What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow. ~ Martin Luther

Thursday, January 31, 2013

January in Review

I really liked looking back each month last year, to see my progress toward my yearly goals so I thought I would continue with my "Month in Review" posts this year, as I am able. My posts might be more summarizing than specific, but it was a helpful exercise for me and I know at least TWO of you enjoyed reading about them. ;-) So- here I go. January in review.

I purposely did not add "a home project a month" into my goals for 2013-not because I don't WANT to complete a home project a month but because our budget squeaks so loudly that I knew we wouldn't have the funds to DO them.  BUT!  Turns out, January was the month for home projects!

Our upstairs hallway had original wood flooring that was in such bad shape that there were a dozen or so places that old scrap metal was tacked over them that would constantly scrape our feet.  It is a wonder we didn't all get tetanus.  We got pretty good at navigating the floors in the middle of the night in bare feet- but when you missed your mark- boy did it HURT.

We wanted to cover it up but....well, the budget wasn't there.

Then, a few random home renovation conversations over Christmastime resulted in us finding out that a cousin who had redone their floor had a bunch of "old" flooring they were just going to burn and would we like to see if we like it?  Um.  Yes.  ANYTHING is better than metal daggers on your toes.

Turns out, the "old" flooring was in fact GORGEOUS flooring and more than enough to cover our hallway.

Pretty amazing, right?  I love it when God knows your heart and your little insignificant desires (like a new floor) and steps out of the box you have made for Him in order to wow you with wonder.  Like a father who plays dolls with his girls even though that would be the LAST thing he cared about any other time- our Father knows of our stubbed toes and cares about flooring because WE care about flooring and for no other reason.  He is good.

Also, this month Matt did a lot of outdoor barn work.

A LOT seems like an understatement.

Thanks to Matt's hard work earlier this year we had all the supplies to do barn work without all the expense.  He rebuilt an entry going into the barn which he had worked on for a month or two this fall and then resided the whole barn.  He finished the barn projects he had hoped to finish by the end of January.  

Just for giggles- here are the barns when we moved in just over a year ago.


I told you the man is a machine.  :-)

We ALSO had a new circuit box put in our home, the first step in getting a more safe electrical situation for our home.  This was something we had to hire out to do and absolutely necessary to the safety of our home but it did set us back $1500.00.  A perfect segue' into the next area of review.

Finances.  (oh joy.)

This month was not a pretty month for finances We got a surprise tax bill saying "Surprise!  The county decided to assess your home for TWICE the value the assessor gave you when you bought it so you now owe us $2,000.00"  We looked into an appeal but the lawyer basically gave us the "just pay it" shpeal.  SO. 

$3,500.00 worth of bills that I didn't budget for in my CODE ORANGE, zero-balance budget.  That pretty much stinks.  (Another understatement.)   On top of it all, taxes increased making Matt's paycheck smaller than it was.  Another fatal blow to a zero balances budget. 
  •  Give Matt $40.00 per paycheck (because he's earned it, after all.). Did this.
  •  Pay $10,000. toward principal of house (on top of mortgage payments.)   Even with all the unexpected issues, I determined to at the very least to try to fulfill my goal to pay extra toward the mortgage.  If I am able to reach my self-imposed goal of overpaying each month....we will pay off our house in 6 years and save over $16,000 in interest alone.  Talk about incentive.  Paying $10,000 toward principle this year means paying $800.00 per month on top of our mortgage payment.  Which I did!  As we like to say around here...WA-stinkin' HOO.    It is going to be hard, especially with all these "surprises" popping up at every turn but I am hopeful.  (Or naive). 
  • Save $5,000 toward a new van (ours has 130,000 miles on it so a "new" one is inevitable.)    My self-imposed goal of saving $5,000 for a new van means setting aside $500.00 per month but unfortunately, this months' portion (and probably several more months' worth) had (and will have) to go toward the unexpected expenses January brought.   Money has to come from somewhere and sadly, we don't have a golden goose hiding in a closet somewhere.
  • Save $1,000 to put toward investing.  Not this month.  Our tax return will hopefully come in handy here.
To even remotely accomplish the above goals I need to:

  • Reevaluate our budget and spending and completely overhaul it to accommodate our CODE ORANGE, LOCKDOWN status.  :-)  (Yeah.  Smiling NOW.)  I created a Code-Orange LOCKDOWN budget in order to reach our yearly financial goals and I won't sugar-coat it, it isn't pretty.
  • Cut all unnecessary spending.   (ouch.  It hurts already.) I saved all my receipts for the month and looked at all my spending.  I see a few places I can still improve.

