Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 Review

Tomorrow is the last day of 2014? Wow, huh? The year didn't actually turn out the way I expected. Not in a bad way, I just expected more changes that were never necessary.

Last year, my resolutions didn't last even a few months. Actually, I kept working on most of them, but I stopped recording my progress. I think *maybe* I took on a bit too much in the resolution department. So unlike me! *cough, cough* So instead of reviewing all those goals, I thought I would just summarize my thoughts on 2014 in the categories I used to use in my goal setting group (how I miss those get togethers!).

Financial - I don't think I really blogged about the "No Buy" year that Matt and I attempted in 2014. I won't go into all our "rules" (they were pretty loosey goosey anyway), but I do want to touch on how much we both learned and grew from the experience. I became so much more aware of how often I buy things thinking that they will bring me happiness/satisfaction/contentment. I also began to see that happening in those around me. The justification, the thinking that "just this" will complete my wardrobe/kitchen/home/etc. I also realize how mindlessly I shop and buy. Matt and I both noticed that when our attention turned from all the new things we could buy to what we already owned, we really saw how much excess we already have. I was also surprised at the extra time I had when I might have been shopping/buying. Added Bonus: We saved so much!!

Home/Garden/Possessions - I've done a really good job of cleaning out the old stuff this year. There were uncountable boxes donated, and there is still plenty of room for improvement! The outside of our house took a beating with a major hailstorm that required a new roof and a yet-to-be-done paint job. The loss of a huge tree left a huge hole (literally and figuratively) that we didn't address last summer. The inside of the house is starting to look "done" after 6 years in this house. Changes we made this year:

  • "New" dining room decor mostly finished with rearranged furniture and sconces/artwork hung
  • "New" family room (old dining room) painted plus new bookshelves/rug/media stand/artwork hung
  • Breakfast nook/kitchen sitting area rearranged - so much better!
  • Homeschool room rearranged for more independent work
  • Kate's room painted and totally redecorated

Community/Career/Creativity - I can't say that I've done so well in 2014 in this area of life. Very little official volunteering, no work on my career (although I am starting to ponder my next steps), and after a strong start finishing a few quilts at the beginning of the year, I've barely made it into my sewing room since last summer.

Health/Nutrition/Fitness - while my athletic practices always wax and wane with the seasons and there is always room for improvement, I feel like my active life went well in 2014. Tennis is going well and I play up and officially moved to 3.5 in 2014. I discovered Pilates and am now a devoted practitioner plus I do a bit of strength training to supplement. I've had better running years, but I've stayed somewhat steady with at least getting out a few times a week. As always, I wish I did more yoga and general stretching. I had a few medical issues at the end of summer (the kind that are apparently not so unusual for a woman in her 40's). Because of that, I started a vitamin regime that seemed to help, but I fell off the bandwagon when we travelled in October and haven't started back again. I also fell way behind on other necessary medical appointments in 2014 - blah. And healthy eating wasn't as consistent as I would have liked.

Family/Friends - my relationships with the kids feels good, although I have struggled internally with some parenting thoughts/ideas this last year. Don't we all struggle with that, but it was more than normal for me. Saw my extended family multiple times in 2014 and really appreciated seeing the distant family that we don't see much - aunts/uncles/cousins/2nd cousins/etc. Feeling pretty good about my friends. I'm lucky to have such good ones in my life. I got to at least see many of my out of town friends and even spent extended time with several. As I think happens in this stage of life, sometimes it feels like there isn't enough time to devote to friends. Plus we got Tripper. He belongs in family, right?

Spiritual/Personal Growth - I took a class called "How To Read An Aura" which was fascinating. Did some meditation here and there. Not much the last few months. I've enjoyed some great reads this year but was never purposeful with what I read.

Travel - this category wasn't in the originals from goal group, but I added it because it is important to me. I think it was a pretty successful travel year! We hit at least 6 national sites - White Sands, Carlsbad Caverns, Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Mammoth Cave, and Great Smoky Mountains. Plus Pearl Harbor, Indiana Dunes and Carl Sandburg's home. 12 states we visited were New Mexico, Texas, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Indiana, Michigan, Wyoming and Hawaii (also drove through West Virginia and Ohio).

