Friday, January 30, 2009

Sanity for now

A bane to all housekeepers is keeping house.
A bane to all homeschool mothers is getting their children to help with the housework.

I try something new every so often after losing my mind because of the dust bunnies, dirt, and disgusting bathrooms that begin to overtake the house due to the fact that simply keeping books, papers, toys, craft projects put away takes a lot of effort.

This is what I'm trying now, and so far so good. Of course, this is only the second week so it is still new and therefore going well. As time progresses we'll see if this stands the test, or if I try something new yet again.

I took ten 3x5 cards and wrote various rooms of the house on them. Well, actually I had Ellie right them as I dictated while I was washing dishes, the exact moment when this idea occurred to me, and I wasn't about to let it go to waste. I wanted action - now!

Then we turned the cards upside down and each house (last year we broke our children into houses ala Hogwarts style) drew a card. They were then responsible for that room or rooms, everything picked up and put away, dusted, and vacuumed, mopped if necessary.

Oh yes there is grumbling, but hey the rooms got cleaned. Five days all rooms have been gone through and I allow a two day break. On the back of the card I made two columns, one for each house, and put a tally mark under it so that we can keep track and make it "fair." Since they are the ones drawing, I'm not the one telling them which room, the luck of the draw has so far taken me out of the equation.

Yippee! Clutter and dust are a bit more under control. Sanity...........

for now.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Uncle Eric

Thanks to my friend Susan, I am now reading:

Whatever Happened to Penny Candy by Richard J. Maybury really is an excellent little book giving a basic understanding of economics. Mr. Maybury writes in letter form, answering questions that a 9th grade nephew might ask his uncle, an economist. It is very clear, easily readable, and full of valuable information.

There is a whole series of Uncle Eric books and I will request each of them as well from the library, but I have put all of them on my book wish-list. They will be required reading for all of our children.

Thanks Susan!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Does the nose know?

I'm always scared that my house smells and I don't know it.
I worry that I smell and I don't know it.

I don't want anyone to be offended when they step foot in my house or come near me for a conversation. But very few people are willing to tell you if there is a problem, so I worry.

Is there a dog smell? Is there a moldy smell? Is there body odor? Is there bad breath? Am I imagining this smell?

Really I do clean and I do shower, but is there still a smell I'm not smelling anymore?

Mom, when are you coming for a visit, you, who would not hold back with comments?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

For Jenny

My sister called the other day and asked me how I use vinegar in the wash in place of fabric softener. I told her and we got to talking about other uses, she asked me to blog about it so she could easily find it, so here goes.

My stash of cleaning stuff:
I use vinegar in the fabric softener spot - fill er up. If you have a Downy ball, fill to the fill line with vinegar.
I also use very little detergent and add Borax to the water.
If clothes come out of the dryer with a bit of static, I dampen my hands and pull them apart, cutting the static. I've noticed this is mainly on any fleece clothes my kids wear.


I put vinegar in the jet-dry compartment.
I've been using this dishwashing soap mix (Mix together 1 cup Borax, 1 cup Baking Soda, 1/4 cup LemiShine, 1/4 cup salt, keep in covered container and use 1-2 Tbsp/load) and it has helped tremendously with getting our dishes clean. Sometimes I still use a bit of the PalmOlive liquid dishwasher detergent with this mixture. If I do that, it would still be a total of about 2 Tbsps of cleaner. I found it here and it looks like she has an update.

General Cleaning:

Mix together Borax and Vinegar in hot water. Add drops of tea tree oil or other essential oil and drops of a low-sudsing soap (currently I use Shaklee's Basic H because it was given to me by my in-laws). I mop my floors with this, I put it in spray bottles and the kids use it to clean bathrooms or any other general cleaning we do.

For tougher jobs like a greasy stove top or water deposits on bathtubs/showers try this: put baking soda in a container (I use an old plastic one) add a low sudsing soap (again I use basic H) and add a bit of water to make a frosting consistency. Rub it on with a sponge and then rinse it off. It works wonders and leaves no residue behind as it rinses clean.

I wrote here about the cleaning wipes I make for the kids to use daily to wipe toilets and sinks or even doorknobs.

Hope this helps Jenny. I can't recall anything else right now, if I do, I'll let you know.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Progress Report

At the beginning of January, I wrote about our goal for homeschooling for this month. With one week to go, I thought I would give a progress report.

