Saturday, July 30, 2011

Saturday Steal

You might think that after my recent posts about paring down that I would cut down on the bargain hunting. And I have. But the fact of the matter is, my kids still need clothes! Especially with the fall months approaching. So today I decided to get a jump start and we headed to the Goodwill outlet and I found some good deals on some great name brand clothes!

Here's what I snagged:

- For Starlet: 1 pair Childrens Place jeans, 1 pair Mossimo jean capris, 1 flowery skirt, 1 long-sleeve printed hoodie tee, 1 Forever Orchid short sleeve tee, 1 jacket

- For Little Boo: 1 Circo dress, 1 pair of Childrens Place footie pajamas

- For Monkey: 1 long sleeve pirate tee, 1 short sleeve baseball tee

Total Spent: $6 for 10 items of clothing.


I also bought some books. More books than I need. But I found a hardback copy of The Host, which I've been wanting for awhile (it even has the dust jacket still!) and I found several great chapter books to read with the kids.

For me, clothes and books are the two things that I will allow myself to collect. I love to wear clothes because for me it's a form of self expression, and I love to read books and I want to instill that love in my kids. I will often read a book that I've purchased for $.25 or $.50 and then pass it on to a friend for them to enjoy, so they don't all end up piling up around me. The ones that I really loved, however, I keep.

Done any good bargain hunting lately? Leave a comment and share!

Happy Saturday, everyone! :-)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Wedding Letter

As you all may know by now, I love to write. I am always on the lookout for reasons to write (much as I am always on the lookout for reasons to craft) and so when this contest opportunity came along, I decided it would be a fun little project.

The challenge was to write a wedding letter for a fictional couple (Noah and Rachel) about to tie the knot. The letter was to be handwritten and sent via snail mail. I composed a letter on my computer, editing it until I was satisfied, and then, because in a contest like this I think presentation is everything, I decided to get crafty.

I distressed a sheet of linen-finish card stock with some brown ink and a few flourish-y stamps, then I hand wrote my letter on it. I then created the fancy sleeve for the letter, and sealed the paper with a wax seal before sliding it in.

(I purchased this long ago in Colonial Williamsburg, where I used to work)

I then placed the entire thing in a handmade envelope made from the cardboard of a shirt box (because it was too big to fit in a normal envelope and I wanted something sturdy to protect it).

If I end up being a finalist, I will let you know. They will post finalists by August 1st (yay, not too long to wait!) and then the winner will be announced by September 1st. If I am not a finalist, I will be sure to post my letter on here so y'all can read it. :-)
Paper Issues Blog Design

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Spiritual Sundays: Beyond Decluttering: Living More Simply

This is a topic that has been on my mind quite a bit lately. As I'm sure you probably gathered from the post about my dream home, I am a minimalist wannabe. Meaning, my dream is to live in a space that is cleared of clutter, and has only my most special, most beautiful, and most useful objects in it. Because if you actually stop to think about it, how much of your day is consumed by your stuff? It may not seem that way, but I spend so much time getting after the kids to pick up their toys, doing the dishes, rebooting and folding the laundry, general cleaning and picking up of stuff- granted, much of that is a necessity of day-to-day living, but what if we just had less?

I always get a little bit like this in the summer because while we're on vacation for a week we get to experience life with less. Having a family of 5, I only bring clothes for about 4 days, and we just wash while we're vacationing. I do a small load every couple of days and that's about it. We bring the essentials, plus a small box of toys for the kids, and we make do with the sparse pots and pans that furnish our condo. When I tell the kids to pick up their toys, it takes less than a minute. When I "straighten up" it takes a minute or two. When I open the cupboard under the kitchen sink I see trash bags, dishwashing soap, cleaning spray, and paper towels.

Honestly, how much more than that do I really need?

Of course, in a rented condo you don't have to wash your own sheets (that would take a little additional laundry time) or worry about home maintenance or entertaining or holidays, but even all that would require maybe one additional closet's worth of stuff. It was just nice to be able to have free time- really free time- that I could just be, and know that I could read a book, play with the kids, or do whatever I wanted. That is the blessing of living more simply.

Another aspect of this dream of mine is to get back to being human. In the scriptures we are taught that "the natural man is an enemy to God", but I think that we have gotten so far away from the "natural man" what with technology and supermarkets and the internet- we're more in the phase of the "unnatural man" at this point (he's an enemy to God too, by the way).

This was another train of thought that got fueled while on vacation when I took a class called, "Healing Plants and Wildflowers." I was truly astonished at the incredible healing properties of the stuff that usually gets taken out by a weed whacker by the side of the road! Apparently the abundant dandelion crop in my backyard could really do me a lot of good. Our teacher quoted someone who said, "Healing herbs help the body to remember what it was like to be well." I LOVED that! As she was telling us about the various abilities of the different plants, I was just struck by how much God loves us, that He gave us these incredibly efficient and wonderful gifts, just sprouting up out of the ground all over the place. But we're so busy watching tv ads for the next great medicine that can heal us that we don't bother to learn about the ones God put right in our backyards.

This back-to-nature kick of mine got even more reinforced with the apple fest that's been going on around our house. I couldn't believe that for almost 10 years I've had that tree in the backyard and this is the first time I've bothered to do anything with it. And the sheer pleasure from the foods I was able to make with those apples was so satisfying, especially knowing that they came from a tree in my backyard. They weren't marketed to me, weren't packaged- they grew as a result of the hand of God, they were joyfully picked by the sweet little helping hands of my children and purposefully (if not joyfully) prepared into delicious foods by my own two hands. That's about as pure and simple as it gets.

