Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve

I can't believe that 2009 has already gone. It just doesn't seem possible. I had so many BIG plans for this year. Some have come to fruition and some haven't.


The one's that have:
  • A half bath added in our finished basement.
  • A major redo of our main (and only other) bath completed (the studs and the original cast iron tub are all that's left from before!).
  • My sinus problem diagnosed, treated and finally taken care of through surgery.

The one's that didn't:

  • Finishing my PhD - I WILL finish it in 2010 (even if I have to follow a certain committee member around daily!)
  • Cleaning out all the extra stuff in my house.
  • Finishing off our hardwood floors and doors and getting new trim for our main floor.
  • Finishing all the half-finished projects I have started that are lurking in my sewing/craft area.

I've made progress on cleaning out the stuff and the projects and am determined to get those and the PhD done in 2010. John and I are going to take some time after the kids go to bed tonight and come up with some family goals and our January budget. We have an actually date night out tomorrow night (thank you free babysitting at church!) and we'll talk about fun stuff then! :) I'll be doing some posts later on about some of these things so you can help hold me accountable and I can keep reminding myself where I'm at.

So tonight it's peanut butter oatmeal rounds (made by me and the kids this afternoon)...

Sparkling grape juice (purchased on sale of course!)...

And a year in review...

Wishing you God's many blessings in 2010.

Lea

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Prep - Fall to Christmas Decorating

Okay, I've said I'd post this stuff for a while but, well, I've been too busy enjoying my family and Christmas and all that stuff!


I love, love, LOVE decorating for Christmas! I grew up with a Mom who literally decorated every room in the house except the ugly concrete utility room - even the laundry room got decorated! And it was a big deal. We had a special day for the Christmas Tree and the Nativity with music, cookies, cocoa and lots of exclaiming over the ornaments.

The rest of the house was no different - a couple boxes each Saturday starting after Thanksgiving. Exclaiming and excitement.

Since I'm in school and the kids are little, we don't do as much as my Mom did (plus I need a few more years to acquire all the "stuff" that she has!). I also try to make the transition from fall to winter fairly easy since I don't have much time. So what did we do?

Here's my sofa end tables:

Fall: Potpourri and cinnamon scented pine cones.



Christmas: Pine and Vanilla Scented Potpourri, Cinnamon Scented Pine cones and Felt Ornaments my Mom made for me when I was little.



My Small Roll Top Writing Desk:


Fall: (Sorry this pic is so dark - it's a wooden scarecrow that says "Give Thanks" and a yellow triangle candy dish.) We keep pics of our nieces and nephews on this too during most of the year.



Christmas: Our cloth nativity - a homemade wedding gift from friends of my parents - and a few more felt ornaments. The phone and wheat topiary are always there. The green pot usually holds a fruit topiary all year round.



Inside My China Hutch:


Fall: Cinnamon Scented pine cones and fake sugared fruit.


Christmas: Cinnamon Scented Pine cones and Colored Christmas Ball Ornaments.


Kitchen Shelf:


Fall: Our salt shaker and a marble apple John got as a HS grad gift (the "fruit"), a jar of coffee beans, and a vase of whole hazelnuts.





Christmas: Swap the Hazelnuts for Christmas Balls, Add a box of Christmas Tea and Nutcrackers! (That thing on the left is a Lefse turner - Norwegian Potato Flat bread = Lefse - and it's there all year.)


Kitchen Window:

Fall: Fall Wreath






Christmas: A wreath crocheted by my cousin - starched to make it stand out.



It looks complicated - but it's really not. Total time for all that: about 45 minutes with help from little hands! How did you decorate for Christmas?

Freezer and Pantry Inventory

Uff da! Mom and I inventoried my deep freeze downstairs and I inventoried my pantry, kitchen cupboards, and my fridge/freezer. Nothing really exciting, surprising or shocking except the Tupperware container full of rhubarb sauce with a sticker on it from 1995 that I inherited from my Aunt when she moved west. I think I stuck it in the freezer so that it wouldn't stink up my garbage until it was taken outside. And it got buried. More than once. (Note: my Aunt moved west in 2005, so she'd had it in HER freezer for 10 years first - I was just playing copycat! :) )

Possible Challenges?
26 10oz steaks from our 1/4 cow. What on earth was I thinking when I got that many?
7 sticks of unsalted butter, supposedly for baking, but I'm not sure.
4 1/2 lbs of Chicken Leg Quarters that need to be used somehow.
1 ham bone that I'd saved to make split pea with ham soup for my folks but didn't this time around (John doesn't like that so I can't make it for us) and I should use for something soon.

