Thursday, June 30, 2016

Less Is More

For several years I've been intrigued by the by the concept of minimalism.  The simple art of "Less is More".

I have a couple of friends who have embraced this idea already and it has worked for them.  There are different levels of minimalism (think about the Tiny House craze right now) and I'm not extreme at all.  Rather, I just really want to make sure that what we are living with is what we love and need.  I don't plan on getting rid of everything - just the things that don't really work in our home or life.

Every year, I seem to start the project of going through everything and cleaning things out but I tend to get side tracked about half way through.  It's a distraction, really, as you start to clean things out and get sucked into those on-line garage sale sites where you " think" you can make some extra money or the thought of a garage sale creeps into mind.  (I have two friends who did the garage thing recently and as one said, she made "$0.05  an hour" HA!)

Several of my summer goals focused on organizing or cleaning stuff out so this fits right into that plan.  It starts this week with the simple cleaning off of some shelves in the bathroom, cleaning out the filing cabinet, and cleaning out some kitchen drawers/cabinets.  I've picked up some boxes so that I can place things in those boxes that we don't love and don't use and then, as the box fills, it will go directly to somewhere else.  For the most part it will go directly to Good Will.

As I move along this path to "Less is More" I'm hopeful that it will help me focus more on when I spend money and what I spend money on in an effort to buy more and spend less too. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

What We Are Eating - California Spaghetti Salad

California Spaghetti Salad
adapted from The Recipe Critic
My husband loves Spaghetti Salad.  It was served at our wedding because it was his favorite thing.  I seldom make it though.  It's so easy, light and fresh so there really isn't a good reason NOT to make it.  I cane across this recipe on Facebook and decided to try it.  It's got all of the basics of traditional spaghetti salad but it doesn't use the classic Salad Supreme seasoning.  Instead, it calls from Italian Dressing with Parmesan cheese added.  I found that I really like it better with the seasoning mix.  I think I'll be making this often throughout the summer! 

  • 1 pound thin spaghetti, broken into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, chopped in half
  • 2 medium zucchini, diced
  • 1 large cucumber, diced
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 2 cans (2-1/4 ounces each) sliced ripe olives, drained
  • 1 bottle (16 ounces) Italian salad dressing
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon celery seed
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse in cold water. Add cherry tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber, green and red bell pepper, red onion and olives in a large bowl.
  2. To make the dressing: Whisk together italian salad dressing, parmesan cheese, sesame seeds, paprika, celery seed, and garlic powder. Pour over salad and toss until coated. Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Book Study - Longing for Paris

The first book form the large stack of books I'm hoping to read throughout the rest of the year that I cracked open is this book entitled "A Longing for Paris" .  I heard about it well over a year ago and, is my standard practice, I dropped it into my Amazon "cart" so I wouldn't forget out it.  Darryl needed to order a few things, saw it sitting there and ordered it for me as a surprise.  It then sat on the shelf like all of the rest of the books for a long time. 

In learning to walk through this new path called grief, I started searching for books on dealing with grief and difficulties in life.  I happened to pick this up and read the first chapter and realized that this "fit" what I was looking for right now.  It's not emotionally charged nor does it specifically deal with grief but rather it deals with finding your hopes and dreams after they have been lost or misplaced. 

I have been to Paris and it is beautiful.  The whole idea behind this book is not necessarily about going to Paris, unless that is your dream, but rather finding what your dreams are; what your longings are; and then learning how to fullfill those longings right where you are living. 

This simple truth about how much God cares about us which includes our dreams is such a great reminder.  Too often it is easy to get caught up in the idea that everything has to be a sacrifice and it doesn't.  We can have wishes and dreams and happiness IN Christ too. 

I'm only on chapter three and am working on some of the challenges the author gives at the end of each chapter which I will share in future posts about this book.  So far, I'm enjoying it and am finding it encouraging.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Summer Weekly Fun

I was reminded recently (thanks to the TimeHop App on my Ipad) that I used to write a "Summer Fun" post each week that reviewed what we did the week before and those posts were very fun to read through!  I also realized that I did more a few years ago than I do now but it also inspired me to pick this back up once again.  So, here is week one of our Summer Weekly fun!

It's fitting that I'm talking about last week since Summer officially began on Monday :-)

Monday, June 20th - Today the boys attended the first day of Vacation Bible School at the church were quite a few of our friends go.  They had a blast.  I love easy summer fun - the kind that someone else plans!  We spent an hour or so on Monday afternoon working on posters for the contest on Tuesday.  Monday evening, the boys and I went up to the new medical building that was built in town to tour it.  The boys have watched that building be built from day one so I thought it would be fun for them to see it finished.  Their favorite part?  The snack tent that we got to visit after the tour HA!
 Josh's poster
Nate's poster
Tuesday, June 21st - Another great day of VBS!  Today the boys had fun doing Tie-Dye shirts.  They had to pick out "costume" ideas for the contest on Wednesday which inspired a lot of creative play.  Nate's going as a dinosaur thanks to his Halloween costume which all three boys ended up wearing during their afternoon of fun.  We ended the day with Josh's last baseball game.  I had lots of friends praying that he would at least hit the ball and guess what, he did!  Sure it was a foul but at least he hit it!

