Now blogging at THIS SIMPLE HOME.

Now blogging at THIS SIMPLE HOME.

At This Simple Home

  • Remember the Heroes - September 11. These figures sit above my kitchen sink. They serve as daily reminder to pray for the police, first responders, and military men and women wh...

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Though Waters Roar by Lynn Austin



The back cover:
"Thank goodness you're such a plain child. You'll have to rely on your wits."


So went the words of Grandma Bebe. And for all of my growing-up years, I scoffed at the beauty of my sister and what I saw as her meaningless existence. But my wits hadn't served me well in this instance, for here I was, in jail. And while I could have seen it as carrying on the family tradition (for Grandma Bebe landed in jail for her support of Prohibition), the truth is, my reasons for being here would probably break her heart.
So how did I end up becoming a criminal? I've been pondering that question all night. Perhaps the best way to search for an answer is to start at the very beginning.


Once again Lynn Austin has written a great historical novel.  Though Waters Roar covers the span of four generations and each is magically woven into the next.  Harriet (the plain child referred to above), her mother Lucy, grandmother Bebe, and great grandmother Hannah overcome circumstances and become strong women and fight against different social injustices.  Each character is distinct and the emotions, attitudes, and actions greatly vary in how they respond to situations.


Though I initially struggled to follow the characters (because it jumps from year to year), I quickly was brought into the story and could not put it down.  It begins with Harriet in jail pondering over the irony of how she got there.  As she thinks back over her past, she recalls not only her past, but also the stories that have been told to her.  It all relates to how this young woman found herself in a jail cell.


This book is well worth the many late nights I had when I could not put it down.  I do recommend it!


Interested in becoming a book reviewer for Bethany House?  Click the link!  Also, feel free to ask me questions!

I received this book to review.  My review reflects my own opinions.  Thank you Bethany House Publishers.

How to Use a Pork Roast

I have cooked many pork roasts, mostly because I can often find them at a very good price.  The downside of my pork roasts is that they tend to be rather flavorless.  Well, that's not yummy.   We have come up with two alternatives to flavorless pork.

Pulled Pork

The alternative became making pulled pork sandwiches with our roasts.  We don't really use a recipe, but use the slow cooker, lined with a slow cooker bag, if desired.  Place your trimmed roast inside (it can even have a bone).  Add some (maybe 1/2 cup) barbecue sauce, a touch of Worcestershire sauce, and less than 1/4 cup of water.  Cook on low for at least 6 hours, then remove the roast and shred with two forks.  Dispose of the juices (and any bone) right in the slow cooker bag.  Place the shredded meat back in the slow cooker (without bag this time unless you want to use a new one).  Add a lot of barbecue sauce (the rest of the bottle).

(If your husband suggests that he take over making the pulled pork, use caution.  He may add way too much A-1 Steak Sauce.  I know...and we both regret that!  I am hoping that he won't ever add it again.)

Continue to cook on low for about 30+ minutes.  Then serve on rolls.  Yum.

For a tasty and very simple to make pork roast, I used Start Cooking's directions.

Pork Roast

In a small bowl, I combined
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sage
1 teaspoon oregeno
1 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

I rubbed this all over the roast and placed it in the roasting pan, fat side up.  I also used their tip to make a rack for my roasting pan from tin foil.

Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes.  Then lower two 250 and bake for 50-80 minutes or until internal temperature is 150 degrees.  Much better than my previous unsavory roasts!

How do you use a pork roast?  Any tips for us?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Candy Cane

M had a lot of fun making her own candy cane from two pipe cleaners.  I held one end while she twisted the other. Simple.  Fun.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Baby Jesus

This baby Jesus is made from felt.  Though he was simple to make, he was done just in time since I procrastinated.



I cut two gray ovals and then a small oval for his face.  After embroidering the eyes, mouth, and nose, I stitched the face to the gray "blanket".  Derek suggested that it needed some blanket folds.  I just used some triangular-shaped scraps to add the folds and thought it added the right touch.

Christmas morning when M found the last advent book for our calendar, baby Jesus was there to be added to the manger instead of a piece of hay.  She knew exactly who he was and what to do with him.

I was really pleased with our advent calendar and how we prepared for baby Jesus' birth by adding a piece of  "hay" daily to the manger.  We'll definitely do it again next year!  I also want to do this Jesse Tree and with the felt tree I already made.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Free Veggie Tales DVD

Yes, a free video for you!  Just pay shipping!  Check it out at Big Idea.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to you...all of my blog land friends! This is the Christmas photo collage I created for our Christmas cards this year.  We'll be taking a bit of a blogging break until the new year (unless I find lots of spare time on my hands).




















Recently I was asked if we would travel to see family or host this year. The answer is BOTH! One weekend we'll be away, and the next Derek's family will have Christmas here in southern PA. They'll travel from VA, NYC, and northeastern PA.

 We hold the celebration of our Savior, Jesus Christ, close to our hearts. May you all be greatly blessed.

Love, Annette (For all of the family...Derek, Annette, M age 3, and E age 1)
Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 21, 2009

Painting

Do you ever get a package in the mail with a ridiculous amount of paper in it as packing material?  Instead of just tossing it all, I thought it'd be fun to do some large-scale painting.

M changed from her white sweatpants to shorts.

M asked for her name to be written.  She did a great job writing each letter.  Though you can't tell by looking at the final painting, as I watched her, she made all the proper strokes.

She also learned that mixing red and green will make brown.

Then we made a second painting using just her footprints.  She loved this.

The paper is like a newsprint, so I was glad to have the newspaper down to protect the floor, even though the  tempera paint is washable.

Before painting I had pulled M's hair into two ponytails.  As soon as she began painting, I realized that they could turn into paintbrushes, too, so I had to pull her ponytails into one ponytail.  I did it just in time.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Just Beyond the Clouds...

When you see a Down Syndrome person, child or adult, what comes to mind?
I recently listened to the audio book Just Beyond the Clouds by Karen Kingsbury on CD. It was a wonderful book that educated me and opened my mind about people with Downs. Though I already knew some about Downs, but this book opened my eyes and mind.

