Sunday, January 26, 2014

Winter Games Gymnastic Competition

Riley had her first gymnastics competition last weekend.  We were sad to miss it!  She did an amazing job!!

She scored well on beam (8.5) and floor (8.75).  My mom said her floor routine was very graceful.  All of the girls were taught the wrong dismount from the bars so they had quite a bit deducted on that.  Her score was 6-something.  Vault was also 6-something.  She doesn't run full out on the vault and is still figuring out timing in how to approach the springboard.  She'll get it!  I have no doubt about that.

One of the most exciting parts of the competition came before her floor routine.  She has been opening her water bottle by pulling the cap up with her teeth.  This has made her lower tooth even more wiggly.  She was taking a drink and couldn't get the cap up so she said "I knew what I had to do!  Use my teeth."  When she did, the tooth came right out.

My mom said she took it all in stride and was so excited that she even showed the judges that she had just lost her tooth!  The tooth fairy came that night and brought her $3.

When we talked to Riley on the phone about her competition, the only thing she really wanted to share was losing her tooth.

Julia was a trooper through the entire event and loved watching the gymnasts.

We are SO good!

My parents were a total God-send in taking the girls for six days.  They went above and beyond to make sure that everything went smoothly for them and they were loved on so much that they didn't want to come back to us.

In fact, Riley told us the first morning we were back: "It's not as much fun here.  We got ice cream every night, a movie and oatmeal with milk poured on it so that it cooled down faster.  And I had a tv in my room.  We don't get to watch two movies.  I want to go back to Grandma and Grandpa's house."

Love that they were spoiled and that my parents did so much with them.  One of the things that my mom and dad came up with was a chart called "We are SO good!"  Anytime the girls did something sweet, kind, good and so on, they wrote it on the chart.  The girls loved it.

We are SO good!

Riley put napkins on the table
Riley helped me choose buffet items
Riley took the food to the table
Julia ate dinner (if you know Julia, this is HUGE!)

Riley got up happy
Riley got dressed
Julia got up happy
Julia put her shoes on by herself
Julia didn't want to go to school - but she went anyway
Riley got to school on time!  yay!

Julia got dressed with no fussing
Riley got herself dressed
Julia played quietly after school
Riley drew amazing pictures after school
Riley helped make ice cream for everyone

Julia surprised us by getting herself dressed!
When Jules was sad, Riley cheered her up.
Riley made purses for herself and Jules
Jules took a LONG nap.

Riley helped make French toast.
Julia cleared her dishes
Riley cleared her dishes
Julia was happy with her iPad, not Grampa's  (apparently Grampa's iPad was better and she didn't want to give it back to him.  Finally did)
Riley did AWESOME at her competition
Julia was SO well-behaved at the competition

Riley did the monkey bars at the park all by herself!
Julia took a looooooooong nap
Riley put together the Batman Lego Set

Riley woke up first
Julia ate baby pancakes
Julia went to school with no crying
Riley got dressed so fast

They were SO good!!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Turtle Cozy Pattern

What better to give someone for their wedding than a Turtle Cozy for their turtles!  It all began when Pete posted a picture of turtles with crochet tortoisaurus cozies on and said "Knit this woman!"  He was referring to his soon-to-be-bride, Brook.  Many people made comments that it was actually crochet.

Fast-forward a few weeks on our anniversary date in December.  We get to talking about what to get for Pete and Brook.  Jeremy shows me the pic on his phone and tells me it'd be awesome if I could make cozies for a turtle for them.  We went to Michaels and found two fake turtles - weren't looking for them; they were just there.  We had actually gone to Michaels to get more yarn for one of my Etsy orders.

I looked online and alas, there were no turtle cozy patterns.  Unless you wanted to pay money for them and I wasn't going to do that.  I decided to then write my own turtle cozy pattern.  Then made a girl tortoisaurus and a boy tortoisaurus.

Here is the pattern!  I have not had anyone else test it, but have written it as I created it.  Then tested it myself as I made the second tortoisaurus cozy to see if I could follow it and made revisions.  If any part of it is confusing or you find a glitch, please let me know!

*Note:  This was made for a fake tortoise - not a real one.  Real tortoises are likely larger than this; though I can't vouch for that.


One Skein of Worsted Weight Yarn in Blue (I used Vanna's Choice)
One Skein of Worsted Weight Yarn in Green (I used Vanna's Choice)
H Hook
Stitching needle to connect the spikes to the main portion
Two small buttons for the underside

**Feel free to sell items made from this pattern.  As it is free, please link to this page for others to know where you found the pattern.**

Choose your main color (mine was Blue for the boy, pink for the girl).