Things I don't have:
A variety of meat - mostly beef (steaks or ground) and a bit of chicken. Not much else.
We like variety so that's going to be fairly hard to deal with. I'll have to come up with something!


Since I usually blanch and freeze veggies for the winter rather than buying frozen from the store, I have already been using those and was anticipating the rest over the next couple of months so that's not a big deal. I'm planning a run to the store today to fill in some obvious 'holes' (TP and we're out of Cinnamon - which is a big deal at our house!) and get a couple of real deals as well. I'll post on that later this week.

So, Now I just need to put together my menu for next week and meal ideas for the following weeks...that's going to be either fun or excruciating. I can't decide which!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - Week of December 27th

Can you believe 2009 is almost gone? I'm having trouble with that! It's been an amazing year and I'm still struggling with finishing up a few things that we need to get done before the year ends (or rather, SHOULD get done before the year ends). Sigh.

Also, my folks head back home on Wednesday and I'm home all week this week. I love having them here and will definitely miss them! The kids usually start asking when they're coming back before they've been gone an hour. I like that! :)

So, what are we eating?

Here it is!

Sunday:
Brunch: Out
Dinner: Leftovers

Monday:
Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Out
Dinner: Baked Chicken, Rice, Steamed Green Beans, Fruit

Tuesday:
Breakfast: Waffles with Fruit
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash, Homemade Whole Wheat Rolls, Fruit

Wednesday:
Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Sandwiches, Fruit
Dinner: Homemade Chicken Calzones, Lettuce Salad, Fruit

Thursday:
Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins and Bananas
Lunch: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Fruit
Dinner: Beef Stir Fry, Rice, Fruit

Friday:
Breakfast: Homemade Cinnamon Rolls, Fruit
Lunch: Tuna Salad Tortillas, Carrot and Celery Sticks, Fruit
Dinner: Homemade Macaroni and Cheese and Fruit for the Kids, Out for John and Lea

For more menu inspiration, see I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Accepting the Challenge!

I was pleasantly surprised when I read Money Saving Mom this morning! I had been planning on doing an eating from the pantry month in January, so this fits right in with what Crystal is doing with Fish Mama from Life as Mom. I guess a lot of us have the same idea here this year and I'm excited to be able to join in!

So, what are my rules for my family? I don't have many...

The biggie:
$50 for the whole month! Yes, folks, that's $12.50 each week!

How? I went through my cupboards, fridge/freezer combo and pantry tonight and will go through the deep freeze tomorrow AM with the help of my Mom (who leaves for home on Wednesday). I have a list of what we have and will be planning meals from that. I have a preliminary plan for the whole month outlined and hope to have it completely filled out by January 1 so we can jump right in. I'm planning to buy milk, a bag of salad greens and fresh fruit each week. I'll also need to buy some fresh veggies occasionally and might go after some killer deals as well depending on how much I have to spend that week and what produce I have left from the week before. It's a good thing I'm doing this - we have WAY more stuff than I thought we did and I need to use up some of it!

What I'm trying to decide:
Whether to include toiletries or not. We have enough of everything except dish soap and TP to last the month (in my estimation anyway), so I'm currently thinking we'll say yes to this.

Miscellaneous stuff that might come up:
We do eat out about once a month - either lunch or dinner depending on when we can get a sitter. This is just for John and I as a date so we usually have some kind of 'easy' (i.e. prepared!) food for the kids to have with the sitter - chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, etc. I'm not sure how we're going to handle the convenience foods yet. The eating out comes out of our "recreational" budget category, so that's taken care of separately! Additionally, coffee comes out of a separate budget as well, so I may buy a bag or two of coffee depending on how much I drink of the stuff this month. We did get two big jars of yummy homemade drink mix for Christmas - cocoa and mocha - so I might just have to have that instead! Darn. :)

Other stuff I'm hoping not to spend money on this month:
  • Clothes - we're good and John needs to buy new uniforms for work in February so we'll save up for that
  • Gifts - I think I have everything we need for most occasions until May rolls around
  • Household items - we just bought two new beds (Missy and Buddy got big kid beds!) and a new futon frame to replace the one that broke, I don't want to buy anything else right now!

