Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pumpkins & Spice fabric giveaway

No, I haven't finished the quilt I started last winter. To be honest, I haven't picked it back up again yet this fall. I am about half finished quilting it, but had set it aside for the warm season. Now that cool weather is here again, I've been working on a few other projects for Christmas, so it will probably be a few weeks before I get back to it.

Even still, I couldn't resist the opportunity to enter the contest to win this delicious stack of "fat quarters"! I love the muted colors and primitive prints, don't you?
Pumpkin Patch Primitives is giving away a bundle of 27 fat quarters! What a pretty quilt that would make! Head on over for your chance to win! And mention that Karla @ Ramblin' Roads sent you. The contest ends on October 31.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Harvest of Friends

So I'm getting in on the tail-end of this one... but it looks like too much fun to pass up... Lynnette @ Dancing Barefoot on Weathered Ground is hosting the Harvest of Friends Blog Party this week.
And she provided...
20 Weird Questions
That Will Give a Little Insight Into Who I Am


1. What is your favorite thing to snack on while you're blogging?
  • Currently, peanuts.
2. What is one thing you wouldn't want to live without?
  • Contact lenses. My glasses prescription is so strong I can't imagine having to wear glasses all the time.
3. Beach, Mountains or Farm? Where would you live if you had a choice?
  • Mountains. I love the tall trees, the crisp air, the wildlife, the view...
4. What's your least favorite chore/household duty?
  • Vacuuming the floor.
5. Who do people say you remind them of?
  • My mother.
6. Prefer parties and socializing or staying at home with the fam?
  • Staying home. Definitely. I'm not a big socializer.
7. What's your all time favorite movie?
  • Anne of Green Gables
8. Do you sleep in your make up or remove it like a good girl every night?
  • I rarely wear make up.
9. Do you have a hidden talent or a deep desire to learn something that you've never had a chance to learn? What is it?
  • I have always wanted to learn to spin... but I have far too many hobbies as it is, to justify spending the money to try something new. I would also like to learn to make bobbin lace, but haven't for the same reason.
10. What's one strange thing you're really good at?
  • Reading aloud. I don't know. Is that strange? Maybe a little?
11. What first attracted you to your spouse?
  • His personality.
12. What is something you love to smell?
  • Clean sheets fresh off the clothesline.
13. Tell something about you that you know irritates people.
  • Well, now, if I knew it irritated them I wouldn't do, would I?
14. When you have extra money (HA!) what's the first thing you think to do with it?
  • Buy books.
15. Are you a silent laugher or a loud laugher? What makes you laugh the hardest?
  • I usually just smile. Something has to really strike me funny to make me laugh hard. Odd-ball and quirky things make me laugh.
16. Where is your favorite place to shop?
  • Depends on what I'm looking for. Kohl's is probably my favorite department store.
17. What's one thing you'd do more often if you had more time?
  • Scrapbooking.
18. Are you a big spender or frugal?
  • Definitely frugal.
19. Who is your favorite character of all time (from a movie or book)? (Can't be real)
  • Anne Shirley
20. Would you want to be famous?
  • No, thank you.

Just some random off-the-top-of-my-head thoughts...

--1--
I'm considering a merger. I've been finding it a little overwhelming to keep up with 3 blogs: this one, my book review blog (Another Road to Ramble), and my homeschool blog (Roads to Learning). Initially I thought it would make it easier to have the topics separated, but I'm re-thinking that. I'm seriously considering merging them back into one main blog. What do you think? Any opinions?

--2--
Today is "school picture" day. Always such an ordeal to decide on just the right outfit and get the hair fixed. Then drive to the next town where the photographer is set up. But I try to make it a priority every year because I know I'll want those pictures in years to come.

--3--
Music lessons are going great! For years I have wished we could afford music lessons. Several years ago we tried piano lessons and that didn't work out very well for us. This fall I discovered that a very dedicated music teacher in our town offers beginning orchestra classes at different ages levels. Group lessons are less than half of what private lessons would be. Not only that, the girls are loving it and I don't have to nag them to practice. I am so pleased!

--4--
My latest favorite coffee "additive": a splash of whole milk and a little raw sugar. The raw sugar has a caramely flavor without the HFCS that's in caramel sauce (my real favorite).

--5--
I find blogging more fulfilling than Facebooking. However, I have found that the Networked Blogs application makes it easy for me to share my blog posts with my Facebook friends. Best of both worlds! Which do you prefer?

