Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Another New Year and Top 5 post from 2014

These were to top 5 posts from the year based on number of views. I am surprised by some of the topics that have made the list as well as by some that did not make the list. More than anything else I am grateful for this outlet and all of the things that I am able to look back on and continue to learn from. I am thankful for the small trickle of readers who stop by. As the new year rolls in many are speaking of resolutions. I am anxious to see what the year holds for us and I am always looking for thing to learn and ways to improve. This year though, I will not be making any resolutions other than to survive the year ahead. With a new baby arriving in March I feel that trying to do more than stay a float might be over whelming but any successes would be welcome surprises. 

I hope the New Year finds you well and I wish you a year of dreaming, striving, learning and simplifying. 

Shared on The Homestead Blog Hop

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Homemade Christmas

Christmas has come and gone, quite successfully. This year has been a year of trying to reduce and to hand make as many gifts as we can. It all started way back in November, which is the key in being able to have a homemade holiday. Pinterest became my best friend as I scoured for ideas and it gave me a great place to save all of my favorite ideas for when I was ready to try them. I have a habit of holding on to anything that may serve some useful purpose which in this instance helped me out tremendously. I was able to 'shop' in my stash and spend very little at actual stores.

Now that Christmas is over and I don't have to worry about ruining any surprises I am able to share with you the things that I made. I took my Pinterest inspirations and made them into my own based on the supplies I had available. These crafts would make perfect gift for anytime of year especially birthdays.

This is the inspiration for my Christmas Animal in Tin. I took the idea and made it my own opting to make a bear instead, along with a Christmas themed tin. These tins were recycled from a tea set my husband received as a gift from a vendor at his work.

Homemade soap was one of the most fun crafts of the season. My girl and I cheated and used a melt and pour kit purchased at a craft store since we have never made soap before. We left out the harsh smelling fragrance oils that came with the kit and used 4 drops of lavender essential oil and 3 drops of lemon essential oil for each bar. The bars were finished off with a home printed label.

I crocheted wash cloths to go with the soap gift and while I did not use a pattern what I did is very smiler to this. It was a quick project and I think it is something that would be suitable to help a beginner crocheter to gain a sense of accomplishment. A nice a small project.

Peppermint Scrub was added to the crochet wash cloth and soap. It was a fun and simple recipe.

My inspiration for a felt tic tac toe game. The pink was not really going to suit the little boy who was getting this gift and I opted for a button closure on the back. Again I really tried to make it my own. I cut felt for the lines and then paint x's and o's on to squares of felt. I am hoping that this will be something that the little boy could use on his train commute to school each day.

 These were the gifts that we gave the kids teachers. Cute little sleighs made out of candy, topped with a bow and accompanied by a card decorated by the kids. My eight year old tried her hand at the glue gun for the first time while Little Guy was more that happy to let me glue while waiting to see if there would be any candy left for him to eat.

The neighbors always get cookies from us. We love baking and we each have our own favorite type of cookies so we make a lot of them. Giving them away keeps us from eating them all while sharing in the  season with those in our community. Here are our favorite recipes:
Chocolate Chip
Peanut Butter

There were several other crafts I made that I did not take a photo of once I was finished but I will share the link because they were really cute projects for babies.  I made both the fabric ball and the tag blanket from this website.

All of our gifts were very well received and we had a great time as a family making the preparations for the holiday. We spent the time together and thanks to careful planning and thinking ahead were able to get in done without rushing to the last minute. I hope you find some of these gifts ideas fun and give them a try. Happy crafting!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Our Advent for 2014

I was browsing through Facebook the other day and I found a really neat way to count down to Christmas.

When I say browsing I mean, reading intently for the 10th time that day.

And when I say a really neat way to count down to Christmas, I mean a no brainer, easy peasy, free way to count down.

I saw this idea in response to someones post about Christmas books. The idea is to wrap up all of your Christmas books and number them 1 through 24. Each night the kids can pick out the book for the day and the whole family can sit down and read the book together.

It is another way to spend a few minutes together. It also allows all the Christmas books in the house to have a chance to get read rather than reading the same one 20 times while all the others remain on the shelves. At the end of the Christmas the books can be rewrapped and stored with all of the Christmas decor rather than left taking up shelf space on the off season.

The best part is that can be free if you have enough books or cheap if you look for used books and yard sales and second hand shops.

We have started this already and the kids love it as they get to read some of their favorites as well as some others that they would normally pass up. It is a nice little tradition to add to the season and as the kids get older we can change up the titles. I like this much better than collecting small nicknacks that just take up space or the ever popular small chocolates. Believe it or not even kids eventually get sick of all the sweets at Christmas time.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

I hope that all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I can't believe that it came and went so fast this year. We spent the holiday at my moms house and as usual the food was delicious. I will never understand how she makes cooking for 15 look so effortless. In fact, she kicked us all out of the kitchen  and refused our help because she was more annoyed at tripping over all of us than thankful for our help. I guess when you  have done these things for so long it is difficult to get used to a kitchen filled with people trying to 'help'.