Wednesday - June 22nd - I took my animals (a Dinosaur and a Bear) to VBS once again.  We then stopped for a simple picnic in the park and then some play time before heading home.

Thursday - June 23rd - Today was the final day of regular VBS. (The decorations were amazing!)

Friday, June 24th - Today my focus is on prepping for our camping trip during the day so our fun happens in the evening - the end of VBS is a carnival !! 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

My Playlist

This weeks song is one I had never heard until my friend shared her list of songs with me.  It is titled "Eye of the Storm" by Ryan Stevenson.

I believe that one of the reasons that songs speak to people is because the words can apply to so many situations.  My favorite part of this song is as follows:

When my hopes and dreams are far from me, and I’m running out of faith
I see the future I pictured slowly fade away
And when the tears of pain and heartache are pouring down my face
I find my peace in Jesus' name

In the eye of the storm, You remain in control
In the middle of the war, You guard my soul
You alone are the anchor, when my sails are torn
Your love surrounds me, in the eye of the storm

I can truly feel and understand these words as I go through the grieving process since losing my dad.  I had so many hopes and dreams for my kids with their Papa not to mention my own plans and the simple truth that I really believed that we had years with him still.  Yet despite the tears and the heartache, Jesus is still the peace giver.  

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Family Fun - Christmas Eve and one last party for Nate

We gathered at my parents house on Christmas Eve to first celebrate Nate's birthday with the family.
 Nate got Legos from Papa and Nana and gift cards to Toys R Us from Uncle Ken and Aunt Lynnette. 
 Nana made Nate a fun cake .
 Just some family fun - I think they were playing cards.
 Later in the day, we all attending the Christmas Eve Service before returning home for a great Christmas Eve meal of snacks - our annual tradition. 
 The boys got to open their Christmas Eve gift.  (This was the best photo was I was going to get!)
 Nathan (and the photo bomber behind him HA!)
 Joshua being silly.
 Here's the deal.  Each year I get the boys new PJ's and they are supposed to put them on for Christmas Eve and then have them on Christmas morning for really cute pictures.  My plans don't always work.  Nate was already in his PJ's for the night and didn't want to change.  Oh well.
We had fun with my brother Ken's family home from South Carolina for the holiday.  We missed them since they moved away and we laughed a lot!! 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Weekly Menu - It's time to camp!

For the first time in a long time, I had a couple of "not great" recipes.  The website that I've been following for my weekly menu plan has offered some really awesome ideas but this last week I made a Breakfast Pull-apart Biscuit thing that was totally raw in the middle.  I also tried a recipe for Spanish Rice that just needs some more tweaking so I think I'll try it again in a few weeks.

This weeks menu includes camping!  We enjoy getting out and enjoying the camping, camp fires and just time as a family.  Our camp trips are really spread out this year so I haven't really prepared like I did last year.  My goal is to keep the food budget as low as possible so instead of some of our normal items, I've gone through the fridge, freezer and cupboards and pulled together as much as possible from home. 

Here's the plan for the coming week:

Friday - We have a Vacation Bible School carnival to attend and, the best part, they provide dinner.  (Hot Dogs, Chips, and Slushies)

Saturday - Today my mom is coming into town to house sit for us (ok, really to take care of the small zoo we have at our house HA) and we are loading up the camper.  I can guarantee you that I will not be cooking tonight!! We'll probably order some pizza or go to Wendy's or something :-)

Sunday - Heading out!  Dinner tonight is brats/hotdogs cooked over the fire, Corn Salad, Hot Corn Dip (Crock Pot) and tortilla chips.  Plus Smores for a late night snack

Monday - Breakfast is usually simple on the first morning - Poptarts and Cereal.  Lunch:  Sloppy Joes and Chips and then for dinner,  Pork Kabobs, Corn Salad,, baked potatoes, and rolls.  I've researched a couple of pie iron recipes for dessert so we will attempt them and see what happens (Cinnamon Rolls and Monkey Bread). 

Tuesday -I cook a nice breakfast on the last morning - Pancakes and Bacon.  Lunch - we will either eat leftovers or, usually, we load up and stop on the way out.  We are back home.  We usually have leftovers for dinner :-)  (I have some frozen pizzas in the freezer as a back up)

Wednesday - Thursday - I'm leaving these days open.  We often end up with more food left over than anticipated because we eat out so we may have leftovers or I'll use what I have at home to put together some meals. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Packing a "To Go" bag

Every time we travel anywhere I always think, "I wish I had a "To Go" bag that contained all of our normal toiletries that I did not have to pack and  unpack every time.  I pulled a few things together while I was driving back and forth across the state every weekend and like the ease of it so I decided to finally do this project.

First, I found a bag.  I have a ton of Thirty-one bags from a few years ago when I was in a monthly club and had to spend $31.00 a month.  (Don't ever do that because you ALWAYS spend more!!) I chose one of the few zippered bags that I have so that I could close it up and not worry about it spilling.

Second, I am in the process of purchasing full size bottles of everything we use if I don't already own an extra bottle.

