Thursday, August 30, 2012

Back to School :: Back to Reality

Whew! It has been a busy week in the Norris household! We've diligently kept to our new school schedule and all seems to be going perfectly. We've had several organizational meetings this week including 4H Shooting Sports and Music Ensemble. We've even prepped two garden plots!

Today was Park Day with all of our homeschool friends for play and socialization (I dare to type that word) and we've got our last day of school for the week tomorrow. As smooth as this week has gone, I'm looking forward to the weekend.

For many of you, your children have begun the new school year. Whether your children attend public or private school or are homeschooled, I leave this quote from Charlotte Mason for you to mull over:

"Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire."
Wishing you all a successful year! - Michelle

Experimental Recipes :: Blueberry Tarts

So, I came up with this recipe all on my own...well, that's not entirely true. I came up with this recipe from watching my husband make a strawberry topping for crepes and I've adapted it to my use as Blueberry Tarts. Should we call it a joint effort?


1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed
1 cup blueberries, frozen or fresh
2 tablespoons of powdered sugar
1 tablespoon of butter
1 teaspoon cornstarch
an egg and 1 teaspoon of water for the wash
sugar to sprinkle (optional)

If frozen, allow the puff pastry to thaw 30 minutes.

In a small pan, melt butter. Add blueberries and powdered sugar. Stir well. Allow the blueberries to cook over medium heat until they soften and juice forms. Add cornstarch to thicken the juice and cook for 1 minute more. Cool.

Lightly dust your working surface with flour. Gently open your puff pastry into a sheet and roll it out just a bit. Using a knife, cut the sheet into 6 equal pieces.

Place an even amount of the blueberry mixture into the center of each square. Fold over the pastry to make a pocket; I made squares and triangles. Make sure to seal the edges well by pinching them closed.

Combine the egg and water to make a wash. Using a pastry brush, spread the wash over the top of the tarts. Sprinkle sugar on top, if desired.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until the pastries are golden brown. Cool before serving.

Hint: I lined the baking sheet with parchment paper to avoid sticking and for an easy clean-up.

These were an instant hit with the kids. I really enjoyed them too. I'm sure you can do the same thing with any type of fruit; I imagine strawberry tarts would be delectable!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Wekly Goals :: 8/27 - 9/2/2012

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 8/20 - 8/26/2012

1. Eldest to mow the yard; youngest and I to weed the garden beds. I'm starting to get a little fond of the weeds...maybe they should stay a week longer ; )
2. Laundry from trip.
3. Put away camping gear - clean it up too!
4. Go get groceries and cat food - we mustn't forget the cat food : )
5. Weekly cleaning chores

1. Get the first week of school ready for Monday
2. Set-up new piano lessons for eldest - This is up for debate in the house right now, that being said, I did find contact information.
3. Set-up swimming for both boys and myself - I have had a most difficult time finding a place for swimming during the week and during the day, without having to be on a swim team. I'm not sure this one will ever be met.
4. Order baby shower gift for Sister-In-Law
5. Cook a roast for the boys and husband
6. Boys to 4H leaders meeting
7. Fall Kick-Off Party at Church
8. Register for 4H

1. Prep and plant JMG fall garden - We did a great job working on the first plot. This goal will transfer to the this week again.
2. Finish photo booth for Sunday
3. Confirm field trip for Thursday

1. Get a haircut
2. Update blog with new affiliates
3. Begin reading Touching the Sky by Tracie Peterson
4. Start new workout routine to reach my five personal goals

Weekly Goals for 8/27 - 9/2/2012

1. Get the rose bed weeded
2. Clean out the gutters
3. Weekly chores
4. Place older toys in the attic, the boys aren't ready to part with them yet!
5. Plan menu for next two weeks

1. Use coins from the Date Night jar to go on a date with my husband!
2. Complete our first week of the new school year
3. Take the boys to a 4H Shooting Sports meeting
4. Take eldest to Music Ensemble practice
5. Reorganize youngest's room - We still haven't discovered the optimal organizing strategy for him
6. Set up a LEGO instructions binder for boys

1. Complete 4H One Day set-up
2. Deliver signage for LongviewWOW
3. Homeschool group items
4. Take a meal to church friends
5. Work on grants for JMG project: greenhouse and garden
6. Continue prepping and planting the JMG garden

1. Meet my weekly workout goals
2. Continue reading Touching the Sky by Tracie Peterson
3. Organize my school binder and cabinets

And just because I wanted to share yesterday's lunch conversation:

Me: "One of our missions (today) is to work on your room (speaking to youngest)."

Without skipping a beat and as serious as possible.

Eldest: "Mission compromised."

I hope you all have a GREAT week and that if yesterday was your first day back to school, I hope it went well!

Friday, August 24, 2012

DIY :: How to Make Felt Moustaches

If you haven't already noticed, moustaches are all the rage this year. I've seen them on various types of products: pencils, lunch bags, t-shirts, and more. I've even caught a glimpse of a moustache tattoo on a lady's index finger.

