Thursday, November 23, 2017

Letting Go

Wow.  It's been one of the hardest weeks of my life.  Although I think there are some other weeks that are right up there when I think about it.  But, I read a quote on another gal's post Here from Leonard Cohen
                            
"Everything is broken.  That's how the light gets in."  

Breaking is something that we see as a bad thing, but maybe it's not all bad.  I know that I act like I have it all together when I'm really just holding it together like everyone else.  Breaking brings reflection and humility.  The breaking has always made me realize not to say "That won't happen to me."  

I'm very transparent, though, so once someone assumed I wasn't looking at my heart because the person thought my transparency meant I was sharing my heart at the same time--the breaking and healing of my heart.  I wasn't.  That part I only trust to a few close friends who understand me. 

But, the relationship between what other people see of me, my transparency, and my heart has taught me something else that I always keep in mind.  Those few friends that I trust--they have tough parts of their lives too--that they've shared with me.  The sharing shows me that we all have messy lives.  And we all have tough parts of our lives that we don't show other people most of the time--usually those parts are the toughest parts of our lives!  

I made a stupid mistake yesterday.  I've been kicking myself ever since.  Really hard.  I haven't let it go.  But, is that what God wants for me?  I feel sorry for my mistake.  I know what I did wrong.  It was humbling.  Why have I been kicking myself so hard?  I think because of fear.  Fear of what my mistake will mean.  But, should I be afraid of that?  No.  Over and over in God's Word, I read that I should not be afraid.  

One of my favorite verses is Psalm 112:7-8

They will have no fear of bad news;
    their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear;
    in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.


Who is my foe?  We know from God's Word that ultimately our foe is Satan.  My foe is my fear.  Satan has been feeding my fear.  It keeps me from the peace of trusting God.  

A dear friend emailed me today that she doesn't let go of her mistakes easily and that she has to ask God's forgiveness for that.  Her words made me think.  Would I want my kids to be so hard on themselves and not forgive themselves the way I am not doing?  No!  Do I need to ask God's forgiveness for not forgiving myself?  I think I do.  

My kids kept saying to me yesterday that God is in control.  It's easy to take that for granted when things are easy, but it's so much harder when things are tough and when we are stuck.  I believe it in my head, but I need to remember it in my heart, too.




Friday, November 10, 2017

Another Plant Killer...

Actually, that's not the best title for this post, but it's what many people think when they ponder house plants.  I've heard so many people over the years tell me that they can't grow green things. 

My philosophy when it comes to outdoor plants is to put things in the ground and see if they grow!  I suppose it's a little more complicated than that, but not much.  If the dirt didn't like to grow things, then putting in a raised bed is an easy solution or using big pots.  Sun is the key.  Picking spots for plants where they get enough sun, but not too much.  Sometimes those spots get sun that's too hot.  But, that's why I generally go with hardy plants.  Outside plants that I find tend to be easier to grow are green beans, tomatoes (smaller ones--large ones can be more finicky), strawberries (propogate a lot) as long as you don't have rabbits or deer that like to come eat them, roses, basil, bulbs (like daffodils, irises, lilies, and tulips).  Bulbs are by far the easiest and I love them because it's always a surprise then they bloom!  Dig a little hole, put in a bulb, and then cover it up. And wait for it to sprout (either in the fall or spring depending on the bulb). 

But, when it comes to indoor plants, I feel like all of the people who have told me that they can't grow green things or that they kill plants.  I haven't known how to take care of them... which is why I'm so excited about the book I just sat down to read (in 30 minutes!). 

House Jungle:  Turn Your Home Into a Plant-Filled Paradise! 



This small book packs a huge punch with all the helpful information in it!  It will appeal to anyone who likes to draw with its fun watercolor illustrations.  The book begins with what you need and how to care for houseplants.  Then, it goes on to talk about the different types of house plants and which ones will be okay with shade and which ones like sunshine.  In each section, the author, Annie Dornan-Smith does a wonderful job of writing simply, but descriptively.  What she shares in this book has inspired me to pursue decorating my home with indoor plants and has made me think it may be possible!

If you've ever wanted to keep indoor plants, but have felt intimidated by how to take care of them, I highly recommend checking this book out!   It would also be a fun and creative gift for someone (along with a small house plant) in the middle of winter when we all long for the green of the outdoors! 

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Storey Books, but I love this book and these opinions are entirely my own!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

New Horse Book for Girls who love Horses!

