Saturday, June 30, 2012

"Paper doll" horses

Where I grew up in California, you only rode a horse if your family was very well off.  Equestrian sports were available only to a few.  Where we live now, many people we know love and ride horses.  One of our friend's daughters has a pony of her own.  I feel a little like I live in horse country now. 

I think because of the horses that we see all the time as we drive through the country, my girls, just like every other little girl I've met here, love horses.  When I saw a book titled Pop-Out and Paint Horse Breeds, I was sure they'd love it.  Today happens to be a summer "snow" day of sorts because it is so hot outside, so I thought I'd bring out the book and start a project with them.  They were very excited when I brought out the horse book and explained what we were going to do.

Pop-Out and Paint Horse Breeds by Cindy A. Littlefield is a book published by Storey Publishing.  In the book, there are 10 different templates for different breeds of horses.  When I read the word "template", I thought that meant that you needed to trace the horse forms.  You actually have two options.  You can trace them or you can punch them out and make 10 horses.  Since I have three kids, punching out the templates and tracing them was the best option.  Both my girls wanted the same horse, of course.  

After tracing and cutting out your horse forms, there are great directions for how to make the main, tail, and how to add any other details you would like to.  There are even directions on how to make stands for the horse and secure them to the horses.  There are also directions for how to make a tabletop barn and other horse accessories.  

I am quite impressed by this book.  My girls are 6 and 8.  My son is 4 and even he was excited to paint his horse.  All of them can make the horses with help.  This is definitely an activity to do with them at their ages.  If they were 10 or 11, I know I would be able to hand them the book and they would be lost in the making of horses for hours.  But, at this age, a lot of help is needed.  A few weeks ago, I did hand the book to a friend's daughter who is 10.  She struggled to trace and cut out the horse form.  If she had simply been able to use the template as a 1 time use horse, I think she would have been fine.  This is one of those books that has a lot of potential for family enjoyment.  It would be much more enjoyable and less frustrating as a mom and daughter activity.  For the crafty mom, this would be a great book for you to share that love with your daughters.  

At a little less than $12 on Amazon, this would be a fun activity book to store for a rainy day or for a birthday gift.  The supplies that are needed are things you'll generally have around your house--yarn, a little paint, a paintbrush, paper clips, and a few other things I'm sure you'll have.  

I think this book is a surprisingly nifty book and worth the money if your daughter loves crafts and horses.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Storey Publishing.

Be guarded

My husband and I got some unexpected news last night.  Credit card fraud--on our credit card!  Ay Ay Ay! Among the words one dreads hearing.  We have our credit monitored by a monthly service.  We are careful with our info.  The problem is you can never be careful enough, so safeguards are helpful.  

Safeguards that are out there...

1) Always have an internet virus protection program on your computer if you have a pc.  I understand that macs are not as vulnerable.

2) Use complicated passwords, not simple ones that have anything to do with basic information about you.

3) If you don't want to have a monthly credit monitoring service, definitely get a copy of your credit report once a year.  A friend of mine had a credit card opened in her name by her ex-husband and the card was maxed out.  Even though it was done illegally, it was still on her report.  She closed the account, paid it off, and began to monitor her credit more regularly.

4)  Don't give out your date of birth unless you really have to.  Guard this piece of information carefully.

5)  Be careful with facebook.  I have been told by multiple computer folks about how easy facebook is to hack into.  Teenagers have no idea how much info they put on there unwittingly.  It's interesting to me that facebook is looking into ways to have accounts for children and that many parents already allow their children to lie about their ages and open accounts.  

6)  Be careful about phone calls you receive asking for information.  If you are concerned, call the company back yourself with a reliable phone number.  

