So it’s still early (we haven’t even had breakfast yet) and I’ve pulled out the vodka already… don’t worry I’m not drinking it but I have another use for it.
Some of you know that I use vodka in our spider spray that we keep on hand to repel those creepy crawlers but it is also very helpful for many other things as well.
I don’t know if anyone else remembers seeing bottles of vanilla with the bean when you were growing up but I do and I can’t seem to find it anywhere so I’ll be finishing up my bottle to make some vanilla extract. I’ve had intentions to do this for a while but haven’t gotten around to it until I ran out of the vanilla I had. The price for real vanilla extract is crazy!
While this homemade stuff won’t be ready for at least a couple of months I’ll be able to refill it, again and again, to keep my supply going. I did order some Mexican vanilla extract to tide me over.
After some careful research, I’ve found that you can but Tahitian, Madagascar, and Mexican Vanilla Beans. A lot of people don’t seem to care for the Mexican as they have a more distinct flavor and many of the recipes I’ve found call for the Madagascar beans. I, however, bought these Tahitian beans to give them a try.
You can also buy different grades of beans with Grade A being the better quality but Grade B is a bit more budget friendly. I went with Grade A this time around but some people do prefer the flavor from the Grade B so I may try that the next time around. This is something you will have to play around with to suit your taste.
Below is the recipe I used. I made two bottles with the intentions of gifting one. I may go ahead and order some of the Madagascar beans to try as well so I can taste test them. Now I’ll always have a steady supply of vanilla for all of our yummy creations.
Vodka (at least 35% alcohol)* (You can also use bourbon or rum)
Jar (s) with lids**
Split your vanilla beans into halves with scissors or a knife.
Place them in your jars.
Cover with vodka and seal.
Shake well and place in a safe place.
Shake at least 1 time a week and it should be ready to use within 2-3 months.
When empty refill with vodka and repeat.
*Your vodka ratio to beans will depend on the type of beans, the type of alcohol, how strong of a flavor you like, and how long you plan to let it sit. I recommend using 3-6 whole vanilla beans per 8 oz of vodka.
**You can use any type of glass jar but I really love these cute bottles as they will make pretty gifts later if I choose to do so.
**This post does contain affiliate links to products and/or services that we use. We may earn a teensy-weensy small commission (at NO EXTRA cost to you) if a purchase is made through these links. These links help to support our family, our blog, and our homeschooling mission. Click HERE for a full disclaimer.
I know I just recently posted about a bad dream I had but yet again I have another topic that we really don’t want to think about. Just recently a story made the news in our area about a young child who had wandered out and the result was a tragedy.
The babysitter had fallen asleep and the little one wandered out the door without her knowing. In our area we have a lot of retention ponds as we have a lot of wet areas and when it rains the extra water needs somewhere to go. Many of these ponds are fenced in but there are many that are not.
This little guy somehow managed to find his way to a pond that wasn’t fenced in and he fell in. No one knew he was missing until it was too late. A family has lost something that can never be replaced and a whole community is grieving.
The news has countless stories of children who have wandered away from home. Sometimes they are searching for days before they find them. Other times they never find them at all and the searches are called off. For every happy ending, it seems that there are a few with tragic endings.
I know how hard it is when you have young ones. They love to explore and they love to be outside. Even older children love these things too but generally, they have been taught some safety rules. Then you some of the special needs children, like one of mine, who are drawn to the water. They will do anything to get to the water and all they can think about is how much it is to play in the water. It can be very challenging to help them overcome their urges. Continue reading Do you have a wanderer?→
It seems that every week is a crazy week around here lately and I know that part of that is probably my fault for trying to squeeze so much into my days. It’s definitely a juggling act around here with the kids, homeschooling, square dancing, blogging and the list of things that need to be done to keep up house and I then I add in things like trying to revamp some of our favorite recipes to make them healthier, working a couple of part-time jobs from home to earn a little extra income and trying to start up my own notary business. Yeah, no wonders things are so crazy right? Not to mention I’ve signed up for a multitude of online classes like the Positive Parenting Solutions which has really helped out when I remember to use the tips and tools I’ve been learning about.
