Now blogging at THIS SIMPLE HOME.

Now blogging at THIS SIMPLE HOME.

At This Simple Home

  • Homemade Magic Shell - I remember having Magic Shell once as a child. The chocolate syrup drizzled over my ice cream magically turned crispy hard. Mmm... So I was rather excited t...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christmas Craft Ideas

Over the past two years we have made a handful of Christmas crafts together.  I hope to do more this year, too.  

Gingerbread Children
(Yes, the 2010 gingerbread kids are still hanging!)

What Christmas crafts do you think we should do this year??

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pantry Organization

When we built our home three years ago, we tweaked the original floor plans for a few things, including two things that I knew I wanted: laundry on the second floor and a pantry.  (Oh, I really wanted a mud room.  REALLY.  And I still do. However, the price tag was one that was not logical to me.  Some things can't be a priority...even if highly desired and practical.)

My pantry is tiny, but I am thankful for it.  Up until recently, it was also a wreck, though I cleaned it out about once a month.  A couple weeks before the baby was due, I realized that a baby sitter would never find anything in that pantry because my dear husband always has to ask where something is or have me find it.

The solution...labels.  (Maybe not what you think.)  I did not go out and purchase lovely plastic bins to keep all my dry goods looking neat and organized, though that would be nice.
Instead, I just figured out exactly what should be on each shelf, and created labels to make sure that I knew where things should go, and hoped that my husband would use them, too.  Here's how.
  • I emptied all of the pantry shelves.  Maybe I should say that first I cleaned off my island and table so that I could empty the pantry.
  • Then I made a pile of items that were duplicates or so rarely used that they could be stored in the basement.   I also decided that the few baking items that were in the pantry should be moved to my baking cupbard.  Only sensible, huh?
  • I also checked the expiration date on some items that I knew I had not used in ages.  It was a good idea since something was a couple years past expiration.  Please take note that they expired after our move.  I did not relocate expired foods.
  • As I put items on the shelves, I grouped them together by what made sense to me, I used masking tape and Sharpies to make temporary labels.
  • I used the temporary labels for a couple of days in case I wanted to make adjustments.
Then I made my labels and attached them to the wire shelving.

The picture below may not look like an "after" picture, but it is.  Trust me.  It is organized!
Simple, right?
(Well, except that shameful pile of snacks!)
Wondering if it's been successful?  How about this?  On just day two or three, he asked where an item should go.  (It was a packet...not so obvious.)  I love it, and it has continued to work for over a month now!

It may not look all neat and tidy, but it is organized.

Did you notice that there was no "before" picture?  Well, I didn't touch the floor of the pantry.  It looks awful, because it is.  Proof?
Let's see.  Cereal.  Empty egg carton (to take to the farm to purchase more).  Brown plastic lids for kid painting.  Bread maker.  Two tubes-one for parchment paper and the other is a mat for kid crafts.  Random reusable bags.  Plastic shopping bag.  Cut cereal box for kid crafts.  And other unknown items.  Shameful.

Did you like the look of the labels?
They came from Just Something I Made, and she has other colors, too!  
I printed them on tan cardstock for a neutral look in my kitchen, but they could be used for countless things.  Love them.  And I didn't even laminate them!

I finally figured out that keeping some of our frequently used workbooks and coloring books lying horizontally on the bottom shelf was taking up precious space, but I didn't want them to be moved to the bookcase.  In the pantry, M and E know they can pull out a book and their crayon/marker box.  My solution was a magazine holder.  (This was also about the same time that I decided to recycle ALL of my old magazines.)

Now, can someone please help me figure out how to keep baby bottles organized?  They just can't be tidy!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Providing Meals for a Others

With the recent arrival of Baby E, we have been extremely blessed to have been given several premade meals!

One of my friends brought a premade (but not precooked) meal to us in early October when I was still pregnant.  When I went to make it, I was impressed with how she wrote the baking instructions for us.  Instead of including a little piece of paper, she wrote directly on the plastic wrap!  I thought it was brilliant!
The basic meal was in a 9x13 Pyrex dish.  The dish was wrapped with plastic wrap where the directions were written.  On top of the plastic wrap she had placed peppers and croutons in baggies (separately).  Then the entire dish and baggies were wrapped with aluminum foil.  All nice and neat, you know?

