Jan 022018
 

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Needing extra encouragement with your meal planning resolution? Looking for new ideas? Are you more of a visual learner? Then you do not want to miss this 3-hour live Meal-Plan-Along with 5 Food Bloggers on Wednesday January 3, 2018.

They’re dealing with the same responsibilities as you: laundry piles, bedtime stories, snow shoveling, bill paying, work stress…

And still they get delicious, wholesome (and even pretty) meals on the table? What gives?

Well, you’re about to find out by going behind-the-scenes, and right into their kitchens!

It’s called the Meal-Plan-Along, and here are all the can’t-miss details:

Five VIP bloggers are joining forces with Ultimate Bundles on January 3rd from 4-7 pm ET/1-4pm PT. 

You can curl up with a warm drink, and maybe a basket of clean laundry, and join us virtually through your computer or mobile device.

Wardee Harmon of Traditional Cooking Schoolwill be spilling her time-saving secrets using the slow cooker and pressure cooker to meal plan.

Does meal planning feel stressful? Get this: Katie Kimball from Kitchen Stewardship will be talking about how meal planning can reduce your stress.

If the whole idea is a bit daunting, fear not… Kresha Faber from Nourishing Joy will be sharing meal planning techniques for beginners.

One big reason for meal planning is to save you money! Susan Heid from The Confident Mom will be dishing out her tips for meal planning on a budget.

If any member of your family has allergies, don’t worry! Elise New from Frugal Farm Wife is going to drop some knowledge bombs on how to meal plan around food allergies.

And to finish it out, Stephanie Langford from Ultimate Bundles will be hosting the whole event and will be chiming in with some ninja batching and freezer cooking secrets (when you’ve got five kids who want to eat every day, you find shortcuts).

Follow along to see how six different women feed their families using simple strategies to stay more organized, make meals come together more easily, spend less time cooking, and ensure healthy meals make it to the table even in the busy times.

2018 doesn’t have to be the year of food waste, sky-high grocery bills, unhealthy meals, and last-minute takeout. You can do this, and we can’t wait to show you how to make it all easier and more doable!

Register for the FREE live event on January 3rd right here.

Dec 312017
 

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Goodbye 2017. Hello Big Savings.

Looking to restock your craft supplies for the upcoming year? Then you are in luck, you don’t even need to venture out into the cold. Through 11:59pm MST tonight you can save up to 70% off supplies at Craftsy.

Which crafts do you have planned for the upcoming year?

Dec 262017
 

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Did you get an Instant Pot for Christmas, but are unsure how to use it?

Looking to help your school-aged kids learn more life skills?  (Maybe it is you who is looking to add new life skills you missed learning.)

Do you learn better by watching than by reading?

Then here is a resource that may help:

“These 5 videos will help your kids MASTER our favorite time-saving appliances. Even before they are proficient at the knife skills taught in the original course, they can do dinner, start to finish, no mess, no fuss, no failure.”

Kids Cook Real Food is an encouraging site, showing it really can be done – kids really can cook!

Dec 262017
 

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This sale will be over in a flash! December 26th only, stock up on new faves for your family and save 75% off your order at Schoola.com with promo code FAST75.

Schoola has been one of my favorite ways to save money on clothes and save time by shopping from home.  With a kid who has grown, again, I will definitely be checking here today to see if I can help fill in a few current needs. This is also a great time to begin thinking ahead to spring and summer clothes.

Send a friend $10 off to shop the amazing deals on children’s clothes at Schoola.com and you’ll get $10 off too. Shop now!

And don’t forget, orders of $25 or more (up to 10 items) always qualify for free shipping!

*Fine print: Discounts and credits do not apply toward the free shipping threshold or promotional minimums. Discounts are applied to the post-credit order value. New-with-tags items are not eligible for purchase with discounts or credits.

Sale ends 11:59 PM PST December 26

 

Dec 202017
 

We are now a one house family again!

We traveled this past weekend back to Small Town home. The main reason was to close on the sale of our house there. We also used the time to visit with friends we had not seen this past year.

How do you know someone is your friend? Usually one of the following two apply:

  1. they stop by (somewhat) unannounced for a visit and stay an hour or two, or three
  2. they let you in their house when you stop by (somewhat) unannounced for a visit and let you stay for an hour or two, or three.