Since I'm in the process of putting together a photo booth for this weekend, I decided to create the timeless moustache-on-a-stick so often viewed in photo booths for any occasion.

I had opted to purchase them on Etsy, but they were a little out of my budget range and wouldn't ship in time. So, what's a girl to do? Why, make her own, or course!

If you're wanting to make a moustache-on-a-stick for whatever event, you'll need the following:

  • a sheet of felt (A sheet will get you approximately 6 to 7 staches. I used both the sticky backed felt (black) and the plain felt (in colors) for my project.)
  • 1/4 inch dowel rods (My craft store sold them for $2.49 per packet.)
  • scissors
  • pen
  • black marker
  • hot glue (if using the plain felt)
  • moustache templates (I got mine here.)
Once you've got all of this together, you're ready to begin.

First, print and cut out your moustached templates.

Then, trace the moustaches on the felt. For the sticky backed felt, I flipped the felt over and traced on the white paper, which made cutting extremely easy. If using this felt, make sure to trace the stache twice. For the plain felt, I folded a section in half and cut out the stache while holding the template in place. By folding the felt in half, you can cut out two staches at once.

Take a dowel stick and color the top half of it with your black marker. Depending on the size of your moustache, you will color a half to a whole inch.

Now, it's time to put them together. For the sticky backed felt, simply peel the paper off both pieces. Place the dowel stick on a sticky side. (I like to angle the stick so it will not block faces when taking pictures.) Then, place the other piece, sticky side down (so that both sticky sides are touching) and press into place. If you use the plain felt, it is the same process as above, but your adhesive will be hot glue. Be careful not to burn your fingers! As an added tip, if you will add glue onto your stick before placing it on the felt, it will hold better.

Once the moustache is together, you will notice it may not be even. That is okay! Take your scissors and trim around the edges on both sides until everything is uniform!

Viola! Moustache-on-a-stick!

And you definitely want someone to try one out !

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

About Today's Posts

Today, I posted back to back book reviews. As a blogger and book reviewer, I participate in blog tours, which is when bloggers get together and review or talk about books, products, or whatever. Each blogger is assigned a certain date to post their review, and it just so happened, I had two reviews due on the same day: Live to Give and Aftermath. I hope you enjoy both books, while they are very much about different subjects, they both can impact your life in numerous ways. If you're interested in borrowing either book and you live in my vicinity, please let me know. If you want to purchase either book, there are links provided to the publishing sites. - Michelle

The Review is In :: Aftermath

Just as God's brilliant light streams through pieces of broken glass, His eternal love also shines through our broken hearts with His gentle gift of grace. - Margaret McSweeney

At some point in time, we will all lose someone we love; it is inevitable. Author Margaret McSweeney hopes to ease the loss and suffering we may feel through her newest book, Aftermath: Growing in Grace Through Grief.

McSweeney's book draws from and expands Carolyn Rhea's (her mother) book When Grief is Your Constant Companion: God's Grace for a Woman's Heartache, a book of 52 devotional poems written after the loss of Rhea's husband. McSweeney also includes other family writings she discovered when dealing with her own grief after the loss of her mother.

Throughout the novel, the author shares her own emotional experiences while processing the aspects of grief: shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. At each chapter, McSweeney provides scriptures to comfort, counsel from grief experts, a section for readers to journal with use of guided questions, and poetry from her mother's book.
McSweeney also gives input on how to handle grief through the holidays and special occasions; as well as, how to capture a loved one's legacy  and to find grace in the wilderness.

Margaret McSweeney lit a candle in loving memory of her father, Dr. Claude H. Rhea Jr., who died in Paris on 9/19/90 while on a business trip. The last thing he did before heading to Charles de Gaulle Airport was to come to Notre Dame to light a candle and to pray for someone who had wronged him in a business deal. His final lesson to give during life was that of forgiveness.

Aftermath  will comfort, guide, and aide those who suffer from grief or loss. I encourage you to use this book to help with your own journey through grief or to share with others who are facing loss. I will be recommending this title to members of our church.

Margaret McSweeney's previous titles include A Mother's Heart Knows and Go Back and Be Happy. Readers can keep up with McSweeney at Kitchen Chat or the Pearl Girls blog.

If you would like to purchase a copy of Aftermath, please visit this link. If you would like to see what other bloggers are saying about this book, please visit this link.

{I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher, New Hope Publishers.}

The Review is In :: Live to Give

If you combine what breaks your heart and what you are passionate about, you can change the world for God. - Austin Gutwein

Austin Gutwein is not your ordinary author. He's a teenager, as well as a non-profit creator. His newest release, Live to Give: Letting God Turn your Talents into Miracles, is his second published book. Austin has a gift.

After watching a video about African children losing their parents to the AIDS virus, a nine year old Austin felt called to do something. But what could a child do for others half-way around the world? Austin used his gift and love of basketball.