Just Beyond the Clouds gives hope and insight, and I highly recommend it.
(Apparently this is book #2 in the Cody Gunner series. I did not read book one. This certainly stands alone as a great book.)

Recently I have really enjoyed getting to know Karen, at The Rocking Pony.  She is open and honest...and often shares about life with her son, Micah, who has Down Syndrome.  Her blog is definitely worth checking out.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Some Christmas Thoughts

I do love Christmas. It's the time to celebrate Jesus' birth...and you know, without the birth, there would not be a resurrection!  I just thought I'd share some thoughts on how I/we do Christmas.

One year Derek even made me a CD of Christmas music. It was one of my favorite things he has done for me. (Just don't consider asking him to listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving. He would prefer to wait until December!)

I do not shop on Black Friday, but I do shop year round. Many years, before children, I would finish my shopping in October or November. I like to give thoughtful things, but try to be practical, too. I keep a running list of gift ideas in a Word document for ideas for us and others year round, so I might have some ideas when it comes time to shop.  Usually I try for really good deals, but sometimes, we just "have" to get something mid-summer at full price.  (Penn State items seem to be the biggest culprit there!)  I often ask family members what they would like...so they aren't surprised either.  At least I know they'll like it.

We usually put up our tree the first weekend in December. It's artificial. I light a pine scented candle to compensate! Derek grew up with an artificial tree. I appreciate it because as a kid, I was anxious to get a tree, but always had to wait for the right time to get it. (My dad would usually get a tree to plant, which I appreciated. My mom is a bit of a Scrooge and doesn't always put up a tree.)  This year our tree is not up yet because we have little E, age 13 months, who would help our cat bring it down!  We'll put it up this weekend though.
As a child I collected rocking horses. They are now a large part of our Christmas decorations. My first tree (a Charlie Brown type tree) when I lived on my own was mostly decorated with my own ornaments and just a few bulbs.
When Derek and I were on our honeymoon in Lake Placid, NY, we bought quite a few Christmas ornaments. It began a tradition of trying to pick out an ornament when we traveled. It doesn't always work though.

We have no mantle to hang stockings, but we do have a wooden banister.
Last year I made treats to take to our neighbors, many whom I didn't know yet.  But, really, I don't typically have a Christmas baking day.  This year I thought I was making sugar cookies to decorate, but really, they were so good without the icing that M and I didn't get to decorate.  She didn't seem to mind since she had a yummy dessert.


We travel for Christmas...or shortly after.  Last year was our first Christmas morning in our home, I think.  We found out that traveling later on Christmas day is okay...if you don't mind starving.  Thankfully we found a convenience store with some bad pizza.  It worked.  Thankfully our families all (three sets of parents, at least) live about an hour from one another.  So we can see them all, though it's hard to spend a lot of time with any of them.
I like to be surprised with gifts, though all too often I know what I'm getting.  It's not because I peeked.  I'm not ten, you know.  Or thirteen.  NOW I like to be surprised!  Yes, I admit it, and my dad and sister often remind me, as a child I snooped.  Shame on me!  In my defense, my dad would put gifts under the tree as soon as they were wrapped.  Talk about temptation. 

Derek and I tend to be very practical when it comes to giving each other presents.  However, I can usually count on a Yankee candle for every summer (birthday or anniversary) and Christmas.  My favorite scent is probably Christmas Cookies, but it makes me want to EAT.
One last thought for now.  Our spare bed is COVERED in bags and gifts...and very few are for our own children.  I think I need to start wrapping!

Baby Jesus, Where Are You?

Due to seeing this happen way too often, we had feared our Baby Jesus from our Little People Nativity had found its way to the garbage.















Thankfully, when our neighbor was babysitting E (while I went to M's school), they found Baby Jesus snug in our Little People barn.  Appropriate, don't you think?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Cards Questions

So I'm curious.  Do you send Christmas cards?  We do.  Though I have done a couple of Christmas newsletters,  when I did, I made sure to include a personal note, as well.  Now the year M was born, she was hospitalized for two weeks due to a heart problem...that year we only sent out a Christmas photo card.  (I did send out birth announcements before she was hospitalized.)

If you send out Christmas cards, do you make sure there is a return address?  I hope so!  Do you include a personal note?  Do you include a photo or a photo card?

Who do you send cards to?  Only to those you don't see?  Everyone in your address book?  Do you send to friends/family who do not send cards?

I struggle with Christmas cards, in case you can't tell by all my questions.  I like the idea of letting folks know we care, as well as telling them what is new with us and celebrating the birth of Jesus with others...or letting them know why we celebrate Christmas even if they don't.

This year I made some of our cards...not all of them.  I feel like a lot of people know that E had his seizure before his first birthday.  I'm not so sure that everyone knows that M started preschool or that she has a speech disorder.  So I did include some notes that discussed what's been happening.   I seem to struggle with writing enough to keep it personal, yet keeping it short enough to hand-write all the cards.  My goal is to keep it personal.

Are pre-printed address labels tacky?  I've been using them for a few years, but tell me your thoughts!

Oh, I used Picasa to make a photo collage of the family last year and this.  It's simple.  I wrote about it.  You can read about the affordable Christmas photos by clicking the link.

Please share your thoughts with me on how you do things...now I'm off to write some more Christmas cards!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Lack of Self Control: Sugar Cookies

This week I made sugar cookies. My thought was that I would make them one morning and roll them after the dough chilled for a few hours during nap time. I thought it might be fun to do a little with M, my 3 year old. I also had in mind to decorate them using cake decorating tips, since I never have before. You know-practice! With my son teething and being sick this week, not much has gone as planned. (Have you noticed the lack of posts?)

I made the dough on Monday. YUM!! It was great for snacking! The Tuesday night, after the kids were in bed, I rolled it out. These cookies are so good! In fact, they are so good that I have not even frosted them.

Want to know the best part? Both Derek and I like them! It seems to me that if I like a cookie, he thinks it is only "okay." Though he was content to eat the dough, I felt the need to make some Christmas cookies.

