Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Christmas Cookies

I think it might be time to take the neighbors cookies again this year. 
The kids can help, and hopefully we can hand deliver and have little Christmas chats with our friends and neighbors. Since we're in a new house, this will give us a good excuse to meet the few neighbors we haven't met yet.
I wish I could share a bag of cookies with everyone who reads this, but since I can't make EVERYONE cookies, I can at least share with you the recipes we might use.

Cranberry Squares 1 1/2 c. sugar, 1 t. almond extract, 2 large eggs, 2 c. fresh cranberries, 3/4 c. unsalted butter, melted slightly and cooled, 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour, 1/2 c. chopped pecans Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat sugar and eggs at medium speed with an electric mixer for 2 minutes or until thickened; add butter and almond extract, beating well. Add flour to sugar mixture, beating well. Stir in cranberries and pecans. Pour batter into buttered 9-in. square pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until a wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack. Cut into squares. Freezes well.

Snickerdoodles 1 cup shortening, 1 1/2 cups white sugar, 2 eggs, 2 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 2 teaspoons cream of tartar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons white sugar, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). In a large bowl, mix together the shortening and 1 1/2 cups of white sugar until smooth. Stir in the eggs one at a time, blending well after each. Combine the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt; stir into the batter until blended. Roll the dough into balls the size of small walnuts. Roll in a mixture of 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon. Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Granny’s Oatmeal Drop Cookies Boil together for 5 minutes: 1 ½ cup sugar, ¼-1/2 cup cocoa, 1/3 – ½ cup shortening/margerine/oil, ½ cup milk, 1 tsp salt Remove from heat. Immediately add: 3 cups oatmeal, 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla, 1/3- ½ cup peanut butter  Drop by spoonfuls onto wax paper and let cool and harden
Yellow Cake Oatmeal Cookies 1 package yellow cake mix, 2 large eggs, 2 cups quick-cooking oats, 1 cup chopped pecans (opt), 1 cup sugar, 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla, 1 cup oil Combine first 3 ingredients. Combine oil and eggs. Add oil and eggs to first 3 ingredients. Stir in pecans and vanilla. Cook at 350 degrees for 12 minutes.
Jacob’s M & M Chocolate Chip Cookies  1 cup butter, softened, 1 cup granulated sugar,1 cup brown sugar, 2 large eggs, 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla, 2 ½ cups uncooked quick-cooking oats,2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 package semi-sweet chocolate chips, 1 cup M & Ms Beat butter and sugars at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla, beating until blended. Pulse oats in a food processor to a fine powder. Combine oats, flour, and next 3 ingredients in a large bowl; gradually add to butter mixture, beating well. Stir in chocolate chunks, grated chocolate bars, and pecans. Drop dough by 1/4 cupfuls onto lightly greased baking sheets. Bake at 375° for 10 to 14 minutes.
I'm also thinking about using these Thin Mint Cookies and these Gluten Free Chocolate Ones.
Need more COOKIES? Try these ten recipes as well!
Merry Christmas and Happy Baking!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Stitch Fix #1

I love fall! The weather gets cooler. Football season means snuggling on the couch on Saturday afternoons. God paints pictures with the trees and warmer comfort foods are in order.
But every fall I feel this sinking feeling about clothes. The cheap jeans from last year are either worn out or don't fit right, all my cute summer dresses have to be put away, and any day that requires real clothing means trying things on and getting frustrated. And there is this small problem of having five children with me all the time so going shopping and having lots of time to try on clothes is rare and unusual.
So when I heard about Stitch Fix, I thought "GENIUS," and decided to give it a try.
Here are the facts:

*You go to Stitch Fix and let them know all about you as you sign in.
*You let them know when you would like a personal stylist to pick out five items and send them to you. (Just when you choose, monthly, or every three months--however you want to set it up). You're not locked in to anything; you can change it or cancel it any time.
*When you get your box, you are charged $20. If you decide to keep anything from the box, that $20 goes towards your clothing purchase.
*If you choose to keep all five items, you get a 25% discount.
*If anyone else uses your code to get a Stitch Fix box, $25 goes into your account for later clothes purchases.

As you get more boxes and comment on your clothing, your stylist gets to know you better and theoretically your boxes will become more and more suited to you.

