Sunday, May 31, 2009

Farm Week: Introduction

This summer I decided to plan some topic-specific activities to do with my boys. We are not planning on taking a big family vacation, but there are a few places within driving distance that I thought would be fun to visit. So........I decided to plan some "field trips" and to spend the week before the trip doing related activities. Even better, I purchased a special book to go with each week's theme. This week we are going to visit a farm on Friday. So we'll be doing some farm activities all week. I will post about our activities each day. My book for this week is All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan & Michael Wimmer. It is truly one of the most beautiful books with the most beautiful illustrations that I think I've ever seen. Sometime tomorrow morning (Monday) the boys and I will sit down and I'll read it to them. We may then read it several times throughout the week. Homeschoolshare has a unit study for this book. It has some great ideas, but I felt they were a little advanced for what I wanted to do.

I've set up the book on top of our organizer in the office. I've also placed a "workbox" for each boy on top. (I would use the workbox system if I ever end up is a great system. You can read more about it at the link I've provided or by Googling it. Many homsechool moms have written about it on their blogs.) I have the workboxes labeled with the boys' names, but didn't put the labels on until after the photo. I am planning to place each boy's activities in their tub so they can find them in the morning. We will be making a trip to our local library on Monday morning to check out some non-fiction books about farms to supplement our learning this week.

The next photo shows the tub for my youngest son. He just turned 4. He has 2 papers in his tub for Monday; both are from Enchanted Learning. If he doesn't want to do them, that's fine. However, he usually likes to do paper-pencil activities, so I think he'll be excited. I'll post more tomorrow about how he responded to it.

My oldest son has an easy reader from Reading A-Z. He is a very fluent reader, but I printed this one in French (I LOVE that you can do that!) since he is learning French at his Montessori school. (My younger son will "read" the same book in English.) His papers for Monday include a paper to alphabetize farm animals and one to label the animals in French (both from Enchanted Learning) and a farm animal crossword puzzle from KidsDomain.

We will also be doing some "farm cooking" activities this week. I will post each day about what we're doing. It should be fun.


I realized today that I haven't written anymore about our dog, Buzz, since writing about the severe seizures he had a few days ago. He came home Friday afternoon. Most likely he has a brain tumor. Since most vet clinics outside a university setting don't do MRIs or CAT scans, there's no way to confirm this for sure. However, that is probably what's going on with him. He has some permanent neurological damage.........he drags one foot a little, is somewhat clumsy now when he moves around, and we think his vision is a bit impaired. However, the good news is that he hasn't had anymore seizures. He is taking Prednisone and Phenobarbitol (I don't know if I spelled those correctly) and that combination of medications seems to be working. We don't know what the future will bring, but for now, we will try to continue to provide a loving home to this sweet little guy. Below is a photo I took of him today.

The other thing that's been going on around here is that we set up our pool for summer. In the past we've always just had an inflatable pool that we dump and refill every few days. At the end of the season last summer, we bought one that can stay up all summer. It has a filter and we spent ALL DAY yesterday trying to get the chemicals at the right levels so the boys could swim. Long story short............the boys got to go in today. It was a little cold, but they had a good time. I took a ton of photos, but most had the kids in them, so I only have a few to post. The first photo below shows the pool with the top ring inflated. This pool is 10 feet in diameter, so a little bigger than the ones we've had before.

After the top ring was inflated, we filled it with water. The ring floats up as the water rises. It took over 2 hours to fill it.

The next photo is funny. The boys wanted to swim as soon as they could once the pool was ready but they quickly got cold. Later in the afternoon they went in again. My oldest son was apparently so excited to go swimming that he put his swimming trunks on backwards. So this photo captures the excitement of swimming in your new pool for the first (second) time.

Hope you are all enjoying your summer. I think it's already going too fast and I'm bemoaning the fact that I haven't gotten much done on my to-do list yet. But, I'm trying to remember to be "in the moment" and to relax and enjoy myself.