A few years ago, I was in the bedroom of a friend's daughter to see how they were decorating her new room.  I noticed the stack of horse pictures on the wall.  Over the next few years, as my middle daughter's love of horses grew, I saw her begin to collect pictures of horses from magazines and tape them up on her bookcase and walls.  But, like most moms, I wanted her to have some posters of different sizes to put up on her walls instead of cut out pictures. 

Soon we are going to be moving again and my daughter will have a chance to decorate her new room, so I've been looking for fun posters she can decorate her room with.  I came across a great book of posters for her to use that I know she's going to be excited about!

Sitting in front of me is Wild For Horses: Posters and Collectible Cards.   


There are two larger size posters and 24 single page posters (10" x 12").  On the backs of each poster is some fun information about horses.  Some of the posters have inspirational words on them, but most are simply full-color pictures of horses.  At the back of the book are 24 trading cards with a different horse breeds on each one.  These are a great size and will be easy to keep together and enjoy.  If you're looking for a fun book of horse posters, I'd definitely check this one out!  It would be a great birthday or Christmas gift!

Please note:  This book is a little tricky to find on Amazon if you only search for Wild for Horses.  You need to type in the whole title or use the ISBN# 9781612128887. :)

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Storey books but that these opinions are entirely my own. 


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Baking for Kids!

When my girls were younger, I started looking for a good kids' cookbook.  I love to cook and I wanted my kids to have a cookbook that they could learn to cook from with simple recipes.  I started comparing the books at the library and the bookstores.  I was shocked by how much I disliked most of them!  Several of them had tiny print.  Some of them didn't have any basic directions for the kitchen or explanations of cooking tools.  Many of them had recipes that I knew my kids would never want to cook!  A lot of the directions were overly complicated. 

So, I was really excited a few years ago when I came across Cooking Class by Deanna Cook.  This cookbook had just what I was looking for--great photos, directions, kitchen rules, and recipes that kids would want to cook!  It even had fun stickers and recipe cards at the back of the cookbook. 


This year Storey Books published another great cookbook for kids by Deanna Cook, Baking Class.  I absolutely love this cookbook!  From beginning to end, I know it is going to make kids want to cook
and parents smile. 

The first section of the cookbook covers vocabulary, cooking equipment and ingredients, cooking safety, and measuring (which is very important in baking!).  This section is done so well.  I was impressed.  I know that many cookbooks try to save money with the printing by using drawn pictures for these sections, but photos are so much more effective in conveying what the ingredients look like and what the vocabulary of baking means. 

From there, the cookbook is divided into recipe sections that cover breakfast, quick snacks, and desserts.  The recipes range from super easy, to medium, to a little more difficult.  I loved the breakfast recipes and compared them to recipes I currently use.  The scone recipe is very similar, although I omit the salt because I use salted butter.  I would caution one direction on the scone recipe in particular--kids are directed to use a pizza wheel or a knife to cut the scones and I would pass on the pizza wheel.  Kids tend to press hard on things and they could easily mar the cookie sheet.  A butter knife would be a better choice.  Other than that, I loved the other recipes for breakfast and I know many of them will likely become new additions to my children's breakfast repertoire. 

Moving on to the other sections a couple of things stood out to me.  First, the recipes generally did not use a stand mixer.  They either used a pastry blender and spoon or a hand mixer.  Both are easier for kids to control.  Second, there were fun pictures that grabbed my attention like the Monkey bread on the Monkey Munch Banana Bread page.  I know that this is probably the very first thing that my children are going to make from this cookbook since monkeys are the favorite animal of my family. 
Also, I am also looking forward to my children making bread.  The pictures explaining to kids how to kneed are great illustrations and make sense.  I can't wait for them to try!

Frankly, I've looked at a lot of cookbooks and I think adults are going to love this as much as their kids.  The pictures on the buttercream frosting page are going to be super duper helpful!  Frosting can be tricky and the directions and pictures will help children be much more successful in their attempts at frosting. 

The pictures will make kids smile and want to spend time in the kitchen.  But, the recipes and directions will make mom, dad, and grandparents smile!  I think it would be best for kids ages 6 and up, but younger kids could easily participate in making the recipes--they just wouldn't be able to read the directions and do some what is required on their own. 

Is there anything I don't like about this cookbook for kids?  I have just a few minor tweaks.  Nothing major.  I prefer Snickerdoodles that have cream of tartar--the recipe here is a plain cinnamon sugar cookie.  And I wouldn't refrigerate pie dough quite so long before working with it--it can get very tough to work with.  But, other than those few minor things, it's great! 