(With a baby who needs to be held all day long, making meals seems a near impossible task right now.  May I say how incredibly thankful I am for these meals!?  The bonus is that one meal usually lasts us for two or three dinners!  So thankful!  I look forward to passing on the blessing of meals for those in need.  We've been helped with all three births of our children and two of their long hospitalizations...and truly grateful and remember it when I know of others in need.  May I also say that I was very thankful after the kids' hospitalizations for the meals.  I had actually said "no thank you" at first...because I was healthy and didn't want to put others out when I was capable.  But I had also been in the hospital with each child...and much had been neglected, including ourselves, and the meals really helped us, as a family, to return to the new norm.)

Writing directly on the plastic wrap or tin foil would also work on your own freezer meals!

What works for you when preparing a meal for a friend?  Have you been on the receiving end?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Muppets
Add caption
I have much to be grateful for, including the unhappy baby on my lap as I type with one hand.  Our family had a quiet Thanksgiving, including a simple turkey dinner, complete with my first truly successful apple pie.  My husband took the Big Kids to see The Muppets.  It was their first theater experience!  We love the Muppets.  (It is rated PG, but after reading Plugged In's review, I was pretty sure it was appropriate.  Derek says it was.)

In addition to my family and friends and Savior...I am very thankful for this blog (as a writing outlet) and the bloggers I learn from and enjoy.  I especially appreciate those of you who have encouraged me by leaving comments or emailing.  It is wonderful to get to know readers.  I love my blogging friends!!

I hope your Thanksgiving was full of thanks!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Christmas Gift Ideas

Sometimes it takes talking to friends and reading friends' blogs to come up with good Christmas gift ideas.  I thought I'd share a few ideas of items we are purchasing this year (and a few items that we already love).

Need a gift for a...

LightWedge Original LED Book Light, BlackReading enthusiast~Light Wedge
Last year I didn't get the Light Wedge for I bought it for myself.  (By purchasing a color other than black, I bought it for about $15.)  Later I also purchased the case because it does scratch very easily.  I LOVE this book light!

Little boy who has plenty of trucks and cars and loves diggers~Excavator
We recently ordered this excavator for our three year old son.  We fully anticipate him loving it.  He recently was given a Hot Wheels jump track that he loves, too.

Melissa & Doug Friendship Stamp SetLittle girl who loves to create and wants to do more independently~ Stamp Set
We picked up a Melissa and Doug set filled with butterflies and flowers a while back.  Our five year old loves to make little projects, but my time is limited these days with what I can do with her.  She'll love the little box and having all the little stamps (and finally her own pad) in one place.

Star Wars enthusiast~books
The Jedi PathActually, I bought two books for my for the content and the other because he can share the pop-up book with the kids until they are old enough to watch the movies.  I picked The Jedi Path based on this review.  Then a friend...a librarian friend told me about the pop-up books!  She had ten copies in her library because the kids loved them so much!  After looking around Amazon a bit and watching the video in the link, I chose Star Wars: A Pop-Up Guide to the Galaxy.  I think he'll really enjoy it.  (One book will be for Christmas and the other for his birthday.)
Sunbeam Electric Heated Blanket Imperial Nights, Assorted Colors/Sizes

Person who is always cold~ electric blanket
  Last year I bought us a king sized electric blanket for $35!  (It was a black Friday deal, from Boscov's and made by Sunbeam.)  It has dual controls which lets my husband who is always warm and me (never warm) be much more comfortable!  I wish we had it YEARS ago!  I love it!

Discover Deep Valley A Guide to Maud Hart Lovelace's MankatoThe Betsy-Tacy Treasury By Maud Hart Lovelace

Maud Hart Lovelace fan~ more books!
The Betsy-Tacy Treasury was just released.  It has the first four books in it...just waiting to be read!  In addition to that, Discover Deep Valley: A Guide to Maud Hart Lovelace's Mankato was just released last month!  It's available through Minnesota Heritage Publishing. 

 If you end up clicking through an Amazon link here at LLL, a tiny percent does come back to me at no additional cost to you if you purchase ANY item.

Monday, November 21, 2011

One Day at a Time...

Our little baby is a month old now.  We are doing okay.

Baby E sleeps little outside of our arms.  That means I sit on my bum most of the day holding her.  I have been watching an incredible amount of television.  (And typically I don't turn on the TV at all during the daytime for myself.)  Baby E has painful gas and reflux that makes her scream, especially during the evenings.  When she's not in pain, she still tends to be fussy, even in our arms.

We have tried four formulas.  (Yes, our daughter is bottle-fed.)  Regular.  Soy.  Gentlease.  And now a really expensive formula for colic.  She is also taking Zantac.  At the time of this writing we haven't been using the colic formula long enough to know if it will make a difference or not.  If not, we might discuss seeing a GI doctor for her.

