Monday, October 14, 2019

No.304: Intentions for the End of October

“I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house."
― Nathaniel Hawthorne, The American Notebooks


  • buy upholstery pins and finally finish the living room chair slipcover project
  • purchase slippers for the kids who need them
  • start collecting items to assemble Birthday Boxes for the food pantry
  • buy a fabric shaver and try to save some of my older sweaters
  • sew the button back on my wool coat
  • condition the leather on my booties
  • clean my indoor/outdoor rug
  • try to take a decent family photo in our yard for Christmas cards
  • make a soup
  • get our oven fixed
  • bake pumpkin chocolate chip cookies
  • give P a haircut
  • catch up on snail mail correspondence
  • hang curtains in the little boys' room


            If you're reading on your phone or in a reader, be sure to click over to see what I checked off the list!
            • continue the 1,000 Item Declutter Challenge (reach 100 items)
            • order daffodil bulbs (my boys even planted them as my birthday present!)
            • figure out what we want to do for family photos
            • read a nature non-fiction book (I've started The Lost Art of Reading Nature's Signs)
            • finish buying birthday presents for D and wrap
            • clean my indoor/outdoor rug

            Wednesday, October 9, 2019

            No.303: The Wednesday Five

            This post contains affiliate links.

            I recently started reading a new-to-me blog called Through Clouded Glass and I loved the writing prompt she used called The Wednesday Five.  It's the perfect solution to my almost-mid-month writer's block!  Here are my five:

            A QUOTE

            Jesus deigned to teach me this mystery.  He set before me the book of nature; I understood how all the flowers He has created are beautiful, how the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the Lily do not take away the perfume of the little violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy.  I understood that if all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the fields would no longer be decked out with little wild flowers.
            And so it is in the world of souls, Jesus' garden.  He willed to create great souls comparable to Lilies and roses, but He has created smaller ones and these must be content to be daisies or violets destined to give joy to God's glances when He looks down at His feet.  Perfection consists in doing His will, in being what He wills us to be.
            - Story of a Soul by Saint Therese, p.14

            A BOOK

            I'm slowly making my way through The Lost Art of Reading Nature's Signs by Tristan Gooley and while I'm only about 50 pages in, I'm really enjoying it!  So far, it's been a good mix of common sense and things I've never considered before.  I probably should start taking notes. 

            A BIT OF NATURE

            Fall always takes its time to arrive here in Virginia and this year, I've had an unexpected treat: the wildflowers that we planted this spring are still blooming.  


            I just made a batch of homemade chicken broth and froze it using my new Souper Cubes.  I'm a fan!  Each spot holds one cup, which makes cooking with the frozen "bricks" so easy.  I think I might make a big pot of chicken soup to keep in the freezer (for sore throats and easy winter lunches) next.


            One day last week, my oldest took our dog, Lucy, outside to play.  After a little while, I peeked out but couldn't find them.  I immediately started thinking worst case scenarios (Lucy has had a couple of stressful "book it to the street like a crazy lady" moments) and ran outside in a panic.  To my surprise, I found both my son and my dog sharing a rocking chair and shooting the breeze.  

            Friday, October 4, 2019

            No.302: This Week at the Farmhouse // vol.07

            This post contains affiliate links.

            WHAT WE LEARNED 

            + D (5th grade) read Iron Thunder: The Battle Between the Monitor & the Merrimac as part of his Civil War studies.  It was a quick read and he really liked it. 

            + In Around the World, we went to Thailand!  Our favorite book from this country was Hush: A Thai Lullaby.  We also learned about the bumblebee bat, which only has a wingspan of five inches!

            + M's (7th grade) Ancient History studies have been a little dry, so I tried to liven things up by having him "mummify" one of his brothers in toilet paper.  It definitely wasn't a very academic activity, but the amount of laughter was 100% worth it.