If you're looking for a fun Christmas gift for a kid you know who loves to cook or is interested in cooking, I highly recommend checking out this cookbook!  It's one of the best around! 

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this cookbook for review from Storey books, but these opinions are entirely my own and I love this book!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Christmas is coming...

November has arrived.  I'm not ready to play Christmas music in November or even really think about it much, but there is one part of Christmas that I start early--making a list of the gifts I plan on giving my family and friends. 

I have found over the years that the best Lego sales are during November, not December, and my kids all love Legos.  So, I plan on being on the lookout in the coming weeks...

This year, we're probably moving in December, so I feel the need to make sure I'm more on top of my planning than usual.  I don't even know where we'll be living when Christmas comes this year.  I know where one box of lights is in my garage and I plan on making decorations with construction paper with my kids no matter where we are.  I also plan on getting my family's gifts together and keeping them in a box together.  Thankfully, I do know where the wrapping paper is and it's not in storage! 

But, this year is going to be different for us.  We're not settled.  We don't know what to expect and I know extra flexibility and creativity is going to be required.  We do know that we'll be together and celebrating Christ's birth as a family.  And really, that's what's most important anyways. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Awesome Needle Craft Book for Kids

I have a collection of craft books in our home because my middle daughter loves to make a wide assortment of crafts.  But, I have never seen her as excited about any book in this collection as she is about the newest addition to that collection...

Stitch Camp: 18 Crafty Projects for Kids & Tweens by Nicole Blum and Catherine Newman


This book tackles the most popular fiber arts:  sewing, knitting, crochet, felting, embroidering, and weaving.  In the last few years, I have noticed how popular felting and weaving have become and they are new additions to the others which have long been popular hobbies.  It feels like all of these hobbies have been going through a revival and much of that is due to fun projects like these in this book!

In my middle daughter's words, "The directions are easy to follow.  The crafts are really cute and fun to make!  I can't wait to learn so much more from this book!"

When this book arrived at our home, I didn't even get to look at it for days on end.  My middle daughter absconded with it to her room and wouldn't let it go!  She started by making the bean bags and had already made ten of them within a few days.  She enjoyed them, and so did everyone she gave them to. 

Each section begins with directions about the craft and then follows with project directions.  After the project, more directions are included--followed by a project that needs those skills.  This pattern is repeated throughout the book, so that the child builds skills while doing projects along the way.  As a mom, I love that the materials for the projects aren't expensive.  I was impressed that there was even a note for left-handed crafters--suggesting that they look at the illustrations in the mirror and think about doing them backwards!  This was a thoughtful inclusion.  I think this Christmas I'm going to use several of these projects for my girls to make for others as gifts.  The Art Pillow is one that I know will be loved and easy to mail! 

A week after the book's arrival, a good friend of mine was visiting (who Sami wanted to share the book with) who gave this book a raving review as well.  She looked through it and was thoroughly impressed by the directions and crafts.  She wished for the book herself as an adult even though she already knows how to do each of the types of crafts included in this book. 

This book is one that I highly recommend if you have a child who loves to craft!  It's a treasure!

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Storey Books, but that these opinions are my own. 

Taking care of ourselves and the ones we love

We moved a little over a month ago and it feels like my children have had one injury after another!  First it was my son's broken toe the week before we moved.  That was followed by a jammed finger for my oldest daughter and then another jammed finger for my son.  Then, yesterday my oldest daughter and I lost control of Molly and she went after two dogs (who thankfully were behind a fence).  As we grabbed for the leash, Autumn's hands and mine got abrasions from the leash.  It was tough.  Autumn's hands got some bad scrapes.  They didn't bleed, but they were deep and they stung.  Mine stung too, but they weren't as bad. 

What surprises me is how quickly something can happen and how quickly someone can get hurt!  It's so hard when it's my kids.  I find that my big thing is to first calm them down.  Then, to figure out how to care for the injury. 

I used to keep a huge, heavy Mayo Clinic book on my shelf, but with this last move I took it to Goodwill so that it will find a new home.  But, a new small book has taken up residence in its place.  It's The Natural First Aid Handbook.  It tackles different topics, but ones that are more relevant to our lives.