There is a downside to great cookies. Apparently, I have NO self-control. Wednesday morning I had a couple after breakfast...and more before lunch. I probably had a few more in the afternoon, and again after dinner for dessert. Seriously. By mid-afternoon I recognized I had a problem. I put them on top of the fridge, somewhat out of reach. By Thursday morning I gained some self control. I didn't have a cookie until nearly lunch time. Then I pushed the cookies far enough back on top of the fridge that I would need a chair to get them down. Now, I know I love a good cookie, but I am NOT usually like this. In fact, I usually freeze my cookies so that they don't go stale. (Cookies are wonderful frozen, don't you know?) Oh, and this was my first time making these sugar cookies. I definitely have a keeper of a recipe!

Since you are not likely to stop by for a visit today for a taste, here is the recipe.
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Directions
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight). Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Roll out dough on floured surface 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes with any cookie cutter. Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 6 to 8 minutes in preheated oven. Cool completely.
My note: I followed the recipe exactly, but when I rolled them out I used confectioners sugar instead of flour.

What's your favorite recipe? I love to bake...and eat baked goods. I'm always looking for great new things to try. (Remember the cheesecake I made? I agreed to make dessert for a dinner party and made another one today. I just hope it's as good this time as it was the first time!)

If you make these cookies, let me know!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Toys My Kids Actually Play With

Two of our favorite toys for our 13 month old son, E, are Leap Frog's My Pal Scout and Fisher Price's Miracles & Milestones Musical Projector Soother. He sleeps with Scout. He pushes all the paws on his own. The music is truly soothing. It's programable to say his name. He loves it. The star music box (my name) has been used since M got it at age 2 months. She enjoyed it until E was born when she was two years old. It can play music for 5, 10, or 15 minutes. It puts colored pictures on the ceiling or wall. If E is having a particularly difficult night, I will even put it in his crib with him. My favorite is nature sounds so I don't have to listen to music, but really, the music settings are good too. So there are two toys that my son and I highly recommend of a 1 year old. (M did get Violet, the feminine version of Scout, for her birthday, but as a 3 year old, she isn't really interested. It does say to age 36 months, so that makes sense.) You can see others' toys at My Bilingual Boys.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Manger


I made this manger to go with the Jesse Tree that didn't happen (yet) and the advent calendar with the tiny story books. Each day we read a new little book for the advent calendar and put a piece of hay (yarn) in the manger to prepare for Jesus' birth.
I used mini and regular popsicles to make the rectangular manger. I just used craft glue for the base and sides. Then to make the sides stay in place, I used hot glue.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Salt Dough Ornament Keepsake

We did a bit of a different salt dough ornament. I took a bowl and cut a circle to make a keepsake ornament instead of a cookie cutter type. The plan was to have the kids' hand prints in the circle. E (13 months) would make a lovely hand print and then dig deep enough to put holes in it. After 8-10 tries, I went to the back up plan. I think it turned out well.

My only regret is that I didn't do this keepsake sooner.

Read about how to make your own Salt Dough Ornaments at my new blog.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Oh, Christmas Tree

I made these practice paper trees in preparation for cutting a felt tree.  Read all about these simple Christmas paper trees at the new blog.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Advent Calendar Book


Derek's mom just gave us this wonderful advent calendar! It is The Story of Christmas Advent Calendar published by Abingdon Press. Each day in December has it's own little book, mostly quoted from the Bible. I love that it is a countdown to Christmas, but each little book has it's own focus and Scripture included. It's quite large, too, with a trifold cover.

The Story of Christmas: Story Book Set & Advent CalendarDay 1 is called "A Child to Be Born." Each of the little books can be hung on the tree, too, by their silver string! Since this year we don't want to put up the tree right away (due to an active 1 year old), I removed all the books but Day 1, so that we can place the proper book in the "calendar."
By the way, each book does have a title on the spine and a large number on the cover. This is a beautiful set and I know M will love it.

Oh, it looks like we might begin it today since M saw it before school this morning and was super curious about it. I told her it would be a surprise for later.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thankful

Our family is greatly blessed. Tomorrow we will be among our family members that live hours away from our home. After a five hour drive, we will see (in relation to the children) six grandparents, three great-grandparents, great aunts and uncles, aunts, uncles, and cousins! And we'll stay on the farm! FUN! With some of our health issues, I suppose it would be easy to just ask, "Why?" However, it just reminds me that every day, even with the fussing, fighting, tears, and tantrums, our lives are greatly blessed with two little children. Of course, not every moment is difficult and filled with tears. However, both of them had situations (E's , M's)that were life threatening, yet they were protected. And we are thankful to our Creator who has plans for each of us. Happy Thanksgiving, Friend.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

She Painted!

After posting the earlier post today about not being impressed with the crafts at school, I just had to share that M painted a turkey at school today. It was the first time in five weeks that she used paint! Yippee for a new medium!

School Projects

M attends a speech and language classroom. Their main objective is speech, not art. Last spring I began doing crafts with M on a regular basis, so I have not been too impressed with the crafts that she has brought home from school, though I remind myself that what we did was one on one. Most are crafts are pictures colored with crayons, cut by an adult (which is fine), and glued. However, this past week M brought home two cute projects, and I thought I'd share. I think this scarecrow is adorable! It's covered in short bits of yarn. The yarn adds lots of color and texture. I thought it was pretty clever.
This little project is a new twist (for me). It could be used for any song that is a "Five Little...(turkeys, monkeys, apples, frogs) song. Instead of making finger puppets for real fingers, the little turkeys were placed on a paper hand that has a "bracelet" to help a child keep it on his or her hand. During the song, M easily bent each paper finger down and was able to hold it down until the end of the song. M's teacher does send home songs and poems to read with the children at home that are often related to the craft.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Multi-Crafting

It seems that I am multitasking my crafts these days. I have several things I am working on at once. I can't say that I like the idea of working on so much at once, but that's just the way it is, I guess. They are all related to Christmas.

