Dec 172017

This post contains affiliate links.

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

This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for helping support this site.
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

This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for helping support this blog.

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.

Dec 032017

December has appeared on the calendar  this year without much pomp and circumstance. Perhaps that is a good thing as we have had enough interesting things taking place this year.

This time last year we had been in our new location for a few weeks, were working on buying a “new” car, settling in to a new school, learning new home school laws, finding a church, and trying not to get lost while out grocery shopping.

The months following included buying a house, moving again, surgery, visiting family, yet another new school (the house we bought was zoned for a different school), dealing with anxiety, loss of a job, finding a new job, joining and becoming active in our new church, learning to ask for help, finding a few homeschool groups to become a part of, and beginning to say “Yes” to things again.

I am very okay with December’s quiet arrival.

I have had a lot of time to think, reevaluate, ponder, and all those other lovely verbs which mean that I have spent time in my introverted brain working through things. What have I found?

1. Material things do not necessarily have intrinsic value, even if they are priceless in my eyes. It is okay to let them go.  I miss our old car. After driving it for 12+ years, there were a lot of memories made with that vehicle. It was within a few thousand miles of reaching 300,000 miles. It was a manual, 5-speed, 18 year old car. The air conditioning no longer worked, one door would not open from inside, the hood was peeling thanks to a hail storm, it burned through a quart of oil between each gas fill-up, it sounded rough, one rear speaker didn’t work, the rear windows started to not stay up, and the reverse lights stopped working. It was also paid for and never refused to start. In other words, a face only a mother could love.

The final straw was when I realized my brake lights were not working.

We had already bought a car to replace this old one, so there was no reason to drive an unsafe, now illegal, vehicle. Not wanting to risk someone getting hurt, we chose not to resell it to another driver.

It felt like putting down the family pet, but it was time. I may have cried once…or twice. Then I remembered, it wasn’t the thing which held the memories, those were still with me. The memories, not the thing, is what had value.

2. You can only say “No” for so long. In an effort to get a handle on the changes taking place over the past two years, I began to say “No”, especially to things which took time and a commitment.  At first this was good and I was more relaxed, and the kids had calmer weeks.

Then I realized I was beginning to say “No” to things which I needed to keep balance in my life, to things which the kids really loved doing. It took me getting cranky and my husband asking when was the last time I did X, Y, or Z for me to realize I had taken things a bit too far.

3. If you are always anticipating the bad happening, you will lose your joy. While there was a time I had to be on my toes constantly, that time is no longer now. However, it had gotten to be a habit. By worrying about all that could go wrong, assuming that is how people around me would react in various situations, dread filled my days. There was no room to see the joy.

I had noticed my anxiety concerning situations where it made no sense.  I kept doing those activities because I knew what I was feeling was irrational. It took a few conversations with key people to see the habit I had fallen into.

Once I was aware of this tendency I worked diligently to change. I was amazed at how quickly I was able to catch myself and adjust my view.

4. Rely on your friends and be someone others can rely on. Trying to fix things on my own, take care of everything on my own, not burden others…well, that is one area where Pride has a hold. Kind of ironic as my main love language is Acts of Service.

It took a family at our new church to show me how very okay it is to be honest and say, “I need help with_______.” The wife in this family was bold in asking for prayers concerning specific things, shared struggles they were facing, shared articles to help educate our congregation on particular issues their family was facing.

The response?


“Lifting you up now”

“You are not alone in this”

“When can we bring a meal”

“I am free to babysit on ____ if you need”

“Have you heard about (relevant professional)? We have had good experience with them/heard great things”

THEN someone found a way to help when they couldn’t otherwise – they made blankets to help raise funds to cover unexpected costs!

I expected the support to end after a few weeks, for people to forget, get busy with life, and move on.  I was wrong. This went on for months! 

Others had relatives pass away, broken bones, job losses, issues with kids… still the support kept coming. AND this family was there for others as well, in whatever capacity they could be at that time.

A year full of lessons, growth, new experiences, and blessings is almost to an end. While the typical month of thanksgiving has passed, I am wanting to continue to show my thanks to those around us.

Dear Readers, I appreciate you sticking with me through ups and downs, posts more about moving than gardening, months of quiet followed by a menagerie of posts (I was cleaning out my Drafts folder while trying to get back into the groove of posting), and other inconsistencies.

To show this appreciation, there will be a few giveaways in the upcoming weeks. They will include a variety of items, so keep checking back if a particular giveaway does not suite your fancy as the next one might.

First up, a coupon code to save $25 off a $100 purchase at Coldwater Creek.  This code is good through December 31, 2017.

The giveaway runs through Friday, December 8th. A winner will be chosen at random from all the entries and contacted on the 29th. You will have two days to respond before I chose another entry.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

$25 savings offer valid through 12/31/2017 on any merchandise purchase of $100 or more (exclusive of sales tax and shipping fees). For online, catalog and phone orders, use the code to redeem offer.  Offer can not be combined with any other offer. Discount not valid on previous purchases. No cash value.

Nov 292017

Here is a flashback from our home in Small Town.  One of the things I realized after we moved was all the free time I had.  I had not realized the amount of time working on the house, thinking about working on the house, contemplating working on the house, and shopping for items so I could work on the house had been taking up over the weeks and months.  I was sooooo happy when this project was completed…then we moved.  🙂 Hey, at least I got to enjoy it for a few months.

