Monday, October 21, 2013

Sunday Soup At Six: easy cheesy potato soup

So... The last 2 weeks we had steak at my moms (Sunday steak at six?) and then a potluck at the church.  I was really looking forward to soup night again when I realized it was the most stressful Sunday of the year for me and I had no back up canned soups to fall back on.  But I had potatoes, cream, and cheese so I made up a potato soup.
Some of my favorite soups are ones I make up as I go along.

I boiled about 8 potatoes of varying size and type (because some came from my garden and some from the store bag) in way too much water.  That wouldn't have been a problem had I drained some, but I neglected to remember that until too late.  I think the rule should be to leave only enough water that the tops of the potatoes are peaking up.  More than that and it's too watery.  My husband equated this to potato gravy.  
Then you transfer it in batches into the blender.  I wanted a smooth soup so I blended most of it.  Sometimes I split it and blend half and mash the rest so I have some potato chunks.  I returned the blended soup to the pot where I added salt.  I just salt it to taste, sorry, no measurements.  Maybe 2 tablespoons.  Go easy because you can always add more salt if needed at the table.
After the salt I added probably 3/4 to 1 cup of cream and two handfuls of shredded cheese and stirred.
I added a chives garnish at the end and a few bacon bits and of course more cheese.  They really enhanced the flavor.

This soup is REALLY good if you sautée leeks in butter before adding water and boiling the potatoes, but I was honestly too tired to go pick some leeks.  I needed easy comfort food and this was perfect!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sunday Soup At Six - Chicken Noodle Soup

Last week was the inauguration of Sunday Soup at Six.  My Sister in Law gave us the idea and we loved it.  Since they were in town we had them over and made veggie soup with all kinds of things from our garden.  The food was delicious and the company was amazing.  We topped it off with cookies and ice cream.  I wish all Sundays could be like that.
But I didn't take any pictures because I didn't plan to blog about it.
Now I have decided this is going to be a thing I blog about.  So it's basically exactly what it sounds like.  Each Sunday we have soup and try to eat it at six.  We'll see how many different soups we'll try.

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

And of course, here is the recipe.
1 c. Chopped Celery
3 thinly sliced leeks
1 c. chopped carrot
8 cups chicken broth*
1 T. minced fresh parsley (or 1 t. dried)
1 1/2 t. fresh thyme (or 1/2 t. dried)
1 t. fresh rosemary (or 1/4 t. dried)
1 t. balsamic vinegar
1/4 t. pepper
4 ounces wide noodles
1 c. diced cooked chicken

*To make the chicken and chicken broth get some broilers or chicken breasts (frozen is fine) and place in a large stock pot.  I usually get about 10 breasts (or 4 broilers) and 2 gallons of water.  I add about 2 T dried parsley and 1 T dried basil and some pepper and boil for an hour.  Remove the breasts and dice or shred them and freeze them (use within 3 months) then I strain the broth and freeze that as well.  It tastes WAY better than any boullion or canned broth.

Place celery, leeks, carrots, and 1 cup of broth in a large saucepan.  Cover and cook over medium heat until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.  Stir in remaining chicken broth, herbs, vinegar, and pepper.  Bring to a boil; add noodles.  Cook until noodles are tender (abt 10 minutes); stir in chicken.  Reduce heat and simmer until heated through.
My kids all say it's amazing!  They especially love the broth.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Meeting Induced ADHD

I just diagnosed myself with this.  I also made it up.  I give you permission to do the same.
There's this thing about Mormons...
We believe in meetings, all that have been scheduled, all that are now scheduled.  And we believe that there will be scheduled many great and important meetings pertaining to the kingdom of God.
For the record, that's not a real Article of Faith.  But it should be.
So I went to a meeting tonight and generally I do pretty well.  After the first hour I get a little restless, but nothing a little doodling can't fix.
Of course by then, the person next to me asks what the speaker just said because she is, of course, taking copious notes.  I say, "sorry, I started thinking about something else he said." Because I'm too embarrassed to tell her that my mind had wandered a long time ago and by this time I was debating in my mind the merits of exposing my kids to more classic rock or to more folk songs and that it took a while for me to get there by way of canning, kale varieties, and home schooling.
By the time we were 1 hour 30 minutes into the meeting I was trying to conjure an excuse to call my husband or pretend my bladder was acting up and I needed a bathroom break.  Right about that time Igloo called me (thank you sweetie!!!) and I acted all urgent as I left to answer the call.
"Are you still in your meeting?"
"Yep.  They're still going."
"How much longer."
"It better be soon because I'm practicing dance steps in my seat."
Seriously folks.  I was pretty close to doing the electric slide just to keep myself from springing out of my chair yelling, "Freedom!!!!!"
It's not even that is was a bad meeting.  It was useful and pertinent.  I feel bad my legs were so jumpy, it was probably distracting.  But I cannot for the life of me understand how everyone else manages to sit perfectly still for two hours.  Tell me your secret!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Buzz