On World AIDS Day in 2004, he shot 2,057 free throws to represent the 2,057 kids who would be orphaned during his day of school. Through sponsorships from parents and friends, Austin raised over $3,000 that day to give hope to eight orphans in Zambia.

Over the past eight years, Austin's efforts have created Hoops of Hope, the largest free throw marathon in the world. With an estimated 40,000 people in more than 25 countries participating, Hoops of Hope has raised more than $2.5 million to build schools, medical clinics, dormitories for orphanages, and the only computer lab in Zambia.

In Live to Give, primarily written for those 12 and older, Austin engages readers in the idea that one person can really make a difference. His main biblical example is from John 6 - the famous story of Jesus feeding the masses with the loaves of bread and fish. Austin believes this story of the Bible shows more than just Jesus performing a miracle; it is an example of how the young  can be part of something bigger, for it was the boy's lunch that fed the many. Austin insists that if individuals would take the things that make them unique and focus on how to use those God given gifts or talents, than they too could make a difference in the lives of others.

"For me, it was shooting hoops to raise money. [God] wanted me to give my time and my favorite hobby. For the boy in the multitude of 5,000, it was his lunch. For you...well, this book is meant to help you discover what that is," Austin writes. "But there is one common theme throughout all of our stories: we all need to live to give because we were made for it. Nothing beats living this way! Nothing we could eat, drink, buy, play, watch, or win in life can compare to the feeling of giving ourselves away, using 'whatever gift we have received to serve others as faithful stewards of God's grace.'"

Beyond just the idea of living to give, Austin also offers young readers ways to deal with social issues, such as bullying, peer pressure, comfort zones, confidence, and more.

Austin discusses how to live to give by exploring these four concepts with his audience and asking readers to discuss them with their parents: 1. What you passionate about; 2. The things that break your heart; 3. The way you want to serve God; and 4. What your praying and dreaming about, and what God has led you toward so far. Even as an adult, I see the relevance of these concepts in my own life.

As a parent, I would recommend other parents read this book before they share it with their children. Austin has several great points for parents; ideas/concepts we may sometimes overlook or forget. I especially found his letter to adults worth sharing.

Dear parents, youth workers, and everyday heroes,
      Every time you say yes to a child or to a child's dream, you are having an impact. You are having an impact larger than you'll ever know. You may never know how big a story God is going to write through your child, and it all can start because you say yes. To have an impact, say yes. Be the parent or children's pastor or youth pastor who says yes to their dreams. Be the one who encourages them like none other. And never have doubts as to whether or not you are having an impact. You are.

If you would like to purchase Live to Give for the young reader in your life, please visit this link. To view what other bloggers are saying about Austin Gutwein and his newest novel, please visit this link. For more information on Hoops of Hope, Austin's non-profit, please visit this link, where you can get involved and make donations.

Win and Kindle Fire and have $250 donated to the charity of your choice!
Enter Today - 8/9-8/25!

{I was provided a copy of Live to Give by the publisher, Thomas Nelson.}

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Texan Travel Destination :: Destin, Florida

taken by :: Michelle Norris
Destin, Florida

I'm sure you're wondering why I'm writing a travel post about Florida on a blog targeting Texas audiences, but if you were in Destin last week, than you were either a local or a Texan.

taken by :: Michelle Norris
Eroding Beach

It seems like Texans constantly flock to the Luckiest Fishing Village from Spring Break to the last weeks of Summer. With pristine, white beaches and clear, blue water, Destin beckons the hearts of Texans year after year. While Texas has it own natural beaches, they simply do not compare to the sheer beauty of the Florida Gulf Coast.
taken by :: Michelle Norris
Morning Fisher

Oddly enough, our family began travel plans with Corpus Christi and South Padre Island in mind until we mapped it out and discovered Destin was the same distance from us as our Texas coast. Decisions, decisions.

taken by :: Michelle Norris

Destin quickly moved to the top of the list; but with rising gas prices, hotel costs, and not enough ample time to budget, how could we afford a trip?

We started by having a garage sale. Actually, the boys had a garage sale, and they made quite a bit off of things they had outgrown or no longer found interesting.

Then, we cut eating lunches and dinners out, including my husband's office lunches. The boys and I skipped Starbucks a few times. The last two weeks before the trip, we ate mostly out of the pantry and avoided the grocery store except for milk and bread. I even added my birthday money to the vacation fund. To round out the budget, my husband had a brief business trip compensated before we left.

taken by :: Michelle Norris
Beach Oats

 Jake and I planned to have the family stay for 4 nights and 5 days, but hotel costs would have been a minimum of $800. We decided to camp at Henderson Beach State Park for right at $125 for the week. We planned on cooking our own meals from the fresh seafood found at Sexton's and from groceries purchased at the local Wal-Mart.

