Thursday, December 4, 2014

Unorganized Organized

The other day I was walking into Walmart with my children when I said with a smile to my oldest daughter, "Guess what? I have a list!  And it has everything on it!"  My children smiled and laughed with me.  You see, I don't often have a list with me.  I keep it in my head--or at least try my best to.  I do have a smart phone and I put some notes on it, but not as many as I should.

As I walked into Walmart, I looked at Autumn and told her that many people think I'm very organized.  She burst into laughter and my other two children smiled.  I laughed along with her.  I knew what she would think when I told her.

Often our family sees us very differently than our friends and strangers do.  Autumn sees me every day.  She sees that I struggle to stay on time and that I always have so much to do and so much that I want to do.  She sees my piles of papers and the pressure I put on myself.

But, she is a child.  That night I told my husband the story.  His response was a smile with the acknowledgement that I am organized by that I have a lot going on that I'm keeping track of.  I'm not a perfectly organized person who lives by a calendar and is always on time.  But, I would describe myself as "organized".  I think I'm not as organized as people think I am, but I think I'm also a bit more organized than Autumn thinks I am, you see...

My daughter is a child and so she doesn't see my planner with my monthly menu that is my own way of organizing.  She doesn't realize that I can always find things in my home when my family needs them.  She doesn't realize that all of their school books and folders are organized.  She has seen me organize bit by bit, but doesn't know yet that organization is a process.  I take one step at a time.  Last summer, I organized and labeled the bins in my school room and our school supply drawers.  A few years ago, I made my mom notebook.  This fall, I made a medical notebook with pages of information for my husband, myself, and our children.  And yesterday... I was given a drawer organizer by a friend and I took everything out of my desk drawers.  It's finally organized.

I've realized that organizing my home and my life is a process.  To do everything in a day would be overwhelming because it would make me feel like such a failure!  But, tackling one thing at a time makes it doable.  Because life keeps on going.  You can't just take a week and stop everything to organize things.  But, the biggest thing that I've learned about organization is to compensate for my weaknesses.

When I see a weakness in my organization that I'm not able to manage, I consider how to cope with it.  Can I change my weakness?  Usually not, I've found.  Can I put a routine in place or make something that will help?  Do I just need to simplify and get rid of something?  This is how I cope with my life.

This is why we have laminated checklists for setting the table and cleaning the house.
This is why my oldest daughter helps me by getting up in the morning (she's highly motivated).  Once she's going, she helps the rest of us get on track.  The Lord blessed me with her!
My middle daughter loves to organize her room.  She's also my child that leaves everything everywhere.  But, I can count on her to redo her room when it's needed--she has a knack.
My children help me get out the door by helping and taking responsibility for what they need wherever we are going.  I prep them as we're getting home about what we need to do and about what we need when we go certain places each week.
If I need to take something to church on Sunday or another place during the week, I put it in my church bag by the door or straight into the trunk of my car.
The music bag sits by the piano and gets filled every Wednesday morning and then put in the car so we won't forget it for lessons in the afternoon.  (I've found myself two blocks away from my house several times without the bag...)

But, that's my life.  We each have families that need different things from us.  We're all wired differently.  I am amazed at how much some of my friends tackle and keep track of.  I realize that we're all in the trenches together.  In the end, we love our families and our friends and we just do the best we can.

I just watched a movie titled Paradise Recovered and it was interesting.  It was about a young woman who was in a cult-like church and two young men who try to help her see her way out of it.  The main character has a very skewed sense of grace and what it means to be a Christian.  The theology of the church is very twisted.  Being a Christian doesn't mean that we are perfect or that we can be perfect.  It means that we are forgiven.  We try to glorify God in our lives because we love him, not out of obligation and guilt, but out of love.

I get excited when God helps me see a different way to be organized or keep track of things.  I'm thankful for the times when I get to purge my home and pass things on.  But most of all, I'm thankful that I'm a work in progress who knows God's grace.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Ah... the complications of computers!

A few days ago, an app asked for permission to be added to my computer.  It looked genuine and seemed to come from Chrome... Well, it didn't.  All of a sudden, I had pop-ups all over the place.  Ugh!

I looked all over and did a little google searching (amidst pop-ups) to try and figure out how to get rid of them. I checked my chrome settings, my internet settings, and ran an anti-virus scan.

Nada.  Still Pop-Ups!

So, I went into Norton AntiVirus and went to support.  On the Norton website, I was prompted to download the Norton Power Eraser and uninstall unwanted programs.  It found it!  It was an adware/malware program called Stormwatch.  Nope.  I don't want it.  I really don't want it!  A click of a button and it was gone.  Yay!  No more pop-ups.  It was the stormwatch ad that was able to override google Chrome's setting to block pop-up ads.

Then, today...

Flash Player opened a tab on me asking for me to update the outdated of their player on my program... hmmm...  So, first, I googled what they were asking to include...  It was something by conduit that would change my homepage.  Didn't sound good.  So, I declined it.  Then, another app that was being included came up... Stormwatch... Stormwatch!!!  Nope.  Definitely don't want it.  Then two more came up after I declined the others.  I closed the whole tab and didn't do the update.  Hopefully, if my flash player really needs to be updated down the line, the company will actually just sent out an update for-- flash player!

I wanted to share this story to let everyone know about what these updates are trying to sneak onto your computer.  I knew that a lot of programs try to sneak McAfee onto your computer (Adobe being one of them) which is bad.  If you download a second anti-virus program onto your computer and you already have one, they will fight against each other, slow down your computer and potentially cause it to freeze up.

I am no longer going to just say yes to a program update.  I always opt for the notify me option before my computer updates itself or programs update themselves instead of giving blanket permission..

Post Script...

It's been a few weeks since this has happened and I've had to be vigilant.  I learned that what looked like the flash player update was not from them.  It was just a very good imitation.  It has popped up again since then and I've had to erase unwanted programs.  I have to be very careful about where I search and click on the internet.  My husband and I've made the decision to switch me to a mac the next time my computer breaks.  We had such a horrible experience with my children's Dell laptop and my Dell desktop is finicky.  For now, I'm thankful we have computers that work, but I'm very aware that technology does not just make our lives easier.  It also makes it more stressful in many ways.  I prefer tangible books.  I'm going to stick with them as much and as long as I can!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Clorox Disinfecting Wipes and Kitchen Counters

This morning as I watched a television program online, I saw two commercials for Clorox Disinfecting Wipes.  Both commercials were focused on cleaning up from raw fish or chicken.

Save money!  Don't buy them.  Just use white vinegar.  Pour a bit of it on your counter and wipe it all over the contaminated area with a paper towel.

Much, much cheaper option! :)

Thoughts on Coffee, Starbucks, and Dunkin Donuts

We like Starbucks.  We've gone there many times over the past ten years.  So, of course years ago, we got "gold cards".  The refillable cards that turn into gold cards with your name on them when you've earned a certain number of points in a year.  

This past week, I realized that my account wouldn't tell me how many points I had.  I contacted customer service so that I could access the card online and sort things out... No help.  Then, I tried to call and ended up on hold for over half an hour.  I left the phone on speakerphone while doing other things.  Then, I hung up.  My time is compressed these days and I knew I didn't have the energy or time to figure this out beyond what I'd tried.  I'd tried.  

I talked with my husband about it and we thought about the pros and cons of the Starbucks rewards system.  The question we found ourselves asking was, is it worth it?  How does it benefit us?  What affect do the cards have on us?

