Monday, April 28, 2014

This Book Room

One hundred fifty years of Roses' Tolivers, Warwicks, and DuMonts! We begin in the antebellum South on Plantation Alley in South Carolina, where Silas Toliver, deprived of his inheritance, joins up with his best friend Jeremy Warwick to plan a wagon train expedition to the "black waxy" promise of a new territory called Texas. Slavery, westward expansion, abolition, the Civil War, love, marriage, friendship, tragedy and triumph-all the ingredients (and much more) that made so many love Roses so much-are here in abundance.

Additional notes: This is the sequel to Roses.

My thoughts: I am such a huge, huge fan of Leila Meacham. I really feel any woman (and possibly some men) would enjoy this series. If you're a fan of generational-saga type stories, this one is just up your alley. Roses, to me, is still better, but this book definitely stands on its own merits and is a delight to read.

The summer that Viney is eleven years old is extraordinary. It takes her out of school and puts her under the
wing of Missy Violet, a well-loved midwife whose wise and warm ways help teach Viney about the business of catchin' babies. At turns scary, funny, and exhilarating, the rhythm of Viney's rural life in the South quickens as she embraces her apprenticeship and finds her own special place as Missy Violet's "best helper girl."

My thoughts: This book is incredibly short, but so powerful and awesome. I loved this book and would highly recommend it for younger girls, like middle school and above. I will definitely be keeping this one in mind for my girl as she gets older.

Turn your handmade hobby into a thriving business. Most Etsy sellers are confident in their crafting and artistic capabilities. However, many need guidance on the business-related intricacies of starting and maintaining a successful Etsy business. "Etsy-preneurship" helps existing and potential Etsy sellers understand the business fundamentals needed to become a small business owner on Etsy, including taxes, bookkeeping, marketing, finances, administrative tasks, daily operations, legal requirements, business plans, and improving your business skills. This book will help you make the jump from enjoying your handmade/craft/art hobby to running a profitable business."Etsy-preneurship" offers step-by-step advice on what it takes to bring in extra income or even one day run a full-time business on Etsy. Each chapter even includes a downloadable business spreadsheet tool to help you put the steps into action. This book empowers Etsy sellers to turn their handmade hobby into a thriving business by employing foundational business concepts

My thoughts: If you've ever wanted to know the ins and outs of bookkeeping for an Etsy shop, this book is your go-to resource. I took several pages of notes on this book and learned so much. I don't have an Etsy shop (yet), but if I ever do (God willing), this book has changed the way I will conduct my business.

'My story is not about my past, but about your future.' In the startling tragedy of the Amish schoolhouse shooting at Nickel Mines, one story has never been told. Marie Roberts Monville, the wife of the man who created such horror, tells her story for the very first time. It is a story of sorrow, of madness and destruction, but also one of deliverance, compassion, forgiveness and beauty. Marie Monville knew that day that life, as she knew it, was over. What she never anticipated was a personal encounter with God that would rewrite all she believed about herself, her faith, and the God she thought she knew. The Milkman's Daughter reveals three love stories: the innocent love of a milkman's daughter for a husband in pain, the incomprehensible love of God in the aftermath of massacre and destruction, and the promise-filled love of God waiting to unfold in the life of every person who reads this book. Marie's journey since that darkest of days has been invaded with light, and these pages shine that light into the darkest questions we all face--questions about our past, our value, our identity, and own powerlessness in this fallen world. Come face to face with the Power behind every answer.

My thoughts: This book was so interesting. At times, I was frustrated with the author because I wondered if she was feeling enough. Her experience is absolutely her own, but she references making trips with her children as a way to move on (at least, that's how it seemed in the book), and I just thought, Hmm, I don't think a trip to Disney World is going to solve this for you. It could've just been me, I don't know. Either way, Marie absolutely has a heart for forgiveness, and I'm so happy she was able to forgive and move on. I truly enjoyed reading her perspective.

“A Place of Healing” Vannetta Chapman
Emma discovers a run-away teen in her barn, and the bishop asks her to provide a haven for a woman and

her two children. Then her mother-in-law reveals a secret about her garden. Will Emma choose loneliness or learn to accept God’s gifts?