The Natural First Aid Handbook was written by Brigette Mars who is an herbalist.  So, it is a first
aid book geared towards using more natural remedies. If you love essential oils, then this book would be right up your alley!  But, even if you're not (like me), it has a lot of helpful information.  For example, I liked the sections on Frostbite and Diarrhea.  She included several helpful pieces of information that I will definitely put to use!  Drawn illustrations are included when they are helpful to have. 

But, most of all, I love the size of this book.  In a world where everything seems to be getting bigger and bigger, this small book packs a huge punch.  I know that many people ask the question today, why do I need a book?  I can find everything I need online...  While it is true that we can find a lot of information online, that finding process takes time.  It's much faster and more efficient to have a compact reference book on the shelf that's easy to find when it's needed! 

Please note that I received a copy of this book from Storey books for review but that these opinions are my own. 


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Moving and Adjusting

This past summer has been a crazy one for our family.  We put our house on the market and planned on moving when it sold.  In the midst of that, my husband got a new job.  Then, we got a contract.  But, just as we were moving things into storage... it fell through.  Then, we went on vacation and as we were coming back the contract went active and we had 2 1/2 weeks to move.

I came to remember the craziness, stress, and busyness of moving!  I also had forgotten how expensive it is to move!  What are the costs of moving?

It depends...

1.  Boxes and tape.

I was so blessed this time to have two friends who gave me a great amount of moving boxes that were in great shape!  For weeks, I made the rounds of local liquor stores to collect beer boxes--they're the perfect size for books so that they wouldn't be too heavy to move.  My family is full of readers, so we need lots of these boxes.  I packed at least 80 of these boxes for this move.

I bought 12 rolls of packing tape on Amazon.  It was the cheapest deal around--and it's cheaper than buying cheap duct tape.

I did also buy 1 roll of colored duct tape and put a small piece on each box that needed to go inside our home when we moved to separate them from the boxes that would be stored in the garage.


2.  Storage.

As we were getting ready to move the first time, we were going to get a pod... except that when we talked on the phone to the sales person, we realized we would have to get 3 or them.  3...  The glitch for us was that they were going to be placed on our parking pad which had wires over top of the pad and they weren't quite high enough for delivery of the pods.  They would also have to be delivered at different times, picked up and then another would be put in its place.

Complicated.

The cost of the pods was something we also hadn't realized.  It sounds inexpensive when you have 1 pod.  But, the pick up, storage, and delivery of the pods was going to cost us $1400 for 2 months.  That was with a 10% discount code that I found online.

I'm grateful we canceled the pods...
Because the contract fell through.

If we'd used pods, we would have been committed to the cost for a month.  There isn't any coming and going from that decision.

So, instead we decided to move things into self storage.  We chose a place nearby and began moving boxes.  Self Storage prorates the rent through the end of the month, but does not refund any unused portion of that month once it is paid for.  They will do automatic payments so that you don't miss a payment and lose your stuff!

When our contract fell through, we only lost $189 instead of $750 that would have been our POD investment.

In the end, when our house went under contract a month later, we opted to make choices about what to keep and get rid of.  What couldn't fit into our temporary home or garage are needed to find new homes--either with friends or through the Goodwill nearby via a donation.

3.  A Moving Truck.

When it came time for us to move, we rented a moving truck through Penske.  The choices we looked at were Uhaul and Penske.  They have different cost structures.  The cost breaks even at 100 miles.  More than 100 miles, Penske was the cheaper option.  But, if you can get the AAA discount with Penske, then Penske is cheaper after going only 52 miles.

4.  Movers (or Friends and Family)

I live with pain.  My husband and I knew we needed help.  One of my friends who moved earlier this summer hired movers to help them.  We have a church family that we sent an email out to--to ask for help.  Their help was such a blessing!  We had 15 people show up Saturday morning to help us move everything into the truck and had 8 people show up on the other end to help us take everything out.  We could never have done it without them!  Because of the help of our friends, we were able to return the truck in less than 24 hours!

5.  Food

This is one that I had forgotten about.  One of the biggest gifts we were given the day before we moved was a meal!  A friend brought us dinner-- a dinner that was enough for us to eat on Saturday after we had moved in.

I bought bagels, cream cheese, coffee, and orange juice for workers at the beginning.  On the other end, I bought subway sandwiches for lunch.

But, there's another extra cost for food--meals that we needed to eat out because our home took 5 days to unpack and for trips while we were looking for a new place to live and had to eat out.

6.  The in-between

I've discovered that everyone takes a different amount of time to unpack.  Some things go missing or can't be found for a little while.  The trick is figuring out what you need to replace in the meantime and what you need to make do without until you find it!