Friday, May 29, 2009


One thing I wanted to post about is Muffin Tin lunches. I think I wrote about these last summer on my other (the original) blog. However, they are really great so I thought I'd write again. This is one of the best ways I've found to get my 4 year old to eat a balanced lunch. I simply place a different healthy food in each compartment. He loves it and I feel good about what he's eaten. Below is what I put in his tin today: (top L-R: ranch dressing, cheese crackers, pudding; bottom L-R: carrots, cheese cubes, blueberries). I have found that he eats a lot more and a wider variety when I serve his food this way.

Next on the random list................check out this fabulous lamp I found at a yard sale today for.................$1!! It is so unique and gorgeous. When I brought it home DH said, "What are you going to do with all these lamps you're bringing home?" Ummmmm, hello! I'm going to create ambiance in our home.

One other thing I don't think I posted about.........I recently purchased a Cubicals organizer for our home. I have one at school in my office and LOVE it! Each canvas bin holds SO MUCH STUFF!

Just to keep things real.......the next photo shows the corner of our office BEFORE I got the organizer in place. Now the toys have their own little drawers and my boys are (for the most part) keeping things better organized and putting them away better. It also helps them more easily find what they want to play with.

The next two photos show the contents of two of the drawers. One holds all our toy animals and another all our toy vehicles. These bins seriously hold SO MUCH stuff. They're awesome. I bought the whole set-up at Target..........I waited for it to go on sale first. It usually does go on sale a few times per year.

The next photo shows the way I'm using the same organizer in my office at school. I have a bin for each month Sept-May which holds all my seasonal decorations and materials.
To fancy up the drawers of this one I made tags labeled with the name of each month and tied on decorative ribbons.
Here's a close-up of my "September" drawer handle.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Proud owner of a............

..........Hoover SteamVac Turbo Power Carpet Cleaner. Yes, I've owned one of these babies for about 4 hours now. I am very excited about it!! However, the reason I finally took the plunge and bought one of these is really sad. Our dog, Buzz, started having severe seizures last night. He had approximately 7 seizures within a 24 hour period of time. We are talking grand mal, losing control of all bodily functions-type seizures. Needless to say, this has been really traumatizing to him as well as to DH and me. Luckily, the boys did not witness the seizures. Buzz went to the vet today and they did a bunch of bloodwork. So far they've ruled out a lot of bad scary things that could have caused the seizures. We were up practically all night with him last night since he was having one about every 2-3 hours like clockwork. He had one while at the vet's today and has been placed on Phenobarbitol. He is staying there overnight for observation. Our poor little Buzzy boy. Since he lost all control during each seizure, suffice it to say that we had a lot of yucky spots to clean up. When we went through all this just over a month ago with our dog, Magic, I rented a carpet cleaner, then ended up borrowing one from a friend a few days later when we had a mess again after I'd returned the rented vac. The borrowed vac was a Hoover SteamVac and I LOVED it. So after the events of the past 24 hours, I headed to Bed Bath and Beyond this evening and bought one. With 4 animals that poop, pee and barf a lot, it is a good investment. The other great thing is that I had a $50 gift certificate to the mall where the store was and I signed up for the Bed Bath and Beyond emails and got a 20% off savings certificate. So we ended up getting the SteamVac for just about half price. I immediately put it together and cleaned up our yucky spots when I got home. This steam vac works GREAT! I cannot recommend it enough. It cost us about $45 to rent a rug cleaner for 8 hours and after a few uses, our new one will pay for itself. Hopefully Buzz will come home tomorrow. He is a really sick little guy and we are so sad about what happened. We hope it will be controllable with meds. We cannot bear the thought of going through what we just went through with Magic all over again.

Otherwise, I've been enjoying my summer vacation. I had a pleasant surprise visit from my friend, Tammie, today. She reads the blog and was in the neighborhood and decided to stop by and see my new paint job and drapes. THANKS, Tammie! It was great to see you!! I've been working on some more projects that are not quite ready to post about. Going through all that with Buzz has put an abrupt halt to all other plans. I'll write more soon!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Garage Sale treasures

As I mentioned in my previous post, my mom and I went to several garage sales this past Saturday. I think we'll make it a Saturday tradition all summer. At the very last garage sale I found two awesome treasures. I had been wanting to replace a 90s era black halogen floor lamp in our living room with a table lamp to increase the ambiance but table lamps are SO expensive. Imagine my surprise when I walked into our last stop and found a large table lamp for only...........$1!! I'm was only $1. I was a bit skeptical about whether or not it would work. However, when I got it home and put in a light totally worked! I may eventually replace the shade...........and I've thought about repainting the base. But for now, it looks great and really warms up our reading spot in the living room. Can't beat the price!!