Our itinerary for the week included a scalloping trip to Port Saint Joe (South of Destin), a two hour snorkeling tour, kayaking a river (East of Destin), and visiting the Butterfly House in Navarre. However, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

taken by :: Michelle Norris
Storm on the Horizon

We knew the weather had rain in the forecast; originally, there was a 20% to 30% prediction. What we didn't know about were the back-to-back lightening storms we would experience on Monday and Tuesday night (in a tent!). Monday night wasn't too bad, but Tuesday night scared Jake and I. I kept thinking please don't move Jake so we won't get electrocuted! When Wednesday morning rolled around and we were all still alive, we opted for the Holiday Inn, especially since more storms were on the way.

taken by :: Michelle Norris
Jake and youngest building sand castles

The Holiday Inn at Destin is very much a family orientated hotel. They had a program every evening for the boys to partake in (family trivia, a magic show, a birthday party, etc) as well as a kid's discovery room, arcade, game tables, beach front access, and free ice cream and popcorn. What kid wouldn't love that? In our hotel room, we had a queen size bed and then an enclosed section of the room for kids that included a bunk bed set, a TV, playstation, and a child sized table and chairs. The boys could also check-out games and movies for free. The hotel offered an indoor and outdoor pool, a cafe, bar, restaurant, and more for guests. Best of all - it was extremely clean and the staff was accommodating and friendly, especially those engaging children through the Buccaneer Program. (Next year, they are adding a lazy river and a zero entrance pool.)

We did, however, have a lovely time camping. We had a splendid tent site and the beach was nearly vacant. The facilities and showers of the park were immaculate and when we get a camper, I'd love to stay there again.

taken by :: Michelle Norris
Toes in the Sand

Now, most of the time when we are on a strict budget I'd start sweating every penny we spent. Yet, on Monday night, when we were buying groceries, the boys decided instead of a snorkeling tour they would rather purchase their boogies boards, sand toys, snorkels, and goggles and have them for the entire trip than for only two hours. I budgeted for all the beach toys and some were on sale due to the end of the summer clearance, so by cutting out the snorkeling trip we saved 4/5 of the cost of one hotel night.

taken by :: Michelle Norris
Bird Tracks
On Tuesday, we drove to Port St. Joe which is about an hour and a half South of Destin. An amazing drive filled with a different view of Florida (mostly dense woods encroaching upon beach), Port St. Joe was an interesting day trip. Although we were on a mission to find scallops, we were informed this was the year for the creatures to be nearly non-existent. Never to be too upset, we turned towards the beach and had the boys ride  some spectacular waves on their boogie boards. To cap off the adventure, we spotted dolphins a mere thirty feet from us.

Wednesday was our day to take the snorkeling tour and I am so thankful we did not. We spent most of the morning and early evening diving and snorkeling in the surf. We were delighted to see such a plethora of fish species; it was like swimming in an aquarium. I even found a gigantic hermit crab.

taken by :: Michelle Norris
The Crab

Thursday was our kayak trip to the Blackwater River - Florida's only sandy bottom river. We didn't go. We enjoyed the day before so much that all we wanted to do was swim! (That saved money for the rest of the first hotel day and a little on the second.)

taken by :: Michelle Norris
Jake and eldest ready for snorkeling

The scariest part of the day occurred when Jake and I were in fifteen to twenty feet deep water diving to the bottom. He surfaced and yelled, "Something just bite my ear." I looked under the water and saw a two and a half foot remora circling his torso and swimming with him. If you're not familiar with a remora, they eat the parasites that attach to sharks, sea turtles, and rays. The bigger the remora, the bigger the host. We didn't stick around to see what else was swimming nearby!

When Friday rolled around, we were tuckered out and headed for home. We stopped off at the Panhandle Butterfly House (free admission) and let the youngest explore all the state's native species. They also provided a great collection of species from around the world - I think the Blue Morpho is my favorite.

taken by :: Michelle Norris
The Butterfly

This was our first family vacation together. We have gone on vacations before with our extended family and we've also taken weekend trips here and there, but never anything like this. It was fantastic, and I felt the stress of the past year melt away. It was encouraging to know the boys enjoyed themselves as much as my husband and I did; and we look forward to next year's trip.

taken by :: Michelle Norris
The Brothers Norris

Just for those of you whom are curious: we went over budget only $25 due to us eating out once we got home Friday night.

I also wanted to tell Jake THANK YOU for taking us on a family vacation I will never forget! Thanks, babe.

taken by :: Michelle Norris

Monday, August 20, 2012

Weekly Goals :: 8/20 - 8/26/2012

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 8/13 - 8/19/2012

1. Have eldest son mow the yard.
2. Weed the garden bed. This seems to be an ongoing chore this year with all the rain (Let it be known, I'm not complaining!) The yard got neglected while we were away on vacation, so it's moving to this week and will be completed tomorrow :  )
3. Laundry
4. Weekly Chores

1. Enjoy our family time together this week.
2. Take the boys on an adventure each day, since we start our last two weeks of summer!
3. Help plan out a baby shower (not mine)