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Mini Goals For This Week

I'm bound and determined to use some of my down time this week to accomplish a few things. Here's my list for this week.
  1. Clean out email - get inbox down to a big fat 0 - at least for a few minutes
  2. Figure out New Years resolutions
  3. Clean out Jack's room
  4. Clean out Kate's room
  5. Clean out both bathrooms
  6. Clean out bedside table
  7. Figure out a space for a basket for dog toys/chews
  8. Email swim coach
  9. Finish Christmas cards
  10. Run 5 times
  11. Buy Breck presents
  12. Finish a little, homemade gift
  13. Ask feed store about chickens
  14. Do tennis schedule
  15. Email tennis coach

Friday, December 26, 2014

Right Now

Really tired puppy sound asleep on our back stairs

Post Christmas 2014

I love, love, love Christmas! But do you know what I like even better than Christmas? The day after Christmas! Actually, I love the whole week between New Year's Day and Christmas.

My whole house is still asleep (well, Matt is at work but only for a half day), so I am really enjoying the peace and quiet. I got up relatively early, tidied the kitchen a bit, started some laundry, fed the chickens, played with the dogs in the yard, and now I'm perusing the internet sales while drinking some tea. I even lit a candle for a little ambiance.

My plans for the day are pretty relaxed... slowly continue to recover the house from the festivities, go to the gym for a nice post-Christmas workout, get the snow tires put on my car, and clean up my bathroom (of all the rooms in the house, this one suffered the most over Christmas!).

I always like to do a what worked/what didn't work Christmas review after each holiday. Usually I do it in writing and keep it in my holiday folder, but I thought I might do it on the blog this year. First up? The good!

What worked over the holidays this year:

  • Advent calendars. I have a log cabin calendar that I can fill with activities for each day, and the kids really loved this even if they often had to remind me to put in the day's note. They especially loved when I made it into a scavenger hunt. Activities worked well, but they kids also really enjoyed little crafts like decorating cheapy ornaments. Each child also had a toy Advent calendar (Lego and Playmobil) that they enjoyed opening every day. (**Note to self: Order toy Advent calendars early! Like in September!)
  • Holiday performances. I did a good job of researching performances and purchasing tickets in November, but I'm also happy that I limited the performances we attended. We went to Simpich puppet theater's Heidi, the Polar Express train ride, and to the Youth Ballet's Nutcracker (which was a perfect, shortened version). We were also supposed to go to The Grinch, but there was a mess up with seats so I just asked for a refund.
  • Holiday decorations. Matt has been asking for a big, lighted wreath for the house, so I got him one on clearance last year. It looked great on the house. I also like how I changed up my mantel decor plus the greenery/decorations on top of my new bookshelves. For next year, I'd like a little pedestal for my mini nativity scene that I have under glass cloches. I also want to spray paint my mantel nutcrackers so they match and look new & shiny.
  • Christmas cookies. Hibernating turtles, fudge, molasses spice cookies, marshmallow wreathes (getting red hots from candy store worked well!), and lemon pistachio trees were a nice combo this year.
  • Food in the week leading up to Christmas. Pork loin with cranberry sauce with mashed potatoes was awesome and can be eaten for days. Still love cranberry upside cake. Cranberry sauce muffins.
  • Shopping on Christmas Eve day. Sounds silly, but I had to run an errand on Christmas Eve, and it was so lovely to walk the streets of downtown with so many people bustling around. Plus with all my shopping done and no stress to find gifts, I really enjoyed browsing around a few stores on my own. I might plan to do that again next year.
  • Christmas Eve. My new oyster stew recipe was fabulous! It was a little more of a chowder with lots of potatoes. Yum. Doing the gingerbread house actually on Christmas Eve afternoon worked well to keep kids busy but together with me while I cooked in the kitchen. Receiving a family game to play in front of the tree after we ate was fun. Also Trader Joe's nonalcoholic, sparkling "Chardonnay" was really, really good. I think I might like it better than regular champagne!
  • Christmas morning. Swedish tea ring and OJ was perfect. Thought about doing an egg dish but I'm not sure we needed it.
  • Christmas Day get together. Overall I loved having friends over with everyone helping in the kitchen. The kids had fun with friends. We played Pictionary on an easel - boys vs girls (girls won, of course!). Lots of food and drinks and conversation and fun. I might actually like more people for next year. A Honeybaked ham was easy, potatoes with 2 veggie sides was good, sage drop biscuits were a good flavor with ham. I liked having a variety of mustards.
  • Basket of Christmas books.
  • Lefse making. Yum. I'm going to be so good at lefse making by the time I'm a grandma! Maybe do it a little earlier in the season.
What could be improved:
  • Getting gifts sent off. I've done pretty well in the past, so this year I relaxed a bit. Didn't work. It was a constant stress, and I still didn't get some things in the mail. Next year I'm back to getting it all done by Thanksgiving and in the mail the next week.
  • Christmas cards. I had this vision of sitting around during the month of December, sipping tea, and writing out our cards. Nope! I still haven't sent everything off. Next year I'm going back to slapping on labels and putting them in the mail the first week of December.
  • Advent wreath with daily readings. We've enjoyed this so much in the past, but I just didn't have my act together. And I can't find the topper to my wreath...
  • Popovers didn't pop on Christmas Eve. Not so much I can about that at this altitude. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But I wonder if I used a bit too much butter this year.
  • Swedish tea ring was bit doughy inside but dark on outside. Need to bake at a lower temperature.
  • Christmas dinner dish prep was very poorly timed! I need to do much more ahead of time.  With people over, I need 2 pans of Hoosier potatoes plus they can cook early and covered. Maybe I didn't need SO many green beans. I usually make great sage biscuits, but apparently not when I'm in a rush. Need to cook them all in one batch. Also I need some nicer, plain, white serving bowls.
  • My first chicken died last night. I have no control over that, and she was "old" at just shy of 4 years. But it was really a bummer way to end the day. I'm kinda sad about that today.
  • Wrap presents before Christmas Eve!!
  • Leave only veggies and meats to be purchased on Christmas Eve day. Have everything else already on hand. I know this but somehow didn't get it done this year.
  • St. Lucia Day celebration. Since there was NONE this year, it can only improve! The holiday fell over the weekend that Kate & I were out of town for a swim meet. I was going to celebrate on a different day, but it just didn't happen. Will plan ahead better next year.
  • Holiday crafting. I really like making gifts and doing projects with the kids. Since I felt behind all month, we really didn't do much.
  • Get a remote for the camera
  • Trip to IKEA for decorations and ligonberry jam
I didn't take many photos this year, but I'll post a few in a bit.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Lefse Mess

DayBook 12.22.14


Outside my window... woke up to a bit of snow on the ground. So pretty! But not cold. Temps hanging right around 30.

I am hearing... the furnace chugging away, the dogs eating breakfast kibble, and Oscar the cat occasionally hissing at Tripper from Oscar's perch on top of the pet food bin.

I am feeling... in the holiday spirit! Should be a nice week of celebrating

I am thinking... about all that I want to get done in the next few days
I am thankful for... my warm kitchen (even if it is lacking in counter space!)
From the kitchen... this kitchen is busy this week! I ran the dishwasher 3 (three!) times yesterday. Some neighbors dropped by for cookie making, and we got lots accomplished - fudge, marshmallow/cornflake wreaths, molasses spice cookies, lemon pistachio trees, and hibernating turtles (that's the name we've given to the Rolo/pretzel/pecan goodies). I also made cranberry sauce for the pork loin I'm making tonight and for muffins this week. Today we are making lefse, gingerbread house parts, and hopefully some more cookies (Grandma V's poppyseed cookies!). Then it's on to Christmas Eve and Christmas day menus.
I am wearing... PJs. Mismatched. Not very attractive, but quite comfy.
I am creating...  some projects with the kids. Jack has created a few fun gifts that I'll try to remember to share after they are given.
I am going... to make lefse today! Very excited.
I am reading... The Goldfinch. Still. But the end is in sight. I think I should finish by 2015.
I am hoping... that my dishwasher cleans dishes better. I pulled all the innards out yesterday, cleaned out the gunk from all the nozzles and nooks & crannies, and put it all back together (thankfully - I was a little worried I was in over my head!). Fingers crossed that it does the trick!