            + We were gifted a set of Polydrons and while there was a bit of a learning curve, the kids figured it out and now are hooked!  They've been making 3D shapes galore all week.


            small room changes that have a big impact
            my hard working football player
            a fixed lawn mower (finally!)
            when Lucy lays her head in my lap
            hot cups of peach tea
            crunchy leaves all over the driveway
            pink sunsets
            when P takes a nap
            a book I can't put down
            our home warranty policy

            IN THE KITCHEN

            + On the menu:
            M: pasta and meat sauce with garlic bread and salad
            T: breakfast for dinner - pancakes, bacon and Orange Julius
            W: beans and rice kielbasa skillet
            Th: pepperoni pizza
            F: Mark brought home burgers and fries

            + G is for Granola, so we were going to make our go-to recipe, but our oven broke!  Always something.

            + How much I spent on groceries this week: $280.46

            GOOD THINGS

            + Maybe this notepad will help me stay on top of the housework?

            + I'm considering doing this project for the cold weather months.

            + Have you heard of Rad Mail?  Looks like a fun monthly subscription.

            Wednesday, October 2, 2019

            No.301: 100 Little Things Vol.6 // An Update

            This post contains affiliate links.

            It's been two months since I posted my 100 Little Things for this year and I've had a strong start!  Here's what I've completed so far:

            #99. BUY A STEAMER.
            I bought this steamer to make my life easier when selling on Poshmark and I love it!  It only takes a minute to warm up and after a few swipes across your outfit, you're ready to go.

            #95. READ THE 15:17 TO PARIS.
            I had a screenshot of this book on my phone because I thought it would be interesting and something my oldest would like to read.  I read it first and....meh.  An inspiring story about American heroism, but it didn't need to be a 200 page book.

            This was such a satisfying project!  I used Magic Grout Cleaner, which is definitely not a "green" product, but I had it on hand and decided to use it up.  Along with an old rag, a toothbrush and a little elbow grease, it worked great!  The difference is amazing.

            We've had the chair in our living room for almost nine years now and it was in sad shape.  I did a few frugal improvements to perk it back up (I wrote about it in this post), added a $25 slipcover and it's good as new!  I still need to get some upholstery pins for the bottom so it looks more intentional/finished and a new throw pillow.  Even so, I'm so happy that we were able to change our eyesore (but still totally functional) chair into something more beautiful.

            Our church sponsored a baby bottle campaign collecting change for a local pregnancy center.  We have a gallon-size bag of change ready for this kind of occasion and the kids were so excited to fill the bottle to the brim.

            I made my first few loaves and am definitely out of practice, but excited to get back into the habit.  Using this book again for direction and inspiration.

            #49. BAKE A PIE.
            For the first week of school, we made an A is for Apple Pie using the recipe in one of our favorite books!  I wasn't paying attention and almost burnt it, but it was still delicious.

            I'm becoming a plant lady!  I couldn't find the exact one I wanted locally, so I gambled with a California-based nursery on Amazon. worked out great!  I got this string of pearls succulent and it arrived well-packaged and healthy.  The ceramic hanging planter is from an etsy shop called Stuck in the Mud Pottery.

            #50. MAKE ROOT BEER FLOATS.
            We celebrated D's first flag football game (and his first win!) with root beer floats!  Super easy and special.

            I tweaked this one after learning that I should be keeping my potatoes in the fridge instead!  Cooler temperatures will keep them fresh for much longer.

            #52. GO APPLE PICKING. 
            Our first Family Adventure Field Trip of the school year!  We had so much fun and the apples were eaten way too fast.  We hope to go again soon.

            Partial Completions

            Two out of twelve complete: August and September.

            #80. SUPPORT THREE ETSY SHOPS. (2/3)
            I bought another shampoo bar from Shady Nook Bee Farms and a soap saver from The Bearded Bee Homestead.