This morning Jack woke up at 5 and started on his school work.  He was done by seven.  I, of course, blogged into the late night hours which meant I didn't want to get up til 8:30.  I'm glad he can do most of his work on his own.  What took so long was getting those #$&%%$E$^# pictures off my phone.  That was a really long fake expletive.
I spent most of the day cleaning my house (FINALLY!) and actually got it done!  Mostly.  Okay, half.  But I did get the car port cleaned up so we are no longer the neighborhood eyesore.  My brother in law and nephews from Georgia stopped by for a visit and then we all went to see my sister in law who is out from Ohio.
I don't mind most visitors at my house, but I do struggle with some family members.  They live in giant houses and their kids just aren't used to small spaces like mine.  They get bored easily and chasing chickens doesn't appeal to them for some reason.  I don't get it.  Have you ever seen a chicken running?  HILARIOUS!  What's not to love?  Luckily Lego's are loved by everyone so I didn't have to hate my house long.
While visiting my SIL, Munchkin got her first bee sting right on her thumb!  I've only been stung by wasps, same with Jack, but this was a bee and the stinger was still in.  They are teeny!!  It was barely visible and I wish we could have kept it (nerd) for our insect collection.
We have a sad insect collection.  I've been waiting for our university museum to reopen from a remodel and hoping they would have equipment to buy.  So meanwhile we have some cockroaches, and a wasp, and some kind of black thingy sitting in a jar.  Pathetic.  At least the rock collection is pretty good.
Does anyone else breathe a sigh of relief when their kid is stung the first time and there's no allergic reaction?  I'm still waiting for Tumbleweed to be stung because she's our high risk kid since she has urticaria pigmentosa.  Munchkin had a a little swelling, but mostly just pain.  Poor kid wailed and wailed!  To help Munchkin feel better my in-laws took us to Pizza Pie Cafe.  We also went there with them two weeks ago where we bumped into Jack's kindergarten teacher.  Today we bumped into Munchkin's kindergarten teacher!  Too funny.
Tomorrow if our first free Saturday in months.  Actually, we've only had one, yes, ONE free Saturday since April.
See why I was complaining about the busyness a few days ago?
I keep thinking of all the gardening that needs to be done and the primary stuff to be planned and completed and that I finally have time for those.
And then I think I really just want to drive up to the mountains and wander about with my family.  :)

Friday, September 20, 2013

Summer in Pictures

Since I didn't blog much this summer, as usual, here is this year's installment of "Our Summer in Pictures!"  You should now have the Twentieth Century Fox theme going through your head.  Good!  Let's begin.

Summer started with a big ol' birthday party for my grandpa who turned 90.  Happy 90th grandpa!!!!

Took advantage of the opportunity to get some updated 4 generation pictures with my mom, grandma, and each of my little girls.

Next up was the annual 4th of July parade in my mom's little town.
Mom took this opportunity to introduce us to her new beau.  She married him last week.
Coolest license plate ever!!!!  If you can enlarge it, Doctor Who fans will be happy to see "BADWOLF"

 We made our first trip to Colonial Days.  Like a Renaissance Faire, but for colonial times.
Played old timey games
dressed in old timey clothes
joined the old timey militia
and went to old timey school
 That same weekend we also had a family reunion.  We went to a lot of local places and hung out.  It was really lovely.
While at a park, Munchkin heard a horse neigh and we went over to look.  The owner asked Munchkin if she'd like to pet and feed the horse.  She was so good with it that the owner invited her to ride for a bit.  Definitely her favorite part of the whole summer. 
racing sail boats
Even Igloo got into the spirit of things.  He has no idea I took this.  Good thing he never reads my blog! :)
Munchkin graduated from her online preschool.  I loved Rusty and Rosy and think she learned a lot from it!
Way to go girl!
My cousin got married!!  I learned that if you want to get Igloo on the dance floor you have to play Journey.  Then he'll stay when his daughters want to dance with him.

Check it out, we're doing the Thriller!
Lots of camping and mountain exploring!!
Exploring in the woods led us to paradise.
I started taking karate with Jack.
Testing for my yellow belt.
I even earned my belt!
Fire and Ice at my uncle's for Pioneer Day was amazing, as always.
More camping!!!
More camping with friends.
tree hugger in training
Love how tough she is
They have become good friends this summer
I love us.
 We learned Tumbleweed is pretty good with Lego's.

