Monday, February 19, 2018

No.85: Intentions for the End of February

I had completely lost track of my days, so when Mark came home from work on Friday and announced that it was a three-day weekend, I cheered along with the kids!  We had snow falling most of Saturday and the kids were able to play in it Sunday morning before it all melted.  Lots of bread and pretzel rolls and brownies were made.  Lots of reading was done.  Lots of laughter (and only a little bickering) was heard.  Lots of potty-training was accomplished (finally - praise Jesus!!).  If you need me, I'll be soaking up one more lazy day before reality begins again.    


  • Habit of the Month: Patience
  • for Lent: workouts first thing every morning before touching my phone or computer
  • fill up on more green veggies
  • try overnight oatmeal
  • try kombucha (100LT #58) - a little scared about this one!
  • find one last item for February's Five Favorites prize pack
  • finalize plans for Term Three of the school year
  • start brainstorming Easter baskets
  • make speech appointment 
  • make dentist appointments
  • make eye appointments for the big boys
  • unpack and display my newly inherited china from my grandmother (I need to make the time to do this!)
  • figure out what to do about first floor painting 
  • decide on new chairs for the living room
  • buy frames for living room gallery wall
  • learn how to make baguettes (100LT #50)
  • complete my winter cross-stitch before it's no longer winter
  • bring donations to Goodwill


    If you're reading on your phone or in a reader, be sure to click over to see what I checked off the list!
    • do something special to celebrate 100 Days of School! (we blew up mini balloons and made homemade funfetti donuts)
    • catch up on blog reading and leave thoughtful comments (I'm so behind - need to make the time this week)
    • wash my used to be white Nike Frees (they still aren't totally white, that darn Virginia clay!  Maybe I should invest in a special stain stick?)
    • make more big salads for lunch (I did this about three times...)
    • find a bottle that will make it easier to drink more water (a covered cup with a straw is the game-changer!)
    • finish research and make speech appointment 
    • find a dentist in our new town
    • read two chapters in my Jackson Pollock book
    • paint the living room and hallway (what a fiasco!  Mark and I have halted further painting until we decided on a course of action)
    • bring donations to Goodwill
    • unpack and display my newly inherited china from my grandmother (still in the box)
    • buy frames for living room gallery wall
    • finish our taxes (SO glad that's finished!)

    What about you?  What do you hope to accomplish in the next two weeks?

    Friday, February 16, 2018

    No.84: Our Farmhouse Schoolhouse in Photos (Week 23)

    This post contains affiliate links.

    I've been largely off of social media this week and was so sad to hear of another school shooting.  I just finished reading about Columbine a few weeks ago and the timing seemed eerie and scary.  I don't have any answers; the issue is so multi-faceted and there are many factors at play. But as a mother, I ask myself: How I can be an example to my children and what can I teach them?  I know I'll be pondering this for days to come, but this is what I've come up with so far: 1) Look for the ones who are all alone, who seem a little different.  Don't be afraid to say hello.  2) When talking to anyone, everyone from a friend to the cashier at the store to the homeless man on the street, look them in the eye and acknowledge their dignity and worth.  3) Be honest about mental health and supportive of the ones we know who struggle.  Like Mother Teresa said, "Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love."  There's where I hope to start.


    + Week two in our second Sassafras Science Anatomy book!  I wouldn't use this as our sole source of science instruction, but the storyline is engaging and the kids love it.  I use it as the introduction to the different topics and then we dive in deeper.  The theme this week was the human skeleton and we learned the names of major bones, filling out this worksheet and putting together our new puzzle.

    + We started a new read aloud called The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell.  I've wanted my boys to work on their handwriting and copywork, so this new beginning seemed like the perfect segue. To bring some excitement, I bought everyone a brand new notebook.  And each day this week, we've read one chapter, copied a paragraph (my first grader does a sentence) and drawn a picture - me included! It's been a fun way to practice and they've each completed it without complaint - a huge win!