            #88. PAY OFF THREE STUDENT LOANS. (1/3)
            After a year of chipping away, we can finally knock one off the list!  This particular loan had a 12.875% interest rate (can you even believe that?!) so it was really important to me to throw all the money we could on this one first.  The extra money I earned from selling on Poshmark this summer really helped.

            I've missed a few days, but am still considering this a win!

            CURRENT TOTAL: 11 / 100

            Tuesday, October 1, 2019

            No.300: Intentions for the Beginning of October

            Well, my intention list for the end of September was a bust (see below), but for a good reason: I've been all in with a 1,000 Item Declutter Challenge!  The idea was inspired by this TED Talk and I'm excited (and a little nervous) to see how long it takes me to complete it.  Here are my ground rules:
            1. Only spend 10 minutes at one time and only in one specific area.  (This could be the kids' closet or a kitchen cabinet or the schoolroom bookshelf.) I don't have a lot of time during the week, but also don't want to spend every.single.weekend working on this project.  I think 10 minutes a day is a fair compromise.
            2. Monday through Wednesday, seek out items that we no longer need and make a pile.  Then Thursday through Saturday, make a plan and deal with them.  This will hopefully avoid that dreaded box of "what should I do with these?" items.
            3. Possible places to find new homes for items: Ebay/Poshmark, Facebook Marketplace, Trash Nothing or the local Buy Nothing Facebook group and as a last resort, Goodwill
            I feel a responsibility for the things I have and want to be intentional with how I dispose of them.  Questions I'm asking myself: If it's here, what purpose does it serve?  Can I use it up?  Can I enjoy it vs. keeping it tucked away in drawers and boxes?  And if not, can I let it go to someone who may want/need it more?


            • continue the 1,000 Item Declutter Challenge (reach 100 items)
            • order daffodil bulbs
            • figure out what we want to do for family photos
            • read a nature non-fiction book (100LT #89)
            • finish buying birthday presents for D and wrap
            • clean my indoor/outdoor rug

                      PREVIOUS INTENTIONS

                      If you're reading on your phone or in a reader, be sure to click over to see what I checked off the list!
                      • use up the zucchini in the freezer (make bread?)
                      • schedule eye exams for M and D
                      • call for a consultation with Invisible Fence
                      • start buying birthday presents for D
                      • shop around for better car insurance
                      • buy batteries for the emergency closet (fun fact: September is National Preparedness Month)
                      • change the filter in the attic
                      • go at least 7 days without spending money (I ended up with 6 no spend days - so close!)
                      • redo Sophie's phonics/reading plans to accommodate possible dyslexia
                      • make a reading reward chart
                      • replace our old American flag (ordered and waiting for it to arrive)
                      • start a decluttering challenge (see above!)

                      Friday, September 27, 2019

                      No.299: This Week at the Farmhouse // vol.06

                      This post contains affiliate links.

                      WHAT WE LEARNED 

                      + It was Padre Pio's feast day on Monday, so we chatted a little about some of the cool things he is known for, including bilocation.

                      + In Writing, J and S (3rd and 1st grade) wrote stories about what it would be like to take a trip to outer space.  Afterward, they created rocket ships (made from Pringles cans!) for their final drafts to slip into.  This turned out to be such a fun little project.

                      + We scrapped our science plans for the week to check out the new chemistry set that Sophie got for her birthday. 

                      + D (5th grade) finished reading The Perilous Road this week.  His final project was to create a comic strip showing how the main character eventually changed his prejudiced opinions.  He did a great job!