The gold pillow on the rocking chair was also purchased at a different garage sale on Saturday for only $2. It goes great with the new throw pillows that I sewed last week.

As we were heading into the last garage sale stop, I told my mom that if she is ever at a garage sale without me and finds a corner baker's rack to call me immediately because I've been wanting one. a stroke of unbelievable luck, we walked in and there was a corner baker's rack. I paid $22 for it, which is kind of high for a garage sale. However, I was okay with the price for three reasons: 1.) I have looked at these in stores and they retail for $70 and up and I've looked unsuccessfully on Craigslist for a great deal on one; 2.) I found the above lamp at the same sale for only $1 AND 3.) all the money raised at this particular sale goes to the Relay for Life for cancer research. Anyway..........below you can see the rack in its new home.........the corner of my dining room. The first photo shows it without accessories.

The next photo shows the baker's rack accessorized. This is the hard part for me. I think it's difficult to find the right balance of objects so the space doesn't look crowded or disorganized. I actually did a Google search for tips on accessorizing baker's racks before I started. A main tip I picked up, which I've heard before, is to do groupings in odd numbers such as 3 or 5. For now I'm pretty happy with what I've arranged. However, I am sure this will be an ever-evolving space. One other great tip I liked was to use some decorative boxes on your rack/shelf and to place seasonal decorations that you'll change out inside the boxes. That way you can easily redecorate for the seasons without having to drag the accessories out from another area of your home. So........I'll probably try to add something like that eventually as well as a plant or two(faux or real). Today I just had to use what I already had on hand. Everything on the shelves was found while thrifting and/or was given to me by someone.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

More French Country/Shabby Chic sewing

Here is my new kitchen window valance. I stuck it up between the two cupboards using a tension rod. I've never had a window treatment on this window before and I really like it. I used a smaller red print than on the dining room drapes I showed yesterday. As you are standing facing the kitchen window shown below, the dining room windows with the new drapes are to the right about 6 feet. To tie the two window treatments together I used the same navy houndstooth check on top of the valance that I used on the dining room drapes. I sassed the valance up with some fun fringy trim.

Isn't this fringe great? 40% off at Hancock Fabrics this week. I used it on a pillow that you'll see below. It add such a classy vibe to fabric creations.

Last night after the boys were in bed I sewed 4 new throw pillows. I forgot to take a picture of the ones we've had on the blue couch for about the last 8 years. I am really happy with how my pillows turned out. This morning my youngest son came out and noticed them. He spontaneously said, "Mom, these pillows are awesome!" My older son noticed them and said, "Did you MAKE these, Mom?" So I think they've been given a thumbs-up by the rest of the family. I went garage-saleing with my mom this morning and found 2 more throw pillows with fringe that exactly match my color scheme. They were $2 each and live at my house now!! :0)

The pillow on the left is the first one I sewed last night (recognize the fringe?). I had seen something similiar at a home dec store this week. Prior to that I hadn't thought about putting two fabrics together on the front of a pillow and trimming the seam. Love to steal those great ideas!! The solid red pillow is one of my garage sale finds.

I sewed each of the two pillows shown below. The red floral fabric is the same I used for the new dining room drapes. All the pillows I sewed have a different coordinating fabric on the back so they can be very versatile. other piece of upholstered furniture in the living room is the blue rocking chair shown below. I made the pillow on the left and the gold one was from today's garage sale booty. The red floral fabric on this pillow is the same as the kitchen valance.

This photo shows the blue couch, freshly painted Honey Butter walls and red drapes that I couldn't sell on Craigslist that I'm now keeping. I really need a rug in front of the couch. We used to have one but it had some (ahem) soiled areas that we never could get clean so it has since been removed and now we just have the plain wood floors. DH really likes it without the rug, but I am going to try to convince him that a nice rug would really add to the ambiance of the space. If that doesn't work, maybe I'll just bring home a rug and see what he thinks.