--6--
Our 24th anniversary is coming up next week. We like to take a little weekend trip to celebrate when we can. The last couple of years the children have gone with us. A few days ago I mentioned to Becky that our anniversary was coming up. She said, "Oh! Where are we going?"

--7--
I've spent way too much time trying to decide which random thought should be the 7th one! Instead of sitting here awhile longer musing over my options I think it's time to get this posted and move on to the next thing!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Slow Cooking Thursday - Taco Soup

I love my Crockpot! It is so convenient to put a meal together in the morning, and then come supper time... well, supper's done! The catch to it is: I have to remember (and take the time) to put the food in the Crockpot in the morning (or right after lunch, depending on the recipe). I'm still trying to get into the habit of working that into my daily planning and routine.

When I ran across the Slow Cooking Thursday meme hosted at Diary of a Stay at Home Mom, I decided to participate, as a motivation to do at least one Crockpot meal a week to share on Thursdays.
Today I'm not going to post a recipe, as such, because you probably already know how to make Taco Soup. (If you don't, just Google for the recipe. It is so easy! Browned ground beef, then add canned beans, canned corn, and canned tomatoes-and-chilis. Top with shredded cheese and sour cream. Serve with chips.)

What I wanted to share this week is a seasoning tip I picked up from my friend Mary Grace: Hidden Valley Ranch Fiesta dip mix. I put a package of this into our Taco Soup yesterday and my family declared it the "best ever"! Who knew? I had always just used plain ol' taco seasoning before... but the spicy ranch dip mix added even more wonderful flavor!

Just thought you'd like to know!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fall Beauty

We went camping this past weekend in central Washington, near Grand Coulee Dam. Steamboat Rock campground is open year round and we thought it might be a little warmer over there for perhaps the last camp-out of the season. It was. But it was also gray and drizzly...
...however, as I've mentioned before, we don't mind the rain. The scenery was still beautiful, in a muted sort of way.

Late in the afternoon we enjoyed watching the herd of mule deer who casually grazed in our campsite. We counted up to 20 in the area at once, including a buck or two. They weren't exactly tame... but they sure weren't too put off by the presence of humans.
Just at sunset, the clouds broke up and the sun cast a breath-taking rainbow against the eastern sky... It lasted for quite awhile.
The next morning dawned sunny and clear.
The fall colors were brilliant.
We thoroughly enjoyed the gifts of our Creator this fall weekend!

Grand Coulee Dam

This past weekend we had another informal family field trip to the Grand Coulee Dam in central Washington. We were camping in the area, so took the opportunity to visit the dam while we were over there. It doesn't tie in with anything we're learning about currently... but it was built in the 1930s as a Public Works Administration project, and my oldest daughter is studying the 20th century this year, so we will be to that time period in a few weeks.
The visitor's center had several interesting hands-on exhibits. The girls and their dad particularly enjoyed the virtual flying game with a joy-stick controller that let you zoom over, around, and inside the dam on the video screen.
My favorite part was the vintage publicity pieces and souvenirs on display. The cartoon map shows the area before the dam was built. We were camping near Steamboat Rock.
I wondered what all the carefully-labeled jugs were about. Apparently they had some ceremony in 1951 where water from all 50 states was poured over the dam as a symbolic gesture of something-or-other. I thought it was pretty funny!

What was most interesting to me is that I don't remember hearing of the Grand Coulee Dam until we first visited it several years ago, yet it is the largest electric-producing facility and the largest concrete structure in the United States. I wonder why the Hoover Dam is more well-known?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

First Things

I think this quiz went around on Facebook awhile back. Just thought it would make a fun blog post...

