Friday, December 30, 2011

Focus and Priorities

How do you start a new year?  Champagne and a tall, dark and handsome someone or curled up in bed by 9 p.m.?  I'll tell you one thing, because I'm obviously a ball of energy covered in glitter and lipstick... I'm definitely the latter.

The New Year is approaching, and while I've been trying to come up with an amazing post recapping the year or setting new goals and resolutions nothing seemed right.  I have goals for the new year, but something about 2012 was saying that it wasn't about goals.  This new year was about something bigger.

So instead of setting goals for myself, I'm challenging myself to reconsider my priorities; to live a little more outside of myself for the year.

  1. Husband
  2. Son
  3. Home
  4. Spirit
  5. Community
These are my priorities for the year.  

My dear husband has sacrificed a lot for me and now it's time to give back, focus on him and get him back on track.

My son, of course, is a incredibly close second and I resolve to focus more on his needs and development while trying to find a good balance between his fulfilled needs and my need for sleep. ;) 

My home is a long reaching priority.  I want to find the balance and joy of a well run home.  I want it to be a welcoming place for others and I want to extend its welcome to those that have not yet crossed its threshold.

My spirit is a priority because I believe tending one's inner self is just as important as the foods we eat and the things we drink.  I have come a long way in my spiritual journey since marrying my husband almost four years ago, finding myself in a place I never thought I would end up that gives me comfort and challenges me as well.  I hope to continue my own development and find ways to nurture that growth in my home as well.

My community is a combination priority.  I want to reach out and be an active member of the place where I live and take pride in what we have and give back to those who need it.

So for this coming year I am giving myself a focus.  A small something in which to focus my personal goals and decisions for the year so that they keep in line with my priorities as best they can.

For 2012 my focus will be "Family",  I will challenge myself to consider family in my life more whether it be my nuclear or extended family, my friends and extended community or my religious family.  With this I hope to step out of my own little bubble, grasp at the bigger picture of the world and see where it takes me.

If you were to set priorities instead of resolutions for 2012 what would be your Top 5?
If you were to set a focus for the year what would it be?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Printing Plans

For Christmas my mother received a printer and I have to admit I'm rather excited - there are a lot of things on my "to be printed list".
 How about some Flash Cards

 

This lovely character already has a home in my sons room, but I have some many frames waiting for more pictures from "Feed Your Soul"

I definitely need to do some printing for someones birthday - from Leelou Blogs

And while we're at it lets plan for the summer and spice up the canning labels

Or maybe a little more classic

Needless to say I'll be spending a little time with my Mom distracting her with a cute baby while I run down her ink supply!*


*Just kidding - I'll bring ink!



Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Molly Makes {A Magic Wand}

This, my friends, is my easiest homemade baby toy to date.

Ingredients:
1 Cute Baby
Bunch of Fabric, Yarn, Felt, Etc.
1 Whisk

 1)  Tie Fabric, Yarn, Felt Etc. to Whisk
2) Give to Cute Baby.  VOILA!


Note to Self:  Maybe I Shouldn't Use My Wedding Presents As Baby Toys....

Monday, December 26, 2011

Pajama Day

Today is officially pajama day.

We had a very Merry Christmas and hope you did too.  This mama was up each morning at 5 a.m. and celebrating Saturday and Sunday well into the night.  Today we're taking it easy and declaring it pajama day.

Overall I think we pulled off a very successful simple Christmas and stuck to our guidelines - we even turned the necessity box into "socks and underwear" stuffed in the bottom of the stockings. Henry made out, but really reasonably as the relatives didn't go too over board with the presents - we have some toys, some books, a couple family movies and a Henry sized chair (which was thrifted too!).

I, myself, can't decide on my favorite - my new knife block set from my hubby or my "Gehring Complete Encyclopedia of Country Living" from my folks!

Over all setting the 3 gift limit really helped control the gifting and under the tree looked plenty full with our 3 gifts each and the presents for grandparents and other family.  I'm definitely going to stick to it next year!

Well now to work through all the food we have left over, watch some movies and do lots of cuddling.

What was your favorite Christmas present or tradition from this year?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Very Make Do Christmas - Victorian Style



One of my favorite shows - Victorian (and in another season Edwardian) Farm - The Christmas Episode.  If you've never seen it add it to your list!  Ruth is to die for and the boys are adorable if nothing else!

However you're celebrating you Christmas Eve and Day and whether you're celebrating anything at all - I hope the next few days are peaceful and joyful!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Last Minute Christmas for the Littles!

Trying to figure out those last few gifts, but out of ideas, time or money?  Here's a few ideas that many of us could put together from odds and ends in the house -

For a  few links and Pins of these ideas GO HERE
  • Fort Kit - An old sheet or two, some clothes pins, a little rope or bungee chords and a flashlight
  • Indoor "Sandbox" - a plastic tub filled with rice, dried beans or something similar with the lid for easy storage.  Go ahead and throw some of your kids toy trucks or set up some dolls inside and let the wonder how Santa did that!
  • An EyeSpy Jar - Clear container filled with rice and all those little bits and pieces you've collected over the years.  We have a little plastic jam jar filled with rice and big buttons that's a huge hit with the under 1 year old crowd.
  • Dress up on a Stick - Search the web or go to my Pinterest Board to find a collection of easy printables that can be glued to chopsticks or other craft sticks for hours of fun and lots of silly photos!  And speaking of Printables how about ....
  • Free Printable Coloring and Activity Books! (Search for Coloring Pages on Pinterest for even more!)
  • Free Printable Flashcards - some many to choose from! (again search Pinterest for more!)
  • Homemade Playdough - there are hundreds of recipes out there and most can be made from your leftover cookie ingredients!
  • Indoor Racetrack - For the train around the Christmas tree ... treat those Cars fanatics in your house to their very own taped out race track all over the living room you only need some masking tape!
If you're feeling a little crafty and need a reason to de-stash how about:
  • A Scrap Bin Matching Game - use all those little odds and ends to make a fabric matching game for inquisitive little minds
  • A Scrappy Monster Toy or Doll - same principle, use what you have to make something really special for your littles
  • Homemade Puzzle Magnets - Extra scrapbook paper or even left over wrapping paper can be a perfect activity for the fridge!  Cut more complex shapes for older children!  Use a map and teach your child geography on the sly!
  • Felt Quiet Books - Perfect for to keep those little fingers busy without batteries or even Velcro!
There are so many great things you can find to make great gifts around your house!  I can't wait to do more of these next year once my "Little" stops trying to eat everything! 
Have you done anything fun and homemade for the holidays?  Please share your projects with us!
      Shared at

    Monday, December 19, 2011

    Hello Again!

    Hello friends!

    I'm thrilled you've followed me over here.  I wanted to be able to expand this blog in the future and my old blog provider just wasn't going to fit the bill much longer and after settling on a new design I was too excited to keep it a secret much longer.

    Pardon the dust and rough edges as I smooth a few things out here and there, but much like our new home it's a work in progress.

    I'd love to hear from you on what you'd like to see more of on this site.

    And just in case I don't wander back in the next week let me wish everyone a Happy Hanukkah, a Merry Christmas, a Joyous Kwanzaa and Peaceful Solstice.  I hope this holiday season brings you joy and peace!

    Settling In and Waiting For Snow

     
    The Real Life "Make Do Library" on our "hand-me-down" hutch and dollar store decorations


    Simple Spaces -
    Decorations are a combinations of thrift store, hand me downs and repurposed items
     
    A little dose of reality at the top of the stairs

    We're doing good here and starting to get a good rhythm.

    Ready to settle into the holidays and winter, though both seem a little distant this year.

    Update - looks like "winter" is speeding up and heading right towards us now... batten down those hatches folks

    Friday, December 16, 2011

    Joy, Community and Stephen Bloom

    Recently my home state was, in my humble opinion, disgracefully attacked and stereotyped by a local college professor writing for a major magazine.  I, like many of my fellow Iowans, were hurt and dismayed at the national portrait being painted of us.

    I have traveled the length and breadth of this country; I have lived in large cities, tiny towns and everything in between.  While I will not hide the fact that there are many problems facing our local communities - such as a fleeing young population, drug abuse and fervent and opposing religious and political ideals - these problems are not found only in the rural communities of Iowa and to be singled out as such and with such derogatory language is disgusting.  We are a proud state.  We value our agricultural roots (yes hogs and corn equals money here) and many of us are proud to have mudrooms in our homes because we understand that sometimes the necessary work is dirty.  We value our educations and within our three public universities, not to mention our private colleges, we can boast among the top medical, engineering and education programs in the country.  We have the only City of Literature in the United States, and there only 5 such cities in the entire world.