And visited museums because well, we're nerds and I don't think there's anything cooler.
Of course, we had to visit the dinosaurs!
The shark was less cool this year.
Jack earned his Wolf in cub scouts.
He's super excited.
Munchkin played soccer.
She's ready for "bunch ball" to end
We visited the Great Basin Museum in Delta, UT.
old timey weaving.
 We also visited the Leamington Museum in Leamington, UT which is only open on Labor Day.  But I called the mayor and got us hooked up with a private tour 2 days earlier.  I'm awesome like that.
We found a sleeping bat outside the building.  Munchkin was soooo sad she couldn't take it home and begged for a pet bat the rest of the day.
 Of course the real reason for the visit was to meet up with Igloo's dad and step mom.
Lars and grandpa
And then school started!  Already?!  Yep.
First Day of Kindergarten!!!  She's real excited!
First day of home school!!!!  He's less excited.
There's just a peek at our very busy summer.  There was more, but this is long enough, I think!!!  I just need to be better about blogging!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Homeschool 2013

Well we are well into the throes of homeschooling and I made some changes this year I wanted to blog about.  I LOVE seeing how other people spend their homeschool days so why not add ours into the blogosphere?

First thing I'm doing differently:  Sabbath schooling.  Sabbath schooling means you homeschool for 6 weeks and rest the seventh week.  Last week was our seventh week and the timing could not have been better.  I honestly thought I'd spend the week getting caught up on gardening, sewing, and house cleaning but instead I used it to relax.  I played games.  I pinned.  No projects.  No big dejunking sprees.  I just let myself and my son take it easy.  It was very rejuvinating.  He had a harder time getting back into things Monday, but overall I think it has been helpful

The other thing I'm doing is accountability.  I'm not nagging any more.  It makes my son feel lousy and makes me cranky.  He needs me for science (2x/week) and spelling (3x/week) and everything else he can do on his own.  It is his responsibility to learn and I want to make sure he knows that.  It is harder for me to let go, but we are both less stressed this way.  It's not like I always get all my stuff done as soon as I wake up.  Why should he?

So here's what we're using this year:

Math:  I switched away from Singapore Math to Math Mammoth.  Not only is it cheaper, but I belive the curriculum to be superior.  I felt like all of last year was a waste.  He doesn't remember a lot of what he learned because there just wasn't enough practice. From talking with other parents, this is pretty common for fourth grade math.  Still, I wanted something with the option for more review.  So we are reviewing right now.  We reviewed 3rd grade so everything is really understood and now we're reviewing everything from last year and practicing what isn't fully comprehended.  I feel a lot better about things now.

Language Arts: We did heavy grammar last year so this year we are taking a break and working on writing and spelling.  I am using Excellence in Writing and can see why everyone is obsessed with it.  After 6 weeks I am already seeing an improvement AND he doesn't hate writing anymore!  From the same company I am also using Excellence in Spelling.  I decided I prefer the Orton-Gillingham method for teaching spelling rules and have really liked this program.  I was never really taught spelling rules, I just had to see a word and could memorize it.  So I am really liking learning the WHY behind some rules along with Jack.

I also have created book lists for my kids.  I bribe them to read the books on their lists for their required daily 30 minutes of reading and when they finish the list I get them a small toy.  I'm thinking I should put the lists on here.

Science: Germs, Polymers, Electricity and more!  I'm using Magic School Bus science kits (I  heart MSB) and Switched on Science which i am also falling in love with.  No text books here.  This is science the way it's supposed to be done!

History: So far it's been the American Revolution and Greece.  We'll see what he's interested in after that.

Electives:  Swimming lessons for PE and Drawing, Sculpting, and Animation for art/tech. This is an online class Jack is enrolled in where he uses a Bamboo Splash Pad to create digital drawings.  He will also learn how to do some stop motion animation.  He's eight, by the way.  Homeschooling rocks!!!!

There you have it.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Mrs. Mom

Hi Internets,
My mom is getting married tomorrow.  I don't think I mentioned that.  Then again it has been like 6+ weeks since I blogged.  I had kidney stone and started writing about it, but it felt so whiny I never published it.  And then I got so busy.
I detest busyness.
I don't even know what it is I want to write.  I feel so many mixed emotions about my family that I'm probably better off going back to therapy and figuring it out.  I do know that I'm tired of things changing.  Mom wont just be my mom anymore.  She'll be a wife.  Maybe this is what it's like when your kids grow up and get married.  You're so happy for them and excited.  But also sad, because they aren't just yours anymore.  I guess that's what I'm feeling.
Except I really don't have the time to feel it.  I don't need to go into detail about it, any other Mormon reading this knows what I'm talking about.  It often feels like every minute of your day is spoken for between church and family.  Suffice it to say I am definitely learning humility and my own mortal limits.  Something else I detest.