First Job: Age 14, babysitting for a little neighbor boy. I think I work 2 or 3 hours each afternoon, and made $10 a week!
First Real Job: Age 15, office "clerk" at the Girl Scout council office (mostly filing and making copies). I made minimum wage and was able to put most of it up for college.
First Favorite Politician: I voted for Ronald Reagan for president in 1984. I was 18.
First Car: The one I have now is the first car that we bought as "mine". We were a 1-car family up until that time. It's a Toyota Matrix.
First Sport Played: If you don't count being forced to play sports in P.E. ... then this is a "first" I haven't experienced. No plans to, either!
First Concert: I went to hear the Blackwood Brothers with a friend and her family when I was in junior high. I think that was probably my first exposure to Southern Gospel as such. I wasn't terribly impressed.
First Foreign Country Visited: Canada. We living in Lansing, Michigan when I was 5, and we drove to Detroit and crossed into Ontario for a day trip.
First Favorite TV Show: Little House on the Prairie. Or, at least, I thought it was. We didn't have TV at home when I was growing up, but when I found out there was a LHP show I wanted to see it so bad. I loved the books. Imagine my disappointment years later when I finally saw some episodes in re-runs to discover that the show didn't follow the books. I guess I didn't miss out on much after all.
First Girlfriend/Boyfriend: My husband.
First Encounter with a Famous Person: Gary Smalley assisted at my sister's wedding, and her reception was held at his home.
First Brush With Death: In 2001 I fell asleep while driving 70mph on the interstate. The car was totaled but my children and I walked away unscratched. That was so scary!
First House/Condo Owned: We bought a house in 1991 in El Dorado, Kansas.
First Film Seen: When I was a kid we would occasionally check out a projector and 16mm films from the library. The first one I remember is a Little Rascals silent movie: Saturday's Lesson. That was in the late 1970s... the movie was probably made in the 1920s! LOL!
First Favorite Radio Station: WTGN in Lima, Ohio when I was in high school.
First Book I Remember Reading: Tip. (The first reader in first grade.)
First Meme You Answered on Your Blog: December 2006. Christmas Get-to-Kn0w-You.

Lyle walked past as I was working on this post and asked, "Whatcha doin' with car pictures?" You can depend on it... if it has wheels and an engine it will catch his eye! I hate to disappoint him, but this post isn't really about cars. It just so happens that those are the "firsts" I have digital pictures of. Sorry, hon!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Oregon Trail Interpretive Center

As we've been studying the American Revolution this year, I have wished we had the opportunity to visit some of the historical sites -- Boston, Philadelphia, Williamsburg, Washington D.C... Living "way out west" is kinda unhandy for field trips to such places, though we do hope to make such a trip before too long, possibly next year.

In our history studies this year we are now into the 1800s and have been reading about Lewis & Clark, and the Louisiana Purchase. Emigration on the Oregon Trail started in about the 1830s so I told my husband last week that the next time we had a chance I wanted to visit the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Baker City, Oregon.

As it turns out, that chance came sooner than I expected! My husband had a delivery to make to Boise yesterday, and the quickest way to get there is actually to go west into Washington, then south through Oregon, and then back into Idaho. There is no north-south Interstate in Idaho, so "going around" is faster. That route takes us right through Baker City. We stopped at the museum on our way home.
A friendly little old man greeted us as we came in. He asked the girls why they weren't in school. They told him they are homeschooled. I said, "This is school, right?" He said, "Oh, don't tell them that! Then they won't want to do their book work!" He gave them each a workbook to fill out as they went through the center. I thought that was great! It forced them to slow down and read the signs.
The life size exhibit of wagons, taxidermied animals, and mannequins to represent the people made the hardships of the trail come alive for us.
I was amazed to learn that most of the people actually walked the entire 2,000 mile trip. The wagons were much too full, small and bumpy to ride in. For sure, they were much smaller than I had envisioned them when I was a kid!
One exhibit had blocks to represent the various things people took along, with a scale-size wagon to load the blocks in. My daughter decided that the "whiskey" could definitely stay behind. I said, "But what if you need it for medicine?"
"Nope," she told me. "We have a smaller box of medicine."

"Yeah, but what if someone has to have his leg amputated and you need it for him?"

"Too bad. He'll just have to endure."

I'm sure the decision-making process wasn't quite that easy. Can you just imagine having to narrow your possessions down to what would fit in such a tiny wagon, realizing that most of the space is needed for food and supplies for the trip? And knowing that you'll never be back again?

This is why we study history. It's good to think about these things.

A Convuluted Lesson in Frugality

I'm not a brand snob. Really, I'm not. My mother is the queen of frugality, and I have learned well from her. (Ask me later about the frozen watermelon! I'll have to save that story for another blog post.)

But, yes, those are Nike swishes on my new tennies. I feel a little guilty about that, but maybe if I blog about it, I'll get over it. My husband has a love-hate relationship with the frugal nature of my character... and he talked me into getting these cute brown Nikes... but, no, I won't blame it on him.
Truth be told, I'm learning that some things are worth the extra money. I've always considered price first (and I still do) but cheaper is not always better.