Moving is complicated and full of different costs a long the way... these are the ones that I've been learning about!







Friday, August 18, 2017

In debt... because of sales

I have had a lot of very interesting conversations this summer.  One conversation that was interesting to me was with a young mom of multiple children.  We talked about providing for our kids and taking care of what they need.

She shared with me that one of her weaknesses is the clearance section at the stores she likes to shop at.  Because of that weakness, she accumulated some credit card debt that she is now working part-time to pay off.

I reflected on my experience with the clearance at Target.  I have to admit that I enjoy shopping.  And I love buying things on Clearance.  But, the past two months have made me pause many, many times and consider what I have purchased that my family actually needed and didn't.  I remember purchasing clothing items on clearance when my kids were little and then discovering down the road that they either wouldn't wear them (some pajamas last winter that I'd bought for my son) or didn't fit given the season and my child's height/weight.  So, in the end, I didn't save anything by buying that item on clearance.  I actually lost or even wasted money.  I didn't take on debt to buy things on clearance, but I realize now that though clearance makes one think he/she is saving money, he/she may not be...

When I realized this, I made myself stop buying kids clothing on clearance.  If I need to buy some clothes for kids, I always check the clearance first, but only for that current season.

We are in the process of moving.  It's been interesting to see how much we have accumulated while living in our current home!  Every time I packed a box I took a look at what I was packing and asked myself, "Do I need this?" and "Do I want to move this?"  A lot of things in my basement are there for the "what if...?" but we don't have a garage and many things are there for the future or for the once a year time when we need them.  I also have a grade span of 6 grades that I have to store homeschool books for, many of which are out of print or hard to find.

I still remember in 4th grade when my mom asked me about a sweatshirt I really wanted "Do you need it?"  I didn't.  I wanted it.  My mom didn't have any extra money to spend on it and I knew it.  Sometimes it's easy to be honest with myself about what we do and don't need.  Sometimes there's room in our budget to buy something for a rainy day.

But, I want to do better in the future.  I don't want to hold on too tight to possessions or money, but I want to remember that I only need to buy what we need.  Storing things up takes time and energy!  (and if you're moving, it takes extra energy and space!)

Friday, May 26, 2017

Two Kinds of People

Yesterday, I sat across from my mother in law and next two my oldest daughter.  We had a discussion about coloring and drawing.  My daughter loves to draw, but not color.  She loses interest halfway through, she explained.  My younger daughter chimed in that she loves to color, but not draw and my mother in law felt the same way.  I listened and smiled, realizing that we all have different ways of expressing creativity.

For those who enjoy coloring, the new fad of workbooks and cards is a joy!  Last year, I reviewed a coloring book and a set of multi-occasion cards from Storey Books.  This year, they are publishing a Create-Your-Own Handmade Christmas Cards.  Caitlin Keegan has designed 30 Christmas cards to color along with a decorative envelope that asks for a little coloring.  They are similar to other cards she has published in the past.
set of

One of the tricks I find with coloring pages or cards is finding ones that are colorable!  Sometimes the lines are too small or not clear enough.  Sometimes the design can seem almost overwhelming.  Sometimes the activity of coloring and the design aren't compatible.  But, these cards are definitely easily colorable in my opinion!  I like them quite a bit.  My 11 year old daughter was very excited to sit down and color one!

If you're looking for a fun way to feel a little crafty next fall as you get ready for Christmas, but don't have a lot of time to do elaborate crafts, these cards are a great option!  They allow you to relax and color, but still feel productive!  These are cards that I will enjoy giving to my friends next Christmas.

Please note that I received a complimentary set of these cards from Storey books but that these opinions are entirely my own.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Saving Money on Food

Yesterday, I was at the grocery store buying food when I came upon a sign in front of the chicken.  It said that all packages were $3 off.

I love to talk to people, so first I explained to a woman who approached that they were $3 off--in spanish.  She didn't understand the sign in English.

Then, I mentioned it to the next man who came up.  I asked him if the small package or the large package would be the better deal.  He said the large.  I explained to him--No.  The small package is the better deal--as long as all packages are the same price per pound.  He later told me as he was checking out that he enjoyed talking to me.

Next, I asked the cashier when I checked out which was the better deal?  Small or large?  He again answered, "The larger package."  I explained that the smaller package is, because then the $3 is divided between fewer pounds--more is saved per pound.  The cashier said that he learned something new every day!

