Sunday, May 30, 2010

Birthday, Recitals, Gardening and Frugal Shopping All in One Post-Whew!

We have had lots going on since my last post.  Kaelan turned 11 on the 19th.  She had fun with another young lady as an overnight guest.  She made her own birthday cake, a delicious lemon ice box cake.   Kaelan and Devin had decided they wanted a bedroom makeover for their birthdays (Devin's is in June), so for Kaelan's birthday they got new dust ruffles, comforters and pillow shams.  For Devin's birthday they will get matching sheets and window treatments.  That will be the extent of their bedroom makeover. ; )

Kaelan and my sister, Tracy, who shares the same birthday

Kaelan also received three new Homestead Blessing DVDs-sewing, cooking and dairying

Kaelan with her Lemon Ice Box Birthday Cake that she made herself
(all of my girls started making their own cakes after the age of ten---their choice!)

The day after Kaelan's birthday  was the piano recital.  My sister who shares a birthday with Kaelan just happened to be in the area and was able to join us and my mil was here for a few days as well.  Aaron and Kaelan did a terrific job and we enjoyed a late night dinner at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants afterward.

Aaron played two minuets by Bach and did a fantastic job!

The next day was the violin recital for Devin's students.  This was her first recital as a teacher and she did a great job.  Kaelan is one of her students and she did a terrific job.  My children are really turning into great musicians.  All of my former college professors would be proud!!  

Kaelan and Hannah Duley played a duet at the violin recital.  Kaelan had fun getting together to practice with Hannah.

                                  Devin with some of her students.  Not all of them were able to
                                  play in the recital.                                          

Our work in the garden continues.  We have corn and beans up in our 4 x 4 beds.   We are trusting the Square Foot Gardener knows what he is talking about!!

Bush beans coming up.  There are 9 plants in each square foot.  Sounds crazy, but we are hopeful!!

This is one of two raised beds of corn, four plants per square foot.

This past week I was able to get out to do a little shopping.   The Lord truly blessed my grocery shopping efforts on Tuesday.  I came across lots of reduced produce, whole chickens, chicken breasts, buttermilk and milk at Kroger.  At Sam's I got reduced stew meat and a huge roast.  The stew meat was cooked with the reduced mushrooms and made into  fabulous beef tips in mushroom gravy.  Twelve chicken breasts were turned into three meals of seasoned chicken strips for wraps and salads, two quarts of seasoned chicken stock and two quart bags of shredded chicken.  We also did lots of baking this week of our usual homemade bread, pizza, pizza muffins, pesto roll, pizza roll, four chocolate chess pies, two buttermilk pies, three buttermilk pound cakes and two loaves of banana bread.  God gives us so many good things to eat.  My freezer is thankfully VERY full.  Feeling blessed about that!!

Jeff and I had a night out this week and I asked if we could go to Kohl's.  They have great clearance sales at Kohl's and I hadn't gone to check out clearance racks in months.  I needed a good fix and some of the children needed an item or two.  Most of what we purchased was 80 or 90% off with the exception of two nice Ralph Lauren shirts ($12. 50 each) and some much needed shoes for Jeff to wear to the office which unfortunately were not on clearance and were not even on sale. : (    We got over $500 of clothing for around $130.  Chaps dress shirt for Jackson for $5, Van's jeans for Aaron for $4, Chaps dress pants for Aaron for $3.60, various long-sleeve tees for Aaron, a light- weight trench coat for Devin for $8 (which she loved---YEAH for me!!), two summer tops for Kaelan for under $3 each and two sweaters for me for $3 and $4 dollars.  Jeff very rarely goes shopping with me, so he was very impressed with how much we saved.  Of course, we could have saved more had we not gone in the store in the first place, but I really like dressing my children well for very little money.  I have posted before about my clearance rack dressed kids and I am always very thankful for the Lord leading me to find just what is needed and sometimes, like with Devin's trench coat, desired.   I try to check out the clearance racks at several department stores 2 or 3 times a year.  It has been a money-saver for our family.

I am getting way too long here and will share our adventures at a tag sale with pictures later.  Hope you all take time out to reflect on the sacrifices made by those who have given their lives to defend our rights as American citizens.  We will spend time with friends celebrating tomorrow, but tonight we had our grilled burgers and salads and are now preparing to settle in the den and watch Gary Cooper in Sergeant York.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Raising Producers

Jeff and I have been amazed at how much work we are able to get done around our home these days.  It's not that Jeff and I are actually doing the work, though.  We have raised some young men who are turning into some amazingly creative and productive workers.  Jordan, our 17 year old first born son, loves to write and has for years.  In the last year or so he has discovered photography and is taking some great outdoor/nature pictures.  He gets up very early in the morning, has his coffee and quiet time and then takes the camera out for a stroll in the woods.  I am "encouraging" him to choose his ten favorite photos, edit them on Photoshop and have them printed for a portfolio by the end of June.  He has also developed a keen interest in homesteading and has been a great help in our gardening endeavors this spring.  This weekend he built seven new raised beds for us and has been out working in the garden a few mornings before I have  gotten up from bed.  He spends some time each day researching homesteading on various homesteading blogs.  I am "encouraging" him to start a notebook with interesting ideas that we can incorporate in the future.  He plans on building a greenhouse or two this fall so that we can enjoy fresh produce during the winter and have an early start on seedlings for our spring planting next year.