1. Finalize One Day plans
2. Lay out fall garden design
3. Email 4H food challenge participants

1. Take it easy this week!

Last week was amazing! Our family went on a vacation to Destin, Florida (more on that tomorrow) and got a chance to play and relax together! I can't wait to share it with you : )

Weekly Goals for 8/20 - 8/26/2012

1. Eldest to mow the yard; youngest and I to weed the garden beds.
2. Laundry from trip.
3. Put away camping gear - clean it up too!
4. Go get groceries and cat food - we mustn't forget the cat food :  )
5. Weekly cleaning chores

1. Get the first week of school ready for Monday
2. Set-up new piano lessons for eldest
3. Set-up swimming for both boys and myself
4. Order baby shower gift for Sister-In-Law
5. Cook a roast for the boys and husband
6. Boys to 4H leaders meeting
7. Fall Kick-Off Party at Church
8. Register for 4H

1. Prep and plant JMG fall garden
2. Finish photo booth for Sunday
3. Confirm field trip for Thursday

1. Get a haircut
2. Update blog with new affiliates
3. Begin reading Touching the Sky by Tracie Peterson
4. Start new workout routine to reach my five personal goals

I have a feeling August is going out with a ROAR!!! I'm hoping my September is a little tamer, at least during the week.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Rock, Paper, Scissors :: Conflict Resolution

In a world of constant conflict, Rock, Paper, Scissors is usually the best mediator.

My eldest and I were driving about our town in search of unusual things when we came across this homage. I've actually driven past it in the past and never deciphered what it really was suppose to be. It was my son who pointed it out, but of course he would. Rock, Paper, Scissors is a paramount way of solving problems in our household, at least between the boys.

Whose LEGO minifigure is this? What movie should we watch? Who is taking out the dog? While these questions could easily spiral out of control into arguments, the simple implementation of this lovely fist game usually quiets the rebellion. In fact, I've come to love seeing the boys quickly pounding their fists down upon their other hands because it means they are resolving their own issues without involving Mom or physical contact.

Does your household partake in this centuries old game? If not, how do your children work out their conflicts?

{Click here for a history of Rock, Paper, Scissors.}

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Texas 4H :: Registration Opens August 15th

4H is an amazing youth driven organization throughout the United States and world. Here in Texas, 4H has a large participation rate from the age divisions of Clover Kids through Seniors.

The perception of 4H as being only for those wanting to raise and show animals is false. In today's 4H program, youth may raise animals, compete in knowledge contests (food and nutrition quiz bowl, animal judging), engage in the culinary arts, get a taste of public speaking, become a leader, and show off their talents in sewing (fashion show), metal working, or anything in between. 4Hers may also participate in the Junior Master Gardening program (one of my favorites) and work together to serve the greater community. 4H has something for everyone!

While traditionally free of charge, the organization has recently implemented a $25 yearly registration fee for participation  due to to state cut-backs. However, most clubs host fundraisers to cover this expense for active members.

A typical 4H club will meet monthly to discuss club business and upcoming 4H events and deadlines. A speaker is usually brought in as an educational accompaniment. 4H clubs have student officers who conduct the meetings. Parent leaders volunteer their time to clubs, as well. As a 4H member, your participation in events can be as much or as little as you choose.

The Texas 4H emails out a statewide newsletter to all active 4H members; the county will mail or email their local newsletter, as well, to keep students and leaders well informed.

As the 4H registration process begins again on August 15th, please consider joining a local club this fall! Visit your county's extension office and speak with your 4H agent today.

4H Links:

Texas 4H

4H Enrollment Forms

4H on Facebook

{If you live in Gregg County, please contact me and I will be happy to share information about our county clubs and get you in contact with our agents!}

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Keep Calm & Carry On :: A History Lesson

I have this sign hanging in my house:
I'm not quite sure why a slogan created in the forties resonates with me the way it does, but I feel a sense of relief every time I read it.

Keep Calm and Carry On

A simple phrase, but powerful enough to change a person's outlook or attitude.

Here's a brief documentary about how the phrase has taken our modern society by storm, as well as it's historical significance.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Weekly Goals :: 8/13 - 8/19/2012

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 8/6 - 8/12/2012

1. Weekly Chores
2. Put away remaining party supplies
3. Bake through freezer this week
4. Help youngest with storing LEGO creations
5. Organize camping supplies

1. Complete last week of school for summer
2. Type up physics curriculum and attach experiments; pick up lab notebook I actually have plans to finish this today. I'll have to pick the lab notebook up next week though.
3. Youngest to Olypmic program at Church
4. Update chldren's chore list responsibilities
5. Call about non-competitive swim team

1. Teach JMG class
2. Deliver meals to Friends
3. Finish working on OneDay

1. Finish reading Travelers Rest by Ann Tatlock as well as Live to Give by Austin Gutwein
2. Work on Yoga routine for myself and boys This did not get done; definitely moving it to this week's goals!
3. Make myself a pink cake - just because it's cute and I love cake : ) I made this cake...and there's a story that goes along with it!
4. Download all photos from SD cards.