“Flowers for Rachael” Kathleen Fuller
Rachael’s garden is beautiful, but she is lonely. Gideon is in love with Rachael, but when Rachael finds her garden in shambles after a crisis, she rejects his help. Will she realize she doesn’t have to do everything on her own?

“Seeds of Love” Tricia Goyer
When a corporation shows interest in buying Sadie’s heirloom seeds, she panics. They are all she has left of her Dat and Mem. Eli believes he can help Sadie, but a misunderstanding leaves her heartbroken. Will she trust him again, and will the seeds of a new relationship take root?

“Planting a Future” Beth Wiseman
Rosemary is doing her best to run her family’s household. She excels at all her tasks except one: gardening. Saul has been interested in her for years, but Rosemary has turned him down repeatedly. Saul begins helping with her family’s garden, but someone is sabotaging his efforts—and keeping a secret that could change their lives.

My thoughts:  I love the Amish anthologies Beth Wiseman is part of, and this one is no different. As we are heading into spring and growing our own garden, this book was incredibly fitting for the current season of my life. I hadn't read Vannetta Chapman before, but I absolutely adored her story. Because of that, I'm going to look into some of her other books to see if I would like them. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Saving the Moola: when you don't have a spending problem, you have an income problem!

There may come a point in your life when the numbers for your budget just aren't working, despite all of your best efforts. You're not spending frivolously (or at all), and there is nothing left to cut. The money you do have just isn't fitting together for the bills you have, and it's like you're literally missing a few pieces of the puzzle to having a quality life.

We've been there and done that and quite recently, too. Once my unemployment ran out, we were in the negative several hundred dollars per month. There was quite literally nothing left to cut. We spent money on the following budgetary line items:

  • Rent
  • Groceries
  • Gasoline
  • Car insurance
  • Cell phones (basic plans through MetroPCS for our "dumb" phones)
  • Internet 
  • Energy bill (lights, heat, etc.)
  • Tithe
  • Laundry
To explain a few line items, we did not feel comfortable canceling our cell phone plan because that is the only communication we have via phone. We probably would've canceled one phone's line, but we do have our daughter to think of and if there's an emergency in the night, we want to be able to call for help. We also did not feel comfortable without Jason having a phone to take to and from work. 

We did consider canceling our Internet service. It is really cheap, but it was money being spent each month. When I realized how much we made by having Internet service, though, I could not justify cutting it. For one thing, I made a few dollars from this blog each month. Jason also works as an independent contractor for mystery shopping companies on the side; he makes more than $30 a month in profits but could not complete assignments for companies without Internet service. 

There is a cost to laundry where we live because we do live in an apartment. We keep the costs as low as we can by hardly ever using the dryer. Instead, we hang our clothes on racks to be dried. In the past, we have also hand washed our clothes using a handy dandy portable washable plunger-type tool. If it ever came to that, we would use it again. It is a tool I will never get rid of - it is just too darn handy and cool! 

I'll be writing an entirely separate post about tithing, but I'll just say that I don't regret ever tithing. In fact, tithing helped strengthen my heart and trust in God. 

I think it is obvious that we were just living a very basic, but very happy life... except that we didn't have enough money to pay for all of our bills. 

So what can you do when you have an income problem and not a spending problem? 

First, take a look at your budget and make sure you're really only spending money on the basics. Trim any extra items you can. 

Second, take a look at what you're spending per category. We decided to stick to a very basic grocery budget and it was reduced compared to what it normally is. This meant a lot of basic meals, but our tummies were always full. Make sure you have a basic phone plan. 

Third, take another, harder look at what you're spending per category. I know I already said that, but trust me. I felt our energy bill was too high. I became quite obsessed with turning off every single light in the house that wasn't in use. We didn't just turn off the heat, but there were several days and hours it wasn't on at all (and yes, it was quite cold but that is what heavy clothing and blankets are for! No one got sick, we all survived and we're all quite hardier for it). I also unplugged certain items to save on electricity costs. 

Evaluate how much you're spending on gasoline for your car. Make a plan to stay home most days except for work. Grocery shop once a week and combine that with all other errands, like going to the library or post office. 

