and 1x1-inch piece of cake to skewer.  Repeat with another 
    strawberry, raspberry, pineapple and 1x1-inch piece of cake.
4. Drizzle with chocolate syrup.

Nutrition Information:
Chocolatey Fruit Skewer Calories 354, Fat 2.5g, Protein 12g, Carbohydrate 52.1g, Fiber 2.4g, Cholesterol 9mg, Sodium 280mg, Calcium 348mg, Vitamin A 529 IU, Vitamin C 44.4mg, Iron 1.4mg

Smoothie Pops
Serves 16
Preparation Time: 20 minutes

·   1 large peach or mango, peeled and chopped
·   1 large nectarine, peeled and chopped
·   2 medium bananas, sliced
·   1 pt. strawberries or raspberries
·   ¼ cup orange or fruit juice
·   2 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt

Place all smoothie ingredients in a blender and blend until just smooth.
Place 16 paper cups on a baking tray.  Pour smoothie into paper cups.  Place tray in freezer and freeze until slushy, about 20 minutes.  Remove tray from freezer and insert one popsicle stick into the center of each cup.  Return to freezer and freeze until firm, about 2 hours.
To serve, tear away paper cup and place on plate. Enjoy!

Children can also participate in the excitement by visiting the new Kids Only! section on Produce for Kids to play healthy eating games, become a Super-Active Super Hero, and enter to win prizes.

You can follow Produce for Kids on Facebook and Twitter.

{Disclosure: This blog post is written on behalf of Produce for Kids. While I whole-heartedly support the Get Healthy, Give Hope campaign, I wanted my readers to know I will be supplied a gift for this review.}

The Review is In :: Cleaning House by Kay Wills Wyma

Is childhood entitlement becoming a problem in your home? Are you looking for a solution to encourage kids to take responsibilities and chores seriously? If so, you have got to read Kay Wills Wyma's Cleaning House, a mom's 12 month experiment to rid her home of youth entitlement. But, you don't have to take my word for it.

"In an age of youth entitlement, this is a must read for moms who desire to raise godly kids with servant hearts!" - Joe White, president of Kanakuk Kamps

"Parents, take note: Kay Wills Wyma's experiment could change your life, especially if your kids suffer from 'me first!' syndrome. If you want your children to be more responsible, more self-assured, and more empathetic, Cleaning House is for you." - Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family

Kay begins Cleaning House with her newly discovered epiphany: her children don't appreciate what they have and they definitely don't understand where their possessions truly come from. She feels they believe they are 'owed' things. Her biggest push to change the way her household runs is when her eight year old son asks one day, "Why should I make my bed? That's your job!"

As a stay-at-home mother of five in the age range of three to fourteen, Kay was at her wits end. She decided to redo her thinking and implemented changes forever altering her family's lives. She set up a rewards and loss system strictly dependant on the children and her actions for each day of the month. She began each month with a challenge and $30 in a jar. If the monthly challenge was met each day, the money stayed in the children's jars. If the goal was not met daily, money was removed from the jar and paid to Kay for services rendered. It didn't take long for the kids to catch on.

The tasks Kay assigned her family were simple, but worth knowing and doing correctly. She wanted her children to gain something more than responsibility - she wanted them to gain self-confidence, understanding, respect, and a sense of pride in their accomplishments. She hoped, through their constant positive actions, her children would come to reap the rewards of their hard work; as well as build a stronger relationship with their siblings.

The Cleaning House challenge for the Wyma family included the following tasks to be mastered: make a bed and maintain an orderly room, cook and clean the kitchen, do yard work, clean a bathroom, get a job, do laundry, do handy man tasks, host a party, work together, run errands, put others first through service, and act mannerly. Kay didn't ask her children to do all of these things on Day One; she gradually worked up to these objectives throughout the year.

I really enjoyed the way Kay set up her book. She went beyond just discussing how she got her children to participate each month; she included in every chapter advice from her "Ironing Board," a group of special friends, what her children learned at the end of the month, as well as what she learned. She also added wonderfully inspiring quotes, as well as great links to resources.

One of my favorite chapters in the book deals with teaching the children to cook and clean up a kitchen. Every child must prepare an evening meal once a week. Of course, she helps the younger children, but even they must pick out a recipe and go shopping for the ingredients. I enjoyed Kay using these lessons as teaching moments every chance she got. Her youngest child was unfamiliar with a grocery store and the definition of produce. Her eldest child tried to get by with purchasing the family dinner because he was not confident in his cooking abilities.

Even if your children help out around the house, I believe your family can glean something positive from Cleaning House. I'm not sure I would implement the monetary system used in this experiment, but I did like the ideas behind it and how Kay tried to teach her children fiscal responsibility along with mastering tasks. I highly recommend this book for all stay-at-home parents as we (the larger communal we) often times tend to do the work for our children instead of allowing them to do things for themselves. I'm also very glad Kay Wills Wyma cared to shared her story with all of us.

Here is your opportunity to read the first chapter of Cleaning House.

{I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.}

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Homeschooling :: Washington's Rules of Civility

Every year, the students of the Norris Academy of Arts & Sciences engage is an annual practice of copying George Washington's Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior. While this may seem repetitive to some and even daunting to others, the students (two boys) glean wisdom from these seemingly out-dated rules.

 A lot of individuals may consider these quips irrelevant in a modern classroom, but Washington's Rules provide a child with a sense of reflection on the feelings of others and not necessarily of the self.

My eldest son is especially fond of the Rules, as one of his role models is Washington. I think the idea of copying and following the ideas of our first president from his own childhood, resonate deep within my eldest. This year, my youngest will copy the Rules for the first time. I am curious to see if he shares the same enthusiasm as his brother.

This is one of his favorites: #35 Let your Discourse with Men of Business be Short and Comprehensive.

Foundations Magazine offers the original script from the Rules online. Donna Young offers a free printable copybook and instructions on how to put the booklet together at her site. You can find a modern version at Ambleside Online. They have them listed in their FAQ section.