1.  Ch 4.  Sl st to 1st ch.
2.  Ch 1.  Sc 8x in the center of the circle made from the four chains previous.  Ch 1.
3.  Make 2 sc in each st around.  Sl st to 1st sc.  Ch 1.
4.  *One sc in first st.  2 sc in next st.*  Repeat around.  Sl st in 1st sc.  Ch 1.
5.  *One sc in first 2 sts.  2 sc in next st.*  Repeat around.  Sl st in 1st sc.  Ch 1.
6.  *One sc in first 3 sts.  2 Sc in next st.*  Repeat around.  Sl st in 1st sc.  Ch 1.
7.  Sc in each st around.  Sl st tog in 1st sc.  Ch 2.
8.  DC in each st around.  Sl st tog in top st of the ch 2.  Ch 2.
9.  *DC in first 3 st.  2 DC in next st. * Repeat eight times (nine times total).  DC in next st.  2 DC in last st.  Sl st tog in top st of the ch 2.  Ch 2.
10.  DC in each st around.

Begin Strap:

1.  Ch 1.  Sc in next 5 st.  Turn.
2.  Ch 1.  Sc in next 5 st.  Turn
3.  Repeat step 2 fourteen times.
4.  Fasten off.

Count over 19 stitches to find the right stitch to start the strap on the opposite side.

Strap on the other side:

1.  Sl st into stitch and Ch 1.  Sc in next 5 st.  Turn.
2.  Ch 1. Sc in next 5 st.  Turn
3.  Repeat Row 2  seven more times.
Fasten Off.

Put the main portion on the turtle with the straps going across the underportion of the belly.  Find where the straps overlap and notice where the two buttons need to go.  Sew the buttons using sewing thread onto one of the straps. It doesn't matter which strap is on top.  I sewed mine with the shorter strap on top of the longer strap.

SPIKES: (still using the H hook, but now using the secondary color)
You will make four spikes total.  Then connect them to each other before connecting them to the main portion.

1.  Ch 5.
2.  Sc in 2nd ch.  Sc across the other three ch.  Turn.
3.  Ch 1. Sc in each st across.  Turn
4.  Repeat row 3 two more times.
5.  Ch 1.  Sctog next 2 st. Sctog  next 2 st.
6.  Ch 1.  Sctog next 2 st.
Fasten Off.

1.  Sl st yarn into the right hand side of the spike at the bottom corner when it is facing you.
2.  Sc up the side of the spike until the top st.  Do not sc in the top st.
3.  In the top st, make 3 sc in it.
4.  Sc down the other side.  DO NOT FASTEN OFF.
5.  Get another spike and set it next to the previous spike that is finished.
6.  Sl st tog in the bottom right corner of the the new spike.
7.  Sl st tog in the next st up on the new spike.
8.  Begin sc up the side of the next spike until the top st.  Do not sc in the top st.
9.  In the top st, make 3 sc in it.
10.  Sc down the other side.  DO NOT FASTEN OFF.
11.  Repeat rows 5-10 with the next two spikes until all four spikes are linked together.
12.  When you fasten off, leave a very long tail for connecting the spikes to the main portion.

Use a yarn needle with the long tail to connect the spikes to the main part.
**Really important:  Make sure that you put the main portion on the turtle without buttoning it.  Then place the spikes along the main portion to figure out where it will go. Then sew the spikes to the main portion and voila!  your tortoisaurus is finished!

Pattern by Jessica Grant 2014

Rainbow Loom

Riley has been working endlessly on rainbow loom bracelets.  She keeps saying "I love this.  This is so cool.  I love this."

It is the fad for this generation similar to what slap bracelets were to mine.  Though those are back in style as well.

Riley has learned how to make a wide variety of rainbow loom bracelets by watching YouTube videos.  She has gotten frustrated several times, but continues to try it again and again.  I love her determination.  One of my piano students (Ella) worked with her yesterday to show her how to do a Diamond Ridge pattern.  Riley loved it.

She just said "I tell you.  This is not easy.  Not that easy!"

Here are a few of the patterns she likes:

Diamond Ridge -

Fishtail -

Charms -

Ladder -


"We didn't make chicken, we only made a chicken sandwich" - Chick Fila

Riley finds this phrase hilarious!  She laughed out loud.  Just a minute ago, she asked me "Mom - who made chicken?"

I said "Chick Fila?"

She laughed.  "No!  I mean who made Chicken?"

Me:  God!

Riley:  Right!!  You get it???!!! (lol)  We didn't make chicken... chick-in.  Like get it?  Chick-in."

I kind of don't get it, but I do.  If that makes sense.  But I love hearing her laugh.

Final Run at White Pass

**For the beginning of this story, read the previous post**

Felt like a real skier at this point!  Really feeling confident.  We went up a much larger chairlift to a new run.  It would combine with the run we had down four times already which was great.  Again, the view made me breathless.  It was so quiet, snow was softer and easier to maneuver on and it was such an amazing adventure.

