Tuesday, January 4, 2011

December 2010
Wow as I write the first week of the new year is almost half gone.
Christmas seemed like forever in coming and then it was out with the christmas tree.
Or in our case down the stairs with the christmas tree, where it will sit fully assembled and wrapped in lights till next Christmas season. I am not to the point of leaving the decorations on it yet, but so past the point in trying to stuff it back in that tiny box when I have a perfectly dry basement with lots of room to store it fully intacted till it is needed again.
This months entry is two pages like most have been, so don't forget to click older posts and keep reading till you hit November.
I use to write the last Sunday of each month, but when you read my yearly goal post below you will see I have other plans for that time spot this year. But, I am planning to write my new post the first week of each month.
So till next month read on.
A Few New Years Goals
I prefer the word goals to resolutions, for some reason it seems more obtainable. To me resolutions you got to do all at once, goals you can break down to mini bits, and when the year is done, you have succeeded even if all you did was a few tiny steps towards your bigger goal.
So here are a few goals I desire to achieve in 2011.
I would like to take my craft sales to the next level and get an etsy site going. Thinking of doing gift sets, but we will see. Great thing about etsy, its free to set up, you don't owe them anything unless you actually sell something, so its very NO risk.
Continue to sell off our excess. Got a bunch of homeschooling things set aside for the homeschooling sale in April already, and for a yard sale in spring. Also found a few more big items to list on craigslist once things settle down from the holidays.

Already registered to do another 13.1 mile race with my redhead in May. Hoping to break the 2 hr mark, made it so close last season with a 2hr and 3 minute. Break that 3 minutes up over 13 miles and I need to shave just 20 seconds off each mile and I would definately be under. But some days I wonder do I got that in me? we will have to see.

I am also planning to do another full 26.2 mile marathon with a homeschooling friend in November. No real time goal for this one but I want have a better strategy for it. Last one I ran and ran and ran till I hit the runners wall at mile 19 and ran out of steam. Then I had to bargain with my body making it run a song and then walk a song till I made it to the end.

This time I want to bring more to eat along the way, I am already looking into homemade GU recipes, the real stuff makes me gag, but I heard about a peanut butter, honey and molasses mix I want to try (I know sounds gross, but its got to be better than those packets of GU, and those energy jelly bellies I normally eat don't provide enough energy for completing a full marathon)

I also want to set up a walk run strategy in advance or a slower pace for myself so I don't run out of steam but remain slow and steady till the end of the race, cause runner's wall is horrible. It feels like tiny biting insects are eating you from the inside, and you can't think straight, and your legs tense up to the point that you sort of hop more than run. Really want to avoid that this time.

I might also do my first triathlon, just a local sprint one, but I am waiting to see how the season looks before I do. Its a 800 meter swim (0r about that not sure of distance), followed by a 10 mile bike ride, followed by a 3 mile run, and then they don't stop there like regular sprints nope I heard they finish it with a mile canoe ride (long time since this chick has rowed anything so that should be interesting if what I heard is true).

I want to keep Sunday afternoons to reading and laundry. I don't want to read just anything either. I want to read nonfiction on all Sunday's but the last Sunday of the month, which is when I will treat myself to some mind mushing fiction.

I really want to learn a few skills, like how to get my kids to really learn, not just spit out facts but learn how to search out facts and make sense of them and use them.

I also want to learn more about nutrition, and gardening (another goal to start a vegetable garden this year even if its just a potted tomato).

And those are just a few subjects I am sure I will dive into over the year.

Going along with my want to learn about nutrition I also want to help my family eat better.

Since getting Netflix I have watched every documentary they have available on live streaming on food, and how it effects us and whats in it.

It has caused me to spend more time in the grocery store, reading labels.

What I have discovered so far. Whole foods are more filling. For instance I can eat a granola bar, pakaged from the store and feel hungry still after eating it. But when I make my own using just oats, honey, peanut butter, sliced almounds and raisins, I am full right up to dinner, and for the same amount of calories, as the pakaged granola bar.

Another big discovery, organics taste better. Now at first I didn't believe this, I thought you bought organics to keep pesticides out of your body and that was that, so I started buying just those listed on the dirty dozen (a list of the most pesticides laden foods that you should try to buy organic).

