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

Friday, February 28, 2014

FOF: Last Week of Nothing-But-Dairy Grocery Challenge!

Today is the last day of February which means my Nothing-But-Dairy-In-February Grocery Challenge is now officially done and over with which means the last time I went on a real grocery trip was back in January so we've been living on our cupboards and pantry for TWO months.

I gotta say- I am SO happy I did it!

Here are some things I learned during the February Nothing-But-Dairy Grocery Challenge:

* Cranberry Pomegranate iced tea is a sorry substitute for peppermint green iced tea (But prettier.  I'll give it that.)

* It is possible to make 100% whole wheat rolls and bread, with not a BIT of white flour, that are still soft and fluffy and delicious.

* I spend a lot of money on milk.

* Ditto on the cheese.  I eat a lot of cheese.  So does my family.  But I SERIOUSLY do.

* We could save a lot of money by cutting back on dairy.  I don't know that I am ready for a move like that though.

* baking all your bread  isn't that big of a deal.  It helps warm up the house, which is always a plus in winter.  Now, in the summer that would be an entirely different matter.

* the above is true if and only if you have not previously spent the entire day not thinking about the fact that there is no bread in the house and the realization comes to you only after you are loading up the dishwasher before bed.  This happened a few times too.  Then it is a very big deal.

* Canned tomatoes make awesome tasting tomato soup.  In about five minutes flat. (I put the recipe up at Kitchen Riches for those of you who asked!)

* Homemade ketchup is delicious!  And fast!  And easy!

* I still have a lot of food left.   Actually, my freezers don't really look like they took a very big hit at all.  The meals would be less and less elegant and more and more redundant (think zucchini...) as I went along but I could totally do another month if I wanted to. (but I don't.  hehehe) I'll have to do this challenge again- maybe around May/June when space (and jars) for harvesting and putting up are a present need.

* People have a lot more food than they think in their cupboards.  Once you get rid of the convenience foods that can be whipped up quickly- it is easy to feel like there is no food in the house.  But there is- you just have to work for it.

*  I kinda missed walking around the grocery store.  When I went to get milk, I bee-lined to the dairy aisle and didn't dillydally so I wouldn't be tempted.  I think I will go nice and slooooow for my big grocery run.

* You don't know how troubling it is to see a food source run dry without the means to restock it until you have actually lived it.  (Even for pretend.)  I was seriously fretting about the flour and egg situation.  I have never before had to worry about the bottom of the flour bowl before.  I think a bit of rationing puts this very spoiled girls' thoughts nicely into perspective.  It is good to be reminded in real (and troubling and even, in this case, pretend) ways that God gives us gifts that we take for granted every day.  Like filled egg baskets and flour bowls.  And a grocery store where we can buy more when they run out.  And money to buy those things to refill them once again.

I bought:

* Four gallons of milk @ $2.79 a gallon........... $11.16  (* I could have gotten these a bit cheaper at Aldi but I did not have time to stop at two places and was already AT Walmart in order to return two items.  I only got four gallons this week, instead of five, in order to try and make up for it.)

* A five pound block of mild cheddar................$14.96 (* I almost didn't buy this because the total cost was so much and would add so much to this weeks' total (Vanity.  All is vanity!) but then I thought "Dork.  It is $3.00 a pound and the smaller 2 lb. packages cost $8.96 anyway so I came back to my senses. I won't buy any cheddar next week.)

Total: $26.12

On the Menu:
(HC means Home canned.  Snacks varied this week but we are running low on (or out of) just about everything snack-ish like beef jerky, apple slices, etc.  Often it was crackers, licorice (our neighbor keeps us in constant supply of this!), apples, olives, cheese, or popcorn.)

22nd: Saturday 
breakfast: cornmeal mush with maple syrup
lunch: ham and bean soup with rolls
dinner: leftovers

23rd: Sunday
breakfast: huckleberry scones
lunch: sandwiches and bean and cheese burritos (the latter for the grown ups!)
dinner: pot roast with potatoes.  Whole wheat knots. (made from leftover pizza night dough.)