The one visit I thought we had pre-planned was the one that actually didn’t work out. We showed up, but they didn’t. All the others where set up as such – “Hey, we are going to be in town this weekend.”, then we stopped by to see if they were home and visited. Even when it was around supper time or already 7 pm.

Thank you, Friends, for continuing to extend your generosity.

Something I got out of every visit, beyond the reminder that friendships do not have to be based on seeing someone constantly, is that we all have had things happen this past year which have been struggles and blessings.  Not one person said, “I went to work, I came home, I mowed the grass… everything is exactly as it was a year ago, there were no unusual events or struggles.” Everyone did say something different, no two struggles or unusual events were the same, but everyone had something(s) happen.

We drove in to town on Saturday, changed the furnace filter, turned in the heat, made sure all the toilets worked, turned on the refrigerator, carried in our bags, and inflated the air mattress. Then set out to visit friends.

We picked up supper and brought it back for a picnic meal on the kitchen floor – the house had NO furniture.

Sunday morning Jack was up earlier than George or my husband, which seemed to make a shower a good idea. And it was. Except we found out quickly that we had forgotten to turn on the water heater the day before.

Oh, the things you take for granted each day.

A trip to the grocery store resulted in a lighter (gas heater), paper plates and napkins, an extra roll of toilet paper (just in case the one left in the house ran out!), and cream cheese. A stop by McDonald’s filled the coffee request. Back at the house we, and YouTube, lit the water heater then proceeded with a breakfast of coffee, hot cocoa, beagles and cream cheese, again on the floor of the kitchen, while the water warmed up. Breakfast hit the spot.

By the time it was the adults turn for a shower we had to actually use some cold water to make the water temperature tolerable.

After replacing batteries in a few smoke detectors, fixing a door which wouldn’t stay shut…work at this house never seems to end…we headed out for lunch in Big Town.  We went to a restaurant where we frequented every Sunday after church for years. Pure nostalgia, as it is a chain restaurant you can find in most towns.

While in Big Town, after a few wrong turns delaying us, we saw a friend of ours crossing the street. We pulled over to offer a ride (this friend walks assisted, which can make getting places difficult), say hi, and extend an invite to lunch. As it turned out, this friend wasn’t feeling well and was headed home to rest. But it was a nice chance encounter.

More visiting with friends, a frustrating miscommunication, then supper of leftovers and a few premade items from the grocery store.

Monday we got up at our normal times, loaded the vehicle back up, cleaned up the house, fixed a fan (the codes had somehow changed between it and the remote – work is never done), and said final goodbyes to the house.

We had a couple hours till closing which we planned to fill with a delicious breakfast out. It did not disappoint. Added perk, no wait for a seat on a cold Monday morning.

Not all of us were as hungry as usual, which meant yummy leftovers!

We headed out to our closing destination, found ourselves checking in about 20 early, so took a walk. While out strolling a few blocks around our location, a former classmate of my husband’s saw us. He wasn’t able to chat with us, but did connect with my husband via text.

Closing went smoothly. A blessing in more ways than one – our attorney had been down south, headed back with his family via Atlanta airport. While they did not get stuck in the airport, their flight had been delayed. He found a different way back, arriving just in time.

Papers were signed. Hands were shaken. Informal details given. Ways parted.

We are no longer home owners in this particular state!

Being that it is a small-ish, rural-ish town, as well as winter time, cold, right before holidays…we thought for sure nothing would happen till spring. When this reasonable offer came in, we were shocked. It was at a time where things had been a bit rough (see “everyone had something this year” above). This was one of two large pieces of good news which came in the same week after months on quiet. Proof that you can not always make things happen in your timing.

So, that is what we have been up to these past few days.  Perhaps not the typical pre-christmas activities, but one that was a huge gift and blessing. We have said, “Thank you, God.” many times through the process.

Wherever you find yourself this week, look for ways to be a friend, as well as enjoy those you already have. It doesn’t have to be anything grand, or require a pristine house. Sometimes it is the small gestures which mean the most at that moment. (Thank you for letting us borrow your step ladder!)

Dec 172017
 

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You have fewer than 10 days till Christmas – are you still looking for a gift to get a kid on your list who seems to have everything? Or maybe they live further away and gifts would have to be mailed. These are hard positions to be in.