Started off with a smooth run between the trees and it was just Jeremy and I.  Noone else around.  Couldn't hear anything but our skis moving through the snow.  Until...

We come to the top of this really steep portion.  It divides two ways.  You have to go between two sets of trees to 'coast' your way up the next part.  I should have followed my gut, taken off my skis and walked to the bottom of that hill.  All I could feel inside was panic.  It wasn't wide enough to do my plough moving sideways down the steep hill.  It wasn't long enough to feel comfortable doing it.

Jeremy started explaining how to get down the hill:  "Ok.  This part will be hard.  You have to stay with your feet facing front and direct yourself to the path on the left.  Your body will use the momentum to get up the part on the side.  Do you think you can stay straight?  So keep...."

And I was off.  I figured that if I didn't just go down that portion, I would never do it and we'd need someone to come get me as I was really fearful.  Best way to get over fears is to face them.  I did just that.  Jeremy was still trying to give me advice - advice I did need - but I was quickly talking myself out of it in my head and took what he had said to 'help.'  Then panic set in. Quick.

I felt myself going fast!  Got fearful and sat down on my skis.  Because that's how you handle fear when you're going fast down a hill when skiing.  You sit on your skis.  Puts you closer to the ground.  Gives you better balance?!  (no)  Allows you to get up the hill?! (no)

Jeremy said he thought I might make it because I was looking good at first.  Then one of my legs went out, I went forward and slammed my head into the ground on the front left side of my face.  My skis had both popped off my feet and I was laying on the ground.  My head hurt on the left side where my goggles had pushed into my face hard.  I felt ok.  Just embarrassed and scared.

Jeremy skied down to me as I was holding my head.  My lip was bleeding a little, but stopped quickly.  He asked if I was ok and I told him that I was, but my head hurt a little.  He had thought I was crying, but I was just a little more in shock than anything.  I got up and we walked our way up a short part of the trail.  And skied the rest of the way down the mountain to the base.  That was the hardest part.

I was quite shaken inside and mentally tired.  I had to fight fear the rest of the way down.  I couldn't stop thinking that I was going to crash, break something, hurt myself, or lose my balance again.  I had to mentally talk myself through the course even though I had just skied several times down this path and skied it well.  It was a long way down.  And yet, I didn't fall again the whole way down.

Running makes you such a positive person mentally because you have to believe you can do it.  I used that strategy to help get down the mountain.  The other mentally positive thing that was of as much or even more help was Jeremy.  He was so encouraging the whole way down.  Encouraged me the entire day.  Spoke positive words of "You are amazing.  You're doing great.  Wow - you did it!  Look at you go!"  Helped so much!!  And he was right - I did do it.

Will I ski again?  Absolutely!!  But I'll take a lesson on how to get over that hill if ever I have to face it again.

White Pass

"You are a trooper!  Didn't think you'd go down the hill again after that first run." - Jeremy Grant to me, after having a very death-defying ski down the side of the mountain

Jeremy loves to ski.  Loves it.  Has talked about it off and on since we've been married.  After seeing him ski, I now understand it.  He is really good at it!  Seems natural to him and he's comfortable in what he is doing.  He's gone quite a few times at different mountainous locations.

I learned to ski a few ways:  one time as a kid (not a great experience), watching YouTube videos the night before we went skiing and then getting on the skis and going down the mountain without any actual real-life practice.  Looking back I realize it was really not the very best idea (ok it was really dumb) to do it, but I threw myself into it and in the end, I got the hang of it really well!  Was a matter of getting there.  I really wanted to love skiing because Jeremy loves it.  I love hard exercise, a great workout, being outdoors and doing new things.  It was right up my alley!

We got our equipment on, headed toward the T-bar area (a much revised and better version of a rope tow) and trudged our way through the snow.  Couldn't get going very fast and still figuring out the skis, I felt really awkward.

Finally made it to the T-Bar and I was internally terrified.  The mountain was large and much steeper than anything I'd ever been on (at least, the one and only time I went as a kid on a man-made hill in Brighton, MI).  Website for updated hill skiing in MI:

Skiing on a real mountain was not at all what I remember it being like.  Probably because it was an actual mountain.  I digress.  So I get to the T-Bar and I'm scared, but refusing to show it outwardly.  Mentally talking to myself and reminding myself that I CAN do this.  That I don't want to let Jeremy down and that challenges are really really great.  Even if the challenge is totally outside of my comfort zone.

