Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Reading Report :: January 2015

Oh this book. I read her first book and it spoke volumes to me about the bed situ and gift of family and this book was no different as she shared her heart on friends and community and her relationship with the Lord, as well as deep thoughts on stirrup pa

I always start January with great reading intentions. I've finished reading everyone's "best of" list from the previous year and I've perused my own shelves, noting the books that I somehow bought last year and missed reading. My "want-to" list for 2014 is already ridiculously long ... I just keep getting sidetracked from the reading by the children that need feeding and educating.

The current read-aloud. One of my favorites!

So far in January, I've tackled:
  • The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. I can't remember who's reading list from 2014 I found this on and I wish I could. For my first book of 2014, this one wasn't a winner for me. The story was interesting - a man walked across England to see a friend of his who was dying of cancer. Obviously there is more to the story than that, and it might have been an interesting read if I hadn't constantly been shocked by the amount of bad language in the book. That's one of those red flags for me that really turn me off what I'm reading so I can't give this book a good report, even if it had an interesting premise. I was sent a copy of the sequel, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, to review, and to be honest, I'm not terribly excited about cracking the cover based on the first book if the language is the same.
  • The Island of Dr. Libris by Chris Grabenstein. Last year, both the N's and I read the first book by this author, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library, and loved it! A really great mystery for my girls (5th and 3rd grade) with literary references scattered throughout. (I think my friend Amy may have reviewed it, but her blog isn't coming up for me right now so I can't link it). N1 has already read this new book with me, and though we didn't love it as much as Mr. Lemoncello's Library, it was still fun.
  • Home is Where My People Are by Sophie Hudson. Of what I read in January, this one is by far the winner and best I read. Sophie writes the blog, Boomama, and it is one of the blogs that I have been reading for just forever. Her funny style of writing is some of my very favorite, and when her first book, A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet came out a couple years ago I promptly read it, sighed deeply with great joy when I finished it, and then turned around and read it again. I compared her sweet stories about her family as reminiscent of my beloved Mitford series by Jan Karon and if that isn't one of the highest complements I can bestow on a book, I don't know what is. : ) This book is no different, but instead of spending most of the time sharing about the wonderful relationship she has with her family, she talks about her relationships with friends she has had over the years and this book struck such a huge cord with me on the importance of community and friendship. I also resonated so deeply with her stories of her walk with the Lord. She also has some deep and honest comments about her stint with stirrup pants in the 80's that could have been written about me. (If you are a child of the 80s there are so many references that will have you rolling. All the laughing aloud was really quite disturbing to my kids.) I really can't recommend this book highly enough. I'm already looking forward to my reread, but I'm trying to pace myself. : )
In my "currently reading" stack, I'm winding my way through The Voyage of Dr. Doolittle by Hugh Lofting, Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson, and Sweet Tea Revenge (A Tea Shop Mystery) by Laura Childs. (Sometimes I'm just in the mood for a nice clean mystery! It might be time to pull an Agatha Christie off the shelf.) I've also got a couple of read-alouds with the kids in process but hopefully I'll have something worth saying about them later this week. : )


PS. Sophie's first book is free on Kindle right now if you want to snatch it up!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Crockpot Macaroni and Cheese Success

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(Food blogger wanna-be strikes again.)

Homemade macaroni and cheese has been my nemesis for lo these many years. I can't count how many times I have tried to make it only to be met with a burnt or lumpy mess or something that really didn't taste very good.

One of my CC mama friends to the rescue! She sent me her recipe for crockpot mac and cheese so with trepidation I mixed up a batch and surprise! My kids loved it! The husband loved it! I made it a second time and doubled it and it still was a huge hit! Another sign of success was that my Dad asked for the recipe! (Lots of explanation points because this recipe is really, really good!)

I'm sure the secret is the Velveeta, but I'm not complaining. I wouldn't cook it more than 3 1/2-4 hours in the crockpot, even on low, because it will start to stick, but for something you want to throw in the crockpot late afternoon to have ready for dinner time, this is perfect.

Stephanie's Crockpot Mac and Cheese (not me, another Stephanie) : )

3 Tbsp. margarine, melted, put in crock pot
2 1/2 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked
salt and pepper to taste
8 oz. cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup Velveeta, cut in cubes
4 cups milk
 
Mix all ingredients lightly.  Cover and turn on high.  Do not remove lid or stir for three hours.
 
Note: you could mix in all sorts of stuff and make it a meal. Precooked ham, peas, taco seasoned meat, etc. I served it above with the Pioneer Woman's Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork for a recent Sunday lunch with family (cooked in my cast iron dutch oven), green beans in one crockpot, and mac and cheese in another crockpot. We ate well.