We are rolling right along keeping up with our subjects and are on schedule to complete our goals this week, therefore being able to participate in a reward next Monday. WooHoo! The kids are working hard, grumbling little, and learning what they need to.

I like that I have had a goal and a list of what to do, it has helped me stay focused and not get sidetracked in other things like blogging, emails, facebook, etc. When I want to do those things, I remember that *I* don't want to be the cause of us not making our goal and not being able to do a fun thing at the end of the month.

But that is also a downside. I don't have time to read blogs or emails or write blog posts. Well, I take that back, I do have time to read, but it is a quick glance, and there isn't time to respond like I would like. And I'm finding that inability to connect with my looper friends through the email list or their blogs or on facebook is driving me a little crazy. When I do have time to catch up, I find that I'm being interrupted and my train of thought is lost (that is maddening!). My mind is scatterbrained enough that thoughts come out all jumbled, it doesn't need any help. OR the computer doesn't want to work right and gives me fits.

I think what I'm going to do to help myself is set aside certain time for me to write and read and not allow children or husband to interrupt me. I want to keep going with our monthly school goals, because by doing so I can see that we would actually finish subjects before summer, which we've never done before. That would be awesome! Plus by putting our noses to the grindstone now, we can see that taking the time off during Advent and Christmas is fine. We *can* do all the baking, decorating, etc. we like to do because we can work hard during other times to still finish out math or science or history or Latin. That is nice.

I'm also going to try to write more blog posts over Sunday afternoons and Mondays when we take time off from schoolwork and utilize bloggers ability to publish posts in the future. I'm learning how to juggle all these balls, but that doesn't mean I'm Martha Stewart. All those balls should be in the air, but more than not, I'm only juggling a couple of things and and the other balls have dropped and rolled away awaiting me to stop and find them again.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I heart my i-pod touch

For Christmas, David and I bought each other an i-pod touch. Wow is that a nice little gem of a toy. Since we are adults, we still haven't figured out all the neat little things it can do, but we are learning.

My favorite thing, though is this:

We bought with Christmas money from my mom (thanks again Mom!) a docking station for the kitchen. Now I can listen to talk radio once more! Yeah, I can get my Rush fix, or Jason Lewis (MN's Mr. Right) fix while cooking dinner and supper. Yippee! I heart radio is wonderful!

See several years ago we bought an under the cabinet radio/cd player so that I could listen. But the talk radio station wouldn't tune in and only a couple of other stations would come in nicely. It mainly became a place to play our cd's whether for school or personal listening. But I so missed listening to talk radio when I was fixing lunch or supper or at other times. Not now, the new i-pod touch will stream my favorite radio station using the i-heart radio application.

The other great thing is that now we can finally listen to Issues Etc. We always knew it was a good show, but with no easy way of listening, we rarely, if ever, did. Not now, with our new i-pod touch we subscribe to Issues Etc., download the segments, and listen when we want where we want! It is great! I've added the link on my sidebar.

One day last week, David had to drive to Rochester for a hospital visit, after driving south for a circuit meeting. When he got home that evening he said he listened to 12 episodes of Issues Etc. He is really enjoying that ability.

I can also check emails and facebook with my i-pod touch. That is fun. Swim practices and swim meets are going to be a little more nice for me while I can listen to Issues, Etc. or any number of cd's, or if there is wireless internet in the building, check emails, or stream live radio. Woo Hoo!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Wild Rice Soup

I had never eaten (at least I never remember eating) wild rice soup before moving to Minnesota. It is a favorite of many around here and has become one of my favorite soups as well. Looking around at various recipes, I ended up combining two to make my own.

Try some yourself sometime, it is really easy.

Wild Rice Soup
  • 1/2 cup wild rice, rinsed and drained
  • 2 quarts chicken broth
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 1/2 cup carrot, diced
  • Potatoes, peeled, and diced (add to your liking)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 cups cream
  • Bacon bits or ham, cooked and diced (add to your liking)
  • Shredded cheese, to taste
  • Salt, pepper, to taste

In a saucepan combine rice, onions, carrots, celery, potatoes, and 4 cups of broth, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 35-40 minutes or until tender. In a separate saucepan, melt butter, add flour, stir in remaining broth and cook until bubbly, cook and stir another minute, then stir in cream. Add this to the vegetables, add seasonings, meat and cheese if desired.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sam Gets It

For part of Sam's school, I read the same story to him every day for a week. We'll talk about it, and I'll ask him to retell it to me and then we'll draw a picture for his notebook. This is like Five In A Row, which is where I got the idea, but much easier and simpler, which is something I need at this point.