The guy at the T-Bar tells me how to point my skis straight and instructs me to sit on the T-Bar.  Ok.  Got that.  I take the T-Bar and put all my weight on it only to find that I end up sitting all the way on my skis going up.  Didn't make it very far and fell over.  Ha!  I couldn't get up so the guy comes over and helps me up and says "You have to get up."  Um - yes.  Trying!!  :)

I get back to the line and this time let the T-Bar pull me up the hill.  Much better!  I ski easily out of it and don't fall.  Score one for me!  We have the choice to go down the beginner bunny hill to practice.  Jeremy tells me to follow him to the chairlift that will lead us to the beginner runs.  So I followed the best I could.  He said it leads to the "baby greens."  (beginner runs)

My first chair lift and I didn't fall off.  Felt really great about that!  It was such a stunning view as we made our way up.  Jeremy instructed me as the chair turned around to keep my skis straight and go to the left where the hill begins.  So I do and start skiing faster than expected.  Twenty feet later I am on my side trying to get up.

I use my poles to help and get up.  As I'm dusting my pants, I feel something massive hit me straight in the back sending me up into the air and I end up on the ground.  I hear someone say "sorry!  so sorry!" A new snowboarder flying down the hill couldn't stop from aiming right for me.

Going down that first time was just plain scary for me.  I tried to focus on where I was and not at the steep hill in front of me.  To focus on the area I was turning.  Found my feet facing straight and just soaring down the mountain and then landing flat on my right side every time.

Jeremy led me down the hill as they had shown in the YouTube video.  I worked my plough and wedge to keep from going fast.  Followed his path and found it much easier.  Made it to the bottom of that first run in one piece.

Jeremy looked at me and asked if I wanted to do it again.  I told him "Sure!" and up we went.  The second run down was amazing.  And the third and fourth.  Ended up falling only a few more times in those runs combined.  Caught on to how to use my hips, plough, angles and the shape of the terrain to help keep me at a pace I was comfortable with.

We decided to do one last run on the backside of the mountain going down a much longer beginner run.  That last run is worth a separate post.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Washington State

Jeremy and I had an amazing trip to the Northwest.  Beyond beautiful.  Amazing weather - no rain, no snow, lots and lots of sun except in the mornings when there was the most dense fog I've ever seen.  More laughter than I've had in a long, long time.  My side and stomach hurt so much from laughing constantly throughout the trip.

A little overview:

Left on a jet plane.  Highly recommend Alaska Airlines.  Everything was clean and on time.  Gotta love that.  We arrived in Seattle around 10:15pm (12:15am our time).  Got our rental car and headed and hour and a half north to Camano Island to stay with my Aunt Mel and Uncle Rob.  Very foggy drive.  Jeremy was determined to find a Starbucks to have coffee and we ended up getting off at two different exits and getting lost both times.  Took up enough time that we would have actually gotten to their home in the time it took us to drive around.  Ok, not really, but close enough.  I was really happy about it.  I promise.  Jeremy asked why I was annoyed and my answer was simply "I'm tired.  It's like 2am our time and I honestly just need to sleep."  We laughed and it was a great drive.

Had homemade pizza when we arrived in the middle of the night.  Talked and went to bed.

Got up and enjoyed their amazing home.  Built into the side of a large hill - views out their large windows to see Mt. Baker and the land north of them.

Rob and Mel took us to Whidbey Island to see Deception Pass.  Wow - loved the mountains.

One of the best views of Deception Pass

Photo Bomb - Uncle Rob :)

Woke up early at 5:15am to go skiing.  Traveled five hours south and east to White Pass.  Jeremy had skied here when he was younger.  We watched YouTube videos on Thursday night and this was the ONLY lesson that I had before actually putting my skis on Friday and skiing.  Awesome videos by Ski School: - how to plough - equipment - turning with the plough

After seeing the videos, I felt quite confident as I had really skied one time at the age of 10 or 11.  That was a disaster actually.  All I remember is using the rope tow to get up the hill and running into people that couldn't hold on and getting the wind knocked out of me.  I went down the bunny hill a few times and really didn't like it.  Michigan skiing, mind you.  Not on a real mountain.  Not very steep.  Built over a garbage dump.

White Pass was intimidating.  Will have to do a separate blog about the skiing experience as it would make this blog post much too long.

Entrance to White Pass

After skiing for several hours, we made a 2 1/2 hour drive to Centralia where we showered and got ready at our hotel room at McMenamin's.  Again, will do a blog post just about McMenamin's as it is one of our new favorite places to stay!

We had a blast at the rehearsal dinner and met great new friends.  Among them Lisa and Kevin who made us laugh so much and we really bonded with them.  So wish we lived closer!

Pete, the groom

Chris Walker, the man

Two lovely turtles - the wedding gift!
Handmade by me and pattern by me.
Will post pattern soon as they aren't anywhere to be found,
but apparently turtle cozies are in style!?