    We laugh and find things to proud off when our ways seem a little old-fashioned; it's true we have a thing for fairs, parades of Ford F-150's and casseroles and a good number of our population still hunts as way for putting food on the table (and the chest freezer in the garage).  Despite the authors 20 years in Iowa he seems to have found no way to experience any of the joy and beauty of his community; he seems content to lump his friends, co-workers and student both past and present into a box tied with strings of exaggeration and stereotype.  In my more angry moments I wish to tie up his own little box, to put in the hole he's dug himself, with the old adage "Those who can't, teach." however that would be insulting to friends of mine who have gone on to be excellent journalists after learning from him.

    I was born here, I was raised here.  I spent many summers in towns with tiny populations complete with Pancake Day celebrations and a few instances of "Chicken Scratch Bingo".  I wanted to leave when I was in my early twenties and I did; but I could not think of a better place to raise my family so I returned and I know many others who share this mind frame and are out of the state, experiencing the world and waiting for the perfect moment to come home again.

    This Thursday we took our son to a little Holiday Celebration at a local theatre.  It is one of those old theatres, turned movie theatre (single screen of course), went under because the multiplexes and was luckily saved by the interest and love of the community and handwork of the local artist community.  I might take a stab in the air and say Mr. Bloom might turn up his noise at it; there were local musicians, dancers and choirs which got together to put on a free holiday show for the local families.  It was nothing extravagant or expensive, but it was wonderful and my husband and I left reaffirming our decision to move back across the country.

    In the future, as in our pasts in this state, we will continue to experience the joys we've found in our community.  We will attend concerts, ballets and theatrical performances.  We will go to state fairs, flea markets and 4-H meetings.  We will hold college and high football in almost equal regard.  We will go to college only to return to our family farms and businesses.  We will mourn the passing of too many towns and communities to natural disaster and economic woes and take pride in those that are still hanging on.  We will eat too many pork chops, casseroles and desserts ending with the words "fluff".  We will talk to you in stores and wave to you from our cars (whether we know you or not) and at the end of the day, most of us will continue to smile, nod and let those who assume they know everything about our backwards, quaint and callous ways because we are taught that it's rude to point out such things and draw attention to your own achievements in such a brash manner.

    Mr. Bloom I, ultimately, feel pity for.  I feel pity that given the opportunity to realize and expound on the careful dichotomy that is his home of the last 20 years he instead decided to compile an essay filed with error, vitriol and outdated stereotypes which give no credit to his lifetime of work and the community he calls home.

    Mr. Blooms first error was an assumption not written in his essay; he assumes our differences divide us and that is where he is wrong.  We are a remarkable mixture of politics and religion, we come from little towns and big cities, we are tradesmen, farmers and professors. we have our problems and our beautiful moments; but we are not the sum of our parts because we are Iowans, plain and simple; all or nothing.

    Monday, December 12, 2011

    Molly Makes {Apples to Apples{Sauce}}

    When I was planning out all the things I thought I'd do myself when my son arrived making his baby food topped the list and quickly dropped off the list.  I can't really tell you why it just did; there were no fancy puree to be found on his plate.  However, now that he's a little old and can have a wider range of foods I find myself jumping back into the homemade frenzy and discovering just how easy it all is.

    Of all the little food discoveries, like how it's possible to slip veggies into everything (my child will be eating secreted greens until he's a teenager), I'm discovering everyday how easy it is to make those things we just grab off the shelves, like last weeks granola which took a whopping 30 minutes counting baking time.

    The biggest thing that I now swear never to buy in a store again is applesauce.  Seriously folks it's like manna from heaven - straight up homemade applesauce.  It doesn't have the preservatives.  It doesn't have the extra sugars.  Most importantly it's not neon green.

    The steps for your most basic applesauce is ridiculously simple.

    1)  Peel and cut up apples - just like boiling potatoes the smaller the pieces the faster they will cook.



    2)  Put cut up apples in a saucepan over medium heat with just even water to cover the bottom of the pain a prevent sticking.  Toss a lid on it and stir every once in a while until nice and soft.  (Note: at this point the soft apples are a great treat for little fingers once cooled down)



    3) When soft put the apple pieces in a blender and purée; DON'T liquify! And you're done.



    Total Time - Prep: 10 - 20+ minutes depending on the amount of sauce you're making Cooking: 5-10 minutes per saucepan

    Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator, I suggest no more than a week if it lasts that long.  This batch here was made out of 9 medium-ish sized apples and resulted in about 40 oz of applesauce.  The bag of apples probably cost me about $4-5 because we're not at the height of the season, but it still resulted in applesauce that cost about 10 cents an ounce.  I full intend on making and canning a large batch next year at the peak of the delicious (and cheap) apple season.

    Like with the granola, making homemade food products is not always about the cost savings unless you're always comparing it to the most high-end organic alternatives.  However there are always added benefits such as having acquired a new skill, finding one more way to give your children the healthiest foods you can or making your home warm and smelling like baked apples right before bed time.

    Sunday, December 11, 2011

    Simple Christmas


    How to celebrate the holidays and birthdays were on the top of my list when I found out I was going to get to be a parent?  How to make things memorable, but keep the stuff at a minimum.  How to make things meaningful and not material.

    Well, we're still figuring out how to approach the first birthday in February, but I think we've got Christmas figured out.

    The first big realization I came to was that ... I can't control other people.  I can beg, plead and make all the overarching announcements I want, but I really can't control what Henry's grandparents, great grandparents, aunts and uncles get him or in what quantities.  We will always try to offer up suggestions like giving experiences and "Please for the love of all things good and holy, no talking books or "My Own Little Ipad", but our influence on others stops there.

    But, we can control what we do and bring into our own home through our own celebrations.  After much hemming and hawing we have arrived at a plan for Christmas.  While I don't love copious amounts of unnecessary stuff, I do love the Holidays - I love stockings, Santa, presents and everything in between and for the last month I've been trying to figure out the correct balance for our family.

    We could give into every whim and spend a couple K that we don't have buying things that we'll only have to upgrade in sixth months when the ghost of Steve-Jobs-Past issues out the next best do-hickie the world can't live without.

    Or we could forsake the holiday as an evil pagan tradition and shut up our home to the blinking lights and toss the plate of cookies out the front door, saying "Get behind me, Santa!"

    Yeah... not so much.

    We'll do Advent (more so as the kids get older) and we'll do charity.  We'll do Midnight Mass and tons of secular holiday movies and music (yep, the Barenaked Ladies "Elf's Lament plays along with "Silent Night" on this playlist!)  We'll do Santa and family and way too much food and we'll do presents.

    We've got a plan for that last part and this is what it's coming down to (some of it's old traditions and some of it's new)
    • Christmas Eve Pajamas - a new set of pj's for each member of the family to be changed into after Christmas Eve service
    • Stocking - a couple small presents and treats, funny gifts (but not useless junk) acceptable, a book or movie is a possibility, and what homemade or knitted thing I've managed to finish that year (this year might be a bust)
    • Necessity Box - Parent's favorite, kids will hate it.  A present with new supplies of underwear, socks and any other "basic" items needing for the next year including toiletries and maybe one or two larger clothing items if needed.
    • The 3 Gifts - Mom, Dad and each kid get three main presents (eventually we'll use this to teach about the story of the Wise Men) off their Christmas list.  Kids (and adults!) can make a list of more than 3 items, but will understand that 3 is what they will get come Christmas Day

    That's it, that our plan for that holiday hurdle of presents.  Combined with a couple of gifts from each grandparent, aunts and uncles, etc. I have no fear that our "3 gift" limit will deprive our child of the holiday spirit while limiting the amount of things that we bring into the house.

    This should also be a challenge for me.  I'm not one for mountains of gifts, but I do find myself picking up one extra thing on those last days before Christmas and I think a limit will help curb this well.