I'll write more about this later on, but that's the general idea.


What am I going to do with this 'extra' money I'm not spending (after saving for John's uniforms)? Save for tuition for spring semester and summer session! Not that exciting, but necessary. And every little bit helps!

Are you joining in? If so, go to Money Saving Mom to post your link!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Almost there...

This paper is ALMOST done...

It been a tough one - one I'm not particularly happy with but will be soon.

Then I can relax - the presents are bought/made and wrapped (except for one that may end up being a birthday gift!), the cookies are made (thank you Grandma!), the tree up and decorated, and we even have snow.

I'm looking forward to about a week of Christmas movies, board games, reading for fun, and sewing for fun.

How about you? Are you ready for Christmas? Are you going to enjoy it like it is - whatever it is?

My other goal for today with this blog - post our Christmas preparations and a new "Favorite Things" entry about Christmas as well.

Hope you're enjoying the preparation as much as I am, even if this paper is taking a LONG time!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

3 more days to go...

Well, actually in our house, 2 since everything starts on Christmas Eve at our place!
Whew!

Thank heavens my folks are here! Mom doesn't mind making cookies or lefse and that's a really good thing.

Why?

I'm still writing this paper...and I will be this afternoon as well.

Life happens.
I have to roll with it!

At least I have a public library to hide away in...and a laptop to work on...and a flexible professor who will take this thing up through 4pm tomorrow (the 23rd!).
I'm thankful for all of that.. what more can I ask for?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - Christmas Edition!

It's Christmas this week! Whoo hoo! Can I tell you how excited my kids are? We caught Missy trying to sneak presents yesterday...and the ornaments on the tree keep re-arranging themselves...and cookie sprinkles have turned into a food group... it's definitely Christmas at our house!

Here's what we're eating:

Sunday:
Brunch: Pancakes with Fruit
Dinner: Beef tacos, Fruit

Monday:
Dinner: Spaghetti with Meatballs, Salad, Fruit

Tuesday:
Dinner: Grilled Shrimp Kabobs with Veggies, Couscous, and Fruit

Wednesday:
Dinner: Chicken Calzones, Salad, Fruit

Thursday (Christmas Eve!):
Dinner: Swedish Meatballs, Mashed Potatoes, Creamed Corn, Lefse, Fruit (Our Traditional
meal!)

Friday (Christmas Day!):
Brunch: Baked Eggs, Hashed Brown Potatoes, Homemade Cinnamon Rolls, Bacon, Fruit (This
is traditional too!)
Dinner: Steak, Steamed Broccoli, Baked Sweet Potatoes, Fruit, Lefse

Saturday:
Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins, Banana/Strawberry Smoothies
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Leftovers

Baking this Week: Gingerbread Cookies, Sugar Cookies, Soft Ginger Cookies, Soft Sugar Cookies, Finish Ribbon Cookies, Krumkaka, and Lefse

Some of the baking will be given away, and some we will keep. I love all the baking this time of year!

For more Christmas cooking inspiration visit I'm An Organizing Junkie!

Healthy Habits in 2010

I see so many people writing about losing weight, both in the blogosphere and in other media. Advertisements and programs like The Biggest Loser tout losing weight fast and in huge amounts and can easily make the rest of us feel like a failure when we can't produce results in kind.

I've never been what you would call 'thin' (thank you large bone physique!) but I've also only had a brief time when I could be called more than 'chubby'. Right now I'm between a good weight and 'chubby' - about 5lbs over what my personal ideal body weight is. For me this is the weight that keeps both myself and my doctors happy without having to either deprive myself of food that I enjoy or exercise like mad 7 days a week. It's also the weight where I keep my body fat percentage in a healthy range without going crazy. Yes, I currently need to lose 5-8 lbs to get there.