Around the house... it is a perfect cross between festive and out of control! Haven't finished painting the shelves (sometimes I take on too much!), the kitchen is piled with dirty dishes, and there are still gifts to be wrapped/sent all over the dining room table. But the tree is up and decorated (finally!) and the messes are just reminders of my blessings.

In the homeschool room... off for the next 2 weeks! (shhh! we are actually going to be doing some things, but the kids won't know it is school work)

How I'm exercising... I've been faithful about Pilates 2x/week and even went to a floor class at the new Athleta store on Saturday (I won a gift certificate!), and I was inspired by a friend to run Saturday afternoon (it was a great run!). Only one Pilates class this coming week but hoping get a few runs done.
Something that irks me... oh so much...
One of my favorite things... my Christmas clock that chimes a different carol each hour

A few plans for the next week: lefse making, Nutcracker performance, FIL arrives, Pilates class, a massage (oh! hear those angels singing about that!), gingerbread house decorating on Christmas Eve day, just family Christmas Eve complete with oyster stew & popovers, Christmas Day dinner at our house with friends

Here is a picture I am sharing: girls making wreath cookies yesterday

Saturday, December 20, 2014

This Makes Me Happy

I was up early this morning - too early for Tripper because he wouldn't come out of his kennel. I left the door open and went downstairs thinking he'd follow me down in a bit. When he didn't show up, I went looking for him and found this...
My two sweet boys snuggled up sound asleep.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Homeschool Moment

Kate giving report in homeschool program history class. She wrote a fiction story about a girl traveling with the Polynesian navigators that found Hawaii.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Right Now

Just us girls are in Ft. Collins for a swim meet this weekend, and we decided we *needed* room service dessert!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Homeschool Moment

Lately we are struggling to find motivation to get through lessons, but learning coding via is always fun!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

This Makes Me Happy

Fully painted bookcases and my super cute (and overly helpful!) puppy.
Bookcases are in place in the family room & I love them! Still need to finish painting shelves and doors

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Right Now

 When I say my living room/dining room is a disaster, I'm not kidding!
Bookcases should be able to be moved to their place in the family room tomorrow  (shelves and doors will take a few more days). Wrapping/boxes/presents should all be gone by Friday. Woohoo!

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Right Now

What I'm doing this weekend... And probably all week... And probably next weekend also!
(I meant to do a true before photo but forgot in my rush to get started)

Friday, December 05, 2014

December Homeschool Plan

In some ways December is an easy homeschool month since it seems short with the holidays, and in some ways it is a tough month as I feel *pressure* to be at a certain point by Christmas. We are set to meet our midway goals for our main programs by the end of next week, so I'm hoping that will give us some time to enjoy the holidays but also to work on some *fun* schoolwork. My goal in December is to get organized for winter/spring homeschool, order what we need, clean out some old homeschool items, and get my homeschool folder under control(!).