  • A mouse hand puppet.
  • A Jesse Tree. I am making my own tree, but using Nicole's ideas at Tired, Need Sleep. If you are unfamiliar, it basically is a way to show the lineage of Jesus Christ in an advent calendar way. I will make a felt tree, but paper ornaments, hung with ribbon. The tree will have buttons to hang the ornaments. The button idea came from a real life friend, and I thought it was very clever.
  • Salt dough ornaments. Classic. Simple. Fun. The two that are painted only by me are finished!

I will post details on all soon. I hope.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Speech and School Update

M started school five weeks ago. She goes four days a week and loves it! She doesn't talk a lot about it, but she will answer questions. She can always tell me what she had for snack! Her favorite activity seems to be the jungle gym. She seems to like her teachers and speech therapist (and calls them by name). Though it is a speech and language classroom, I can't say that I have seen huge improvements in her speech. By this I mean that her articulation has not noticeably improved and she doesn't seem to be stringing longer sentences together. However, her vocabulary has been expanding. She also seems to talk throughout the day more. M has improved her alphabet, and she counts better, too. She counts past ten now (correctly, for the most part). Other than when we were counting steps, I never counted past ten with her. Oops. She also likes to try to remember the letters in her name, too. M rides the bus daily. This past Thursday I picked her up from school since I was in the area, as I am every Thursday. She wanted to ride the bus! She cried for about ten minutes, but at least she didn't throw a tantrum. Her bus ride is long, about 45-50 minutes. The classroom is about 25 minutes from our home, so it's not a surprise. Personally, I look forward to spending some time in the classroom. I want to see how it operates and how speech is incorporated into everything. When we visited before, we were quite the interruption, and I was not impressed with the speech incorporation. However, as a former teacher, I fully understand that what happens on a regular basis may not happen when a visitor comes. We will be changing the goals on her IEP to better meet M's needs. Basically, she can already meet the goals, so she isn't being pushed to do more. The SLP has to work on the goals, not go past them. The SLP and I have already spoken about changing goals. I am hoping to get paperwork this week. In case you are new to the blog, M has a speech disorder called apraxia. It is not outgrown, but is overcome. M is doing a fabulous job of overcoming it! She is still hard to understand, but she is doing wonderfully. If you are interested, you can read about M's situation.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Behavior Chart

Last Thursday when M had a second day in a row of some small, but irritating behavior problems, I decided to start a behavior chart. The are not all big problems, nor are they all daily problems. I wanted to include some easier things that she was more likely to have success.
The chart addresses a few issues.

  • brushing hair (She has long hair. She tends to put up a fuss when it's brushed.)

  • bus (Two days in a row last week she went to the back of the bus instead of getting off it.)

  • nap time (She will put up a fuss, run away, and anything else she can think of to delay it.)

  • eat dinner (A few days before the chart started, she started eating better.)

  • bed time (Same as nap time problems.)
The chart does not have days of the week. I just wanted it to be a simple chart.
M's response: At first she was indifferent, even saying no to stickers she earned. Now she loves it and is earning a lot of stickers daily. "Oh, boy! Oh, boy! Oh, boy!" has been said about getting a sticker.
My response: I think this was a good tool to get M involved in thinking about her behavior. However, I think M is strong willed enough that the stickers don't really motivate her. If she doesn't want to do something, a reward won't matter. (Dessert doesn't even entice her if she doesn't want to eat dinner.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Teacher Gifts

So I just realized that M now has
  1. a teacher
  2. an aide
  3. an SLP
  4. a bus driver
  5. a bus aide
  6. Sunday school teacher

WOW! Now, as a former teacher I really appreciated Christmas gifts from my students. My favorites were not "teachery" but things like Christmas ornaments, lotions, and candles. I also loved books for my classroom. The best were the little gifts the children choose for me themselves. (I still use a bookmark from Claire on a regular basis.)

It is very, very strange to be on the parent side of education. I really don't know the personalities of any of these influential people in her life except her Sunday school teacher. (Or their health concerns. Hopefully with my plans they aren't on low fat, low sugar diets.)

I'd like to make (sew?) stuff, but I'm just not sure what would be appropriate. The bigger issue is what I have the time to make! I still want to do create some things for my own family, and I am not sure that I will get much of it completed. I guess I better get to work. But first I need some better ideas. Right now all I can think to do is a chocolate chip cookie pie and a homemade bookmark. Maybe we'll do those two items with a book for the classroom, too, for the teacher and SLP. Is it lame?

I don't like Christmas to be about the gifts, yet I like to give. Oh, and I tend to be frugal.(You can say cheap). Somewhere there is a balance! Last year M made pasta necklaces for some special ladies in her life. I'd like for her to be involved in the gift making process somehow, and the chocolate chip cookie pie is an easy way to do that. It's an easy recipe, and she can easily help.

What do you do for the teachers and such in your child's life? Do you have any suggestions for me? (I know gift cards would be appreciated, but I don't prefer to give them.) Any ideas for gifts that M could help make (other than food)?

Would you please forgive me for posting about Christmas (again) before Thanksgiving? It's the handmade thing that makes planning necessary. (Or at least I can tell myself that. In reality, I try to buy Christmas gifts year round. The earliest I've ever been done Christmas shopping was when I was in college. I finished in October once. Now that I have children, shopping doesn't happen often.)

You can also check out my handmade gift plans. We'll see what I have time for.

Let me know your ideas for handmade items or teacher gifts!

Today's the last day for the Fun Felt Giveaway! Be sure to check it out!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Puzzle Book

M, age 3, loves puzzles. We have many wooden puzzles, but this Sesame Street: School Days Puzzle BOOK is my favorite (and maybe M's too). I think I've shared this before, but thought I would again. It's my favorite because it is a puzzle book. M likes it because it's Sesame Street.
Pros:
1. 5 puzzles in one book.
2. 16 pieces each.
3. There is a picture under the puzzle, but if your child doesn't need it, they can put it together without looking, too.
4. Easy storage...it's a book!
5. Each puzzle's backing has a different color, so if they are all out at once, it would be easy to sort the pieces.
Cons:
1. Abby Cadabby isn't in it. (Well, it was a disappointment for M.)
2. It might be hard to find. A Google search wasn't so productive, though I did find other Sesame Street puzzle books.