I came home and then asked all three of my children.  Two said the large package and one the small--but for the wrong reason.  I explained to them.

Then, I called my best friend and asked her.  She replied that she thinks about this all the time.  Her husband would say the large package.  She would ask first which package had the best price per pound and then think about it.

My mom was the only one who said within a second when asked that the smaller package was the best deal--which is because my mom taught me when I was young to look at the price per pound and evaluate how much coupons take off per pound/ounce.  The larger package is not always the best deal--whether it's chicken or salad dressing!

Please know that you can't hear my tone when I asked this question.  One might infer that I had a tone of trying to compete or be uppity, but that wasn't my tone of voice at all!  I simply asked the question with a smile--like one would in a game or with a trivia question.  And that was how all of the people I spoke with interpreted the tone of my question--I know this because I later asked my friend about my tone and the man's comment and the cashier's comment confirmed this.

I know that kids often question whether math is important or will matter to them in life, but it does!  It pops up in the most unexpected ways...


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Buying a suit

My husband has needed a new suit.  We've tried to figure out where to go.  He looked online.  I went to Marshalls, Macy's, and JCPenney's.  But, in the end we went to Jos. A. Bank.  We'd gone to Men's Wearhouse before (which now owns Jos A. Bank).  I was so pleased by our visit to Jos. A. Bank!

When I went into Macy's last week, not a single salesperson spoke to me.  I walked through the men's suit department (where suits cost $600) and still I saw only one woman at a counter near the men's shirts--who never spoke or addressed me and the store wasn't busy.  I was there because I needed help.

I found the same thing in Penney's.  No one approached me or helped me.  There was no one there who I could ask questions of.  I did find a blazer for my husband--which cost $90 after the sale and a 25% off coupon, but that was it.  I learned on Saturday that the distinction is that blazers have solid colors, brass buttons and sportcoats--patterned, non brass buttons.  I saw the same slacks in Marshalls as Macy's, but the ones at Marshalls were $20 and the ones at Macy's of the same brand/style were $50.  But, I could buy slacks and shirts.  A suit has always been trickier.

We walked into Jos. A. Bank Saturday morning and were helped by a man who did not try to hardsell us at all.  My husband found two suits on sale that were less than Macy's price, several oxford shirts, and dress shirts, as well as a tie pin and cuff links that we were very pleased with (all thankfully on sale)!  It was immensely helpful to have someone help us who knew how the suit should fit.

It's appealing sometimes to buy clothing and shoes online.  It can be very convenient.  But, it can also be full of hassles and expenses in other ways.  I had been searching for some replacement sandals for the ones I've been wearing for two years.  I finally found them in the right color last month.  But, when they arrived, they were too narrow!

I'm going back to the old ways--no more shoe shopping online for me.  I stopped by Marshalls and found a pair of Croc sandals for $20--the same price as the sandals online--except that I got to try them on first, make sure they fit, and not have to pay $13 return shipping if they didn't fit!

I think the key for me is finding the stores that I can shop efficiently at, find a reasonable price, and get the help I need when I need it!


Sunday, February 12, 2017

Salt Potatoes... from a non-New Yorker

One of my husband's favorite side dishes is New York (specifically upstate NY) style Salt Potatoes.  The first time I attempted to make them was a disaster.  A complete disaster!  I couldn't fathom not pricking or cutting the potatoes.  It went against my nature.  If you have made salt potatoes before, I'm sure you know exactly how they turned out!  The salt soaked into the potatoes and they were uneatable.  I gave up after my first try and didn't think I'd ever successfully make them.

But, a few years later, I had regained my gumption to try again.   So, I bought some small potatoes from Wegman's and tried.  My second attempt was halfway successful, but I didn't get the right salty flavor that's true to Salt Potatoes.  But, I became determined to get it right.

I still don't have it quite right, but I have arrived at a recipe that my family likes.

Our Family's Salt Potatoes

3 pounds of small or fingerling potatoes
7/8 cup kosher salt

Wash potatoes and place in pot.  Cover in water.  Add salt and bring to a boil.  Boil until a fork easily pierces a potato.  But, be careful piercing the potatoes because the salt will seep into those holes!  Wait until you think they're done and only pierce one or two.  When the potatoes are done, drain potatoes in a colander.  But, DON'T wash them!  The salt will form a coating on the outside of the potatoes.  Place in bowl and pour

6 Tbsp. butter, melted

over the potatoes.  Toss and serve.