Really, these cards are a genius marketing ploy that get people (including us) to spend more money at Starbucks.  You load your card.  Then, you spend from your card and it doesn't feel like you're spending as much.  It's easier to justify stopping and getting a cup of coffee.  There's lots of psychological effects, I'm sure.  

When we took a closer look, we realized that the benefits weren't really that much for us.  What it did was make us feel like we should choose Starbucks over going somewhere else that we would have enjoyed too--that may have been closer to home (save money on gas) or different (local ice cream for a snack).  

Credit cards do that too--when someone has a Kohl's card or JCPenney's card, we're more tempted to shop at that store. See this article HERE.  Interestingly, the article focuses very little on that con, but on others instead.  I realize that the idea to not have store cards is very counter-cultural right now.

It's also counter cultural not to have a store rewards card/refillable debit card. Although, I found this great post HERE that summarized the conclusions I came to.  The gold card is really a gold cage.  So, my husband and I've decided to use up what's left on our cards and move on--without regret.  We'll still go there when we want to, but that's the key--when we want to.  When we want to go to Dunkin Donuts or an ice cream spot, that's what we're going to do instead!

As a side note, the one tip I have for Starbucks users who have kids--- I order a Venti frappuccino for my kids and ask them to split it 3 ways (which they've never minded doing).  It saves us a lot!  1 large drink instead of 3 talls saves about $5.50.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Love this Idea!

I don't have much time these day to look around the internet for ideas.  But, my oldest daughter is getting ready for her 11th birthday and we started looking around for game ideas.  We found this one and I love it! So, I wanted to share a link here.

Obviously, I'm going to skip the Justin Beiber question at the bottom and a few others like the favorite boy at school question, but it's a great list and there's plenty of questions to choose from.

This ball has huge potential at other birthdays and get togethers in our house.  I'm excited to have it around once I get a ball from the store and use our Sharpie markers to write the questions!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Doll Bed

The new American Girl doll catalog arrived in the mail yesterday.  My oldest daughter loves the bed in the book.  I was curious, so I looked at the price...

ay ay ay!  $175.  Not doable.  So, I began searching the web for an alternative--one that would be more affordable and I found this...

I've printed off the plans and look forward to trying to make two with the kids!

Friday, August 29, 2014


I was telling my girls that I love to talk to people because I care and I love hearing people's stories, but I have to admit that I also do love the little things that I learn from people.

Last week, I listened as a friend remarked that she always filled her glass half full of water before adding sweet tea from a bottle.  I felt my brain go, "Hmmm..."  And since we had almost a full bottle in our fridge this week after having friends for dinner last week, I experimented.  I filled my glass half full of ice and then filled that half with water.  Then, I added sweet green tea to fill the glass.  It tasted just fine!  And I have to admit that I felt better about having less caffeine and sugar in the process.  I did buy Tradewinds Tea because it was made with sugar instead of Arizona Iced Tea's comparable version made with high fructose corn syrup.  It was pretty good!

The same friend and I were talking on the phone a few weeks ago about high school math.  Her husband teaches their children math at that level.  She shared his sentiment that any solid high school math book will work.  I asked whether he had ever needed a teacher's edition.  She answered that he hadn't and that all high school texts have the answers to the odd problems in the back of the book.  I had completely forgotten this!  In school, teachers always assigned the even problems because they didn't want us to cheat on our homework.  BUT, as a homeschooler the answers are handy if my child's honest.  They will keep me from needing a separate answer key!  Yay!  I am glad that I will get to save money on high school math and just purchase a public school text!

Little things... but they're little things I'm glad to know!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Appliance Warranties

Every time we buy a new appliance or piece of technology, we face that question, "Should be a warranty?"  In the past, we bought a warranty on the washing machine we bought and the refrigerator we bought when we moved into this house.

I've gotten pretty disillusioned with warranties the past few years.  Often the cost is on you to return to the manufacturer.  When we had a television go bad on us from Costco, it was a bear to get someone out to inspect the television.  The verdict ended up being that it was unfixable.  I think it took several months to get it resolved and get a check from the company so we could get a replacement television.

But, some companies have figured this out and they now offer warranties that they tout as "no deductible" and of great benefit.

Two years ago, we did decide to buy a 5 yr warranty on our side by side Samsung refrigerator.  The warranty cost $250, but because the refrigerator would be expensive to replace since it was a counter-depth fridge, we thought it was worth it.  This is one of those rare occasions when it was.

Two weeks ago, I called HH Gregg because the LED panel that shows the temperature/ice/water controls wasn't working properly.  The man asked all sorts of crazy questions (that were meant to deduce if the malfunctioning was my fault or not).  It wasn't my fault.  It was a glitch.  We hadn't done anything to it.  It was covered.  But, at the same time I asked about one of my refrigerator shelves that showed several cracks on the sides of it.  Verdict?  Not covered.  The new shelf, thankfully, only cost $61, including tax, and I was able to swap out the new and old shelves myself.

The cost of the new part and installation would have been about $500.  So we did get our money's worth this time.  But, most of the time breakage (statistically) happens right after the warranty runs out.

Last year, the computer in my oven went out.  I wish, wish, wish that I had just had it fixed instead of replacing the oven.  The oven barely fits in its spot and I dread the new one ever having to get replaced.  The repair would have cost $400.  I don't feel like I made the right choice on that one.  

We don't have a warranty on our television because the warranty would have cost half of the television price.  

Warranties are tough.  You gamble when you buy a warranty.  Will it break?  Or won't it? Will it break before the warranty runs out?  I once read that statistically, warranties are designed to run out right before an item is statistically likely to break!  What a discouraging thing to read!

I'm learning that with some appliances it's wise to get a warranty and some it's not.  I wish there was a way to know, but I think it has more to do with knowing how much it would cost to replace the appliance if something breaks on it, whether you could replace the appliance if you need to, how much repairs typically cost (and how likely they are to be needed), and how long you'll have to wait for it to be repaired.  

The LED panel on my refrigerator thankfully didn't affect its ability to dispense ice and water and monitor the temperature.  I did have to wait 2 weeks for the part and the repair after the initial visit.  A friend of mine had her washing machine fixed and it took 6 weeks for it to get repaired.  No matter how you cut it, it's crummy when an appliance breaks and we depend on it every day!  Repair time doesn't diminish if you have a warranty, the warranty just diminishes the cost.  

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Family Medical Records

This morning I'm working putting together a binder that I should have done a long time ago.  But, like most projects, you tackle them when I get the chance.

I think I've mentioned that my mom is sick.  She's been quite sick for about 4 months now.  I have been going to all of her appointments with her.  She carries with her a folder in which she keeps all of her records. Along the way, I bought a tiny lined notebook to carry with me in my purse on which I write notes down about her appointments.

As I was planning for the upcoming school year this past week, I realized that I really should put together a family medical notebook for us and one for my mom.

I was on the Mom's Toolbelt website that I have a membership on (link to Mom's ToolBelt Site).  Side note...I purchased a membership on the site over 5 years ago when I was trying to compile free forms to make my own planner.  At the time, the cost was worth it because it saved me a lot of time trying to scour the web and find free forms.  I have to admit that I am very thankful for it because it is one of those few memberships that I've really found worth it over time and I like that it isn't an annual fee.