Apples top the dirty dozen list and although they are significantly more in price when purchase organic I thought I would try there. I bit into one and went "wow" I have not had an apple like that since grade school, so sweet so juicy and so satisfyingly filling. But then I thought perhaps the media is swaying me so without telling the kids the apples were organic I served them up for snack. At first bite they were reporting things like "mom, these apples are delicious", "mom this is the best apple I have every had" "mom, I don't want the old apples ever again". It use to be I would buy a bag of apples and have to throw away the last few from the bag, cause they kids had found them soggy, not any more, now I have to ration them to make them last the week, even though I am buying the same amount as before.

Then I bought organic molasses to make my husbands favorite gingerbread. Now I bought this organic purely because I noticed that it had more nutrients in it than the non organic molasses primarly iron, and I am cronically low in iron and always on the hunt for more ways to get it in my diet. Let me tell ya, that batch of gingerbread didn't last long, the flavor difference was incredible.

This week I made soup with organic canned tomatoes, and again this time I didn't tell Jack, and he noticed the difference in the taste. So its not just media influenced me! there really is a difference.

So I know to some organics may not be thrifty, but to me and my family they are, cause we find ourselves wasting less food, and loving what we buy more. And since getting into going organic and whole foods I have discovered tonnes of ways to save, store brands, coupons, store sales, bulk buying all the things I have already been doing, just with organics now.

Our whole cupboard is not going organic though, not for now anyways. I am just replacing our most eaten foods that are high on the pesticide ladder with organics, and cutting out a few convience foods for homemade versions that have fewer ingredients and seem to keep our tummies full longer.

In 2011 I plan to keep learning about what organics are worth it and what aren't. Keep learning about what additives are the most harmful, and how to make foods that are healthier and more filling (cause that definately helps with a teenager boy in the house).

So what are a few of your goals for the year?

If you Give a Gal a Great Deal on Kisses, She'll want to make Cookies

Courtney loves helping in the kitchen. So I try to give her simple things to keep her busy while I do the more complicated. Unfortunately by the time I looked up from the more complicated she had unwrapped all 3 bags of kisses! way more than we needed! I was hoping to give some with gifts but oh well! Our tummies enjoyed them instead.
Courtney putting the last Kiss in the middle of the peanut butter cookies.

Now the real story in this segment is in my brain fart. I know I just wrote the word fart! but its true I had a brain fart. I was standing there, in front of the stove not remembering if the kisses go on the cookies before or do you squeeze them on just fresh out of the oven. I did a quick post of Facebook for help, and got no instant reply, so we went with Courtney's logic, which was, put them on first so they bake into the cookie and stick better.

So in they went. And then the message came. A facebook friend posted you put them on after they are going to melt everywhere. Courtney wrinkled her nose at that comment. She trusted her instincts, and at that point I prayed she was right cause if not I was going to be spending my afternoon cleaning the oven.

Well they came out of the oven looking great. The kisses were soft but intact (it might have been that they were dark chocolate and therefore harder than milk). So what does my little mini me say "mom quick grab your i-pod and take a picture of our cookies and load it on facebook, I want to prove to your friends I was right".

Yep, that's my gal. No reason to argue with that one. She is one strong willed puppy and when she is right she will go to great lengths to let the world know even if it includes posting a picture of her saying "see I told you so" on facebook.

Oh but I love her. Every last stubborn bone in her body is bone of my own bone. Genetically she didn't stand a chance. I know life will eventually knock that stubbornness down a bit, but I also know it will serve her well if she learns how to reign it in and use it to persevere when life gives her a few knocks of its own.

Favorite Christmas Clearance Finds

If you know me at all you know that I love making sugar cookies in vanilla or chocolate. And I also love making them little (like the size of animal crackers, those are Jacks favorites) to Large (like my Christmas cookie party cookies). So when I saw these giant cookie pans on 50% off after Christmas well, I couldn't help myself! I had to have them. And even though Christmas has already been over a week ago, I had to try them out right away!

Oh and in the background is the new VCR my hubby and I bought with some of our Christmas money. Yeah we are so up with the times. Well really we usually are, but we both had a few VHS tapes we missed watching since our old player broke so we sprung for a new one. These things are hard to find now!