So lets talk about things I like.
Star Trek.  As I type this my husband and I are watching Into Darkness, which came out this week, again.  In the last 3 weeks I have watched every Star Trek movie ever made. Because I OWN every Star Trek movie ever made.  THAT is something I like. When I feel stressed I distract myself.  Science Fiction has always been a lovely diversion.  Plus it reminds me of my dad. :-)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Into the Woods

I have been going into the mountains a lot lately.  I went the last two weekends and I'm going again this weekend.  I just feel like there's too much going on around me.  Too much noise.  Too much busy.  Too much entertainment.
I'm tired of being entertained.  I think because this past year was so difficult for me I've turned to television and the internets more than I care to admit.  Sometimes I think you just have to numb yourself to make it through the end of the day.  Well, it worked and I have been good and numb.  But now it's time to come back to life and quit wasting it away.
(Speaking of back to life)
Totally off topic side note:  you know how Igloo got really into zombies 10 years ago, but now they're mainstream?  Everyone is talking about the zombie apocalypse these days.  So we watched a zombie movie last night because all our friends recommended it.  Neither of us liked it and we realized that its like when Fran Drescher said, "fuh shizzle" and "shizzle" stopped being cool.
That has happened to zombies.  They're officially overplayed.
That and we're snobs.

So I've been pondering on all the esoteric questions that have plagued man for centuries.  The scientist part of my brain wants to know and understand the mind of God, as if that were somehow attainable at this point in my life.  And I find myself perplexed and angry that my puny little mortal mind doesn't understand all His ways. Why DO all these young mothers keep dying?  Why do other people's choices have to hurt me so much?  How exactly does the atonement work for ______ particular situation?  And why the heck am I being trusted to teach a bunch of little children the gospel of Jesus Christ when my own understanding is so limited??

So I went into the woods to ask God about these things and would like to share what He told me.
He said to stop spending do much time worrying about how the tree grows.  Trust that God knows how it grows and spend more time enjoying the beauty of the leaves and the bark and the shade.  God has time to worry about all these things, but I don't.

Maybe you're thinking, "well, duh!" because you're more enlightened than I.  Congratulations!  Hard advice for this curious and prideful mind, but I felt like it was deeply important so I wanted to share it with someone else who needed to hear it.  You know who you are. (I wish I did...)

With this I'm not trying to say we shouldn't thirst for more knowledge and understanding.  But to realize that sometimes we learn more when we stop asking and just observe and be.

So this week I'm hoping my venture into the woods will consist of less pondering and staring with furrowed brow and include more naps and hikes and marshmallows and deep inhalations of fresh mountain air.

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Facts of Life Conversation With Munchkin

Munchkin is in a super inquisitive phase right now.  She wants to know everything about everything.  In fact, when you ask her what she wants to be when she grows up, she says she wants to study everything. And be a zoologist.  Who studies everything.
I've noticed the past couple of days she's been drawing pictures of pregnant women.
(I like the little stick figure fetus in there.)
So it wasn't surprising when earlier today she asked, "mommy, do babies come out of your belly button?"
"Um, no."
"Then where do they come out?"
"Well, there's a place between your legs that women push them out from."
Pause.
"You mean your bum?!"
"No, it's another hole.  Near your bum."
"You mean where I PEE?!"
"No.  It's between those.  It's called your vagina."
"Oh.  Can I see it?"
"Well, no.  Not really. Like you can't see your bum."
"Can I see a picture?"
"No, sweetie.  That's why we call them private parts.  If you saw someone else's then it wouldn't be private, would it?"
"Not on a real person!!!"  (Duh, mom) "I mean will you draw a picture?"
"Ummmm...no.  Here.  Lets find a picture in this book..."   
I then proceeded to grab our American Medical Guide because its the only book I could think of that we had that had some kind of illustration of female anatomy.
"Now, this is what a girl would look like if you cut her in half..."
"They cut her in half?!!!  Why would they do that!?"
"No.  IF.  It's pretend."
I think you get the gist of it.  We talked a little about how boys are different, but luckily she didn't ask anything more about how it all happens (thank you!).  She was content with a part from the mommy and a part from the daddy.  She asked about babies being born and she asked about God.
My favorite question though was the one I didn't have answer for...
"Mommy..." (in an annoyed tone) "why do girls have to be the ones to have the babies?"
Then she answered it herself.
"I know!  It's because we're mammals and we make the milk to feed them!"

Smarty pants.
Although I really don't see why men can't have the babies and then give them to us to feed.  
Just sayin'.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Small or Not So Small?