Once your budget is really trimmed, you're going to have to find a way to increase income. The best ways we've found to put a little bit extra back in our pockets fairly quickly: 

Jason tutors a student once per week. This puts enough back in our pockets that it honestly does make a difference. I don't know how many times we've needed something we didn't have the money for... except that Jason was heading off to tutor and picking up what we needed on the way home. 

I am so grateful to Swagbucks for how much it's helped my family. In March, we received 48 rolls of toilet paper, diaper cream and baby wipes for $3.18 out of pocket. This seriously helped our grocery budget which includes groceries and all household purchases. 

Mystery shopping
This doesn't just help our budget in terms of putting money back in our pocket, this also helps us be able to enjoy food made by someone else that doesn't cost us a thing! It saves us on our grocery bill significantly. 

Being a nanny (or mowing lawns, walking dogs, house cleaning, etc.) 
For about two months, I was a nanny. This helped us really purchase some needed items, like cat food, paper diapers, etc. If you have no desire to be a nanny, no problem! Just pick a service you can provide to someone and do that. 

Between just tutoring, Swagbucks and mystery shopping, we were making an extra $130 per month. That helped us to survive. Now that I have a job (praise the Lord!), I'm really happy there is a happy + sign in front of the difference between income and expenses which is allowing us to save a lot of money per month. 

One of the best things you can do, though, when you're facing a deficit each month is to stay calm and get creative. That may mean eating a lot of rice and beans, reading by flashlight at night (and using rechargeable batteries in said flashlight), going to bed when it gets dark to save on all light usage, wearing a few shirts to keep the heat set at 60, but do whatever you have to do (that is legical, ethical and moral) to keep your family afloat. 

Above all, have faith that God has not forsaken you. He has a plan for you. You can't see it and you might not ever this side of Heaven. But you're in His loving arms and He cares for you. When a day had been particularly trying, I often repeated, "He cares for you," to myself as I was falling asleep. Keep your sight set on Him, and you can make it through anything. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Homemade: Dishwasher Detergent (with no citric acid!)

I've made other dishwasher detergents and even shared one with all of you here. But I was never fully satisfied with any solution I had tried. Most I found called for citric acid. I have no issue with using citric acid in that the ingredient doesn't bother me. However, it can be difficult to find and can often only be purchased in bulk. I found a new solution that doesn't use citric acid and works really well in our dishwasher!

Here's what you need to make homemade dishwasher detergent: 

  • Mason jar 
  • Funnel
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 2 cups washing soda
  • 1 cup Borax
  • 25 drops eucalyptus essential oil 

Here's how you make homemade dishwasher detergent: 

  1. Using your funnel, measure out 1 cup washing soda into the Mason jar. 
  2. Next, add baking soda. 
  3. Add 25 drops of the oil. 
  4. Add the second cup of washing soda. 
  5. Finally, add the cup of Borax. 
  6. Use a spoon to mix up the solution within the jar. When you've mixed as much as you could, put on the lid and ring, then shake the jar. 

It took me about ten minutes to make this solution, and it's worked very well in our dishwasher. We use white vinegar in the rinse compartment and that helps get a slight white residue off the dishes. If I had to give a measurement of how much to use, I would say to use 2 Tbsp. of the solution per load. We just fill up the detergent compartments until they're full. I like this homemade solution because we always keep all of these ingredients on hand. If you haven't had good luck with homemade detergents before, I highly suggest giving this one a go.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Busy Bag of the Month: Felt Matching Game

You all know about my obsession with felt. This is one of my favorite busy bag ideas EVER because anyone can make it! It is so simple and frugal.

Here's what you need to make a felt matching game busy bag: 

  • Felt of various colors (15 different colors work best, then you also need black felt)
  • Black embroidery thread
  • Needle
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
Here's how you make a felt matching game busy bag: 
  1. Cut out all of your felt. For the colored felt, I cut mine to be 2.5 x 2.5 inches. For the black felt, I cut mine to be 3 x 3 inches. 
  2. Then, sew one colored piece to one black piece. Repeat until all of the colored pieces are sewed to the black pieces. 
  3. Throw all the pieces in a zipper bag, and you're done! 
I hand sewed the pieces so the project would be portable and I could work on it anywhere. However, feel free to use a sewing machine to sew the pieces together if you would prefer. Certainly, it would take far less time this way, but I always like having a project I can take to appointments, when visiting friends and family, etc. 