And if you ever think it will never happen to you, it very possibly could.  Unfortunately.  I hope it doesn't!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Picture Taking, my new hobby

God has this way of helping me understand things about other people sometimes that I don't.  Often I find that the lessons come very unexpectedly.  My husband has a very expensive hobby.  Motorcycling.  He has been riding for 5 years.  I have many thoughts about this subject, but I think those are best saved for another post.  My mention of it here is for a specific reason.  One of the issues, I'm sure you can imagine, has been how much it costs and all of the gear/equipment he has both wanted and needed to be a safe rider.  Thankfully, God has provided and my husband has the gear he needs/wants for the most part.  But, all along the way, I haven't always understood why it was hard for my husband to wait for these needs and wants.  But, this week I got a glimpse of that.

Last year, when I sold my little Honda Rebel 250 motorcycle, my husband encouraged me to get a DSLR camera.  I had an SLR that I'd been given when I graduated high school from my dad.  I just hadn't used it a lot because film is expensive and processing adds up.  I'd only taken it out on special occasions.  When I got my DSLR, I used it a lot at first, but I was limited with my 18-55mm lens that the camera comes with.  Then, in June, some friends came to visit and they told me my old telephoto probably worked on my new camera.  It did!  Yippee!  So, now I could use my 100-300 lens on my DSLR.  It was heavier, but I didn't mind at all.  My picture taking increased.  I primarily used the scene modes and didn't even realize that there was an auto or flash choice on my dial.  There is this funny thing about me that I just don't read manuals.  I wish I did.  

My husband showed me how to use Google's Picasa, a basic photo editing program that's free and I played with it.  I took pictures like this one of the inside of a hot air balloon.  It was easy to make it black and white in Picasa.

I began to take lot of fun pictures of my kids like this one.  I had a sense of composition, but had no idea what I was doing or why.  I was just going on my intuition.

I took pictures through the winter in these scene modes and then just this spring took pictures of my friend's daughter one afternoon.  In 15 minutes, I shot about 50 pictures.  It was fun and they gave me great joy.  The pictures turned out well and I realized that this was something I could give to my friends.  Having a professional photographer take pictures of your family can be quite an expensive proposition!  On one photographer's website, I found a good explanation of all of the costs which gave me a good idea of what I wanted to do and what I didn't, specifically where I wanted to invest my time.

Taking pictures is quick and easy.  Even uploading takes little time.  It is the photo editing that can be extremely time consuming, depending on how much you edit the pictures.  With my telephoto lens, I needed to edit a lot.  But, yesterday, my editing time was thankfully cut down.  To give you an idea of how long it took me with picasa, this is how much time it took me yesterday:
Engagement Photos:  2 1/2 hours picture taking, probably 2 1/2 hours editing
Father/Daughter Photos:  2 hours picture taking, probably 1 1/2-2 hours editing
If I'd taken these pictures before I got my new macro lens on Friday, the editing time would have been doubled.  I often have to play a lot more with the photos from my telephoto than I seemed to with the pictures from my new lens.  I am really glad I was able to do this.  I prayed beforehand and asked the Lord to help me capture some good pictures.

After I took the pictures of my friend's daughter, I realized the I really have so much to learn in order to take better pictures.  So, I ordered a book (of course) that was less expensive than other ones out there.  I even ordered the older edition.  It was extremely helpful and gave me lots of ideas about where I could start.  The book was Photographing Children Photo Workshop: Develop Your Digital Photography Talent by Ginny Felch.  I found it on a list of good photography books about taking pictures of children. I would highly recommend this book if you're looking for something like it.  It would also be a great one just to check out of the library.  

Then, I was talking to a gal at church who also has a Canon DSLR.  She asked me what I was working on with my picture taking.  I mentioned the book.  She said she'd been reading her manual and working with her aperture settings.  Whoa!  I realized at that moment a few things:
1) I'd never even looked at my manual!  That would be a good thing to do.
2) I was content using the auto settings.  To get better, I needed to relearn all the stuff I'd learned in high school about photography.