I've been debating an addition lately.  I have a lot of friends buying homes right now and I look at the pictures or walk through their homes and feel that stab of envy.
If you live in a small house, you know it isn't easy.  Especially with kids.  Never mind the amazing amounts of stuff from Outer Mongolia that accumulates, one bathroom is hard when someone has a bladder disease.  And when it's hot out (and I don't have central air) I long for a basement.  I also like the idea of my kids being able to have friends over to our house and have it be more comfortable for everyone.
So I sat down with my grid paper and pencil and designed an addition for our home.  If I could just add a bathroom, I think I would.  But that makes no sense for resale (and that is important, I know).  Plus if you're already digging and doing the work, it makes more financial sense to add a bedroom.  So I designed a master suite with some stairs that lead to a basement family room.  A basement made sense since we'd already be paying digging and footings.  It only ends up costing about 5K more for an unfinished basement.  That's what the internet told me.
All told it would be an additional 500 to 600 sqft.  That would take my house from 900 to 1500 sqft.  A not so small house.
It blows my mind that 1500 is considered on the small side...but that's for another post.
Do I want to deal with this?
The cost? The hassle?  We evaluated adding on vs. moving and adding on wins out in the cost department.  I think they're tied for the headache department.  
Still....
I keep coming back to this:
That's right.  The tiny house.  I. Just. Love them.
And my kids love them too.  When I'm being honest with myself, the main reason I want an addition is so other people are more comfortable with my small house.  That and the bathroom, but we're managing so far.  But really, I just want one of these tiny houses.
Is that the best use of money?  Probably not.  An addition will add more value to the property.  Plus with a tiny house I'll want to take it camping, which means I'll need a truck, which means I'll have to pay for owning a truck.
But I don't really need either.
I don't think it's bad to want more space, I really don't.  We're surrounded by that.  But I just look at my friends who live in small apartments with their kids and make it work in smaller homes than mine.  Maybe they worry that none of their kids' friends never want to come over to their place... maybe not.  Do they even want their kids hanging out with snobby people like that?  What about when family comes to visit?
What say you, small house friends?  Is it really that big of a deal?  If you had 50K (or a big ol pay raise) would you get a bigger place?  Or pay off your existing one?  I don't have 50K.  I wish I did, but unfortunately it's a make believe question.  

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Summer (Home) School

I decided this year I would be less strict during summer for school work.  Last year I let the boy have a week off and then it was business as usual.  We both got burned out and I think it contributed to a harder school year last year.  So this year I'm only requiring math and reading/writing.
Here's my summer plan:

Math: Singapore Math 4A-B was our curriculum this last year and I thought after April we'd just move right in to 5A.  But 4 went way too fast and I don't think most things were learned concretely.  Maybe I can't completely blame Singapore's curriculum.  I have talked with A LOT of parents and students (some profoundly gifted) who seemed to struggle with the transition into fractions/decimals.  All of them recommended we go back to first grade and just review everything learned up to that point and that things would start to click after that.  So we're in the midst of that.  We're using Khan academy, Life of Fred Fractions, and a Singapore Math review book.  I'm already seeing improvement and think this might be a good idea every summer....

Reading/Writing:  I have a summer book list for both my reading kids.  We are making our way through that list and when they finish, they get a prize (swimming pool trip).  Jack has the additional incentive of writing a book report for each book he reads to earn computer time during the week.  I went through lists from Hillsdale Academy, Spalding International, and the Well Trained Mind and then created my own reading lists.

Everything Else:  This is when I get to unschool.  We drive in the mountains and talk about different biomes.  We talk about why the sky is blue.  We talk about the yeast start being a living organism.  We also own the complete series of Magic School Bus and Liberty's Kids and because my kids have learned so much from them, I have no issues with using them.  Jack has become very interested in politics lately and likes to talk about current events.  We'll worry about world history, famous artists, and formal science lessons when we start up again in September.  But for now, I'm enjoying a more relaxed atmosphere.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Between the Studs Shelves

When I don't blog, I don't check other blogs.  And I miss reading other blogs.  I miss blogging too.  SO what better way to get back into blogging than with a tutorial?  Yay!!
Unfortunately for you, I didn't plan on doing a tutorial so there aren't gobs of pictures, but I will post the link to my pin board that gave me the ideas. http://pinterest.com/smallhousefam/small-house/

So one rainy Saturday found me feeling restless and wanting to play with power tools.  After spending some time on Pinterest looking at built in shelves, I decided to go for it.
My husband hates when that happens.
I have done this before at our condo and made it up as I went along.  This way works much better.

Step 1. First I taped things off so I knew I would like how it looked.  This where some nerdy math comes in handy.  Ever hear of the Golden Rectangle?  I think it is useful with a lot with home improvement/decorating.  Think of this as a sideways wall, I made sure my bookshelves fit within the square a.
 If you want to understand more about this kind of proportion, watch Donald in Mathmagic Land on Youtube.  Link
Moving on....
Step 2.  Drive a nail into the drywall and then pull it out.  Stick a wire clothes hanger (unbent) or something else that will fit in your hole and be easy to move around.  You're checking for wires or pipes or even horizontal 2x4s that might be behind your wall.

Step 3.  After that, score a small square around that hole and knock it out with a hammer.  At this point I like to shine a flashlight and see for myself that all is clear.  Then, cut the opening for your shelves.
On the first hole I scored the drywall with a box cutter and then hit it with a hammer to knock the drywall out.  Then I remembered I have this awesome tool called a jigsaw that can make really straight cuts and do it more quickly.  If you can, do it that way.  Oh, and PLEASE wear a mask and goggles during this.

