Wednesday, April 30

Works-for-me Wednesday

Hi everyone! Yes, our trip was wonderful. The Renaissance Festival ruled, although I've never seen so much cleavage in my entire life ... including the 27 months I've spent pregnant and looking down in amazement at my own growing breasts. (My mom is totally going to tell me how inappropriate that statement was the next time I talk to her. It's ok, Mom, I know. See? You don't even have to tell me now!!) I'll try to post more about the trip tomorrow.

And now ... the only thing I seem to have been posting lately ... Works for Moi Wednesday! Check out Rocks in my Dryer for more great tips ... and I really mean that. I learn some great stuff from these ladies each week. I don't have much exciting this week; I think next week I'm going to do a reverse WFMW, and ask for your advice on something.

This week, I'll just tell you about my cleaner I love. I make it myself, and it works better than anything I've ever bought. Also, chemical cleaners tend to give me a wicked headache, so I try to avoid them as much as I can. Here's how to make the stuff I use:

1 empty spray bottle
white vinegar
rubbing alcohol
dish soap

(this is already sounding complicated, isn't it!!)

Fill the bottle 1/3 full with vinegar. Add two to three glugs of alcohol (this bigger the bottle the more glugs, obviously). Add a few squirts of soap (I use maybe a tablespoon; I don't like too much soap). Fill the rest of the bottle with water, shake, and viola! You have a great, cheap disinfecting cleaner that works of pretty much every surface, including glass!!!

So that's what works for me. Anyone else make their own cleaning products?

Wednesday, April 23

Works-for-me Wednesday

We're back from our trip!! We had a great time, other than the fact that we spent at least 17 hours in the car over three days. Luckily, John hates driving, and I get carsick if I'm not driving, and the kids do fairly well in the car, so everything worked out for us. :)

(If you're here from Rocks, and looking for the marriage wfmw, click here for last week's tip. I have no idea how Mister Linky works, so I don't know why last week's tip is on the list. Anyway ...)

So, in the spirit of spending 46 17 hours in my car, I thought I'd post some tips that work for me when traveling with my kids. (For more great tips from other incredibly wise and creative people, visit Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer at her Works for Me Wednesday page.)

We have a portable DVD player, but we don't like to use it. In fact, it gets more use upstairs in the loft than it does in the car. I don't know that it's even been in the car in the last few years. But I digress. Before we take a trip lasting more than 45 minutes (which is often, because we kind of live in the middle of nowhere), I always start by cleaning out my car. Then, I get a gallon ziplock bag for each child and write their names on their bags. In the bag goes (depending on the length of the trip): a small bottle of water; a box of raisins; a little bag of something higher in protein, like cashews or walnuts; a pencil or two; a new box of crayons (the 8-pack kind; I have about 20 of these hidden in one of my cabinets!); a new or mostly empty coloring pad; and for longer trips, a new little book. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but those are the basics.

We own about 20 gazillion books, so I make sure to rotate the ones that stay in the car fairly often. My kids love the Where's Waldo? series, and they also love coloring books, so I usually buy a new one before any long (over 2 hours) trip. We've also been known to bring whatever read aloud book we're in the middle of reading, and get through a few chapters on the road.

I make sure to have their Bible tapes in the car before we leave, because I don't mind having those in the background for several hours. :) I usually bring my mp3 player to listen to when John and the kids are asleep ... which is often. My family is full of great car sleepers! I love it when my kids sleep in the car!!

If I can find anything good at the library or Half-Priced Books, I try to get books on tape or CD, and this not only provides the kids with something to do, but it also gives us great conversation starters when they get tired of listening.

We always try to schedule in extra travel time for long trips, so we can make stops whenever we need to without feeling stressed. When the kids get out of the car, I encourage them to yell and move around as much as possible to get the wiggles out. Yes, you'll get some really funny looks if you try this, but who cares??

I have a friend whose daughters know how to crochet, so she always buys then a new skein of yarn before each trip, and the girls work on knitting projects if they get bored; I'm planning on teaching Evie how to crochet in the next few months if I don't kill her first um if she doesn't kill me first if I can.