Sigh… parenting is hard. When you add the special challenges of raising two special needs children (ODD, ADHD, Down’s Syndrome and a few others) to the mix it can be even harder on some days. It may be because I am making some progress with our class that I am seeing a little bit more rebellion or ‘testing of the waters’ but whatever the reason it has been quite the challenge here lately. It is enough on some days to make a Momma wanna through up her hands in defeat but I know that God is here and He is going to help us all get through this.
They’ve also learned some important lessons about obeying rules and right now I have a couple of little girls who have lost some privileges and are under constant supervision similar to what Laura experienced at the beginning of our On the Banks of Plum Creek Week 1 Lesson Plans.
We haven’t finished all of this week’s lessons as this week has been a bit busy and it was hard for some people to get back on the school routine. We still have a few like skills lessons which include our new Herb Fairies books and some dog training lessons from Lucky Dog Lessons: Train Your Dog in 7 Days. These might not be things you’d normally expect to find in your school lessons but the kids asked for them so I have included them to keep them interested in learning. Plus we can all benefit from these lessons and I find them pretty enjoying myself.
The best part of our homeschool experience this week is at the bottom of the post so you can keep reading or scroll through to find out what it was.
Getting back the week we’ve had, we had an amazing day at the zoo last weekend followed by a birthday party at my sister’s house. The kids had a lot of fun and a bit too much sugar that day. We had to deal with the after effects for a few days afterward. No fun!
On Monday we had our usual square dance and then back home. Tuesday I decided to make a grocery run with my favorite Walmart Grocery Pickup service. Mr. Awesome had announced that he was starting a new diet after I had already made up my grocery list so that meant we needed to run into the store for a couple of last minute items. I already had the menu planned out as well so I just decided to tweak a few of the recipes to make them a little more diet-friendly and healthier for everyone. Be on the lookout for some upcoming recipes that we have been trying out.
I know we can’t undo all these years of unhealthy eating in a day but we can make one change at a time to become a little healthier every day. I also know that my kids will be learning how to eat healthier and hopefully, they will pass some of these habits down to their kids. I’ve added some healthier options to our breakfast menus like omelets with mushrooms and a side of sauteed spinach. While Mr. Awesome passed on the spinach at breakfast I did manage to sneak in some greens and A TON of veggies at dinner time. That’s not potatoes on that plate but you wouldn’t know it if I hadn’t told you.
I’ve also done a lot of food prep so that we would have some healthier choices when we needed a quick meal or snack. We made a few boiled eggs and our own bagged salads for the week. I made one bag special for Mr. Awesome as he said he wasn’t ‘Popeye’ and he didn’t want spinach in his salad.
We cut all the lettuces, a mixture of iceberg and romaine, into bite-size pieces. Then we washed everything and spun it dry in the salad spinner. (You want to make sure it is as dry as possible before bagging it.) We layered a couple of big baggies with a paper towel and carefully placed our lettuce and spinach inside. Then we squeezed out all the air and sealed them. They have been in the fridge all week and still look pretty. (You will also want to change out the paper towel frequently.) The kids really enjoyed practicing some of the kitchen skills they’ve learned and it seems to make them more interested in trying out new things when they are involved in the process.
I also decided to try my hand at making some sourdough bread again. My first starter died when I neglected it a few months ago when I was sick. I wasn’t really feeling like attempting my own so I ordered some San Francisco Sourdough Starter from Amazon. It was quite easy to get the activation started by using the instructions provided. We’ve named our starter ‘Fran’ and she seems to be doing well. We’ve got some dough rising right now so maybe we’ll have a bit of sourdough bread to go with dinner tonight.
The kids are really excited about our new ‘sourdough baby’ and they keep checking up on her to make sure she isn’t hungry … lol. They even wanted to try out a new recipe for muffins using some of the leftover sponge we had from the bread dough. Here’s a couple of pictures of the batter and the finished product:
This recipe still needs a little bit of tweaking but I did manage to use some whole wheat flour with these muffins and I snuck some greens in there as well! The kids said they liked them but personally, I think they need a little something more before I want to share the recipe.
I was also excited to get my Grove order this week as I ordered several items I’ve never tried before. I did get the room spray for FREE and I love that it comes in a reusable glass bottle. You can even order the concentrated sprays to refill it.