This project is super customize-able. You can buy felt with patterns on them at the store. I was going to do another busy bag with patterns, but the patterned felt is pretty pricey. You can also decide to make the game with felt shapes. The way I would recommend doing that is cutting the pieces the same sizes, then cutting out a heart, star, or whatever out of the colored felt. That way, when you sew the colored piece on, you're still sewing every single one the same: in a square shape. The shape, then, will be black. I hope that makes sense. I may do a busy bag with shapes, and if I do, I'll share a photo here to explain this further. 

I was going to take a few more pictures of the game, but a certain someone decided I was done. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Saving the Moola: thinking outside the box {stores} for groceries

photo credit
I'll be the first to admit it: I can quite easily fall into the "supermarket is king" trap. If I don't plan carefully, I will only get our family's groceries from the store.

And let's face it and be honest with ourselves: food is not grown at the store. Food does not really come from a store.

More than ever, I want to be conscious of the message I'm sending my ever-aware daughter. I want her to know where food, real food, really comes from.

Soon, we'll be starting our third garden on our balcony. I'm so excited to be expanding our garden this year. We have limited space to work with (as Jason is quick to remind me all the time), but we decided to grow tomatoes, marigold flowers, carrots and strawberries. I have to check with my mum to see if she'll have extra cherry tomato plants again this year. If yes, we'll be growing a couple of those again, too. We still have canned tomatoes left from our 2013 garden. I can't wait for my Bug to help me water the garden this year.

There are some things we never buy at the store (or very rarely, at any rate). Nana, Jason's mom, and her husband, Grandpa Bob, have six chickens at their house that lay eggs. I very rarely buy eggs at the store because they generously share with all their children. In fact, I thought it was funny I had to buy eggs in mid-December. It was the first time I had bought them in a couple of months, but over Christmas, Nana and Grandpa Bob stocked us up again with eggs (thank you both!).

We also typically never buy beef at the store. Instead, we get beef straight from our farmer friends at Becker Farms.

For a time recently, we subscribed to a weekly veggie pail service called Veggie Pails. It's a local company here in Michigan. We paid a fee each week and get a pail full of fruits and vegetables delivered right to our door. To be honest, we've carefully evaluated the cost. We're incredibly frugal so we wanted to be sure we were actually getting our money's worth. Veggie Pails is an incredible value on so many levels. We've tried so many new-to-us fruits and vegetables so it's expanding our repertoire. We would never have bought some of the items from the store. In fact, it's because of this service that we discovered celery root soup, which our Buggy devours!

Veggie Pails can save us money. We were unwilling to buy produce in our hometown. The stores here, Walmart and Target, do not have a wide array of fresh produce. VG's is here in town, but it's very expensive. The best place to get quality produce at an affordable price is the farmer market or Meijer; Meijer is 15 minutes away and the farmer market is about 20 minutes away. In the interest of saving time and money, we can, with the Veggie Pail service, now more easily shop at Walmart for our other groceries and skip going to other towns so much. This has come in handy more than I can tell you.

Some weeks, we didn't even go to the grocery store! We had all the protein we could need from eggs and beef, and we received fresh produce weekly. Jason and I were so pleased with our Veggie Pails service. If you live in Michigan, please check them out! We canceled the service only because we are being super careful with our finances (more than ever) and wanted to be sure we were only buying the necessities each week.

If you don't live in Michigan, there's probably not a Veggie Pails company in your area. However, you could check out Bountiful Baskets. This appears to work somewhat similarly to Veggie Pails, although you would actually place an order for the specific items you want. Bountiful Baskets is not available in our area, but it could be in yours!

If Bountiful Baskets isn't in your area, you may want to check out your local co-operative. There is one in our hometown which I looked into when we first moved to the area. Personally, I found their prices crazy high. I did not think their items were a good deal. However, maybe the one in your area is a little different. Either way, it's worth looking into.