                      TEN THINGS I'M GRATEFUL FOR

                      seven years with our best girl!
                      a new milestone reached on the Amerithon Challenge
                      heart-to-heart talks with my big boys
                      falling leaves
                      being able to button a pair of jeans that have not fit for over six years!
                      a string of sales on Poshmark and ebay
                      watching the kids all play outside together before school
                      apple galette
                      a minor house repair that I did all on my own
                      wonderful news from a friend

                      IN THE KITCHEN

                      + On the menu:
                      M: leftovers
                      T: S's birthday! she had a special dinner out with her Dad and then we all ate cake at home
                      W: sub sandwiches and chips
                      Th: sweet and spicy glazed chicken thighs with red potatoes and green beans
                      F: shrimp stirfry

                      + F is for "Fancy Flakes" aka cinnamon sugar tortillas cut to look like snowflakes

                      + How much I spent on groceries this week: $307.37

                      GOOD THINGS

                      + from the archives: Five Reasons to Send a Letter in October (time to get those cards ready!)

                      + such a cute idea

                      Seaman High art students honor custodian with portrait - "The students describe Epperson as a humble, kind man who takes care of everyone without seeking any attention for himself."

                      Thursday, September 26, 2019

                      No.298: My Latest Reads // September

                      This post contains affiliate links.
                      P.S. I highly recommend Book Outlet!  Use my link to receive $10 off your first order of $25 or more.
                      Linking up for the first time with Carolyn and Open Book!

                      #54. ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE by Gail Honeyman
                      My Rating: ★★★★☆

                      These days, loneliness is the new cancer—a shameful, embarrassing thing, brought upon yourself in some obscure way. A fearful, incurable thing, so horrifying that you dare not mention it; other people don’t want to hear the word spoken aloud for fear that they might too be afflicted, or that it might tempt fate into visiting a similar horror upon them. (69%)

                      When you took a moment to see what was around you, noticed all the little things, it made you feel . . . lighter. (81%)

                      I don't even know how to describe this book.  It was a character driven novel with a quirky, yet somehow endearing, protagonist.  It was odd and funny and surprisingly heavy and sad too.  A roller coaster of emotions in one book!  I enjoyed it. 

                      #55. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
                      My Rating: ★★★☆

                      For the first time, perhaps, since that land emerged from the waters of geologic ages, a human face was set toward it with love and yearning. It seemed beautiful to her, rich and strong and glorious. Her eyes drank in the breadth of it, until her tears blinded her. Then the Genius of the Divide, the great, free spirit which breathes across it, must have bent lower than it ever bent to a human will before. The history of every country begins in the heart of a man or a woman. (25%)

                      We come and go, but the land is always here. And the people who love it and understand it are the people who own it—for a little while. (92%)

                      O Pioneers! is a beautifully written pioneer story.  I love the way Cather describes the land.  My only critique was that the last section of the book felt completely different from the rest, and not necessarily in a good way.  All in all, a three star read for me.  (This was also my 1913 pick for the 20th Century Reading Challenge.)

                      My Rating: ★★★☆

                      The Mysterious Howling was our first read aloud of the school year.  Clever and witty with a cliff-hanger ending.  The kids were begging me to buy book number two!  Three and a half stars.

                      #57. ASK AGAIN, YES by Mary Beth Keane
                      My Rating: ★★★

                      “The thing is, Peter, grown-ups don’t know what they’re doing any better than kids do. That’s the truth.” (39%)

                      I heard about this fairly new release from another reader and was lucky not to have to wait long on the library hold list.  A fictional piece about the complicated lives of two families, this book was not particularly uplifting.  But!  Even so, I was quickly invested in these families and had to know how they all turned out.  A very interesting look at mental health and grief and the ripple effect of one's actions.  I'd recommend it if you're in the mood for a more somber novel with lots to think about.