Two six quart crockpots on the counter plus the Dutch oven in the oven since a little after 6am. It can only mean one thing - Sunday lunch is coming!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Currently :: January 2015

Evening read aloud.

Reading: currently reading aloud The Story Girl and Heidi. I just finished reading Home is Where My People Are by Sophie Hudson (more soon on this, I hope).

Watching: Toy Story 3 with the boy upstairs while the girls are having music lessons downstairs. It's the one time during our school week where he gets to watch a video and he (and I) look forward to it immensely.

Trying: to make time for 30 minutes daily on the treadmill. I haven't been successful this week so far.

I have been thinking about these leftover chicken and dumplings for two days and have been very thankful no one got to them before now.

Cooking: crockpot chicken and dumplins for dinner tonight. Yum.

Eating: Pioneer Women chocolate pudding. So good. N1 did her CC presentation on the history of pudding and as part of her "research" she made a batch of pudding from scratch. One of my favorite topics that she's picked - ha.

Drinking: all the coffee.

Calling: no one - yay. Texting and email are my friends.

September and October 2014 caught up in my #projectlife album. July, August, and December to go.

Crafting: working on finishing up my 2014 Project Life album. Last weekend was productive and I got two months knocked out. Hoping for another good stretch this weekend. It's not hard to get done - I've got the pictures in there, it's just rustling up time to work undisturbed. That is in short supply.

Doing: lots of afterschool pick up runs. One of our fosters is in tutoring afterschool everyday so that is a run to get her at that point in the day where I am ready for comfy clothes and not leaving the house. We have been spoiled by homeschooling and not having to schedule our days around bus pickup and dropoff.

Going: this week has been slow(er). CC one day. Bible study another. A quick run to Walmart this morning for guinea pig bedding so that a cage can be cleaned. Plus the aforementioned retrieving of children from school.

Loving: going to bed as early as possible as I can lately. Several nights I've crawled in bed as soon as I've gotten children tucked in. Days are long and full right now and by the kids are done in the evening, so am I.

Hating: when I forget about the holiday schedules! I knew that Monday was MLK Day because our fosters were out of school. However, that didn't include factoring in that the fun library trip I had planned wouldn't work out because the library was closed. Or an afternoon trip to the park that didn't work out as planned - it was 65* on Monday (yay!) but with school being out, EVERYONE was at the park when we headed over. Oops.

Discovering: the Great Artist / Composer series of books. A little late to the game on these, but they have been a great addition to our artist studies for CC this cycle.

Hoping: and praying for a friend who is quite ill.

Celebrating: someone turning nine in just a few more days!

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Thanking: a friend for a surprise gift last week. A sweet mama friend gave me a beautiful scarf for a belated birthday present. I would never have thought of myself as a scarf person, but it matches my favorite sweater perfectly and makes me feel a bit more dressed up when I leave the house. (Also, PS. I do not take good selfies.)

Considering: how much better our days have been going since we started back up on January. We have made a few tweaks to the day - nnotably, starting earlier (not the kids' favorite) and our spiral notebooks (my favorite). We are tackling our days head-on and there is no excuse to not getting our work done because I actually am taking the time to right down each day's work. Yay us.

Starting: to think about 2015-2016 plans for school. It happens every January.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Romans 8

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For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (v.18)

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Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (v.24b-25)

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Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (v.26)

Tuesday's are our long day. When we get home from our co-op I'm done but fostering means it's time to do homework with them. And homework with them is a whole 'nother story. Real life right now. #itssimplytuesday

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (v.28)

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Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? (v.35)

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For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (v.38-39)

"If we are to embrace the power of the gospel and become free, joyous, and zealous servants of Jesus Christ, then all the work has to be done by him. Why? So that all the glory will go to him, so that we boast in the work of Jesus alone." -Elyse Fitzpatrick, Comfort from Romans.

Monday, January 12, 2015

15 Random Things to Start 2015



1. Wasabi Peas. My current favorite snack. So good and spicy.

2. Daily journals for the kids. Still going on this although I have missed some days, as expected. However, having them here and having started them made them that much easier to pull out last night when I had some stuff to write out that I wanted to remember.



3. Menu planning. Saving my sanity every. single. day. I get so tired of coming up with a plan for what to eat, but life right now is so busy and, honestly, our two foster girls eat SO MUCH FOOD that if I don't have a plan for almost every meal, it is not pretty around here.

Because I took @edillow up on her Unfinished Project challenge and said my goal would be to finish my 2014 #projectlife album in January, I totally spent 30 minutes this morning making the title page to my 2015 album.