Woke up really really late.  Not near as sore as we thought we'd be, but definitely could feel it.

Wedding was amazing!!!!  Reception was tons of fun.  Actually got Jeremy to dance with me despite him being so sore from dancing.  We laughed many times.  Ok - the whole time.  Met more amazing people and wished we lived closer to them.  What an amazing day.

Bride and Groom Dance

Kevin and Lisa - two of our favorite new friends!

Went to a special brunch.  Then drove south to Camas, Washington to stay with Jeanine, my former college friend that I hadn't seen in 14 years.  Picked back up as though we'd never been apart.

Spent time with Kirk and Jeanine and their kids.  Went to Oregon to Multnomah Falls.  Incredibly windy and co-co-co-cold!!!

 Then had lunch at another McMeniman's - formerly an insane asylum!  Drove back up north to Seattle and took seemingly forever to find the hotel.

Information about the place when it was an Insane Asylum.

Walked around Seattle and found a neat pizza place to eat.  Saw the space needle.

Spent the morning at the famous Pike Place Market in downtown and walked around the shops that were open.  We were there quite early.

Then headed to drop off our vehicle and to the airport.

Smooth flight.  Got into Dallas and headed home around 8pm.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Washington Bound

Tomorrow Jeremy and I are leaving for a six day trip up to Washington State.  Wedding for his best friend from high school, time with my Aunt Mel and Uncle Rob, skiing, beautiful weather and mountains.  Not to mention time with Jeremy and lots of reading and relaxing I hope!

My parents are taking care of the girls and we couldn't be more thankful.  They will do an amazing job with them.

Riley has her first ever gymnastics meet at ASI Gymnastics in Plano on Sunday at 3pm.  She is so very nervous and sad and excited.  She's sad we won't be there and so are we.  We've had several talks about it.  She is nervous as it's the first time she's ever done anything like this.  I have no doubts that she will do amazing.  No matter what happens, we are proud of her.  She is an amazing and talented girl.  Proud of her for trying it and for working so hard and for the fact that she was able to find something she loves so quickly in life that she is also talented at and gifted.

Julia had her dance practice today and is excited that Riley will be coming to her school tomorrow to be with her until Grandma and Grandpa pick them up.  Julia is so sweet and kind and we are proud of her as well for being her.

We will miss our girls so much.  This will be the first time Jeremy and I have ever left both girls.  Hard to believe.  Thankful for this opportunity and thankful to know they'll be so well loved and taken care of.  Can't wait to hear the stories when we get back about what they do and say!!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Top Golf

Had a blast today at Top Golf with all of my coworkers.  We had a January holiday party instead of a party in December.  Weather was gorgeous and it was so much fun golfing.  Will definitely do it again!

Riley had a playdate with her friend Christopher and Julia was at daycare.  Made for a long day as I didn't pick Riley up until 6pm and Julia until 6:20.  Then dinner and now we're still doing homework.

Got everything packed for our trip to Washington on Wednesday.  So looking forward to the wedding, skiing, seeing my Aunt Mel, Uncle Rob and many others and just simply having time to relax.  I will miss the girls terribly!  This is the first trip that we have ever taken away from both of them.

Update the next day:  My right shoulder is so sore!  Apparently I used muscles golfing that I don't normally use.  Lol!!  Thinking skiing might do me in ;)

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Julia's first playdate

Yesterday Julia had her friend Ariana Rodriguez over for a playdate.  It is the first time that we've ever had Julia's friends over instead of Riley's friends.  Most of the time Riley's friends come over and Julia gets to play with the siblings; yesterday Julia had her favorite friend in the world over.  It was adorable!

She couldn't wait to have her friend here.  She brought over her Rapunzel chair and sat staring at the door for several minutes before the doorbell rang.  The girls were so cute.  They ran upstairs and began playing in the playroom.  Ariana's brother Daniel (who is five) came over as well.  They all played so nicely.

It was cute to hear their little voices talking.

Ariana:  Can we say hi to your dad?
Julia:  Oh!  Sure!
A:  Where is he?
J:  I think he's in the kitchen.
A:  Let's go find him.
J:  Ok!  Follow me!

They raced downstairs to say hi, eat one of his tator tots and then race back upstairs giggling.  Ariana's mom Marta and I talked and watched them play.

Coloring, dancing, listening to music from the movie 'Frozen,' playing legos, dolls.  I think they covered it all.

The girls didn't want to be separated when it was time to go.  Ariana wanted to stay and Julia didn't want her to leave.  Ariana's birthday party is coming soon so we're glad they'll get to play together again.  Marta said that we definitely need to do another play date soon to which I agreed.

Julia told me it was the best day ever.