    + Sophie randomly asked if we could start doing a Show and Tell during school.  (I can only imagine she was influenced by Daniel Tiger or another such character.)  She pronounces it so adorably ("Shaun-tell") so how can you say no?  This week, they shared their latest Lego creations.

    + Our Aftrican studies took us to the teeny country of Malawi.  We read Galimoto,  the story of a little boy who collected discarded pieces of wire to make a vehicle.  It was such an interesting look at how one man's trash is another man's treasure! I wish I had thought ahead and saved some of our recycling so we could try something similar.  Instead, we looked up images of real galimotos on Pinterest - amazing!  We also made sweet potato cookies (called Mbatata), which were delicious.  We made two batches and may make a third this weekend.

    + J is thiiiis close to finish All About Reading Level 1.  Just a few more lessons to go!  He has worked so hard...I think we need to do something to celebrate before jumping into Level 2.  

    Current 1000 Books Project Total: 109/1000


    + Health: My Lenten sacrifice is to work out first thing in the morning before I use my phone or open my computer.  I managed to fail on day two, but still finished my run in the afternoon, so that's like half credit, right?  I found and charged up my Fitbit for extra motivation.
    + Reading: Currently reading Happier at Home for book club, An Everlasting Meal and The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.
    + Spiritual: I started Scott Hahn's Lenten Reflection book on Ash Wedneday.  Today's chapter from The Imitation of Christ had this advice, which I've thought about (and prayed) all day: "Each day we ought to renew our resolves and rekindle the fires of our fervor as if it were the first day of our conversion.  And we should say: 'O Lord God, help me to keep my good resolution to serve You; give me the grace to begin anew, for what I have done up to now is nothing.'" (Chapter 19, p.24)  It's been a hard parenting week and I've needed grace upon grace upon grace.  Tomorrow's a new day to start again.  
    + Fun: The week flew by and I can't seem to think of what to put in the fun category!  I'll need to work on that.

    Thursday, February 15, 2018

    No.83: New Habits, Little by Little: Homesteading 101 - Make Your Daily Bread (Part Two!)

    I live in a farmhouse on five acres in the country.  It's time for this suburban girl to learn a few things!  
    Welcome to my self-taught Homesteading 101.

    Update on Daily Bread Post #1: I'm getting better!  I try to bake something at least three times a week and I think the consistency is key.  Through lots of trail and error, I'm learning what a properly kneaded dough consistency looks like.  I'm better at handling ciabatta dough (the trick is flouring everything).  Best of all, I'm gaining confidence and my curiosity drives me to try more and more.  Bread has become a surprising aspect of self-care for me this winter.

    Below are four new recipes that I've added to the mix:
    • Dutch Oven Bread
      • My first try at learning about bread by sight and feel.  It's fascinating to me that four simple ingredients can react together to make such a artful product.  
      • Consensus: SO good!  Just fluffy enough and the crust was delicious.  
    • Homemade Cinnamon Bread
      • I made this one with the kids.  I definitely need practice with tighter rolling, but they didn't seem to mind. 
      • Consensus: Delicious.  Definitely a sweet bread and it made a nice afternoon snack.  I wish it had lasted longer to have toasted for breakfast!
    • Soft Pretzel Rolls
      • Thanks for the link, KD!  My first time boiling dough and scoring the tops.  I loved the whole process.  
      • Consensus: When Mark tried one, he declared that they were even better than Wegmans - HIGH praise since Wegmans is his favorite!  I've made them three times since and like them either dipped in cinnamon sugar or as a sandwich with lunchmeat and cheese.
    • French Bread
      • This recipe makes two huge loaves, which is great for my family.  I need to work on my pinching and sealing technique - one loaf ended up looking a little funky.
      • Consensus: A delicious dense loaf that went perfectly with our white chicken lasagna soup.  I think it would be a good pick for sandwiches too.
    Next up: I just got a new sourdough cookbook and am anxious to grow my own starter once it warms up a bit.  What else should I bake?  Share with me your favorites!  

    Tuesday, February 13, 2018

    No.82: Around Here in February

    This post contains affiliate links.