At the same time that I was looking at photography through the lens of an adult, I decided that I would put together a photography unit for my children for next year.  We are going to do sketching for the fall using the ART CLASS DVD series and then in the spring, I'm going to teach them a quarter of photography.  So, what should I teach them?  I formed a collection of resources and began learning through the eyes of a student.  Later this summer, I'm going to post the curriculum that I come up with.  I've mentioned to several friends that I plan on doing this and they've said that their children are really interested in photography.  My hope is to share what I'm learning on this journey.

As for me, I thought I'd share here a few lessons and tips I'm finding are really helping me.

1)  Photography is very subjective.  What's most important is that you like your pictures.  I stopped taking pictures for several years partly because I was the only one that liked them.  I went to a garage sale recently and the woman (who teaches photography) brought out a picture to show me.  She had photoshopped it so much that I didn't like it at all.  The picture composition also didn't appeal to me.  I shared these thoughts with a friend who I think takes great pictures and she said she felt the same way about the pictures one of her friends takes and she was relieved to hear me say this!  There are some photos that have an almost universal appeal, but others that don't.  Don't worry if your pictures don't have universal appeal.

2)  The eyes have it.  The first thing you see in a picture are the eyes.  I read one photography book for reviewing and this was the one lesson I took from the book.  Your eyes are first drawn to the eyes when you look at a picture.  They make the picture interesting.  They can be looking at you, looking above you, looking to the side of you...  

3)  Your background is important.  

Lines.  If there are lines in building or trees, take this into consideration.  For me, I find that I need things to be parallel not intersecting.  The lines of a building or trees behind a person frame the person you're taking the picture of.  One young girl I was taking a picture of last night slanted her body.  I asked her to stand up straight.  The picture flowed better and I liked the picture I took much better.

Distractions.  You don't want your background to be distracting.  Texture is wonderful, but be careful of patterns!  Distractions are easy to edit out by cropping.

4)  Light is very important.  I love shady days and overcast times of days.  It's easy to bring up the light in editing, but it's very hard to edit out shadows (photoshop...)  I read one tip that you can squint to see where the light is brightest in your subject.

5)  Composition is personal and creative, but there's a lot that you can learn about it.  #2, #3, and #4 all have to do with composition, but the 5th point I learned is a basic one called the Rule of thirds.  Divide a picture frame into thirds both horizontally and vertically by drawing two lines across and two lines down.  If you place the point of interest at the intersection of these lines, then the picture will be more interesting.  Placing a subject dead in the center is not usually the most interesting.  Even a little off center can create a much more interesting picture.

6) More composition...  I read somewhere that your subject should either take up 1/3 of your picture or 2/3.  This proportion seems to do well for me.

7) The goal is to get good at photography so that you don't have to edit and fix what's wrong with the picture.  But, I think this takes a lot of effort and a long time to learn.  So, in the meantime, if you have a camera with a lot of MP (over 12mp) leave a little extra room around your subject.  Then, you can crop later to get the exact picture you want.

8) Finding a great locally owned photography shop is the best place to buy lenses and other equipment (not Best Buy or Ritz Camera).  I found that the prices were better or about the same as what I found online (sometimes just a little more), but the help I got was worth it!  The lens I bought on Friday wasn't even listed on Amazon.  In the Baltimore area, there's a great shop on Falls Road called Service Photo.  They also often have used equipment which is helpful for odd lenses that you might want.

9)  Lenses.  Most folks start with the basic lens, an 18-55 that the camera comes with.  The next lens people often get is a telephoto.  I think the standard is a 70-200mm now.  Then, people get what's called a "nifty" fifty.  It has a lower aperture (f/1.8 vs the f/5.6 that's on my telephoto) and allows you to play with blurring backgrounds a lot more.  It's also a very inexpensive lens at about $125.  On Friday, the shop didn't have a nifty fifty and the helpful gal at the shop recommended a f/2.8 60mm Macro lens.  It is usually priced between $400-$500.  I'm sharing this because lenses are expensive.  Good lenses are the biggest purchase in photography.  They are also helping me gain a better understanding of my husband's hobby.  

