Sunday, January 31, 2010

Fun Project=Another Way To Spend Money...

My lonely, empty glass container

Rocks being washed, go into glass container
on bottom for drainage.

Step one now complete.

Here are the plants, moss, decorative rocks
and potting soil, ready to go.

The plants are in. Next I need to add potting
soil around them to hold them in place.

Next I'll add the decorative moss on top
of the soil and then the decorative rocks
on top of the moss.

Here's the completed project, on top
of my cake stand to make it more visible
behind our kitchen sink.

Another view. Can you see the little turtle
and butterfly I added for fun?

This is a teeny little dessert dish that I
planted the extra plants in. I'm not
sure where this is going yet.

We took our darling daughter Leah out to dinner on Friday night to celebrate her 14th birthday. She chose Famous Dave's (a BBQ joint) which just happens to be next to a wonderful florist that was having an open house gala this weekend. I knew this because I am on their e-mail list and they had sent me a message about it. 20% off everything in the store and free tulips! I'm a sucker for free stuff so I cajoled dear husband into a quick detour there after our dinner.

So, we stopped in. It was heaven. We've been surrounded by a snowy and very cold landscape for some time now and inside the florist shop there were multitudes of gorgeous flowers and green plants and I could actually smell the scent of real flowers and dirt! Call me weird, but I love the smell of fresh dirt. It must be the farmgirl in me. Brings me back to my younger days walking barefoot in the fresh plowed fields, looking for treasures and catching critters.

While we were there (a dangerous statement, no?) I saw the cutest terrariums. I've been wanting to create a terrarium out of a glass container I purchased a while back. Since I was feeling guilty about just grabbing my bouquet of tulips without intending to buy anything I asked an employee how you go about building a terrarium. Next thing you know, Jed's a millionaire and I've made plans to return the next morning with my container and that's just what I did.

I didn't need to buy much: Four small plants and some washed gravel for drainage and that was it. Everything was 20% off mind you so for only $16.63 I had all my supplies. I headed home, eager to craft my little terrarium garden and the photos above outline the process. Step by step, it was actually easy and fun to create. If any of you are longing for a touch of green in your home and you have a large clear glass vase or bowl, you might want to give this project a try. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Take A Look At This!

Call me crazy for stepping out on our back deck in the subzero temps this morning but as I was brewing hot water to make tea I noticed a brightening on the horizon. When I took this photo it was about 6:50am. The photo makes it look brighter than it actually was.

I'm kind of a weather geek and I like following the length of the days so last fall I went online and printed out a chart that gives the exact time of the sun's rising and setting, moon's rising and setting and twilight for my community. Our shortest days of this winter season are behind us and we're gaining a couple minutes of daylight each day now. In fact, we've gained 14 minutes in the morning and a whopping 43 minutes in the evening - almost an hour of extra daylight!

Even though we're in the middle of winter, this morning's brightening horizon gives me hope that (eventually) spring is on its way!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Too Busy to Blog!

I don't know how dedicated bloggers do it. I have been busy with a lot of different things lately and haven't had time to sit down and write anything witty and wonderful. (I know, it's not like my writing was so witty and wonderful before...)

Life has been chaotic and sometimes even with my best efforts I have a hard time keeping up. I don't know why it's so hard, only that it is. So, you may be asking, what does a homeschool mom do on an average day? Well, that's the crazy thing. If you're a homeschool mom there is no such thing as an average day. Just to give you an inside look, I'll let you take a peek inside my planner/calendar for the week:

Sunday: Church, a quick trip to the Target store after church and later that evening a visit to our friends home where our Life Group meets every other Sunday. We watch a DVD intro about the book we will be reading, studying and discussing together: The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller.

Monday: School. Get up early to finish schedules for my three children for the week. After school the children and I go skiing at a local ski resort for a few hours. Prepare a quick meal of meatballs in red sauce in the crockpot (with spaghetti, prepared later) to eat when we get back from skiing. Even though it's really snowy, the skiing is a lot of fun.

