Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Room Makeover Completed

The smile that spread across DS15's face as he walked into his room was worth it. During Big Country's time away from home at football camp, we finally got around to fixing up his bedroom that we had started almost two years ago. All we had accomplished was to put down a coat of light gray paint. As you can tell from my earlier post, his room was nothing special and messy to boot.

Here's what we ultimately did:

Purchased a silver collapsible dirty clothes hamper to keep with chrome/metal theme from Ikea. Cleared off shelf and removed miscellaneous things hanging from it.

The top of his chest was simply cleared off. Amazing what removing a little clutter will do.

He had several wire racks and clothes storage units throughout his room that were not in the closet because....we had our 'junk' in there. After getting our stuff off his shelves and out of the closet, his clothes could actually fit in there. Clearing off the shelf left room for shoes and larger sports equipment items.

A major change happened here. We painted one wall black and used spray paint to coat his cork bulletin board. Also cleared off old school notices and many years worth of team sports photos to clear up the look. We purchased a small desk set and garbage can from Ikea to organize his desk top. Drawers were cleared of ancient garbage so that the stuff piled on top of the desk that wasn't used frequently could be stored inside.

Also from Ikea I purchased a set of black sheets and a red duvet cover for the bed. Plans are to install two chrome knobs above his bed and to hang two jerseys from his collection there. I picked up some nice black wrapped suit hangers for that very purpose.

From KMart I purchased a couple of sports posters and hung them with a couple Big Country already owned to start a mural of sorts on his largest wall. We wanted to find a nice sports car print but still haven't been able to track one down. Black and red are his high school's colors which was why we used that theme. A stadium throw in those colors made by a friend of his worked just perfect for his bed.

His book case was pretty much left the same except for some storage containers from Ikea for the top shelf to corral loose toiletry items. Amazing how much better things look when they are inside of something instead of scattered all over.

His dormer had a major overhaul. More clothes storage boxes for his sisters were dealt with and removed from the room. I purchased three metal bins from The Container Store to keep football, basketball, and workout specific items in. Home Depot had a Rubbermaid ball container that was ideal for his sports balls as well. If the chrome knobs to hang his sport jersey collection turns out well, there is room on the one wall for additional display.

The final touch for the room is to either stencil or purchase a wallpaper border with a chrome diamond plate border. This will be placed at the top of the wall next to the ceiling. The stencil would be done in red while I'm not sure what colors I'll find if we use a border.

Overall, I'm pleased with the way it turned out still using all of his existing furniture but just adding lots of color and plenty of storage containers. We're still working with Big Country on keeping his room looking like it did the day he camp home from camp, but....he is a teen boy. They're a work in progress.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Childhood Indulgences

I indulged this evening on a high fat, white flour, sugar laden treat. Why, you ask? Not necessarily because I wanted to share with my children one of my favorite memories from childhood, but because I wanted to experience it again for myself. Whatever could rank so high?

Fresh, homemade white bread with real butter and strawberry freezer jam. Yep, nothing too far out. Pretty easy to accomplish. And absolutely satisfying.

I don't remember too many specifics about the food we ate while growing up. My mother was a stay-at-home mom as was fairly typical in the late 60's and 70's, and she prepared simple foods as much as I can remember. She supplemented them with quite a bit from her garden that produced nearly year-round in southern California. But oh, I do remember her strawberry freezer jam from her strawberry patch. On the days she would make the jam, she would bake from scratch a loaf of white bread. That in itself was special to us as we generally ate whole wheat. And she always served real butter, nothing imitation.

So today after u-picking 14 pounds of local strawberries, I set to work turning them into freezer jam for our family. Then I cheated by using my one-hour cycle on my bread machine but turned out a pretty respectable loaf of homemade bread. I set these out on the table with butter and and watched my family devour. It's just one of those foods that goes down easy, slice after slice after slice.

I believe I satisfied my stroll down memory lane, and it was every bit as good as I remember forty-plus years ago. Have you ever gone out of your way to recreate a food from childhood? It would be fun to share what others remember as well.

