Around the World

I had a really great find lately at an antique store. This awesomely detailed world map caught my eye.

Hand embroidered on linen, framed, and with a 1929 signature.

It now resides in my boys’ bedroom, making a really cool addition to their room decor.

I especially loved the little details sewn in, like this elephant and Taj Mahal embroidered over India.

This dogsled team and igloo is one of my favorite features.

So many loving details. I can’t imagine how long this took someone to make.

All in all, I’m pleased as punch about my new world map.

Naturally Flavored Water

I’m betting that I’m not the only person out there who needs to drink more water. Sure, I probably drink plenty of fluids in general, but I realize that black coffee probably isn’t as hydrating as drinking straight up water. Actually, it just about has the opposite effect. To motivate myself to drink more of just water, I tried out a little idea that I saw to give my water some pizazz.

The recipe I used called this Sassy Water. I thought it was just a cutesy name to give it more appeal, but after researching this I discovered that someone with the last name of Sass actually came up with the idea to jumpstart a diet. I have no idea whether it really works in that way, but after drinking the total amount of this yesterday, I did feel well hydrated. It also tastes pretty refreshing, so I had no problem drinking 2 quarts of this.

Want the recipe? It’s pretty simple to put together and uses ingredients that are abundant this time of year:

2 Quarts of water

1 Medium Cucumber, peeled and sliced thin

1 Lemon, thinly sliced

10 Mint leaves

1 tsp grated ginger

Place in a container in the fridge overnight, or at least a couple of hours. Try to drink the full amount the next day.

If you don’t like this particular recipe, I have some other flavored water ideas that may appeal to you more. Most also use seasonal ingredients, some with the addition of fresh herbs.

Photo from damyhealth.com

Lemon+Lime+Orange

Raspberry+Lime

Watermelon+Rosemary

Blackberry+Sage

Pineapple+Mint

Cantaloupe+Honeydew

Apple+Mint

Cucumber

Mango+Kiwi

Blueberries

Cranberry+Orange

Strawberry+Pineapple

Drink Up!

Rachel

Family Fun at Raystown Lake

I’ve been a little MIA this week and have done nothing really creative or even domestic. Actually, I didn’t even touch a single computer or phone the entire time–and it felt quite good!

We took a mini family vacation for 4 days out to Raystown Lake, which is about 3 hours from where we live. If you’ve never heard of it, the lake is one of the largest man-made lakes in the eastern United States. In fact, at 8,300 surface acres, it’s pretty huge. Surrounded by even more acres of woodland scenery, it’s a beautiful destination for anyone looking to kick back and relax for a few days. Even though we’ve lived in PA our whole lives, not one of us had actually been there to visit. Here’s some pics that I took from our stay:

A majority of our meals were eaten outside at this picnic table, which sat near the cottage my parents rented. We also had a campsite rented nearby where my husband, myself, and a couple of our kids slept.
Our first day there was Father’s Day and also my son Daniel’s 11th birthday. His big birthday wish was to get a pair of binoculars. They got lots of use during the week and rarely left his neck!
That is, except when his double trouble little brothers “borrowed” them to look for chipmunks.
We did take a boat ride around part of the Lake.
Me snuggling up with one of my little guys on the boat deck. He promptly fell asleep on me 10 minutes into the trip and slept the entire ride.
One of the highlights for our family was visiting nearby Trough Creek State Park. It is an absolutely gorgeous place to sightsee and hike.
We crossed this very cool suspension bridge. You feel as if you’re still swaying for awhile once you get on solid land.
The beautiful Rainbow Falls.
At the top of our hike at Trough Creek was this Balanced Rock, a huge boulder that sits on the edge of a cliff. It looks as if it could be pushed off, so my gang tried to push it with all their might…
After his siblings abandoned the effort, Andrew pushed and pushed…
Then my husband got in on the action…
Nope. No luck. This rock will just have to sit there for the next ?? years.
This is one of my favorite pics from our trip! My crew after a hike to the top of another set of cliffs, looking out over the lake.
The fire ring outside of our cottage got lots of use!
This mama duck and her babies were too sweet.
My 9 year old budding scientist insisted on taking a picture of these mushrooms. In his words, there was lots of “interesting fungus” around there. Hey, fungus can be beautiful too, right?
My little Miss, watching something from the deck of the cottage. What is she looking at…?
Oh, that’s what she’s looking at. My husband and older boys carrying the tent down the road to a sunnier spot to dry out before packing. That’s a very manly solution for you!