                      #58. I CAN'T MAKE THIS UP: LIFE LESSONS by Kevin Hart
                      My Rating: ★★

                      Life is a story. It’s full of chapters. And the beauty of life is that not only do you get to choose how you interpret each chapter, but your interpretation writes the next chapter. It determines whether it’s comedy or tragedy, fairy tale or horror story, rags-to-riches or riches-to-rags. You can’t control the events that happen to you, but you can control your interpretation of them. So why not choose the story that serves your life the best? (2%)

                      Logically, no other response to the ups and downs of life makes sense besides gratitude. You are already in your experience. So you can either resent and resist it, and make it that much less enjoyable, or you can accept it and find something positive in it. (12%)

                      There is so much that is greater than us, whatever you believe. So while we get to choose the roads we take, we don’t get to know where they lead. Acceptance, then, is knowing that when your plan fails, or your road dead ends, it means a bigger plan is at work. And I’d rather be part of a big plan than a small one. (33%)

                      I'm always hesitant to read a book written by someone famous because generally, I think they just aren't that good.  But in an effort to shake things up, I picked up this one by comedian Kevin Hart and it was actually better than I expected.  A little too vulgar to recommend and about 100 pages too long, but otherwise an interesting read.

                      My Rating: ★★

             know a person as a student is to know him always as a student: to sense deeply his striving and in his striving to sense your own.  It is to watch, and then have difficulty forgetting, a student wrench himself into shape, like a character from Ovid, his body twisting and contorting, from one creature to another, submitting, finally, to the task of a full transformation.  Why?  Because he trusts you; because he prefers the feel of this newer self; because he hopes you will help make this change last. (p.270-271)

                      Reading with Patrick is a memoir that tackles quite a few issues, including education, poverty, and racism.  It was equal parts inspiring and heartbreaking and thought-provoking.  Solid three stars.


                      MY READING IN NUMBERS FOR 2019
                      Books Read: 59
                      Pages Read: 17,661
                      Fiction: 35  //  Non-Fiction: 24
                      Kindle Books: 21  //  Paper Books: 38
                      Original 2019 books "to-read" total on Goodreads: 424 // Current "to-read" total: 422

                      Monday, September 23, 2019

                      No.297: A List of September's Frugal Accomplishments

                      Month #3!  This month, I tried to focus my frugality lens in terms of consuming: not in the sense of buying more, but instead using up the things I have already purchased and own.  What good are things, even if they are neatly organized in drawers and shelves, if you never use them?  This new way of thinking has been eye-opening for sure.   

                      P.S. I have another new blog to share with you this month: The Frugal Girl.  Another great resource to inspire you on your frugal journey!

                      My Goal: Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.  
                      And if you have to spend money, do it with intention.

                      + I took apart and then reassembled my vacuum cleaner after one of the kids sucked up a colored pencil.  A most ridiculous accomplishment, but you would not believe how many vacuums we've been through in almost 13 years of parenting!

                      + I took a yard of orange fabric (that I've had stored away) and ripped it into strips to use as ribbon for my Poshmark/Ebay packages.  I love how cute it looks and it was free!

                      + Our living room chair is almost nine years old and was in sad shape.  The removable back cushion was saggy and the arms were stained.  I fixed the back cushion by wrapping a blanket (this cheap one from Walmart - we used them as furniture blankets when we moved here to the farmhouse and they've proved to be quite handy) around the insert and then cramming plastic grocery store bags in the sides to fill it out a little.  Add a $25 slipcover and I have a brand new chair!  So excited about this little project.

                      + I got a sourdough starter up and running again.  Hoping to get into the habit of making fresh bread at least three times a week.  So far I've made an everyday loaf, a cinnamon raisin swirl, and waffles.

                      + I made a big batch of ditalini pasta to accompany our dinner one night.  I froze the leftovers and will use them in a soup once the weather gets cooler.

                      + I used up all the birthday wrapping paper I had left from last year before buying new rolls.  I also found a few gift bags I had stored away, which I can reuse for all the kids.

                      + I made my own broth after roasting a whole chicken.  I've had a full "broth bag" of veggie scraps in the freezer for over a month!  It will never fail to amaze me how you can make something so delicious from things you'd normally just trash.

                      + You know me and rabbit night, I got sucked into the world of bullet journals on Pinterest.  So many beautiful books and inspiring ideas!  I immediately wanted a brand new Leuchtturm notebook, highlighters and pens. ($$$)  Instead, I took one of the extra composition books I bought for the kids (only 50 cents!), covered it in scrapbook paper I already owned and I love it all the same.