10)  Photo printing and finishing off.  Mats make a huge difference to pictures and so does photo processing.  I've started to use for photo processing.  They don't claim rights to my photos (like Ritz camera, York Photo, Shutterfly, and others do).  Mpix is also much more reasonable for larger pictures--$2 for an 8x10!  Kodak's 8 x 10s ran about $5.  

So, I think that's about it so far.  I realized that last year I wrote a lot about gardening as I was learning about composting and planting.  It made me chuckle when I realized that I think photography will be the same way for me this summer!  I have a lot to learn.  What I'm now playing with is my composition (hence all my notes above) and angles.  I'm getting down to children's levels and crouching to take pictures at different angles.  I used to always just take pictures straight on.  My pictures seem to be turning out better now.  There's a lot more explanation as to why this makes a difference and I'll try and post about it soon!

Friday, June 8, 2012


It's Friday night and I'm sitting in a room that's finally clean and organized.  It's not my girls' room, though, which I discovered to be cluttered and messy just as I was tucking them into bed!  Isn't that the way life is?!
But, I'm trying not to think about their room and instead think about our homeschool room/den where I'm sitting now.  I am relieved and excited.  We remodeled this room this week.  It was the last room in our house that needed a lot of help.

As soon as we moved in back in December, we regretted not pulling up the carpet in the den.  It was uncleanable and had a smell that just wouldn't come out.  The only option was to pull all the carpet up and redo the room. But, we had to wait until our school year was done, because we feared it would disrupt our school year even more than it already had been.  But, our year ended last Monday and simultaneously I started emptying the room of stuff!

Here's what we started with (pre-furniture moving in)

This was the room in transition after we'd painted and put in blinds

In my mind, this project seemed simple enough, but as it grew closer I realized how much we were taking on!  It's far easier to redo a floor when all the furniture is out of the room than when it is in it!  
Fear began to creep in.  We weren't sure what to expect under the carpet.  If it was only wood, we were concerned about having to lay a new subfloor and that the smell of cat urine (from the previous owner's pets) would be very difficult to get rid of.  Thankfully, as we started pulling up the carpet, we discovered it was just tack strips, carpet pad and carpet that we had to deal with.  There was commercial tile underneat.  That made life much easier!

Tuesday morning dawned and I began pulling up carpet.  By mid day, I'd pulled up all of the tack strips and 2/3 of the carpet with the help of my youngest brother in law.  Wednesday morning I started laying the flooring.  It was far easier than I expected!  I was very thankful for this.  Here's the flooring mid-stream (the tile floor underneath that was uncovered actually had quite a lot of fun character)...

And here's the room when we were done!

I am very thankful for this room.  When we moved, I lost a lot of my homeschooling space and it made me really evaluate what I needed and what I didn't.  And like many things, I found myself in a "needing less than I thought I did" situation.

So, a few random thoughts...

The cost to remodel an entire room adds up surprisingly quickly!  In this case, no underlayment was needed,  so that saved us $200.  The flooring though still adds up.  The manufacturer's method of estimated materials would have had us purchase 11 boxes, but we used 12.  My husband added the pendant lights and replaced the light by the door.  We chose inexpensive or middle of the road lights for both.  And then we needed furniture.  We bought a new file cabinet, desk, shelf, table, and chairs. I always forget that IKEA furniture also adds up quickly.  The file cabinet came from Office Depot and I'm so happy with it!  It has rollers  

If you're thinking about putting in laminate flooring...  The adhesive strips are far easier to install than squares.  They also come up since they stick to each other and not the floor.  But, once they're down, they are NOT repositionable as the packaging suggests.  So, be careful.  Put pads and rollers on your furniture, so the floor will be less likely to get scratched.