    WEARING //  When I'm at home, I'm in my L.L.Bean pullover or my Athleta sweatshirt all day erryday.  I try a little bit harder on the days I leave the house.

    READING //  All the books!  Mark and I (quite unintentionally) stopped watching TV at night and I'm able to get big chunks read before bed.  I'm currently at 11 finishes and am in various stages in Happier at Home, The Imitation of Christ, An Everlasting Meal and The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.

    PAINTING //  My living room last weekend and it turned into a huge fiasco.  My entire first floor has textured walls and I had no idea how hard it would be to repaint them.  The two living room walls took TWO cans of paint and hours of work!  And to make it worse, they are still splotchy.  I'm so frustrated and will be inquiring prices from professional painters this week.

    HANGING //  My new master bedroom art!  I bought the art from Caitlyn Connolly and had it framed with Framebridge.  I highly recommend both!  I'm so in love with the result and am now committed to finding special pieces to add throughout the house.  (Obviously there's nothing wrong with the big box stores, but I love the idea of directly supporting the artist.)

    PLANNING // for our third term in school.  It's hard to believe we only have 14 weeks to go.  What a beautifully hard and yet wonderful year we've had so far.  I wasn't sure that I wanted to go back to homeschooling, but we all are thriving! 

    BAKING // bread.  I'm obsessed and try to make something every other day.  I just got a new cookbook about sourdough and can't wait to start.  I also made a blueberry pie.  

    FINISHING // our taxes. Woo!  This was a tricky year with home buying/selling and Big White Farmhouse small business stuff, but I enjoy the puzzle.

    HAVING // a "come to Jesus moment" as I stepped on the scale for the first time in awhile.  I've been in a funk since I hurt my hip in January.  Very little exercise and crazy hormones has me gaining more than I'd like...okay way more than I'd like.  So back to the drawing board I go.  More diet tweaks, more water, and finding an exercise routine that works with my crazy life. 

    ENJOYING // the break from freezing temperatures and the first small peeks of spring.  I can't wait to see green again! 

    PREPARING // for Lent.  My plans are to workout first thing in the morning (something I've tried and failed at...mostly because I like my coffee and pajamas) and each day pray especially for a family member or friend.  I'll also be reading a book from Scott Hahn.  Nothing extreme and actually pretty lame, but I hope it will be enough for a fruitful Lent.  Less of me and more of Him.

    Friday, February 9, 2018

    No.81: Our Farmhouse Schoolhouse in Photos (Weeks 21&22)

    This post contains affiliate links.

    Two weeks of ordinary school days.  Throughout the year, there seem to be weeks of input and weeks of output.  Some weeks, we're cranking out art projects and paragraphs and activities.  Other weeks, we're just listening to pages and pages of books and having heartfelt conversations.  The past two weeks were the latter.  While it seems like we don't have much to "show" for it, my kids will talk your ear off if you ask. :)


    + We finished up the last handful of stories in American Tall Tales.  Their favorite, by far, was Paul Bunyan.  We also finished Redwall, which was wonderful and had the boys asking for chapter after chapter.  I think I read about nine chapters that last day because they had to know the end! 

    + M (5th grade) read through The Silver Donkey for WWI history.  It's not his typical go-to genre, but I think it's always beneficial to read different viewpoints in history.  He liked it.  Now onto The Singing Tree.

    + In the little kids' history, we finished up Squanto. This little book started so many interesting conversations.  For example, when Squanto sailed back to England with the colonists, the Captain put him on display so the English could pay to see a "real" Indian.  Great segue into the dignity of the human person.

    + After two months away, we're back to our African studies!  We jumped into Ethiopia and Kenya with these books: A Story, A Story and Mama Panya's Pancakes.  The first picture book wasn't an exact match (I even think it's from the wrong side of the continent, technically) but we still enjoyed the story.  Mama Panya's Pancakes is one of my favorites - such a sweet story of generosity.  For dinner, we made honey garlic berbere chicken thighs over rice for Ethiopia and beef stew for Kenya.  