  • Invite people over for dinner at least once a month.  This includes people around the community as well as friends and church family. We had company three times this month.  It was lovely.
  •  Reestablish family read-alouds- not this month
  • Begin reading the Classics (using Susan W.Bauer's The Well Educated Mind as a guide.) not this month.
  • Lose 5# a month until I reach my goal weight.  Which, if the "average for my size" goal weight- should be in March; if the "Got Married This Big" goal weight- should be by May.  Well on my way.  My weight comes off very slowly, as I told you yesterday, but I am doing everything it takes so I'll (try to) be patient.
  • Wake up to send Mattie off to work each morning (while conscious) and make him lunches to take with himNot every day but I think I did REALLY well with this.  What do you think Mattie?
  • Take one photo a week finding Beauty.  I was talking to a gal a few months back who said that I often take mundane moments and make them beautiful by photographing them.  I love that about photography- it gets you to see the beauty even when it is hard to find.  But that she had said that about me was more than generous, because I haven't felt like I have done that in ages.  So, this year, I knew a personal photo challenge was in order.  Once a week.  My life IS beautiful- this shouldn't be THAT hard, right?  HA.
  • Get a church website up and running...I am a good halfway done.  It is time consuming and I won't lie- I will be HAPPY when it is over.
  • MAKE something once a month.  Dishcloths were as creative as I could get this month. Maybe I will be more clever next month. 

There were a few more goals but they were more "by the end of the year, I'll _____" type things.  

In summary-
  • I need to tweak the finances for February and try to stay disciplined (AND SANE!) on this very tight budget.
  • I need to get my nose in a book more often!
  • I need to continue with my eating/exercise routine and keep things in the proper perspective.  Healthy eating and exercise is always a good choice- even if my weight is not affected.  And there are a million more important things than weight, anyway.
  • I need to get myself INSPIRED with my camera again, for goodness' sake!!
Overall, though, not a bad start to the year.     

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Everything But the Kitchen Sink


 I am really stinking at this whole blogging thing in 2013!  It is mostly due, I think, to the fact that I spend my precious few blogging moments during "quiet time" doing something decidedly LESS fun...exercising. 


But! I have lost 13 pounds so far!  I think it is pretty ironic that I am telling you I lost 13 pounds and have posted pictures of the lard biscuits I made last week and the scones that are often my breakfast.  Weird, right?  But you have to understand- I don't believe in dieting.  I don't believe in living life without lard.

I am betting you might be wondering how I am losing weight then, am I right?  So here it is:

I started recording my calories using myfitnesspal.com. It is a free calorie counter or online food journal and has almost all the foods you could possibly imagine eating in it and their caloric/fat value.  It tells you how many calories you need to eat and it is your job to not go over.  I eat any food I want, but at the end of the day, I have to stop when I reach my limit.  Recording my foods has helped me to see just how much I am sacrificing for that cupcake.  Thanks to this, I happily stay away from those things that take up too many calories.  I'd much rather have 16 discs of ghirardelli chocolate and seconds on supper than a cupcake ANYWAY.  Not getting reimbursed for this recommendation (too bad!), just letting you know.

Also, I switched from the Jillian Michaels Ripped In 30 workout video that I hated (she is NOT a nice person.) to Biggest Loser Calorie Knockout video- which is so much more pleasant.  (HUGE understatement.)  One of the exercisers is named Rebecca, so the leader often says things like "Good job, Rebecca" or "Beckah's got a hop in her workout" and I pretend they are actually talking to me.  Dorky? yes.  Helpful?  totally.  I try and exercise three times a week but I only really HAVE to exercise when I overeat my calories.