    Tonight I went through Henry's "Toy Box" aka the box of things I've picked up thrifting that I'm holding for holidays and birthdays.  I picked out three toys that he's ready for - a string of wooden zoo animals, a set of puzzles and a big plastic, simple toy truck.  Done and done, not only are all of the gifts second-hand and in great shape, but I doubt I paid more than $15 for the lot of them and most likely I used my consignment credit and they were free.  I feel pretty good about not only living up to my "Make Do" standards, but am also knocking off a few "R"s of the good ol "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle".

    Are you guys setting limits on your budget or the number of things this year?  Do you think I'm horrible depriving my family and child or are you astonished in our lavish Christmas gifting plans?  It's okay you can be honest, but no matter how you celebrate and how many gifts are under your tree, I hope we all take a moment to reflect on what a season of giving really means!

    And does anyone else wish that they had Molly Weasley's self propelled knitting needles to finish that list of homemade goodies you swore you were going to get to this year and then bought a house instead?

    Just me?

    Darn.

    Friday, December 9, 2011

    House Proud

    I do this all the time.  I take a compliment about something I own or something I do and turn it around.  Some comments that something is nice, well made or made at all and I spin it around by saying "Thank you, but it's not..." and you can fill in the blank because I'm sure I'm not the only one who does this.

    When we started our moving process and were finally able to invite folks into our home I caught myself doing it.  "Oh, it is nice, but smaller and older than we hoped or this needs to change or I swear we'll be changing that first thing!"  And then I realized that had to stop.  We had worked hard in the last year and gotten something that was perfect for us.

    It might not be big or new or very shiny or fancy, but it's ours and I'm proud of it.

    I don't have much in the way of photos, and they aren't Photoshopped, wide lensed or very well lit, but owning to my house pride I'll share what I have for now.


    Our little duplex - the two bedrooms are on the top floor, kitchen and living room in the middle, garage floor holds the laundry and bottom floor has the retro orange family room.


    And so far the only picture I've attempted of the interior - but it's my favorite spot and first spot I've attempted to decorate - our mantle.


    I hope to share more photos of the house as I have time to take them.  I want to share them with a "house proud" mentality so I will be sharing bits and pieces as I find the time, but without a worry that they are perfectly lit or even perfectly arranged.


    We make do in our life here and making do isn't about perfection.  It's about being proud about what you have.


    If I'm going to share this with you I want you to see it just how it is.


    If you want perfectly designed and well lit home picture I would direct you to my many house related Pinterest boards or many other Mama bloggers with better cameras than I.  =D

    Wednesday, December 7, 2011

    Molly Makes {Homemade Granola}

    New house means that my cooking instincts are in overdrive.  Combine this with a wonderfully clingy and explorative 10 month and it's an adventure.  But tonight while the boys were having baby/daddy time I managed to make some granola.  I used "Megan's Recipe" found on allrecipes.com.  So far, it's great - I personally deleted the sunflower seeds and added dried blueberries and cherries into the final mix, but boy does is smell yummy and I'm hoping all the cleverly disguised chopped nuts will help this girl get more healthy protein.
    The "Dry" Mix of Rolled Oats, Oat Bran, Wheat Germ and chopped Almonds, Walnuts and Pecans

    Waiting for things to boil.

    Fresh out of the oven

    Yum.  Perfect for this girl to grab on the way out the door at 5 a.m.

    I don't have a price comparison for this vs. store bought granola and honestly it's probably comparable to some higher end bagged granola because of the multiple kind of nuts and dried fruit, but sometimes the health benefits outweigh the cost savings.  I know exactly what went into this.  There's no high fructose corn syrup or crazy preservatives and that makes me feel a little better. According to the recipe site the exact recipe gives 8.3 g of protein per serving (30 servings per batch) and 5.8 g of dietary fiber.

    In the future I'd love to make it with local fruits that I've dried myself and locally sourced honey, but for now this is SO much better than an overpriced double-chocolate muffin from the cafeteria.

    Monday, December 5, 2011

    Home

    In just a few short days we've

    ... made SO many trips back and forth.

    ... spent alot of green baby proofing, getting those little things and restocking my pantry.  (Oh, but felt so good to restock MY pantry)

    ... cuddled a little boy who's had the sniffles and cough all through the moving weekend.

    ... cooked meals and shared them with family and friends in and from our kitchen.

    ... set up the Christmas Tree and our decorations.

    ... made quite a bit of progress so far, that is if you don't count the downstairs catch-all room.

    ... listened to a lot of Christmas music (Henry loves "Run Run Rudolf" ala Sister Hazel and "Why Can't It Be Christmas Time All Year" by Rosie Thomas).

    ... cried some happy, thankful "I don't deserve this" tears.

    ... had my heart grow three sizes watching my son play in HIS room.

    ... been discovering all the little wonders and joys that accompany this big change.

    Be back soon, I promise.

    Monday, November 28, 2011

    No Matter How It Turns Out...

    Sometimes life is great and everything goes exactly to plan.  It is perfect, lovely and glorious and you pat yourself on the back and say "Well, this is easy.".


    More often life will tap you on shoulder, spin you around three times,  punch you in the nose and steal your lunch money.


    But, it could be worse.


    That's how I've chosen to look at my life over the last year.  It's had its perfect and glorious moments and it's been so hard I couldn't imagine anything worse.


    But I'm grateful for it no matter what.



    Closing Day is now December 1st.  I'm excited, nervous and incredibly thankful.

    Sunday, November 27, 2011

    Thankful For


    • a home to rest in and walls to keep the weather out- whether it belongs to us (in 4 days) or those gracious enough to share theirs with us

    • good food, clean water and warm clothes - the basic needs we take for granted

    • a good, simple jobs that allow us to provide for those we love

    • good marriages - my own and those that have set an example and shown us that it's not perfection that leads to happiness

    • faith in a God who doesn't expect me to be perfect, but expects me to try none the less.

    • the eye opening experience that comes from working in a children's hospital which means I come home more grateful each day and always have a mental list of those who need our prayers handy

    • becoming a parent - the best present I've ever been given

    • and for all the things, big and small, that I really don't deserve.

    Saturday, November 26, 2011

    The Cool Table

    I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday or even just a wonderful regular ol' weekend for my non-USA folks.  I did, though I've work the 6 am - 2:30 Thursday, Friday and today and tomorrow.  The hubby took the baby to his folks for Thanksgiving and while I spent the rest of the day with my family I really missed my boys and by 6 p.m. I was demanding they get on the road pronto.

    There are a ton of things I'm thankful for this year, but I'm going to save those for a little later because, well, I'm not in the mood and I don't want it to ruin my thanks.  Today was oddly frustrating.

    I can't wrap my head around certain aspects of "human nature" -

    • I don't understand the appeal of "Black Friday"... at all.

    • I don't understand the view of ones children as a commodity and that you can hire someone to raise because the idea of more than a few hours with them makes you queasy - not to mention the mess they make and the time they detract from the "true purpose" of marriage, which is apparently lots of consequence-free sex with no old ladies looking down their nose at you.

    • I don't understand the draw of certain pop culture norms - sparkly vampires in abusive relationships and celebrities who degrade the institution of marriage.

    • I don't understand people who scoff, literally, when presented with the idea that happiness isn't related to more "stuff"

    • I don't understand why it's cool to be trashy, not classy.


    There are just some days when I don't understand 99% of the human population.

    And there are just some days when I lack the desire and the energy to pretend that the list above makes sense to me.

    And this my friends is exactly why I never get invited to sit at the cool table.

    Monday, November 14, 2011

    Still Here!

    Hey folks, we're still here.  Plugging away at the finishing touches for closing in less than two weeks - we're just waiting for some missing W-2's to arrive in the mail; the inspections and all went well!.  It's going to be a crazy couple of weeks so pardon me if we're a little quiet - I'm still following my blog roll when I have a free moment and trying to get in a few quick words on the big thoughts and big announcements that are all around.

    When I started this blog this spring I thought we had many more months, if not another year of making do in these shared quarters and oh how life has surprised us.  However, just because we've achieved a few goals doesn't mean we'll be throwing caution to the wind along with our credit card statements and credit scores; in fact now that we'll be completely on our own once again it's time to dig out and dust off a lot of the skills and things from the past.  I look forward to using this big change for us to be able to provide more real life examples of making do in the modern world.

    A few posts (and perhaps a series) in the works once the ball gets rolling include:

    • Simply, and affordably furnishing a home

    • Decorating and celebrating meaningful holidays and other life celebrations

    • Clothing care - homemade detergents, knowledgeable laundry care, etc.

