Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Reverse Works for Me Wednesday

I don't get to attend fancy blogging conferences. I don't have a sponsor willing to pay my airfare to cool cities like Nashville. And I know I'm not the only one.

So I want to know, other than attending big conferences - What works for you when it comes to networking with other mom bloggers and increasing your community and influence.

Linked up at We are THAT Family WFMW.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Giveaway: Curly Girl The Handbook

It isn't often that I seek out products to review. I receive enough PR emails that I can typically pick and choose my opportunities. However, when I heard about Curly Girl The Handbook and that an expanded second edition was coming out soon, I contacted the publisher. Much to my delight, they sent me a hot off the presses copy to review along with travel sized samples of 4 Deva Curl hair products. Plus, they offered three more books to giveaway to my readers!

I didn't expect to love the book as much as I do. But from the very beginning, my eyes were inundated with pictures of curly haired women with gorgeous locks. Never in my life can I recall seeing so many people with beautiful, bouncy curls. It was like hair heaven for me.

In the past I've experimented with giving up shampoo. And you've born with me as I shared the results. But I never had staying power. And eventually I decided to add some fun, purple highlights to my hair, so I thought dropping my no-poo routine was out of the question. But Lorraine Massey has brought me back to what I knew was right for my hair.

I actually read this book cover to cover. Even chapter 13 - Guys 'n Curls - and chapter 16 - Chemo Curls (the curls people often develop after chemotherapy). When I was done reading it, all I wanted to do was run upstairs and cleanse my hair! So I did. And let me tell you, it felt odd to skip the sudsy shampoo and to barely rinse out my conditioner. But what I learned is that my halo (what Massey calls the frizz surrounding the face) is just curls waiting to be moisturized. And boy did I moisturize the heck out of them!

A couple of weeks later and I am really enjoying some new love for my curls. My husband prefers my hair curly and now I don't have to worry as much about the halo effect. I discovered that my curls have a name - Corkicelli, which I think makes me sound terribly romantic, similar to a Boticelli girl (who have a slightly different style of curl). But I also have some curls that are different. Who knew one head could have so many different types of curl?!

I do not think I will ever go back to my old routine of cleaning and styling my hair. I did find that L'oreal and CVS both have a line of sulfate free shampoo that, for me, worked as well as the Deva Curl products. Though they didn't smell as lovely. The DevaCurl products have herbal and botanical infusions and smell great. I really liked the spray-in conditioning product that can be used to refresh my curls if I go a couple of days between washings (which I do).

Now for the giveaway! I have 1 deluxe giveaway which includes a brand new copy of Curly Girl with instructional DVD and a 4-pack travel set of DevaCurl's most popular products. Two other readers will each win a copy of the book and included DVD.

How to Enter: There are five ways to enter and you can do any of them you like, for up to five entries:

1. Leave a comment describing your hair or just that you want to win,
2. 'Like' Family Musings on Facebook and DevaCurl on Facebook and then leave a 2nd comment with your FB name telling me you did,
3. Subscribe to my RSS feed or subscribe by email, and leave a 3rd comment telling me you did so, or already are subscribed,
4. Link to my giveaway on your own blog, leaving another comment with the permalink to you post, or
5. Follow Family Musings on Twitter and Devacurl on Twitter then tweet this giveaway and leave a 5th comment with the twitter id or permalink. Here's your tweet:

Win a copy of Curly Girl (2nd ed) & @DevaCurl products from @FamilyMusings #giveaway

That's it. 5 ways to win and 1 lucky winner. This giveaway will end Sunday, January 30th at midnight. Read all contest rules here.

FTC Disclosure: I received a book and hair care samples to facilitate my review.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I Might Be Crazy

Two days ago I made a big decision. It was a follow-up decision to a commitment I had made last Spring and then broke. 

I decided to spend the next 37 days training for the Disney Princess Half-Marathon

Yes. You read the right. I decided less than 6 weeks before a 13.2 mile race to begin training. 

It all started in the Spring of 2010 when I called my friend Kelly in CA and asked her to do this race with me. She said yes and then promptly registered.

I enrolled in a C25K class, and then dropped out after 8 or 9 weeks because I didn't enjoy running. Which I had already known. (Except for this one strange morning last summer.) Then, I kind of forgot about my promise to Kelly.

Until she posted on FB two days ago that she bought her plane ticket to come to FL and had made arrangements for someone to watch her 6 year old son.