    + Monday, February 5th, was our 100th day of school!  This felt like a huge accomplishment, so we celebrated by making homemade donuts (with a like-new donut pan I found at the thrift store for $2.99!!) and blowing up mini balloons.

    Current 1000 Books Project Total: 106/1000


    + Health: I'm in a funk.  Paused on working out and am trying to give myself some grace since P is sleeping horribly at night again.  I'm exhausted.  BUT!  I'm drinking more water and have had a few salads, so small victories.
    + Reading: I finished The Paris Architect and Columbine.  Currently reading Happier at Home for book club, An Everlasting Meal and The Thief.
    + Spiritual: I started The Imitation of Christ and like it so far.
    + Fun: Looking forward to painting my first floor this weekend.

    Thursday, February 8, 2018

    No.80: 30 (Mostly-Flat) Things to Send Your Penpal

    This post contains affiliate links.

    February is International Correspondence Writing Month and many people challenge themselves to write a letter or card each day during the month.  I had great intentions, but quickly found myself unable to keep the pace!  So my revised goal is just to send mail.  When a friend or loved one comes to mind, jot a note.  When a new baby arrives, mail a card.  When someone is feeling sad and needs a little pick-me-up, send over a few small surprises.  My focus is less on completing a challenge and more on creating a habit.  

    Gifts are my love language, so I love adding little things in my letters.  It's certainly not a requirement, but so much fun.  Below, I've compiled 30 ideas of little bits you can include in your snail mail.  Almost all of the links are small businesses or etsy shops, so I hope you'll check them out!  Happy writing. xo

    STICKERS //  Did you have a sticker obsession as a kid like I did?  I don't think that has ever gone away for me - I still love them for decorating my planner or the outside of an envelope.  
    A POSTCARD // Just came back from a family vacation?  Have a cool location in your state to share?  A postcard is the perfect memento and helps your pen pal learn something new in the process.  I also like the idea of giving new life to unused vintage postcards!
    FUN BAND-AIDS // Unexpected and yet useful - what's not to love?
    TEA // I credit snail mail to introducing me to tea.  Sharing a packet is a no-obligation way for your pen pal to try new flavors and learn a little bit about you too.
    • My all-time favorite is Tazo's Passion, but Mark and I also enjoy Peach Mango (so good as a cold brew!) and Chai.
    JOURNALING CARDS // The scrapbook section of the craft store isn't just for preserving your photos anymore!  The options are endless and much more versatile - you can use these cards for everything from jotting down your grocery list to writing out a great quote.
    • Becky Higgins has a journaling card for every season and color palette.  One of my favorite brands.
    •  I also have purchased from Studio Calico and their cards are awesome.
    WASHI TAPE // Washi tape comes in fun little rolls and are perfect for embellishing envelopes or taping things to the fridge.  Give your pen pal a sample of your favorites by wrapping a few around a piece of cardstock.
    SEED PACKETS //  With spring just around the corner, these are easy to find.
    PAPER GARLANDS //  Super cute and you can customize to an upcoming holiday or season.
    POST-IT NOTES // Who doesn't love and need Post-its?  I use them all the time and even have a few in my nightstand for to-do lists before bed.
    • Embellish My World has so many cute options: everything from animals to floral wreaths. 
    PHOTOS // This is one area I would love to be better about!  Print a special photo from your recent trip or your blooming flower beds.  Send Grandma a picture of her happy grandbabies.
    • Groovebook looks like a great app to print photos directly from your phone.  I love how the photobooks are perforated so they're easy to rip out and add to a letter.
    A BALLOON // Not just for birthdays!  An idea: blow up the balloon, write a note in Sharpie, then deflate.  Add a note instructing the recipient to inflate to reveal the surprise!
    CANDY // Candy is tricky, but there are a few sort-of flat options out there if you keep your eye out.  Things like lollipops, fruit chews or even mini Hershey's chocolate bars would all work.  (Although I'd probably keep the chocolate for cold winter months and definitely not summer.)