                      + I moved the potatoes from the pantry to the fridge after reading this post.  It seems like commonsense (potatoes were traditionally kept in root cellars; root cellars = cool temperatures) but I never took the time to really think about it!  Hoping for much less waste with this small change.

                      + I bought a "soap saver" to use up all those little bits of leftover soap.  Love that I was able to support a maker on etsy too.

                      + I sold four bar stools (that have been collecting dust in our basement for two years) on Facebook Marketplace.   I'm happy to get them into a new home and really happy to get $100 for them!  That money allowed us to cash flow a little day trip to go apple picking and have lunch near our "old-old house", which is about an hour away.

                      + I made soap from supplies I've had for years!  I made this recipe for goat's milk grapefruit mint soap once before and still had half of a container full of the melt and pour product.  I made another batch (5 bars) and loved that I could actually use up something that was in my craft "stash" as well as make something useful.

                      + I redeemed Swagbucks points for a $10 Amazon gift card.

                      + I borrowed and read three books from the library.

                      + I started buying supplies for our emergency closet: water, snacks and canned goods.  Winter (and possible power outages) will be here before we know it!

                      + I went to a few thrift stores with my mom and found 12 pieces of clothing for four members of the family, two books, a big mixing bowl and three of the same Crate & Barrel glasses I own for under $40.


                      Previous Frugal Accomplishments: 
                      JULY  //  AUGUST

                      Friday, September 20, 2019

                      No.296: This Week at the Farmhouse // vol.05

                      This post contains affiliate links.

                      WHAT WE LEARNED 

                      + Added a little fun into M's (7th grade) Ancient Egypt unit with an escape room game.  It was tricky, but we had so much fun working together and were so proud when we finally "escaped" the tomb! 

                      + I changed Sophie's reading after watching her struggle for weeks.  She responds much better to phonics, so we're going to go back to that.  I pulled out an old set of Sing, Spell, Read & Write readers and while the first ones are definitely too easy for her, I'm hoping it will help her confidence and get some momentum going.

                      + In Around the World, we read The Tale of the Mandarin Duck and then they sculpted and painted mandarin ducks from Sculpey clay.  Sculpture has been a big hit so far this year.

                      TEN THINGS I'M GRATEFUL FOR

                      new homes for some of our outgrown clothing
                      open windows
                      five years with our TJ!
                      rearranging rooms and furniture to better serve our family
                      P's long eyelashes
                      the healing of a bug bite on my leg after I had a weird reaction (nerve-wracking!)
                      new social opportunities for my big boys
                      laughing until I cry
                      pulling out just a few seasonal decorations
                      words of affirmation from my husband

                      IN THE KITCHEN

                      + On the menu:
                      M: Mark and the big kids ate out between activities, the little two and I just had sandwiches at home
                      T: Refrigerator Clean-Out Night
                      W: pork shoulder ragĂș over egg noodles
                      Th: TJ's Birthday! chicken legs, homemade french fries and cake with strawberries on top
                      F: shrimp lo mein

                      + E is for Eggs, so we made hard-boiled eggs

                      + How much I spent on groceries this week: $321.57

                      GOOD THINGS

                      + this website may help you get a little money back as you declutter your bookshelves

                      + I really needed the financial encouragement in this uplifting podcast

                      + Through the wonder of the Internet, I came across a video about a woman telling her friends and family that she was pregnant with her first child.  She was met with elation and tears and jumping up and down, which is so beautiful, right?  But it also made me sad for the watcher out there who may be pregnant with #4 or #5 or #9 and is met with quite the opposite reaction.  Those later babies are just as worthy of rejoicing as the first one!  All that to say, if you are pregnant with a baby that makes your family bigger than average: I see you, I'm thrilled for you and I will keep you in my prayers. XOXO
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