I immediately checked and there was still room to register for the race. It was 94% full (still is as of this morning). I asked my running friends what they thought about my chances of being able to do this. They were overwhelmingly encouraging and one of them even created a training schedule for me to take me to race week. Here it is:

Day 1 - 3 mile
2 - 3 miles
3 - 4 miles
4 - REST
5 - 3 miles
6 - 6 miles
7 - REST
8 - 3 miles
9 - 7 miles
10 - 3 miles
11 - 3 miles
12 - REST
13 - 4 miles
14 - 8 miles
15 - 3 miles
16 - REST
17 - 4 miles
18 - 3 miles
19 - 9 miles
20 - REST
21 - 4 miles
22 - 4 miles
23 - 3 miles
24 - 10 miles
25 - REST
26 - 4 miles
27 - 4 miles
28 - 3 miles
29 - 12 miles
30 - REST
31 - 3 miles
32 - 4 miles
33 - 3 miles
34 - 8 miles
35 - REST
36 - 3 miles
37 - REST
38 - RACE DAY - 13.1 MILES

I started my training yesterday with a 3-mile walk. I do not plan to run this half-marathon. On my first walk, I averaged a 15-minute mile almost exactly, which I'm told is a great starting point.

My plan is to stay super hydrated, walk as fast as I can, and pray for a healthy body that can avoid injury.

What's the craziest thing you've done recently?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Polk County Mom Bloggers

Recently, my local paper, The Ledger, published an article about local mom blogs. I thought I'd take the chance to share them with you here. Not all of these local bloggers were featured in the Ledger article, but they are all worthy of your time. If you are local and know of any other blogging mommas out there, let me know and I'll add them to the list!

The Dearie's Not So Dailies - My friend Amy always has something cute or funny to share on her personal blog, and on her crafting blog (Dearie Designs) she always inspires me to start cutting up paper and gluing it to all sorts of things. She really does have some of the best scrapbooking paper I've ever seen. You will be blessed by either blog.

Rogers Family Update - A family-focused blog that features her 3 littles, including stories about how the rules change when Grandma is in town, creating space for a kid's play room, and her cute New Year's tradition with her babies.

A Flower In The Rain - She's a slow poster, but her daughter Madi is adorable and this mom blogger is a Buzz Mama for Mabel's Labels. I'm a little jealous. ;)

Eat, Drink, & Be Jesus - Ida's blog is a favorite of mine because she is real and because every Monday she posts a lists of things she is grateful for. She is also passionate about all the right things - Bound4Life and Haiti just to name two. She even inspired me to find my inner painter to create the pieces I blogged about here.

Uncharted Waters by Mommy Melee - Current blog topics include the process of getting occupational therapy for her son and watching her children grow up and move on.

Your Mama Reviews by Mommy Melle - a product review site focusing on all sorts of budget friendly products that are useful for families.

2 Boys + 1 Girl = One Crazy Mom -  This mom tries to bring her readers "savings for kids along with meals, snack ideas, craft ideas and anything you may need to know about raising a happy healthy child."

Mom to 3 Busy Boys -  This is the go to site for moms who want to know about free or inexpensive events in and around Lakeland. I always check it a few days before the weekend to see if there are any can't miss events going on.

Polk Penny Pinching -  After experiencing financial trouble when her husband became unemployed in 2009, she turned to the web to learn how to save money locally, and her blog was born! She shares mystery shopping tips, where to find free stuff in Polk County for your birthday, and the coupons that pop on a daily basis to save us all money at the grocery store.

The Way It Is - Want to see 4 cute boys get into some mischievous stuff?  I feel as if I don't need to raise any boys of my own to know what it must be like because Kristen keeps it real.

Ramblings from the Sunshine State - Wendy shares deals, crafts, giveaways, and stories about her kids in this cute mom blog. Make sure you check out her right side bar to see all of the other places on the internet she's been featured.

Publix Coupon Queen - Polk County is where Publix is headquartered so it is only natural that we have a lot of deal bloggers around. But my friend Meagan does more than share grocery store deals, she also posts crafts for kids, helpful homeschool links, and lots of dessert recipes!

I am sure I missed someone! I just hope it isn't someone I know. Oh, and I would have posted more buttons, but only one mama blogger had one I could find!