4. Project Life. I still love it even though I have some serious catch-up to do on 2014. I'm hoping that my friend Elizabeth's Unfinished Project's challenge will be what I need to power me through finishing the last pages before January is done. It has already inspired me to do my 2015 title page. #procrastination

5. Reflecting on such a good Christmas this year. I went into December wondering how the month would play out with two extra kids in the house. With that came some things we hadn't had to plan around before - visitations with their family. Excessive amounts of gifts from "angel tree" programs plus gifts from their biological family. End of the "semester" activities for all kids. And so on. We ended up cutting several annual events from our to-do list and we survived. Sure, Travis and I missed going to the one annual Christmas party that we attend, but it was worth it for the greater good of a cleaner calendar. We gifted our munchkins with one biggish gift each and then lots of little stocking goodies that they loved and it was the easiest Christmas ever to keep up with. I'm making notes for next year.

Four days into my daily journals for the kids. Hands down, my new favorite habit for 2015 ... so far. :)

6. My giraffe blanket. Seriously, this is the best blanket ever. It was a gift from my sister and BIL for my birthday and it is so soft and heavy.

7. Making lists of what I want to read this year. It's already getting a little out of control. As part of that, I am planning to participate (as I can) in two reading challenges hosted by friends:

8. The Reading to Know book club hosted by my friend Carrie. (I'm hosting May!) Always a great variety of books and I love that I can participate as life allows ... which I try to make happen as often as possible.

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Getting to see Amy last week was an extra special treat - someday I hope to have a picture with my friend Carrie as well!

9. Amy's Newberry Challenge. Amy is reading through the Newberry winners by decade and I would like to jump in on this one as well. January's challenge is to pick one of the winners from the 1920's and I pulled several from the library shelves with hopes that I can get to at least one of them ... I'm eyeing Dr. Doolittle as my first choice.

10. Being healthy ... for the moment. We have been sick as dogs this fall and I'm so thankful we are well for the moment. I'm pretty sure there is a direct correlation to when we starting having foster placements in our home that are in and out of the public school daily and we started catching stuff. So far, we have had a round of the flu and strep go through the troops.

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11. Hot tea and coffee, multiple times per day.

12. Pondering starting a IRL bookclub for my girls. Just pondering at this point because I certainly don't need anything else on the calendar. However, we love books so much and love talking about books and recommending books that I think it's something we would enjoy that would be fairly low stress.

13. Making some changes for the coming year that I'm excited about. As of the first week in January, I have stepped down from a position at my church that I've held for the last 12 years. It was an administrative role and one that I really did enjoy. However, as I told our elders in the email I sent them, life is just extremely full with homeschooling the girls + the busy calendar for all six munchkins currently in the home. It's hard to be as available as I once was for handling the church's communications and miscellaneous needs that come up. I waffled for months on asking Travis if I could quit and we finally came to the consensus together that it was the right decision; there was a huge weight of relief off my shoulders. Such a confirmation that I waited until the right season to step down.

14. Coming to terms with how I want social media to play out in my life and as an example to my girls. As of January 2015, this is what I'm setting as boundaries for me:
  • adios to Facebook. Now that I'm no longer working for the church, I don't have to keep up with my church's facebook page, therefore I don't need to get on as often. I can't delete my profile (and I'm not 100% sure that I want to because there are some relatives that tend to communicate primarily through FB messages), but I've logged out and am taking a break from checking it. If someone really needs me or wants me to see something, I'd suggest another route of communication.
  • yes to Instagram. Taking pictures is something that encourages me and makes me focus on blessings in my life. Saying to posting (ie., micro-blogging) there for now and making that my social outlet of choice.
  • yes to sporadic blogging. I do miss the practice of putting fingers to keys and pecking out thoughts and lists and remembrances of what our family has done. I've read several great "state of the blog" posts of late (here and here), and I was reminded that I really do love this form of communication and recording of memories. I'm trimming my blog reader to those blogs that I absolutely, positively love and calling it good. I obvious don't blog to make money or gain and large readership, so for myself, I'm turning off comments in this space so that I don't have that pressure either. Email is always an option and a much more intimate space for a conversation. (I don't know about you, but I rarely if ever remember to go back and check comments that I've made to see if I've gotten a response from a blog author.)
15. Happy Monday. : )

    Thursday, January 01, 2015

    1/365

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    Happy New Year! This year I'm easing into the new year nice and slow. I think there is a word for the year out there for me, but I'm sitting on it for a few more days and letting it percolate a bit. January is going to be all about a return to routine - in school, in home, in healthy eating and moving - with a few new things I want to fit into my days.

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    Day 1 - journals for each of my kids. This was an idea I spotted last year and 2015 is the year it happens. Just a sentence or two to remember something from their day. It won't always be profound - the boy's journal has a funny conversation documented that he and I had tonight about buying him some new underwear. : ) Even if I only write in everyone's journal a couple times a week it will be worth it a year from now.