Tuesday: Art class from 9:30 until 11:30 this morning. My three children and I take drawing and painting lessons at the Art Academy in St. Paul, MN. The girls and I love it. My son tolerates it. After art class we stop at a bookstore to pick up a couple birthday gifts. (I do not count this as shopping since I use gift cards that I earned by cashing in points on a credit card.) After that we go to the dentist where we spend a couple hours getting everybody's teeth cleaned and having dental work done. Fun, huh? As a reward, I promise my son a trip to the library where he can take out couple books from the Redwall series. He's a voracious reader and the library is a treat!

Wednesday: We'll do schoolwork in the morning and then plan to meet friends to ice skate at 2:00pm. Later the girls will go to our church where they volunteer to help with Awana on Wednesday evenings. Ever since Emily got her driver's license last summer I have not had to make the Wednesday evening drive and for that I'm grateful.

Thursday: Another busy day! We'll have to hustle with schoolwork this morning because we have to be to the Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis by 11:15 for the Young People's concert at 11:35. From there my son will be driven to my husband's office so that he can go to a friend's birthday party that afternoon. The girls and I will stay in Minneapolis and go to the Minneapolis Institute of Art for a liesurely visit. We love the art museum and we're fortunate to have such a treasure in our midst, only 45 minutes away! The reason we're hanging around Minneapolis for the day is because in a quirky twist, we actually have tickets to a completely different concert at the Minnesota Orchestra that evening. It will make for a long, but fun, day.

Friday: My middle daughter Leah turns 14 today. Of course we will make the day special but in the midst of our busy week we've got to squeeze in our schoolwork. The children have talked about going skiing later in the day. If the weather cooperates and schoolwork is done, we might just go.

Saturday: My son has a 4H Lego mindstorm project meeting in the afternoon and the girls have a 4H knitting and crocheting meeting if they choose to go. It's not required, just a fun thing they can do. Some more talented 4H mothers will work with the girls and help them on their projects that they are working on.

There are probably more things happening than I've listed here. Leah would like a friend over to celebrate her birthday, we'll need to make her a special cake and birthday meal and plan a special day for her... Meanwhile, bills need to be paid, clothes need to be washed, the house needs to be maintained, the dogs need to be cared for, meals need to be prepared, dishes need to be washed and on and on the list goes. Chaotic, busy, full, call it what you want, it's the stuff life is made of. The thing is, we've got to be careful how we choose to spend our time because our very lives, the most precious gift God has given us (after our salvation), are at stake.
Does my life, the way I spend my time, glorify Him? I don't want to just give God lip service. I want the choices I make about how I live to ultimately reveal His presence in my life. Let it be so, Lord, please.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

My Most Unusual Christmas Gift

Okay, I know, Christmas is over, right?! Cut me a little slack because I just received this most creative gift yesterday. Apparently after working diligently on my present a month or so ago, it was put aside and forgotten.

I am not allowed to name the gift giver. They asked me to remain "unanimous". Cute, huh?

If you're not quite sure what it is, I'll tell you. It's a decorated roll of toilet paper. When I asked why they would want to give me this special gift I was told it was so I would feel pampered. Isn't that sweet? I thought so.

Creativity abounds in our home, even in the smallest details.

Monday, January 18, 2010

My Many Goals

The Reading Room

I didn't write earlier about New Year's Resolutions because there's something about them that I don't care for. I've tried to keep resolutions in the past but all too frequently fell short. It doesn't help that I'm a perfectionist always struggling against unrealistic expectations in my life.

Some failed resolutions from my past: (No, I'm not trying to do all these this year!)

1. BE ON TIME (hahahaha, this one's a real knee slapper! My family knows just how much I struggle with timeliness...)

2. Read my Bible every day. I have tried more than once to read the Bible in a year but haven't succeeded YET. However, I am an optimist and am trying to do it again this year. So far, so good.

3. Eat better/lose weight. Yeah, right. Read my earlier post to see how well I'm doing with that this year. However, this is more a lifestyle choice, not a resolution.

4. Live a genuine life. Actually, I try to do this every day, I don't need a resolution for that.

5. Create more art. I'm working on this one.

6. Spend less, save more. I'm working on that right now, too.

7. Go to bed earlier, get up earlier.

8. Exercise every day.

9. Begin taking vitamins. I got going again with the vitamin regime last summer and surprisingly have kept it up!

I have more but can't recall them right now. You get the idea. Somewhat unrealistic and idealistic. Yep, I know. I can dream, can't I?