For longer trips, I make sure each kid has a pillow and small blanket, and I keep the car a little cooler than normal, because it makes it easier for them to sleep. Have I mentioned how much I love it when my kids sleep in the car? Because I do. Seriously.

So there's a few of my traveling-with-kids tips. It's what works for me. Does anyone else out there have any travel tips? What helps keep your punks kids happy in the car?

Saturday, April 19

See You on the Flip Side

Well, we're about to head out. Hope everyone has a simply lovely weekend, and I'll be back with a new post (hopefully) and some pictures on Tuesday. Please pray that we would have safe travels, and that my kids would behave themselves. :)

Thursday, April 17


Oh, I love this time of the year. These are some of my favorite weeks. See, in Texas, especially here (Central Texas) on south, we don't really have four defined seasons like other places in the country. We have several months of summer, a few weeks of fall, a month or two of what we call winter (certain people in Minnesota and Iowa need to stop laughing. It's winter to us, ok??), a few weeks of spring, and then back to summer again. It's good for growing things like okra and tomatoes, but greens like lettuce are impossible to grow when it gets hot. Of course, I can grow greens all the way through the winter ... but I digress.

Spring. Love it! Everything is so wonderful and green right now. Not two weeks ago, all my Post Oaks looked awful. Post Oaks lose their leaves every winter, and we just end up with lots of huge gray sticks growing out of the ground. In the last two weeks, all the oaks have put leaves back on at a rate that takes my breath away each year.

I think God's favorite color must be green. Drive out somewhere, to the middle of nature, and what do you see? Green. I can't wait to see the Millennial Earth, when nature is no longer affected by sin, and goes back to the way it's supposed to be. Imagine the most beautiful spring day you've ever witnessed. Then imagine it ten times more beautiful. Then think about this: what you're imagining is only a glimmer of how things will be One Day.

We're having friends out later, and I plan on pouring my coffee, grabbing a muffin, and not being inside for more than 5 minutes the rest of the day. I love watching my kids play outside with their friends; it's one of the best things about living out here (almost) in the country. Mom is driving up tomorrow for a day trip, and I'm so excited to see her!! On Saturday, we leave for Dallas and the Renaissance Festival, then we're going to church with John's cousin Pam on Sunday, the driving out to see my grandparents for a few day. It should be a great trip, lots of driving, and busy and fun!

OH!! I can't believe it took me this long to mention this: Sam is riding his bike by himself! John took Sam's training wheels off on Tuesday evening, and they practiced riding around in the grass (makes those falls easier to handle, ya know?) for about 30 minutes. I looked out my window yesterday morning, and Sam was riding down the driveway by himself!! He didn't even need me to help him get started or anything!! When did my boy get so big? I swear that he just moved out of his crib last week or something, and now he knows how to use a power drill and ride his bike without training wheels. And he doesn't need my help. Pardon me while I go cry for a little while, mmmK?

Hope everyone has a lovely, wonderful, fun and fabulous day!!

Wednesday, April 16


Hey, homeschooling moms with younger kids, toddler and preschool age, I've put up a new article at Homeschool Hacks just for you!! Go check it out, be encouraged, and know that you're not alone. Homeschooling rules!!

Works-for-me Wednesday

Time for another something that Works for Me, thanks to Shannon at Rocks in my Dryer. For more tips, check out her Works for Me Wednesday page.

This isn't a house tip, or a kid tip. This is something that works for my marriage. As you all know, I am a very bad housekeeper. SuperMom I am not, and there are many things I'm very good at, but keeping up with housework just ain't one of them. The only real thing John and I have ever fought about is our home, and usually when family is coming out for a visit. I must say, though, that these fights have become fewer and much farther in between, and this is one of the reasons.

I read a wonderful book a while back, and was totally inspired by it. It recommended finding out the top three (or two, or five, or twenty-seven) things that are important to your partner. So one morning, I caught John on his way to do some work out back, and I said, 'Will you be thinking about the things that you'd most like for me to have done when you get home from work? I'd like to sit down and talk about it later, if that's ok with you.' Yeah, like any guy is going to turn that offer down! Later that day, while the kids were asleep, we say down and had a great talk.