For example, did you know that "high fructose corn syrup" is not only a cheap sweetener, it's also a preservative? I have been reading up on the controversy between HFCS and natural sugar, and I discovered that a lot of foods have HFCS added just because it extends the shelf life. So I've been reading labels more carefully. The cheap brand of chili beans had HFCS in it, and the name-brand didn't. Guess which one had more calories? I still buy a lot of off-brand groceries... but not without comparing ingredients.

But I digress. You wanted to hear about my Nikes, didn't you? Well... first, I have to tell you about my new coffee pot. It ties in. Really it does. (The groceries don't... but the coffee pot does!)

A few months ago, I was on a quest to make a great cup of coffee. My friend, Laura, recommended a particular coffee pot. When we were together this summer she fixed a pot of coffee so I could try it, and told me it was available at Kohl's. It made great coffee! The only drawback? It was $100, which seemed a little spendy to me for a coffee pot. Needless to say, I didn't run right out and buy one.

When we got home from our trip, I noticed we had accumulated quite a few "thank you" points on our credit card from all the traveling we did this summer... plane tickets to my grandmother's funeral, besides our road trip, etc. As I was browsing the gift site to see what I could get with my points, I noticed they had gift cards for Kohl's. And I had enough points to get the coffee pot! So that's what I did. I still felt a little guilty about spending that much "money" for a coffee pot... but it was somewhat easier because it was "free" money. (Okay. It's really not free, but you know what I mean.) As I was paying for the coffee pot, the cashier gave me a $30 gift certificate to use in Kohl's the next week. Apparently they were running a promotion where you would earn a certain amount of store credit depending on how much you spent.

In the meantime, I was needing new tennis shoes. I have been trying to get back into the habit of exercising, and my 10-year-old Reeboks are just about worn out. The Reebok outlet in our area went out of business awhile back, so I thought I would just get some cheap athletic shoes from Wal-Mart. They had the cutest white cheerleader shoes, with little sparkly colored tabs that slid into a pocket on the side to match your team's colors or whatever. Yes, I'm way too old (not to mention uncoordinated) to be a cheerleader... but I thought they would be good workout shoes. I just had on flip-flops that day so I didn't want to try them on in the store. I just grabbed a box in my size, thinking I could take them back if they didn't fit. After I got home with them my daughter opened them up to look at them and said, "Mom, did you know you got 2 right shoes... in 2 different sizes?" Of course I didn't know that! So I had to take them back after all. This time I made sure I had a matching pair! Unfortunately, they turned out to be uncomfortable. They didn't bend right with my foot. And I took them back again and didn't get more at Wal-Mart.

So when I got the extra $30 at Kohl's, I decided to see if I could find some tennies that fit there. They had a much wider selection than Wal-Mart, and lots of name brands. Lyle's the one who spotted the brown pair of Nikes. They were $45... but with my $30 off coupon, I got them for $15... which is cheaper than the cheap cheerleader shoes at Wal-Mart! See?

I'm lovin' my new tennies... and my new coffee pot! I'm glad I didn't have to pay full price for either one... but, to be honest, I kinda think it would have been worth it, even if I had.

I'm curious. What items do you insist on a particular brand?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook

It's been awhile since I've done one of these. I always love the way this particular meme causes me to slow down and reflect on the simple things of life. I see that the "thought prompts" have changed up a bit since the last time I did it. I like that. I'd love to read your "simple" reflections, too! Be sure to let me know if you post them. And pop over to the The Simple Woman's Daybook blog to link up with the other participants!Outside my window... it's a glorious October day. Cool and sunny.

I am thinking... about topics for upcoming blog posts.

I am thankful for... the hope of Heaven.

I am wearing... a full denim skirt and a long-sleeve cream t-shirt... with socks and fleece slippers!

I am remembering... Kay.

I am going... on a quick down-and-back road trip to Boise with Lyle and the kids later today. It's 8 hours each way. We'll drive down this afternoon, spend the night, make some deliveries in the morning and then drive home.

I am reading... Love is a Battlefield by Annalisa Daughtey.

I am hoping... to have the time to stop at the Oregon Trail museum in Baker City, Oregon on our way home from Boise tomorrow.

On my mind... decisions to be made.

From the learning rooms... we have been reading about Lewis & Clark and the westward expansion. The Oregon Trail museum will tie in well with that.

Noticing that... I function more efficiently when my surroundings are in order. That doesn't mean they always are. In fact, they usually aren't. But maybe I should work on that!

Pondering these words... "We'll get to spend eternity together!" (What Kay's daughter told me after the funeral on Friday. What comfort!)