The kids had a blast decorating them. And are now enjoying eating them. I have such plans for this one! Congrats on the new home! cookies!!!

This one I thought you could do up in so many ways! But turns out its even more fun to cut. Aiden immediately said "off with its head mom" and Thomas screamed "saw off his leg!" Courtney insisted the head be cut in two! Vicious children!

What else did I clearance buy? you ask. Well I bought the usual wrapping paper, light strands and big pack of tissue paper (white so I can use it all year but it has the Christmas label on the package so they put it in the clearance). I also bought plain red and green gift bags to use for birthdays through out the year. For the gift box in our closet I bought, small toys for birthday parties we are invited to, throughout the year.
For Courtney I grabbed tights in various winter prints. And for the boys marked down Lego sets I will save for their birthdays and stack the savings on top in the form of cash for them to spend how they want.
I also grabbed Rubbermaid Christmas print containers for Jack's lunches by combining coupons with sales I got 8 for just $1 which should keep him going a while (he is not so great at returning them, so the cheaper the better).
But my favorite purchase by far, were these Christmas cookie shaped sheets. Each year I buy one thing I consider really unneeded but oh so fun to have in my Christmas cooking affairs. Last year it was a trifle bowl that I filled with oranges all winter long, loving the color they brought to the dining room. The year before that it was Christmas trays that we have used over and over at potlucks. Next year who knows, and that's the fun part, seeing just what the clearance aisle will produce after Christmas.

Christmas at our Zoo
We start our Christmas traditions on Christmas Eve, when we go to a candlelight service. After the service we take in the light show at both Marion and neighboring Gas city park while sipping hot cocoa (or coke if your Thomas he doesn't like cocoa, then again neither do I, so really Aiden and Courtney sip hot cocoa, while I sip eggnog and Thomas sips coke and Jack, well he is at work). When we get home we put out a cookie and some milk for Santa. Our Santa doesn't like icing on his cookies, and must have 2% milk, yes in our household even the Santa is food picky, but our kids are understanding due to their own pickyness!
Then we mix up a big batch of reindeer food. This year Santa forgot to sweep it up when he got home, um no wait a minute Santa's reindeer were not hungry by the time they got to our house yeah that's right!

In the morning we open presents right away. Now usually I beat the kids up and end up sitting with bright eye anticipation waiting for them to get up! But not this year. Nope this year they all got up at 4 a.m. on the nose.

Sorry for the serious face! She's my mini Mona Lisa!!! But I had to show you Courtney's favorite gifts earmuffs and muckluck slippers!!
The day continued with a 1 pm lunch of ham, homemade rolls, green beans and fried potatoes. Then we made our annual trip to the Whites for a few hours to allow the kids to share their Christmas finds with each other, and to allow us adults to stuff our faces some more and catch up. The White's were our neighbors for several years when we first moved to town and from Christmas one in Indiana we have spent part of the day together, now it's a tradition we all love.
And that about wraps up our Christmas nice and quiet and cozy! Hope yours was just as enjoyable!

A Down Scaled Cookie Party

All 65 over sized Sugar Cookies Baked and ready to decorate
My kids digging into the icing

Aiden getting the base ready for the sprinkles

The finished product (and this plate is dinner sized just to give you an idea of how huge these cookies are)
Last years cookie party although loved by all was pretty hard on our house and yard. We had over 40 children attend. I have always done the party open house style but people tend to stay the whole time, so bodies really start to add up. And we are so blessed to add more and more friends to our lives every year.
So when I sat down to plan out the party this year, my hubby put his foot down, and although I was a bit saddened by his request I already had come to the same conclusion. The party had grown too big for our home and so either it had to be moved or down scaled.
I spent a sleepless evening thinking about how the cookie party all began and realized it was for the kids. So the next morning I sat them down and let them help me decide what to do. And so we ended up with a list of close childhood friends only and managed to cap it at 20 children including their selves.
And those 20 kids had a blast. Decorating cookies and then eating pizza and enjoying hours of play together!
And yes I am still sweeping up a sprinkle or two!