Mr. Darby

Pride and Prejudice review:

Another book I'd love to read again.  The characters had so much depth and interest.  I loved how things developed and enjoyed the book immensely!!!  I'd started the book "Sense and Sensibility" by Jane Austen a few years ago and just couldn't get into it.  Stopped it and will be picking it up again sometime in the near future as it might have not been the right timing to try to read it.  Sometimes you have to start books again at a different season in life and it has a completely different effect.

Now to see the movie!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Chores Update

So far the commissions incentive for jobs is working like a dream.  Just a few days in and all is great so far.  Until screeeeeeeech, it came to a complete halt tonight after dinner.

Riley did the first four jobs - each one worth 20 cents:
- homework
- reading for fifteen minutes
- practicing piano and doing her writing notebook for fifteen minutes
- getting herself dressed in the morning without our help or freaking out

The last job is a very very simple one.  Wipe down the kitchen table.  That was it!  After dinner, I asked her if she was ready to do her job.

Her response:  "Um.  It's not worth it."

So there you have it.  It's not worth wiping down a table to earn 20 cents.

I asked if she was sure and she was very sure.

Jeremy and I were in the kitchen finishing up.  Kind of trying to figure out how to motivate. I suggested that I was going to have her do it anyway as it is her job, but that she wouldn't be paid for it as she had chosen not to do it on her own.  (Not sure this is really the best approach, but thought it might make her think and she tends to learn lessons fast and well)

I called her into the kitchen and asked her if she was sure that she didn't want to wipe down the table for pay.  She said she was sure.  I wet the towel and then told her that a job is a job and we do our job even if we don't feel like it because it is what we are supposed to do.  Only this time she wouldn't get paid to wipe down the table;  she would just do it for free.

Her response:  (while slightly giggling)  It's okay, Mom.  I'll let you pay me for it.

And off she went to wipe down the table while Jeremy and I were taken aback by her comment.  Couldn't help but laugh.  Yet also wondering - is this system working?  Are we creating kids who will expect to be paid for any little thing they do around the house?  Still working through some kinks and figuring out if this is something that will work in the long run.  Only praying we're helping our kids and not hurting them!  Want to raise grateful, thankful and wise kids.  Not demanding, expectant and ungrateful ones.  

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Sweet Whispers

Tonight I put Julia to bed.  She wanted to read her magazine (American Girl Doll Catalog featuring the new doll of the year, Isabelle) and then three books and the Bible.  We read her favorite Bible story - when Jesus was born.  She saves the story with an Old Navy tag that we call our bookmark.

When we finished reading, she wanted to tell stories.  This has been something new and it's very sweet.  I make up a story about her and then she makes up a story about something.  Tonight's story was similar to our Bible reading time.  Here is what I remember of Julia's story:

Once upon a time dere was a beautiful girl named Mommy.  Mommy loved Daddy.  Dey decided to get married!  One day dere was a wittle, wittle cat outside.  Mommy asked Daddy if they could keep it so they did.  Den Mommy's belly got big and she had a baby in it.  It was Julia!  Dey had a baby and lived happily ever after.  Dee end!

After we told stories, she whispered in my ear.  She still doesn't quite understand what whispering means.  She thinks you put your face close to the person's ear and then move your mouth, but don't say anything.  Tonight she actually whispered something that wasn't clear, but it was something.  Then she laid down and whispered out loud to me, "Do you know what I told you?  I said 'I love you.' "  Such a sweet girl.

After an hour of moving around, she fell fast asleep around 10pm.  Sweet dreams my darling girl.

Chopped Salad

Getting into cooking at the moment.  I love chopped salads.  One of the best ones I've ever had is from the restaurant Buca Di Beppo!  These salads look amazing to make at home!

Bobby Flay Chopped Salad -

Jeff Mauro Chopped Salad -

Friday, January 3, 2014

February Dinner

Here is what I will be cooking in February... drooling already! (Posting early so I remember)

For side ideas or other ideas in general:

Love the idea of doing this as a side dish or the main meal on a different month:

Penne with Pumpkin and Sausage
I followed Rachael Ray’s recipe (see link above) almost exactly, except that I used brown rice penne. The sauce seemed soupy before I tossed in the pasta, but once they were combined, it coated well, and the consistency was great.  I made a double recipe and used one pound of hot sausage and one pound of sweet—it was nice to have some heat but not too much.

January Meal

My mom is cooking the entree for tomorrow night's meal and I am cooking the side dish.  Our recipes are from Southern Living.