Buying Some Sanity on Summer Days

Summer days have a whole different dynamic around here. It took exactly less than a day for my kids to be out of school before I was getting a little irritated with them. Well, maybe a lot irritated. Not that I don’t love them to pieces, but you other Moms know just what I’m talking about. That’s why when I read this post from Beneath my Heart, I knew it could be helpful for these days where there’s lots of togetherness. The basic premise is that you set up stations around your house where each child spends half an hour. After the time is up, they switch to a different station and do the activity designated for that area. This allows some separation between kids and also is conducive to more educational pursuits as well as some just fun stuff. I decided to implement this idea right away as I had 2 additional children to watch. With 7 kids underfoot, I knew I had to have a good plan in place so I didn’t go crazy by lunchtime. Here’s some pictures that I took from that day…

Oh yes, there was a chart and everything.

First I made up a chart and hung it on our bulletin board for the day. I made up 4 stations (or centers) consisting of: Basement (free play), Living Room (reading), Kitchen Table (writing, coloring, or puzzles), and the Upstairs Bedrooms (computer games or free play). We did these for 30 minutes each, making a total of 2 hours where everyone was occupied in some way. Obviously I couldn’t assign one child to each station on that day, so I paired them up according to age and who they got along with best. I put the 3 littlest ones together, so that actually made one station free at each time frame. Each group rotated to each station throughout the morning.

Heidi and Hailey at the Reading Station.
Joey, Josh and Mikayla at the kitchen table.
Andrew making a Connectagon creation at the kitchen table.
Daniel and Andrew on our old desktop, doing some computer games.
The 3 littles looking at some books together.

I didn’t get a picture from our basement that day, but that was the other station. It’s pretty much an unfinished playroom with toys, play kitchen, and such.

So, are you wondering how this actually worked out?

Honestly, it went beautifully and I did it again the very next day with just my kids. Granted, I wouldn’t do it every single free day, but it did buy me some sanity for that particular day.

I didn’t mention this yet, but there were a few other rules I had in place. For one, they had to stay at their assigned station until the time was up. No roaming the house. Another rule was that they could not come to me with issues unless it was urgent. I liked that rule a lot! During this time I actually got lots done and had sort of a free time for myself.

I plan on doing this idea of stations a good bit this summer. So everyone doesn’t get bored with the same old things, I plan on doing it at different times and offering some variety as well. Some ideas I had for other possible stations/centers are: playdoh, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, outdoor scavenger hunt, legos, instrument practice, make a book, etc.

Stay sane this summer!

Rachel

How to Shir Fabric

I have been wanting to try my hand at shirring for probably the past year. I’ve seen many cute skirts and tops out there with shirred waists or shirring details. Finally, armed with a great how-to courtesy of Make It Love It (her tutorials rock!), I got up the gumption to actually do it.

The result?

It was way easier than I thought it would be. If you can sew a straight line, you can totally pull this off.

I dove right in and practiced shirring on a dress-turned-skirt refashion.

So, with the help of some elastic thread, I turned a dress I hadn’t really worn much

Cute, but the top was a little immodest for me unless I wore something underneath.

into a comfy skirt I can pair up with lots of other things I own. Hurray!

I had always loved the bottom of this, which is why I probably bought the dress in the first place.

Here’s a quick run-down of how to shir fabric.

First, purchase some elastic thread. I had a hard time finding this, so if you are at a fabric store, look with all of the actual elastics first, not the threads.

Get yourself an empty bobbin and hand-wind the elastic thread around the bobbin.

This doesn’t actually take all that long to do. Just make sure you don’t wind it too tight or too loose! Also, don’t overfill the bobbin.

Place your elastic bobbin in your machine and put regular thread in the top part to match the fabric you are working with.

Then, all you do is basically make rows of straight stitches, using a much longer stitch length than normal.  I used the right side of my presser foot as a guide when I would go to do the next row (see how it’s lined up in my picture?). Also, you want the outside part of your fabric facing up so the elastic only shows underneath. Since this was a waistband, I made probably 8 or so rows.

As you can hopefully see in the above picture, you will need to use your fingers to sort of pull the fabric semi-taut as you go. Otherwise it is all scrunchy-bunchy and hard to stitch. When you’re happy with the amount of rows you have, press with  the steam setting of your iron to get that elastic even more nicely tightened up.

That’s pretty much it! If you go to try this for the first time, I would recommend practicing on a piece of scrap fabric before you dive in on a specific project.

Overall, I found shirring to be much easier than expected and was awfully glad I gave it a try. Now I have other projects I would like to use this method on.