I started by getting out a binder and putting a handwritten form on the side saying "Family Medical Forms".  Then I placed 5 dividers inside and labeled them for each member of our family.  In the front, I placed copies of these forms:
1. Pages 2,3, 5, and 6 from

Under my husband's and my tab, I placed
1. the Doctor, Medication, and Medical History Logs from Mom's Toolbelt
2. the vaccination form from:
3. Lab Work/Tests/Procedures page from:

Under the kids tabs, I placed
1. the Doctor, Medication, and Medical History Logs from Mom's Toolbelt
2. the immunization record from:
3. Growth Tracking Form and Lab Work Page from:

I know that immunization recommendations have changed over time and the CDC has the most up to date form/schedules on their site, but they were more difficult for me print off and follow than the forms I have linked to above.

I found some great free forms on this page that would substitute easily for the forms I used from Mom's toolbelt:
There's a provider list, medication list, appointment log, and several other forms that look very handy!  I'm going to keep track of this website in case I need to add other pages!

I'm glad my notebook is assembled.  Now I need to go fill it in!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Crock Pot Beets--They Worked!

My husband and I like beets.  But, I don't like how long I have to cook them on the stove.  It means I have to not forget (amidst the craziness of life) that I have a pot on the stove for several hours.  Once my beets almost, but just barely didn't, went dry in the pan.  I wanted to find a new way, so I searched online and found a way to cook them in the crock pot.

Here's the method:
Wash the beets.  Take off the bit of end root and tops.  Place 1 beet in the center of a piece of foil and sprinkle a little coarse salt over it and drizzle a bit of olive oil.  Wrap up completely and place in a crock pot.

I layered them up to the top of the crock pot.  I used my smaller crock pot and not the huge one I have.  I had wondered if I would be able to layer them on top of each other or only on the bottom.  I layered them on top of each other and it worked out fine.  I cooked them on high for 6 hours.  Online I read that it would only take 3 hours.  But, I think that because I filled up my crock pot it took longer.  They weren't mushy, but were just right.  

I am so glad that I no longer have to cook beets on the stove!  This was much simpler to manage!  Beets are a great source of iron and I am glad I'll be able to fix them more often now.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

New Twist on Quiche

I love quiche.  But, I don't love that it takes almost an hour usually to bake it.  But, this past week I found a recipe that works as a good substitute.  Of course, I modified it a lot (more than I realized at first), so I'm going to post it as I made it.

Pie #1

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  

1.  Get a deep dish pie pan.  Spray the bottom with cooking spray.  Place a tortilla at the bottom.  I found that a 10" fills the bottom exactly and works well.  Spray the top of the tortilla.

2.  In a bowl, mix 3 cups shredded chicken,
1 cup cheddar cheese, sharp if your family likes it or milder if preferred
1/2 cup. minced cilantro (decrease to 1/4 cup if you are concerned it might be too strong)
A small handful of diced sweet banana pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

3.  Spread mixture on top of tortilla.

4.  Mix 2 large eggs, 1 cup milk, 1 cup flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, and 1/4 tsp. salt.  Mix till smooth. You don't want flour lumps.

5.  Pour over mixture in pie pan.  Sprinkle another cup of cheese on top.  Place pie in oven.  My oven bakes really hot on the bottom, so I have to preheat the oven completely, then place my pan on the top rack and place a cookie sheet on the bottom rack.  I bake it for 17 minutes.  I start checking at 15 minutes.  It can take up to 20 minutes to bake if your oven isn't as hot as mine.  

I know it sounds a little crazy that I have to do all of that for my oven (and it was replaced just 10 months ago).  But, I'm just thankful to have figured out how to make it work!  I was constantly burning things or having to lower the temperature to get food to bake through.  An appliance repairman came to fix my dishwasher and he and I discussed my oven.  He explained that ovens now overheat so that they can preheat faster.  Because of this, you have to give your oven longer to preheat.

Pie #2
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  

1.  Get a deep dish pie pan.  Spray the bottom with cooking spray.  Place a tortilla at the bottom.  I found that a 10" fills the bottom exactly and works well.  Spray the top of the tortilla.

2.  In a bowl, mix 3 cups shredded chicken,
1 cup sharp white cheddar cheese, sharp if your family likes it or milder if preferred
8 oz. sliced mushrooms, sauteed quickly over high heat in a little canola oil
handful of sliced green onions
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

3.  Spread mixture on top of tortilla.

4.  Mix 2 large eggs, 1 cup milk, 1 cup flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, and 1/4 tsp. salt.  Mix till smooth. You don't want flour lumps.

5.  Pour over mixture in pie pan.  Sprinkle another cup of cheese on top.  Place pie in oven.  My oven bakes really hot on the bottom, so I have to preheat the oven completely, then place my pan on the top rack and place a cookie sheet on the bottom rack.  I bake it for 17 minutes.  I start checking at 15 minutes.  It can take up to 20 minutes to bake if your oven isn't as hot as mine.  

I've served this dish for dinner and for breakfast.  I love that it cooks in half the time of a quiche and it sure tastes good!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Yard Sale Treasure of the Summer

Yesterday my middle daughter found a treasure while garage saling.  Part of garage saling is knowing what you're looking for and seeing it underneath dirt, marks, and even paint.  My middle daughter is my shopper.  She loves to shop in stores and she loves to garage sale with me.

We drove quite a ways out of town as we followed signs to a yard sale.  The family had bought an auction lot in order to purchase a dining room set and was selling the rest of it off at this yard sale.  The homeowner said she'd definitely make enough from the yard sale to cover the cost of the lot and pay for their dining room set.  Well, she didn't realize what one of the things from the lot was and how much it would matter to a little girl.

My daughter brought me a doll as I was looking through the movies.  I thought, "Really?  Another doll?"  I am skittish about dolls or anything that has any stuffing and I can't throw into a washing machine to make sure it was clean.  I told her to go ask the lady how much it was.  She told her it was $1.  Okay, I told her.  That will be fine.  It had marks all over its hands and several black marks on the face.  The arms and legs were dirty, but it wore a cute cheerleading outfit.

When we got in the car, my daughter told me she was sure it was an American Girl doll.  I told her we'd check when we got it home.  I cautioned her not to be too hopeful that all the marks would come off.  We'd have to work at it when we got home and see what we could do.

After one more yard sale, we headed home.  Immediately, Sami brought the doll to our kitchen island for surgery.  She took off the doll's clothes and threw them in the washing machine.  I sprayed the pom poms with Lysol and set them on a towel to dry.  We got out the baking soda and a damp rag to begin the cleaning process.  We worked away and got the marks off the face.  The green mark on one thumb wouldn't completely go away.  But, the legs and arms cleaned up.  We brushed the hair (and sprayed it with Lysol).  She was thrilled.

I went online when I discovered a marking that said "Pleasant Company" on the back of the doll to find out if it was an American Girl doll.  Yes, indeed this doll is an American Girl doll complete with an American Girl outfit.  Outfits run between $30 and $40 on their own.

My daughter found a treasure that she is very happy with.  She didn't mind the elbow grease and was very happy to help me.  She has been generous and is sharing it with her sister.

Yard Saling is fun because you never know what you're going to find.  My daughter definitely learned that yesterday.

I am thankful for this blessing for her, but I am even more thankful to see how she is sharing it and how she is simply excited about it rather than bragging about it.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Ah, Paint...

When I started painting my daughter' bedroom, we went to Home Depot and picked out a can of lavender paint.  The girls wanted a darker paint and I explained that I always go one shade lighter because it looks darker when you paint a whole room that color.  So, we picked out timeless lilac and went home.

I painted the corner from the previous post, but my oldest daughter didn't like it.  At first, I was frustrated with wasting the money, but then I stepped back and realized that I would hate to paint a room all one color and then dislike it (like we had disliked the peach on their walls for 2 1/2 years).  So, I headed to the store and bought 1 gallon of a darker shade of purple and took it home.