Have you thought of gifting an experience rather than a thing?

Kids Cook Real Food makes an awesome Christmas gift, and many grandmas are doing it already!! (They have printable gift certificates for them btw.)

Sunday, December 17 through Tuesday, December 19, Kids Cook Real Food is having a flash sale.  To make it even better – new members get a free $20 value set of extra videos!

Problem solved! Now, go. Finish up that list and enjoy some yummy holiday cookies.

Dec 132017
 

This is a visit to a post from a few years past.

With winter on the verge of being ‘official’ and not just determined by our thermometer, it seemed time to update some of our songs and videos in our YouTube favorites list.  I play these at meals times to add a bit of variety to our day.

Here are several I found and what I thought of them.  I went ahead and included all the ones we watched, which is not the same as all the ones our search returned.  Not every song is one I liked and while several are good, they probably won’t make our list.  The goal was to find winter songs, not holiday songs.  We do not believe in Santa at our house, so ones with him or Christmas referenced will not be added to our ‘Winter’ list.  However, you may feel different, so they are on here with a note added after the link.

Winter songs that also mention holiday related items

Winter Songs for children – a good song,  Does talk about Santa coming and bringing gifts

Fun Winter Song! (Winter is HERE) – mentions writing a letter to Santa, says “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year”

Snowman Song for Children (good for Christmas and New Year) – we actually did not like this one

The Colors Of Winter – Nancy Stewar – Children’s Song– I liked the use of the season to learn colors.  Also mentions a Christmas tree and decorative lights.

Winter Preschool Song – Wintertime is Here – Littlestorybug  – great pictures.  One is of Santa in a sleigh

Christmas Time! (December song for kids)

Winter songs (but no holiday related lines)

Little Snowflake | Super Simple Songs

I’m a Little Snowman Song for Children – to the tune of “I’m a little teapot”

Children’s song: Winter Winter

 Winter preschool songs – Let’s get dressed! – littlestorybug

5 Little Reindeer (December-themed song for kids)

Dec 122017
 

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One of the top news stories currently happening has to do with wildfires in California.  Strong winds, previous droughts, hilly terrain, these all make it very prone to large fires which can be difficult to put out.  Fires are not new to that part of the country. If you live there, then fire is a natural part of the environment and most likely a part of your day in ways you may  not always think about – choice of landscaping and building materials for example.

If you do not live in this particular area, you more than likely do not think of how prone that environment is to fire.  It is doubtful you think of it at all.

Then it is plastered all over the television, newspapers, internet, and radio broadcasts.  You could not get away from it if you tried, and everyone seems to have an opinion.

That seems to be the way it goes with natural resources.  They are all around us, we live in them yet rarely talk about them or think about them.  Till something goes wrong.  Or you are out of conversation at a family holiday meal.  Then either everyone has an opinion, often a very strong one, or are ignorant on the topic, yet still have an opinion.

Fire is not the only natural resource which brings out strong feelings.  Wolves do the same thing.  Especially if you live in one of the western states.

As one who does not reside in the west, nor grew up there, my view of wolves is from a natural resource professional standpoint – balance is a good thing; putting back what we took out can only help begin to bring back that balance.

While this sounds great on paper (0r the computer screen), at what point in the past are we aiming to return to?  Before the government began the campaign to eradicate wolves from the forests?  Before Europeans began settling the continent?  At the end of the last ice age?  Which of these is the ‘ideal’ and which is the one we should aim for?

If there is one thing we, as humans, should have learned a long time ago it is this – we do not know everything.  Often we find things more of a mess when we try to ‘fix’ them rather than letting them be.  We act with what we think is the vast knowledge gained by experience or with the newfound scientific research of the era.  Only later, we find out we were wrong.  By then, life has moved on.  Reality has adjusted to the change.  Now a new question arises – should be try to fix what we broke, or let nature take its course and fix things on its own…if possible.

This is what happened with the wolves, a path which author Nate Blakeslee walks through in American Wolf: a true story of survival and obsession in the west.  As with every piece written concerning real life events, the lens through which activities are reported can make a difference in the conclusions reached – was the reintroduction a good thing or not?  Were there more benefits or outweighed by the consequences?