I apologize if this post is kind of rambling; I just hope that you kind of get the general idea of my mindset lately. Less people junk. More God beauty and simplicity. More time spent in worthwhile pursuits. More joy in the gifts of the Lord- the bounty of nature, quiet meditation, my wonderful family. More education about being a real human- learning to live off the land and rely on only God and myself, not Wal-mart. It's all a process, but I'm hoping to get there, a little bit at a time.

If you'd like to get into this mindset with me, be sure to check out The Small Notebook, a blog by a true minimalist who shares her beautiful thoughts on living simply, especially this post on organizing (ha!) and this post on paring down. I am also currently reading a very thought-provoking book called, Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping and am about to read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (P.S.). All in all, I'm thinking more about what I allow into my home and what I truly value. I am also trying to be more conscious and more grateful for what my Heavenly Father has given me (you know, the stuff with no price tag). :-)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Appley Ever After

When we got back from vacation, I went out to check the garden and I noticed that there was an apple tree on top of it.


Apparently, while we were gone, a strong storm had come along and just kind of tipped the apple tree over (it's the tree in the foreground in the top photo of this post). There were no apparent breaks in the trunk, no roots sticking up out of the ground, just an apple tree leaning at a verrrry sharp angle toward our garden and a big lump in the ground near the base.

So, earlier in the week (before it got hotter than Hades around here) my kids wanted to play outside and they said, "Mom, can we pick some apples?" I said of course, because 1. it would keep them busy and 2. I wasn't sure of the health of the tree so I figured we should get the apples now just in case the tree didn't make it- didn't want the apples rotting and falling off- and 3. I didn't feel like picking them. It was hot.

So an hour later, I come downstairs after doing some upstairs cleaning and I look on my counter and I see this:

And the kids are just coming in with more. How many? Well, for educational value I suggested that we count the apples (gotta keep their minds sharp in the summer, you know) and there were 45 apples. And those were just the ones my 7-year-old and 5-year-old could reach. Forty. five.

And so I got to work. I peeled, cored, and chopped 18 of the apples on the first day (they look a little sketchy in the photo, but under their peels they're perfect, tasty granny smith apples), using 10 for applesauce (shown pre-applesauce in the crockpot):

And then 8 for apple fruit leather (same process as applesauce, only less sugar and I cooked it more quickly in a saucepan and then pureed it in a blender).

Mmm, tasty!!

I would show you the applesauce, but it was so unbelievably delicious that it didn't last long enough for me to get a photo. It was literally so good that my son chose it over chocolate ice cream for dessert one night! Part of the reason was that he knew the chocolate ice cream would still be there the next night. At the rate I was inhaling the applesauce however... (and incidentally, this fruit leather was awesome too. The only reason I have photos is because I made a second batch the next day!)

The third thing I made was "apple peel jelly", which I made by boiling the cores & peels in a small amount of water and then straining it and combining it with sugar and boiling it some more. Turns out apples have their own natural pectin, which is something I learned in this process. My jelly turned out more like syrup, I think because I used too much water and I didn't boil it long enough. But that's okay- I like apple syrup!

Anyway, I had a great time learning what my apples can do for me, and I think that this weekend we will have a little applefest at our house and have a peeling-coring-chopping-cooking spree. After the wonderfully fulfilling experience of enjoying my apple tree's bounty, I wanted to go out into my backyard and hug it (and help it up. Don't worry, we're going to try to gently upright it this weekend).

Have you had a chance to make some delicious dishes from your garden yet this year? Leave a comment and share!
Linking up to...

Fantabulous Friday!

Keeping It Simple

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Back from my adventure! (aka, family vacation)

Hey, guess what? That's me! Rappelling down from a verrry high height after completing 4 zip lines and a ropes course. Fun stuff! I just got back from family vacation and I wanted to let y'all know that I haven't dropped off the face of the earth. Just off the edge of a platform. ;-)

Anyway, I am back and I am hoping to get to some fun projects this week. I'm also trying to get back into couponing, so hopefully I'll get to work on that and have some fun deals and photos to share with you soon.
Can you believe that summer is almost halfway over? Crazy! See ya soon!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Blog Love!

A few months ago I came across this blog that I just think is tons of fun- it's called So You Think You're Crafty. It is basically an online crafting competition. They start out with 10 crafters and there are 10 weeks of crafting challenges. Each week the readers get to vote for their favorite craft/crafter and whoever gets the least amount of votes is eliminated.

All of the crafters featured are very talented, and I am always amazed at the ingenious ideas they share! This week's challenge was "Dollar Store" and this Girls Night Out serving set got my vote:

She made it from Dollar Store plates, candleholders, bowls, and wine glasses! How cute is that?

Anyway, head on over and check it out. So fun!!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Busy, Busy!

It's only the end of the second week of summer, but we have been so BUSY! My husband's younger sister came to visit us, so we spent the week having bunches of fun with her and then we went to the beach yesterday. I am well-toasted.

Anyway, I will hopefully get to posting a bit more in the next week, but I also wanted to share some fun news with everyone. In May I entered a little writing contest for the Mormon Mommy Writers blog. One of the reasons I enjoy blogging is to hone my writing skills (along with sharing fun and crafty moneysaving ideas!) and I love to find reasons to write. Well, the theme of the contest was "Totally Cliche" and the challenge was to write a short story utilizing one or more cliches (like "tall, dark, and handsome," or "it was a dark and stormy night"). I decided to go a little extreme and write a story about a writer who falls into a dreamworld full of cliches.

This week they announced the winners and I was very pleased to see my name as the first-place winner! The story will be published in an e-book along with the second- and third-place winners.

Anyway, I was thrilled and I am inspired to continue my writing journey. I will be sure to share more information about the book once it becomes available.

Have a happy and SAFE Independence Day!!
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