So how did my first box go? It was really great. I asked for basics, so there was nothing really super exciting, but I am very pleased. I ended up keeping the black pants and the dress. The jeans were low-rise and just didn't fit right at the top, and the shirts were great, but not worth full price. If the jeans had fit right, I would have kept it all. I spent around $100 for a pair of pants and a dress, which is WAY more than I would shopping on my own--I'm very much a sale rack shopper. That may be why I don't have many clothes that I love or that last. I'm hoping that putting a few quality pieces in my wardrobe through Stitch Fix will make a big difference!
(Forgive the pictures--my closet is still very much in process.)

I have been waiting for a great pair of black pants to make this combo work! One great thing about Stitch Fix is being able to try the clothes on with shoes and clothes from your own closet!

Dress styled with belt, scarf and boots

Dress with my blue jean jacket--I see cute tennis shoes with this in the future.

Black shirt, black pants and comfy heels.

Above outfit with my leather jacket

I have scheduled my next fix for my birthday (next month), and I'm excited to see how it turns out!!
If you're interested, go over to Stitch Fix and see what it's all about!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Catching Up--A New Home!

Well, it's been a while and a few things have changed around here including our HOUSE! We sold the  8 years-3 kids house and, instead of buying small, waiting and building like we thought we would do, bought a big house that had been vacant for a while. We are filling it and loving it and working on it like crazy. Here are some of the (very unfinished) spaces.

I'll start with our first project. The kids' bathroom. They are still all sharing a bathroom, but they now have a separate little room for the toilet and shower. It's great that they can still brush teeth while someone is showering. I wanted a big, bright, colorful piece of art, and after looking unfruitfully for a while, we decided to make our own. The kids each have a color towel assigned to them so that there is no more washing towels that are on the floor because we don't know who used them. If the red towel is on the floor, we know it's the little one who needs to pick it up and hang it on a hook. 
The hooks are a pinterest idea that was a must. Towel bars are too difficult for little hands and where would we put five of them on this one wall? The hooks work GREAT! I also looked for five-hook towel rack, but ended up using one with six that was unfinished. For $8 and a slap of paint, we got the perfect place to hang their towels. There's even a hook for the kids' overnight guests.

On to the school room. I am SO THANKFUL for this room! I wanted to make the space a little more sophisticated than the average home school room--more of a library/school room. The wall that you can't see is just a line of mismatched shelves right now, but I want to put built-ins across that wall to give us more hidden storage (cabinets on the bottom) and lots more book case space (shelves on the top.) 
I was very excited to paint one of the walls with chalkboard paint and have a huge space to work math problems, diagram sentences and write our memory verses.

(still using our Jokkmokk table and chairs and loving them!)

I didn't really give much thought to the view while washing dishes when we first looked at this house, but I am very thankful it faces a window! 
We decided to have one eating room in the house in the eat-in kitchen. It's a huge space, works great with our table now, and will work well when we get our big farm house table later (another project!).

Fireplace area

I found the idea to put your tv on a long low shelf on pinterest. After fretting over the impossibility of affording any of those beautiful long, low shelves, I realized that by putting two Ikea Expedit shelves on their sides, we could have the same effect for nothing (since we already owned two!). I like the idea of decorating around the tv. I put all of my Chinese decor in the family room and love the way it's looking. We still have a long way to go--I promise a final reveal at some point!
I LOVE my new sitting area in the master bedroom! We found these chairs and this rug at a local salvage place. Total cost for two chairs and the rug = $200 (Ikea curtains leftover from our dining room in our old house are standing in until we can paint and choose drapes, and an Ikea blanket is draped over the chair.)

Before and after (loosely)
 This is the opposite corner, but you get the idea. It's an awesome play room with all those built-in shelves and desks.

And look at the GREAT job my mom did recovering the FREE chair. The cushion was recovered with the boys' old black out curtain and mom bought a drop cloth ($10 or 15, I can't remember) to cover the peeling fake leather of the rest of the chair. Hooray! It didn't have to look great because it's just a place for kids to sit and read in the play room, but I think it turned out amazing!

These are very necessary and the sign is the only money we spent on the play room.

My pantry. (Can you hear my heart sing?) My mom painted this space for us before we moved in and I am loving it. We sold our larger deep freeze so that we can buy one to fit in this space. It's one of those things that we keep putting off.

There is so much more to share, but this makes a good start.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Museum Learning on a Budget

The last few months have been blessed with a lot of interesting, informative and fun field trips for our family homeschooling enjoyment. When I look back at my elementary school years (in public school) it is the experiences, projects and field trips that made the biggest impact on me (i.e. I still remember them.) So, I am always trying to throw those kind of learning experiences on the kiddos.
All of these museums might seem like they would add up to $$$$$$$, but actually, I feel like we've tackled them in a very affordable way.