    MAD-LIBS // Rip out a page or two and tuck into your letter for your pen pal to fill out.
    A TEMPORARY TATTOO // Temporary tattoos remind me of being a kid.  I love that they are inexpensive and often come in packs of two, one to keep and one to share!
    PENCILS // A snail mail staple!
    A MAP // Grab a map of your city and circle a few of your favorite places.  Did you visit a museum or an aboretum?  Grab an extra map on your way out and write about your experience in your next letter.

    RECIPE CARDS // It's always fun to hear what other people are cooking.  Ask your pen pal for their favorite cookie/dinner/entertaining recipe and include one of yours.
    • My go-to for paper recipe cards is 1canoe2, but I have these on my wishlist!
    PAPER CLIPS // I like to clip all the little bits together I send with a paper clip.  I've been using the regular colorful ones, but after researching for this post, I've been introduced to a whole new level!
    • Pinkie Bows has hundreds of adorable appliqued paper clips.
    • There are also paper clips in different shapes.  How awesome are these cocktail clips?
    GLOW-IN-THE-DARK STARS // One idea is to include a star with every letter you send.  Eventually your pen pal will have enough for an entire constellation or galaxy!
    • This set has 150 pieces - more than enough to send multiple friends.
    • This set even has the planets!
    RIBBON // Fold a length of ribbon neatly (preferably long enough to wrap something) or tie it around your letter with a bow.
    AN INTERESTING ARTICLE // Writing letters is an intimate way to learn about a person's feelings and views.  Instead of fast knee-jerk reactions, letters require patience and thought, which in turn can become a thoughtful and respectful dialogue.  Find an article online that made you think, print it out and include it in your letter.  Ask your pen pal for their thoughts.

    BOOKMARKS // Is your pen pal a reader?  If so, a bookmark is always welcomed.
    A SMALL NOTEBOOK // Handy for jotting notes and to-dos, especially when you're on the go.
    • 3"x4" (like these) is a great little size to tuck into a letter.
    GEL PENS // While I typically only write with my boring black Bic pens, colorful gel pens seem like a fancy touch.
    • This set looks great.  Send a few and keep a few for yourself!
    • This isn't a gel pen, but how cute is this "happy notes" pen?
    GLOW STICKS // Another one of those childhood favorites sure to make your pen pal smile.
    A NEWSPAPER CARTOON // When I was little, my grandmother would send a few "funnies" from the newspaper.  In today's day and age, this may be a stretch, but maybe there is an online cartoonist that you love?  Print, or if you want to save ink, share the link.

    PRESSED FLOWERS // If you have a green thumb and grow amazing flowers, dry and press a few.
    • This post has a simple DIY if you've never pressed flowers before.
    STICKS OF GUM // There are tons of gum choices that now come in tablet form, but look for the flat sticks.  Wrigley's is a good brand to look for: Doublemint, Juicy Fruit or Big Red.

    A SMALL CROSS-STITCH // Are you a whiz with handiwork?  Tuck in a small completed cross-stitch or needlework project.  Bonus points if you give the recipient ideas for how to display it.

    A CHARM ON A NECKLACE //  Simple, inexpensive necklaces are great to include.  Be sure to carefully package it around a piece of cardstock, so it doesn't get tangled during transit.
    • Caritas Dei LLC has a wonderful assortment of Catholic medals and necklaces.  I have this one and wear it everyday.

    Monday, February 5, 2018

    No.79: Intentions for the Beginning of February

    It's been awhile since the sunrise stopped me in my tracks.  Swirling blues and pinks were everywhere!  


    • Habit of the Month: Patience
    • do something special to celebrate 100 Days of School!
    • catch up on blog reading and leave thoughtful comments
    • wash my used to be white Nike Frees
    • make more big salads for lunch
    • find a bottle that will make it easier to drink more water
    • finish research and make speech appointment 
    • find a dentist in our new town (we're ready to stop commuting to our old one)
    • read two chapters in my Jackson Pollock book
    • paint the living room and hallway
    • bring donations to Goodwill
    • unpack and display my newly inherited china from my grandmother
    • buy frames for living room gallery wall
    • finish our taxes (I think I can, I think I can....)