Weekly Goals for 8/13 - 8/19/2012

1. Have eldest son mow the yard.
2. Weed the garden bed. This seems to be an ongoing chore this year with all the rain (Let it be known, I'm not complaining!)
3. Laundry
4. Weekly Chores

1. Enjoy our family time together this week.
2. Take the boys on an adventure each day, since we start our last two weeks of summer!
3. Help plan out a baby shower (not mine)

1. Finalize One Day plans
2. Lay out fall garden design
3. Email 4H food challenge participants

1. Take it easy this week!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Blog Tour Contest :: Get and Give Campaign (Kindle Fire)

On the 22nd, I will share another review with you as part of a Blog Tour for Live to Give. Below is information on a contest Litfuse has asked me to share with my readers and Austin's newest book.
 - Michelle

Austin's new book Live to Give is about "Letting God Turn Your Talents into Miracles"! Celebrate with him by entering his "Get and Give" Campaign - you could win a Kindle Fire for yourself AND Litfuse will donate $250 to the charity of your choice!

One winner will receive:

• A Brand New Kindle Fire with Wi-Fi
• Five copies of Live to Give by Austin Gutwein
• $250 donated on the winner’s behalf to the charity of their choice
Hurry, the giveaway ends on 8/25/12. The winner will be announced on 8/27/12 on theLive to Give Landing Page!
Enter Today - 8/9-8/25!

The Review is In:: Giants in the Land

Award winning author, Clark Burbidge, offers up a  superb piece of juvenile fiction in the form of his newest novel: Giants in the Land, book one of The Way of Things series.

Engaging from the start, the story features the trials and adventures of Thomas, whom the giants dub The One, as he travels the unknown lands seeking out the town's missing giant friends.

"The giants not only did things for the people that they could not do for themselves, but they also deeply affected how the townsfolk felt about themselves and their belief that nothing could upset their lives. The people went about their daily activities with the confidence that whenever they came upon a job too large, an obstacle too heavy, or a threat too great, the giants would step in. The townsfolk knew in their hearts that the giants would always be there to make things run smoothly."

But, once they've mysteriously left the town, the townsfolk are beside themselves searching for answers and trying to figure out how all the town's work will be accomplished without their helpers. Thomas feels it in his heart that he must seek out the giants and answer the town's questions, thus, his story begins.

Along the way, Thomas finds many perils: dehydration, a wolf pack on the hunt, drowning, continuing his trek though injured, and more. Thomas uses his faith, his father's memory, and his drive to save the town to keep going until he reaches his goal.

Eventually, Thomas finds his way to the Land of Giants and receives all the answers to his questions as well as an explanation of Thomas' title.

Aside from a solid story plot, Burbidge offers his young readers more than a typical fiction novel. He includes astounding vocabulary - something most books of today's age lack. The author's use of larger life concepts are prolific throughout the novel, as well.

"The way you live your life will determine who you become. This example will teach them to become what they must to create their own land of giants. One day, they will mourn the loss of those they loved and depended on, just as you have mourned the loss of your father. But the sun will rise the next morning, and they will pick up their axes and plows and carry on the work of the giants."

 In the end, Burbidge imposes the idea upon the reader that we all have the capacity to be giants so long as we live like them, as a giant's heart is measured by his deeds for others.

I'd personally recommend this book for sixth graders and above. I think adults can even glean something from Burbidge's novel, as we sometimes forget that others think of us as giants, too.

Clark Burbidge's next novel out is book two of The Way Things Are series. It will be titled The Prodigals. You can keep up with the Giants here.

Follow the rest of the blog tour for Giants of the Land.
{I was provided a copy of this novel to review by the publishing house: WinePress Publishing.}

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Busy Homemaker Pink Cake :: A Realization

As a busy homemaker, I often don't find time for myself. Each week, I make a goal list which primarily consists of things for the home, the family, my volunteer efforts, and a few personal details (of which, usually pertain to other things and not just myself). This week, I added making a pink cake to my goals, my personal goals.

This cake was rushed and the buttercream was melting as I pipped, but just like my life, this is my busy homemaker pink cake. It's not perfection - its no where near my standards - yet, it really represents how much time I spend on me.

I've made flawless cakes in the past; I've spent as much time as 8 hours on one cake making sure each sugar flower was in it's place. Yet, I find it amusing that I would rush my cake and have it baked, cooled, cut, and iced in an hour.

Epiphany: Slow down and take time for yourself! Everything else that needs to get done, will get done in it's own time. You matter too!