My Very Own Christmas Stars

Courtney and her rapping mates! hanging out at the mall
Mr. Biggington a very important businessman with no time for anyone else but his work

I love helping out with our churches children's Christmas play every year. It always looks like it is going to be such a disaster till the performance night when it turns out beautifully.

I am just one of the helpers in this event the main lady is amazing, she pulls things together with style and ease. When she asked me if I thought Aiden could pull of Mr. Biggington I was a little concerned. You see the part required a solo song and I wasn't sure Aiden could pull it off. He can be so shy and quiet at times.

Well the choir director knows my sons talents better than I do it turns out. Cause that boy can sing, in perfect pitch the entire time while dancing out a tap dance act with a cane, and he is loud and clear!!!!

You could have seen Jack's, and my own shinning faces of parental pride for miles.

Courtney also did a great job. She just had a little part just 3 lines but she really hammed it up!

Can't wait till next years!!!

Grabbing the Perfect Hill Conditions

As I mention in my post below Indiana does not get a lot of snow in the winter, at least not deep snow. So when we are blessed to receive more than 2 inches, I have learned the hard way (by putting sleighing off for a day only to wake up to it melted and 3 crying kids on my hands) to grab the sleighs and go whenever that deep snow comes.
So one morning the conditions were just right. Now sleighing here is not as easy as grab your sleighs and go, cause the only hills big enough around here for sleighing are in the local school yards and they don't take kindly to a bunch of homeschooling famlies hooting and hollering down the hill while their students try to concentrate on their studies (hmm. wonder why).
So I have to hold the kids off till the local school bells ring, and then we tear over to the school and go for it. On this day we were the only 2 families. Which I am sure others are regretting cause we have not had a good sleigh day since (in fact right now its sunny and no snow on the ground at all).
Aiden was cautious at first. If you remember he broke his collar bone the last time he sleighed. But he had one of his best buds with him so after his first slide he seemed to be just a big of a dare devil as ever.
I enjoyed fellowship with another homeschooling mom while drinking Starbucks and knitting in her heated vehicle. The kids lasted 45 min's. before wanting to go home for hot chocolate.
Oh and that reminds me if you are ever out of hot chocolate I have discovered a cheap yet healthy quick version
1 cup milk
2 tablespoon cocoa
2tablespoon sugar
place it in a pan and whisk it together, and put it on the stove top on medium, keep a close eye on it stirring frequently.
My kids love it!!! and it has no added ingredients you can't pronounce which means I love it too! If you want it stronger add in more cocoa and sugar.
Snow in Indiana

Once again I got the order wrong! Uggh you think after several years of blogging I would remember that the first picture I put in becomes the last and the last becomes the first Oh well.

Indiana is not a snow bountiful state. I think in the eight years I have been here the deepest I have seen it is at the bottom of my calf's. Yes it does get cold, yes we do get ice storms, yes the snow does drift and get deep in some areas, but as far as day to day winter goes, snow is usually an inch or two at best.

I personally like it that way, but then I am a coastal girl, and grew up having snow for a day, then waking up the next day and having it gone. You got out in it you had fun in it, then before you could even get bored of it, it was gone! And that kept snow exciting.

Now I understand the years are jading me, I use to like snow more, so I try to dig deep and find that gal when the snow falls here and get the kids out in it.

Courtney does not need to do any digging, at the first sign of snow she is out the door trying to build a snow man, even if all she's got to work with is an inch.

Don't ya just love her outfit in the bottom picture. Its the modern layered look, gumboots, and sweatpants under her dress!

Our Christmas Photo

Okay so over the years the Christmas card list has become pretty much family only and included the latest best family picture from that year. Now family may have noticed the lack of the picture this year and let me explain. You did not recieve photo due to my melted mommy heart!

Courtney loves to help out with gifts and letters and cards. She overheard Jack and I discussing which "picture" to choose for the card, she immediately piped up and said "I will do the picture mommy". Well I couldn't exactly say no to my inspiring artist so I gave her the index cards that fit in the cards and let her go at it.

Next year I will have her make the cards and will use the word "photo", that way you all should end up with a family pic. and Courtney will end up with the enjoyment of creating, and that's a win win.