If you are local and know of any other blogging mommas out there, let me know and I'll add them to the list!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Review: Poo-Pourri

What's the most unpleasant thing you do on a regular (hopefully) basis? What if I told you about something that could make it less unpleasant? Would you want to know?

I thought so! What I am going to tell you about will become a must own item. You'll want one for when you travel, one to keep in your purse, one to give to your father-in-law, even teenagers will want one. This product can help you avoid embarrassment in just about any circumstance. No one will ever have to know the next time you have "tummy-trouble."

It's called Poo-Pourri. And I think it is a must have for every bathroom in the house. We've been using it for a few months and it makes a world of difference in our small home. The basic idea is that your spray a spritz of Poo-Pourri into the toilet bowl before you, ahem, take care of business, and it masks the odor by putting a protective layer of essential oils on the water. All anyone smells is the herbal scent of bergamot, lemongrass, and grapefruit (or other blend depending on which Poo-Pourri item you choose).

There are other combinations of herbal scents depending on which variety you buy. Here are some of the most popular ones:
  1. Poo-Pourri Original
  2. Poo-Pourri Monogram (for fancy, personalized bathrooms & gifts)
  3. Heaven Scent (with white jasmine florals)
  4. Poo-Pourri Jr Lil' Stinker (the one we tried and also use in the toilet)
  5. Pooch-Pourri

I do know that you can find these in some boutique stores using the Poo-Pourri locator, or you can just buy them online.

I had one friend suggest that this would be the perfect thing to pack if you are going to a convention and need to share a room with people who might not be your best friend. If I owned a vacation rental home, I might stock it there as well.

Either way, I do not ever want to run out of this stuff! We've had a 4 ounce bottle since October and it isn't even a third of the way gone. It doesn't take much to make your bathroom smell pleasant when it matters most!

I'm curious, if you were going to give this as a gift, who would you give it too? I won't tell, I promise!

Disclaimer: I received 1 4 ounce bottle of Poo-Pourri Jr. Lil' Stinker to facilitate my review. I did not use it on diapers though, we just use it for the people who are potty trained. :)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Top 10 Posts from 2010

I was looking around at the statistics for my site and thought it would be interesting to share the ten posts that had the most page views in 2010.
  1. Giving Birth  - I suppose everyone loves a good birth story. Or that is how it would seem, but this post is mostly about breastfeeding. I hadn't even given birth to my first daughter yet. And I mentioned Victoria's Secret. So it gets a lot of hits from Google. Nearly 2000 last year alone. Originally published: May 2007
  2. My Legs Hurt - What a good post to be reminded of! My feet are starting to hurt again a lot and I really am doing something about it. Only this time I am NOT pregnant! Originally published: June 2007
  3. I Got Purple Highlights - Some of the search strings that bring people to this post include references to 28 or 30 being too old for purple highlights. I don't think so! Originally published: July 2010
  4. Easy-Peasy Dehydrated Apples - I love that this post gets so much attention. This is one of my favorite things to eat and so many people have been helped by it. Originally published: November 2008
  5. Grace - I bared my soul a little in this post and lots of you responded with love. That is what make the people who read this blog so awesome! Originally published: September 2010
  6. Giveaway: Bake Me A Wish - This post was a part of Birthday Bash and generated a lot of excitement because I was giving away a whole cake! The Birthday Bash posts represent 5 of my tops posts in 2010. Originally published: August 2010
  7. Giveaway: The Sewing Loft - I might have enjoyed this Birthday Bash review the most. Not only do we still use the pretend food often, but I found out about a new to me company on Facebook that makes so many adorable appliques. Originally published: August 2010
  8. Giveaway: Chocomize - No one seemed to mind my chocolate review. :) I wonder if they would do another giveaway for my Mother's Day event. Hmmm... Chocomize, are you listening? Originally published: August 2010
  9. Giveaway: Cake Crystals - These are such an inventive idea its no wonder people loved this giveaway. Plus, this company was founded and run by a mompreneur. What's not to like about that? Originally published: August 2010
  10. Review: Funnix Reading Lessons - I shouldn't really include this one. But I did publish it on January 10th so it kind of fits my list rules. And the number of hits it has already received means it was more popular than all but 8 of my posts in 2010. Originally published: January 2011
  11. Giveaway: Peppers and Pollywogs - Here's one of those Birthday Bash posts again! Lots of people love it when I giveaway stuff. And friends and family, did you know you can enter too? I employ a random number generator to choose winners so thre is no chance you will get preferential treatment. Originally published: August 2010
  12. Mary is Walking - Ahhh... a little Mary love in 2010. I'm glad this made it in the top because I know Mary doesn't get as much blogging love from me as she deserves. At least my readers love her! Originally published - September 2010
  13. Review: Inglesina AVIO Stroller - This review is for a high-end stroller. If I were going to buy one myself, I'd be sure to read every review of it I could find online before making my purcahse! Originally published: December 2010
So what did we learn from this blog review exercise? That overwhelmingly, my review and giveaway posts get the most traffic. So either I need to start writing funnier, more poignant posts to increase the pageviews around here, or, more easily (since I have no talent as a humorist), I'll keep doing what the masses like. (So long as I get to try out some cool stuff!)