Spoiler – Blakeslee is not a cattle rancher. He is not a hippie.  He is not a government employee.  What he is is an author who took the resources he had and pieced them together, showing both sides of the story.  Or trying to, rather.

The majority of the book seems to follow one particular NPS Ranger, Rick McIntyre.  Understandably so, as Rick too copious notes on the wolves for many decades, almost from the beginning of their reintroduction.  These, combined with notes from other wildlife observers, researchers, and park records gives a large picture of the packs’ reintroduction and growth into the Yellowstone National Park. While a lot of this information aims to be scientific, unemotional, and unbiased, it is written largely from a group of individual who love nature and wanted to see these wolves succeed.

The other side of the coin – hunters, guides, and cattle ranchers may also love nature, though may be affected differently by the wolf reintroduction.  Wolves are a natural predator.  They were at the top, or near the top, of the food chain when they were targeted for eradication.  It is only natural to then assume there would be loses and adjustments in populations of other animals once they were reintroduced.  To help offset these losses, the state governments set up programs to pay for cattle losses due to wolves.

What these programs did not cover were loses in elk to hunt for food, loses in revenue from reduced stays at hunting lodges, and the loss of having to sell property that may have been in a family for generations because the family could no longer earn enough to support themselves in such a rural setting.  While these are loses that can be felt, often they are much harder to quantify.  Even Nate had trouble finding someone to talk openly with him concerning the negative aspects of wolves.  It took him several trips, and a lot of reassurances concerning not using his real name, for him to gain the trust of a local hunter/guide.

Over all, American Wolf: a true story of survival and obsession in the west  gave a fairly balanced view, though I believe it leans more toward a pro-wolf stance.  Perhaps this was the way I was reading the information, the fact that the majority of the information came from those who spent time watching and tracking the wolves, or that information from those negatively impacted by increase in wolf populations is harder to find.

In all, I believe it was a successful reintroduction, with more positive than negative results.  Only time will tell.

 

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Dec 112017
 

How is the holiday shopping coming? Several of my friends have their lists all taken care of, relaxing with their feet up, having fun a holiday parties.

Me, well, I had hoped to be further along. I had hoped to be sitting with my feet up reading books. But alas, it only works that way if you implement the plan in your head. So this week, this week will see that list taken care of.

A few if the items I am making, a few are already bought, a couple will be bought in-store over  the upcoming weekend, while others will be ordered online. Having a plan of what to buy and where makes it much more likely to happen, as opposed to saying, “I need to buy a gift soon.” There are too many vague variables in that sentence to motivate one to action.

Having a plan takes the thought out if it, you follow the path you had previously laid out. It is much easier to follow a path than to bush-wack your way through the forest.

You can earn money while saving it during Green Monday! The Cash Back Shopping site Swagbucks is offering big cash back – 2x or more – at a number of different stores today only. They’re also offering big payouts on a varieties of different deals and offers from companies that would make great gift ideas. Get great deals without waiting in lines or even leaving your home!

Click here to take advantage of the cash back, just create your Swagbucks account when prompted (it takes less than 30 seconds) and then you’re all set!

As a special bonus, if you sign up through me you get a 300 SB ($3) bonus when you earn your first 300 SB before January 1st! This site’s a great way to extend your shopping budget, especially around the holidays!

Dec 102017
 

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If you haven’t tried Swagbucks before, you can get a bonus $3 for signing up as my referral during December!

When you sign up through me this month, you can earn a $3 bonus! Here’s how:

1. Sign up using this link

2. Earn 300 SB total before 1/1/18. You’ll get a $3 (300 SB) bonus for it!

3. If you want even more bonuses, you’ll get a $10 (1000 SB rebate) bonus for making your first shop purchase! That’s in addition to the SB you earn for every dollar you spend.

That’s it. It’s super easy, and Swagbucks is for real. I use it myself, and I’ve earned $27 (2,729 SB) during the month of November! That includes time with family over Thanksgiving, where I did zero, zilch, nada on Swagbucks. The category where I earned the most was Answer (surveys), closely followed by Discover.

I earned $0 (0 SB) from shopping online. 🙂

It is not too late to join in order to add to your bank account, via PayPal; save on purchases by redeeming for gift cards; or earn points back for online purchases.