From the kitchen... lotsa apple goodies lately! My daughter has been enjoying trying a variety of recipes including apple pie, apple sauce, and apple cookies.

Around the house... I want to find time to shampoo the carpets soon.

One of my favorite things... learning right along with my children.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunrise

One of my favorite things about our home is how it is situated on the corner of a street, on a hill, with a wonderful view of the sky. I have mentioned before how much I love the sunsets... but we have an equally good vantage point to watch the sunrise, too. I don't see it as often, though, because in the summer I'm not up that early (4:30ish) and now that it's rising later in the morning, I just don't take time to slow down enough to appreciate it.
A couple days ago as I went to the kitchen for my first cup of coffee, the sunrise caught my eye. I regret that I don't have the photography expertise (or maybe it's just my camera... yeah, can we say that?) to properly capture the beauty of the moment.That was the day of my friend Kay's funeral. As I stood in awe of the beauty of the sunrise that morning, I thought about how glorious heaven must be. Then I realized that just as my camera can't capture the true beauty of the glorious sky... so we can't possibly comprehend what awaits us in heaven.
The sun shall no longer be your light by day,
Nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you;
But the Lord will be to you an everlasting light,
And your God your glory.

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes;
there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.
There shall be no more pain,
for the former things have passed away.
Isaiah 60:19, Revelation 21:4
I get a little Homesick sometimes, don't you?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Music Opportunities

There aren't many public school experiences that I regret that my girls have missed. One thing that I did enjoy, however, when I was in public high school (we won't say how many years ago) was the opportunity for music training, and I wished the same for my children. Of course, private lessons are available, but due to a number of circumstances we haven't been able to pursue that option. So I had been keeping my eye open for group music classes.

A few weeks ago we got a catalog in the mail from the city Department of Parks and Recreation listing the sports teams being organized for the fall, as well as personal enrichment classes. Last year they listed art classes, but no music. I wasn't very hopeful, but I quickly flipped through it to see if anything caught my eye. I was pleased to discover that a Beginning Orchestra class was being offered for the very reasonable price of $75 for 10 weeks. We hadn't considered violin before, as we already own a piano and a guitar... but my daughter has friends who play violin, so she was definitely interested.

Just a week or two later we got another catalog, this one from the local community college, offering more personal enrichment classes. Wouldn't you know it... a beginning guitar class was offered in that catalog for about the same cost! My daughter was excited. She could take both music classes! Um. No. We didn't think that was very wise, so we made her choose.

She chose violin. Her first class was last night. There are a dozen or so teens and adults in the class (one cello, one viola, and the rest violins). I was amazed at how much they learned in one hour! The instructor told them she is hopeful that they can play a concert by the end of the year, and she would like to see this evolve into an ongoing community orchestra.

I am just so excited that my daughter has this opportunity. We also registered my younger daughter for a middle-school age class which will start in 2 weeks and move a little slower.

If you're interested in inexpensive music or art lessons for your homeschooled children, check to see what's available in your community. It may not be just sports!

And speaking of music, a couple of Sonlight employees have set up a new music blog: Sonlight Music. I will be interested to see what they have to say on the topic.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Apple Picking Time

It seems like fall arrived in our area right in sync with the calendar this year. The temperatures have been cooler for the past couple of weeks, and fall is in the air!

As a fun fall activity we decided to visit the Green Bluff area northeast of Spokane yesterday. It's only about an hour from where we live. The kids and I had been there a couple of times on a "pumpkin patch" field trip years ago when they were little, but we had never been there as a family. I think we've started a new fall family tradition!

We visited several farms... some of which had fun country stores to browse, but our favorite was the "u-pick" orchard we stopped at last.
It was a drizzly morning, but we didn't let that stop us. We enjoyed tromping through the trees checking out the different varieties of fruit. The orchard owners had also planned a "letter boxing" game with 6 or 8 different boxes throughout the orchard for the kids to find and stamp a card. Hunting for the the letter boxes made it even more fun!This was a Red Delicious tree. The lady told us we could recognize the Delicious apples (both Red and Golden) by the star on the bottom. I love how dusky they look hanging on the tree.
I thought these weathered apple carts lined up against the old red barn were picturesque.
And here's my gang heading in with their harvest.
We only picked enough to enjoy fresh for the next few weeks. I was disappointed to discover that we can actually buy apples at the grocery store cheaper than we can pick our own.
But just the experience was worth the drive over! The girls found all the letter boxes and got to choose a prize from the prize basket.

And Laura made a most delicious apple pie when we got home!