We're thankful that she has at least one 2 hour stretch each night now.  For a long time I was sleeping for 20-45 minutes at a time...when I could actually sleep.

Big brother E and big sister M adore her.  M did ask a while back if we could have a yard sale.  When we inquired why, she wanted to sell Baby E.  When I said that wasn't possible she suggested selling her brother instead.
But really, they adore our baby.  So do I.

And yes, we have much to be grateful for, despite the lack of sleep and headaches.  Just think, by this age, both of our older children had been hospitalized!  (M for her heart problem and E because he was dehydrated.)

At some point, I'd love to create blogging names for my kids, especially since two of them are E.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Counting Down to Christmas Part 3: Advent Book Calendar

This is our third (and final, I think) part of Counting Down to Christmas!  Be sure to check out our homemade Jesse Tree and how we enjoy Christmas books throughout the month!

The Story Of Christmas Story Book Set and Advent CalendarWe LOVE the tiny little books that comes with The Story of Christmas Book Set &Advent Calendar.  The books tell the story of how the birth of Jesus using scripture.  Each of the twenty-four board books is just four pages long (with small print) and attached is a silver loop, making these books easy to hang!  The Story of Christmas Advent Calender is perfect for families with younger or older children who want a daily reminder of what Christmas is all about.  Each book is numbered, too, so they are easy to keep track of the books.  Some families may choose to hang a book daily on a tree, but we use them in a different way.

I use The Story of Christmas Advent Calendar with a homemade mini-craft stick manger.  I place a piece of brown yarn and the appropriate day's book in a small, decorative box with a lid.  The children check the box throughout the day to see if the "hay" and book are there.  The "hay" is preparing the manger for Jesus.  As you might suspect, Jesus arrives Christmas morning.  You could use a Little People (or even just a drawing) Jesus, but I made a special little felt "doll" to represent Jesus, swaddled in his manger.
Jesus was made with two gray felt ovals and a medium brown oval.  I stitched eyes, nose, and a mouth onto the brown oval and then stitched it to a gray oval.  To make it appear that Jesus was swaddled, I also stitched some simple lines, as you can see (I hope) in the photo above.  I used cotton balls to stuff this little Jesus doll, if I remember correctly.  Below you can see another view of the manger.
My five year old recently brought up the ways that we celebrate Christmas!  They certainly left an impression on her last year and she is eager for the little ways (not just the gifts!) we celebrate throughout the month.

How do you celebrate Christmas during the month of December?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Counting Down to Christmas Part 2: A Book a Day

Last year I realized we had a lot of Christmas books.  In order to really appreciate our own books, I decided to really highlight our own books for the month of December.

I gathered up all of our Christmas and winter books and put them inside of a regular box.  Counting them, I was shocked to learn we already had nearly twenty Christmas books!  By the end of the month with a couple of new/used purchases and review books, we had more than 25 Christmas and winter books!  (This year, I think we can focus on just Christmas books since we've added even more to our Christmas collection!)

Each day I would take one book from the big box of books and place it in a decorative box.  It would "magically" appear in our living room every day.  My children took turns each day opening the box.  I would try to have my son, then 2, open simpler books, and my older daughter open books that were lengthier.  The children LOVED this activity and looked forward to it daily!

Sharing a Christmas book a day is simple.  Just gather your books and provide a way for your child to read a book each day.  I used the decorative box with a lid for the children to open, but you could wrap each book, too!  For our family, we also kept all of the already-opened books in one basket, pictured above.  These books were accessible throughout the month for our regular read-aloud times.  Almost every time a Christmas book would be chosen for read alouds instead of one of our "regular" books!  Many of our books had many re-reads!

If you are interested in reading a Christmas book each day in December but have a limited collection of your own, you might run out to your thrift stores now or go to your local library.  It's about this time of year that libraries gather Christmas titles in one place!  Some libraries (or at least mine) actually shelf all the Christmas picture books together all year.  (So much for the Dewey Decimal system!)  However, it is always worth it to have quality Christmas books, too.  Last year I selected our favorite Christmas books and highlighted them.    You can click for yourself to read the selections that we love, but you will notice variety.  Though I love using books to share about my faith with my children, some of my favorite Christmas books are not focused on Jesus.  We use our homemade Jesse Tree and our incredible advent calendar books to keep our eyes on Jesus' birth.

Thank you once again goes to Amy and Carrie for such a great idea!

What is your favorite Christmas book?  Any great chapter books out there?  