As for me...I'm headed downstairs to see if anyone left a last slice of bread for me to slather up with butter and strawberry jam.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Locks of Love

I must confess that I am the one that probably stalled letting DD7, H-Bob, get her hair cut. DD19 and DD15 have lost their long tresses over the past year and have returned from the stylist with lovely layered styles. No one has opted for anything above the shoulders but still have departed from their childhood, waist-length hair.

There was a time when I wanted H-Bob to whack all of her hair off as we struggled to keep it tangle free, especially during the time frame when she wore her cow-print, hooded pajamas to bed. Tossing about all night with long hair stuff inside and rubbing against polar fleece was a disaster in the making. Mornings were a nightmare. No amount of leave-in conditioner or detangler would spare H-Bob from tears. We moved on beyond that and resorted to the nightly braiding of her hair. I was happy...and she still looked like my little, long-haired country girl.

But alas, all things change. H-Bob began to wish herself for a shorter hair length, but of course I wasn't too keen on that idea any more. Why not keep her long flowing hair? When a friend of CamoQueen's heard that H-Bob had suggested that she too get her hair cut as her sisters had done, she suggested that she donate her length of hair to Locks of Love. I had heard of Locks of Love but had never really researched what the organization did. Here is a direct quote from the website. They are really quite the organization.


Locks of Love is a public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada under age 18 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis. We meet a unique need for children by using donated hair to create the highest quality hair prosthetics. Most of the children helped by Locks of Love have lost their hair due to a medical condition called alopecia areata, which has no known cause or cure. The prostheses we provide help to restore their self-esteem and their confidence, enabling them to face the world and their peers.

Yep, that was the ticket that justified it all to me. For the good of others, I would gladly let H-Bob lose her hair. We checked in as to the requirements and found that a ponytail ten inches long was needed. Measuring her hair at home, we realized that she still had a little ways to go. We were able to convince H-Bob to wait it out...while I secretly wondered if the sudden notion to get her hair cut would go away.

But after the course of several months, her desire was stronger than ever. After one especially trying morning when she got pancake syrup stuck in her hair, we decided it was time. So off to the local walk-in SuperCuts we went. They confirmed she had plenty of hair to donate, bundled it in a ponytail at shoulder length, braided the remainder and banded it at the bottom. Then came out the shears as they literally had to hack their way through her hair above the first band.

Off it came. It was a little disconcerting to see it laying there on the table, but the deed was done. Working with the remaining hair, the stylist suggested an A-line cut with layers in the back to disguise the jagged lines remaining from the original cuts.

H-Bob sat in that chair and grinned from ear to ear repeating over and over again how excited she was. Her enthusiasm for her new look made all the difference in the way I felt. If she loved it, so would I. We have since remarked that the style fits her carefree personality and shows off her sun-bleached hair beautifully. As for me, I'm glad we were able to do our part and help others less fortunate than ourselves. Perhaps H-Bob will let her hair grow out and repeat the process. Until then however, her new-found freedom in her new style simply makes me smile everytime I see her.

your life your blog

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Teenage Son Room Makeover

I'm not going to try to get clever with this post title...the following pictures are pretty teen son is in desperate need of a room makeover. As I am of the born-organized persuasion, looking in on this scenario every day just grates on my being.

Perhaps it's a little his fault and perhaps it's a little ours, but the fact is this room contains more stuff than necessary, the stuff has no proper home, and it just plain lacks personality. As BigCountry left today for a four day varsity football camp with his high school football team, I am planning on surprising him with a room makeover. Not only have we talked about this and have just never done it, I'd like to give him something other than a monetary appreciation for finishing his first year of public high school with a 4.0 grade point average.

As you can see, his walls are painted gray and the predominant color if you can find it is red and black, his high school colors. I plan on sticking with that color scheme. The majority of his wooden furniture belonged to both sides of his grandparents originally and is not something that my husband wants to part with. It doesn't particularly work with the clean lines I'd like to use, but every room needs a challenge to work around.

Here's the game plan:

*Replace hodge-podge bedding with black and red color scheme.