I have two chronic medical conditions - one that is effected by diet, exercise and, ultimately, my weight. That means I also have a registered dietitian that I work with. What I've been working on for the last year is portion control and healthy snacking. Those are the key things for me to work on diet-wise right now - I'm doing pretty good on the portion control by now but need to work on snacking. I also need to exercise more - 2 hours a week plus a lot of walking doesn't cut it. I'm working on keeping 3x a week and moving up to 4 and wearing a pedometer to track my steps (I'm at about 5000 steps most days and working toward 6000 - ultimate goal of 10,000-12,000). (Side note: Try wearing a pedometer if you think you're active. You may be surprised at how few steps you actually take a day. I know I was!)

So why do I work at this? I have three reasons.

I want to keep my chronic illnesses under control. One is digestive and is controlled with diet and exercise. This, in my mind, is much preferable to popping a pill, not to mention it just makes my life easier to control it rather than having to deal with things because I've let myself go. I've spent so long being sick and I now know that being healthy is not something to take for granted. I have learned that I only have control over what I have control over, so I better take care of what I can!

I want to be healthy. My parents are in their upper 70's and are healthier than my in-laws, who are 20 years younger. Seriously - people think they are the same age or that my parents are younger, and that they're all in their 50s! I want that for me too. I want to be strong and fit. I want to have energy. I want to have a healthy immune system. To do this now and in old age. And I know it begins now.

I want to be a good example for my kids. I want them to know that eating healthy is tasty. I want them to know that it's not okay to sit on their behinds in front of the TV all day. I want them to remember having a Mommy who played with them, and that that's what Mommy's should do. I want them to be healthy when they grow up - a healthy weight, a healthy amount of muscle and body fat, a healthy diet, and a healthy life. I want to be the example my Mom was for me. Someone who does the right thing even when it's hard and has the self-control to face a mountain of sweets or other not-so-good-for-me foods and enjoy in moderation and not binge. I want to counteract the bad eating habits on my in-law's side, by showing them what it's like to be a healthy, strong woman who has energy and strength even when she's "old".

Motivation is important. I used to want to lose weight so I 'looked good'. Guess what? That doesn't keep me motivated for long. Plus, it made me feel like a failure when I never reached that goal of looking like someone I can't look like in the first place.

My goals for 2010 in this area:
  • to Jazzercise 3-5x per week by the end of the year.
  • to walk 10,000 steps per day 5 days a week by the end of the year.
  • to snack 2-3x per day (morning, afternoon, and evening or just afternoon and evening) in healthy, controlled portions of 100-150 calories per snack. No binging!
  • to refill only the fruit and veggie portions of my meals, being satisfied with the meat/protein and starch portions I have.

Why? I want to be healthy, keep my chronic conditions under control, and be a good example for my children! That's why!

Why are you motivated to get in shape, loose weight or otherwise adopt healthy habits in 2010?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Day of Treats!

My folks are here visiting for Christmas and it has been a day of treats for me today!

First - John, Buddy, Missy and my folks all went to a pancake fundraiser for breakfast. My mom was going to stay home and we were going to go get coffee and then run errands, but Buddy decided he wasn't going to go without Grandma. So I had the house to myself AND got to sleep in an extra hour today! Boy, was that nice!

Second - my Mom bought groceries today! I spent a total of right about $12 for 2 packs of Kotex pads, 2 boxes of Ziplocs, and a tube of toothpaste at Walgreens. She bought the rest. That was really nice - including a few 'special' items we don't usually buy (i.e. junk food - like Fritos and Peppermint ice cream!).

Third - John and I get to go on an honest to goodness date tonight - Dinner out at a lovely restaurant. Where, we don't know yet exactly (we have it narrowed down to 2!) but I'm excited since it's been a while for us to just go out for dinner or anything else for that matter.

Fourth - I got to 'proof' John's final paper for him. It's for his class on the Parables of Jesus and he is nervous about writing about these things, not to mention his writing ability itself. Every time I start to wonder if this is where we should be heading, God has something like this happen. His paper was so very thoughtful, thought provoking and interesting. I feel privileged to have been able to read it!