My mom's recipe for Chicken Marsala can be found here:

Mine is the Asparagus-New Potato Hash is found here:

The salad will be Spinach with homemade viniagrette (as described by Shauna Niequist in her book "Bread and Wine"):

Spinach Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
The only thing to remember about making a vinaigrette is that you always want a 2:1 ratio of oil to acid.  I begin with balsamic vinegar, and whisk in a little Dijon, salt and pepper, and then twice as much oil as vinegar.  Some people like to add in a little sugar, but I like it kind of puckery.  You can add minced garlic or fresh herbs or a little maple syrup for sweetness, but I like it just like this.  Toss with baby spinach, and you’re done.
I either like chopped salads with like a zillion different ingredients, or just plain spinach with a pretty plain balsamic vinaigrette.  
Food Network also has one:

We cooked the meal tonight at my mom's house.  Yum doesn't even describe!  I loved the smells of the foods cooking.  I loved the colorful dishes and the variety of foods.  I loved the unique flavors and how it all worked so well together.

My first time ever making my own salad dressing and I learned it is SO easy to do!!!  The asparagus turned out perfect.  The potatoes were great.  I enjoyed the goat cheese on the spinach salad.  I really loved the cheese on the asparagus-potatoes when it melted a little.  And a little cheese goes a long way!

The chicken marsala that my mom made was divine!  The sauce was light and tasty.  The chicken was perfect.  We cooked some farfalle to go alongside it and I drizzled the sauce on it.

Amazed that the two of us could pull off such a fantastic meal!  Neither one of us cook much  but are wanting to be better at it and have some fun together this year trying out new recipes.  Taking on a few new ones next month - can't wait!

Things Pondered

I picked up this kindle book for free yesterday.  It is filled with amazing stories and some nice poetry.  Wasn't planning to read it today, but Julia slept for a while (first on the couch and then moved to sleep on the first stair... guess it was more comfortable?).

You can get it here for free:

I loved this part in the book:

Things that Remain

Faith - Knowing He can whether or not He does

Hope - Knowing He will whether or not He has

Love - Knowing He died whether or not we live

The How (and wow) of Habits

I wasn't planning to read this short book, but came across it on Money-saving Moms and decided to read part of it.  Ended up reading it all.  It's very short!  The book is by Carrie Willard.

Great ideas to take away:

What are your keystone habits?  Habits that affect the way you do other tasks and that make a difference.

"A small daily task, if it really be daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules."  So true!  A little at a time each day.

Three parts to habits:
Cue - the trigger that sets off a habit
Routine - the behavior/habit itself
Reward - what you get out of this habit

Commission Chart for Julia

**Also using the app "My Job Chart" found here:

Julia's role in the family is different than Riley's role.  She is three and does not have school assignments, piano lessons, gymnastics and other things, but she can help in other ways.

Julia can earn up to 50 cents each day.  She has two assignments each day of the week that she gets paid a quarter to do:

Monday thru Friday:
1.  Put napkins, forks and spoons on the table at dinner.
2.  Put toys away downstairs before watching her night show (Babar).

Saturday and Sunday:
1.  Put books on her shelves in her room.
2.  Help put her laundry away.

It is the same as what we are doing with Riley.  If her jobs are done each day, she gets paid.  If not, she doesn't get paid.

Commission Chart for Riley

Riley's Commissions:

**Using the free app:  my job chart.  Amazing!  You can get it here:

She earns up to a dollar every day for what she chooses to do.  She and I worked together to come up with her jobs each day.  Each job has a responsibility as well as a meaning behind it.

Doing homework and reading encourages her to take her role as a student seriously and to do the best at what she is learning.  This will carry through to high school and college and into the job world some day.  Whatever we can encourage now, can only help!  While I don't believe in paying students to learn, I do believe that teaching them to do their role where they are now is important.  Her job is to learn.

Practicing piano increases her musical ability, teaches consistency and discipline.  Plus it is a great skill to have!

As a part of our family, she has roles she can play to help.  Getting herself dressed in the morning will help Jeremy and I to get things ready and moving.  Mornings are always hectic and with her helping to get herself dressed, it will help her to be independent as well as to do her part.  Wiping the table and sweeping the kitchen were roles she wanted to help with.  She'll do great!

Jobs on Monday thru Friday (worth 20 cents each):
1.  Get herself dressed in the mornings.
2.  Do your homework after school each night.
3.  Practice piano for 10-15 minutes each day.
4.  Read on my ipad - leveled readers and other books on her iPad library for ten minutes and then play on it (paid for the reading - not playing)
5.  Wipe the table after dinner.

Jobs on Saturday and Sunday (worth 20 cents each):
1.  Make your bed
2.  Clean your room
3.  Practice piano for 10-15 minutes
4.  Put her laundry away (with help from me with hangers in the closet)
5.  Sweep the kitchen after dinner.

If jobs are not done that day, she is not paid for them.  We're using several of Dave Ramsey's ideas.  I haven't ever done any of his ideas before, but have started reading up on it more.