For other puzzle ideas/reviews you can check out Izzie, Mac, and Me's Christmas Reviews of Games and Puzzles.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fun Felt! Review and Giveaway

Meet Rosa from Story Time Felts. She is M's new felt friend and part of the Felt Dress-Up Dolls collection. Here she is showing off her "grandma" nightgown, as M calls it. Rosa is made from 1/4 inch felt. She is flexible, but very sturdy. All of her accessories, and there are a lot, stay on her quite nicely. Rosa has dresses, pants, shirts, sports uniforms, costumes, and more to wear! Rosa also has a variety of hats and shoes. But it's not too long before Rosa is dressed in her pretty yellow dress, with coordinating shoes and a hat! It was fun to hear M use newer words like "crown" and "mask" because of the felt accessories.
Clean up and storage is easy with this red carrying case that is included with orders. Personally, I felt that there were so many items, that I sorted them into baggies to help M make easier and more purposeful decisions. An older child would probably be fine with just making choices for clothes right from the bag. Since these are washable, they can even go in the bathtub for additional play! The felt sticks to the walls when it's wet. It falls off when it is clean and dry. More fun!
Story Time Felts is much more than just felt dolls. Take a look around as you consider the boys and girls on your Christmas list. They have wonderful full size story board activity sets, quiet books, puppets, Scripture-based felts, and more! The colors are bold and made with non-toxic dyes. Boys and girls would enjoy these! I think Story Time Felts is a very appropriate name because each felt set will help your child's imagination open wide to tell new stories.
Want to win a doll set? Thanks to Karen, one of my readers gets to choose a boy or girl set which includes a girl doll and precut girl clothes or a boy doll and the precut boy clothes.
Mandatory Entry-
Visit Story Time Felts and come back here and leave a comment telling your favorite product that is offered and why you like it. Be sure I have a way to contact you!
The giveaway is open until Tuesday, November 17 at 8PM (EST). Winner will be announced November 18.
Earn Extra Entries- (After completing the mandatory entry, complete any of the following and leave a comment for each extra entry you complete.)
1. Make a purchase from Storytime Felt.
2. Sign up for Storytime Felts newsletter.
2. Follow this blog.
I did not receive monetary compensation for this review. I did receive the felt doll and clothes to review.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cheesecake

I've been making cheesecakes for nine years-since Derek and I began dating. He's always been a big fan of cheesecake. For years I just made a basic no-bake cheesecake. Simple. Good. Not so rich that you can't have seconds.
After having some good cheesecake in some restaurants, I wanted to bake a cheesecake. I did with my regular pie pan. It was fine. But I wanted to do more.
Last Christmas, I asked for and received a springform pan to make a real cheesecake. Eleven months later...I made one.
Yes, there is a giant crevice in it. But it is good. I followed this New York Cheesecake recipe. There were lots of suggestions in the reviews, but when I make a recipe for the first time, I prefer to start with the basic recipe and make changes upon repeat attempts at the recipe. This recipe is a keeper. I did have my ingredients at room temperature, but next time I will put water in the oven for a steam bath (the water bath seems messy).
Derek's coworkers will enjoy a bit of the cheesecake. It's not a light, fluffy cheesecake, so there is only so much we can eat, and we do not want it to go bad. I suppose we could freeze it...but it's fun to share.
I'd encourage you to try it, too. Unfortunately, I prefer to bake instead of cook. And I prefer to read or use the computer instead of exercise. It's all adding up, and not in a good way.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Reusable Workbooks

We recently got some workbooks for M to use. Her drawing is a bit weak, and she is not ready for numbers or letters yet, but we are ready to work on some straight lines like matching and dot to dots. It's not a new concept, but I knew I wanted to make the workbooks last and last. When I was a teacher, some of us used plastic protective sleeves and dry erase markers to make worksheets reusable. Of course laminating would work, too. I had asked Derek to bring home the plastic sleeves and markers. I was absolutely thrilled when he brought home these markers from Wal Mart. They each have a built in eraser and a magnet on the back! (Purple is the missing color.) They are also on the smaller side, so they fit in a three year old's hands well. She is not only willing, but excited to do several papers in one sitting. M's favorite part is definitely erasing though. I have decided to store the markers, on the fridge, right beside my weekly chart that I made to help me organize my thoughts on dinner, cleaning, and things to do.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Photo Collage (Affordable Christmas Card Picture)

For those of you who love photos and are frugal, you might appreciate this, especially if you do a photo with your Christmas cards.
Last year I could not find a photo Christmas card with two or three places for pictures at any of the sites I wanted to use to print them. I don't like the idea of spending a lot of money, because in reality, many people glance at the pictures and never look at them again. At the same time, I know that others just love to see how the children are changing (or in our case last year, get introduced to E).
I have been using Picasa, a free digital photo hosting site by Google, for several years. Picasa allows you to crop, straighten, fix red eye, add text, mess with the lighting, and make COLLAGES! I was thrilled when I realized the collage part. Collages can be in grid form or stacked. It took some time to get used to how to make it work because I am fussy. You know, I wanted this picture under this one, and that pictured angled just so. A grid would have been very easy though, but it's not my style. (But a great idea for scrapbooking mini pictures.)
Here is last year's collage that we included in our Christmas cards. I loved how it came out. A picture of the family, the kids, and one each of M and E. Since we just moved into our home, I included a picture of the house, too.
Each photo collage costs the same as a regular 4x6 inch print (or whatever size you choose to make). Picasa allows you to pretty much print wherever you want whether it's Walgreens, Wal Mart, Snapfish or 20 or 30 other places. I'm not exactly sure what our plans are for this year's Christmas photo, but I do know that I won't be buying Christmas photos, even if they are cute.
I enjoy "creating" and get much satisfaction from it, even if it's just a photo collage.
I just loved the pictures of M (age 2) and E (2 months)!
One more thought. In the past I have taped all the photos we get to our fridge, but it got to be too much, and I didn't leave them up year round. I'd love to use the photos we get to remember and pray for our friends and family. What do you do? Do you have any suggestions for me?
Vanilla Joy has a tutorial for creating collages with Picasa. Honestly, I don't think you need it if you just go in and play. If you give Picasa a try, let me know!
Oh, and for those of you who blog with Blogger, Picasa will load your pictures directly to your blog, fully edited! (I have found I can only post four pictures using Picasa, but I'm not sure if that is my fault or not. If you use Picasa and can add more, let me know!)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