So, here's my goals for 2010: The first I mentioned above, reading through the Bible in a year. I am enjoying that one and am happy to be on track. The other goal is to read a book a week. I am an eclectic reader, meaning I like to read all sorts of stuff. I used to be a major speed reader but for some reason find that I can't read as fast as I used to. I need to slow down and savor books more now. Anyway, I thought maybe I'd post maybe once a week letting you know what I'm reading and give a short book review.

I've got a lot of books I'm working on right now. Don't ask me why I start more than one book at a time but I do. I'm currently reading My Life in France by Julia Child, Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome (reading aloud for our homeschool), The Garden of Grace by Jill Briscoe, The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller for our Life Group at church, The Busy Mom's Guide to Bible Study by Lisa Whelchel (a Christmas gift from my daughter), Shopping for Time by Carolyn Mahaney and her daughters, Jumping Ship by Michael Pearl, Helen Keller, a Life, by Dorothy Herrmann, Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, 31 Days of Prayer by Ruth Myers and more.

I used to be a big reader. Somehow, over the years, I have found less and less time to read. It makes me sad that I have a library full of books that I have not read. What a pity! So, in an effort to claim more reading time I have decided to make it a priority, hence the resolution to read a book a week.

So far this year I've read Drops Like Stars by Rob Bell, a great book even though a lot of conservative Christians think he's somewhat of a heretic, or so I've read. Silent Night, a child's picture book by Will Moses. I love his paintings. Surviving Hitler, A Boy in the Nazi Death Camps by Andrea Warren, a very moving book. Great American Presidents: Harry S. Truman by Michael Foley. A young person's biography of Truman. We are studying the time period when Truman was President and I wanted to brush up on his presidency. None of these books were very lengthy but when you couple them with my daily Bible and devotional reading, I don't have as much time to read as I would like. I really have been getting to bed earlier and that cuts into my reading time. Ah well, choices, choices...

So, have any of you made any New Year's Resolutions you'd be willing to share? I really am pumped about the two I've made. Hopefully you'll be hearing from me soon about the latest book I've read. Time to go - can't have my blogging interfering with my reading time!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

I Just Can't Resist...

Brach's Juju Hearts. It's a weird addiction but I love those things. Don't ask me why. I was at Target today and saw them with the Valentine's Day candy. They were beckoning to me and I could not resist! Not only did I buy one bag, I completely caved and bought TWO!

So, one bag is half gone already (it's been in my possession for about, oh, maybe six or seven hours). How long do you think they'll last? Not long, I'm sure. I will have to do my best to stay out of Target until Valentine's Day is over.

That should be easy since I'm not shopping but today I bought necessities such as toothpaste, hair color, mucinex (cold medicine). And if you're wondering, yes, hair color is a necessity.

Tonight we're watching the second half of "Little Dorrit", a wonderful Charles Dickens movie (almost eight hours long!) and I will be munching popcorn and juju hearts. Yum!

Edited to add: Groan! I just read the ingredient list: Corn Syrup, Sugar, Modified Food Starch (Corn), Cornstarch, Artificial Flavor, Sodium Citrate, White Mineral Oil, Citric Acid, Beeswax, Artificial Color (Red 40).

I'm not so hungry for Juju Hearts anymore. :'(

Friday, January 15, 2010

Theodore the Wonderdog

Check it out! What do you think of my new blog? Isn't Emily amazing? She's a creative genius I tell you! I don't know how she does it but it's nice that she does.

I wasn't sure what to write about but Daniel tells me I should write about Theodore. He's just a pup, not quite a year and a half old and he's Daniel's dog but I think he thinks he's my dog. He follows me everywhere and lays at my feet (or, preferably, in his mind, on my lap when possible). He's a small dog, only 12 pounds but he thinks he's a big dog. He's very protective of our family. He's a schnoodle, which is a mixed breed of schnauzer and poodle. Schnoodles aren't supposed to shed, but he does. Not very much though.