I have a HUGE to-do list of projects for my home. Hopefully I'll tackle some of those and get them posted this week. I also have some fun things planned to do with the boys this summer. So........plenty of fodder for the good ol' blog.

Friday, May 22, 2009

New dining room drapes

My sewing machine and I have been burning the midnight oil. I was anxious to start stitching my new dining room drapes using the fabric I bought at Hancock Fabrics on Monday. I am really happy with how they turned out. I didn't have a pattern.......I just looked at how my previous JCPenney drapes were constructed. I am really happy with how they turned out. My kitchen, dining room and living room are basically all one big long room. Since I repainted the whole space this week I was ready for some other updates as well. For those of you who voted, my wall color was Honey Butter by Behr. It is a nice warm tannish yellow which is just what I wanted. My former drapes in this area were red gingham checked. I "borrowed" two of them a few weeks ago to replace my sliding closet doors in the bedroom. You can see them in my bedroom here. Since I am stuck with a blue couch and red living room drapes, I had decided last weekend that my decorating theme would be "French country on a shoestring budget." I was thrilled on Monday to find all my decorator fabric for window treatments and pillows for less than $3 per yard. My total cost for the drapes pictured here was less than $16. I went "green" for the drapery lining and used a white bedsheet to line one drape and ripped out the lining of the remaining two red gingham drapes to line the other drape. Formerly I had 4 drapes on this window. They were each 40 inches wide. My new drapes are each 54 inches wide so I only needed two to cover the windows. Below you can see the full view of the drapes against the new Honey Butter walls. It turned out pretty dark, however, because of the time of day that I took it.

The next three photos are close-ups of the details.

I wanted to add a little punch to the drapes so I sewed a strip of navy houndstooth checked fabric on the top and bottom of each drape. I am so happy I did that because it gives them a really custom look and it is also really comfortable and homey which is exactly the look I wanted.

I have also stitched up a valance for the window over my kitchen sink but haven't hung it yet. I will post that as soon as it's done. Tonight after the boys are in bed I am hoping to stitch up a bunch of throw pillows. I have a LOT more projects on the to-do list!! Can't wait to get them done and post them!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

More thrifting fun

Today I went to my favorite local thrift store and grabbed a few things for my home decorating projects. Below you can see what I picked up. The glass vase in the foreground will hold something somewhere, maybe something seasonal. I'm not sure yet what I'll do with the white tin and white baskets, but they will definitely fit into the decorating scheme I've started in our home. The lemons will go in the kitchen once I get the re-do done. More pictures to follow when I get that going.

On Monday I went to Goodwill. I don't get to go there often, so it was a real treat. For less than $25 I got a BUNCH of great stuff. Below you can see the glass vase, white pitcher, red vase, plate stand, 4 matching frames and 9 white plates that I got. The white plates are going on the soffit in my newly painted kitchen. Today I picked up some plate hangers at my local thrift store. Also at Goodwill I got a grapevine wreath that I am hoping to decorate with summery flowers once I find them cheap AND I got a white wicker frame that I have BIG plans for. Can't wait to get that project done and posted. I forgot to take a photo of those 2 things.

Since I had lots of time to shop without my boys, I decided to see what, if any, clothing bargains I could find for myself. The yellow tags were on sale for 99 cents so I stuck with looking at the yellow-tag clothing. The photo below shows the 4 new tops I got for 99 cents each and the new denim skirt I got for $3.49. I tried a bunch of stuff on but ended up with these. For less than $8 I added 5 items to my spring/summer wardrobe. Two of the blouses were Liz Claiborne.

Close-ups of the clothing. The paisley will go great with black capris, skirt or pants. The other red print will go great with denim, khaki, or brown. It is a really cool feminine blouse. LOVE IT!

Green is my favorite color but I don't have much green clothing so I was happy to find the green striped 3/4 sleeve shirt. The other knit top was just a fun summery print and will go great with the new denim skirt or with khakis.