I painted the corner over (it's the color in the previous post) and both girls liked it better.

Yay.  That's good.

I didn't know what to do with the lighter gallon, but I knew I needed to prime the room, so I decided to use it as primer for the room.

I went to town and painted all four walls.  But, then something strange happened.

They loved it.  I loved it too.  None of us wanted to go with the darker purple.  So, I headed back to Home Depot and got a second gallon of the lighter purple.

I know a lot of people who get the $3 samples from Home Depot and Lowe's.  When you're not sure about colors, this really can save you a lot of money.  After painting every room in three different houses, I felt pretty sure about the paint colors, so I didn't go this route.  But, it left me stuck with a $22 gallon of paint.

Ugh.  But, the best part of this story is that it's not actually going to go to waste.

I mentioned the paint story to one of my dearest friends and her reply was, "I'll buy that paint from you!  I loved it and had been looking for just that shade.".  Really?  My reply was to just give it to her.  I was so glad I could do this because she's taken care of my kids for me several times because she loves them and so I had wanted to do something for her.

I'm glad it all turned out.  But, I'm also glad that I painted the whole room in the lighter color first!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Repurposing and Simplifying

I had several projects I wanted to tackle this summer.  4 closets to paint and 2 bedrooms.  Plus 1 kitchen ceiling.  The closets are done and primer is on the kitchen ceiling, but I'm waiting a few more days to put the paint on because my arm's been in some pain.  


In order to start painting my girls' room, we needed to rearrange the room first.  The girls and I brainstormed where we could the beds.  A friend of my mom's gave me a piece of furniture for my room, so I was able to move a wood colored 8 cube organizer from my room to our schoolroom/den and a white 8 cube organizer to my girls' room.  Then, we removed two enormous bookcases that we had in the girls' room.  We moved their beds and dressers to different spots in the room.  We moved their games.  In order to get rid of the two book shelves, the girls also had to get rid of some stuff.  But, it was okay.  

I sat scrubbing a large sticker off Autumn's bed, while I gave them instructions about how to move things out of the way and go through the process of moving furniture and reorganizing their stuff.  They worked.  Hard. At the end of the day, they were very tired.  But, they were happy with the changes and the results of their efforts.

Now, the room is divided more.  The girls have more space.  We made all these changes without spending any money.  But, Sami needed a nightstand and a lamp because she likes a nightlight and Autumn doesn't. Their beds are farther apart now so it makes it easier for Autumn to shield herself from the light.  

I told Sami we'd look for these things at a garage sale.  But, I went into our school room and found a little table that would work.  I moved one of the desk lamps into Eli's room for his nightlight and then the light in his room (which was more girlish) into hers.  Yay!  Repurposed furniture that didn't cost me anything!  

The only thing I spent money on was some lower watt light bulbs from Home Depot to make the lights give off less light.  


The paint costs money of course and so I had to spend money on that.  But, that's a lot less for a remodeled room than if I'd had to buy some furniture too.  So, I'm very thankful.  

A friend of mine shared with me that she and her husband were waiting longer to purchase new things when something breaks.  They'd made a resolution, or pact, that they would do this.  It gives them time to think about it and figure out what they really want.  I think there are other reasons as well.

My husband and I recently resolved to try and purchase things in stores instead of online whenever possible.  This has had the effect on me of shopping less online and I'm glad for it.  Unfortunately, many of the things I shop for (like homeschooling curriculum) are easiest for me to shop for online, so I can't do that for everything.  But, having to go to the store makes me choose whether or not I really need to get something--whether or not I really have time to go to the store.  It also gives me more time to figure out if I have something else that will work. 

But, there's something else that happens when I wait.  I've realized that it's good to do without for a time.  We live in a society where we can literally have everything now or the next day.  It's kind of amazing and crazy at the same time.  It can easily make us feel like we should have everything we want now--because we can.  When we do without for a time (and the longer the better in some ways), we are so much more appreciative when we receive what we were wanting.

This is the case with my silverware drawer.  When we moved in 2 1/2 years ago, there was a built in organizer in the drawer.  But, it turned out to be extremely annoying.  It constantly slipped and the silverware would get stuck.  I finally came to the conclusion a month ago that I needed to put an insert into the drawer.  Most inserts though don't use all the space in the drawer.  I didn't have time to look for one, so I let it be.  But, then two weeks ago, I came across an adjustable insert at a garage sale.  The gal and I settled on a price of a dollar and I brought it home to clean it thoroughly. After the cleaning, it looked and smelled like new.  Two weeks later, my family and I are still making comments about it when we open the drawer.  We are so thankful for how this little thing makes dealing with our silverware easier to find and put away.  It's also been a good lesson for me.  

I am so glad that the simple changes the girls and I made to their room brought them so much joy and peace.  There is a peace that comes with simplifying.  

But, there was one other thing that struck me in the process of getting rid of these two large bookcases.  The room feels much more open now and my daughters have more room to play.  But, my friend Amy told me an interesting thing that she learned about museums.  In art museums, there are a few things on a wall, not many.  If there were many, it would be hard to focus on each one and really enjoy the ones that were there.  Simplifying helps us to enjoy what we have more.  Taking the big bookcases out and having less in my girls room is helping them enjoy their room more and I am so glad.  

Now, I need to paint it...

So, that's my project for today.

That subject I never thought I'd post about...

I'm a mom.  I've had three kids.  I've now reached the milestone of 40!  40!  What I noticed after each of my three children (sorry for this detail) was that my body changed.  I had to get new jeans after each of my children.  The funny part was that they were the same size.  But, different.  I was very thankful for garage sales!  I've talked to a lot of moms and they went through the same thing I did.  One of my friends had warned me before I had my first child that I should expect always to be one size larger than I was before having children.  In my case, she was right and I appreciated the warning.  

Over the past ten years, I've put myself second.  That's what we do as moms.  We learn to love unselfishly.  We purchase what others need first and save on ourselves where we can.  This is a good thing.  I get such joy from getting my children the things they need.  They are taken care of.  I, like many wives, go shopping for my husband's clothes.  He needs to dress a certain way for work, which has changed over the years depending on the position he's been in at work.  So, that's my family.  

Then, there's me.  It's tricky to take three kids with you to go clothes shopping.  Really tricky.  What's even trickier is to go shopping for undergarments.  Which brings to me what I learned this week and want to share delicately.

A week and a half ago, I went to the O/B for my check up and she suggested that I go to Victoria's Secret to be fitted, because she explained that many women experience pain when their bras are not fitted correctly.  Really???  I am really conservative and Victoria's Secret has a certain reputation.  I hate their advertising and message.  But...  the idea came back to me when I had 45 minutes to myself after an appointment on Tuesday (which I rarely have).  I went to the store to be fitted and I want to share a few things I learned, because I think I have a lot of friends like me who would never go there.

I'm glad I went.

I learned that I was a completely different size than I thought I was.  
I learned that when you buy a bra, you want it to be on the loosest clasp, because it will stretch out over time and you will need to tighten it up.
I learned that the fit should be tighter than I thought it should be.
I learned that loosening the straps makes more of a difference in the fit than I thought it would.

The salesgal gave me a card with the styles that fit me best and were the most comfortable.  I found three basics which ranged in price from $42-$48 each.  This was hard for me to stomach, but then I went over to the clearance area and another salesgal found two that were in those styles (with garish prints) but were only $20 each.  