Theodore loves to go for walks and he doesn't care what the weather is like if he can be out on the trails. Warm and sunny or cold and snowy, he's just as happy either way. In fact, he likes to dive in the snow and burrow around in it. We've got quite a few trails on our property and our neighbors have trails, fields and woods as well and they are gracious enough to share with us and the dogs. One neighbor has traps set for the coyotes but the other day he caught Theodore. It's a snare trap that won't hurt the animal initially so we were able to free him unharmed. Theodore is too curious for his own good! These days I have to wear my snowshoes when we walk because the snow is so deep. I enjoy snowshoeing. It's fun and a good workout as well. One of these days I'll bring my camera along and take a few shots of the dogs and all God's creation in its glory.

Theodore needs a little training. Okay, maybe a lot of training. I'm the only one he listens to and it's marginal at best. If he didn't worship the ground I walk on he'd be gone. In addition to loving walks he loves to chew on things. For a time he satisfied his chewing desires by chewing on the walls and woodwork in our laundry room and also our furniture on the screen porch. Too many things show the marks of Theodore's teeth around here. I think his chewing days are on the wane, thank goodness, or he might end up needing doggy dentures.
It's hard to stay upset with such a loyal pup. He's laying right next to me on the chair, right now. On a cold winter's evening, it's nice to have a warm little friend at your side. Good old Theodore, the wonderdog!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Family and Funerals

I went to a funeral today. It was for my husband's Aunt Darlys who died on Sunday. She was 73 years old. Darlys had never married and did not have children. She lived a more solitary life and so her funeral was not a large one. Do not make the mistake of equating the number of people attending with significance, however. It was intimate and special, just like Aunt Darlys. Unfortunately I did not have the opportunity to know Aunt Darlys well but her family loved her dearly.

I had not been in this funeral home since I was there for my niece Samantha's visitation five and a half years ago. I've spent years driving by this funeral home and looking the other way because it pains me to look at it. That sounds silly coming from a grown woman and it isn't meant to cast judgement on the funeral home or director. The funeral director was really a very kind man who blessed our family back then and again today. It was just an excruciatingly painful time for us all.

Today was different. While it is always difficult to say goodbye to a loved one, it wasn't as sad a farewell. After the funeral and interment were over the family made plans to meet for coffee or dinner at the Tippy Canoe. It's a silly name but a nice restaurant that had room to seat about twenty of us in a somewhat private area. As we all gathered around a few tables and decided to order dinner after all, it struck me how much I enjoyed spending time with my husband's family. As we chatted and caught up I felt so grateful that we were able to spend time together and have a few laughs and fun after a funeral!

I was also thankful for the funeral message given by the young Pastor at Darlys's church (the same church I grew up going to, by the way). It was a message of hope and good news. He was clear about our being on this Earth a short while and that it isn't our good works that will grant us an eternity in Heaven but a saving faith in Jesus. Funerals are an excellent time to ponder such things.

This life is short. Time is fleeting. Today was just another reminder of those truths. I'm grateful for the loved ones we still have with us and for the times we've shared. Especially get-togethers after funerals.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

First American Idol Experience

Okay, you don't need to tell me I'm out of touch. I realize that and actually I'm a little proud of it. Until tonight, I had never watched American Idol. I'd seen a few parts last year when we visited friends and they were replaying the final episode that they'd tivoed. However, until tonight I'd never sat down and watched American Idol. I really had no desire. It sounded kind of stupid to me. (Sorry Idol fans.)

However, my dear children wanted to watch it and they wanted me to join them and so I did. Of course I can't watch TV without a project to work on so I had my two address books with me. The old one and the new one that I am copying addresses into. It's a sickness you know. I cannot sit down and watch TV without a project of some sort. Lately I have been updating my photo albums and I usually am working on that (I'll be working on that 'til the cows come home, I fear) but tonight I was up for something different.

So, pencil and address books in hand I watched the entire episode, start to finish for two full hours. That's a long time for me to sit and watch anything. I have to say that for the most part I found it interesting. I'm not sure I'll be able to keep it up throughout the entire season but other than some advertisements, I didn't find it offensive. Thankfully they tape it ahead of time so they can bleep out any bad language. Clean up the gutter talk, people! It doesn't make you sound important. It reveals your character and makes you look like a poor loser.