It turns out that the things that are important to him, are things that weren't on my radar. At all. I don't notice the coffee table, except when I run into it, but John loves it when he comes home and the coffee table is cleared off. Ok, that's an easy one to do. Check!

Ditto the kitchen table. Now, I notice this one a little more, but I didn't realize how important it is to him. I can do that, too. Check!

Floor clean under the table. Well, I already told y'all my method for that. And it's been working wonderfully.

You see, there were things that I was working very hard to get done before John got home, like having the porch cleared off, or the bathroom counter wiped down. And it turned out that he didn't really care about those things. But the things I wasn't getting done were the ones that were driving him postal. And it wasn't that he felt that I wasn't getting enough done. He would just rather me do certain things before I move on to others. (And I'm not saying that he doesn't like a clean porch of bathroom. He does. He'd just rather that I clean the coffee table and kitchen table before I move on the the bathroom and porch.)

And it works both ways. John never noticed that he leaves his shoes all over the floor. Makes me postal. Dishes left in the sink? Ditto. And once I showed that I was willing to listen to what's important to him, he was even more willing to listen to things that matter to me.

It's a process. This talk that we had was about two years back, and I've come a long way since then. It's just something that I continue to work on, and John has had to learn to bring things up when he notices them, and not stew on them and get upset before he ever tells me about it, because chances are that I haven't even noticed the thing that's driving him crazy.

It's all about communication, people!!! Talk to your SO, and even more importantly, be sure to listen when they have something important to say. (And ladies, make sure you don't spring a laundry list of complaints on him out of nowhere!!!!!!! This is a very, very, terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad thing to do to him!!!)

So that's what works for me. Any thoughts or questions? What works for you?

Tuesday, April 15

Chocolate Cheesecake Muffins

Hello, lover! Where have you been my whole life? I had no idea what I was missing ... Seriously, I've made these at least six times in the last three weeks. In my defense, I've made meals for multiple (two) friends and taken this as dessert. Stop looking at me like that! They really are that good! And if you use the flour I recommend, and follow my recipe, they're relatively guilt-free. Or, at least, they're more guilt-free than your average chocolate muffin. I'm just saying ...

Chocolate Cheesecake Muffins
modified by Brea!

3 oz softened cream cheese
2 T sugar
1/2 c very finely chopped nuts*
scant 1/2 t vanilla
1 c whole wheat pastry flour (white whole wheat flour)
1/3 c sugar
5 T unsweetened cocoa powder
2 t baking powder
scant 1/2 t salt
1 egg
3/4 c milk
1/4 c olive oil

In a small bowl, cream together cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla. Add nuts, and set aside. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.** Combine egg, milk, and oil in another bowl (or mixing cup), and add to dry ingredients. Batter will be somewhat thin and lumpy. Spoon 1 T batter into each greased muffin cup. Drop one T cream cheese mix on top, then one more T batter on top, making sure the cream cheese is totally covered. Bake immediately at 375 for 18-20 minutes.

*I like to use almonds, because it's not something most people would expect, and it adds a great taste.
**Sift the flour and the cocoa at the same time, so you get all the itty-bitty lumps out of the cocoa.

This recipe isn't super-sweet, and I love it. It's not worth eating cold, so if you're not going to eat the muffins straight out of the oven and burn the cr*p out of your tongue, hypothetically speaking of course! warm out of the oven, be sure to heat them up for about 10 seconds in the microwave, and have a big, cold glass of milk ready.

Now, go make these. Now. For real. Stop sitting here. You and your family can thank me later.

Wednesday, April 9

Works-for-me Wednesday

Good morning! Here we go with something that Works For Me, courtesy of Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer.

This is more for stay-at-home moms with younger kids, or for homeschooling moms. Do you have trouble getting your mornings started? I used to really struggle with this. I'd get up when my kids started hollering that they were hungry and demanded breakfast woke me up, so as soon as I rolled out of bed, I was 'on.' I hate that feeling. I am the most morningest of all morning persons you will ever meet. I just LOVE mornings!! And with three kids under six, I also like to have at least 27 seconds to myself before I switch into 'mom mode.' So here's a little secret that works for me.