Homemade Fabric Softener

I can’t believe I haven’t tried this out before. As some of you already may have read here before, I’ve made my own laundry detergent and haven’t had to buy any for the past 2 years. I honestly still get a bit of sticker shock whenever I happen to see detergent at a store and peek at the price. However, another thing sometimes gives me sticker shock as well–the price of fabric softeners. I hadn’t bought any in some time and had a coupon for one of the newer kinds. Once I got to the store, I priced it out and discovered it was still way more than I was willing to pay for what would be probably a month’s worth of laundry loads for our family. So, I thought the DIY version was worth a try, especially to the tune of @$1 a pop.

The recipe really is super easy and took me maybe 5 minutes or so to whip up.

All you need is the following ingredients: 6 cups of hot water, 3 cups of white vinegar, and 2 cups of hair conditioner.

I got out a big mixing bowl and added the hot water first. Then I squirted the conditioner in, mixing it until well dissolved. Lastly I added the vinegar and mixed that in well too.

Place in a bottle or recycled container of some sort. (I ended up putting mine in a washed out milk jug.) This ends up making well over half a gallon of fabric softener!

To make this even more cost-effective, use a cheap conditioner, just make sure you pick one that smells good to you.

Lessons from The Little House Series

We have a tradition in our house that has been taking place at least every other year. This summer, for the 3rd time, we are reading the Little House series out loud to our children. Right now we are in the middle of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s first book, Little House in the Big Woods, and my kids are really getting into it. I first fell in love with this series as a girl and read it through a couple of times. Then, when my oldest boys were at an age where I thought they would enjoy it, I read it out loud to them one summer. Even though the main child characters are girls, they still loved it and couldn’t wait to hear what the next chapter would be about. We read it through again another summer and as I mentioned, I just started it again for the benefit of my daughter and little boys. Together we’ve learned lots about life in those days like churning butter, building a sod house, cutting ice, maple sugaring, and much more. There are so many good life lessons that can be gleaned from reading these books as well, so I thought I’d share a few:

*How children were expected to behave. Laura’s growing up years were definitely in a time when children were expected to be seen and not heard at the table. There are several incidents where Laura acts up and has to get a spanking for her disobedience or where she mentions having to go out and cut a switch. Though my kids aren’t perfect little angels, we do believe in spanking (gasp!) or other appropriate punishments for deliberate misbehavior. We also get comments out in public about how well-behaved they usually are, so I’m guessing that not letting them run around like a bunch of wild banshees is paying off.

*The value of hard work. Even at a very young age Mary and Laura have chores and are expected to work alongside their parents to get the necessary work done. Laura mentions daily chores  and helping their Ma and Pa with specific tasks. Throughout the set of books you definitely get the idea of just how much effort it took to make or do things we take for granted. In those times industry was a necessity and if you didn’t work, you didn’t eat.

*Material things are not everything. We just read a chapter about Christmas with the Ingalls family and their cousins. Laura had a corn cob doll for years and finally receives a rag doll her mother made her. She can’t stop looking at it, cuddling it, and even allowing her girl cousins to take turns holding it. You can tell that this sweet little gift is a treasure to her and the simple gifts the other children receive are all played with and appreciated. They had very few possessions but that makes them cherish them more and take care of them as best as they can. There’s lots to be said for contentment by reading these books.

*The value of family. The Ingalls family is close-knit and in Farmer Boy, the one that describes Laura’s husband Almanzo’s childhood, his family is as well. No, they’re not perfect. They all have flaws like the rest of us, but they stick together through everything. You observe great sibling relationships, parent/child relationships, and husband/wife relationships. It kind of cracks me up when partway through the series Pa suggests moving to another state–again. If I were Ma I would probably be pretty annoyed at that point. However, she says her usual “Oh, Charles” and doesn’t complain or run him down. You can also tell that Laura feels a bit inferior to Mary, her beautiful older sister. When Mary goes blind in  her teenage years Laura takes up a job just to help pay for Mary to go to a special school for her handicap and becomes her sister’s “eyes” by describing everything to her.

*Being a good neighbor. Though they really don’t have neighbors in the first book, there’s many mentions of the Ingalls’ neighbors in the rest of the books. A lot of big jobs back in those times required many helping hands, and it seems as if the neighbors pitched in to help each other out. They also helped one another out through sickness and just plain watched out for one another. I happen to be blessed with great neighbors, but I know this isn’t as common anymore in the present day and age, which is just sad.