Fifth - The kids were so excited that the got to go pack food boxes for the Lion's Christmas Box program after breakfast with John and Grandpa. They had a great time, actually got to help fill baskets this year, and came home with candy canes from Santa Claus to show for it! All they could talk about was putting the food in the boxes for a couple of hours. I like that!

Such a nice, special day! The kids and John are taking a nap, I'm going to work on the last of my school stuff next, and then get ready for our date! I'm thinking candles and tea are in order here too - to help with the studying, you know. :) My folks are both reading and the house is nice and quiet. My Mom is talking about making cookies, which would be fine too (not to mention making the house smell wonderful...).

It's been a really special day.
What more can I ask for?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

November Blessings

I realized I hadn't written about our November blessings yet! Here we are 10 days from Christmas - I've been slacking! :)

So what were the blessings in November? I need to wrack my brain, but here's what I remember:

  • Return of 2 overpaid funds. One was from dance class and one was a doctor bill, but it's always a nice surprise when they return the funds. Not to mention that the one from dance class was for a costume that hadn't been finalized yet. We will probably have to pay for a costume, but they wanted to refund the money until they knew how much it would actually cost - which is likely a lot less than what we had been initially charged.
  • A black cardigan sweater for me. I mentioned in passing to my SIL that I'd love to buy a black cardigan sweater. She said not to buy one because she might have one that she didn't wear. I didn't think much of it, since she's a LOT thinner than I am (and about 13 years younger - ahem). The sweater fit perfectly (I think she didn't like it because it was too big to look nice on her) and she said I could have it.
  • Lovely weather for a road trip. Usually when we drive down to my in-laws for Thanksgiving, it's cold, snowy, icy or something of that nature. Last year (2008) it took us almost 8 hours to make a 3 1/2 hour drive because of the ice. This year? Sun, dry roads, and warmth - about 38F! Whoo hoo!
  • An excellent school conference for the kids. Both Buddy and Missy are doing really well in school. I love that!
  • Missy has excellent eyesight. No clue how that happened - the genes for that one definitely skipped a generation! - but I'm so very grateful that my daughter has better than average eyesight!
  • Being able to bless others. I had bought a pair of shoes for my aerobics class that made my feet hurt when I danced in them (they were fine otherwise). I took them to Iowa thinking my MIL might like them but they were too small for her. They were, however, the perfect size for anther SIL, who can wear them to work! Love that!
  • Being able to help a friend in need. We have a friend who is really struggling with some medical issues right now. I happen to have another friend who has been through a similar situation and was able to hook them up with each other for some support. Love that too!

I'm sure there were other things, but that's what comes to mind.

I am so very, very blessed!

How have you been blessed in November?

Struggling

I took today off so that I could work in the quiet and comfort of my own home and get my papers done for tomorrow. There's something lovely about sitting my kitchen table with candles burning, a hot cup of Chai latte, and my laptop and papers writing about things I'm interested in.

The problem?

I'm struggling.

I'm struggling with what to write.
I'm struggling with adequately supporting what I'm writing with appropriate literature.
I'm struggling with keeping myself on task.
I'm struggling with getting all the things done that I need to get done before tomorrow.
I'm struggling with this huge issue at church that keeps sneaking into my thoughts when I don't want it to be there or when I want to concentrate on something else.
I'm struggling with wrestling with my thoughts on all the things I've been sinfully neglecting this year - promises I haven't kept, things I need to do for my spiritual welfare and the welfare of my family, relationships I've neglected.
I'm struggling with having cookies on the counter and telling myself that I worked out this AM and could have just one more. :)

I keep praying that I can be efficient. That I can be focused. That I can accomplish what I need to.

Then I'm struggling with what it is that God wants me to be working on rather than what I want/feel I should be working on or what I perceive my responsibilities to be. Are they the same? Are they different? How do I tell? Am I just not paying attention?

Then, is the struggle part of this whole refining process or is it from the devil to keep me from where God wants me to be?

**SIGH**

I'll keep praying. And struggling.

There really isn't anything else I can do...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

AARGH!