    • Groceries lists, pantry stocking and meal plans

    • Reskilling - gardening, sewing, crafts, etc.

    • Homemade products for the home

    • And more on living simply and saying "No" to more!

    Sunday, October 30, 2011

    Goldilocks find a house or How to buy a house in 2.5 hours.

    Okay well not quite.  We have been looking, in earnest, for months.  We already had in mind that we'd wait until the fall because that's the best time for buyers.  We thought we had a place to go for, but were quickly realizing it was overpriced for the lack of work that had been put in to it - it was well maintained but lacking many of the things most people do for a quick sale.  Things were looking kind of bleak.

    Then my Dad came home one night - a duplex down the street had just come on the market and the realtor was a family friend.  I looked at the listing, it didn't look promising it just didn't speak to me, but to appease the parental units I said I'd look at it.  So I did; this was last Wednesday.  It wasn't so bad and boy oh boy did they want to move it fast - new paint, carpet allowance, newer furnace and air conditioning, nice landscaping and they were putting on a new roof Friday.  Friday rolled around and I got the hubs over for a visit.  We liked it - it had space, not too much but not too little, it had a yard - not to big and not too small, it had a little bit of everything.  We said we call them next week sometime.

    By Friday night we were coming to our senses, we didn't want this one to pass by.  It was in a great area, good school districts, we were down the street from family and folks I've known for years, we don't have to change parishes, close to work, in our price range and had everything we wanted.  We scheduled another look on Sunday.

    By Sunday we knew we wanted to move fast, there were a couple other showings that weekend and with a brand new roof in the mix we knew it might not last long.  We met for the showing, and an hour later we were sitting around our kitchen table signing contracts.  What a rush.

    I hoped we might hear something in the morning at best - our offer was good, but maybe she wanted every nickle she could get.  I don't know what kind of magic our realtor worked; maybe he just told her (an older woman and a widow) that there was a young family who wanted to be "Home for the Holidays", but by 8 p.m. we were on the phone ... offer accepted.

    I can't wait to show you more - we move in at the end of November.  I can't believe that we got just about everything on our list - a backyard with proper exposure and room for a garden, a great kitchen, appliances and extra room and we even got a few bonus items like a beautiful wood burning fireplace and some odds and ends she didn't want to move out - like a great (1970's Orange) sleeper sofa for the spare room, a grill, some gardening things and (my midwest brothers and sisters will gasp a little) A SNOWBLOWER!!!

    I don't know what else to say right now, I'm still in shock to be honest.

    This time last year I was at the lowest of my pregnancy blues - life looked pretty dim and I was extremely worried about how we'd make ends meet let alone when we'd be stable enough to find a place of our own.  My mother told me not to worry, it'd all work out and if we weren't in our own place by next fall she'd be shocked and I guess Mother's know best.  We've worked hard over this last year and we've had amazing support and more amazing help getting where we are.  We'll be grateful until our last breathes and I hope one day we'll deserve it.

    For now I'm excited to have something that is our own, truly our own.  I'm positively giddy about moving and setting up house and best of all I get to hang my son's first Christmas Stocking on our mantle this year, a blessing to be sure.

    Thank you everyone whether I know you in person or not, you've helped us and we're very grateful!

    The Best Words

    In the last 4 years I've added a lot of favorite phrases to my life, the top being "I do" and "We're having a baby" and now we get to add a new favorite....

    "OFFER ACCEPTED"

    2 hours ago we made an offer on an amzing little home and just a little bit ago we got the good news.  We will be closing the day after Thanksgiving (how appropriate is that?) and will be celebrating Henry's first Christmas in our own home.

    Life is good and God is great.

    Saturday, October 29, 2011

    Really,what could I do?

    So generally I try to keep my personal opinions about the bigger issues to myself here - politics, the big religious and social debates just aren't what this blog is about though I definitely have my opinions.  But this blog is about simple living and though simple living can be attained many ways and at many different incomes and social strata one of the ties that bind is, to paraphrase Gandhi, to live a way of life so that others can live.

    There's a lot going on in the world now.  A lot of discussion about what is fair, getting equal footing, equal shares, and what is right, moral and good.  With the holiday season approaching we normally faced with these conundrums, but this year it's a little more in your face, the talk about taking care of the needy, the poor and the unfortunate and whose responsibility it is.

    Here is where I'm going to hazard my opinion.  Who's responsibility is it?  I'll give you my answer:  Grab a mirror, I'll grab one too and on the count of three we'll look at them... 1...2...3... and there you go.  That face in the mirror, every mirror, that is the face of responsibility.  Like anything you can see in a mirror the reality is not always pleasant, but it's the truth.

    Whether you believe change and reform should come from point A or point B, and whether you think it should end up at point C or point D doesn't change that there's a lot you could be doing now, right this second and it's going to do no good to sit around and wait for something that might never happen while doing nothing else.

    There are parents who could use a reliable babysitter (even a free one now and then).  You have neighbors who could use a ride to the store.  That friend who's been job hunting for months could use that jacket in the back or your closet or that introduction to a friend of a friend.  That responsible coworker who's having trouble making ends meet because her student loans could use a gift card for groceries magically appearing in her inbox.  That family down the pew at church whose sole breadwinner was laid off the month the mortgage or rent increased, which was th same month as the car accident could use anything even though they're too proud to ask anyone or any institution for help.

    There is so much good we can do if we take responsibility.


    A few years ago a dear, dear friend was struggling to make ends meet in a large city.  She was working every job she could come across, but the bills were just barely getting paid.  So when an opportunity appeared that was almost too good to be true she took it, and guess what?  It was too good to be true; they wiped her bank account clean.

    I was across the country.  I couldn't bring her over for dinner, I couldn't set her up on the couch.  Really, what could I do?  A lot.  Doing, first, what I always do for friends going through bad times I put together a care package - books, magazines, snacks, a few small gift cards were all I could manage, and that was all I could do right?  Nope, not quite.  I put a call out to some coworkers, gave them the low down and told them I didn't feel like my care package had enough care in it and could they help?  The next day I had a stack of cookies, books and even a couple extra gift cards at my station.  No one knew my friend in the slightest; strangers caring for strangers and this was all I could do right?  Nope, not quite.  That night I got on Facebook and sent out a message to all of our mutual friends asking for help (my friend had already made her situation public, so I wasn't revealing anything new) and even to friends of hers whom I never met;  I asked for them to send me cards with words of encouragement and IF they could spare it a little money.  Cards came in from old coworkers, teachers, family and I found out our department in our old alma matter set out a collection jar for spare change. The cards I received for her care package remained sealed I never knew exactly what I sent until she received the complete package.  I found out later that in less than a week I had gathered, from people who only knew her  and people who only knew me, hours of distraction and comfort and almost $500 in cash.  What could I do, right?

    I don't share this story because I believe myself amazing, I am all too human and all too prone to failing in dramatic ways, but for a moment, out of sheer luck and a little determination, I was a superhero, if just for a moment.  I saw someone who needed help and did what I could.  I'm not trying to say we shouldn't be fixing the flaws and mistakes in our systems when we find them, I'm not saying that government doesn't have some responsibility to care for its citizens, and I'm not saying that some time our systems fail us and should be fixed, but what I am saying is that if we see someone in distress and walk on by saying "Really, what could I do?" and hope that the next mild-mannered citizen will take up the cause than we've failed because the answer to that question, though it maybe hard to accept, is just simply "A lot".

    Are you missing out on your chance to do something amazing?

    Thursday, October 27, 2011

    Hallow Days - A Rural Perspective

    My favorite time of year is approaching and it's kicking off with Halloween next week.  All over we see posts about celebrating this holiday, particularly if you're a Christian.  We hear about it's pagan roots and modern connotations.  We hear about how costumes are too violent, too blood, too short, too revealing, too adult or too immature.  We hear about commercialization and rituals.  We hear a lot about this day.

    My good blog-friend Sarah writes a great post from a Catholic (yup, we're one of them) point of view of celebrating Halloween as part of a three-day "Hallowed Days" holiday - All Hallows, All Saints and All Souls.  Personally I really like the way she approaches this and it's the way I want to raise my kids to celebrate this time of year.  I don't want Halloween to be just about costumes and candy, but rather a little bit more.