*Having a strong and noble character. I can’t forget how desperate the townspeople of De Smet, SD are during The Long Winter and the sacrifice Almanzo makes with one other fellow to procure grain for the whole town. In fact, this one brave act saves the people of that town from starvation as there is no other possible way for them to get supplies. That, my friends, is a man of character. Shoot, I would marry him too. (Oh wait, I did marry quite a man of character ;))

*Staying strong through the tough times. We all have them, no matter who you are, where you live, or when you have lived. The Ingalls family goes through some tremendously hard times and trials we can only imagine. Loss of their homestead, extreme illness, crazy weather events, near starvation, and even the death if Laura’s first baby are all things they struggle through. However, they keep on keeping on and get through it.

*Enjoying the fun times. Though there is lots of hardship in these books, there’s tons of fun stories thrown in too. We’ve shared many laughs reading about some of the mishaps that occur and the fun things they get to do.

If you’ve never read this series before, I would definitely recommend it for adults and especially for kids. There’s also lots of activities you can do with kids that tie in with the books. Though I’m not a homeschooling mom, this would lend itself to a great unit study.

Happy summer reading!

Rachel

10 Cool Homemade Popsicle Recipes

One more day of school left in our neck of the woods. I’m kind of ready for my gang to be out and to be able to do fun things with them this summer. I know one thing we’ll be doing–eating lots of popsicles! Looking up some homemade popsicle recipes, I decided to do a compiled list of ones I’d like to try. Enjoy!

This Peaches & Cream recipe, based on yogurt, is found here.

Looking ever so berrylicious, check out this link for the directions to make Raspberry Coconut Popsicles.

My fellow Nutella lovers can get their fix with this fab Nutella Popsicle recipe. I can’t wait to try this one out!

This Honeydew Popsicle recipe uses just 3 simple ingredients and looks very refreshing.

How pretty are these 3-layer Berry Yogurt pops? Find the extremely waistline-friendly recipe for these here.

These would be perfect for me to make this week as strawberries are in abundance right now around here. Check out this awesome blog to find the recipe.

One of the more unique recipes I discovered, this one features “ice candy,” similar to what I would call a freeze pop (just a lot prettier and cooler looking).

Looking at these popsicles makes me long for blueberries to come into season! Check here to get the recipe for  Lemon-Lime & Blueberry pops, plus a couple of other fun popsicle ideas. Yum.

These are just plain gorgeous. Sort of like a great fruit salad pressed into a popsicle mold. Check out marthastewart.com for the instructions.

Not quite as all-natural as some of the other recipes, this one has a Jello base. You can find out how to make these pretty 3-layered Watermelon Pops right here.

A Tightwad Experiment

Have you ever heard of or read The Tightwad Gazette? I have to admit that it was never even on my radar until a couple of months ago. After coming across mentions of it on other blogs, I was intrigued and finally picked up a copy of the The Complete Tightwad Gazette via amazon. It is basically a compilation of publications that came out in the early 90’s written by a woman named Amy Dacyczyn. The complete edition is an over 900 page book chock full of money saving advice and is well worth the read.

I didn’t read every article word for word, but I did read most of it in a pretty short time frame, mainly because I found it fascinating. (I did mention in my last post that I was a big nerd, didn’t I?) In it Dacyczyn has sections devoted to reader tips that were sent in, as well as little experiments where she does the math on whether or not certain things are worth doing to save money or not. One that was near and dear to my heart was where she broke down the cost of both parents working full-time and whether or not it benefits the family that much (by the way, her conclusion was that it really doesn’t). In light of my fondness for this book, I decided to do a little experiment of my own. For the entire month of May, I recorded our family’s use of certain household items which I felt like I was constantly buying and/or replacing. I kept the list on the side of our fridge and made a tally mark each time I had to replace something. For example, every time I got a new loaf of bread out of the freezer, I would put a tally mark on the “bread” section of my list. Now that May is over, I added up everything and here are the results:

Paper Towels-3 rolls

Toilet Paper-13 rolls

Bread-12 loaves

Milk-11 Gallons

Butter-10 sticks

Peanut Butter-4 jars

Cold Cereal-5 boxes

Trash Bags-16

Looking back, I wish I had put other things on my list. Things like dozens of eggs, pounds of flour, pounds of pasta, and so forth would probably also be useful. I may actually do this again another month to get an even better picture of how we use up different items. Now that my kids are almost done school and will be home full-time, we will most likely consume more of some items! The value I see in conducting this experiment is that should I ever go to the once-a-month shopping mode, I would pretty much know how much to stock up on for the month.

How about you? Have you ever read The Tightwad Gazette? Also, what would you put on your list?