There are so many ways to get real food into your house and into your belly. It's super important for kids to learn what real food is and where it comes from. More importantly, I want my Bug to grow up to know how to obtain real food in creative ways. I don't want her to be dependent on trading cash for groceries at a store with fixed prices. I want her to think outside the box. Whether it means gardening, growing chickens and cows, trading her own knowledge and goods for food, or whatever else she thinks up, I know I can give my Bug all the knowledge she needs to provide good, whole food to her family. I hope you'll join us in teaching your children about real food and where it really comes from! And who knows, maybe you can save some money by adopting some of these ideas.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Purposeful Parenting: how my baby and I get a good's night sleep... together

Before I gave birth, I always said I would never co-sleep. My baby would go in her crib right from birth.

Well, never say never, and also I have learned that if I haven't been in the situation yet, I don't really know what I'd do. We have a family bed and very possibly, nothing makes me happier than that.

For the first couple of weeks, Bug slept exclusively in her bassinett. After that, she slept half in bed with us and half in our bassinett. By about two months, she was exclusively in bed with us.

Then, around the time she turned 9 months old, I decided it was the crib every night. There were a variety of reasons, but the primary being that she fell out of bed around that time (when she was in it by herself, and I also feel the need to note she was in a strange bed not at her house) and scraped her nose really good. It scared all of us so we decided she must sleep in her crib.

Then, around the time she turned 11 months old, I realized no one was happy with her sleeping in her crib. Bug actually slept pretty good in it, but she'd wake sometime during the night, unhappy she was alone. I was unhappy she was not with me. Jason thought the whole crib idea was silly, but it largely unaffected him since he works at night.

When I made the decision to bring her back to bed with me, it was like a light turned on for us. Bug and I are more connected. She and I are like one mind - I know instantly when she's tired, I know when she's hurt, I know when she's scared, I know when she's hot and cold. And not because of any cues she's giving me. I just know. I know when her diaper is dirty and I know when she's filling it.

Co-sleeping isn't always easy, but what sleep solution is easy when a baby's involved? There are nights I do sometimes wish Bug was in her crib. Her bedtime is earlier than my bedtime, so if I want to work on a project, I must do so in another room. If I want to watch TV, well, too bad for me because our TV is in our bedroom. That really isn't such a huge issue, believe me, but my options are limited. For the most part, it doesn't matter. But every now and then, I think the crib would be better.

Until my girl snuggles up to me in the middle of the night and puts her sweet head on my shoulder to sleep. Until I can just lean over and give her kisses whenever. Until I can just know she's okay because she's right next to me and I don't need to walk to another room to check on my girl. Until my girl wakes up in the morning and puts her face in mine with the biggest smile ever. 

Family beds aren't very everyone. No idea ever is for everyone, generally speaking. But if you haven't yet tried co-sleeping, no matter the age of your kid, you might want to give it a go. It certainly has helped Bug's and my relationship blossom. I'm not sure when we'll decide Bug should sleep on her own, but I imagine it won't be anytime before Bug can actively participate in the decision. 

I know I don't like to sleep alone. Why in the world would I have expected Bug to? Co-sleeping is like having a slumber party every single night. Except instead of waking up feeling sluggish because I was up half the night, I feel well rested. Bug sleeps through the night, and I can sleep easier knowing she's totally safe next to me. 

Oh, and that falling out of the bed issue we had when we were at a relative's house? Not an issue any longer. Bug doesn't go anywhere near the edges of the bed. She always comes to whomever is in the bed with her. If no one is in bed with her and it's morning time, I just pile all the pillows and blankets around her. But even when I don't do that, it's still not an issue. My girl wakes up and talks in the morning so I hear her before she's ever near the edge of the bed. She typically just stays in the middle and tries to climb the walls.

There are so many benefits to co-sleeping besides better sleep and an improved loving relationship, and while those other benefits are great, that's not really why I tried co-sleeping. If you're interested in learning about those other benefits, check a book out from the library or Google the topic.

Honestly, just give it a try and see if you like it. If it doesn't work well for you for whatever reason, that's cool. But it may just be the best thing you've done and you may find you and your baby fall even more in love than you were before. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Saving the Moola: March in review

I have so many exciting things to report! First, I have a job! I'm so excited. Well, I'm excited for what this will mean for us financially. I am definitely not excited to be apart from my family 5 days a week. The job actually has a career path, which is definitely new to me. At my previous job, I had really gone as far as one could go (which wasn't very far), and Jason's job doesn't really provide a career path of any sort. So assuming this all works out and I excel at my job and love it, eventually, Jason can stay home with Bug. That's the "plan" but we all know how plans work out, so we'll just have to wait and see.