This room was also complicated because we redid the lighting and had Home Depot install a new back door and storm door.  That was an interesting experience.  I wonder if most people are like me.  I thought that when we had a door installed it would all be done and that there wouldn't be anything left for me to do.  Not so.  After the man left (and he did a good job), I had to prime and paint the doorstoop, prime paint all the inside and outside trim, caulk around the inside trim of the door and the wall, and fit a piece of wood to cover the gap between the door frame and the inside floor (a flooring trip piece also would have worked).

I told my husband and my mom that when I go into the room it feels like I've taken a bath.  It's clean again!  I was surprised that I've had such a strong reaction.  I am very thankful and excited to do school in this room!

Monday, June 4, 2012


Over the years, I've heard several comments that have stuck with me about my house.

One friend once said to me--wow!  Your cupboards are really cluttered (I had open kitchen cabinets then and still do.)

Another friend remarked after I had talked about how hard I try to keep my house picked up, "Well, I guess it's not messy."  Her tone reflected that she didn't think it was that neat.

Then, tonight, a friend of mine asked me how I keep my house so clean.

What?!  My house?  The other comments are what rattle around in my brain.

Organization is a thing that I puzzle about--a lot.  I get flustered if there are too many piles around.  I had a friend a long time tell me (she had 5 kids) that with each child, she had to adjust her expectations of how she could keep her home and what she needed to get done.  

I realized early on in my marriage that my husband and I were raised in very different homes.  I think many of us could say that about our marriages.  My mom worked full-time and didn't have a lot of energy when she got home.  She got done what had to be done.  We vacuumed and dusted when needed.  I remember my dad thundering if everything wasn't picked up when he got home.  All of our toys stayed in our rooms.  My husband's home was similar, but different.  There were only two children in my home growing up, but six were in my husband's family.  His mom homeschooled and stayed home with her children.  She didn't like to have extra things around.  Their home was filled with what they needed.  And she loved (and still loves) to clean.  Her home was very clean.

I remember when my husband and I first got married.  I was working full-time, just as he was.  On weekdays, we'd come home, cook dinner together, clean up, get ready for the next day, and then go to bed and do it all over again the next day.  Saturday mornings found me up 2 hours before my husband dusting, cleaning the bathrooms, sweeping/mopping and vacuuming the main room (after he woke up).  Life changed when I switched to working part-time.  

My husband and I've been married now 11 years and have 3 kids plus my mom now living with us.  I've noticed a few things along the way and also noticed that I've developed some habits to help me cope.  

Cleaning was a difficult thing for both my husband and I to adjust to.  We had to meet in the middle.  My husband has adjusted and so have I.  I don't clean as much as his mom, but I clean more than my mom did when I was growing up (except for the past few months).  

My favorite hobby of garage saling does not help with keeping an uncluttered house.  I've had to let go of a lot of things for sake of less clutter.  Early in our marriage, I got rid of A LOT of things.  As my husband has grown accustomed to my garage saling and my desire to have what we need when we need it (instead of having to run out and pay a high price), it has grown easier for us.  

What I've found helps:

1) Push in chairs--desk, dining, any chairs
2) Close cupboards and drawers
3) Keep kitchen counters as clear as possible (even if it means that clutter goes in a set drawer where it can't be seen)
4) Sweep the kitchen
5) A light vacuum is more appealing to use than a heavy one.  We have an Oreck which is a huge blessing.  I've had it 3 years now and it's worked far better than any of my other vacuums that we've had.
6) If you have stainless appliances, Norwex cloths are the easiest way to clean them (though they're quite expensive).  
7) We keep our children's toys in their rooms.  They can bring toys out to the living room during the day (now that they're older), but they must go back in before Daddy gets home from work.  When they were little, we kept a basket in the living or family room for them.  We try to keep the house from being taken over by toys.
8) Less is more.  We love books, so we naturally have a lot of clutter.  I noticed that if books are laying horizontal on top of other books, a bookcase immediately looks cluttered.  So, I try to keep the books all standing up!  
9) Vacuuming and sweeping is more noticeable than dusting.  So, I vacuum/sweep before I dust.  And if I don't have time to mop, I don't mind using a rag to clean a spot off the floor.
10) I have a special broom to help with Molly's hair (our golden retriever) that helps a ton!  I also use a defurminator during the time she sheds most.  
11) It isn't the clutter that people notice about your home, it's you.  Do you live in your house?  If a home is spotless, it's actually harder to feel comfortable for fear of spilling something.  
12) Let go.  One way that having children has grown me is that it has helped me let go of my things.  If something broke, I used to get so upset (the hormones from nursing didn't help!).  Now, I remind myself that it's just a thing.  It's not okay to break things, but getting angry solves nothing.  I try to make my home kid proof so that my kids will be comfortable and so will others.  I keep outlet covers on the outlets for two reasons.  a.  They make the outlets look better when the outlet is a different color from the plate and b. they keep children safer.  
13) Adjust your possessions to the space you have.  Smaller spaces get cluttered really fast.  
14) Pick up as you go.  As I'm cooking, I put things away.  I am always making the most of my trips to and from the refrigerator or counter.  This does involve multi-tasking.  When I'm ready to sit down to dinner, my kitchen isn't super cluttered and I don't feel cluttered.  
15) Find what makes you most feel cluttered and take care of that space.  Hooks on walls help, as do shoe racks.  For me, I can't handle dishes in the sink.  I'd rather have a neat pile next to the sink.  But, dishes in the sink for some reason totally make me feel cluttered.  

What I've noticed is that everything is for a time--it isn't forever.  It's getting easier to keep my home picked up now that my girls can pick up their rooms.  
My son is learning and he's getting better too.  Some of the responsibility lies with me, though.  I have to hold them responsible.  It's often easier to tell myself that I can do it quicker.  But, if they can do it--even if it takes them longer--it saves me work.  

Two last thoughts...
1) I once read a book by Vicky Carauna called The Organized Homeschooler (I don't recommend it).  She was quite critical of women who don't keep their homes organized.  She also has a husband who is extremely organized.  I think I know more husbands who don't pick up than do.  If you don't have a husband who picks up, it's easy to become bitter or resentful.  But, that's not good for anyone.  Instead, we need to do what we can and be responsible for ourselves.  Many of the moms of our husbands thought they were doing the best thing by doing everything for their sons.  There was the idea it is woman's work to take care of their home, not the man's.  But, juggling work, children, and home--  It can be very difficult!  We have the opportunity to raise our sons to pick up and help with what needs to be done.  We can raise them so that they will be  a blessing and a help to their future wives.  

Eli will tell me no that he doesn't want to set the table at times.  I respond by asking if he wants to eat dinner?  If he wants me to do my job, then he needs to do his.  I find that he likes to have a job he can do like emptying the bathroom trash.  He also only likes to do the part of the job that he likes.  

2) Homeschooling at the Speed of Light by Marilyn Rockett tells a much more gracious story of organization (which is definitely necessary in homeschooling).  I liked what she had to say.  She had 4 boys who she homeschooled all the way through.  She made an observation that stuck with me.  It's easy to keep a home clean when you don't live in it!  If you're not there all day, there isn't time to make a mess.  So, when you are home all day with your kids, your home is going to get messy!  It's just a part of life.

PS remember people care about you, not whether there's a pile of papers on the counter.  

PPS if you're looking for ideas about what children can do to help around the home and how to help them with the skills they need for live, I love Christine Field's book Life Skills for Kids.  It has a great chart of age appropriate chores that I've used over the years.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Finally a Stir Fry Recipe we loved!

Last night, we made chicken stirfry for dinner.  I started with a sauce for another dish from a cookbook and then modified it from there.  I changed it significantly enough to feel comfortable posting it here.