stARt: Freight Train

This is a repost from our family blog. I just loved this project and so did M. We did this when she was about 2 1/2. It's a great way for children to identify and say colors. It was a great speech activity at the time, though now it would not be challenging to M. We made a paper freight train based on the wonderful book by Donald Crews. We used the book to help us know which car/color would come next. I had the cars precut into the appropriate shape. I also had the track drawn on the paper ahead of time. M really enjoyed telling me which color would come next with almost no prompting. We know the book well. She chose to use crayons for the smoke. She was so precise with where it went. This was our second train, so I didn't tell her where to put it. She knew. The wheels are made with her little fingerprints. Yes, the yellow hopper car is upside down. This is quite large. I thought two inch wide cars would be a good size. It wasn't until after I had cut them out and was placing them on the paper that I realized that there was no room for the black tender even with the two papers side by side! An inch would have been large enough!
For another similar, yet different Freight Train project, visit my friend Jennifer at My Two Happy Homeschoolers! Check out the Gundersen's felt Freight Train, too. For more story based art projects, visit A Mommy's Adventure.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Advent Idea

While I was visiting the author Ace Collins' website I was reading an excerpt from 25 Days 26 Ways To Make This Your Best Christmas Ever, I came across a new idea for Advent, which in Latin means, "the coming." (Yes, I learned that, too.) Ace suggested reading one chapter from the book of Luke in the Bible each day in December to focus on the birth, life, and promise of Jesus Christ. There are just twenty-four chapters, so it's ideal. Though I have not read all of 25 Days 26 Ways, I do know that what Ace Collins had to say about Advent alone was what I needed to hear. Whether a person is a Christian or not, the orgins of Christmas are clear. I think December is a wonderful time to explore the beginnings of Jesus and revisit the real reason we can have joy and peace during what can often be a busy time of year! A new tradition? I hope so! I will be reading Luke this December. Will you?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Organizing Efforts

In an effort (once again) to try to be better organized in my life, I think I may have finally found something that works for me. Weekly lists just don't work, but I have found that keeping a calendar on my refrigerator does work to keep track of therapy (in the past), school, meetings, appointments, and due dates (not babies, library books). However, I like my calendar normal size, and I have plenty to write on it already. Knowing my inclination to use calendars, I created a weekly calendar personalized for my needs. This is what it looks like. Ready for the best part? I laminated it! So now I won't be wasteful of paper! I already had a wet-erase marker, so that is effective for now. As you can see, I included my "issue" areas: cleaning and dinner (and other stuff that I might forget about. As for cleaning, I tend to vacuum on Mondays, but the rest of the house is just "as needed." The bad part is when I finally get around to it, the cleaning is no longer just needed...it's past due. I really think this will help me to clean more. Maybe not a lot more, but more. I have tried monthly meal planning, and I find that I miscalculate leftovers and such. So I'm always "off." This, used in conjunction with my dinner ideas list, should be effective for knowing what we're going to eat and when. Then there are things I just need to do. Of course there is always those pesky phone calls to make that I easily forget about like to make an appointment. It might also be when I need to go some where. If you would like to try this idea and don't want to create your own chart, I'd be happy to email it to you, just be sure I have your email address. (You could even change the text to make it more personal.)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Finally! (How I Spent My Weekend)

This weekend I finally made myself a new purse. I made one in the spring, but it was definitely a summer purse in a bright orange color. It was also SMALL. Too small for a daily purse. I like a small purse. For the longest time (maybe the first 30 years of my life) I pretty much just used a wallet or even a wallet/keychain combo. However, now that I wear glasses daily, I MUST have my lens cloth to clean them at all times. Dirty glasses are annoying and they give me a headache. (I also like a clean windshield, if you care.) So here it is. A buttercup bag! Again. It's the same pattern as before, but this time I enlarged it by 15%. The handle is a bit too long, I think, but it will fit better with a winter coat. (My winter coat does not match the purse at all. I don't care though.) I love the fabrics. I have several more yards of the liner since it was a good price and quality. I like the outer fabric even more, but I only bought two yards because of the price. I added interfacing to the handle, outer purse, and the divider that I put in myself. I'm not sure the divider needed the interfacing, but I don't think it hurts either. I also added a large pocket to the divider. It might be too large; I'm not sure.
Here is the old purse (same pattern) and the new. You can see the size difference.
Just to give you an idea of how small the orange purse is, I will share what I keep in it that stuffs it FULL. Wallet, lens cloth, cell phone, lip balm, keys, pen(s), and a checkbook-size calendar. I found that if I put in more than two pens, closing it gets really tough! Isn't that funny!? Although in full disclosure, the magnetic snap I placed in it was placed too low so it took away room in the purse.
It's a pretty simple pattern. I'm a beginner sewer and I think it's doable, though I spent a lot of time (and wasted thread) seam ripping. If you are interested, the buttercup bag pattern is free, but if you want to sell them, the pattern is just $10. Too bad sewing is so stressful for me, otherwise I would love to sell something like this! (Not that the craftsmanship is great, either.)
The dark fabric just doesn't photograph well for details, but you can see enough.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Betsy-Tacy

Betsy-Tacy (Betsy-Tacy Books)I have another series to read! Reading to Know introduced me to the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace, but I really found out lots of information that had me intrigued at Library Hospital. You can read a recent post here. I have to admit, I have only read the first book in the series, Betsy-Tacy, but I loved it. It is of a simpler time. It's a chapter book about two little girls with wonderful imaginations. Simple illustrations would encourage a young reader to read even more.