Be sure to check out part 1 of our countdown to Christmas!  Our Jesse Tree!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Counting Down to Christmas Part 1: Jesse Tree

This will be our third year celebrating Christmas daily in December.  I know it's still early, but you may need to prepare a bit if you are inspired to do any of these activities to count down to Christmas.  Today I'm sharing just one part of our daily celebrations with you.  More will be shared soon!

The Jesse Tree is something I hadn't heard of until a few years ago.  A Jesse Tree is a way to connect the story of the Israelites in the Old Testament with the coming of the Savior, Jesus Christ.  The name comes from Isaiah 11:1

"A shoot will come  up from the stump of Jesse; 
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit."

Read how I created this portable Jesse Tree!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Getting Rid of Fruit Flies

My first experience with fruit flies was in college.  I had a crazy (wonderfully good crazy) professor who taught a great class called Science for Elementary Education (or something like that).  We basically created a habitat for fruit flies and then invited them to come live in our 2-liter bottles.  

My next experience was not so contained.  When we returned from our honeymoon, our apartment had fruit flies.  The source?  A shoulder bag I had used for school...and the RIPE banana inside of it.  

A couple weeks ago we had fruit flies.  I actually started using my garbage disposal on a daily basis because of those pesky flies. 
Right about that time, a friend mentioned that she had success using vinegar to remove fruit flies.  Thank you, Stephanie!!  I decided to try it, too.  I put one drop of dish detergent in a little bowl of vinegar.  
The nasty pests would visit the bowl, but they didn't drown.  So I put plastic wrap on it and poked holes in it. This was even less effective.  But I knew Stephanie and others had had success with vinegar, so I took off the plastic wrap.

The next morning I took this picture.  (The vinegar seemed to turn cloudy.)
The little dears finally drowned!  I had least over some of them.  It took a while, but they are gone!

Monday, November 7, 2011

The New NIV (2011)

Have you heard about the new NIV Bible?  The last update was in 1984.  The Bible I most typically read from is the NIV, 1984 version.  Zondervan has released a different NIV version this year.  One that is causing much controversy.

The problem is that it is gender-neutral.  I am no Bible scholar, but I do understand that the original languages (including NIV's 1984 version) were not gender-neutral.  God inspired men to write in a male and female specific way.  Not neutral.

The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood responded to the NIV 2011 translation.  You might be interested in reading it here.  An article was written saying why it's bad for women, too.  Not quite the same research, but you might be interested.  Read that here.

So...if I am purchasing a new Bible, it will NOT be the new NIV 2011 version.  How can I know?  Check the copyright page.  If it says the NIV translation is from 1984-great.  If it says 2011, it will remain on the shelf.

Sorry, Zondervan.  I think this is a poor choice and will not support it.  I will buy a different version once the 1984 version is not available, if needed.

What about you?  Do you support the gender-neutral translation or not?  Any other thoughts?

Please Note: Comments below are closed.  I feel that comments left by Tylergc are not just a person's personal opinions, but instead, prepared as a professional defense for this 2011 NIV version.  This person cannot be contacted.  I will leave the comments up, but the discussion is over. Live, Learn, Love is not a forum for this.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Homemade Statue of Liberty Costume

Since my daughter was three years old and we read The Statue of Liberty she has loved the Statue of Liberty.  Earlier this year we visited family in NYC, and saw her for ourselves, too.

It was fun and easy to make the Statue of Liberty costume for Halloween this year.  To make one for yourself, you will need just a few items.

2-4 yards of green fabric (2 was perfect for my 5 year old) or bed sheet
cardboard or book
crown (purchased or homemade)
colored paper~ 1 yellow or orange, 1 red, 3 green

1. Cover book (or cardboard cut to preferred size) with the two pieces of green paper, front and back.  Tape in place.  Write JULY IV MDCCLXXVI on it.  (It means July 4 1776.)

2. Cover the main cylinder of the flashlight with green paper.  Cut hole for the thumb switch.  Tape in place.

3.  Cut triangles about 3 inches long from the red and yellow paper for flames.  You will need about ten flames.  Curl with scissors, if desired, the way you curl ribbon for gifts.  Tape to the top of the flashlight to complete your torch.

4.  Tie the fabric toga-style to child.  Hold one corner on right shoulder.  Wrap fabric around body, going under left arm, around the back, under right arm, and tied in the back at the shoulder.

5. Place crown on head, tablet in left arm, and the torch in the raised right arm.
You might be interested in our liberty and patriotic activities for young children.