1 red onion, cut in eighths
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1 red or yellow bell pepper sliced
broccoli or cauliflower--1/2 pound (or a mixture of the two)
3 green onions, sliced

1 1/2 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast, sliced thin (1/8" thick strips across breast)

1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup honey
2 Tbsp. mirin (asian cooking wine)
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. cilantro leaves
1/2 or 1 Tbsp. crystallized ginger (to taste for your family), minced or chopped (depending on what your blender needs you to do so that it will get mixed in)
3 gloves of garlic, minced (1 1/2 tsp. minced garlic)

1 Tbsp. cornstarch dissolved in 1 1/2-2 tsp. water

First, make the sauce and set it aside.  To make the sauce, put all ingredients in your blender and blend until smooth.  I use my Vitamix.  

Microwave broccoli and cauliflower for 3 minutes in a bowl with a little water (2-3 Tbsp.) My microwave is the smallest one made, so if you have a powerful one, only microwave for 2 minutes.  You want the broccoli/cauliflower to start cooking through and be softened, but not entirely cooked.

Add some canola oil and sesame oil to wok.  Stir Fry chicken until cooked through.  Set aside.

Stir fry red onion, mushrooms, red or yellow bell pepper.  

Add chicken back in with broccoli and cauliflower.  Mix well.  Then, add sauce.  Add cornstarch/ water mixture and let it thicken up.

Serve over rice.  We get calrose rice--it's a medium grain white rice that can be found in the asian section of most grocery stores.  They also have medium grain brown rice if you prefer brown.  I get it at Wegman's or Walmart.  It's a little more expensive than long grain white rice, but my family and I like it much better.  It's not as sticky as short grain rice (which is used in sushi rice) and not as dry as long grain.  

I am a fan of rice cookers.  It is one of the appliances that I've owned since I graduated high school.  I thought it was the oddest gift at the time, but one of my dad's friends gave me an inexpensive rice cooker for high school graduation.  It served me well for about 7 or 8 years until my mom gave me a bigger one she had found at a garage sale.  My current rice cooker has a broken handle on the side, but still functions well.  I've often been tempted to spend the money on a zojirushi or a newer model, but I've realized that I should use this one until it stops working.  The blessing of a rice cooker is that I don't have to watch the rice while I'm making the stir fry.  

As for making the stir fry, the best order for preparation is:
1a) start the rice (it will stay warm in the rice cooker on the warm setting after it's done)
1b) make the sauce
2) slice the chicken and set aside
3) prepare all the vegetables
4) cook the chicken
5) cook the vegetables
6) add the sauce

7) Eat! :)

I hope it turns out well.  I'm afraid I'm not a cookbook writer and this recipe is of my own making so please let me know if any of my directions aren't clear.

Serves: 6 (3 adults, 3 children)
Serve with 3 cups cooked rice. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Great Free Forms!

For the past two years, I've been using Mom's Home Journal for my family forms.  They're cute and useful forms.  The first year cost me $12.95 and the second $5.  At the time when I needed a family planner/calendar, I couldn't find a great site that had free forms that were easy to print.  

I found one this morning!  Yippee!  I love finding great resources on the web that are free.  
Here's the site:

Donna Young has a very complete list of all the planners available.  She also has all the forms needed on her site to make your own customized planner.

I found her site (which she has really improved and added to over the past few years), because I was looking for printable fraction pieces.  I thought I had a set at home, but somehow they either got misplaced or given away during our move a few months ago.  I don't have the time to drive a long distance to a teaching supplies store or order a set online and wait for them.  We're doing fractions now, so I really need to have them today.

I found a great printable set of fraction pies that I'm working on preparing for use.  First, I'm coloring the circles each in a different color with crayons and labeling the pieces with the fraction names a little larger by hand with a permanent marker.  Then I'm going to cut them out and put clear contact paper on both sides of the circles.  Then I will cut the circles apart into pieces.  I have a box that I'm going to store them in for future use.  There wasn't a blank page of circles so I put a piece of paper on top of the page and traced over the circle size.  I'm going to make several copies of this to have several whole circles to use.  Here's the page with her fraction pie piece printables.