Okay, so I'm rushing around like the proverbial chicken with it's head cut off trying to get everything done before my folks get here on Thursday and my 2 big papers are due, also on Thursday. I'm feeling a bit like tearing my hair out right now. And this doesn't help...

Yesterday my washing machine was having a canary and decided that it wasn't going to spin the clothes efficiently - I ran it on spin FOUR times and the clothes were still sopping wet. Since that wasn't going so well, I thought I'd take the 10 minutes or so that it needs to spin yet one more time and sew the pinned-together quilt back onto one of two baby quilts I'd like to mail out tomorrow. And sew I did.

The clothes were still sopping wet.

So that took another hour to dry instead of the usual 20-30 minutes.

And I had pinned the layers in the wrong order on the quilt so the batting was on the outside back instead of in the middle where it should be.

So, I have to rip out the sewing that I did.
Re-pin the backing.
Sew it again!
An hour or so wasted.
And I have so very much to finish by Thursday.
**SIGH**
Aargh!

I think I officially need a break from everything...
Or I just need to quit sleeping...
Or something...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Menu Plan Monday: December 14th, 2009

This week my folks arrive on Thursday for their Christmas visit and we have the kids' Preschool Christmas Program on Friday. Plus, finals for me start on Thursday and both John's and my semester end next week! Whew! That means there's a lot going on! We have a freezer overflowing with a lot of beef and a little chicken, a couple of turkeys and a few other random things, so I'm trying to be creative and give us some variety too.

Breakfasts: Oatmeal or cinnamon toast with a banana unless otherwise stated.
Lunches: Leftovers or sandwiches with fruit unless otherwise stated.
Drinks: Milk, Water, 100% Cranberry-Pomegranate Juice, 100% Apple Juice, Homemade Lemonade, Black Coffee, Hot Tea, Hot Cider, or Chai Latte.
Snacks: Christmas Cookies (from a friend), Pretzels, Fruit

Sunday:
Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins with Fruit
Lunch: Crescent Rolls, Turkey, Cheese, Apples, Oranges, Chips and Salsa
Dinner: Baked Chicken, Steamed Green Beans and Rice

Monday:
Dinner: Onion, Mushroom, Celery and Bread Crumb Stuffed Squash, Homemade Bread, Fruit

Tuesday:
Dinner: Beef, Rice and Tomato Stuffed Cabbage Rolls, Homemade Bread, Fruit

Wednesday:
Dinner: Vegetarian Calzones, Lettuce Salad, Fruit

Thursday:
Dinner: Pork Loin, Roasted Potatoes, Steamed Carrots and Fruit

Friday:
Dinner: Out after Program with Friends

Saturday:
Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, Oatmeal Muffins and Fruit
Lunch: Minestrone Soup, Homemade Bread and Fruit
Dinner: Soft Shell Beef Tacos, Lettuce Salad, Fruit

I'm also making chocolate covered pretzels with the kids this week to give to their teachers and I'm hoping to make some cookies as well - ginger (both sugared and rolled) and krumkaka are on the top of my list! We'll see how ambitious I am and how things go! (And how much sleep I get!)

For more menu inspiration, See Organizing Junkie!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Goals Update

Reading back through my posts for November, I thought I should probably update my goals!

I'm doing better at getting to bed and getting up when I want to. I'm hitting about 4 out of 5 days during the work week, which I'm happy with. I'd like it to be all 5, but I can handle 4. :) Saturday and Sunday are easier because they're slower and we don't usually get up until 630/7am-ish. I'm also still getting stuff crossed off my to-do list: more than half of the stack of boxes left from moving in are gone (only 3 more to go - whoo hoo!), I only have one 'catch-all basket' to clean out left (I had 3!), I cleaned out part of the furnace room, the office and our bedroom plus one of the two bookcases in the living room. I have a huge pile of stuff to sell on Craig's List. I've made progress on my partially done sewing list - I'll post pics as soon as things settle down a bit - which is always neat and makes me feel like I've really accomplished something. As for sticking to the schedule, I really haven't. I've been making progress on completing things, but not on the schedule I had planned. I'm not sure if it's the schedule or me or what, but I need to think about that a bit.