A great article on commissions for kids:

Three Men in a Boat

Finished this book quickly!  Was an easy read.  I found myself smirking or chuckling, but not roll-on-the-floor laughing or laughing out loud.  It was clever.  I had looked up classic books and this was on the list.  Humorous and an easy read.

I loved the list of ailments he claimed to have.  I also loved how he would talk about what a hard worker he was and how noone else worked like he did.  Only to then prove it by trying to make everyone else do the work so he could oversee things while putting down how ill equipped his teammates were at doing anything.  Each man thought better of themselves and it never ended the way each of them wanted as they thought it should have been there way.  The song and the picture were two fantastic parts as well.

In fact, you can purchase it on a kindle edition free (this was put together by a team of volunteers):

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Spending for January

One of my goals this year is to keep my spending on clothes/extras/makeup/socks/shoes to only $50 for the month.  I'm a great bargain shopper (if I so humbly say myself).  I love bargains and often forget how much I'm actually spending because of the 'deals' I'm getting.   I refuse to pay full price on everything except Mac makeup.  That's one area I bend that rule on because it never goes on sale and it is amazing.

I'm tracking my spending on my phone using an app called Numbers as well as writing it in the blog for accountability.  I'm not a huge spender... or so I've thought.  Jeremy pointed out to me how I nickel and dime and spend more than I think I do.  I recently bought the girls new winter coats for only $20 instead of $80, matching shoes for $11 instead of $45 and leggings for $4 instead of $16.  Great deals for sure!  But when I do that repeatedly over a week, month, year - it adds up.  So I'm watching to see where I spend my money and how wisely I'm actually using our resources in the hopes that I can still purchase bargains, but keep them to the actual need of the items and not just the wants.

I went exactly two days before purchasing something.  Wow.  Not very long into the month and here's where I stand:

$50 to start for the month per person ($50 Julia, $50 Riley, $50 me)

January 2nd spent:
$16.24 - on M.A.C. brush cleanser (completely out and haven't worn makeup in two days because I didn't want my makeup left on the brushes)

$12.96 - on six new pairs of socks.  Two of which are Jeremy's.  Clarks has this amazing policy where once you buy socks, you get free pairs whenever you are either tired of them, they wear out or get holes.  No need to buy socks again!  Doesn't matter if you buy them on clearance or full price.  (By the way, I only buy them on clearance.) We're building our sock collection up.  I have a few pairs already and went into the store to exchange my socks for new ones which I did.

The man at the counter pointed out that all socks on clearance are not only half off ($3.99 a pair instead of $8.00), but if you buy three, you get three more free.  A total of six socks for $12 and tax.  Sold.  I'm including Jeremy's two pairs of socks as free socks because if I start justifying my spending based on what I purchase him, I'll start making excuses and giving myself more money to spend.  Trying to be real about what I am actually spending and see if we can't crack down on it!



January 11
Riley has her first gymnastics meet next weekend.  Finding out that she needs quite a few things for it so I set out to get a deal.  Had a Justice card for taking $25 off a $50 purchase.

Purchases today:
Water Bottle - $5.97
Flip Flops - $20.22
Sweater - $12.86

Also got two sparkly red stockings with their initials on it.  One for R, one for J.
$4.10 each ($8.20 total)

So the total spent today at Justice was $32.79 for one receipt and $18.78 for the second one.   

Riley:  $47.47
Julia:  $4.10

Had to go get new piano books for students so I took Julia along while Riley was at gymnastics and got them.  I also picked up an Alto Recorder for myself as I will need one for the summer course and truly need to figure out fingerings on it before the class as I'm not one of the most amazing recorder players you will ever hear.  I can do it okay, but not awesome.  Also picked up some flashcards for my piano students during lessons.

Recorder $18.86
Flash Cards $5.56 
Total:  $24.42

I had $20.80 left to spend and am over it by $3.38.  

I'm learning fast that $50 a month on essentials and items is not much at all!  I am finding I am thinking over every single purchase and very aware of what I am spending so much more than I ever have been.

Days left in January:  20
Money left for me:  None
Money left for Riley:  $2.53
Money left for Julia:  $45.90

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life around the Table By Shauna Niequist

I love this book.  Love it!  I just finished it this morning (couldn't wait to start it so I began reading it two days ago) and can't wait to visit it again throughout the year.  Will definitely be trying the recipes shared!

Loved this quote:

"I want you to gobble life up in huge bites, tasting everything, trying every new flavor, remembering every smell and texture like it's the best thing you've ever had.  I want you to live with wild and gorgeous abandon, throwing yourself into each day, telling the truth about who you are and who you are not, writing a love song to the world itself and to the God who made every inch of it." - Shauna Niequist

The book is a great reminder of what happens when friends and family gather around the table to not just share meals, but life.  Thinking we need to have more meals with friends and family over our home this year!!