Friday, January 27, 2017

Apples, Apples, and More Apples

In my house, apples turn into apple pie, applesauce, sauteed apples to go along with pork chops, or Waldorf salad.  But, beyond that...

Sometimes it's fun to get new ideas of what to do with apples.  My family likes apples and there's only so much apple pie that one can eat.  The Apple Cookbook by Olwen Woodier is filled with such ideas.  My mom and I had a mixed experience with the recipes.  Of the ones we tried--some were
good, some were just okay.

The recipe I remember most was for the English Apple Crumble.  My oldest daughter doesn't have a super sweet sweet-tooth.  So, she loved this dish.  It was nice, especially with a little whip cream on top.  I generally found that true of the recipes in this book--they weren't overly sweet.  This can be good thing if you're trying to cut back on your sugar intake or if you prefer dishes that are not overly sweet.

I liked how this cookbook was formatted.  The ingredients are clear and easy to read.  The formatting makes it easy to follow the directions which weren't flowery or wordy.  And of course, the pictures.  The pictures are appealing and well done--they make me want to cook, which is what they're supposed to do.

If you love apples as an ingredient, this cookbook is probably right up your alley!

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this cookbook for review from Storey Books.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Saving my husband's wool coat...

On Christmas Eve, someone accidentally dripped candle wax all down the side of my husband's wool coat.  We realized it as we walked out of our church's candlelight service.  When we got home, my husband looked up on the internet what could be done.  We found a solution!

So, early on Christmas morning while my family still slept, I took the coat into the kitchen.

First, I scratched off the excess wax with my fingernail.

Second, I flattened the sleeve out.  Online, it had said to put a paper towel inside the sleeve under the coat, but I didn't need that.

Third, I took a small piece of paper towel about 4" x 4" folded in half and found a serving spoon.

Fourth, I turned on the stove (we have a gas stove) and held the spoon over the flame with a pot holder on my hand.

Fifth, I placed the paper towel over the spot of wax on the sleeve that I wanted to remove and then rubbed the spoon over the paper towel.  The paper towel absorbed the wax!

Since there were so many lines of wax on the sleeve (10-15), it took a little bit of time, but not more than 15 minutes or so.  I had to reheat the spoon after about every 2 lines.  I had to be sure to move the placement of the paper towel so it would absorb the wax into a new spot on the towel.

I am amazed and so thankful that this trick worked so easily!  My husband was able to wear the coat that he loves to church yesterday morning and stay warm.

Yahoo!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Bring a Leather Purse Back to Life

I suppose that's a boring title for a post.  But, that's really what I want to write about!  This weekend we went to NYC and I took my brown leather Coach purse that I've had for several years.  I like it a lot--it's just a little small.  I wanted a new purse, but reconsidered.  I had two problems.  1.  My wallet is too big for it and 2.  The corners and sides of the purse really show their wear.

So, I started looking.  A friend of mine had her credit card swiped by a card reader when she was in a crowd traveling in Europe last year, so I knew I wanted an RFID wallet, but I needed a good size.  On our trip, I discovered that Fossil makes many of their wallets RFID protective.  Most stores have some that are.  Kohl's has some as well.  I realized quickly that finding a wallet the right size isn't going to be as easy as I thought!

But, my other concern about my purse was how to bring it back to life.  I went into the Coach purse and though the sales lady said they could clean it, I couldn't really bring it back to life.

She turned out to be wrong.

Last night, I remembered a leather conditioner cream that I bought several (several!) years ago from Nordstrom's made by Brahmin.  At the time, it was $10, but it has lasted me for years.  I brought it upstairs and hoped for the best with my purse.  I used it on my purse and ten minutes later my purse looked new again!

I'm reminded of several things.  It's so easy to think that I need to replace something that looks like it needs a lot of repair.  But, it feels so much better to fix it up than get something new.  The second was that going with a smaller purse compelled me to ask what I really need.  I found that there were a lot of cards and other things in my purse that I didn't really need.  Having less to carry around is a lot less stressful in the end than carrying around a lot for me.

Have you gone through your purse lately? :)

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Cost of Emergency Medical Care, a new catch with insurance

My second job after college was working for an HMO.  I worked for the PPO provider side of that organization and it compelled me to understand health care.  Though I only worked for that business a short time, less than a year, I have been thankful for the education I had to gain by working there ever since.