And speaking of reviews... I have a ton coming up! I am still working with some PR reps to facilitate a giveaway to go along with some of them. Keep your eyes posted!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

New Recipe: Jennifer's Chicken Croquettes

A long time ago, I made Salmon Croquettes following a recipe from Paula Deen. They came out really good and were a frugal choice for lean times. Well, lean times continue so I began looking for more frugal, yet tasty recipes. After looking at several chicken croquette recipes, I combined what I liked best about all of them, using only what I had on hand. The canned chicken goes on sale BOGO at Publix often enough and the rest of the ingredients are what I consider pantry staples. Except for the red peppers, I picked those up at Big Lots a while back and have been looking for an opportunity to use them.

Our dinner last night was the tasty result of my searching and pantry pilfering. Even Mary ate about 1 1/2 of them, though Charlotte didn't care for the soft texture on the inside.

Jennifer's Chicken Croquettes
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 3 cans chicken, drained (about 3 cups of chicken)
  • 1 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 roasted red peppers (from a jar), diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Melt butter over low heat. Make a roux with flour. Once you have cooked your flour well (so that it doesn't really taste like flour anymore), add the milk and chicken stock. Whisk until your mixture is smooth and creamy then remove from heat to cool.

While you wait for your roux to cool, finely chop your chicken (I used my Pampered Chef chopper and it got the chicken really fine). Put it in a large mixing bowl and add bread crumbs, red peppers, egg, salt, pepper, and onion powder. Mix together then add cooled roux and combine thoroughly.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let chill in the refrigerator for about 2 hours, or until needed. (This is a perfect meal to prep while the littles are napping). Chilling the mixture makes it easier to form into patties later.

Just before dinner time, heat skillet with just enough oil to cover the bottom. While it heats, scoop out equal portions of your chicken mixture (I use an ice cream type scoop). I found it was easiest to drop the scoop into my hand and flatten it with my fingers before placing it in the pan. Let cook a few minutes on each side, until desired browning has been achieved. I let a couple of mine go longer to get some really crispy bits on the edges. Add additional oil as needed.

Drain on cookie rack over a paper towel, then serve.

Alternate ideas - I want to try baking these to see if I can make them a little healthier. And you could replace onion powder with 1 diced, sauteed onion for a more robust flavor and added texture.

Do you have any frugal recipes that use pantry staples?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Free Kaplan Test Prep Books

I didn't plan to write a second post today, but I know so many people who are in school or preparing to go on to graduate school that I absolutely had to share this link to 136 free Kaplan test prep books. (Parents of small kids scroll down, I have a free book for you too!)

I have had a Kindle for a little over the year and use it weekly. I have never paid for a book, ever. Currently there are more than 100 books on my Kindle and I take it just about everywhere I go. It always excites me when I see people sharing links to free Kindle books, but this one, because I know it can help so many people who want to improve their lives by getting more education, gets me really excited!

The free books are test prep and college guides for the following tests - GMAT, SAT, GRE, MCAT, NCLEX-RN, AP, and maybe some more that I missed. I know the AP ones will come in handy at our house and the rest of these will help lots of people since this is the season for testing.

Follow this link to find the free Kaplan test prep books. Then "buy" them. If you don't have a Kindle, that's okay. You can use the free Kindle application to read them. It took me a while to find them, so to save you some time, here are the links to download the Kindle apps based on what kind of device you are using:

Some parents find that thinking about college test prep is too off in their future, and for them, I present The Teachable Moment: Seizing the Instants When Children Learn, by Rebecca Branstetter. This one is probably moving to the top of my Kindle reading list!

 Let me know if you found this helpful. And please spread the word about the free books!