Our emergency fund is quite low right now. We used some of our savings to get us through March and we'll have to use some to get through April. I'm also going to use some of our savings to get a proper work wardrobe. Since I primarily worked from home before, I didn't really have one, plus the office environment at my previous job was very casual. My new job is a bit more business casual and even though I'm sad to have to spend money, I'm also very excited for new clothes!

We were very, very frugal in March because we had to be. My unemployment was over and we didn't have enough money from income to pay bills. Thankfully, Jason continues to tutor his student and he completed so many mystery shopping assignments. I actually got a little sick of eating out - not a bad problem to have!

We paid off our car loan in March. This was really exciting and one of the highlights of the month.

Here are some of the things we did to save money in March:
  • We gave each other pedicures. 
  • I cut Jason's hair. 
  • I used a flashlight with rechargeable batteries to read at night. 
  • We ate a lot of leftovers and cleaned out the pantry and freezer. 
  • We kept the heat turned down low (usually about 65). 
  • We price checked before shopping for garden supplies and saved a ton of money by making smart potting soil choices. We also got a killer deal on strawberry planters. 
  • I started making my own dishwasher detergent again and found a new recipe I love (and will be posting soon). 
  • I was on a sugar fast for most of the month and this saved us money in terms of not using baking supplies.
  • We made it a point to stay home except for work. If we left for errands, we combined them.
  • We printed needed documents at the library for free.
  • We hung our clothes on racks to dry.
  • We make cupcakes for Bug's birthday instead of buying a cake.
I'm anxious to start work officially and settle into our new normal. And I'm really glad our financial situation is turning around.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

This Book Room

It's 1945, the war is over, the GIs are returning , and Eliza is on the run. At least, she would be if her truck hadn't broken down in the middle of nowhere and her money hadn't, quite literally, flown out the window. So when Joshua Carpenter, a cowboy with the most brilliant blue eyes she has ever seen, stops to offer her help, Eliza can't afford to say no… Joshua, it seems, is single-handedly building a home for himself on farmland just outside the town of Cypress Hollow. And as Eliza is about to discover, sometimes running away is the only way to come home... 

Additional notes: This is the first book in the Cypress Hollow Yarn series, though it is listed as book .5, as it is a short story. You can read my review of book 1.5 here, my review of the second book here and my review of the third book here.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this book as Eliza is at the heart of this series. It was nice to read what started it all. I got it for free from the Amazon store for my Kindle.

Until Robert Miller met Lilly Allen, his world had been dark. A
widower after only two years of marriage, he'd been living in a haze, feeling that, at twenty-four, his life was already over. But thanks to his friendship with Lilly, he now has new reasons to wake up each day. He knows his connection to her doesn't make sense. She's only nineteen, with a past the whole town talks about. Even more, she's not Amish, like Robert. A marriage between the two of them could never happen.

Lilly's heart is drawn to Robert, not to his faith. No matter how much she admires his quiet strength and dependability, she doesn't think she could ever give up her independence and reliance on the modern world. Is their love doomed before it even begins?

Additional notes: This is the third book in the Seasons of Sugarcreek series. You can read my review of the first book here and my review of the second book here.

My thoughts: I feel like this is the story I was waiting for in this series. Lilly is so captivating as a character. She can be annoying at times, but I feel her heart is so similar to mine. I am so drawn to her. I was happy to read this book and happy where the characters ended up.

For the last five months, Tom Anderson has been without a job, a fact he's been hiding from his wife Jean--and everyone else. He leaves each morning, pretending nothing has changed, and spends his disheartening day rotating through two coffee shops and the library, using their wi-fi to search for a job on the internet. The stress of keeping this secret is beginning to put serious strain on his marriage and it looks like the legacy that began with his father is still at work, slowly destroying the bond between Tom and Jean. Can their mutual trust--and love--be restored? 

Additional notes: This is the second book in the Restoration series. You can read my review of the first book here.

My thoughts: I am such a fan of this series. I cannot wait until the third book comes out later this year! This book was particularly interesting because at the time I read it, I, too, was unemployed, although it was not a secret from my family. To read about a similar situation through another family and their take on it was intriguing and eye-opening, on several levels. This book gave me hope and made me laugh. It also made me tear up. I highly recommend this series.