It ain't no get-rich quick thing... those 13 pounds have taken me MONTHS to lose-- but even though I secretly DO want to see fast results- I would rather take it slower and keep it off than lose it quick and gain it back.  18 more pounds to go.  

Now- no more talk about weight.  ICK.  Who wants to talk about WEIGHT?


I am determined to blog today.  I started this blog post at 4:00am and it is now 1:45 and I sent the children out just now to enjoy this 69 degree January day for an hour before the looming grayness bursts into droplets.  Not so I can blog (surely, no!) but for them to get fresh air.  Yes...yes.

Thank you all for your kind concern on my back.  I am feeling just as spry as ever again- and I *might* have even tackled Matt without any serious repurcussions since we last spoke.  I will never take for granted a back that works properly and painfree walking again.  Ever.

I can not BELIEVE it is almost February!  Can you?  Craziness.  January and February are supposed to be my "slow months".  Those two months are the small window of opportunity between gardening/harvesting/canning season and handmade Christmases.  It is cold and I am reclusive and I don't even THINK about opening a gardening catalog even though they come practically every day. But sadly, this year---it hasn't felt slow at ALL. If I am going to get my "restful" months in, it better happen quick!  Any valentine plans?

Speaking of restful---

For you knitters out there- two questions.

1)  Do you knit in absolute quiet or can you knit with distractions....say, children running in circles around you and big kids asking whether or not they can have peanut butter crackers from the next room?  Is this something that is learned or must I resolve myself to only knit when I am crowned with gray and sitting upon an empty nest?

2)  What would be a good first "real" project that is not a dishcloth or a plain knit 1 row/ purl 1 row scarf?  The knitting class is starting on fingerless gloves in two weeks but a fat lot of good that does me TODAY.  Any suggestions?

And for you non-knitters~ whatcha making for supper?  I'm hungry.

Tomorrow I'll be posting a January in Review post...even though it seems sinful to have had a whole month pass.  See you then!

Monday, January 21, 2013

She LIVES! (though hobbily.)

WHAT?!?  It's been over a week since I blogged? 

Well, I thought there was no better way to reintroduce myself than with this photo.  All must be forgiven when baring your bum HEART out like that.  Wouldn't you agree?

So much to say, so little time to say it- you won't mind if I do a bit of sundry blathering, would you? 

How have I been during my absence?  I have been hobbling around like an old woman as a matter of fact.  Matt and I went to go see Le Mis at the theaters (a date!) and when we were returning to the car, I was hobbling and holding on to his arms for support so he says " Can you make it to the car, Grandma?"  Yep.  That bad. 
It started with throwing my back out- dealing for a few weeks and then, when it started feeling remotely better, I got a WEE bit rambunctious with Matt (a little incident of tackling him on the bed).  When I told my Mom the story she heard the "rambunctious with Matt"  part and said "Woah Woah Woah- you can  stop there!"  She just couldn't believe it was a totally innocent bed-tackle. 


SO yeah- we went to see Le Mis.  I enjoyed it.  Matt sat down and the opening scene begins and men start to sing and he suddenly says (in NOT a whisper, mind you) "This is a MUSICAL?"  I guess the Russell Crow bit threw him off.  Actually, the fact that Russel Crow could sing threw ME off- but Matt tells me he is (and has been for many years) actually part of a BAND.  Husbands are good for factoid Russel Crow trivia- or at least mine, anyway.


Did you notice no "Beauty" picture for last week?  Would you believe that I didn't pick up my camera ONCE last week!?!?   Believe it, my friends.  Every now and then the stars collide and I with them.  Battered and bruised, I am.


We had company over the weekend and I spent wee small hours of the morning preparing for them.  It was a "you haven't seen the house yet" visit- which means the WHOLE house must be spiffied, because you KNOW the tour is inevitable.  So, at 3:30 in the morning (after having gone to bed at 11 the night before) I got up and hastily swiped cobwebs and mopped crumbs into cracks and swirled poisen in my toilet bowl and yes, POSSIBLY filled the dryer with stuff to hide.  And while I was at my scurrying, I was thinking to myself how wonderful it is to have company over-because it finally FORCES you to do those projects which you have been successfully avoiding for the last few months.  And it is true!  Today- it is SO nice having everything "just so" and where it ought to be~ excepting, of course, the contents of the dryer which will be tackled TOMORROW. ;-)