    If you're reading on your phone or in a reader, be sure to click over to see what I checked off the list!
    • keep up with Mutu System exercises and some sort of daily walk (The walk has been a bit of a stretch - hello mailbox - but I've been keeping up with everything else)
    • find a dentist in our new town (we're ready to stop commuting to our old one)
    • unpack and display my newly inherited china from my grandmother
    • bake a cinnamon raisin bread (we were out of raisins, so just did a cinnamon swirl - so good!)
    • look into King Arthur Flour's #bakealong (can't wait to try these recipes)
    • start reading Happier at Home for book club
    • finish the last few chapters of Anne of Avonlea (on to Anne of the Island!)
    • print December Daily & January Coffee Project photos
    • gather enough cards/postcards for the International Correspondence Writing Month in February (I'm excited and intimidated about this - I hope I have enough people to write to!  Anyone want some snail mail?)
    • complete my winter cross-stitch project (I had to break for a bit to buy new thread, but almost done)
    • buy paint for the living room
    • buy frames for living room gallery wall
    • choose fabric and buy an insert to make Sophia's princess pillow

    What about you?  What do you hope to accomplish in the next two weeks?

    Thursday, February 1, 2018

    No.78: New Habits, Little by Little: Cooking at Home (January 2018)

    January was a great month for me in the kitchen: very little sugar and a lot of healthy eating.  And bread.  Lots and lots of homemade bread. 

    Week 27 (cont.):
    Monday, January 1: chili with cornbread waffles in the waffle maker
    Tuesday, January 2: drunken slow cooker beef carbonnade stew (minus the drunken part - I didn't have any beer) over egg noodles
    Wednesday, January 3: chicken thighs with roasted broccoli and potatoes
    Thursday, January 4: tacos
    Friday, January 5: chili cheese fries using leftovers from Monday

    Week 28:
    Saturday, January 6: Grandpa visits! chicken orzo soup and homemade bread
    Sunday, January 7: Grandpa visit. simple tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches
    Monday, January 8: leftovers
    Tuesday, January 9: baked chicken breasts and steamed broccoli with a tomato cream sauce
    Wednesday, January 10: Chick-Fil-A to support our new local pregnancy center
    Thursday, January 11: french onion meatballs, mashed potatoes and brussels sprouts
    Friday, January 12: homemade pizza for the kids, Home Chef for date night (Japanese sirloin steak with mirin demi-glaze and buttery glazed carrots)

    Week 29:
    Saturday, January 13: simple tomato soup (again!) and homemade ciabatta bread
    Sunday, January 14: chicken pot pie soup and homemade biscuits
    Monday, January 15: pot roast
    Tuesday, January 16: tacos
    Wednesday, January 17: panko chicken fingers and salad
    Thursday, January 18: Fridge Clean-out Night
    Friday, January 19: balsamic chicken veggie bake

    Week 30:
    Saturday, January 20: chicken drumsticks and wings for the kids, Home Chef for date night (sirloin steak with balsamic sauce, crispy potatoes and brussels sprouts
    Sunday, January 21: we just had cereal or popcorn after a late lunch at my parents
    Monday, January 22: parmesan veggies and sausage over rice
    Tuesday, January 23: french onion chicken and salad
    Wednesday, January 24: beef stew (adapted to the dutch oven) with homemade ciabatta bread
    Thursday, January 25: enchiladas
    Friday, January 26: frozen pizza for the kids, Home Chef for date night (sirloin steak with blue cheese compound butter, green beans and roasted fingerling potatoes)

    Week 31:
    Saturday, January 27: panko chicken fingers and salad
    Sunday, January 28: bacon wrapped pork tenderloin with brussels sprouts
    Monday, January 29: philly cheesesteaks
    Tuesday, January 30: salisbury steak meatballs with gravy and mashed potatoes
    Wednesday, January 31: chicken pot pie filling with homemade biscuits
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