I don't know how many cities they select contestants from but I think I would go stark raving mad as a judge. No wonder Simon is so crabby if he has to sit through so many lousy auditions. I'm surely not insinuating that I could do any better, but I know better than to even think I should attempt to sing anything a cappella on national TV. I suppose that is what makes the show so interesting for people to watch.

I'll probably watch it again when it comes on if I'm not too busy. If nothing else, my address book project will get done!

Monday, January 11, 2010

My Blog Designer

I received a complement about my new header on my blog. I just thought I'd give credit where credit is due. My darling daughter Emily came up with a new blog header for me. According to her it's just the beginning because she says my blog lacks "spark" or something like that. She should know because she's the queen of spark. Her blog glitters and is pretty and she's forever tweaking this or that on it. I'm more like old faithful. I do the same thing over and over and over. Of course, that's not always bad but it doesn't hurt to get out of a rut, does it?

I'm not sure what Emily's plan is to give my blog a little pizazz but keep watching and you'll find out!

By the way, in case you're wondering, the books are labeled and on the shelf. Hallelujah! Now my next dilemma is the case of the too small bookshelves because I've got one final batch (unit 4) of books to order for our curriculum to be complete. I'm excited about that but I've only got about six inches of shelf space left! Ack! It's every bibliophile's albatross. Too many books, not enough shelves...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Art of Procrastination

Photos in incorrect order, showing "After"
before "Before"!

You may have noticed this (or maybe not) but I tend to post on my blog when I am putting off a job I don't want to do. The last time I posted I was putting off tackling the Christmas Decoration Removal Project (hereafter referred to as CDRP). I'm surprised I didn't post yesterday before we began the Clean the Entire House, Top to Bottom Project. (Otherwise known as CEHTBP). I guess I didn't have time to procrastinate on that job as I was joined by my children who were a great help in accomplishing CEHTBP but were only willing to work as long as the Commander in Chief House Cleaner (that's me!) was working along with them. I am happy to report that after a hard day's work yesterday, the house is cleaned and back in order again. Hurrah!

As an aside, I must publicly proclaim to those who mistakenly believe that my house is never out of order/messy/a disaster zone, bwahahaha! It's not true! Just because you don't see the pile of papers on my desk or the jumble of shoes and boots by the back door or the dust bunnies under my tea cart doesn't mean they don't exist. I'm glad my photos taken during CDRP (which really didn't show the entire scope of bedlam around here) helped to prove my point. ;)

So, now here I am, labeling books, or should I say avoiding labeling books? Our family uses the Tapestry of Grace curriculum for our history/worldview studies and we really enjoy it. I have opted to purchase most of the books required for Tapestry and it involves a lot of books. To maintain order, I have a labelling and storing system that I use on the books. Tapestry uses a four year history rotation. We are on Year four. Next year we will cycle back around to Year one. Each year gets its own color dot. Year one is red, year two is yellow, year three is green and year four is blue. I've labelled all the books so far but have Year four unit two and three to do, hence the large pile of books on our school table waiting for their labels. Problem is, by procrastinating like I did, we have read most of the unit two books and they are now scattered about the house. If I had done it promptly when they arrived before we read them, I would have them all handy and it would be so much easier. I have to hunt down Homer Price, Usborne Guide to WWII, Mr. Poppers Penguins and probably about ten more elusive tomes...

I am anticipating next year and all the following years when the books will be here, on the shelves (yes, I am an incurable optimist) waiting for us. No huge (read: expensive) Amazon shipments, no labeling, no deciding if we need the book or if we already own one that would be a suitable substitute. No arguing with an online secondhand bookseller about their faulty description of the condition of a book... Sigh... It will be wonderful.

But, back to my task at hand. We can't use the school table tomorrow unless I get off the computer and get back to work! Does this mean you won't hear from me until my next big project? I hope not. I will try not to procrastinate about anything, even blogging. Can an old dog learn new tricks? Ha. Ha. Ha. (Or should I say Woof. Woof. Woof!)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

This Place is a Mess!

Where's the counter?