*Find something in that color scheme to organize his desk top and completely purge his desk drawers (no, I don't feel this is'll all go in storage totes for him to sort through later) as it would appear he does not use them to store the stuff that is accumulating on his desk surface. As decorators always say, everything needs a place to call home.

*Use large storage containers of some sort to store his sports equipment in. He plays three sports a year, and the equipment and accompanying minutia that comes along with it seem to multiply every year. I actually would prefer if they were out open in his room because then they will be other words, easy access.

*The closet isn't too bad other than we have stuff stored on his top shelf which needs to be removed so that infrequently used items can be placed up there.

There needs to be some way to entice this child to contain his dirty laundry. That may be my biggest challenge.

Probably his shelf with team memorabilia may be the only item in his room that I will leave alone.

Depending on how the shopping goes for the above items, additional touches would be locating some peel and stick vinyl striping (I'm not sure if it even exists) and the possibility of painting a large chalkboard area on one wall (hoping he wouldn't consider it childish but more of a two-way conversation area for visitors and even our family.

Now that I've officially published my intent, I'm committed to following this through. The current state of affairs will never do, and with a great room to come home to every day, we can only hope he'll take a little more pride in it than he currently expresses. But then again, we are talking a teen boy here. Check back soon. The after-pictures will be coming!

For the rest of the story and photos of the completed room, please jump to the Room Makeover Completed post. You'll be amazed.

your life your blog

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Homeschooling the Lapbook Way

As usual I'm always up for investigating new and inventive ways to spice up our homeschooling studies. I recently posted about our experience using Sue Patrick's Workbox System which we are absolutely loving. It's a fabulous technique for organizing your study space and time.

But what has caught my eye recently is Lapbooking. There are so many forums, sites, and blogs out in cyberspace dealing with this subject that there is no way I could begin to narrow them down to reference them. Running a simple internet search will almost baffle a newcomer such as myself. Lapbooking is the process of using small books of various formats to record information in a narrative or graphic style to reflect on learning that has happened. These books are mounted inside of file folders that open up to reveal an eye catching display. They mesh perfectly with unit studies or homeschool formats that use narrative reflections as opposed to textbook only curriculum. The entire process reminded me of the extensive collection of notebook studies I had done with my now DD19 and DS15 in their earlier years.

In teaching multiple aged children recently, I had gotten away from the unit study approach and relied on more traditional methods. But change is in order with DD7 in order for accommodate her style of learning. Lapbooks are going to be the ticket. As well, I plan on using them with DD12 but perhaps by combining their functionality with keeping a notebook on studies similar to our oldest two children.

As a visual, global learner I decided to put together a reference lapbook of several of the styles of mini books available to that I could grasp the concept easier myself. What a difference that has made in my ability to plan which mini book to use in conjunction with what I want to help DD7 accomplish.

I had planned to develop DD7's first lapbook around our family, but once she saw the sample mini book layout, she immediately asked if she could make books like those for our goat kids born this year. I jumped at the chance and started reserving additional goat and dairy related books from the library, and we're officially starting our first lapbook.

It feels good to go back to how we originally were homeschooling...the schooling that I believe gave such a great foundation to our oldest two. There is a season for all things including homeschooling styles. It looks like we're heading down a familiar path again.

Do you have a homeschooling style you'd like to share? If it weren't for the sharing of other homeschool families, I don't think I would have been exposed to some of the great tools that we have gathered in order to enhance and spark learning in our children's lives.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

May Coupon Savings

I must say I'm pretty excited this morning. I finished entering my grocery store receipts for the month of May, breaking them down in order to determine how much I am saving on our monthly grocery bill by shopping sale items, by using store and manufacturer coupons, and by stacking these savings together for maximum benefit. We shaved a whopping 38% off of our bill last month or a total of about $400. Now I am sure there are others who are way more successful, but for just starting off with a concentrated effort to produce savings, I'm feeling pretty good about it.