Step 4. Build your shelves.  I really wish I had pictures, but I'll describe what I did and provide some links for you.
I used 1x4's for my frame, shelves, and trim.  PLEASE make sure they are straight before you buy them.  Ana White has a good tutorial on how to do that (why reinvent the wheel?)
Choose your boards by pretending that the board is an arrow on a bow, and you are shooting the arrow.  Look down the length of the board to make sure it is straight.  Rotate the board to check all sides.  Inspect the board for cracks or other imperfections.  You may want a rustic finish, so some knots or rough patches are fine - it's the straightness and cracks that you need to discard.
 1x4's will split, so be sure to pre-drill everything.  I think I used 1 3/4" screws to attach everything.  I strongly recommend using one or more squares and a small level when assembling so you can make sure everything is square.  It wont be.  But try to get as close as you can.  :)
This is the best drawing for showing how to build your box.  Instead of peg board, I used 1/4" mdf.  At our condo I used beadboard, but I attached it to the rear drywall before attaching the box.  Don't do it that way.  You'll spend all your time caulking the gaps.  Attach your backing to the box.

Be sure to MEASURE your hole.  Studs are usually 16" apart, but there will be variations.  Measure both the top and the bottom.  One of my boxes in 1/2" bigger than the other because of variations.  Then you'll need to remember a 1x4 is really 3/4"x 3 1/2" and you'll need to subtract 1 1/2" from your horizontal pieces for everything to fit.

Step 5.  Once your box is built, you'll attach it to the studs around your hole.  Use a level and maybe an extra set of hands.  I did this while my husband was at work and I was too impatient to wait.  I now recommend waiting.  I used 2" screws to attach to the studs.

Step 6. Attach your trim.  This was the inspiration for 1x4 trim.  For some reason, it wont let me embed the picture.

If you can do 3 it will look better than my two.  But I have wires in the way (see, that's why you check!)  Use a level when attaching your trim.  When I did, I found my shelves weren't completely square.  A sander can help with that.  Paint grade caulk is your friend, too.

Step 7.  Paint! 
Step 8.  Fill with books, pictures, and other things you love.  Paperbacks fit perfectly. 

Ta Da!
Like I said, I didn't plan on posting this originally, so I'm sure there will be lots of questions.  Just comment below and I'll do my best to answer!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Financial Advice from the Fidelity Guy

(first off, you probably won't notice, but I added a new blogroll because google decided to ditch google reader.  BOO!!  I finally got an app so I would keep better track of blogs and now they're ditching the RSS feed.  The good news is I'll be reading those private blogs more often now.  yay!  But if you're uncomfortable with me having a link please let me know.  Thanks!)

So at the last benefit fair I went to I got to sit by the 401K guys for the company we were visiting.  When I wasn't chatting with employees I tried to listen to the advice he was giving out and finally at the end of the day just point blank asked him what I should do with my money.  And I decided to share that with you.

#1- contribute the maximum for matching to your company's 401K.  If you have to put in 6% for them to match 3%, put in 6%.  If it's 5% and they match 4%, put in 5%.  Do that before anything else regardless of your income.
#2- create a liquid emergency savings account that will cover 3-4 months expenses.  That means you sock cash away somewhere you can get to it fast-so not investments.
#3- save more for retirement.  But my questions was, what's the advantage of a RothIRA over a 401k or is one better?
IF you want to purchase a home in the near future or save for kid's college, you want to open a RothIRA.  You can contribute up to $5500/year and when the time comes to buy a home or pay for college, you can withdraw from the principal.  Here's the part I that was new to me:
If you are in a low tax bracket, you want to do a RothIRA because you will not pay taxes later and you're not paying taxes already.  A Roth is after tax contributions.  So if you're like me and pay next to nothing in income taxes, you really want to put the rest of your retirement savings into a Roth. I had honestly never considered that.
If you make more money, then more contributions to the 401k may be the better option for you since those contributions are pretax dollars and will lower your taxable income.  You do pay taxes later when you withdraw.
Now that I'm making some extra money and we'll actually have money to save, we've been trying to decide if we should pay off our rental property or contribute more to our 401K.  Now we know we want to open a Roth.
I like this added perk of my job.  Maybe this advice will help one of my readers too.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Hello Internet