    Before I started attending Mass (pre-Catholic husband and new baby) I looked at this time of year from the viewpoint of my family.  I'm from a long line of farmers and this time of year is very important to us.

    If we're lucky we have everything out of the field as the days until a big frost are inches closer, we're tallying up bushels and finding out if we're in the red or the black.

    In the days before convenience was a buzz word this was the end of great and busy time of preparation.  It was not too long ago that facing a bad winter unprepared could kill you and this was the time to look in our root cellars, our pantries and at our stacks of wood to get an idea of what type of toll the season would take on us.

    It was a time to hurry up and get things done, see folks you might not see for a couple of months if you were lucky and never again if your weren't.  There were still a couple of months of the days getting shorter, and even after that many months before the earth warmed again.  It was a long season.  At the end of fall you started to remember the fear a bad winter could bring.

    So to me Halloween/Samhain/All Hallow's whatever you call it is more a time of celebration.  It is a time to celebrate hard work and, hopefully, success.  It is a time to eat your fill and see friends and family.  It is a brief window of time between relaxation and uncertainty and when there's a celebration to be had a little mischief often comes hand in hand.

    So for us we will make it a celebration.  We will dress up (though we don't do gory or risqué), we will visit neighbors and friends, we will share food and drink and have a good time.  We will look at the season yet to come and show no fear.  The next day we will reflect on those who faced fear and made  great sacrifices and then we will remember those who are not with us and reflect on how the greatest sacrifice gives us great peace when we face the unknown.

    Friday, October 21, 2011

    For the sake of honesty - Quick Takes

    Do you ever follow those blogs that are too shiny-happy to be believed?  I do, and while I realize many bloggers just want their sites to be an escape, highlighting the good times I thin we all appreciate when we see that their lives just as crazy as ours.  So in the interest of honesty here's my Top Seven things you probably don't know about me from reading this blog.

    1)  It is nap time, I have a weeks worth of laundry to do and a laundry room floor that desperately needs cleaning... and I'm on the internet.

    2)  #1 happens more often than not.

    3) I'm terrible at writing out Thank You cards - I found a stack from high school graduation last year.  If you're a friend of my family or a distant relative I don't really know, I'm sorry and I'm sure I loved whatever it was you sent 10 years ago.  I might also have found a small stack of wedding thanks you's when moving last year too.

    4) I'm good at cleaning the house, but terrible at organizing.  The table might be clean and decorated, but please just ignore the pile of a year's worth of bills and receipts that's imitating a particular structure in Pisa, Italy... I swear I'll get it soon... one day.

    5)  I'm really bad at confrontation - if you ever know me in real life and we get in a fight I'll eventually act like nothing has happened rather than have a face to face conversation.  This how adults do things right?.... Yeah, I know, it's like I'm 12.

    6) Yes, I do have the T.V. on and my child in the same room occasionally, but sometimes Mommy really wants to catch up on Big Bang Theory from 3 weeks ago before 3 a.m. next week and he has no interest in watching it anyways.

    7)  I have high expectations of people and a bit of a short fuse for others figuring out those expectations.  I'm also horrible with expressing those expectations.  All of this combined makes me want to nominate my husband for sainthood.

    Anyone else want to confess their blogging sins too?

    Wednesday, October 19, 2011

    Molly Makes {Sensory Pillow}



    I finally buckled down and the prototype you saw HERE and made it into its final product.  Henry has long be enamored with big buttons and shoe laces so I wanted to make him something that he could chew and pull on all he wanted.

    So I found a small pillow and made a pillow case out of fabric from my stock.

    On one side I sewed down buttons (a combination of vintage buttons from my collection and a few purchased), a bright red shoe lace and an elastic shoe lace.  This was all I had done on the prototype and it was so well-loved I almost convinced myself I didn't need to do more.




    However I wanted to further the project on the reverse side.  On the flip side is an assortment of ribbons, most of them left over from his robot sensory toy I made him before he arrived.  There are different patterns, shapes, sizes and textures to explore.



    My inspiration for this side was a "crazy quilt" pillow I had as a child made out of men's ties, I remember being very young and tactile-y exploring the different patterns and qualities of those fabric; I even had my favorite - a particularly smooth section right in the middle.



    I'm hoping this project will grow with him - we can remove and add buttons and laces to further explore sizes (once the choking hazard stage is passed), colors, numbers - the sky is the limit.  It can be a place for him to learn to tie his laces, braid and tie knots while the reverse side will hopefully serve its primary function while being comfortable enough to be a kid sized travel pillow.

    Over all I'm quite pleased with this project - even at 8 months old this pillow can easily keep up his attention for about 20 minutes and I'm hoping this will prove to be a good home, car and maybe even quite church toy.

    (If anyone would be interested in an instructional post for this or any other project, please let me know.  I'm reluctant to do them, since they're time-consuming to put together (the post, not the project) and don't want to unless there's interest.)

    {More to come!  It is the season of making in my house and I have a stack of things already done and my little brain is bursting with new ideas!}

    Monday, October 17, 2011

    T.V. Math

    I was having a conversation in a Ravelry forum about children and T.V. watching and did a little math with the current AAP "recommendations" on T.V. allowance for children over 3.  Now, I love movies and definitely have my favorite T.V. show;  I also  have wonderful memories of Disney movies, classic musicals and TGIF family nights spent with a special (delivered!) treat of pizza gathered around the television for a couple hours (in fact a majority of my and my husbands Christmas list is often movies and the new season of whatever)... but "Screen Time" - the time spent in front of anything electronic (cellphones, computer, video games, T.V., etc.) is definitely on my radar and I really try to challenge myself not to use it too much right now, as to avoid the "T.V. Baby Sitter" trap.  While I definitely understand it's benefits to give Mom or Dad a reprieve, or as an educational tool** it does seem to be something that should be approached with caution.  So with that in mind I thought I'd just share a little math with you to consider when thinking about your kids and yourself!

    1 hour a day t.v. =

    7 hrs/week = approx. 1 average school day (9 a.m. to 4 p.m. non stop)
    1 avg. SD/week x 52 weeks = 52 SD/Year
    (52 SD/ year)/180 (average number of school days per year) = 28.8% of the school days in the school year only watching television.

    Would you be okay with your child's teacher setting your child in front of  a T.V. for over 1/4 of the time dedicated to learning?

    2 hours a day t.v. =

    14 hrs/week = One Saturday in front of the t.v. from 9 a.m. until 11 p.m. non stop
    (One Saturday (9 a.m. until 11 p.m.)/week) x 52 weeks = 52 Saturdays of pure dawn till dusk t.v. watching
    52 Saturdays/30 days (average month) = 1.73 months of dawn till dusk t.v. watching a year

    1 - 2 hours a day doesn't seem like much, until you start to add it up.

    ** Though I always like to point out the real baby Albert Einstein seemed to accomplish quite a bit without the infant-geared "educational" movies, books and CD's that borrow his name (and so did baby Mozart, baby Beethoven; not to mention baby Newton, baby Plato, baby Da Vinci, etc.).

    Tuesday, October 11, 2011

    The "Work Away From Home"-Maker

    Recently I've seen some very encouraging post across the internet about the subject of homemaking - people wanting to reclaim the dignity of the vocation and stretch its stereotypical gender roles.  All in all it's a great movement; people want to be connected to their homes again, they want to be house-proud and able.  However, for every post I see about it there still seems to be one main vein of thinking - that a homemaker, whether man or woman, must make it their sole occupation to have the right to claim that title.

    Well, I want to speak up for those of us who feel that they deserve a share of that title even if we find it necessary to work away from the home.

    Now, I don't claim to ignore that there are those who will always choose to work solely because it earns them more money and with more money comes more stuff and with that stuff they seem to find happiness.  I'm not speaking of those who can't imagine life without thousands of dollars of spare income a month or multiple vacations, cars or homes or even weekly trips to the mall, the movies and restaurants.  I'm speaking up for those of us who work out of necessity, whose families couldn't live more than hand(out) to mouth without some form of additional income.  Perhaps we have two student loan debts, perhaps we're young men or women with entry levels jobs, perhaps we choose good honest work over high salaries, perhaps we've been sick without insurance, perhaps we have aging family members who rely on us, perhaps the alternative would mean unsafe neighborhoods and bad schools - but no matter the cause we choose to work out of a well thought out realization of necessity.  Many of us see it as a means toward an end - a few years of double incomes to pay off debt and save up - and for some of us it will always be a reality.