Third, I found bags to use to house certain things like toothbrushes/paste, my contact things, my husbands shaving things, ect.  I had a few of the bags but had to purchase a couple things as well.  I use this pink, plastic bag for the shower.  I will fill it with our soap and shampoo and it can be easily carried to the showers as needed.

Fourth, I put it all together.

Now, this will be a rotating bag of supplies.  Very simply, when we run out of something at home, I will pull the item from the bag to use and buy a new one for the bag.  This will make sure that nothing sits in the bag for too long.  This little bag will come in so handy for everything from traveling to my moms, to camping, to last minute weekend get aways that we would love to take!  I have a home for the bag too so it always has a place to go.  The only things that have to be added to the bag when we leave is my glasses.  I even put an extra contact case in the bag so I don't have to take my normal one.   

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

What we are Eating - Corn Salad

Corn Salad
adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe
On Father's day, we had a picnic at the beach.  I went searching for some easy but tasty new recipes to try and this corn salad was a huge success.  The bowl was empty by the time we were done . . . and only three of us ate it!  It's fresh and light and easy to make.  I did not add fresh basil too it but that would take it to a different flavor level.

Summer Corn Salad
Yield: Serves 6
Note: To julienne the fresh basil, stack 4-5 basil leaves on top of each other and roll them up to make a long tube of basil. Slice every 1/8-inch down the length of the basil roll and as the basil unfurls, it will be sliced into thin long strips. The corn could also be grilled to turn this simple salad into a grilled version. This salad is very adaptable – you can increase the corn, add a few cloves of finely minced garlic, flat leaf parsley, and/or julienned baby spinach (in place of the basil). Go crazy!
  • 6 ears of corn, shucked
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 3 tablespoons cider or red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup julienned/chiffonaded fresh basil leaves
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. When boiling, add one tablespoon sugar and one tablespoon vinegar. Add the cobs of corn to the pot of water and bring to a rolling boil. Cover the pot, remove from the heat and let the corn sit for 10 minutes. Remove the corn from the pot. When the corn is cool, cut the kernels off the cob, cutting close to the cob.
  2. Toss the kernels in a medium bowl with the red onions, tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Just before serving, toss in the fresh basil. Add additional salt and pepper to taste, if desired. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

End of the Year Party

One of the things I have enjoyed about Connections Academy this past year has been the interaction with the teachers.  The school plans great field trips every month and we were able to take part in a few of them throughout the year.  The last trip - a big party - was held this past Tuesday and it was so much fun.

 Josh with one of the first grade teachers.  She stole the boys hearts at the very first field trip and they both considered her "their" teacher even though she just taught writing every other week.
 Nate's K-5 teacher.

 There were tons of activities for the kids to do - they loved the parachute and beach balls.
 Josh with his teacher. 

 Some of the other things they kids got to do was feed the fish along the boardwalk, play in bounce houses, play on a huge playscape, chase butterflies (ok that's just what Josh did above!) and swim in the lake. 

The day ended with a picture of everyone who attended.  It was a great group of homeschoolers and we had an awesome day!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Father's Day

Yesterday was Father's Day.  We spent the day at the beach with my mom.  We needed to all just get away from everything and do something different.  Before we had kids, my husband and I often skipped church on both Mothers and Fathers day because, well, it didn't apply to us.  This year, we skipped Father's Day because, well, we didn't want that reminded of what we have lost.  My dad has left a tremendous legacy and for that I'm so beyond thankful and I know he is far happier in heaven and wouldn't want to leave but boy, do we miss him! 

 To say the water was cold is an understatement but we all got in it anyway.  My mom was a trooper - those boys were dragging her all over the place and had her playing in the sand.  They make her smile.
 Nathan loves the beach and the water.  He's my water bug.
 Josh loves the sand.  He likes the water.
 Happy Father's day to this guy!  He's our rock and the guy that makes us all laugh. 

And of course, in honor of my Pops.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

My Playlist

I love this next song.  Ironically, I had never heard it prior to my sister-in-law sending me link to it just a day after my dad's funeral but, since then, I hear it played at least once a day on our local Christian station and have had multiple people share the link for various reasons through Facebook.    This song is "Thy Will" by Hillary Scott and just speaks volumes.  It's so easy to get lost in the questions and the anger when a life event doesn't go as we want it to but ultimately, even during the darkest days, I still return to these four words, "Thy Will Be Done". 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Family Fun - Nate's Birthday

Nate was very excited for his birthday to arrive. He had it all planned in his head.  We picked out his cake from Meijer (which we didn't eat on his birthday because we weren't hungry HA) and he wanted mac and Cheese for Lunch even when I tried to convince him to go out to lunch.
 He loved my sunglasses.  I love his shirt!  Hard to believe this little cutie turned 6!

 Nate had 6 balloons to pop - each with $1.00 inside. 
 Darryl showed him how to throw the balloon at the tree to pop it and Nate thought it was awesome!
 After dinner, Nate opened his gifts from the family.
 He got a giant stuffed bear, legos, games and . . .. .
Avengers dress up gear!  The Hulk and Captain America!  Nate had specifically picked these items out and every time we went to the store he would look at them.  He was very excited :-)