I just wanted to say hi. There's nothing really profound to write about, I just felt like saying hi.
I worked for 9 hours today. Did I tell you I got a job? Well, I did. It's extremely part time and just perfect for homeschooling since when I do work I have funky hours and child care/ getting kids to school would be impossible. Not sure what I'll do with Munchkin starting kindergarten next year...
But I love my job! I go to benefit fairs and explain benefits to people. That's it. And I adore it. So I wanted to tell you how blessed and lucky I feel to have a way to pay for my medicine and save for braces for kiddos. Yay!
In other news, the school district decided that Jack isn't gifted enough. I had him tested to go to the local gifted magnet school, and even though his cognitive ability score was high, he is the king of silly math mistakes and didn't score high enough on the math. BUT I was also told they didn't accept any grade skippers (what!?) and they want him to re-apply next year. So even though he's averaging a B+ in fourth grade math right now, they want him to either repeat fourth grade math next year or move on to fifth grade math, only to do accelerated fourth grade math AGAIN the following year. So that's 3 years of fractions.
Umm, no thanks. I think we'll stick with homeschooling. Honestly, I'm relieved. It was nice to be able to tell my kid he is not, in fact, a genius and he does, in fact, have to work hard at school like everyone else. I think he was relived too. I have been trying to undo the genius complex his peers gave him for 2 years now.
I am playing around with a new curriculum and slowly falling in love with it. It's called the "Family School" and was created by a local private school. It includes religious education with history, science, literature, geography, art, and music and the days we do it we have wonderful discussions about the relationship of God to those topics. The spirit is in our home more and there is a greater level of learning than we have had previously. My girls also get to participate and I like that as well.
The down side? LOTS of printing. But I try to show as many things on the iPad as I can to cut down on those.
So if you are LDS and homeschooling or thinking about it, I would suggested checking out www.latterdaylearning.com.
Also, I planted spinach and chard! AND last year I planted parsnips that did absolutely nothing and are coming back strong this year! Hooray! I love spring!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Good Week

This was a pretty good week. Tuesday was a day I wanted to pack up and bottle and tuck away because it was as close to perfect as a day can get. Chores were done cheerfully and accurately, homeschooling went well, I managed to have one on one time with all my kids...still some voice raising (but no yelling!), and bickering among the kids, but it still felt perfect.
I have never had a day like that and I know I doubt I ever will again. So I'm just going to lock it up and keep it.
Tumbleweed just came into my room sobbing because I won't give her more medicine and declared she hates me for the umpteenth time today. Now she is laying next to me trying to fall asleep. I have to admit that though I try to act like it doesn't phase me, it does sting a little to hear my two year old say she hates me.
I created a new routine/schedule and changed some curriculum and its been helping. I feel like I'm always tweaking things, trying to make things run more smoothly, when sometimes I wonder if I should just give in to the chaos. But this schedule is working because Im forcing myself to wake up with Igloo and get more of my housewife work done early. i am also assigning more work to the kids. Our mornings go more smoothly and I don't feel like I'm cramming as much.
We took a break from Singapore Math when Jack just was NOT getting decimals. We tried Switched On Schoolhouse which helped him understand why he's a poor math tester (more on that later) but it didn't help with the decimals really. It was just kind of odd and seemed to jump around a lot. So back to Singapore Math this week and he seems to be catching on. Sometimes you just need to give your brain a break, I think. Made me grateful for homeschooling and the flexibility it provides with that.
We've all gotten into My Little Pony lately. And I mean all of us. Igloo and Jack don't like to admit they like it, but always end up watching it with us when it's on. I waxed nostalgic and spent Wednesday watching 80s ponies and Strawberry Shortcake on YouTube. I love the Internet!!
Last night I stayed up with friends until 1:30am. Sometimes I just want to feel irresponsible and silly. I think that's part of being the primary president; it feels too serious a lot of the time with all the broken home kids I worry about. And then I come home and wish I had come home sooner because I miss putting my own kids to bed and then I don't need to stay out again for 6more months. Funny how that works, huh? I had to wake up at 5:30 to drop Igloo off at work though so now I'm exhausted. Tumbleweed is asleep and I am ready to join her.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Unfortunate Fortune

Most of the time, chickens make awesome pets. But when you can't help them, it's not so fun. Some of you may remember that one of my hens, Fortune, had an egg break inside her last summer. She was very lucky to have lived through it, but was weakened. She stopped laying but has been doing rather well this last month (we thought). On Saturday morning we found her lying in the run on her side. She wasn't moving but was still breathing. She looked like she had been there all night. I wrapped her in a towel. And brought her inside before the other hens started hurting her. I held her for an hour, expecting her to die. She didn't so we put her in a tote with fresh greens and seeds and gave her some water. She had both and seemed to perk up. Yesterday she was much more alert and I started to think she might actually get better.
Today was bad though. She wouldn't eat or drink and has spent the last eight hours in unresponsive sleep (chicken coma?). I suppose that means death and it makes me so sad.
It breaks my heart to see her like this but neither of us can bring ourselves to end her misery.
I guess I'm just glad she isn't dying in the cold and I could at least make her comfortable.
Poor thing.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Quitting Sugar