Go, Cat, Go! Garfield shifts the laughs into overdrive in this latest collections of all-new comics. Whether
he's booting Nermal through the front door or battling Mrs. Feeny's lawn gnome, the fat cat keeps the mischief and mayhem coming fast and furious. Let the wild ride begin!

Additional notes: This is the 57th book in the Garfield series.You can find reviews of other Garfield books by searching "Garfield" in the search tab.

My thoughts: Honestly, Garfield brings a lot of laughter and joy to my home. Jason and I love reading these books and pointing out our favorite ones to each other.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

In the Kitchen with Jason: Potato and Leek Soup

This recipe came to be because we had a leek sitting in our fridge and Jess decided that we should use it up. She did some searching on Pinterest and found what would later turn into this recipe. We cooked it up and was surprised that it had a consistency closer to mashed potatoes than a soup. But boy, was it delicious leeky mashed potatoes, so I got out my chef hat and got to work turning the recipe into an actual soup recipe. The result was equally delicious and made such a large pot, we ate off it for a week.

  • 3.5 lbs unpeeled chopped potatoes
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 4 leeks diced (if you don't have enough leeks you can substitute, 1 large onion per leek)
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 3 cups of milk
  • 3 Tbsp melted butter
  • In a soup pot, combine the potatoes and chicken broth.
  • Put on a burner over medium heat and bring to a boil.
  • Cover and let boil for 20 minutes.
  • While the potatoes are cooking, melt 3 Tbsp of butter in a large frying pan.
  • Add the leeks (and/or onions) to the melted butter and cook for about 7 to 10 minutes (if they start to brown, you are done). 
  • Once the potatoes are done, mix in the cooked leeks, milk and melted butter.
  • Get out a potato masher and give it a good mashing. You will have a thick and lumpy soup when you are done.
A side note for those of you making recipes out there: counting potatoes is a bad idea. Potatoes vary greatly in sizes and that practice just doesn't work.

Please enjoy!

Chef Jason

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

State of Our House Address: March in review

Thank you all for being so understanding when I wasn't up to writing a review post for February. Honestly, my emotional state was not positive and I just wasn't in the mood to write it. Plus, I felt I had nothing to share that was positive. Obviously, there is always positive to share, but that wasn't my mind set.

For several reasons, my mind set has changed completely and I'm happy to report I am back to my happy, positive self. For one thing, I was offered a job I was happy to accept and I will be starting there in about a week. I am sad to leave my family and have to work, but I do have to work (unless we want to be homeless and that's not a goal of ours). We hope that in the future, one of us can stay home with our girl, but until then, we'll both keep working and taking care of our girl by ourselves. Prayers would be appreciated as we transition back into a two-income family!

Despite the job offer, the biggest news was that Bug turned 1 in March! I cannot believe it's been a year, but then I can. I do remember life before her, but I'd rather not. She brings so much joy to our lives! She's a crazy little girl - always ready to party, smile, giggle and follow her big brother everywhere he goes. Bug is also a really good snuggler. We love sleeping cuddled up to each other at night. Bug's birthday was pretty low key, though Grandma and Grandpa didn't get the memo of only one balloon. Bug had a great time getting frosting on her face and spending time with her family.

One of our friends from church is a terrific photographer and takes photos of all the church babies upon request. She's so generous and has such a loving heart. She took Bug's 1 year pictures, and while I'm not sure if Bug had a good time, she was cute anyway.

We've had a lot of issues with Bug eating, but we finally got it figured out and she's now enjoying all kinds of foods! She still doesn't have any teeth (yes, still), so she's a bit limited in what she can tackle, but we've made such progress. I am anxiously waiting for a tooth to finally poke through, though!

Near the end of the month, I switched our closets over to spring/summer. This was really exciting but kind of crazy because it snowed the day I did it. I love winter, but it is spring. So winter probably should pack up and leave!

Even crazier than that, we started our garden this month! It just seems weird to start our garden while it is snowing. We start our seeds indoors, then move them out the end of May/the first week of June. This year, we're growing tomatoes, carrots, strawberries and marigolds. I can't wait to see little sprouts coming up through the soil.