I am more comfortable now.  I feel more put together.  It may sound silly, but this summer I have found the clothes I needed at garage sales.  A pair of shorts for 50 cents at one and a huge bag of clothes for $15 at another... I got several pairs of pants and capris.  Some fun shirts.  But, I needed to go to this one store and get what I needed.  

But, I wanted to share this piece of advice that I didn't know before I went.  I was talking with a friend yesterday who said she went there once years ago.  They took her address information and it's been impossible to get off the mailing list.  So, this is my advice.  1) don't agree to give them your email (although that's easy to unsubscribe to and block as spam via email).  2) Pay in cash.  Don't given them any of your address information in any form.  Because I didn't do this, I'm going to have to make sure that I get the mail and not my kids or my husband so that I can throw any catalogs that arrive away.  

It used to be that there were other stores that provided the same fitting service, but there really aren't any others anymore that I know of.  In any case, I wanted to share this post in case it might be helpful to anyone.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mongolian BBQ Asian Sauce Recipe

Last month, we went to Pei Wei with our kids.  We are so glad Pei Wei finally came to an area even close to us.  When one of our orders was brought out after everyone else was done, they brought out an extra Teriyaki Chicken.  Or what I thought was teriyaki chicken.

The next time we went to Pei Wei we ordered Teriyaki Chicken expecting what we got the time before.  Nope!  It was good, but different.  I asked one of the servers and tried to describe the chicken we'd had the time before.  She identified that chicken as probably the Mongolian chicken and gave us a sample of the sauce.  

Yes!  It was Mongolian sauce.  It was so good!

So, last night as I made salmon, rice, asparagus, and cauliflower for our dinner, I decided to try and make some Mongolian BBQ sauce for our dinner.  I found a super-easy and quick recipe HERE.  

I modified the recipe (of course, since I can't seem to leave recipes alone) by putting the oil, ginger, and garlic in a 4 cup pyrex measuring cup.  I needed my burners and didn't want to have to watch the sauce too.
1 1/2 - 2 tsp. canola oil--I actually think that sesame oil would be a good substitution if you wanted to give the sauce more kick.
1/2 tsp ginger powder (next time I'm going to mince ginger and see how it changes the sauce)
2 - 2 1/2 tsp. minced garlic (add more to taste up to 3 tsp.)  Garlic can make things spicy for kids and I didn't want to make it too garlicky, which is difficult to fix once done.  
I microwaved it for 30 seconds and then stirred.  Then, I added the remaining ingredients.  

1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup brown sugar
I stirred everything together with a fork and then I microwaved it for intervals of 3 minutes at a time, checking after each interval until the sauce got to the thickness I wanted it to be.  I have to admit that I ran out of time and had to accept it at the thickness it got too because the rest of the dinner was ready. But, I'm sure it would have thickened with just a few more minutes.  

Once on the table and on my children's plates, it was love at first bite. 

Autumn: Mommy, this is so good!

Yes, I agree.  It was so good, unexpectedly good...

Friday, June 20, 2014

Panko vs. bread crumbs

A few weeks ago as I was cooking, I considered the panko bread crumbs I was using.  My food budget had been a lot higher than I'd wanted the month before.  It didn't feel like I bought anything too crazy that month, but I could see some of the changes I should make and one of them was the Panko crumbs.

Here's what I've noticed about myself...

1.  Trips to Trader Joe's throw everything out of whack.  When I walk into the store, I walk out with an expensive trip (even if my cart wasn't full).  Costco (and BJs)... another expensive trip. I'm trying to minimize these trips.  Even if I don't use them that often, I find that the memberships are still worth it.

2.  Little things can add up.  Saying no to my kids and myself is a habit I do have, but I have to remind myself not to let go of.

3.  Aldi makes life simpler.  It just does.  I don't have to clip coupons to get a good price.  There's less selection, but it's enough.  My trips are shorter and more profitable.  I focus on staples, dairy, and fruit and veggies when I go there.  I don't get my meat there, but instead make bi-weekly trips to Wegmans for meat.

4.  Little trips to the grocery store do add up.  It's easier to add on one or two items here or there which ends up adding up!

1.  Shop coffee sales online at World Market (used to be called Cost Plus).  The closest store to us is an hour and a half away, but they carry a decaf dark roast whole bean coffee and several caffeinated whole bean coffees.  They regularly run coupons if you get on their email list.  Between my birthday coupon for $10 off a purchase and a 10% off coupon I had (usually you can only use 1 code per purchase, with the exception of the birthday code or a $10 coupon you earn with their World Explorer program).  The coffee was on sale that week for $8 for 24 oz. (1 1/2 lb.) and the shipping to my house was $8.  Considering the gas for me to get to Costco costs me $10 per trip, I came out ahead.  I bought 4 bags = 6 lb. of coffee for $24 with all of my coupons and I saved by not heading into Costco and making any other big purchases.

2.  I don't have to feel guilty about my Costco membership (where we get our dog food) and our BJs membership (which is 20 miles closer and I can get the bulk things I need when I can't get to Costco).  On Tuesday, my kids and I headed to BJ's because my husband ran out of his generic zyrtec. I headed to Target to fill in the gap until I could get to BJ's, but discovered that 14 tablets cost $5.  At BJ's, 365 tablets cost $15.  I couldn't bring myself to do it.  30 tablets were $13 at Target, so at that rate, 365 tablets would have cost us $166.  Wow!  We didn't buy any, but instead made a spur of the moment trip to BJs.

3. Although Panko bread crumbs are much less expensive when you buy them in the big double box that Wegmans and BJs both carry now, it is still cheaper for me to use real bread crumbs for when I bread chicken, because I use the ends of my breads and bread that we aren't able to eat up for the bread crumbs.  It's an ingredient that isn't that expensive, but the almost free ones I make with my food processor are even less expensive.

Being wise with my food budget is something I think about a lot, but I know that I have to figure out what is doable for me and what isn't.  I've found that at different times in my life, I have been able to tackle different things than I can now.  My solutions to our food budget have been different... shopping by ads, farmers markets, different times given my family's life circumstances.  I find that there is no one right answer that has worked for me over the course of the past ten years.

On a final note, though, the one strategy for saving money on food that I have shied away from that is very popular right now is using apps on one's phone.  I am skittish about it because whenever anyone installs an app on their smart phone, they give the company providing that app access to information on that phone.  This may seem benign, but as the victim of identity theft, I get very concerned about who I give access to what on my smart phone.  In the case of ShopRite, there is an app.  But, you can also go to their website and load the electronic coupons on your shoppers club card instead.  With other stores, I know this option isn't available.  The value of these electronic apps is different for everyone and I have a lot of friends who have saved a lot of money using them.  Frankly, I'm just scared, so for now I'm going to watch and see how they turn out.  Here's a link to an article I heard online last week on NPR: LINK.  It gave me some food for thought.

Friday, June 6, 2014

One window at a time...

This morning I woke up and opened up the windows in the living room, kitchen, and school room.  Then, I made my way back to my bedroom and opened up a window there as well.  It may seem like a little thing to open up a window, but we didn't realize that we couldn't open the windows when we bought this house 2 1/2 years ago.  They wouldn't open.  (Our home inspector somehow missed that.)

A year ago, I found the screens for the windows in the kitchen and figured out how to open them.  Then, last fall, we replaced the windows in our school room and then the bedroom windows this spring.  

Fresh air may seem like a little thing, but it isn't to me anymore.  I am thankful for it.  So thankful.  

But, I fear that sometime I may not be as thankful for the fresh air.  What I find is that when I can't have something or when it is missing, I appreciate it more when it returns...

...whether it is my health after being sick.

...or time with my kids after a very busy period.