I'm changing my diet folks.  Two years ago I became VERY addicted to sugar after Christmas and have not been able to quit it since. Over that time I have noticed erratic moods, insomnia, headaches, lethargy, foggy mind, and more.  All things I made other excuses for: anxiety, depression, side effects of my pills, post concussion syndrome...there was a logical explanation for it all. After a recent flare (when my bladder feels like a UTI without having an infection), I decided enough is enough.  I know my bladder is improving, but it isn't healing.  I can't be on these pills the rest of my life and I am just plain sick of the pain!
There's still not much known about Interstitial Cystitis, but I try to keep up on the latest research.  Diet is the biggest part of treating this disease.  It's the first thing doctors have you do.  No coffee, alcohol, tomatoes, citrus, soda, caffeine and more depending on your body.  But I started wondering about sugar and processed foods.  The Interstitial Cystitis Network recommends a diet as close to whole foods as you can get.
I came to the realization last month that sugar was having a significant effect on my moods.  I NEEDED it to function.  I was angry without it and I was erratic with it.  I honestly felt like an alcoholic who couldn't function without the drug but wasn't the best person to be around with it.  So I'm quitting!
So a week ago I started adding fresh veggie and fruit juice to my diet.  Replacing one meal with juice, that's all.  Just to ease into it a little.  Then Sunday I went off processed anything.  For six days my diet has consisted of fresh juice (like from a juicer), raw or steamed veggies and raw fruits, almond milk, nuts, and eggs from my chickens.
It. Is. So. Hard.
BUT it is also already making a difference.  I am falling asleep before midnight (for the last 5 months it's been 2am for me) and able to wake up at 6am (unheard of!) I am yelling less and just seem overall more pleasant (though I still have my moments).
I wanted to blog about it but kept forgetting about Munchkin's birthday so I put it off.  But here's the catch up.
Sunday: not too bad.
Monday: really missing all the candy leftover from birthday and valentines.  I started noticing all the places I stash candy.  I really have a problem, folks.
Tuesday: woke up at 4:30 with diarrhea and spend a good chunk of the day in the bathroom.  Massive sugar withdrawal headache.  Both symptoms improve with increased water consumption.
Wednesday: feeling a little better, but still sicky.
Thursday: Fell really good, but having a harder time resisting processed foods.
Friday (TODAY!): a bit stressed out and angry today, but considering the stressors and how I handled it, it really was a pretty decent day.  Went to Sams club and had 3 people comment on how healthy my grocery cart was.  Then I had to buy a pizza a coke for my husband AND walk past an incredible smelling bbq to raise funds for MS and nearly started crying.  Seriously.  It's getting harder and harder to be around the food my family is still eating (burritos and taquitos!) and be stuck with a salad.
I didn't weigh myself beforehand, but I can say I've lost 5 lbs since New Years (yay!) so that's a plus.  I'm so bloated from asparagus and broccoli though that you can't tell. :)  I plan on doing this for 2 weeks and then adding grains and cheese back in and maybe fish.  Maybe not.  I'm strongly considering becoming a (lacto-ovo) vegetarian again. I haven't been one since I became pregnant with my first child (9 years!) Not sure how hard/easy that will be with kids.
Are any of my readers vegetarian moms?  Any advice?

Munchkin's Scaly Birthday

I am finally blogging about this awesome party.  You guys, it was so much fun.  She really loved it.  Most of last year I was fairly confident she would want a dinosaur party.  She LOVES dinosaurs and can look at pictures of them and name about 80%.  It's nuts.  Thank you Dinosaur Train.
But she surprised me at the last minute by requesting a bug and reptile party.  If you've followed me a while you know of her love for bugs.  She has recently become enthralled with reptiles as well.  I'm really not sure what sparked it, but something happened in the fall and now snakes (and horses) are her favorite.
So we hired cirtters2go to come throw a party for my little herpephile.  We considering hiring the local museum to bring their show, but they didn't combine bugs AND reptiles (and mammals) like critters and I really like the owner of critters.  Okay, now for pictures!
The food!!  I worked so hard on this food.  5 year olds don't appreciate it,but the grownups do. 
mmm. worms in dirt.  One of my favorites!
Check out this adorable printable I found on Pinterest!  Isn't it cute!!?
Check out the 5.  It's a snake!  It took forever to find and needed some MSPaint skillz, but  I thought it turned out great.
petting a leopard gecko.
The highlight of the day for her was holding this corn snake.  Even though Critters2Go doesn't have a snake, she went out of her way to find one because she knew how much my daughter loved them.  AWESOME customer service.
All the kids liked watching and moving the hermit crabs.
This is a chinchilla.  I learned a lot about them, like you can't get their fur wet or it will get moldy.
Hedgehog.  Munchkin is so calm about bugs that when the hedgehog missed one of her (live) meal worms, Munchkin picked it right up and fed it to her.  Awesome!
Madagascar hissing cockroach.  One of her favorite plastic bugs looks like this so it didn't bother her at all.
Tumbleweed thinks globes make a good hat.
This hug comes after opening her gift from Jack.  He sewed her a bedside organizer all by himself and she thought it was pretty swell.
Her aunt made this awesome Dr. Who shirt.  It says, "exhilarate!" I love that both my brother's wives are Whovians! 
Her favorite gift?  A $1 snake from Walmart from Jack.
So there you go!  I love my little five year old.  She has such a fun and unique personality and it's such a privilege to watch her grow up!