  • KhanAcademy - going to just use this as a filler when needed
  • IXL - kids have done this in the past without much success, but they recently got accounts through their homeschool program. We'll try again
  • Calculadder - may try to do some while on "break"
  • Life of Fred - finish Honey
  • MathUSee - on track to finish up Delta (Kate) and Gamma (Jack) next week
  • Math Games - really going to make this a priority over the holidays
Language Arts 
  • Scribblers online writing class (Kate) - doing Poetry II class
  • Tutoring (Jack) - 3x/week with break for holidays
  • Increasing Fluency (Jack) - maybe we'll do this over the holidays
  • First Language Lessons Level 4 - goal to be through Lesson 50 by Christmas (on track to be done next week)
  • Grammarland - try to read over holiday break
  • SpellingUSee - continue to work through at a steady pace, Kate should finish Americana this month, would like Jack to get through lesson 18
  • AlphaBetter drills - maybe we'll do this when our other school work is complete
  • Using Picture Books to Teach Writing With Traits - maybe
  • Reading - Kate is working through the Battle of the Books list, Jack will continue to work through Magic Tree House books
  • Audiobooks - no plan here, Jack seems to be dictating what we listen to lately. That's okay.
  • Comprehension/Vocabulary/Book Reports - EdHelper questions/worksheets as applicable to reading
  • Gratitude Journal - 3-4x/week. Jack is supposed to be writing the date and a complete sentence while Kate writes a descriptive paragraph
History/Social Studies/Geography/Biography/Religion/Literature/Art
  • Story of the World Vol I - finish
  • The Old Testament/Illustrated Jewish Bible for Children - continue reading with Life in Canaan, will switch to Christmas stories in a couple weeks
  • EHM's Storybook Artists - might do this
  • Redo timeline wall
  • Make poem memorization notebook
  • Read A Children's Introduction to Poetry
  • Whatever comes to us... maybe some science packs/boxes we have...
  • Speech therapy (Jack) - 2x/week plus daily home practice
  • CNN Student News - 3-4x/week
  • - 3-4x/week
  • Keyboarding Without Tears - Level 3 - continue 3-4x/week
  • The Story of Stuff curriculum program - would like to do this leading up to the holidays
  • Cursive Without Tears (Jack) - attempt at least 2x/week
  • Latin (Kate) - 1-2 lessons/week
  • Raddish boxes - cooking plus other activities
  • Homeschool Enrichment Program - weekly
  • Swim Team - 3-4x/week plus dry land training weekly
  • Horseback Riding Lessons - Kate - weekly (she has been doing this since Sept... I just left it off the list!)
  • Volleyball - Kate - weekly
  • Lego Class - Jack - weekly
  • Soccer - Jack - weekly
  • Skiing - it's time!
  • Field Trips - lots planned this month: Polar Express train ride, Simpich performance of Heidi, Nutcracker, Electric Safari at the Zoo, ice skating, etc.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

November Homeschool Review

Not sure what to say about November homeschool. In some ways we did great, in some ways we really slacked off. November is known for being a difficult month for homeschooling. I also always have such great plans for homeschooling while at my parents' house the week of Thanksgiving, and none of it ever happens.