I view being a mom as having a job. Sounds silly, but changing the way you think about something can change the way you do something. If I had a real job, I would have to be dressed and be to work on time, so why not look at my life in the same way? I started this a few years back, when I was getting up with John before he went to work. He'd have to be up (with his clothes ironed-my job) at 6:30 to be at work at 7:30 on days that he works mornings, and my kids are almost always up by the time he leaves. So I started setting my alarm for 5:30 every morning. I snooze a few times, but I'm almost always up by 6. You should try it! You don't have to be up that early, just whatever time is good for you. Make yourself a cup of tea, or coffee, and have a quick bite to eat. I sit down with my Bible for about 20 minutes, sometimes more, sometimes less, and have some quiet, peaceful time by myself.

I always eat before my kids are up, unless I'm going to make a big breakfast when John is home, like pancakes, quiche, bacon and eggs with toast (are we seeing a theme? I have seven hens that lay eggs, so we eat a lot of eggs around here!). If I do that, then I'll usually just have a banana or something. While the kids are eating, I read from Proverbs (a chapter each morning) and we work on our memory verse for the week.

When I'm up before everyone else, even if it's only 10 minutes before the kids come downstairs, everyone's day seems to go smoother. It's a small thing to do that makes such a big difference. You should give it a try!

That's what works for me. What works for you? Do you have any special morning routines? How do you start your day?

Monday, April 7

You know what I'd like to see?

Good one, Jessica!! This short post made me laugh out loud this morning. Go check it. :)

We've got a sick baby, so I probably won't be round for a day or two. David woke up with a 103.9 fever last night, and while it never got any higher, it hasn't dropped a whole lot. And he threw up. And woke up every 45 minutes ... when he slept that long. Yeah. It was a great night. On the upside, he's been even more snuggly than normal! I love snuggly babies ...

John is off today and tomorrow, which is good, because I have so many projects for the two of us to do it's not even funny can't wait to spend some quality time with him. Please keep us in your prayers!!

Sunday, April 6


Hey everyone, just popping in to quickly note that I've made some changes on my right sidebar. Some new links are up, and I've got a button now for Homeschool Hacks, a very neat homeschool site! Mrs Fussypants (the one I wrote about here) asked me to be a contributing editor, despite the fact that I assured her several times that I haven't the faintest idea what I'm doing, and I'm totally flying by the seat of my pants with I'm still pretty new to this homeschool thing. And yet, there I am! I think I'll mostly be giving tips for people just starting out, because that's where I am right now with my kids. I've already done two articles ... or one article, and one post with some links. I think I'll be doing 1-2 posts per week. Anyway, I'm super-excited!

On a much sadder note, I have a prayer request for everyone. My dear, dear friend just found out a few weeks ago that she's pregnant, and is in the process of (probably) having a miscarriage. Her husband's grandmother just passed away (not unexpectedly), so the whole family is out of town for a while. Please be praying for her and her husband, and her five children, all of whom were really excited about having a new baby. She's been very practical about everything, and is completely trusting in the Lord; I look up to her so much! (I hope she doesn't read this later ... it sounds like I have a crush on her or something!) Anyway. Please keep them in your prayers.

I'll be back with some new pictures soon. Hope everyone has a good week!!

Friday, April 4

Get You!

David loves to play a game called Get You. It always comes out of the middle of nowhere, and he seems to really want to play at all the wrong times, like in the middle of the sermon on Sundays. Here's how it works. David is doing something normal, like trying to eat a live chicken, or repeatedly flushing the toilet, or trying to walk around in John's boots. All of a sudden, he stops what he's doing, looks at you, and yells, 'GET YOU,' and runs off. This is your cue to chase him, hollering, 'I'm gonna get you!! I'm gonna get you, David!!' Which is his cue to shriek with laughter, run faster, turn to look at you, and narrowly miss running to the door frame or bookshelf or piano. Sometimes, he doesn't miss. That's a whole 'nother story.

Anyway, as soon as you catch him, you have to tickle him like a crazy person. He'll laugh even harder, until he suddenly stops. And politely says, in a very calm voice, 'down please.' And as soon as you put him down, he screams, runs off, and says, 'GET YOU!!!!!' This can go on until he passes out from exhaustion, you realize that supper is burning on the stove, or he doesn't miss the door frame, bookshelf, or piano.