Here you can see that you can get name-brand clothing for a great price if you don't mind wearing/buying used and you love a bargain. $3.49 for a Bass denim skirt.

What I've been up to

I can't believe it's been 2 weeks since I've written a post over here. Here's an update about what I've been doing. Last Friday was the last day of school at the Montessori preschool where I teach. Our Spring Program/Graduation was last Tuesday, my mother-in-law came to visit last week from Tuesday-Saturday, my last MOPS meeting of the year was last Wednesday, my oldest son's French program was last Thursday, we went out to Red Lobster as a family last Friday, my youngest son's last soccer game was Saturday morning, and I spent the weekend trying to choose a paint color because yesterday I spent the WHOLE DAY repainting my living room/dining room/kitchen. So.........I've been a little busy. I did try out a new recipe this weekend that was awesome. I Googled and found a recipe for mini quiches. My boys are not the best at eating breakfast and I thought making up a batch of these and freezing them would give us another healthy and fast option for breakfasts. The recipe I used is here. I have to say these were really awesome. The day I made them my oldest son ate three, my youngest wouldn't touch them. DH and I have since eaten the rest. After the first day, my finicky oldest son wouldn't eat them again. I think this would be a great recipe to freeze and take to someone. I make a lot of meals for people in my MOPS group who have babies and my standard recipe is a pasta dish. This would be a fun variation to give instead.

This recipe uses pie crust for the bottom. I bought refrigerated crust and used a drinking glass to cut it into circles to place in the muffin tins. You can use whatever fillings you want. I used cubed turkey (bought already cubed), chopped onion and broccoli, and shredded swiss cheese. The photo below shows the quiches with the fillings.

The next step is to beat together 2 eggs and 3/4 cup sour cream and spoon it over the fillings. Then you bake it. You can see them baking below.

And here is what they look like finished. Really yummy!!

As I said above, I also spent a lot of time trying to choose paint for my walls. My living room/dining room and kitchen all are one big space. Previously, the walls were painted light yellow. And I have a blue couch and red drapes that I haven't been able to sell on Craigslist. I bought a decorating magazine over the weekend and found a look I liked. It was a French country living room with yellow/gold walls and red, blue and gold decor. It's perfect for what I already have. So..............even though I already had yellow walls, I wanted to repaint. It's been 6 years with 2 boys since I repainted and it really needed it. I bought 2 quarts on Saturday to try them out. Didn't like either one. One was too peachy and one was too bright. I went to Hancock Fabrics on Monday to choose some fabrics to make new throw pillows. After that I took a swatch to Home Depot and choose another quart to take home and try. It was kind of dark but I kind of liked it. Then DH came home and said he DIDN'T like it AT ALL and that it looked like cat barf. (Direct quote) So...........yesterday morning I went back to Home Depot and bravely picked a new color and bought 2 gallons without trying it out first. And I LOVE IT!! Just for fun, let's have a little contest to see who can guess which color I chose. Below are the fabrics I bought for throw pillows. I'm also going to use them to make new dining room drapes. Following the fabrics are the 4 color candidates. Leave me a comment with your guess as to which color I picked, just for fun. Oh, and for those of you sewing junkies out there............this fabric was ALL decorator fabric and I got it for $2.80 per yard. That is unheard of. All the trims were on sale too for 40% off and I bought a bunch of fringe and tassels to make the pillows look really fancy. I'm probably going to start sewing those later today.

Choice #1: Behr Calm Air

Choice #2: Behr Cornmeal

Choice #3: Behr Honey Butter

Choice #4: Behr Sweet Maple

Keep in mind...........these look WAY different on the computer monitor than they did on my walls.

I'll close with this photo of what Buzz did during my paint-a-thon. I starting prepping to paint at 9:30.........started actually putting paint on the wall at noon. Finished actually painting at 6:30 with one short break at 1:00 to walk Buzz. Finished cleaning up and putting everything back by 8:30. So I'm serious that it took me ALL DAY. But at least now it's DONE! You can see that Buzz was really a lot of help!! At least he wasn't running around getting his tail and paws in the paint.