Coupon savings for May were about $20 greater than they were for April. Considering that I had probably only saved about $50 at best in prior months, the most important factors would have to be purchasing when items are on sale not when you need them and by stacking coupons with advertised savings. My previous post talked about the strategies I have learned, and they do work! In order to get started by purchasing more on-sale items than items I would have typically needed for a week's menu, I employed a tactic from the Hillbilly Housewife by using her $45 per week Menu Planner for one week to cut down on meal expenses a bit while starting to stock up on sale items. Within a week or two of filling pantry shelves with sale items, I didn't find this necessary and could go back to my normal shopping habits.

To be honest, we haven't been tracking our monthly grocery expenses, and the total spent even with coupon savings struck me as high. A little background information might be helpful to determine what we actually purchase during a month. We eat mainly unprocessed foods, do have game such as venison and elk in our freezer, eat most of our meals at home including our four children, but I wouldn't consider our diet limited in any way. A typical receipt at the grocery store might include household cleaners, health and first aid, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics - for four females which can add up fast - miscellaneous office supplies, and the like. I've considering purchasing those items on a separate receipt just so I can see what our true grocery costs are. Our after savings receipts total $670 which works out to about $165 per week including our other non-grocery items. It will definitely be interesting to track just food purchases and see where we come out at. I would love to connect with other similar families and compare grocery costs. I would imagine there is more I could learn about reducing our grocery expenses even further.

Enough for today. I hope you've started the couponing habit. You can follow links here, here, and here to my original posts explaining how I got started. In the meantime...time to head downstairs and start my shopping list from the grocery ad flyers that just arrived yesterday. Happy clipping!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Be Careful What You Wish For

I had a hard time deciding on an appropriate title for this post, but I think this says it all. I'd like to introduce you to CamoQueen, my DD19, and first born of our family. Being a redhead and the first grandchild on my side of the family and first granddaughter on my husband's side of the family started her off on the fast track for popularity. Being first born, she naturally developed the traits so commonly attributed to that birth position - confidence, outgoing personality, and can-do attitude.

She was followed by the birth of her brother three and one-half years later and two more siblings after that, but her story really begins with our decision to homeschool her starting with the second grade. We had a couple of years of focused learning at home and then began to branch out.

Here comes wish number one: to find a great group of fellow homeschoolers to spend time with. An opportunity came to meet with a couple of families we met through her community children's choir to pursue a Little House on the Prairie sewing club. Not long after that, the group branched out and started a 4H club. We developed some wonderful friendships with that group and amazing opportunities opened up: competing in 4H competitions, producing our own theater productions, and friendships so critical during the junior high year.

Soon we were not only involved in foods, sewing, and photography but were introduced to the possibilities of joining a livestock club. Here comes wish number two: an intense desire by CamoQueen to work with and possibly own her own livestock. Well, as timing in our life dictated, we purchased property outside of suburbia proper and began our family's journey of "living in the country". We soon found ourselves owners of poultry, goats and horses. These provided CamoQueen with more opportunities to become involved with 4H, FFA,and the local high school equestrian team. But the wishing didn't end there for CamoQueen.

CamoQueen took it upon herself to wish for a dairy goat. Wish number three. By working off hours for her 4H goat leader, she had the chance to purchase an Oberhasli doeling along with a two Boer market goat prospects. She was now officially hooked on raising goats.

Wish number four was to learn how to milk these dairy goats. As we only had kids, that wasn't immediately possible. Soon enough the opportunity developed to dairy-sit for our county's 4H goat superintendent. Here CamoQueen began to realize that you might want to be careful for what you wish for. After ten days of feeding, caring, and milking ten or so of her goats, she learned that a full-time dairy starts in the a.m. with milking and by the time you get through with chores that it is time to start milking again! Not only did she learn how to milk by just jumping in and doing, she found out how strong your hands need to be to hand-milk those dairy does.

Let's see now...yes, wish number five would be to learn how to show these wonderful animals and have a chance to take home one of those coveted chairs that Champion 4H Showmen were always awarded and then be given the opportunity to participate in the county's round-robin Master Showman Contest, which incidentally comes with a t-shirt that is probably more coveted than those showmen chairs. It took a few years, but before long, CamoQueen was competing in the top and was taking first place showman in her classes. By the time she was a junior in high school, CamoQueen again made it into the Master Showman Contest and took 1st place senior champion showman and became the proud recipient of a gleaming silver belt buckle. What more could one wish for?