    No matter our reason we, the "Work Away From Home"-Makers, still have the same goals you do Mr. or Mrs. Career Homemaker - perhaps its to raise children, take care of relatives, avail ourselves to charity and volunteerism or just keep a warm and welcoming home as a haven to others.  We still try to live frugal lives, we still stretch a dollar; in fact, many of us cook from scratch, craft and garden in our spare time.  While we find ourselves in situations out of necessity it is our priorities, not our schedules, that allow us to claim the coveted title of "homemaker".  I believe that if we still prioritize our homes, families and children above our things, our social lives and other earthly experiences than we are still working toward the same goals.

    So if there is someone out there who wishes for the day they can say "I'm a full-time homemaker", but feel they can't because they work away from home, to you I say - claim it, tell people that you are a "Full Time Homemaker with a Full Time Job", a "Working Homemaker", however you want to claim it, do so.  As long as your priorities are on making your house a home, as long as you strive to manage that home with economy and efficiency and to give your family the most of yourself  that you can than be proud.  Let's stop the nit-picking over the details of how we do it and focus on our shared priorities in our lives.  We are Homemakers - we are people, men and women of every type, who wish to make a house a home for those we love.

    Monday, October 10, 2011

    Simple Parenting - Two Quick Book Reviews

    Okay, I'll admit it - if there's one thing I thought I'd do when I became a parent it was to become a voracious reader on the subject and to my surprise the only thing I picked up during pregnancy was the "What to Expect" book.  That was it.  I could drone on on the whys - a combination of reading too much made my the anxiety part of the my ante-partum depression worse and a post-pregnancy decision to trust my instincts. 

    However, about 6 months later, I was ready to do a little more reading.  I didn't go for the "how make a genius" books, or anything on how to make them better, faster or better.  I wanted something that could help lead me, as a parent, to help form their lives to the best I could.  With this in mind I turned towards the one of the pinnacle principles of my life - voluntary simplicity.  VS, for those not in the know, is simple the conscious decision to make do with less - what this implies personally varies from person to person.  For some it's just turning off the television a couple of nights a week, while for other it means chucking the T.V. and just about everything else to the curb.

    I already felt like I had a pretty good grasp on how our lives would reflect these ideals in our parenthood.  Ben and I had already talked extensively about toys, clothes, activities, etc.; but I wanted to find something that reinforced my crazy idea that I might not permanently damage the child by not giving them everything and letting them do everything as well.

    Two wonderful sources I found were "Living Simply with Children." by Marie Sherlock and "Simplicity Parenting" by Kim John Payne and Lisa M. Ross.  I'll let the officials give the low down on the books.

    "Living Simply with Children" -"Raising children ranks as one of life’s most rewarding adventures. Yet between Mom and Dad working full-time jobs, endless carpooling of overscheduled youngsters, and the never-ending pressures to buy and consume, family life can be incredibly—needlessly—complex. What if you could find a way to spend more time with your children, replace unnecessary activities with meaningful ones, and teach your children an invaluable life lesson in the process? Living Simply with Children offers a realistic blueprint for zeroing in on the pleasures of family life:

    • How (and why) to live simply and find more time to be with your children
    • Activities and rituals that bring out the best in every family member
    • Realistic ways to reclaim your children from corporate America
    • Helping children of any age deal with peer pressure
    • Raising kids who care about people and the planet
    • How to focus on the “good stuff” . . . with less stuff

    Including sections on limiting television, environmentally friendly practices, celebrating the holidays, and tapping into the growing community of families who embrace simplicity, this inspiring guide will show you how to raise children according to your own values—and not those of the consumer culture—as you enjoy both quality and quantity time with your family.""

    "Simplicity Parenting" - "Waldorf educator and consultant Payne teams up with writer Ross to present an antidote for children who are overscheduled and overwhelmed by too much information and a fast-paced consumer culture that threatens the pace and playful essence of childhood. Payne claims that a protective filter should surround childhood, rather than the competitive, stressful adult world that has encroached on childhood's boundaries, preventing kids from developing resiliency with a sense of ease and well-being. But Payne is not a doomsayer: he presents a wealth of practical ideas for reclaiming childhood and establishing family harmony. In chapters covering four levels of simplification—environment, rhythm, schedules and Filtering Out the Adult World—Payne explains how parents can tackle extraneous stuff and stimulation by reducing the mountain of toys, limiting scheduled activities, providing valuable downtime and employing such pressure valves as storytelling and periods of quiet. According to the authors, limiting choices and activities will lead to kids who are more secure and less stressed, and to parents whose days are calmer. With fewer choices, Payne explains, families have the freedom to appreciate things—and one another—more deeply. Though simplicity parenting may seem a stretch for some, others will find that Payne's program for restoring creative play, order and balance is long overdue."

    My Two Cents -

    "Living Simply with Children" - Earned a place on my bookshelves for the later years.  Henry isn't exactly active outside the house yet, or interactive in the ways necessary for the examples in this book so this will sit on the shelves for a couple of years, but I'm glad to have it in my arsenal.  The author gives great advice for parents who already practice VS or are new to it; she gives step by step instructions on laying out goals and activities as family.  And has a wealth of sources for developing meaningful activities within the home. 

    My only qualm with this book was that the author gave no examples for VS homes where both parents work.  Though it's a touchy subject in many circles, two working parents are often a reality nowadays and particularly will often be a reality for those just realizing they could live more on a little less.  If you, like me are part of a two working parent home, don't dispar there is still a lot of good advice nestled in this quick read.

    "Simplicity Parenting" - Simply put, I loved this book no question about it.  My qualms with the first book were met in this one.  Kim John Payne aims his book toward every lifestyle - one working parent/one SAHP, two working parents, multiple children, only children, single parents, etc. and I was so pleased to see so many realistic examples (given from his own experience) of his ideas at work.

    Dr. Payne touches on many subjects - the first and largest being the need to limit toys.  Straight up, less in more people - he and I see eye to eye on useful and engaging toys.  For those who have grandparents and other relatives who love to give gifts he offers the simple and realistic idea of toy and book home libraries to keep rooms and playspaces uncluttered.

    Other subjects are the simplification of activities (your child does not need to be in and do everything - they'll be happier and you'll be happier), the simplification of food and meals (family dinners are a must and limiting the their food away from over processed, extreme, unrealistic flavors helps them develop healthier lifestyles), the importance of routine (he offers up wonderful ways for even the fast paced-career having parents to help establish calming routines), and the need to limit exposure to media and the adult world (he's not an advocate for keeping them from reality, but letting them grow up as they should).

    One interesting claim of Dr. Payne is the success he's had with his ADD/ADHD patients and the success he's had using the techniques of simplification and routine to give these children a little more control over their already over-stimulated minds.  He does not claim to cure the disorder, but rather gives advice for non-perscription based help in managing it.

    This book might not be of interest to anyone with the mindset that their children will be deprived, no questions asked, if they are ever denied any toy or belonging or that they will fall behind without enrollment in every sport, lesson and activity.  If you think this already, this book might not be for you.

    However I do feel renewed in a few of my own parenting goals:

    • Limiting toys and books - not a total deprivation, but rather an active examination of what is useful and beneficial.  We will continue to focus on toys and games that have multiple uses and application and which foster imaginative play and concrete learning skills.

    • Boredom is okay - let your kids be bored.  15 minutes of whining could lead to making Transmogrifiers out of cardboard boxes.

    • Peaceful rooms - keep your rooms peaceful and organized, limit the items in the childs room so that it is a relaxing haven for them to retreat to.

    • Limit activities - Our personal resolves rest somewhere around here - When old enough to take part in all these activities they will allowed to have music lessons, Boy Scouts/4-H/Similar group, and one sport per season.  This will be open to change depending on the child's interest and skill - concessions will be made if they show to be particularly devoted to a particular activity.

    • Family Life and Routine - Not too long ago I would have run from the idea of welcoming routine into my life, I loved jumping from one project to the next and now I find myself working hard to secure a day shift for just the opposite reason.  We want to have a routine within our family - days and nights for activities, errands, family time and adventures all worked in together, but also time to be along, to be quiet, to work, and just to be together.  I'm determined to have family dinners be a focal point of our lives as well as night-time routines; also into the mix are traditions that come with the seasons and holidays.