This week he picked the book, "Billy and Blaze" by C.W. Anderson. He sat on my lap for me to begin reading. I did, "Billy was a little boy who loved horses more than anything else in the world."

Sam turned his face to me with big eyes and said astonishingly, "Even more than Jesus?"

Monday, January 12, 2009

Ahh Logic

While watching the football games yesterday, we saw a commercial for ABC's Good Morning America and Diane Sawyer. The whole commercial was about an upcoming segment (or series? I don't remember) about what year in Diane Sawyer's life changed her life. Leading questions with pictures followed until at the end it said to find out by watching this week.

Hannah blurted out, "Why would anyone care what was the year that changed her life?"

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Another Soup Possibility

Creamy Chicken Noodle which came from my sister-in-law Lori.

It is one of my kids' favorites.

Try some yourself:

Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup
  • 13 cups chicken broth, divided
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 12 oz package of egg noodles
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups diced, cooked chicken (I like to add more)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh, chopped parsley
  • You could also add chopped celery and carrots
Combine 1 cup broth, vermouth, and butter in small saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook until liquid is reduced to 1/4 cup and has a syrupy consistency. Remove from heat, stir in cream, and set aside. Bring remaining broth to a boil in a large pot. Add noodles (and vegetables if you want) and cook until tender. Combine water and flour in a bowl until smooth. Stir into broth mixture. Boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in reserved cream mixture, add chicken and seasonings to taste. Heat just to serving temperature, do not boil.

RPW shares how she makes her own stock, which is really easy. Go here and read, then go cook some soup.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Mmmm Mmmm Good

Homemade soups are simply delicious, lots better than the canned, no matter what the commercial might try to tell you. Here is one that is relatively new to us but which we really like.

Cream of Cauliflower Soup
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, grated
  • 2 celery ribs, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup + 6Tbsp butter, divided
  • 1 medium head cauliflower, chopped
  • 6 Tbsp flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 4 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp tarragon
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
Saute onions, carrots, celery and garlic in 1/4 cup butter until tender. Add cauliflower, broth, parsley, salt and pepper, basil and tarragon. Cover and simmer 30 minutes, or until vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes. Melt 6 tablespoons butter; stir in flour and gradually add milk and whipping cream. Bring to a boil, cook and stir 2 minutes until thickened. Add to cauliflower and cook 10 minutes, or until thickened, stirring frequently. Remove from heat, stir in sour cream.

It is a very pretty, and quite tasty soup. Go ahead, consider the possibility of making it yourself!

Saturday, January 03, 2009


Lisa over at House of Many Blessings asked awhile ago what helps us to stay motivated for school during the long winter months. I admit that I've never been really good at it. Sickness, boredom, cabin fever, swim practices and meets, and other willy-nilly things have always been allowed to get in the way, which means by May we're scrambling to try to finish as much as possible in hopes of not having our entire summer taken over by unfinished schoolwork.

Every year we try to do better, and in some areas we are doing well. Frankly last year and especially this year, I am looking forward to January and February in which we should be able to buckle down and complete a lot of textbook work. But there is always room for improvement and as all homeschooling moms know, if we can stay focused and motivated it is a bit easier to get over the humps of the children being less so.

In the hopes of doing even better these next few months, David, as principal, had a great thought which we will implement starting this next week. David and I are going to set goals for the children's schoolwork for the month. Simple goals, like a Math lesson each day, two chapters of Latin completed, a Science lesson each day, and to a certain point in History. The History goal is going to be my hardest to set. I simply have a very hard time estimating how long a particular topic will take to complete.

At the end of the month if our goals our met, we will do something fun from a list the family has brainstormed together to make. So far our list includes:
  • Dinner and a movie
  • The zoo
  • Underwater World
  • Mall of America Amusement Park
  • Orchestra event
  • Science Museum
  • Mill City Museum
  • History Museum
  • Indoor Waterpark
  • Snowshoe hike at a nearby nature center
  • Going to visit cousins
We will add or subtract from the list as we think of ideas. The fun activity will be chosen based on weather conditions, the budget, and what sounds like the most fun. If you have any suggestions, list them, sometimes I forget the most obvious when I make a list until someone else points it out. I'll post at the end of the month how we did and what activity we chose.