Last month, my husband had to visit an emergency room out of the health care network of our current insurance plan.  We waited after he came home for the EOB (Explanation of Benefits) statement to arrive from our insurance.  Two weeks later, we received the good news that there was emergency hospital coverage--because the reality is that even though the papers I had said it would be covered, you just never know what loophole an insurance company might find.  So, we would just need to pay our emergency room co-pay.

When I saw the bill, it was what I thought it would be--around a thousand dollars, even though my husband had no x-rays or lab work done and was in and out of there in less than an hour.  Of course the insurance has a negotiated fee schedule, so they didn't have to pay that amount, but it was what the hospital billed.

Since I hadn't received the bill yet, I called the hospital today to find out if it was coming.  It is.  But, I learned that there would also be a bill from the ER Doctor.  Really?  This was new news to me.  We haven't made a visit to the ER in several years, so I assumed that the ER worked the same way as Urgent Care--one bill.  I was wrong.

Nowadays a trip to the Emergency Room involves both a hospital fee and a separate charge by the doctor.  I called the doctor's billing company and found out the exorbitant fee that the ER doctor charged.  My blood pressure ascended momentarily in a huge way.  Then I went to check my insurance.  They didn't deny the claim and we only owe a specialist's copay.

Wow.  My mind started spinning.  I was and am extremely thankful for the Lord's provision.  But, at the very same time, it made me think about how broken our insurance system is.  The hospital and doctor charged almost two thousand dollars for a visit that lasted less than an hour and that involved no xrays, an IV, or lab work.  What happens when people don't have insurance?  What happens when parents have a sick child who needs to go to the ER?  What happens when people have these high deductible plans--which are the most affordable ones (often the only affordable ones) through ObamaCare?   Prior to ObamaCare, the ER co-pay covered the whole visit.  There were many things that worked differently with insurance before ObamaCare's existence.

Insurance isn't something just to have for a rainy day anymore.  I wanted to share this story so that if you need to go to the ER, you're prepared.  The Urgent Care really is a much more affordable option... at this point.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Christmas Gift List

A creative Christmas list...


For the Foodie:

Food Anatomy by Julia Rothman and a Flat Whisk  


For the College Student who you don't know what to get for them:

Your Idea Starts Here by Carolyn Eckert


For the Mystery Lover:

The Mistletoe Murder by the late PD James


For your mom or mother in law:

A photo calendar with pictures of the grandkids to look at month by month


For the child ages (6-12 yo) you want to give a classic, but fun book to:

The Thirteen Clocks by James Thurber


For the Craftsy person you know who has fun handwriting:

Hand Lettering Ledger by Mary Kate McDevitt


For the TV show lover who misses shows that are fun, pretty wholesome, and creative, but not super violent:

Eureka season 1

For the person who you have no idea what to get...
some Florida Honeybells from Harry and David.   I gave these to my family one Christmas as a special treat and they loved them.  They don't arrive until January, so you get to look forward to a special treat as winter sets in.   I have found that the best coupon actually comes from the newspaper or fliers like Valpak.  The best deal I've seen is 8 lb. for $30 with free shipping.  I know that it's very expensive fruit, but it is very special fruit!

I hope you have an enjoyable Christmas.  I have made my lists for my children and family.  I'm working my way through them...  






Fun Food Trivia

A few weeks ago, I posted a review of the book Food Anatomy by Andrea Rothman.  Storey put this fun trivia quiz up on the web.  Check it out HERE!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

A book for the foodie who just loves food!

My kids and I have been poring over a very special book that came in the mail this week.  The title is Food Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of Our Edible World by Julia Rothman.  I was the first person to get a peek at it and I immediately called to my kids.  I knew they would be fascinated by all the food tidbits and interesting facts this book held.  And indeed they were!  They love it.  My
oldest daughter has come to me multiple times this week asking to read the book while she was enjoying her breakfast or lunch.

So, why do we all love it so much?

First, because it's different.  It has pictures that are fun to look at and help me imagine things that I've known about, but have never seen.  The author includes information about such a wide range of topics--everything from stoves over time to distillation and the fortune cookie!

Secondly, because it won't be what you expect.  This book is about all the things that make our food interesting.  It will likely make you want to try some new spices, desserts, and even cheeses!  If you read this whole book, you will feel much more educated about food and what people eat around the world.

Best of all, it is an easy read!  So, if you just want to get off the computer or stop watching television, this book will engage your mind and your palate!  And if you're looking for a gift for someone who loves food, this would be a fun surprise!

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book from Storey books.  I've written this review because I wanted to--and because my family loves this book and would give this book a huge five thumbs up!