This year we also had the chance to spend the holiday with a little girl who was given a tough lot in life but thankfully is seemingly unaware of it due to the people who have stepped up to the plate for her. Some of the children in the family are old enough to understand the situation and piece together the information they have overheard. These teenagers seemed to be more thankful for the loving homes they have and the security of knowing that home, for them, will always be home.

It was a good day to give thanks for all that we have and to spend time together. The food was amazing and nothing makes Thanksgiving quite like a football rivalry to keep the excitement going late into the night.

We followed our tradition of decorating for Christmas during the weekend after Thanksgiving. Last year I was so satisfied with our pared down lifestyle until Christmas and then I found myself sucked back into the consumerist lifestyle where too much is never enough. This year my family and I have been working towards simplifying Christmas, starting with getting a new smaller tree. In years past we have always put up a large artificial tree, I am allergic to pine, that takes up half of our leaving room. We always have had to move our the love seat out of the house for a month, leaving us short on sitting space and making my husband a grouchy guy. This year with our new smaller tree we were able to keep all our seating which allows us to spent more time lounging together on these cold, dark evenings by the glow of our tree. This one change has already set a wonderful mood for the holiday and I hope to share with you all the ways we try to simplify Christmas in order to make it a holiday we can truly enjoy rather than endure.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Thanksgiving 'Chandelier'

It is already November, I can hardly believe it. With the arrival of November the holiday season comes rushing upon us starting with Thanksgiving. One of our traditions is that each year we make some sort of collection of notes stating what we are thankful for. This year I saw a really cute idea for a "chain of thanks".  I took that idea and came up with a 'chandelier' project to hang in our dining room so we could fill it with all the things we are thankful for.

I started by printing out the strips that I saw on a website, Chain of Thanks Printable
Then I cut out each of the strips with a paper cutter that is probably older than I am but it makes quick work of a task like this.

Next I took a brass ring that has been collecting dust in my craft box and some brown yarn. I was hoping to use twine but the craft store was way over priced and I was too impatient to wait a day until I had the time to run to store where I usually buy twine. So, brown yarn it is. I used the brown yarn to make the support for the brass ring. First, I took yarn and knotted it to one side of the ring leaving enough of a tail (about 12 inches) that would be used later for hanging. Then I tied a knot to the other side of the brass ring again leaving about a 12 in tail of excess yarn. I repeated that whole process again until the brass ring had an x of yarn across the middle and 4 tails of excess yarn.

I gathered up all of the tails and tied them in a knot about one inch from the end and eleven inches above the ring.

I then tied pieces of the brown yarn to the large brass ring at varying lengths to which we would staple our paper strips.

Lastly the kids and I began writing down what we are thankful for and attaching the strips to the yarn.

We have a good head start and we will keep adding more until Thanksgiving Day when we will read over all of the tags that have been made. So far some of my favorites that the kids have written are, I am thankful for: family, Stormy and cake.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Putting the Garden to Bed

The other day little guy and I put the garden to bed. He was full of questions when I told him what the plan for the day was. I explained what we were doing as we did it and let him do as much of the work as he wanted by himself while I took a back seat and just provided direction when needed. So, how exactly does one put a garden to bed you may ask. First you makes sure it is clean, fluff it up, make sure it is well fed, tuck it in and cover it well.

The first thing we had to do was remove the spent summer plants, weeds and other debris (sticks, rocks). Once it was all cleaned up we dug in to the earth a little bit to make the soil loosen up. Then we added sand, compost, epsom salt and calcium and some leaves and then turned them in by hand. We finished with a thin layer of leaves on the top. Since most of our trees are still full we will have to add more later when they all fall.

We also examined and played with each worm we found and then reburied them among the dirt wishing them a good night as well. Here is the finished product which we have since heavily mulched with leaves.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Through the Eyes of a Little One

Yesterday Little Guy got a hold of my camera which has been neglected by me since I got a phone with a built in camera for everyday shots. I decided to let him walk around for a few minutes and take some of his own photos. I enjoyed looking through his photos and seeing things from his perspective. He took photos of things that he enjoys everyday and I just wanted to share them since it gave me glimpse into how his little mind sees the world around him. 

Face with his mouth full

The swing set where he just learned to swing all by himself. 