...or pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving since I haven't eaten one since the celebration a year before.

...or the warmth of spring after the deep cold of winter.

I hope the Lord will always help me remember the blessing of fresh air.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Shopping for Eyeglasses... again

I think I am thankful that my kids only have to get eyeglasses once a year.  Last year, I purchased two pairs for one of my daughters and one pair for my son at Walmart.  I have taken them to the eye doctor at the local Walmart for five years.  It's covered by our insurance and he's very knowledgeable.  So, the eye exam part of it is very simple.  Picking out eyeglasses, though, can be much more frustrating.

Last year, I looked at Walmart and Costco for glasses for my children.  I started at Walmart and looked around.  Then, I headed down to Costco with three children in tow.  The lady at the counter was so unhelpful and I was frazzled, so I quickly left.  I headed back to Walmart and picked out glasses--two pairs for my middle daughter and 1 pair for my son.  Walmart doesn't carry many really small glasses.  So, I only got one pair and resolved to find another pair somewhere else.

I bought a second pair from JCPenny Optical and that was a horrible experience.  The price was as low as it could be--$25.  But, even the smallest pair was bigger than the pair I'd found for him at Walmart.  Still, the reason it was a horrible experience was because we didn't get any help.  They also put the glasses in a soft case (so you'd have to spend extra money on a hard case anyways).  I didn't mind when Eli ended up losing the glasses from Penney's withing a month.  But, that did mean that I needed another spare pair for Eli, so I headed to a Walmart that was closer to where I lived.

I ended up with a more expensive frame and the price climbed for his glasses from $39 to $78.  Surprisingly, it was the $78 glasses that came apart four times this year.  But, because it was a screw, I simply had to go back in over and over to get it fixed.  Time.  The store workers gave my son as the cause for the problem, though, the screws in his other glasses never came out.

At the end of it all, I did not look forward to trying to find new glasses again this year.  I knew I needed to do it differently.

We started with the exams.  I have found that my children's eyesight has changed every year.  I start getting their eyes checked at 4 years old.  Children's eyesight does continue to develop until they are 8 years old, so optometrists expect changes during this time and won't (shouldn't) automatically prescribe glasses even if a child doesn't have 20/20 vision.  This year, I found that my oldest daughter needed glasses to wear all the time.  She's the same age that I was when I started  wearing glasses all day, every day.  Additionally, my middle daughter's eyes changed and she needed new glasses, but my son's stayed the same.  So, we needed to make the rounds and find new eyeglasses...

We started with Walmart.  But, the girls didn't find ones they liked.  Both my husband I remembered times when we were kids when we felt very self-conscious about our glasses.  We want them to have glasses that are flattering and that they like.  After we left Walmart, I realized that I needed to talk with my daughters before we looked any farther.  What I said to my oldest daughter was that I wanted to find glasses that both she liked and I liked.  I wanted glasses for her that would flatter her face.  When I was a kid, knowing what looked nice on me didn't naturally occur to me.  And my daughters are the same way.  I try to give them broad guidelines and then freedom within those guidelines.

After Walmart, we checked out America's Best Value, since a friend had recommended it to me last year.  I discovered that they have a good selection of really small frames for children under 5 who need glasses at really cheap prices.  But, when we walked into the store near us, three employees were sitting gabbing away and they never offered to help us.  Whether I am willing to purchase glasses from a store is now dependent on whether someone is willing to help us (after our experience with Penney's last year).  There also weren't many frames in my ten year old's size which is what we were primarily looking for.  So, we moved on.

For Autumn, we ended up at a small optical boutique near our home, Holloway, that had some girl frames that weren't too young, nor too tweenish.  They were more expensive, but my oldest daughter loves them.  We did spend the money to get her good lenses that don't distort your eyes when someone looks at you.  There isn't a reflection or a rainbow effect.

One pair down, two to go (one pair of sunglasses for my oldest daughter and one pair of distance glasses for my middle daughter).  

Next, we tried our local mall and Visionworks.  Their glasses are ready in a few hours (or up to a day later in the case of polarized sunglasses).  The saleslady was helpful and patient with us, but didn't know a lot about what constituted a proper fit of glasses on a child.  I realized that for my own sanity, I needed to help one daughter at a time, so I started with Sami.  We found her a cute pair of glasses and that was done.  Then, I turned my attention to Autumn's sunglasses.  That was tough.  After a long search, we settled on some plastic purple frames.  Looking for glasses may take a short time if you're lucky, but I'm realizing that I need to always make sure to allow for time when shopping for glasses with my children so that I don't get stressed and impatient with my children.  I tend to squeeze things into my schedule and when it comes to glasses... it's wise for my kids and me if I allow more time for such shopping trips!

(On a side note, Visionworks does carry the flexon frames for boys with bendy arms.  So, if you're looking for them, you can find them there.  They don't make them in girl colors, though.)

Buying glasses for kids just isn't easy.  I find that as a parent, I'm constantly figuring out how to make things manageable for myself.  I managed things better this year than last.  I am hoping that next year will be easier than this one!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Thoughts on HGTV

It's very interesting to me that HGTV shows and others in that "home improvement" genre have been super popular in the last few years.  These shows make everything look so... so... well, doable!  

But, are they really??

We don't have cable television, so I don't watch a lot of shows on HGTV, but it is always on at the doctor's office where I had my lasik surgery done.  So, before one of my pre-op appointments I had the opportunity to watch one of the shows in which a man and woman team up to help a couple do some updates that will essentially redecorate their home and sell it.  

I watched as they recommended repainting the living room and removing some very obnoxious plaster sculptures that were permanently adhered to the walls (which had been there when they purchased the home).  Then, I watched as the woman brought the wife out on the patio to refinish a table with a dark stain.  
This was where the show and me did not see eye to eye and where the light bulb went on in my head.  

When I've watched these shows in the past, I've always known that the shows want you to buy into the story they're telling you.  I have no idea how much truth is actually in the stories.  But, on this particular day, there was a big glaring problem with the story the show was telling.

The wife, who was helping stain the table was in a black shirt--and perfectly white shorts... he he he.  Who stains anything in good clothes?  NO ONE!  Who stains something without getting something on them?  Almost no one.  Who would ever, ever stain something with white shorts on?  NO ONE!  

At this point in the show, I just burst out laughing.  I pointed out the problem with the show and she completely agreed with me.  

I don't think I'll ever look at these shows the same way again.  

Are many of the projects doable?  Yes.  I've done a lot of the remodeling I often see on these shows.  Does it always come out as perfectly as it does on the shows?  Of course not!  

Why am I even writing all of this down?  

Because this show reminded me to have realistic expectations of myself and projects that I tackle.  I know things may not come out perfectly the first time.  I know I may have to start over.  But, that's okay.  Because unlike the shows where everything looks easy to do and perfect the first try, life doesn't really work that way.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Family Memories

This morning at the next to last garage sale my children and I stopped at was a lady with a few cookbooks to sell.  I picked up one with some fun pictures of cupcakes.  Starting conversations at garage sales is one of the things I particularly enjoy doing, so I asked the cookbook woman what her favorite cookbook was.  She explained that her favorite cookbook is the one that her mom gave her.  

It is a cookbook with handwritten copies of the recipes from her family.  Some of the recipes are in her grandmother's handwriting--a particular treasure to her.  She recently found the letter her grandmother had written her the Thanksgiving she was cooking the family turkey.  It even had a note about being careful not to let her son near the oven so he wouldn't get burned.  