    • Let my kids be kids - I want to strive to allow my children to enjoy their childhoods, it's such a fleeting moment in a person's life.  I don't want to keep reality from them, there are appropriate times to talk about the big subjects - birth, death and everything in between, but I don't think my kids need to see pictures of death and war on a regular basis.  I don't think they need to know about every up and down, every worry and concern that their parents deal with - sometimes it's okay to be happy when they're awake and save the worry till they're sleeping as little minds are often too quick to accept the weight of the world on their own little shoulders.  It's a fine line, but one I want to walk with an aware and conscious mind.


    Overall I highly encourage you to read either of these books whether your kids are 18, 8 or 8 months.

    Sunday, October 9, 2011

    {Right Now}

    Right now, I am...

    :: enjoying the feeling of balance and stability.

    :: feeling nervous and a little anxious.

    :: wanting to find my camera card.

    :: enjoying 8 month old little boys who give my life meaning.

    :: holding him close, because he's no longer looking like my little baby.


    :: thinking of the hope of more little boys, paint chips, faith and snow.

    :: grateful for amazing family and friends.

    :: anticipating new schedules.

    :: wishing for more hours in the day.

    :: wondering just how much knitting I can  do until my fingers fall off

    :: hoping to share more projects again, as soon as I find the time... and my camera card.


    Sunday, October 2, 2011

    Thankful

    Today I'm thankful for so many things - the weather, the food in our kitchen, my little boy who just learned how to really cuddle and show affection.

    I'm thankful that things are so much better than last year - I can almost see the reason for all of the blues I went through last year, anything by comparison is amazing.  This is my favorite time of year, and I'm going to enjoy it double for missing out on it last year!

    I'm thankful that I can put on my big girl pants and realize that I can make a bunch of people happy quite often or one person happy never and know when it's time to just move on.  Really, folks there should be an age limit on when you can blow up at folks, take things out of proportion and still get away with it.

    I am particularly thankful for the news on Friday that I did receive my day time shift.  I will be taking it over around the 1st of the year so we have plenty of time to arrange daycare options and adjust.  We're still waiting to hear on my husbands shift request, and should know within the week or two - now I'm praying that he gets one of the later morning shifts (9 or 10 a.m.) so we can limit the time we need to use daycare.

    I'm thankful that with this news we can really start considering our next step forward.

    Thank you all for the kind words, prayers, and good universe vibes!

    Friday, September 30, 2011

    PF Update

    Once again, this is not a PF blog, but I figured a little accountability would hurt.  Here's a run down of my original goal set earlier this month

    • Eating out/ "work food" - Realistic Monthly Budget $100 ($10/week/person on work food, $20 eating out) Ideal Monthly Budget $60 - Goal Met? Almost, I did really good this month, but the hubby used a little more than he normally did.  We also had a day sitting with family in the hospital factored in here.

    • The No Clothing Challenge - Realistic Monthly Budget $25 Ideal Monthly Budget $0 Goal Met?  Very close, we needed to PJ's for the kiddo and none were to be found in the consignment shop, so I hit up a really good sale at a kids store

    • The Entertainment ListRealistic Monthly Budget $40Ideal Monthly Budget $30 Goal Met?  Nope, hubby's game subscription was renewed this month and he broke his headphones and I succumbed to a book purchase.  Oh well, like I said before, it happens - he renews the subscription for multiple months at once to get a discount, and used a great deal for the headphones, so we came out ahead of what it could have been in the end.

    • Vacation/Travel -Realistic Monthly Budget (for months with travel, room + extra gas) $125 Ideal Monthly Budget $5  Goal Met? - Yes!  Didn't do any traveling this month, and probably won't in October.

    • Groceries - Realistic Monthly Budget $800 ($50/person/week ) or $400 for my half-share of the bills Ideal Monthly $600 ($37.50/person/week) or $300 for my half-share of the bills.  Goal Met?  Nope, however it was almost a 5 week month, the baby's stock of everything was depleated so I stocked up for another couple months, and I purchased for some bulk projects I've working on.  I'm hoping we can really start utilitizing our stores this fall and I really need to figure out a way to account for non-food items in some of those bills to get a better idea of what's being spent on what.


    So in all it sounds like a bad month, however it wasn't.  We had some big purchases - our family photos and a new carseat which came out of savings, we paid off the car, we treated my mother to dinner for her birthday, etc. however factor those out and adjust things around and were still on track for having effective spending habits with a mortgage and more childcare factored in.

    So for October, I'll still be working to reach those Ideal Goals and doing a little more careful calculations to see where any problems are.  I know want to be shopping for groceries more at real grocery stores, not stores that have groceries in them to keep from confusing the budget.

    Onwards and upwards - we won our battle yesterday and keep us in your prayers that we get good news on the dayshifts soon.

    Thursday, September 29, 2011

    Protect Us In Battle



     

    Today is Michaelmas, or the Feast of St. Michael - even most protestants are familiar with the start of his prayer "St. Michael, defend us in battle".  Traditionally the celebration is associated with the equinox, and harvest.  It is also when quarterly debts were to be settled among other things.  Well, we've settled our debts recently, and my dad is working on bring in the harvest.  We also go to negotiate next years rental agreement for the farm with my Grandmother today - it is our battle and one I hope will have a good resolution.

    So St. Michael, if you've got a moment, please defend us in battle today.

    Wednesday, September 28, 2011

    Good Morning

    Foggy morning.

    Did laundry and checked emails while the baby climbed a half asleep Mount Daddy.

    Spent the morning in the kitchen. 

    Baby in the high chair eating puffs and playing with tin measuring cups. 

    Making a large pot of soup for freezing. 

    Listening to bluegrass and folk.

    Laughing at whatever 7.5 month olds find hilarious.

    Eating homemade strawberry jam on toast.

    ....

    Really don't want to go to work now.

    Monday, September 26, 2011

    Onwards

    Thanks everyone.  Just that, thanks.  Thanks, no frills or sprinkles on top.  Thanks in the way my stoic mid-western relatives prefer to receive their thanks - quietly, quickly but full of sincerity,

    I've got a lot on the way.  Fall is my favorite season by far and since we're having a cold snap my instincts to knit and cook have been in overdrive and I can't wait to share these things with you.

    And for those who need a good laugh, I found this in the past post of my old defunct blog -

    Saint Molly -


    Patron Saint for protection from/for the victims of Nitpickers, Naysayers and the Chronically Grumpy.


    Saint Molly , pray for us.


    Help us smile in the faces of those who find fault in everything we do.


    Help us remain steadfast when surrounded by those who always know better


    And remain chipper and upbeat when surrounded by those who have no discernible sense of humor.


    If we fail at this please see fit to provide us with Dr. Pepper, Peanut Butter Twix and a quiet, hidden place to stomp around and yell until such a time when we can complain ad-naseum to our significant others.


    Amen.


    hmmm.... I wonder if I could convince good ol' Benny in Rome to canonize me while I was still living...

    Saturday, September 24, 2011

    The Day We've Been Waiting For

    As of 10 a.m. this morning the "Make-Do" Family has ZERO consumer debt.

    After collecting the hubby and the baby around the computer I clicked that final button and paid off our car and 6 six days shy of our 2 year mark we are (consumer) debt free. 

    In those two years we've:

    • Had a promotion (the reason we could start the goal in earnest)

    • Had an off-season (3 months of no work)

    • Celebrated birthdays and holidays

    • Explored the West Coast

    • Found out we were having a baby

    • Moved cross-country

    • Took a minimum wage job - Me

    • Bought a second used car

    • Changed jobs (and took a pay cut to do so) - Him

    • Got the interview that turned into a real job a few days before Christmas

    • Went on 3 months of maternity leave

    • Got job offer

    • Had baby

    • Turned 28 (both of us)

    • started new job - entry-level but still mor per year than I was making before

    • Got a small raise, got past 6 months probation period and got another raise

    • Had expenses, bought clothes, tires, maintenance, fun things, saw movies, ate out, visited family, etc.

    • Paid of over $11,000 of debt - approx. $7500 car, $2300 loan, $1200 credit card

    • Have saved equal amount in preparation for home buying/savings/day to day expenses


    I wasn't sure if I wanted to share the total amount on-line, but decided I wanted to do so to show those who want to do something similar that it is possible even when faced with those day to struggles and ups and downs.  You make sacrifices along the way, but it's amazing how quickly you learn to stick to your guns when you see that number start to get smaller.  It's even possible with small budget and paychecks.