Here's how:
1. FAMILY MEMBERSHIPS! We have a family membership to our local aquarium. It would cost our family about $130 to get in for one day, but the year membership for a family of two adults and all the children in the house is only about $125! WOW! I feel thankful every time we go, and we go a lot. I took the three littles most of the Mondays this semester while the two bigs were at their homeschool tutorial. And now that summer is here, we have an awesome entertainment for rainy or too-hot days. So, look into family memberships.
2. FREE MUSEUMS! Most of the Smithsonian Museums in Washington, D.C. and most of the museums in St. Louis are free. (Makes me feel like running and skipping through a field!) We have enjoyed the Missouri History Museum, Smithsonian Museums, National Archives all for free! I am sure there are other cities with the same benefits. Check it out!
3. ASTC (Association of Science-Technology Centers) Travel Passport Program   This is a best-kept secret, for sure! I can't rave enough about how much of a deal this is! This is a group of museums where if you join one, you can visit any of the others that are 90 miles or more away from the one you joined for... Free. Yes, you heard right! Being a member of one gets you into them all. So my family is a member of the American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. We got a two year membership for our whole family for $70. We have visited the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL and Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville, GA for only the gas money to get there. Hurrah! The list of museums that participate in the passport program is very long; I'm sure you could find one or two or twelve near you!

We've seen rockets and dinosaurs and panned for gemstones and dug up dinosaur bones.

We've looked at helicopters and learned about bears.

We've held the Washington Monument in our hand (sort of).

And we've stopped to cool off in some beautiful places!

I know I could never teach the kids from books, worksheets, curriculum or the internet what they have learned in person from these museums. I am very thankful!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


In an effort to offer myself a less-stressful atmosphere, both in my own head and in my daily circumstances, I have started doing about ten minutes of yoga each morning, drinking a yummy ceylon apple tea each day, and art-journaling. There are things that in the past I thought were not time-efficient enough to actually take away from the stress of the day. I'm giving myself a little more leeway these days and taking the time to do some fun things (besides just reading fiction, which I still do and still find very de-stressing).
Thanks to Pinterest, there are thousands of fonts and doodle suggestions right on my phone, and when I'm done checking off my daily reading, I can look at my journal board and get inspired.
It is quite relaxing; you should give it a try!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Aquarium = School

Every Monday, my two oldest attend a local home school tutorial for Grammar/Writing, Science, and Literature. They love the chance to be with peers and friends and have someone else teaching them for a bit. While they are thus occupied, the three littles and I use whatever local membership we currently have.
And we currently have an aquarium membership.

We try to catch the animal talks when we can, and we've learned quite a bit about the different animals that we get to see each Monday.

We love to encounter the animals in different ways.
Today we took clip boards with us and found the name of the animal and then drew it. While we were at the penguins, we discovered that one of the younger penguins would follow our red pencil! We could make him dive, go side to side, and even shake his head. So funny. The littlest said, "He's talking to me."

Each day there are dive shows in the shark tank. The kids have seen them so many times that the thrill has worn off, but I never cease to be amazed. And since there are different divers there all the time, I learn something new each time we sit and listen.
We are so blessed to have such a great aquarium close by!

Here are the discovery worksheets we used today:
Happy field tripping!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day!

For Valentine's I bought about ten sheets of decorative paper from Hobby Lobby ($.10/each) and a pack of card stock cards. Last Thursday I let the kids go to town with cutting and pasting and gluing. It was crazy, but I think they came up with some great Valentines. On Saturday, we went visiting to spread the love--taking gifts and cookies and Valentines to several friends.

Of course we had to be fortified for our Valentines visiting, so we had heart-shaped pancakes for breakfast.

And then, instead of going out for dinner, we did a fancy dinner in. The hubby grilled steak (which we never have because the price nearly makes me faint) and I made rose potatoes.
These were definitely a bit more difficult than the picture I found on pinterest led me to believe. There wasn't really a "recipe" just a few instructions. These instructions included slicing the potatoes thinly, soaking them in butter and then laying them out on the counter overlapping before rolling them up into a rose shape. 
Well, next time I will slice them thinner and soak them longer, but I still don't think that they'll just roll up--they required toothpicks to hold them together.
After pinning them in rose formation, I baked them for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees. They were yummy and oh, so pretty. Especially since I got red potatoes and left the skins on.

Fancy kids' meals

We here at the Of Such is the Kingdom household hope you had a