24th: Monday
breakfast: scones and cheese slices.
lunch: Homemade Tomato Soup and crackers
dinner: Spaghetti with HC sauce, Peas, Garlic Cheese bread

25th: Tuesday (Knitting class at library right at lunch time!  I didn't have any bread in the house and no time to prepare anything so lunch time today was pretty pathetic (in my mind) and pretty AWESOME (in the childrens' mind).
breakfast: toast and cheese, apple slices
lunch: peanut butter crackers, cheese, Twizzlers
dinner: Meatless Burritos (beans, rice and corn with cheese and HC salsa wrapped in tortillas)

26th: Wednesday
breakfast: Omelets with cheese.  I could stand it no longer.  I NEEDED eggs, despite them being rationed.  I have four left to last until the end of the week. Unless our chickens decide to help out a bit.
lunch: ham salad in pita bread.  (I did not bake the pitas.  I found a bag tucked way in back of the freezer.)
dinner: sloppy joe on delicious whole wheat sandwich buns.  (Thank you for the recipe, Rhonda!) Peas. HC Pickles. HC Applesauce. French fries with homemade ketchup.
dessert: Grape Sorbet (The children and I were feeling under the weather with sore throats and there was plenty of hacking/coughing going on, so I pulled out some grape sorbet I had made during grape season and had been saving for just such an occasion.)

27th: Thursday (chickens gave us FIVE eggs today!  THANK YOU CHICKENS!)
breakfast: zucchini muffins
lunch: leftover soup.  (Mixed all the leftovers -pot roast, spaghetti, meatless burrito filling- up into a minestrone-y like soup.  It was good! I was surprised! hehehe)
dinner: Ham and scalloped potatoes.  Peas. HC peaches. HC applesauce.  HC pickles. Whole wheat bread and butter.

breakfast: zucchini muffins, slices of cheese.
lunch: scrambled eggs
dinner: Pizza Night!  Not sure what I will be doing about a veggie.  But there will be pizza!  I only have enough mozzerella for one pizza- so one of the pizzas will have to be three cheese.  ;-)  The other?  Not sure about.  I am feeling an urge to experiment...but we shall see.  I don't know why but I am feeling like I could make a sloppy joe and collard pizza taste good...but would everyone be brave enough to try it?

 Other frugal accomplishments: (I was very bad about recording these this week and now I am drawing a blank...)

~ Andrew took down my laundry room coin pitcher and sorted and counted the money (for fun) one day and then, since they were already sorted and in piles, I put the coins in wrappers to take to the bank.  $60.00 richer, thanks to spare change and Andrew!

~ Baked all bread needs without using ANY all purpose flour!  Experimented with this bread recipe and this sandwich bun recipe.  (Both excellent!)

~  Matt worked on splitting more wood over the weekend.  And we probably will this weekend too.

~ saved egg shells for chickens (for calcium)

~ made homemade ketchup for the first time ever.  Another winner!

~ hung heavier clothing to dry by woodstove

~ washed all ziploc baggies

~ borrowed a bunch of books from the library

~ attended a free knitting class

What about you? 
Do you have anything financial to share this week? 
 Link up!  
As always~ PLEASE link to your SPECIFIC blog post, not your entire blog. It could be ways you saved or stretched or strategically spent those pennies...or even inspiration you found or quotes... but please link to a post about SOMETHING financial! Lastly, please link back to my blog and maybe others would like to share!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

A Little Bit of Pretty

 I am sensitive to the fact that, while *I* signed up for writing reviews this year for Schoolhouse Review, *you* certainly didn't sign up for reading them.  And it kind of bothers me a bit to have less-than-aesthetically-pleasing reviews in my happy, pretty place.  Because of this, I try to get up a post just as quickly as I can after a "review" post in order to make my 'place' happy and pretty again.  And my readers too.  ;-)

And you- I hope you know that you do not need to read my review posts unless you are truly interested in hearing about that particular product.  I put "REVIEW" in the title of each review post I do so that you can secretly (or blatently) skip those posts if you so choose.  ;-)  I won't think less of you. 

So- in an effort to re-beautify the place, I give you... eggs!  And a glass-skinned lady!  And a certain little grin that I hold dear.  And...well, that's all. 

I am happy to report that our chickens are beginning a slow and steady return to work and just in time too.  I ran out of eggs this week and have wondered just how I'd make it through.  I have been positively DESPERATE for an egg breakfast!

If you look closely, some of those idyllic looking eggs are actually cracked.  :-( This blustery, frigid weather does that sometimes. 

No worries.  It just means I get to eat eggs for breakfast tomorrow.  ;-)

See you tomorrow with Finances on Friday.  (FOF to the cool people.)