    How we did it -

    • Careful budgeting - figured out the needs and always saw that those were met each time they arose.

    • Planned known expenses in advance - Getting a flat tire can't be planned, but other things can.  You know when birthdays and holidays are coming up and can plan accordingly.

    • Pay with cash - Okay I'll admit the envelope system doesn't work for me, but paired up with my budgeting and planning it was easy to look a week or two in the future and see the expenses I knew would arise and do a little quick math to see what was left over in the account after those expenses were taken care of.  If I had extra, I could spend it; If we were barely squeaking by until the next paycheck that thing could usually wait.

    • Knowing that Money = Life - yeah that sounds a little weird, but if you work for a living and receiving a paycheck it's easy to figure out just how much of your life you'll be at work to afford that brand new car versus a used one.  Heck, an Ipod on an entry-level  salary will cost you over 20 hours of your life.  An Ipad, over 50 hours - that's 50 hours of your life working just to have a gadget you might not need, which will have to be replaced eventually anyways and if you're obsessed with owning the latest and greatest, the amount of time spent earning those items adds up; put it on a credit card and you can tack on another couple of hours filling TPS reports and being asked if you got that Memo.  (Apply this logic to cable TV, I dare you.  It'll make your head hurt.)


    Things we've learned in the last two years:

    • It's not hard to say no - when you start asking yourself if something is a want or a need, it becomes easier to say "I don't really need that now".

    • Find the budget that's right for you - Everyone is different and everyone will find their own bookkeeping methods - mine was a Word program calendar file that allowed me to track exactly how much we needed in our account each week to take care of our needs (bills, food, gas) which made it easy to see the $500 extra in the checking account was not up for grabs.

    • Set budgets, but don't beat yourself up - it's okay if you set a budget for eating out or gifts and have 3 long-lost friends drop into town, a wedding and a 1st birthday all in the same months.  It's life, you only get one, so enjoy it when it happens and adjust the next month accordingly.

    • Saving is addicting - While I hope not to become a Scrooge coveting my saved dollars, saving money can become addicting and you start to mourn times when you can't save as much as you'd like. Part of this is the feeling of security you get knowing that if the month (mentioned above) also happens when the kid outgrows all his clothes, you get two flat tires and the toilet backs up you'll be okay.

    • You'll amazed out how little you need to really live well.


    Now the plan is to bulk up the savings even more in preparation for the house buying by putting what we were spending on the car directly into savings and keep plugging away at those student loans, which we should have paid off with in 7 years, but I plan of figuring out a way to pay them off in 5 or the by the 10th anniversary of graduation.  I plan on trying to make a bulk payment to them in a month or two to pay off any outstanding compounding interest left over from my less financially savvy years.

    Today is a good day.

    Thursday, September 22, 2011

    {Weekend Wonders}

    {Weekend Wonders} – A little something to read while drinking your coffee Saturday morning in the hopes that it will give you something to think about, talk about or the inspiration to do something!}

    Okay folks it's time to put our money where our mouth is.  I know how hard it is to make good decisions for the world at large while trying to balance a check book; but even a small change is a change.  Go here to learn about a project to inform consumers about their favorite products and companies.

    Each business is ranked according to 5 key issues - human rights, the environment, animal protection, community involvement and social justice.  It is a growing project and will be offering detailed look at their ranks on certain products every month.

    I would encourage, not a full turnaround (like binge diets they only work so long), but a slow and steady change.  Choose 3 categories/products most important to you or are on your purchasing list in the immediate future - this could be body care/clothing/coffee or car/ice cream/paper products and start at the bottom of the list.  Make a pact with yourself not purchase from companies with the worst, "F", rating to begin with.  Since many of the "F" ratings are big, known brands - think Kraft, Budweiser and Nestle - take a couple months looking for the brands higher on the list, researching alternatives (can you make your own or buy local?), and finding out just how much more wiser purchasing decisions will cost.  Once this happens cross another letter of your list - take the "D" ranked items out of your rotation. And continue, personally I'd allow myself to purchase from any company with a B ranking or better - ideally if we start supporting the more sustainable companies and they stick to their moral guns a large population could affect prices, making the items more affordable (I know this isn't a perfect economic assumption, but go with me I'm an idealist).

    I would choose to focus on 1) Body Care, 2) Hair Care and 3) Cleaning*

    *I'm fully intending on going over to vinegar and baking soda within the next couple months, but for the items it doesn't cover.

    What three products would you choose to focus on?

    Wednesday, September 21, 2011

    Gee whiz!



    "Big shiny buttons AND shoe laces I'm allowed to nom on?  Gee whiz ma' you're the greatest!"

    Too cute not to share - Little Bear enjoying a rough draft of a sensory toy project his mama whipped up during nap time!

    (Just incase - I'm a trained professional stitcher, but because of the buttons and laces this is a supervised use only toy)

    Tuesday, September 20, 2011

    Out of the Wardrobe

    Nope, still no Narnia; no shirtless James McAvoy walking out of my closet.

    Darn.

    Well, there's always tomorrow.

    However, I did get the deep clean done.  The damage stands at this:

    1 shopping bag full of ratty, damage or otherwise not worth keeping items from the undergarment/sock drawer ready to be thrown away.

    1 shopping bag of items for the Goodwill - things with minor defects or out of style aka not worth of the great consignment shop

    2 shopping bags of items for the great consignment shop - I was really hard on myself to accomplish this.  Even if the items were it great condition and were from quality stores - if they hadn't been worn in the last year or I some how find a way to talk myself out of wearing them on a regular basis they are going bye-bye.  I feel good that most of the items will be taken at tomorrows drop off.

    Which brings my clothing items - total for all seasons (nothing in storage) to it's current tally

    1 drawer undergarments (not full, but plenty to be cycled thru)

    1 drawer socks/tights/etc. (also not full, but now organized with only the best items kept)

    1 drawer jeans and non-work pants

    1 drawer misc. work pants/pj's



    1 standard garment rack (maybe 3/3.5 ft long) of tops, sweaters and dresses.



    That's it folks, except for my shoes (which are hard to coral for a picture), my two winter jackets and a couple days worth of laundry in the machine, that's my entire (spring/summer/winter/fall) wardrobe.

    I'm so glad I did this now, as fall is my favorite time to succumb to my consumer urges.  It's nice to look in and see just where, if at all there are any gaps in my necessary wardrobe.  While it's all in really nice shape I did notice a few spots that need help and have made a few goals relating to them.

    Make-Do Projects

    • Boot socks and bras - my top priority for yearly "Restocking the Stocking" gifts, but not before.

    • One or two pairs of nice dress shoes - the heels I still have from college (you know about 8 years ago) haven't been worn in years and are getting tossed/consigned. I plan on waiting out the great C.S. for a quality pair of dress shoes this fall, or two. Goal - find consigned pair(s) of Sofft heels, or similar (small height, larger in the base than my 20 year old self prefered), they come into the great C.S. surprisingly often.

    • Continue to save for one really nice pair of leather boots - I have a dream about buying a good pair of Frye leather boots that will be heirlooms, and still wearable, when I die at the age of 107. Will check ebay and the like when the time comes, but until then I'll make do with what I have.

    • New hat/glove set for myself - knitting myself for Christmas out of stock of yarn.


    Mend Projects

    • Hem 2 pairs of jeans - bought 2 pairs of fancy brand jeans at the consignment shop about a month ago, just a little too long and need to be hemmed.

    • Re-line winter jackets - I have two winter coats and both need little work on the inside. My long wool coat (that I've had since 7th grade) needs new lining throughout the body and my green coat needs the pockets sewn back up. {Note to self - this has been on your to-do list for about two years.... good luck!}


    Do Without Goals

    • Find and save for patterns and yarn for a couple sweaters - there are one or two classic sweaters that I'd like to have eventually, and why not add them to my closet by the work of my own hands - but until then I'll do without.

    • I really don't need much else right now and with the prospect of potential home ownership approaching (hopefully) there are so many other things to spend my money on/save.


    Thanks to my goals earlier this month to stay out of the stores my credit at the great C.S. is currently standing at around $130, with more to sell so my "make-do" purchases, once found, will not cost me a thing with plenty left over to stock up Little Bear at the end of the season for next year.
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