I am finally on to my last big project area – the garage.  This is something I have been working on bit by bit over the past few months.  First I painted all the walls in the fall, before the cold weather set in for winter.  Then the area became a storage/project area.

Finally, a month or two ago, I was set about connecting the second garage door opener.  A few weeks back we had gravel installed in order to allow me to enter the garage without driving through mud.  It was a great feeling.

This past weekend, I wanted to start actually tackling setting up all the pieces to make it look like more of an organized area and less like a pile of half-finished projects.

Step 1: Move things away from the back wall and sweep the floor.  I chose to start with the largest visual area for several reasons – it would give me a flat surface to work on, it would give me storage areas for the smaller items, it would free up floor space, and it would be a great motivator for later on when I start getting frustrated and depressed about how long this job is taking.

Step 2: Begin a list of all the things I need from the hardware store. It did not take long for me to realize I needed some items to finish up various parts of this organization project.  For starters, one of my cabinets needs a new shelf inside before I can attach the counter top.  A drawer needs a new bottom.  I am looking to add a shelf between my two lower cabinets. The list kept getting longer, so I grabbed a pencil and paper and put it all down.  Hopefully this will help reduce the number of trips to the store, as well as allow me to keep my eyes open for these items elsewhere (a.k.a. find them used or free).

Step 3: Set things up where they will be going. After moving things away from the back wall, which is where I am going to start, and cleaning up, I began to put things back into place where I will be wanting them to go.  My mind’s eye had pretty much figured out what it wanted, but actually putting them there showed me a few problems.

For starters, there is an electrical conduit close to the floor. When this conduit reaches the corner, it makes a rounded turn.  This prevents me from putting a cabinet all the way in the corner.  I decided to leave about 6 inches between the cabinet and the wall, allowing me space to store my saw-horses.  A problem just became a solution for another problem I was having – where to store larger items. Sometimes you need to step back and view things from a different angle.

Step 4: Place other items near where you think you want them. Not all of our old kitchen cabinets will be placed by the work bench.  There are two smaller cabinets that I am going to use near the walk-out door.  These will be great to keep things like deicer, ice scrapers, sunscreen, bug spray, and other season items we might need to grab quickly.

There are also several wire baskets I plan to use to help organize toys, as well as shelf supports I want to use in the laundry area.  These are placed near those locations to help those steps go quicker.  This also helps get things out of the way for the particular area I am working in at this time.

Step 5: Stop for lunch. This is often something I forget to do when working on a larger project.  It is much easier for me to keep going.  However, after a while I start to slow down, problems begin cropping up at each turn, and my kids get really whiny.

This time, before all the above happened, I called it time for lunch and put down all I was working on at the moment.  Things were going well. Ending, and beginning, on a good note always helps.

Nov 272017

This post contains affiliate links.

Kids Cook Real Food is having a sale Monday-Wednesday November 27-29  They will be running a quick sale where any new member gets the premium content snack videos ($20 value) absolutely free!

These 4 videos will teach your kids all about:

  • How to find healthy snacks
  • Using the food processor
  • Separating eggs

Engaging videos demo recipes for:

  • Homemade crunchy granola
  • Energy bites
  • Pumpkin pie bars

Make snack time healthy and easy by getting your kids involved in the preparation! All free when you purchase the Kids Cook Real Food eCourse Nov 27-29. Check it out here.

Nov 272017

This post contains affiliate links.  When you click below and join, a small percent of your earning will be credited back to me at no cost to you.  Thank you for helping support this site.  Good hunting!

You can earn money while saving it on all your big Cyber Monday purchases.  The Cashback Shopping site Swagbucks is offering big cash back – 3x or more – at over 120 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!

If you’re not familiar with Swagbucks, they offer cash back in the form of points , called SB, when you shop. Then you can turn those points into gift cards to places like Amazon, Starbucks, Target, or PayPal cash. You can also earn points for discovering deals, watching videos, answering surveys and more!

During this past year, I have earned 1,310 SB ($13) back while shopping online for things such as – curtains for our new house, items from eBay, bank checks, ink for the printer, and more.  While this is not the main way I personally earn SB, it is a nice addition to my balance toward a gift card.

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 December 1st! This site’s a great way to extend your shopping budget, especially around the holidays!

Nov 252017

No worries, we did not go on a hike through the forest on this very popular hunting day. Instead, I said, “Teeth brushed? Good job. Now out we go!”

Kid #1 : “Where are we going, Mom? What are we going to do?”

Kid #2: “Why? I don’t want to go.”

Me: “We are going outside, to the yard, to…play.”

Kid #2 was encouraged a bit more than Kid #1 to go outside. In the end we all got out the door, Kid #2 followed my promoting/example to climb a fallen tree, played for about 10, then disappeared back inside.  Kid #1 would not climb with us, but stayed outside with me for over an hour, walking through brambles, and observing wildlife.

Most exciting moment? When Kid #1 almost stepped on a sleeping opposum.

We then proceeded to look closer at it, talk about why it was there, and discuss if it would live through the night. (Looked as if it had been in a fight.)

While walking around, I realized there were no older cousins in their lives who have challenged them to do things or show them what might be possible. I tried to think of how I used to play with my younger cousins and do similar things. Not sure it hit the mark, but the kids “explored” areas of my parents’ property they had never been in…while staying out of the woods.

Even though we were not in danger, it did feel as if our every move was being followed…

After our fresh air jaunt, we came inside and did what had to be done – cheer our alma mater on as they battled their adversary in a very important game.

Best pre-game show I have seen in a long time.