Monogrammed Canvas

One of the gifts I gave to my daughter's caregivers for Christmas last year was a monogrammed canvas. They are easy to make and you end up with a very personalized gift for not much money. You can choose the colors to match the decor in any room - a dining room, college dorm room, child's room. It is highly versatile.

  • 1 8x10 canvas
  • 1 foam brush
  • Bottle of Mod Podge
  • 2 sheets of solid colored 8x11 cardstock for the background
  • 1 sheet of 8x11 cardstock for the monogram (solid or pattered)
To begin, tear your background cardstock into large pieces. Be sure to tear every edge because this is not a project that looks good with straight edges. Roughly layout your pieces on top of the canvas to see if you have enough and like the general shape they make. Once you are happy, gently slide them off so you can put them back in about the same way.

In your favorite word processing software, type the letter of either the first or last name of the recipient and change it to a font that suits your recipient's style and personality. I like to go for simple, yet elegant fonts. Print it as large as you prefer. I want my monogram to fill the canvas as much as possible, so I even make the margins on the page smaller so there is more room for my letter.

Print the letter than cut it out. Lay it down on your monogram color scrap book paper and trace. If you have a double-sided paper, make sure you lay down your letter upside down. This will make sure your letter is right side up when you cut it out of card stock. Alternately, if you have a Cricutor other electronic cutter, just cut your monogram directly out of cardstock.

Prep your canvas by loading a generous amount of Mod Podge on it with your foam brush. Spread it out evenly and then begin by placing your first piece of background paper on it. I prefer to start in a corner and build out from there Once you place the first piece, coat it with another layer of Mod Podge. Repeat with all of the pieces until there is Mod Podge over and under each piece of background card stock.

Next, position your monogram. Sometimes it looks best in the lower left corner, sometimes in the dead center. Use your creative judgment. Once you are happy with the placement, put a layer of Mod Podge on top of he letter.

Let it dry for 10-20 minutes. Then, add 1 more coat of Mod Podge, being sure to seal the edges. This should be a thin layer so you don't see a lot of brush strokes.

Once the entire canvas is dry, wrap it up and watch your friend be delighted with such a personalized gift.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Someone Else's Granola Recipe

I discovered the joy of making your own granola bars this week. And I might be hooked now. The recipe is super easy and highly customizable. I am looking forward to trying lots of different variations of it. Plus, it is highly frugal to make your own granola bars. For the cost of one box at the store I can make this recipe, which gives you any where from 24-30 bars depending on how you cut them.

My friend Kim gave me the recipe, but she got it from someone else. So I'm just calling this Someone Else's Granola Bars. They come out soft and chewy and addictive.

Someone Else's Granola Bars
  1. 4 cups rolled oats
  2. 1 cup whole wheat flour
  3. ¼ cup wheat germ or flax seed (I have used flax meal)
  4. ½ tsp salt
  5. 1 tsp baking soda
  6. ½ cup brown sugar
  7. ½ cup sunflower seeds, pepitas, walnuts, almonds, pecans, etc… any kind of nut.
  8. 1 cup any – craisins, raisins, dried apricots, dried apples, etc…
  9. 2/3 cup peanut butter
  10. 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  11. 1 egg, slightly beaten
  12. ¼ cup water
  13. ½ cup honey, maple syrup or sugar-free syrup (honey is cheaper per ounce)
Combine dry ingredients (first 7 items) in mixer. In separate bowl combine remaining ingredients. Then add wet t dry and mix until it is the consistency of oatmeal cookies. I found that I needed to add an extra tablespoon or two of water to get to that consistency.
Press mixture into 9x13 pan.  They will be sticky so put some oil on your hands before pressing in or just use the back of a silicone spatula. Bake at 325 for 15-20 minutes. Once they cool a little bit (maybe 5-10 minutes) cut into whatever size you like best, bars or squares. I was able to get about 28 bars (plus some scrap to snack on!) or 24 squares from each of the 4 batches I made last night.
To cut on the peanut butter taste or amount of fat, you can substitute ½ of peanut butter with canned pumpkin or applesauce or any fruit puree. I haven't tried this yet, but my friend Karissa said it worked.
Here are some potential flavor combinations:
  • sunflower seeds, pepitas, craisins and apricots;
  • walnuts, apples and cinnamon;
  • pumpkin, walnut and raisins; or
  • mini chocolate chips, cocoa powder, and peanuts.
Have you made homemade granola before? I would like to try new recipes and would love to know yours. Leave it or a link in the comments.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Review: Funnix Reading Lessons

February 1, 2011 EDIT: From now until February 16th, you can once again download Funnix Beginning Reading for free. Take advantage of this offer because when it is over, the price will increase to $38.