Also over the weekend~ two SEPARATE people, knowing of my newfound soap-making adventures, dropped off garbage bags of animal fat for me.  One of sheet fat from butchering a few of their sheep and one of beef suet, supposedly the BEST animal fat for soapmaking.  I was elated and so grateful for it yesterday.  Now, after 7ish hours of rendering it all into tallow, cleaning lard layers from every possible surface and smelling boiling fat for the entire day...well, let's just say I am not feeling  grateful so much as I am feeling sick to my stomach.  Boiling animal fat is no lovely smell, let me tell you.

BUT!  I now have plenty of free tallow for more soapmaking so that is a perk!  I think the next batch I make will involve calendula. 


Tomorrow is knitting class at the library and I was supposed to be finished a dishcloth that I am only nearly halfway done, so I better get cracking.  Matt is out of town tonight so I can knit and watch movies all night on the computer in bed, snuggled in with a hot beanbag, Matt's shirt and a vanilla chai tea.  Not the same as Matt- of course, but overall, not a bad ending to the day. 

Just had to pop on here first and say "Howdy"- been missing my bloggy pals.  How is everyone?  What's going on in your neck of the woods?

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Sunday, January 13, 2013

BEAUTY 2::52

I resolved to find beauty with my camera once each week for the year....

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Handmades (from the holidays)

It wasn't a completely HANDMADE Christmas this year- but it came very close!  I'd say it was definitely a 90% Handmade Christmas.

Almost everyone got something handmade.  Matt and his two brothers were the only ones who were gypped.  Poor Mattie.  (But since he is a Valentine Baby, there is hope for him yet!)

I really enjoyed the making but I also really enjoyed the challenge of finding what handmade gift would be appreciated by whom. 

Better still, thanks to last years' resolution to work on things through the year- it was the least frazzled handmade Christmas I have had!

This post is long on pictures so I'll try to make it short on words.  (We'll see how THAT goes...)

Homemade peppermint soap, handknit dishrag, homemade vanilla and personalized-etched baking dish.

Totally stole this idea from Magic Cabin.

Probably the gift I was most excited to give- a picture book of syrupping for Gary who threatened that last year was his last year of making syrup.  Who knows if it is true- but I do know he LOVED the book!  And I got it during a buy 1 get 1 free deal, so my children will have one to look at and remember with too!  Score!

Crochet-edged pillowcases and brown sugar scrub

A crocheted hunting hat for my nephew in his first hunting season.

Charicature food plates for the boys of the family.  They can make broccoli beards on themselves!

Some canned goods, homemade soap, handknit dishcloth and my postcards.  ;-)

Homemade vanilla and an Indian Sari table runner (that I DIDN'T make but suited the receiver)

Betsy McCall magnetic dolls.  I made two containers- one for each of my young neices and Adele' grew green with envy so I made her one too for her stocking.  That was A LOT of cutting.  The free printables are here.

Towel set (not made) paired with some Cinnamon Vanilla soap I made for my brother who just got his own house.

Homemade Maple Syrup

Homemade craft kits for the preteen girls of the family.  How to Make Candles and How to Make Body Spray, to be exact.

Jalapeno Jelly basket.  (I had TWO requests for Jalapeno Jelly for presents this year!)

More homemade pillowcases

We have a three present limit for the children at Christmas (besides stockings, of course) which usually includes a BOOK  (surprised?), a handmade present and a purchased present. Here were their handmades...

A first aid kit for Corynn.  It included a real stethescope and thermometer, bandages and plantain salve.

Andrew: A scabbard for his sword.  Papa made this one!

A chicken purse for Adele'---she has been begging for a purse for ages.

The poor hen has been stuck to her side ever since! 

For Judah- a pint size farm.  I was gonna go the train route but saw this idea and HAD to do it.

We kinda like farm stuff around here.
And of course, practically the whole of our neighborhood received apple or pumpkin butters.  
I love giving handmade.  And I am pretty sure everyone appreciated GETTING handmade.

Now....what to give NEXT year.......  ;-)