Aaron, our 13 year old, finally weighs enough to run the riding mower.  Yes, it only works if you weigh a certain amount..  Something in the seat detects the weight.  A safety measure I am thankful for as I am sure our 5 year old would love to mow.  He has eagerly taken over the mowing and ASKS me if he can mow every few days.  He is also in charge of keeping mulch on the garden;  raking leaves up from the yard and woods and keeping the garden covered so we don't have to weed as much.  Aaron also has turned into a great pianist.  He spends lots of time practicing and has made great improvements.  He also wants to learn composition and spends time playing around with composing on the computer.  Aaron also loves to draw and we have invested into quality art supplies for him.  He has been motivated after seeing Barry Stebbing's nature journals to draw more nature pictures instead of the cartoons that had been his focus.

Jackson, at five, is still developing interests, but is eagerly awaiting the day that he can take piano lessons.  He loves to work outside with Jeff and the big boys, can cut down a small tree by himself and can clear brush from the woods.  This morning he was looking very manly in his cowboy boots and shorts as he was keeping the neighbors' visiting dog out of our garden while handling a BB gun.  (the dog has dug up plants and done his job on newly planted fruit trees, etc---not good at all!)

Raising boys (and girls) to be Godly men (and women) who know how to work hard is a very humbling job.  The late Bob Schulz wrote three great books that I have shared with my children.  These books have a great message to us about becoming hardworking men who support and love their families.  Look for Created for Work, Boyhood and Beyond,  and Practical Happiness to share with the young men in your lives.  These books would make excellent gifts for the middle years.  Every young man needs them in their personal library.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Rambling Update

Even though I haven't posted in two weeks doesn't mean that we haven't been busy as usual.    We had my mom visiting for a few days and enjoyed celebrating with my sister's family as my nephew graduated from Ole Miss.   We also had Lauren  and the grandsons here for a few days as well.  We have done our usual large batch cooking of cinnamon rolls, granola and spaghetti sauce.  The children got me a HUGE stockpot that I am able to cook large batches in ONE pot without fear of boiling over.   I was also able to make the spaghetti sauce using fresh herbs from my own garden....and it is delicious!!!

Gardening work continues and flourishes!!  We have tomatoes and peppers on the vine, corn  and potatoes are coming up, strawberries are blooming and everything else is looking good.  Jordan built 7 more 4' x 4' beds for me this weekend and we have filled one of them with lemon balm (I will post some recipes later), another with oregano and a third with peppers, tomatoes and winter squash.  This morning we will plant more corn, green beans and winter squash in the remaining boxes.  We are trying out square foot gardening and are hopeful that our corn in the box (and much nearer the house) does better than the corn patch further away.  I still have some tomato plants started from seed that are hardening and will plant those in the next week.  Staggering my planting was not really intentional, but I think will benefit us with a longer period of fresh veggies and will spread out the work of canning and freezing.

We have also done some work in the landscaping department.   I called a friend to see if she wanted to have some of my hostas that were in need of dividing and she wound up coming and helping me to dig up all of the hostas, separating them, replanting in their existing bed and moving about 30 or so to a new bed.  She was also able to take about 20-30 home with her.

We have also been sick for a few days.  Jackson started us out with fever, headache,  coughing, sore throat, sneezing and wheezing.  It then moved to Kaelan and then to me.   Then, Jackson had a repeat!!  The older boys have had some of the same symptoms as well.  Jordan is the only one BRAVE enough to take my tonic regularly, so he has been able to carry on.

This week I decided to take the week off from school.  Wednesday is Kaelan's 11th birthday, Thursday is piano recital day and Friday is violin recital day.  Grandmother will also be coming for a couple of days to see Kaelan and Aaron in the recitals.  I took the time to sit down and finish planning out the rest of our War for Independence study and we will finish it up the last week of June.  Very fitting as we look to celebrate Independence Day!!  We will then take a week off to visit with my extended family who will be coming in from Ohio and Washington, DC.  My brother will be leaving the states for  three years to work in the Congo, so this is a little farewell visit for him.  He will stop first in Ecuador to get married!!   He will be turning 41 in early July and has finally met the woman for him.  They met in Spain, but she is from Ecuador and they will start their married lives together in Africa.    On our return home we will spend about 4 weeks finishing up our study of Africa that we have put on hold.  In August we will resume our American history studies via All-American History, KONOS, Clarence Carson and various other sources.

Time to stop the rambling and check out what my assistant gardeners have accomplished so far.  Hope to post more regularly, but my internet connection can be unreliable.  DSL would be so nice, but here in the boonies satellite is about the best we can do!!
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