Most of the characters and events are based on Mrs. Lovelace's growing up years. One of the fabulous things about these books is that they grow with the reader. Each book's reading difficulty (and content) and vocabulary grow with the reader from what I understand. The series begins with five year olds Betsy and Tacy. It ends with the book Betsy's Wedding.

So now I have a problem. Do I put these books (ALL of them, and the companion too) on my wish list, or do I wait and hope that M might enjoy them and give her them one at a time beginning with her fifth birthday?

I borrowed Betsy-Tacy from the library as I do with almost all the books I read, but they only have the next book in the series. Hmm. I am not so sure I want to wait! If you enjoy the Little House or Anne of Green Gables books like I do, I highly recommend you consider reading this series too! (Honestly, I haven't read Little House series in 25ish years, but I do own it now! I have listened to as many of the Anne books on audio as I could find, but I haven't actually read each one.)

If you have a girl who can read in your life, you could also introduce her! Don't forget to check out the Library Hospital's Betsy-Tacy posts for more info! She has been a long time fan, unlike me who never heard of them until recently! Have you read it before? Do you plan to read them? Tell me your thoughts!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

stART: Mouse Paint

M is home from preschool this week (with a little rash), so we had some extra creative time.
We borrowed the book Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh from the library. It is really, really cute. Three little mice who jump in some paint. Then they walk in some puddles creating new colors. It is super for showing children how to mix primary colors to make new colors.
For our ( story + art= a great) stART, I read the book again while doing the project. Each jar of paint was a blob of paint on the paper. We pretended the q-tips were the mice's feet. And then we mixed colors.
This was fun, but I think we could revisit this again when she's older. I did this spur of the moment, but there are lots of activities out there. Here is one site of ideas.
For other stART activities, visit A Mommy's Adventures.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Health...and Life

I shared this on our family blog, and wanted to share it here too. So I guess three years ago (to the day on November 3rd) our lives were turned topsy-turvy when we took M to the ER because she was vomiting at 17 days of age. Her heart rate was in the 320's. She went into a form of cardiac arrest. She was admitted to the Cardiac ICU. She remained in the hospital for two full weeks with the diagnosis of SVT-fast heart rate. You can read more here, if you want to.


It was hard. It was scary to know that we were responsible for checking her heart rate with a stethoscope throughout the day and during the night. When we traveled to visit family, our trusty little stethoscope went with us. Not only that but she needed medicine for her heart every six hours (and later 8). So we set the little alarm on my new digital watch and gave her the medicine as needed. We hated drawing up medicine. Giving it to Meghan wasn't so bad...unless she spit it up, or worse, threw up from gagging on it. Giving medicine to Meghan was easy. She was trained from a very early age. She (and I) gets her first ambulance ride at the age of five months when she has a febrile seizure (not admitted to the hospital). She and I have our second ambulance rides in another two months when we are in a car accident (when Derek is in San Fransisco).


Fast forward two years. E is born, and the day we are discharged from the hospital after his birth, we head to the ER and are admitted because he is dehydrated despite his excellent nursing attempts. After they finally get the IV in, he is fine though we stay in the hospital for a couple days. E has been our healthy little boy until now.


Fast forward one more year from his birth. Our healthy little boy as a seizure that lasts several hours long. He rides in the ambulance for the first time. He seems to make a full recovery, though the reason behind the seizure is unknown. We know a seizure could return any day, but pray that it doesn't.


Suddenly, our counters are cluttered with medicine and syringes. Again. And this little boy has a very strong opinion about how awful it tastes. But it's different now. We've been through a difficult time before. Honestly, though this is not what we want for our family, in some ways this situation is easier than what we went through a couple years ago with M. (Though can I tell you that E's hospital stay, in some ways, was worse than M's? The only time she cried was when they were trying to replace mulitple IV's. E cried A LOT. And could not be comforted for hours at a time.)


Vigilance is in watching and listening (and making sure the monitors are always on), not in trying to count heartbeats. We don't have to disturb E's sleep to give him medicine. We don't have to wonder if we missed something, since we will know if he has another seizure. So this is a bit easier on us as parents. Don't get me wrong. In many ways this is horribly difficult. I don't mean to be flippant. But really, we are extremely blessed. Sure, most parents can't say that all of their children have spent days in the ICU. Probably many can't even say their child has been seriously ill. M and E might have some health problems, but they're manageable. (I am thankful for yet another great specialist. We've heard great things from multiple people about Evan's new doctor!)


Just by spending an hour in a children's hospital tells me that my children's problems are tiny compared to others'. I never want M's speech disorder or their health problems to be a thorn in my side. It's just life. But the fact is that God has given us these children for a time. God has a reason for all things, and through all of this we have learned that we can never take our children for granted. Seeing a team of a dozen hospital staff work on your child is a solid reminder that life is fragile. If you are a parent, I hope you haven't experienced what we have, but I also know that you may have experienced the loss of a child or daily difficulties with your child's health.


 May each of us appreciate life, no matter the "quality." Life, at all ages and stages, is still life. It is still to be treasured. (You know how expectant parents say they just want a healthy baby? Yes, that is ideal, but really, all babies are a blessing. But that annoys me because life is to be cherished, even a difficult life or a short life. We will all have struggles, it's just harder to see our children going through them.) So thank God today for the people in your life. Tell them what they mean to you. And go give your children a hug.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Featured On...

The kids were "featured" over at Totally Tots today to celebrate their birthday. You can see it here. If you click the picture it takes you to our blog. Very sweet!

Handmade Christmas Gifts

So I probably have some big dreams for Christmas this year; but in actuality I probably won't get everything done. 1. Mouse puppet - I will be making a pattern and the mouse will go with 2. Felt fruits and vegetables - I'm not sure what free patterns are out there since I need some very specific patterns. I will probably make them up as I go, but seriously, if you have an idea of how to make GRAPES, please share with me! Together the mouse and the fruit will go with the book Lunch by Denise Fleming. It's a great book and great for a little puppet kit. 3. Silhouettes - I just think it'd be neat to do these now before the children get any older. See my sidebar for two examples under "upcoming projects." 4. Family Tree - These will be for some family members. I already made some. You can see some here. So those are some ideas I have at this point. When I saw the idea over at Mommy's Wise Little Bookworms, I decided to take a break from our stress and share. Want to see more handmade ideas? Head on over to here. (It's nice to be home from the hospital, but it is better to not worry about E. Maybe I'm in denial, but I am really hoping that this was a one time thing. Even though he is on meds for seizures, I am really hoping that they aren't even needed. You know?)