It's a hard life, man, but someone's gotta do it!! :)

In other David developments, I have some fun news (and if you're one of those kidless people who gets really freaked out by all talk of toilet-training, just stop reading here. This isn't gross or anything, but I just wanted to warn you). From the time I changed David after he woke up yesterday morning, to the time he woke up from his nap around 5pm, he only wore ONE diaper. That's right, we only used ONE diaper for that boy from 7:30 am to 5pm. We just take him and set him on the toilet every few hours, and he usually goes, and he's starting to learn to tell us when he needs to go. Yay! But yesterday was an even bigger deal, because we were in Austin running errands for a large chunk of the day.

I plan on being far more consistent with our next baby, and having him/her toilet trained before s/he can walk. I can be done, I promise you, because we almost succeeded, and I know families that have been successful with it. It's the easiest thing in the world to do, especially when you start when the baby is really young (like a few weeks old), and are consistent. That was our downfall, lol, the lack of consistency. Oh, well. Live and learn! Let me know if you're expecting, or have an itty-bitty baby and want more information on this subject!!

Apple Coffee Cake

This is amazing. A. Maz. Ing. For real. I made this a few days ago, and it was gone within 24 hours. And I confess: I've never made anything other than pie crust with shortening, but this cake called for it, so I decided to try it. Wow. And wow. And did I mention, amazingly wow?? So make this. And be prepared for people to worship you. It came from the same cookbook as this yummy cake. I've been in a baking mood lately, can you tell?

Apple Coffee Cake
by Lisa Whitt

3/4 c brown sugar
3 t cinnamon
3 T softened butter

1 1/2 c whole wheat pastry (white whole wheat) flour
1 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
3/4 c sugar
1/4 c shortening (I used Crisco all-vegetable)
2 eggs
1/2 c milk
1 t vanilla
2 cooking apples*

For topping: Mix cinnamon and sugar. Cut in butter. Set aside. Core, peel, and slice the apples. Set aside. For batter: Combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a bowl. Cut in shortening. Set aside. Beat eggs until foamy. Stir in milk and vanilla. Add egg/milk mix to flour/sugar mix and stir until just blended. (It should be lumpy!) Pour half of the batter in a greased 9-inch pan. Arrange apples over batter. Sprinkle with half of the topping. Cover with remaining batter and cover with remaining batter. Bake at 347 for 35-40 minutes.**

*I have no idea what cooking apples are. I used three small-ish Fuji apples, and it turned out great.
**You do not want a soggy coffee cake. It is better to over-cook by three to five minutes than to under-cook by the same amount. If in doubt, just cook fro another five minutes. Remember, tis cake is supposed to be served with coffee or a cold glass of milk. And did I mention that it tastes WONDERFUL?? Because it does. I'm just saying. :)


Thursday, April 3

Checkin' in!

Hey people! How's life? Surprisingly enough, I've been raaawther busy. Everything green outside is exploding. My kitchen has also been exploding, but in a slightly different way. I've been on a massive baking kick when I haven't been outside. I'll post some recipes either tonight or tomorrow. They're soooo yummy; you'll thank me and curse me in the same breath. I'll give you a little teaser for one of the recipes: Apple Coffeecake. Mmmmmm ...

John's been having some drama at work; it doesn't directly involve him, but his general manager (GM), and so his schedule has been ten different ways of wonky. It's been a little stressful on moi, just because I haven't really known what his schedule is going to be, but I know it's been stressful on him, too, so I haven't been harping on it.

Evie ran a fever all day yesterday, but seems to be doing much better today. No fever, but still fairly puny. And of course, we're going into Austin today to run errands and have lunch with Heather and Jim, so I expect that she'll be really, really mellow by this evening!

My garden is going nuts. I'll try and post some pictures by the end of the week, but I'm amazed at how fast (and beautifully) everything is growing. It's so cool!! I love to watch God's handiwork.

Hope everyone has a great day! Please leave me a comment and say hello; I just love comments!! :)