Probably the same place the dining room table is hiding!

I sigh with longing when I look at the Christmas decorating photos I posted a few days ago. Not that I want to go back to celebrating the holidays. I just want to go back to a clean house. This place looks like a tornado hit it. You know, the mid-winter cyclones that whip through in January. Usually I get fired up for a big clean up project and I persevere 'til the job is done. Not tonight.

That means I have the dreaded "Wake up facing a mess" morning awaiting me. Ugh. I should get off the computer and work a little harder! The Christmas decorations are half up, half down and the stuff that is down is strewn about the house like we've had a wild party. If only! Just us five funsters, living life and making a mess in the process.

I'm beat, so like Scarlett, I'll think about finishing this job tomorrow (and following up with a deep clean on Saturday). Now there's something to look forward to!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Battle of the Blogs!

Well, you might wonder what I mean by that title so let me share the latest, greatest news in Blogdom. We have another blogger in the house, my middle child. My oldest girl thought it would be fun for her younger sister to have her own blog and a few hours later she's the proud owner of "Belle fleur des Champs". Huh? I do not speak french and can't even tell you what that means. Oh, I've been told it means lovely wildflowers. Why not just call it Lovely Wildflowers then? Oh, I've also been informed that that name was already taken. Pretty soon everyone is going to have to name their blog with in a foreign language because all the good english ones will be taken. Thank goodness I grabbed Can Do Mom while it was still available! (Yeah, like there's really going to be a run on that one, heh heh...)

I've already whined my tale of woe about my laptop's untimely death (wow, they last about 48 hours now!) so we're sharing the family PC. A certain someone wants to blog while her mother wants to blog. Who will win the "Blog Battle"?! Here's your first clue: I'm bigger and I pay the bills (with my husband's hard earned money) so I'm blogging and she's waiting (im)patiently, saying things like, "tick, tick, tick..." Funny, huh? I should banish her to her room for a month. Yeah! That's a great plan. Except who would do the dishes and clean up the kitchen after dinner? Scratch that idea.

Okay, I'll play nice and share. Blogging is good for social interaction and it might even help her with her writing and spelling skills! Maybe I can even call it Computer Literacy Studies and give her a half a credit at year's end! (Just like a typical homeschool mom, I'm always looking to pad my child's transcript. Guilty!)

Don't shed too many tears on my behalf. My laptop replacement is supposed to be up and running tomorrow evening and then I can be as selfish as I want. I can blog to kingdom come and never have to share - Insert evil cackle here - it will be mine, all mine! That's supposed to be funny. Don't worry, I won't neglect my darling children when my new toy is all set up. As if they'd let me! In the meantime, she's giving me a countdown and generally being annoying in an effort to win the computer back so I will acquiesce gracefully and bid you adieu. Guess all that foreign language stuff is wearing off on me...

Au Revoir!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Better Late Than Never... Christmas Decoration Photos!

Our Christmas tree. The children called it
our Charlie Brown Christmas tree. It looks
prettier in person!

Dining room hutch and tea cart, ready for service.

A close up shot of my little hall table with books,
greenery and angel light.

The living room where we gather by the fire
to read and hang out.
Our basket of Christmas picture books.

Small table in foyer.

Coffee table in living room. Sit and chat a spell.

Our kitchen, looking deceptively clean at the moment.

Candy, cards and candles in the kitchen.

Corner window overlooking the snowy countryside.
I have a bird feeding station on the deck where we
can enjoy watching many different species of birds.

Okay, I know I'm late but I promised to post a few photos of the house decorated and here it is. It's up for one last week and then much of it gets put away until next year. I do keep the living room mantel decorated until spring and a few other decorations that I call "winter" stay out as well. I purposely try to make much of my decorating multi-purpose so that I can use it all winter long.

As much as I love decorating for Christmas, I usually have it all put away by now and I have to confess that it seems odd to still have the Christmas tree up. It's just as pretty as it ever was but I'm ready for it to be gone now. I favor a clean look and I'm ready to regain it.

By next Thanksgiving we'll be all excited about bringing it all back out and putting out the special things that have a place in our home. I love changing my home with the change of the seasons, don't you?