After my last post about beginning to research reading systems, my friend Jane recommended Funnix as a free alternative for teaching Charlotte to read. Since I prefer free resources to those that cost money, I downloaded and installed it to see if it would work for Charlotte. She can already recognize all of the letters (90% of the time) and knows at least one phonetic sound for each letter so I think she is ready. We did play the Alphabet Game (also free from Funnix) before we started though to make sure she was ready.

Initially, I had some trouble installing the Funnix software. I kept getting an error message regarding which drive I was trying to install the software on. Finally, after re-downloading it, I was able to install it. I will warn you though, it took me over an hour to download each segment of the reading learning system, and that was on a FIOS connection. Don't try to do this right before you want to start the lessons; plan ahead on this one. So far, this is my only complaint about the reading system.

The PDF workbooks are also included so you are getting almost the complete Funnix system, which normally costs $249 plus shipping. As far as I can tell the Mastery Tests Assessment Packet is the only thing not included. The testing packet is normally $20 plus shipping (at this link). There are no special codes required and it appears they are offering the Funnix system for free during the entire month of January. Also, the software won't expire, so once you have it, you have it forever.

Back to the workbooks... there is a teacher's manual and a student manual. I didn't feel the need to print the teacher's book, but the student manual must be printed. It is 123 pages so you will be making an investment of paper and ink. I'd recommend printing the pages out as you use them. There is only one worksheet per lesson and Teacher Susie (the voice in the video) guides them through how to do it.

Funnix is not a program that you can just sit your child in front of and walk away. It is meant for the parent or teacher to work through with them to ensure they are actually answering Teacher Susie correctly. The lessons are highly interactive through both verbal and physical responses, which works well for my active 3 year old.

You can learn about the types of reading prompts they use and the research behind their choices on the Prompts That Work page. And the Research tab goes into even more detail. As a former Language Arts teacher I should probably be more interested in this part than I actually am, but I'm just going to follow Jane's example and try to throw stuff at Charlotte and see what sticks. Starting with the free stuff of course!

After playing the Alphabet Game assessment, we completed Lesson 1 this morning. Charlotte finished the lesson in about 15 minutes or so. I did repeat a couple of exercises because we got distracted by a crying Mary, but it only helped reinforce the exercise. Nothing in the lesson bored her. I'd prefer to share more of our experience with later lessons before I post the review, but since the Funnix system is only free for a couple more weeks, I don't want any one to miss out on downloading it and trying it.

So far, Funnix looks promising. I'll try to post more thoughts as we get further into the lessons and I see how Charlotte is responding.

If you know of any other free reading instruction resources, please link them up in the comments.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored review. The Funnix software if free to everyone until January 31 (per the Funnix site). I am sharing this as a helpful resource to others who want to teach their child to read.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Teaching a 3 Year Old to Read

Recently, Charlotte has been begging me to teach her how to read. I don't mind trying, but I don't want to frustrate her. A friend gave me a box of Sing, Spell, Read and Write : Level 1 Kit (SSRW). She used this with 3 of her children and says wonderful things about it. It is also used by a local elementary school teacher with much success. The kit she lent me is old school with cassette tapes and a VHS video tape that I can't use, but all of the other materials are there.

I have 2 other friends who have used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons with success. It looks much simpler than SSRW, and requires fewer manipulatives.

Do any of you have any personal experience to add with either one. If you've taught your children to read at home, how did you decide which curriculum to choose? Do you think almost 3 1/2 is just too young to even try?

Friday, January 07, 2011

Planning Ahead for Gifts

Our budget is tight and if my husband's employer has anything to do about it, the budget will be getting tighter. That's why I was so glad when I got my Shutterfly email today because it included a code for a free gift! Today I took advantage of that and planned ahead for a birthday gift. I don't think the recipient reads the blog very often, so hopefully she will skip over this post and not notice her name!

Lovebird Toile Pink Thank You Card
Turn your photos into thank you cards by Shutterfly.
View the entire collection of cards.