Review: Science4Us.com

Science4Us Review Even though I have a blog and utilize the computer in many ways for our home learning (getting books from the library, watching art videos on youtube, borrowing inspiration/information from other blogs, expanding our learning in many countless ways...) I still am pretty naive at the vast universe of available resources that is the world wide web.  There is so much cool stuff on the internet, ready at the mere click of a button, to expand and round out education, experiences and opportunities for learning..  I am just now figuring this out, as I participate on the Schoolhouse Review Crew this year.  One of these cool spots online is Science4Us.com.  I found out about it when I was given a chance to review the Science4Us.com Online Subscription.

Science4Us.com is a web-based resource that is, as the name suggests, all things science!  Geared toward the very young students in your classroom or homeschool, it provides interesting and entertaining science education and activities for kindergarteners through second grade.   And let me tell you, the site is child-friendly enough to be easily navigated by the children without help...(Warning!!! They WILL want to push all the buttons! ;-) )

Science4Us Review

The site covers four different scientific categories: Life Science, Earth Science/Space, Physical Science and Inquiries.  While the first three are rather self-explanatory, the more elusive "Inquiry" covers the scientific tools to measure, observe, record and communicate.  Within each category, there are three main actions that the student can choose from to do.  EXPLAIN, EXPLORE, ENGAGE.  The first is a virtual lesson for the child.  The latter are fun activities that reinforce the topic chosen. 

Other than the "Three E's" there are about 9 other fun activities to go along with each lesson within the category.  Some of these fun activities incorporate reading and math into the learning.  "Sillybulls" separates science vocabulary into syllables as the child tries to put them in order to make the proper word.  There are alphabetizing games, matching games, graphing, quizzes and more!  There is even an online notebook which stores the child's observations and artwork.   There are plenty of worksheets, experiments and activities you may choose to print as well. Every activity that the child participates in online is saved in a report which can be Evaluated later  on (Another "E"!) by the teacher/homeschool parent, allowing the adult to see just where the child is excelling/having trouble.  These reports are automated (and printable!) for homeschooling portfolios.  (Now THAT is cool.)

Science4Us Review
In addition to the student reports, you (as the teacher) are given access to all the lesson plans (how long they will take, what to expect, the activities and vocabulary and other details), teaching strategies, assignments.  There are plenty of video support and virtual tours to help you navigate and figure out  how to best use the site.

I was disappointed with the program in only one regard... when studying Earth Science, their 'history of the world' is skewed to an evolutionary slant and you get the whole "millions of years" jargon as is typical with that crowd.  If you, like us, are Creationists, you'll be disappointed too.  I avoided that area of the website...not because my children aren't very familiar with the theory of evolution-we talk about it all the time (and why its' wrong!) but because it is presented as fact.  That's the only thing I would change.

The program can be purchased on a monthly basis for $7.95 per child for each month at Science4Us.com

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Yarn Along

I haven't participated in the yarn along for quite some time.  The reason for this is simple.  There has been nothing to show!  I've been in a sort of yarn funk.  Over a dozen projects lying around half-done but no motivation to do them.  Movie nights is basically when I do yarn projects, but even those have been more a 'turn into a zombie tv-watcher" with my hands being preoccupied holding/being held by Matt's.  Over the last few weeks, I've needed that bit of hand holding, let me tell you.

I am happy, happy, HAPPY to report to you today, though, that I FINALLY finished the first fingerless mits I've ever knit (and the second knit project I've ever begun)!  Going from simple washclothes to four double pointed needles was a huge challenge for me- but the perk is that now plain knitting with two needles seems that much easier and less daunting.  After all, I have been fumbling over four needles on and off for a good year and a half now.

One is slightly longer than the other one- and I didn't discover until it was too late that with varigated yarn you must start at the same color point in the yarn in order to have two MATCHING pieces...but you know what?  I don't care.  I am just thrilled that they are DONE with still a bit of cold left this winter in which to wear them.

The next project my knitting class is going to do is a cabled purse.  It uses bulky yarn and only TWO needles- so it will (hopefully!) be a quicker project to finish.  And, of course, plenty of works-in-progress to pick up whenever I finally get the gumption.