Wish number six would have to involve her horse, Gus. He came to her as a green-broke Quarter horse that bucked at the canter and had no respect for anyone's personal space. She dutifully kept up with his training and from the start participated in all that the 4H horse program had to offer all the time wishing that she could have one of those top-notch, speed-demon gaming horses that she admired. The amusing part of this wish, is that by her last year on the high school equestrian team, she did place in the district's top five gamers overall, and she did it on a top-notch, speed-demon gaming horse...her own horse, Gus, that she took to that level through a lot of time and training.

With the equestrian world opening up before her, wish number seven was to expand beyond 4H with its equestrian classes and have a chance to participate in cattle events through the equestrian team and gaming rodeo events. She had a pretty lofty wish this take first place in the district in team penning and to break a record. Sure enough, the wishes started coming true. Her team worked their way up to an undefeated team penning year and took district champions. She's got the big ol' silver buckle to prove it too. And the record she wanted to break, well she did that too by breaking the district record for steer daubing...with a time of one point two-three seconds flat. The chance to compete in junior rodeos and run flags in the Molalla Buckeroo came along too. And yes, she did it all on her original horse, Gus.

CamoQueen's ninth wish seemed pretty impossible. She wanted to become involved with FFA which surprisingly is not offered by our school district. Out-of-district tuition payments were the only way she could get in. But as you might have noticed, she has a blessed life. About this time, an opportunity to join a charter school opened up for her that would provide dual enrollment for both high school and community college. This charter school happened to be located in an adjoining school district that offered animal science classes and FFA. She was in!

CamoQueen had such a full schedule, you wouldn't think she would have time to dream and wish. But that didn't stop her from wish number nine which was to raise and show a beef steer for our county's livestock auction through FFA. For two years in a row, CamoQueen purchased and raised a beef steer, halter breaking it and learning how to fit it for a show and feed it for market. Her second year at the auction found her taking first place champion market steer and making a nice profit at the auction. Her learning curve was steep, but as with all things that CamoQueen undertakes, she took it all in stride.

Now to wish number ten. Having been exposed to so many livestock opportunities, CamoQueen really wanted to show a sheep. She'd handled cattle, goats, horses, and other small livestock, but a sheep sounded like fun. So she used proceeds from her other auction animals in prior years, purchased a market lamb, worked on handling and fitting it for show, and made it happen. Nothing too wrong with this wish other than not having a purchaser for the lamb at the auction. In other words, we have a freezer full of lamb. But it is good lamb at that and has made me reach out of my cooking 'comfort zone'.

And before I forget another big wish of hers, I should mention number be a crack shot and hunter. Yes, the CamoQueen has bested her father in the hunting department. He has taken her since she was old enough to get her Hunter Safety Permit at age twelve. Since then, she has bagged more deer and elk than you can count. And having to be careful for what you wish for, she nabbed an antelope tag the first time she applied for it. Yep, she was successful. She's the first hunter in our entire family to be the proud owner of an antelope rack, and incidentally but not surprising based on her wishes, she can also lay claim to ownership of the biggest deer rack hanging in our house.

Well now what else has she wished for? There are probably half of a dozen or more to account for: junior superintendent at county fair, top placing in FFA contests, a chance to attend the National FFA Convention, purchasing her own car, getting a real job, finishing what she hopes is the last math class ever in her life with an 'A', singing for our church's youth services, graduating with an Associates Degree at age 19, being a great friend to all who know her... The list really could go on. For 19 years she's made the wish and then made it happen with perseverance and blessings from above. We couldn't be prouder of her.

But she'll have even more monumental wishes to make ahead of her. Her next biggie is acceptance into a local college's Veterinarian Technician program. Her final interview is this week. From there she'll have wishes that we may hear about or those that she keeps to herself. But irregardless, my wish for her is a long, healthy, and happy life full of meaningful relationships with special people and her God. She deserves it. I will leave her with one thought be more selective in some of her random, general wishes because with her, they tend to come true.

your life your blog

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