  • KhanAcademy - eh. We mostly did this when we didn't get to MathUSee
  • Calculadder - totally fell off the bandwagon on theses exercises!
  • Life of Fred - started Honey, but didn't finish. Through chapter 9
  • MathUSee - we didn't actually finish Delta (Kate) nor Gamma (Jack) by Thanksgiving, but we are SO close. Jack will finish Gamma this week, Kate should finish Delta next week.
  • Math Games - I don't know why this is so difficult for us to do! I think I save it for after we've done our core programs, and by then we never feel like more math
Language Arts 
  • Scribblers online writing class (Kate) - doing great with Poetry II class
  • Tutoring (Jack) - 3x/week - doing great
  • Increasing Fluency (Jack) - nada, not sure why I even purchased the workbook...
  • First Language Lessons Level 4 - ahead of schedule, finished lesson 34 before Thanksgiving
  • Grammarland - try to read over Thanksgiving - nope
  • SpellingUSee - we have been really good with this spelling program
  • AlphaBetter drills - nada
  • Using Picture Books to Teach Writing With Traits - nope
  • Reading - I didn't do a good job of organizing books on Kindle which means Kate still read a lot and Jack not so much
  • Audiobooks - Jack listens to more audiobooks than I can keep track of!
  • Comprehension/Vocabulary/Book Reports - EdHelper questions/worksheets as applicable to reading
  • Gratitude Journal - 3-4x/week. Jack is supposed to be writing the date and a complete sentence. I'm going to have Kate start writing a paragraph 2-3x/week about something she is grateful for - we did this about 2x/week
History/Social Studies/Geography/Biography/Religion/Literature/Art
  • Story of the World Vol I - through ch. 33
  • The Old Testament/Illustrated Jewish Bible for Children - read through Life in Egypt and start Life in Canaan - right on schedule
  • EHM's Storybook Artists - nope
  • Redo timeline wall - nope
  • Make poem memorization notebook - nope
  • Read A Children's Introduction to Poetry - nope
Science - uh, no to everything here
  • Physics - finish What's Physics All About? book, continue to work through experiments in physics workbook if we feel so inclined
  • Planet Earth test worksheets from Enchanted Homeschool Mom that we started last year  (maybe?)
  • Experiment with pH paper - we talked about pH levels in Yellowstone a lot
  • Denver Science Museum
  • Speech therapy (Jack) - 2x/week plus daily home practice - eh, pretty good, not great
  • CNN Student News - 3-4x/week - kids LOVE this! They know more about current events that I do!
  • - 3-4x/week - they also really like this, easy to accomplish daily
  • Keyboarding Without Tears - Level 3 - continue 3-4x/week - yes, progressing well
  • The Story of Stuff curriculum program - would like to do this leading up to the holidays - nope
  • Cursive Without Tears (Jack) - attempt at least 2x/week - yes
  • Latin (Kate) - 1-2 lessons/week - didn't feel like we did this a lot, but I bet we did at least one lesson/week
  • Raddish boxes - cooking plus other activities - yes, love these!
  • Homeschool Enrichment Program - weekly
  • Swim Team - 3-4x/week plus dry land training weekly
  • Volleyball - Kate - weekly
  • Lego Class - Jack - weekly
  • Soccer - Jack - weekly
  • Skiing - no skiing yet. soon
  • Field Trips - road trip to TX, ice skating in Dallas, I think that's it
  • I'm sure I'm missing something we did in Nov...

Monday, December 01, 2014

This Makes Me Happy

A puppy who has learned to scratch at the door to go outside to do his business! Go Tripper!

DayBook 12.1.14


Outside my window... snowing. And cold. When I opened the back door for Nina this morning, she took one step outside, paused, turned around and came right back inside!

I am hearing... the space heater warming our homeschool room, ticking of the clock in here, and Tripper gnawing on a rawhide at my feet.

I am feeling... hopeful. And a little overwhelmed and behind.

I am thinking... that I can't believe it is December 1st. And we are only a month away from 2015. 2015!?!
I am thankful for... our ability to celebrate the holidays as we want
From the kitchen... I'm having a nice, warm chai this morning. I don't usually indulge this early anymore, but it sounded heavenly on a chilly, Monday morning. Jack requested pancakes for breakfast this morning. I have no idea what we are going to eat the rest of this week. Will probably pull from the freezer. Definitely a chicken pot pie, maybe some chili. Or maybe we'll have pancakes all week.
I am wearing... a thick cable knit sweater and athletic bottoms and socks (cause I can't find my old slippers... thinking a puppy took off with them...)
I am creating...  I've been in and out of my sewing room. Working on a few different things. I have sewing ADD.
I am going... to be busy this week.
I am reading... The Goldfinch. Will be reading it for awhile.
I am hoping... that everything runs smoothly today

Around the house... my house feels a bit out of control right now. The dining room table is covered in gifts to be shipped out (hopefully this week!), my family room is in the middle of redecorating and looks awfully shabby (and it's only going to get worse when the two, big bookshelves arrive, and I start painting them!), the kitchen sitting area has puppy toys everywhere (and the rug is still rolled up to the side), and my kitchen seems to have random things everywhere. Blah.

In the homeschool room... back at it today.

How I'm exercising... I ran (ok, ran/walked) Saturday, had a tennis match yesterday, Pilates this morning, and I'll go for a run this afternoon (outside vs treadmill still TBD)
Something that irks me... half eaten apples left by children
One of my favorite things... the holidays

A few plans for the next week: mostly normal activities

Here is a picture I am sharing: boys fishing in my parents' backyard on Thanksgiving