As for reading~ I am on a Booker T. Washington kick.  Up From Slavery: An Autobiography for now.  This One next.  When I am feeling the need for a quick read and a story with some closure, I pick up the The Complete Father Brown mysteries I began back in January.  And when I feel like not using too many braincells, I pick up Chickens in the Road.  I'm not sure I like this book- but I am only 1/4 of the way through it.  It is just one of those books where I don't feel I can relate at all to the author...which is odd because it seemed like I would, it being a "city lady moving to the country and doing country things" kind-of story.


Monday, February 24, 2014


I've spent weeks (months? years? Has this winter lasted years?!) avoiding the bitter outdoors...scurrying to get out of the cold as fast as I could when it was necessary I go out in the first place.  Scurry to the van.  Scurry to the house.  Scurry to the barn and back again.    Rebecca scurries in winter.

This weekend, when the temperatures rose to mid-to-upper 40's I could barely contain my excitement.  Snow drifts as high as my thigh in some places and melting snow turned into lakes in others, I couldn't take my usual jaunt from woods path to frog pond, up the hill, past the secret cabin because I couldn't get past the water hole.  Every angle I took, every attempt around was met by too-deep water and collapsing snow.

Undeterred, I turned myself around and headed down the dirt road lining the lower pasture.  The one by the beautiful lake where ice-fishers huddle and the big tree looms by its' lonesome, majestic.  Where the snow drifts form layers of snowstone and the snow meets the sky and I follow the wanderings of deer.

There wasn't a single sign of spring anywhere...not a single hint of new life (though I secretly dreamed of seeing a bulging bud or spike of premature green poking up somewhere)...
but the fresh air filling my lungs
and the blue skies above (bluer than I've seen in every so long!)
 and the babbling of water over stones
and the creaks of the swaying trees...
did make me feel more alive than I have in quite some time.

I realized, for the first time in a long time, I was lingering.  And it was so, so good.

REVIEW: KinderBach

You may remember that our Composer of the Month this month is J.S.Bach.  Today, I'd like to tell you about different sort of Bach...KinderBach.   As the name hints, KinderBach is an online piano course for young children.  I was given access to the Online Piano Lesson Membership with Teacher Corner to try for six months, and though my six months is not yet over, the KinderBach lessons are well underway!

KinderBach is an entertaining online tool to teach young children music theory, keyboarding and piano instruction.  It is geared for the very young child aged 3-7 years old.  At first I was skeptical that a three year old could learn piano- (apparently, not everyone has my Judah for a 3 year old!) I decided I would try the program out with Adele' (the five year old) as my guinea pig.  The truth of it, though, is that whenever it was time to do KinderBach, all four of the children- from 3 to 10 years old, would flock to the piano in excitement.  And Judah, even at three, was able to follow a long with all the lessons we have watched thus far.  I'd say it is absolutely ideal for the 3-5 year old, as the videos are made to be as entertaining as educational and are made with a short-attention span in mind. 

Each video lesson runs somewhere between 2 and 3 minutes and within each lesson, bright colors, silly songs and do-alongs abound.   Children wind up dancing, stomping or playing rhythm instruments to the beat.  There are six different skill levels and 10 weeks of lessons within each skill level, with four lessons a week.  Because the children had no experience with piano except their homemade songs and keyboard tickling, we began at the very beginning.  (It's a very good place to start.)  Level 1 begins by introducing (and mapping) the keyboard, introducing high/ low notes, and quarter notes and then moves on to half notes, fingering, beat values and teaching rhythm with the use of the piano and rhythm instruments and different notes.  By the end of level one, the student should be able to play simple songs. 

In addition to the video lessons, KinderBach provides you with printable coloring pages to reinforce the topics just learned/watched/danced which were just as fun for Adele' to do as the videos.  We compiled all her pages into a folder for her own 'piano book'.  She was so excited to do each lesson, I often doubled-up on the lessons so she would do two a day because she didn't want to stop!

I should mention too~ the whole program (videos, printable materials and website) is very easy to use and navigate.  As a parent, and a techno-dweeb (and not in a smart way), I appreciate that.

 Kinderbach Review

The  KinderBach Online Piano Lesson Membership with Teacher Corner is usually $130.00 per year but for a limited time, you can get the program for $99.88 per year.  This works out to about $7.99 a month~ and will get you over 240 video lessons accessed by computer, iPad, Android Tablet, Kindle Fire or Nook, story books, coloring pages, songbooks, activity pages and all the materials in the teachers' corner.

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