I have a friend who loves dishes in the same way that this woman loves her hand me down cookbook.  Her grandmother's dishes are precious to her.  I know that when her children are grown, they will remember her dishes and remember that their mother loved them.  Which leads me to my garage sale find of this morning...

A set of dishes.  They actually looked worse than this picture.  But, I recognized them right away.  Pfaltzgraff Gazebo.  I bought a set of Pfaltzgraff Gazebo 21 years ago.  They have moved with me twelve times and have been in six states.  They have been so durable and have lasted so well for me.  But, I had 8 place settings when I started out.  Now, I have 7 large plates (1 was broken last year).  And 3 bowls have been broken over the years. Pfaltzgraff stopped making them years ago and replacements would be crazy expensive.  So, I've never tried to add on.  It would be less expensive to buy new sets of dishes...
So, I was cautiously excited to find these.  There were 2 boxes.  The dishes looked horrible!  I still have no idea how they were taken care of to end up the way they looked this morning.  But, I was willing to take a chance and see if I could fix them.  The price was $1.50, so I wasn't going to lose that much if I couldn't clean any of them.  I brought them home and pulled out the stoneware cleaner I'd bought years ago from Pfaltzgraff.

It did nothing.  Nada.  Zero.  Zilch.  Ugh.

Then, I thought of Bar Keeper's Friend and pulled it out from under my sink.  I don't keep a lot of cleaners on hand. (and I threw one more away today!)  Bar Keeper's Friend is one I like.  It's inexpensive and does an awesome job cleaning stainless steel pans!  Porcelain and Ceramic are two of the things it can clean.  So, I sat down and got to work.  A damp rag and Bar Keeper's Spread sprinkled all over the plate.  I was only able to clean two dishes at a time because of all of the elbow grease it took.  But, it was worth it!  Now, I have 13 big dishes, 16 small salad plates, 8 bowls, and 16 coffee cups.  

As I cleaned these dishes, I realized that someday when my children are grown, they will remember eating on these white dishes.  These will be dishes like my friend's grandmother's dishes.  Perhaps they will be special because they were mine.  I know they are white, but they are special to me.  They've traveled with me and persevered with me.  They've lasted.  

Rabbit trail... Eli broke one a few weeks ago, and I have to admit that I was upset that he had broken one of "my" dishes. Sometimes I say things and I just know immediately that it was wrong.  This was one of those times.  In this case, my thinking was very self-centered.  Yes, he broke a dish, but it was one of our family dishes--not one of my dishes.
After I'd cleaned up all the shards and had time to think, I saw my error clearly.  The dishes could have been considered mine, I suppose, but what I was really saying to my son in that moment was that he had done something to hurt me intentionally.  I was saying, "How could you?!"  This was totally not true.  He hadn't intended to drop the dish.  But, by using the words that I used, I said to him that I thought he had.  That was my greatest error.  The heart of the matter was that I needed to see it as an accident and that it was more about my son than me.  I then showed him what to do with dishes when they came out of the microwave and instructed him.

Another rabbit trail...
Still, they're just dishes.  Yes, they're a treasure and they make me smile because they come from a time when I had nothing, but I spent $30 on a set of dishes that I hoped would last a very long time.  Still, they're just dishes.

It's the memory that's more precious.  The dishes are reminders of meals I've made.  Eating as a family.  Serving meals to guests.  Memories are more precious than things.  I'd rather Eli remember the dishes as the ones we ate on than the one he broke!  I suspect that someday he'll probably remember both...

Friday, May 9, 2014


I've gone garage saling three times so far this spring.  When I came home last Saturday, my husband cautioned me to really think about what we need vs. what we want.  Every once in a while, I purchase something that doesn't work out.  It's part of the risks that come with garage saling.  Over all, it doesn't end up being that much, but it does happen.  I try to inspect things closely, but it's surprising how often people wittingly and unwittingly will sell you something that doesn't work at their own garage sale. 

A few weeks ago, I pointed out to a man that there was crack in the bottom of a container he was trying to sell.  It was a BIG crack.  I did end up buying a boombox at that sale and thought I'd looked closely at it.  Turns out it was missing the volume knob!  I missed it!  I felt bad.  My mom set the volume to what she normally listens to and it's still useable, but I felt foolish.  The same Saturday morning, I bought a bread maker for a friend.  I looked at it and bargained with the lady for the price to be $3 instead of $5.  I'm glad I did.  It only made 1 loaf of bread for my friend before quitting.  At the same sale, I looked at a teapot that seemed to have some rust inside.  I questioned the folks at the sale and the lady commented to me after a few minutes to stop giving her a hard time.  I didn't think I was, but I was concerned and couldn't make up my own mind.  I didn't get it.  Two big clues that I shouldn't have bought things at those two yard sales.  

But, I've had pretty good luck on the whole this year (two nice dresses for me, a rug for my girls' room, several cds for my husband, a pack 'n play for a friend, a roasting pan with a lid, a pasta maker for another friend...).  Still, my husband's advice is wise for me to heed.  I can call him if I have questions and need a second opinion.  I need to remember I have a smart phone!  

The idea of having enough is an important one, I've realized and it has a lot of applications in my life.  Someone asked me this week if we could add on to our house.  We could refinish part of our basement eventually, but that would involve a lot of work and expense.  Since deciding in February that we weren't going to move, I've felt convicted to strive to be content with our home and our yard.  Our yard is on the small size, but our kids make the most of it.  More importantly, it is enough for me to take care of.  There is enough room for flowers and a garden and for them to play.  I went through my basement last week and did a big purge.  Now, I feel comfortable down there again when I go to look for things.  

I've come to believe that making things stretch is as much about finding ways to save money as it is about not spending in the first place and seeking contentment.  I haven't posted many things lately about ways I've found to save money.  My mind hasn't been on it.  I've been dealing with a lot of life stuff.  But, I've also been thinking about not spending when I go to a store.  I've really wanted to buy a few new plants at Home Depot, but I've put it off.  I have some seeds for perennial flowers and I'm going to plant them instead.  We had a late frost after I'd put 6 plants in my garden and yard--and I didn't protect my plants. (I have to admit that I was tired that day and a bit lazy! ;) )  I wondered if they would die.  2 had no damage because they were in sheltered spots.  The other 4 did experience some damage, but they're coming back from it.  I'm thankful.  I didn't want to spend more money on plants.  

But, for me, it all comes back to the word: "enough".  God knows what we need.  He is so generous and I need to always remember that and remind myself of that truth.  Having "enough" and not "too much" should be what I consider important.

There is a twisting that can come with "enough" though.  The thinking can follow the lines of "just 1 more will be--enough".  Enough starts with what one already has, I think, and carefully considering whether 1 more is actually a need or a want.  I find I have to be very careful--especially when it comes to garage saling.  Many items are very inexpensive, so it's easy to get "just 1 more".  But, I just went through my craft supplies last week to organize them and I became very aware that I don't need any "just 1 more"s.  It's good to know what you have and make sure you're using it before purchasing 1 more.  

My kids wanted to sew and it frazzled me because over the past 2 years my crafts supplies had ended up in multiple spots.  They weren't labeled or organized.  So, we pulled everything out and organized it.  I labeled every bin.  I want to make sure we use what he have and I don't end up with two 18 year old girls and tons of craft supplies never used!  The point of having something isn't to hold onto it and let it sit, but rather to use it and enjoy it.  As soon as it was all labeled, the kids and I sat down to to do a sewing project (it's from the book Sewing School).  Here's Sami's stuffie:

My goal this spring is do more instead of buying more.  It felt good to do this project.  It felt good to use what I had and teach my children how to sew.  