Katie's Nesting Spot

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Betsy's Wedding, by Maud Hart Lovelace

Honestly, I had decided I wasn't going to review Betsy and the Great World  or Betsy's Wedding though I enjoyed both a great deal.  The big problem is that I finished them a few weeks ago...

(Please note that these are the final books in a lovely series that I highly recommend for young readers and adults who enjoy learning of another time period.)

 But I still wanted to document that I really enjoyed these books, so I will write some brief thoughts.

In Besty and the Great World, Betsy is 21 and her parents have decided to send her on a tour of Europe.  It seems that this adventure will be a great way to improve her writing and see the world-all the while trying to forget about her old sweetheart Joe.  The year was 1914, and it's obvious that Betsy is ignorant to the hostility in Europe and even the thought of war despite what her new European friends think- until the worst happens and war begins.  With the war's arrival, Betsy must seek her own departure to America.

Betsy's Wedding begins with Betsy's return to America...and Joe Willard.  Obviously, they marry.  It's really the only way this Betsy-Tacy series can end, you know!

I personally loved reading about Betsy trying to learn to cook and clean and be a wife.  Even when her friends would make fudge at her home, she never really she was truly starting from scratch!  Thankfully, her old friend Tib has some helpful hints for her.  My favorite was to have a "company dinner" meal that you can make for company.  I don't really do this...just kind of figure out what I want to serve based on the guests.  (I'm thinking that the Bacon Ranch Chicken might be it since it can be made in the crock pot...and no gravy needed!)

Despite how hard it was for Betsy, I loved her perseverance...even when offered a job writing.

"...You might enjoy working in a publicity office."
Betsy was very pleased by her answer came promptly.  "Oh, Mrs. Hawthorne, I know I'd love it!  Joe has told me how delightful your office is.  But Mrs. Hawethorne, I already have a job."
"You have?" She sounded surprised.
"Yes.  An it's important, and very hard.  It's learning how to keep house."
Mrs. Hawthorne swept her arms around Betsy with laughter.  "That's the girl!" she said.

She also had to learn to let Joe lead the way...this was not easy, especially when it came to a long-term visitor.  I loved reading how she changed her attitude from grudgingly agreeing because it is what she should do to accepting and loving the idea.

That's all for now...but keep in mind the Maud Hart Lovelace Reading Challenge over at Library Hospital!  It's worth checking out...and do check out Betsy-Tacy and all of MHL's books!

Choosing Baby Names

My husband and I had our first experience of choosing a name when we had been married for two years.  After three days, we chose the name LUCY for our cat.  Seriously.  Three days to name a cat.

With that in mind, it should not surprise you that it takes us a LONG time to name a baby.  It certainly doesn't help that we don't learn the sex of our child in advance.  That means we need a first and middle name for both a boy and a girl.

I seriously believe choosing names is a form of torture for my poor husband.  It can't be too trendy/popular.  And it certainly can't be off-the-wall-weird.  We both lean toward traditional names (in my opinion), but I also like old-fashioned names.  (My name is ANNETTE!)  Derek does not care for the "old" names.

In 2006, for our first pregnancy we borrowed a baby name book.  However, we found the US Social Security website to be extremely helpful (especially since we didn't want too popular of names).  It ranks baby names according to popularity.  (And unlike other sites, it is official!)  You can look at the top 1,000 (or just 20) names or search by year or by name.

In 1976, the year I was born, Annette made the top 200.  However, by 2008, it wasn't even in the top 1,000.

So just how unpopular are our kids names?  Well, M ranked in the 300's in the year she was born (for her particular spelling which is not the most popular).  E was in the top 50 in 2008, but it has gained in popularity.

At the time of this writing, we have one boy name and two girl names chosen.  The boy name is in the top 50 (more popular than ideal), but both girl names are less popular in 200's.  We have not chosen any middle names yet.  Oh my, they are really tough this time, but I am hoping there may be a family name chosen.

I'm very thankful that I didn't come into my marriage having a baby name already chosen as some women do.  My husband may not like to discuss baby names, but he definitely has an opinion!  It seems that with baby names there is not much compromise.  We determine our lists separately, and then narrow it down from there, crossing off names that are just not an option.   Often (for girl names) there are a few names that are on both lists or we realize we like after seeing it on the other's.

This post was written in be scheduled hopefully after baby's arrival.  Maybe by then we will have determined a name.  With both M and E, they were a full week late...and we needed all 41 weeks of pregnancy to come to a conclusion on their names.

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