2010 - In Calendars (mostly)

I love to change the background on my laptop every month using the free desktop from the Shabby Princess blog. They are always gorgeous and help me show off my girls. As I said when I shared the 2009 desktops, posting these like this allow me to see how my family has changed over the year.

 Apparently I skipped June. Or I misplaced the file. (Mom, do you have a June desktop?)

And I know I skipped October & November. I was barely on the computer during that time. And I picked up my camera about as frequently. I suppose their absence says something about our family too. We were busy being together!

(Photo credit for December - K Barber Photography)

Do you use any free scrapbook templates? 
I'm always looking for consistent, quality sources that are free. Share your link in the comments.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Pajama Sisters

The week after Christmas, Bruce and I finally decided to take a risk and move move Mary into Charlotte’s room. It has always been our intention for the girls to share a room and after 15 months, we were ready to reclaim our space. The crib has been in their room from the very beginning and Mary's been using a pack & play in our room. I didn't make sense to move Mary until she could reliably sleep through the night. Finally, with Bruce home for Christmas break, we were ready to try it. 

And you know what, it worked. 

We had been generally preparing Charlotte by letting her know the time would come. And the day before the big day, we sat down with Charlotte and told her the exciting news. And she was excited. Bruce was actually really surprised how excited she was to hear the news.

Charlotte is a really great big sister. She watches out for Mary, loves to play with Mary, and most of the time, she likes to share her toys with Mary. So, I guess it shouldn’t surprise us too much that she has done so well sharing her bedroom.

This morning, Mary woke up before Charlotte. Bruce tried to get in there as quick as possible, hoping he could get Mary before she woke up Charlotte. But, as he was picking up Mary, Charlotte quietly said, “Please don’t move her to another room.” She loves sharing a bedroom with Mary so much that it makes her sad to think that Mary won’t be in the room.

I don't think I could ask for a happier pair of footy pajama sisters. They've come a long way! 

The sisters November 2009

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

15 MORE Reasons I Am A Good Mom

I like a challenge. And Babs has challenged me again to go further into the good mother that I am and list another 15 reasons I am a good mom. Yikes! It's a good thing she got me started with the first few.
  1. I do crafts with my kids (there are so many more I haven't even blogged about!)
  2. I take them to fun places.
  3. I try to convince them to eat new foods at least once a week (we tried fish last night!).
  4. We laugh together every day (see photo).
  5. I chronicle their lives here so they will know what they were like as little children. Even if I am currently months behind.
  6. Charlotte had a passport before her 2nd birthday & had used it.
  7. We gave them meaningful names.
  8. I am teaching them to be generous.
  9. I try to let them play outside every day.
  10. I made Charlotte write thank-you notes for her Christmas gifts.
  11. We limited the number of gifts they received for Christmas.
  12. I explained who the real Santa is and the real reason we celebrate Christmas.
  13. I asked Charlotte for help with this list and she says I'm a good mommy when I snuggle with her, which we do every morning and after almost every nap. Mary gets in on it too. We don't leave anyone out of the snuggling around here.
  14. I expose them to other cultures (blog post coming about this one).
  15. I try to look on the bright side (like by creating lists like this one!)
That was kind of tough! If Babs asks for another 15 I'm going to be in trouble!

What is some way that YOU are a good mom or dad?

Sunday, January 02, 2011

My Favorite Bread Recipe

Recently, I've been making my own bread. And everyone in the family loves it. There isn't one of us who doesn't walk past it in the kitchen without at least pondering whether or not to cut off a slice. Some of us ponder whether or not to slather it with Nutella.

The recipe is super basic and works well with white bread flour or with a combination of that and whole wheat flour. I adapted an Amish White Bread recipe for our family's personal taste and my bread maker. I picked it up for $10 several years ago at a yard sale. I've seen others just as cheap at the thrift store too.

If you have a bread maker, add the ingredients in this order:
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 6 cups bread flour (split between white & wheat if you like)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dry active yeast

Once everything is in the bread maker, just set it to the dough setting and you can walk away for 90 minutes (depending on the manufacturer settings of your machine). After the dough cycle is complete, I divide my dough and bake. Sometimes I make rolls and other times a loaf of bread. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. I bake the loaf for 30-40 minutes depending on the humidity and the rolls take about 15 minutes.

The original Amish White Bread recipe was passed to me by a friend who doesn't own a bread maker and she makes this bread regularly with great success. So even if you don't have one, you can still make healthy home made bread.

What is your favorite home made bread recipe?