So, those are my thoughts this morning.  Rambling, jumbled, meandering... as usual!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Enough already!

Recently, I wrote a review for the Dell laptop that we bought from Dell.  I have blogged about what a bad experience the purchase was.  I posted a review of it on Amazon.  I have gotten comment after comment criticizing my review and saying it was silly.  This is interesting to me.  Why did people take issue with my review?  Mostly because they misread it, I think.

Here's the review:
"We bought ours directly from DELL (DON'T ever do that! It's a mess!!!). This computer has already been frustrating to me and we've only had it a week. The i3 processor is so much slower than the i5 processor that is on my mother in law's laptop that we paid the same amount for. I wouldn't recommend it. It locked up on me the very first day I started using it. We're using this computer for our elementary age children--to learn to type and do kid-safe internet research via kidrex(dot)org. But, this computer really is much slower than I expected it to be. For the same price, we purchased a Toshiba laptop for my mother in law with more memory and an i5 processor. She's VERY happy with it. We, on the other hand, would not recommend this computer--which costs the same amount of money.

I don't even want to think about having to deal with Dell customer service if my computer breaks... ugh.... Go with another brand and stay away from Dell. Several computer folks who work at different stores have all confirmed that something happened at Dell in the past two years and they are now very difficult to deal with. So, save yourself some frustration and don't get this computer. Unfortunately, we're going to be stuck with it until it dies..."

In response, one commenter said my review was "silly" and "plain dumb" and that my review was written because I simply don't know what I'm doing.

Hmm.  I have been using computers for over 20 years and I have been blogging for five.  I'm not a computer expert, but I am very capable of using a computer and solving a lot of issues that I've run across over the years while using them.

After 4 comments about my review, I wrote this comment today:

"This is just silly.  These comments keep commenting about my note about my desktop and this laptop that we purchased.  I just deleted it, because it wasn't relevant.  This computer is slow, period.  We bought a laptop--A LAPTOP! with an i5 processor for about the same price for my mother in law and she has NO complaints about it or about the speed of her computer.  WE, on the other hand, have experienced much frustration. That's why all of us--me, you, and everyone else that posts on Amazon-- write reviews.  We are sharing our opinions based on our knowledge and our experience with the things we own.  We hope that it will be helpful to someone else and that it will save them the hassle and frustration that we have experienced with products we have owned or currently own.  I own this computer and am frustrated with it.  On top of that, we had a HORRIBLE, ABSOLUTELY HORRIBLE time dealing with DELL.  I can't emphasize that enough.  

On a completely different side note... it used to be true that laptops were always more expensive than desktops.  But, this really isn't always true anymore.  Based on the three computers we've already purchased in the past year, that hasn't definitely hasn't been true for us. And yes, I am comparing comparable products or at the very least similar ones!"

Originally, I had included a note in my review about our desktop, which also has an i5 processor in it.  I deleted it today because the people commenting were missing the fact that I was comparing two laptops with different processors that were about the same price.  As I looked back, only one of the comments was truly insulting and I am thankful for that.

I often explain to people why I don't state my full name on this blog or on Amazon and why I am not a part of Google +.  It is because of stuff like this.  This is mild, actually.  There have been times when people have written really rude and even harshly mean comments on reviews I've written.  I have read and reviewed a few books on which people have varied polarized opinions and it seems to get people's tempers flaring. Unfortunately, people just say whatever they want to without filters sometimes on the internet.

When I write comments on other people's reviews, I keep this in mind.  Being constructive is one thing, being insulting is another.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Thoughts on Lasik...

A month ago, I had Lasik surgery.  It was very unexpected for me.  My husband sprang it on me and asked me to make an appointment.  So, I did.  It's a good thing it came on all of a sudden.  Otherwise, I would have chickened out.

I learned that some Lasik doctors charge for the consultation and others don't.  I made an appointment with one that didn't charge because I didn't want to waste a hundred dollars if I wasn't a candidate at all. I didn't know anything about Lasik going into this.  I knew a few people that had had the surgery, but that was it.

I learned a few interesting things...
1) If you're under 40 years old, you're a better candidate.  Your eye muscles are stronger and you likely won't have bifocals.  If you have bifocals, you probably won't want lasik.
2) If you have a thick cornea, you can have Lasik surgery done, if it's thinner, you can get PRK surgery, but the recovery takes a lot longer.
3) If you have allergies, don't get Lasik done in the spring.  I don't have allergies and I am very thankful.  A friend pointed this out to me this week that she is constantly rubbing her eyes because of her allergies in the spring.
4) You can't rub your eyes for a year.  So, if you are in the habit of rubbing them, you'll want to break that habit before the surgery.  I've woken several times in the night and freaked out when I realized that one of my hands was about to touch one of my eyes.  Ugh.  
5) If you have dry eyes, Lasik can make that worse.  For the first month after surgery, you have to follow a strict regimen of eye drops and keep them moist.  I'm past the 30 day mark, but I've still been using drops 3-4 times a day right now.  When my eyes are dry, it feels like I need to take my contacts out... except I can't.
6) I looked online before my consult to find out what a reasonable price for the surgery is.  The articles I read said that you don't want to pay less than $2000 per eye.  The two offices I inquired of were priced at $4500 and $5400-5700 (depending on the surgery).
7) After surgery, you are always supposed to wear sunglasses when outside (especially for the first 30 days after surgery).  I know many people who've had the surgery who don't wear sunglasses though after a lot of time has passed.
8) After surgery, use preservative-free eye drops for moisture drops.  There's a specific type of Refresh drops that Lasik patients use.  I tried the Systane Ultra drops, Refresh, Refresh drops in a bottle, and Target's generic of the Refresh preservative-free drops.  Verdict?  I like the Refresh drops best (either in a bottle or one time use disposable containers.  I don't like Target's generic and I don't like the Systane Drops.  I lost over half of my eyelashes because of the Systane drops.  They glumped together on my eyelashes so I had to be very careful getting them off.  You can't get water on your face for 3 days after the surgery and you can't rubber your eyes, so glumping is hard to deal with!  The Systane drops also made my eyes cloudy until they cleared, which is kind of freaky.  The Refresh drops don't cloud my eyes.  The biggest problem with Target's packaging is that the drops come out too fast!  The refresh drops have similar packaging, but you have to turn them upside down and flick them with a finger to get the air to rise to the top so that you can squeeze a drop or two out.  
9) Your prescription needs to have been stable for several years in order to be a good candidate.  The under 40 is also a good guide because your eye muscles are stronger.  I clearly noticed this during the surgery.  I had to stare at the laser for 16 seconds with my right eye and 17 seconds with my left eye.  It was easy with my right eye to stare straight ahead.  I struggled with my left eye.  In that moment, I realized how much stronger my right eye really was.  I prayed that my left eye would stare straight ahead.

I should mention...I didn't really realize how bad things can turn out from the surgery.  There are risks.  I didn't expect to have 20/20 vision after the surgery, though I do.  I do have some night halos, but that is supposed to dissipate in time.  Everyone I know has had positive results from the surgery.  It isn't wise to go into the surgery expecting perfection.  The doctor cautioned me about this.  I realized this afterwards as I puzzled at times about whether I had clear vision or anything was slightly "fuzzy".  I realized that my vision is clear.

My husband felt very strongly that I should get this surgery.  He told me multiple times that God is in control and that I needed to fight my fears by trusting Him.  His providence undergirds everything.  He said that even if something were to go wrong, I could know God was in control.  I am very thankful, though, that the surgery went well.

Anyways, these are my thoughts...