Who knew making a messy pink cake could have such an awe inspiring meaning? Do you perfect things for everyone and rush through the things meant for you, too? Do you sometimes forget about you in order to take care of everyone else? I think we all must at some point, and doing for others is not a bad thing, as long as we remember ourselves every now and then.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Top 5 Back-to-School Deals for This Week (August 5-11, 2012)

Money Saving Mom, Crystal Paine and Litfuse Publishing, wanted me to share this with you all. I hope it can be of use for back to school shopping this Fall. Remember, these deals are only available through the 11th of August!
- Michelle @ TexasHomemaking

Kid's Jeans for $9 From Old Navy: Old Navy has all their Kid's Famous Jeans on sale for $10 through August 15, 2012. This sale is both in-store and online. If you are planning on purchasing multiple pairs, you can sign up for Old Navy emails to get a $10 off $50 coupon. Plus, shipping is free on orders over $50. So you could potentially get five pairs of jeans for just $9 shipped each. If you're shopping in-store, you can print a $10 off $50 coupon from the Old Navy Facebook Page.

Kid's Jeans for as Low as $8.50 from The Children's Place: The Children's Place has a number of different jeans priced at $10 right now. Use coupon code RETAILMENOT82 to get an additional 15% off your order, making the jeans just $8.50 per pair after this coupon code. Shipping is free on $75+ orders or a flat-rate of $5 on orders less than $75.

Free 6-month Subscription to Shop Runner: If you do a lot of online shopping, you'll want to check this offer out! Sign up for a free Cozi account and they'll give you a coupon for a free 6-month subscription to Shop Runner. Shop Runner gives you unlimited free shipping to many different online sites -- just in time for purchasing back-to-school clothes, shoes, and electronics!

Buy One, Get One 50% Off Plus Additional 15% Off at Famous Footwear: Famous Footwear is running a Buy One, Get One Half Off Sale right now. This is a great opportunity to stock up on quality shoes for your kids at low prices. Plus, use this coupon to get an additional 15% off your order total.

Free First Day of School Printable Signs: Like to take a photo of your children on their first day of school to commemorate the occasion? Download two different free designs of First Day of School Signs. In addition, you can find some other fun free Back-to-School printables here.

LitfuseCrystal Paine is a wife, mom of three, author of The Money Saving Mom®'s Budget. Visit her blog,, for the best back-to-school deals and for practical ideas and inspiration to get your life and finances in order.

Summer Fun :: Lava Lamps, Gak, and Oobleck!

Summer is waning and you've done just about all you can do to occupy your children's time. What's left?

How about some easy and fun science projects you can do in your kitchen. Most of the materials will be in your pantry or utility room, however, a dollar store is a great locale for anything you may be missing.

Homemade Lava Lamps

Lava lamps have been popular since the seventies; we even have one in our youngest son's room. Why not recreate one in your kitchen without the heat and electricity? My boys loved this and even experimented with different amounts of alka seltzer. I think they wanted it to boil over, but even with 8, it didn't!


A glass container
Vegetable oil
Alka seltzer tablets (I used a generic form)
10 drops of food coloring


Fill your glass container half-way with oil. Fill the remainder amount (less one inch) with water. Add the food coloring of your choice. Then, break the alka seltzer into several smaller tabs and add them to the container. Enjoy the show!


Very popular in the late eighties and early nineties, Gak was a Nickelodeon slime. This is definitely a favorite in our house! (Just as long as it doesn't end up in the carpet.)


1/4 cup of liquid starch
1/4/ cup of Elmer's glue
Food coloring
Plastic baggie for mixing


Combine the glue and liquid starch in a plastic baggie. Add food coloring and mix well. Allow the Gak to set-up for a few minutes and gently mix again. Once all the liquid is absorbed, you may remove the Gak and play with it freely like a putty.


Oobleck is derived from the goo found in the Dr. Seuss story Bartholomew and the Oobleck. Every child will thoroughly enjoy reading the book and then creating their own!


A mixing bowl and spoon
1 cup of water
1 1/2 to 2 cups of cornstarch (adjust as needed)
food coloring


Combine the cornstarch and water, along with the food coloring of your choice, in a mixing bowl. Stir until well combined. The stirring may be difficult at first, but it will become easier as your progress.

Oobleck is a real treat because it has the property of a solid and a liquid depending on how fast or slow your child pushes their finger into it.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Homeschooling :: A Doctor Doolittle Lapbook

My youngest son and I have just finished reading The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle by Hugh Lofting. We absolutely loved it! He hasn't enjoyed a book in quite some time, and the tales of Doctor Doolittle and his animal friends had my youngest begging for more chapters after reading our one chapter a night. Since he enjoyed this story, I decided to create a lapbook for him. I borrowed some ideas from others I have seen and added to them as well to make a finished project. I've saved all the files I created; if you're interested in using them, please leave a comment below with your email address or feel free to email me.

You'll need to either download my Doctor Doolittle pages or create your own - which is nice because you can tailor them to your child(ren). Map pencils, crayons, glue, scissors, a file folder, and a stapler will all come in handy when creating a lapbook. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of using and making lapbooks, please visit this link.

First, you will need to fold the file folder so that it resembles a shutter book, as seen above. On this section of the lapbook, we downloaded poems about jungle animals and glued them down. My youngest is also going to make fingerprint monkeys tomorrow and draw a jungle theme around the poems.