Last month I also worked on the following character traits:
Orderliness
Thoroughness
Creativity

Creativity definitely came into play with putting together my ideas for filling the kid's teachers' Christmas baskets - they have a LOT of them this year for some reason (they have both preschool and Sunday school that are team taught) and we needed a lot of things. I settled on homemade ornaments (tp tubes, paint, and pipe cleaners!), homemade hot cocoa mix, chocolate dipped pretzels, and caramel popcorn balls. I bought the baskets our local thrift store for 50 cents each. I'll try to post pics of these too!

Orderliness and thoroughness have come in to play both in school and with all the cleaning out and organizing I have done at home. It's definitely easier to get things done if things are orderly and I feel better about what I've done if I'm thorough - both at home and school. I could be better at both of these (especially the orderliness!), so we'll keep working on those next month too.

For December I'm working on:
Resourcefulness
Hospitality
Gratefulness

I'm finding the last one so much easier than I did before my cousin's death in August (which I will write about one of these days! God willing - I promise!). It has been bitterly cold here, and I am so very grateful that I have a warm house to live in, warm clothes to wear, and a warm car to drive. I have hot food to eat and I can make tea, cocoa, coffee, hot cider or just plain hot water any time I want to. My family is healthy. We have a stable income. We have education opportunities coming out our ears.

And the ability and desire and freedom to set goals and strive to achieve them, even if we fall off the bandwagon several times before succeeding.

So much to be grateful for.
What more can I ask for?

BUSY with a Capital B!

No, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth or anything. I've just been super busy!

We were at my in-laws for Thanksgiving and had a FABULOUS time - everything went really well, both with the weather and the family. The kids always love swimming in the hotel pool and John's youngest 3 siblings love it too. We got to see almost everyone which was a treat too. My daughter and her cousin - the only other little girl in the family - got into more trouble than the 4 little boys combined (which is saying something). Fortunately, her cousin is only 2 and that limited what they could get into. I think in a year or two, though, we're really going to have to watch them!

Then we came back and both John and I dived into the last 3 weeks of the term at school, not to mention getting ready for Christmas and all that that brings. I have 2 projects, 3 papers and the final (God willing!) edit on my Written Exam to turn in by the 23rd, which is the end of finals week. I am hoping to have them mostly done (all done?) by the 17th, which is my last day of class and the day my parents fly in to spend the holiday with us. We will see if that actually happens or not.

Also, our van had the catalytic converter go out down in Iowa (to the tune of about $1400!!), our desk top computer finally died the blue screen of death and won't even turn on, then our Internet went out for a while because our converter wasn't hooked up to a computer (something about the way the thing was set up to begin with), and I caught a head cold.

Whew!

The good news?
* The semester is almost over! Yee haw!
* We don't have to act on the catalytic converter right now, though it needs to be acted on soon.
* We have lap tops and wireless Internet at home, so it's not so bad.
* We bought 1/4 cow's worth of grass fed, organic beef, so we're set on beef for quite a while.
* They had whole cut up hormone-free roasting chickens for 79 Cents/Lb at the store last week, so we're set for chicken for a while too.
* With the turkeys and ham I bought before Thanksgiving, it means my deep freeze is completely full right now! Whoo hoo!

And the best news: We FINALLY figured out why my one committee member had an issue with my earlier writes for his question. That means I'm not taking a stab in the dark when I write again! That makes me VERY happy. It was a really stupid thing, but it amounts to bad communication all the way around! I'm relieved that we figured it out.

And confident that I might actually get to do my oral exam during the first week of next semester, like I want. YAY!

While it's been a wild and woolly couple of weeks, it hasn't been really that bad - just busy!

My to-do list for the next few weeks is just as crowded as the last few, if not more so. So, if it's quiet around here for the next little bit, it's because I'm finishing up the semester and getting ready for Christmas with my family. I'm going to try to post decorations, what the kids I have have been making to get ready (John has been swamped with 2 final projects himself, so we work on those while he's working on that) and my "No Shopping Month" idea I have for January, as well as getting back to Super Savings Saturday tomorrow and Menu Plan Monday on Monday.

But, just in case I'm not online, don't worry about me.

Nothings wrong.

I'm just busy.