Mama outside reading a book while the kids play

His buddy Stormy

Flowers filled with bee, moths and other bugs. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Another weekend has passed, unfortunately many of our plans were cancelled due the ailments of our playmates. Colds are surely another sign that winter is coming. The extra down time gave us a chance to catch up on many of the small projects around the house that we have been putting off. Our camper was finally put away for the winter following a good washing and clean out. I cannot wait to see what adventures we will have next year.  The kids have enjoyed raking up leaves to jump into and with their teamwork they have worked out quite an efficient process. It also appears that the mud pies of summer have been replaced by the leaf salads of fall as evidenced by the multiple buckets and containers filled with leaves that are strewn throughout the yard. 

The big garden has been tucked in for winter with a layer of leaves on top. Here's to hoping that the soil builds up nicely and come spring time the hard work will be worth it. This summer our garden struggled a bit and I think it may have been because I underestimated the importance of building up and feeding the soil during the fall and very early spring. It's a good thing that there are cycles in the seasons with a little down time to collect one's thoughts, plan for the future and build up excited for a new opportunity at success. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Non-productive Day

Today was one of those cold and rainy days it also happened to be Columbus Day which meant that one of the kids had off from school. Together we spent the morning gathering the last pieces for her Halloween costume and playing board games while little guy spent his morning at preschool. It was one of those days that was perfect for not accomplishing much of anything. 

With all of the comfy places to curl up and watch a show she picks to lounge on the landing of the stairs.

This was my "project" for the day. I emptied the shelf in the hallway coat closet. I remember reading some where a long time ago that any empty shelf gives a visual reminder that there is some free space left in the home. Here's to hoping that it's true with winter closing in and a new baby coming space feels less and less by the day. Now if only my husband would stop thinking of all the wonderful uses for this new found space.

Stormy dog has been on high alert. The change in weather has all of the animals outside in a full on rush to prepare for winter. The squirrels are constantly running through the front yard in hopes of finding the perfect place to bury the latest nuts they have found. Stormy being a hunting breed is perturbed by the new found hobbies of the squirrels and is dying to break through the door to chase them. 

Halloween decorations are out all throughout the house as it is one of my favorite holidays. Many of my decorations are hand poured and fired ceramics painted by my mom years and years ago. As time goes on she keeps downsizing her collections and I am the lucky recipient of these great things.

Little Guy who is always one to entertain himself "played" the keyboard and set it to auto play music so he could dance. 

I think at one time I could reach my toes but I could never do a rolling back flip touching my toes and winding up one my feet again in one single motion like he did. Oh, to be young.

In the midst of all this I found myself picking up the yarn and hook again to make a baby blanket. This time for a baby of my own. It was a wonderful nonproductive rainy day.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Catching up

Hey there, hi there, ho there! Long time no see, rather no post. The changing of the seasons has brought a new sense of chaos to our home. The schedules took some adjusting and even now we are fine tuning the new routines.

New Lessons


The garden I regret to say has fallen by the wayside and lies in a heap of dried, windblown dirt with very few plantings remaining. The kale is about the only thing still hanging on and the last of this years radishes have just made their last push to grow. Carrots and parsnips and trying their best to take root as the weather shifts but I fear they may be out of time.

I have spent most of my days trying to keep myself busy and my mind quiet, but I must say that the busy mind still seems to win. I find myself thinking of the children, this home and the life we are living. I question my choices, doubt my decisions, and wonder repeatedly if we are doing everything right. I know deep in my heart that whatever makes us happy is what is right for us but when emotions and hormones collied the result is rarely satisfactory.

So what is the root of all of this questions and emotions? We are adding another little one to our chaotic clan. We are all so very excited to be expecting the wonderful gift of a new baby but like with any change the little worries creep into our minds when we least expect them to. I do however know that in the end it all works out the two will evolve into three naturally and before long it will seem like this is the way it always was. I am eagerly awaiting those days while fully taking in the now.

I hope that if anyone still stops by here you are doing well. It was nice to catch you up on the ongoings of our household and would love to hear about the changes the new season has brought to yours.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Summary of Summer

Things are starting to get back on track around here after a month or so of "it needs to get done and it needs to get done now".  I feel like August is always a race to the finish to get all that we can done. We harvest, freeze and can day after day. We then have to prepare the garden for fall planting. 

In the midst of all this week take a few breaks to spend time together. We went hiking one day and did a bit of searching for some historical caves there were hidden amongst boulders.

On day the man and I decided to take some time to ourselves. While the children were with Grandma we went to a local orchard/farm and pick some peaches. We later canned 6 pints of them but they were so good fresh. We also picked some jalepenos since none of our pepper plants were successful this year. We love to pickle them and serve them with cheese and crackers. 

Farm fresh corn for freezing

Homegrown tomatoes for salsa
 The following views of the garden are from July when the garden looked it's best. In August the pants began to look a little worse even though production had picked up. Our tomatoes are still ripening more and more each day and the zucchini are just about done but still have a few left.