Here he is working hard at creating the flags from the story. I easily printed out a British flag, but I created blank rectangles for him to design his own flags for Joliginki, Dr. Doolittle, and the Barbary Pirates. He really enjoyed the creative aspect of this activity.

Here is his finished lapbook. On the right tab, a flap book titled Everyone's a Hero, is full of his narrations regarding characters of the book and their actions my youngest felt were heroic. Above the flap book is a map of the Barbary Pirates' pillaging area.

The middle section includes my youngest's own created animal language, his drawings of Dr. Doolittle's patients, a section on the Pushmi-Pullyu along with a descriptive sentence, and two maps of Africa - one from 1914 and one from 2007.

The left tab includes a flag pocket with four flags and a stacking book which lists the main characters. For this section, he had to draw each character and write one descriptive word for each of them.

On the back of the file folder, he glued one of the original book drawings I downloaded.

Once he was finished, he told his brother all about his lapbook and Dr. Doolittle. He has plans to bring it to Park Day and share with all of his friends. 

In this picture, my youngest is showing off his flags!
Here are the links to the pages I created for this lapbook! Please let me know if you have any trouble with them. File 1, File 2, File 3, File 4, File 5, File 6 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Win a Kindle Fire from @SibellaGiorello in "The Stars Shine Bright" Giveaway!

Novelist Sibella Giorello is celebrating the release of the new book in her praiseworthy Raleigh Harmon series by giving away a Kindle Fire!

Find out what the reviewers are saying here!

One grand prize winner will receive:

• A brand new Kindle Fire
• The entire 5-book Raleigh Harmon series.
Hurry, the giveaway ends on 8/25/12. The winner will be announced on 8/27/12 on Sibella's blog!

Just click the icon below to enter. Tell your friends about Sibella's giveaway on FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning.
Enter Today - 8/4-8/25!

The Review Is In :: The Stars Shine Bright

I recently read my first Christian suspense novel and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The Stars Shine Bright by Sibella Giorello is a novel about an FBI agent named Raleigh Harmon. This story is one of many about the agent's life, career, and cases.

In The Stars Shine Bright Agent Harmon finds herself trying to recover from a failing career while on an undercover operation at the Emerald Dunes horse track. First believed to be the scene of race fixing by the mob, Raleigh soon learns there is a much sinister plot unfolding involving home grown terrorism. Raleigh is also battling personal conflicts: her mother's recent committal to an asylum once she learned of Raleigh's secret career; Raleigh's wealthy Virginian fiancee DeMott's nagging rush to marriage; and her precocious, yet handsome, boss' affection.

Caught up in her love for work, she finds herself beginning to question marriage and this sacred promise to DeMott. Among other hot button issues, abortion is discussed when Raleigh discovers Ashley, a horse groom, is pregnant by a man unwilling to keep the child. Lying to loved ones becomes another prevalent theme throughout the novel.

My favorite excerpt from the book is when Raleigh finds herself at her lowest and recalls a conversation between her and her deceased father:

"At some point, life will seem difficult to you. Really difficult. That's life - Raleigh, look at me."

"I'm looking."

"When those hard times come, I want you to remember how Galileo found the truth."

"With a telescope."

He laughed. "Yes, that was part of it." But he pointed to the sky. Black velvet. White lights. "Those stars are there, every day, waiting in the blue sky. We just can't see them. This is what I want you to remember. The stars shine bright when it gets dark enough. The invisible becomes visible."

I don't want to spoil the story line for anyone, so I won't give out too many details. However, I did want to point out how nice it was to read a suspense novel without any off-putting language or content; more often than not, writers rely upon these devices to get the point across. I think Sibella did a marvelous job of conveying her thoughts without including these items.

I enjoyed how the author also worked Raleigh's scientific background of forensic geology into the story. Excerpt:

"There's a pervasive theory in geology called uniformitarianism. It's a long word for the basic idea: the landscape seen today were formed by continuous forces exerted over millions of years...But Bretz, who had a PhD in geology, wrote, it could only result from a massive flooding. In fact, one flood."

This gave more credence to Raleigh's character, as well as Sibella's writing. I loved how science and Christianity melded together to reveal such a dynamic character as Raleigh Harmon.

Sibella Giorello has previously written The Rivers Run Dry, The Clouds Roll Away, The Mountains Bow Down, and Stones Dry Out. She has received two nominations for a Pulitzer prize for previous works. Giorello is also inspired by the Bible in her writings, but notes, "Whenever I say that, some people groan, but those 66 books are sheer poetry, and they cover the most crucial questions. Who is God? What's life all about? Why are we here and what's the plan - for individuals and for humanity?"

Visit Sibella Giorello online at

I'm so pleased to be a part of this blog tour. For other blog reviews, please visit You may also purchase The Stars Shine Bright here.

{I was provided a copy of The Stars Shine Bright by the publisher, Thomas Nelson}