Monday, October 26, 2009

WE ARE HOME!

Just a very quick note to let you know we made it home. E is not taking bottles well (especially formula/milk), but he is mostly willing to take juice. We have the two medicines that he has to take. Some side effects are irritability, clumsiness, and drowsiness. We've definitely noticed that E is particularly happy. He was walking pretty well before this (10-20 steps), but today he only took two steps. We'll see how it all goes. Please keep us in your prayers about the seizures as well as hydration. Thanks!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Minor Complications

M, our 3 year old and E both have hand, foot, mouth disease (not related to the seizure). The doctor M saw has said she's no longer contagious, but she is not allowed at the hospital because of all the sensitive patients. Understandable of course. It makes me sad because tomorrow we will celebrate E's birthday. This shouldn't complicate our time at the hospital other than some basic changes like the staff wearing gowns and gloves and M not allowed to be here. E has diarrhea due to the antibiotic. Today he sat up like a big boy, so his strength is back. However he spent much of the day crying. It is exhausting for us, as his parents to see and hear this. He also fights sleep something awful. It's almost 8 o'clock and I'm going to try to go to bed in a while.

Basic Needs

Yesterday afternoon E started on clear fluids and then got to have formula and applesauce. Around 10PM we were taken from the PICU and sent to the "floor." Thankfully we're in a room now. E was stable enough long before that, but there just was no room for him. E is getting stronger and stronger. His eyes are open now, though I call them "dopey eyes." Due to all the medication, he looks--drugged. He is holding his neck up, too. We had several crying spells yesterday. By this I mean that he cried for 30-60 minutes and refused to be comforted. It's so hard. So tiring. Though I may be exhausted, apparently my body is thrilled with the two hour stretch of sleep I got tonight. It's after 2 AM. And I just can't get back to sleep. Thankfully E is sleeping! We've been told that we'll be in here at least until Monday, so tomorrow we'll celebrate his birthday here. We may not know the cause of the seizures when we leave, but he will continue to be on anti-seizure medication (though a normal, low dose). M came to visit while we were still in the PICU. She wasn't too interested or concerned with E, but she liked that the television could be moved up and down. (It's on a crane-like neck.) So E is eating. He is sleeping. We have a room. And a roommate. The baby roommate is having some tests done so I have to walk quite a ways (not on this wing) to use a bathroom. At least there is a sink in the room I can use.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Hungry and Tired

It was a rough night. I think we had about a two hour stretch at one point. E is really upset when he's awake. And he's hungry. The poor guy can't eat yet. One issue is that his breathing is questionable. (At one point last night I wondered if he would need the tube again; thankfully it was time for a breathing treatment that helped). He also doesn't have enough strength to sit up/hold his head up yet. Regardless, he is not happy. Every moment he's awake is a fight. He's sleeping again. He wrestles with us and his tubes until he gets tired enough to sleep. We're not sure if we'll be leaving PICU today. I hope so. On a different note, below is a fun post. It was scheduled out, so there's some creativity for you today!

Featured Friday

Today I am blog swapping with Fwanda. After you read all about Fwanda and her incredible craftiness here, you can hop on over to Fireflies and Jellybeans to read about me and some of my crafts. Be sure to check out lots of their other posts for some great craft inspiration!
***************************************************************
Hello Live Learn and Love readers! I am so excited to be swapping blogs with this fun, and cute blog! Annette has som fun ideas and great giveaways- huh?!?
Let me introduce myself:
I'm Fawnda from Fireflies and JellyBeans, a little DIY craft blog I co-author with my best friend Jeannine! Here is a little bit about me: I am a SAHM (that is a stay-at-home-mom) to a son. I am married to most amazing man (sorry ladies- I found him first!) We adopted our son from Korea about 10 months ago! He is 19 months old and he is truly a joy and probably one of the cutest kids in the world (right along with yours!). I tutor High School Math students (Before I became a SAHM I was a math teacher).
I love to craft!
I rediscovered my sewing machine about 8 months ago and I love it! I also love to make cards. I am addicted to the scrapbook paper packs (They have a theme for everything! and I want them all! ) I am a pretty picky eater so I prefer to be the one who cooks!
My hobbies besides crafting include:
Reading - I just got done reading the twilight series and loved it! Some of my other favorite books are Harry Potter (all 7 of them!) The Time Travelers Wife, The Princess Bride (Yes it was a book before the movie!) Watching movies- and than quoting them! Some of my favorite movies are: The Princess Bride, Mr and Mrs Smith, Ocean's 11, Pride and Prejudice Talking on the phone- I love it... I know I am weird! Hanging out with my girlfriends -Who doesn't love that?!?!
I just opened an etsy shop: Funky Joy Where I sell reusable snack bags, lunch bags and Auto trash bags. I am always adding more stuff so be sure to check often! Check out the snack bags here.

Check out the lunch bags here.

Check out the car trash bags here.

We have some great Halloween ideas for you!

How about dressing your whole family as pirates with this Thrifty Costume How To!
Or check out this Gum Under A Shoe easy costume idea! You can make this Trick-Or-Treat Bag from a bandanna!

Here are some of my other favorite projects that I have done: Fall leaf table runner

I don't just sell them, I also show you how to make them! (I am nice like that!) Reusable Snack Bags Same with the Snack bags... Probably not the best marketing plan but I would rather have friends than money! : ) (although- if you would like to buy one that would be great too! Friends AND money is the best!)
Be sure to stop by Fireflies and JellyBeans for some fun ideas!

Thanks Annette for letting invade your blog today! It was so fun!

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