The body wash smells amazing and the brushes have helped out a lot with some of the cleaning we’ve been doing around the house. I bought the washing machine cleaner to help get rid of the mildew on the refrigerator seals … yuck. It has helped somewhat but it may need to be used several times to get rid of it completely. I may cave and get some bleach to get rid of it because I just really hate seeing it.
The kids have been excited to observe the whole process but they were also very excited to let them go. This was easier said than done as a couple of them didn’t want to leave their little home. A couple of them have been spotted hanging out near the pond so we still get to see them just not as often as we did before. The kids are begging to this again.
Well, I guess I better finish up here as the boys are begging me to ‘let the dough out of the bowl’ so they can work with it. They already have some plans for bread and jelly when it gets finished!
We just want to wish everyone a very Happy Mother’s Day and we hope that you have a wonderful weekend!
Remember that sometimes motherhood, or even parenthood, is not the way we had it pictured that it would be and we can get overwhelmed and stressed but it is so much more rewarding than we could ever hope that it would have been!
Here’s a picture of our finished bread:
**This post does contain affiliate links to products and/or services that we use. We may earn a teensy weensy small commission (at NO EXTRA cost to you) if a purchase is made through these links. These links help to support our family, our blog, and our homeschooling mission.
WARNING: This post may contain a picture overload as I did take quite a few pictures while we were out on our adventures!
Over the weekend we had been invited to attend a small festival at Camp Milton where they were going to be having a battle reenactment. The time period was the 1800s which just happened to fit in with our Kirby’s Kids Academic Adventures and the Little House On The Prairie Adventures we’ve been doing with our homeschool so of course, I said we’d go. Plus it was a chance to see one of our friendly square dancers in action as he is an avid participant at these events.
I think we surprised him by showing up but he was more than happy to give us a tour through the camp and show us all the neat things they had out. They also shared some of their rations of beef jerky and bread with us for breakfast.
After the camp tour, we headed over to the village where we got to shop at the General Store. I bought a cone of brown sugar there for the kids to try out later. We also ‘priced’ some other supplies and staples while we were there.
Then the kids got a peek at the small cabin, it was even smaller than our house, and they had the chance to ask a lot of questions which they did.
(Sorry guys there was no Google in the 1800s … lol.)
After the store, we headed over to the small museum where we got to check out a lot of interesting items.
We checked out the school tent and bought a couple of toys, of course. Each kiddo had the chance to pick out a small wooden top and I also picked up a flute and a slingshot, what was I thinking?
Hey ya’ll its been a few days since I’ve checked in with you. I hope everyone is doing well. We are finally getting over these colds that have been passed around and around and around… you get the point. I’m tired of being sick and tired and of being around whiny kids who are sick and tired… yeah not a fun week at all but it has been productive even though I ended up getting this post out a day late… Oops!
We have been sticking to our goals and our Plan of Action that I made earlier in the month. The kids are listening and behaving better, well for the most part, even thought they’ve not been feeling well. We’ve been working on keeping the noise level down and I’ve found that my little friend Google has been AMAZING at helping me with this. I have been asking Google, ‘Hey Google, can you play me some music please?’. Note that I do use my manners and she really appreciates that. When the kids can’t hear the music they know they are getting way too loud.
As you probably know from reading our latest posts we have been staying CRAZY BUSY in 2019 just like we did before. However even though our schedules have been busy I have been trying to work in some changes, a couple at a time, to help us turn those wishes into realities.
My first wish of having the kids to listen better seems to be going along fairly well. I have been making it a point to work more one on one with each of them as I can. I have also not had to speak to them as much because I’ve went over what I expect and given them a list of rewards for when the goals are met or some consequences if they aren’t met.
I had also noticed that I was yelling more… ok, I felt like I was yelling. People sometimes laugh when I apologize for yelling because my yelling doesn’t seem like yelling to them… anyways I was having to talk much louder than I preferred and I didn’t like that. Did you know that yelling makes it seem like you aren’t in control? Well that was definitely not the message I wanted to convey to this little army I have here!
I also know that yelling doesn’t fit into the overall picture of wanting to create a more loving and peaceful home. We have a small home so when one or two people start yelling it begins to sound a bit like a busy coffee shop in NYC!
**This post may contain affiliate links to products and/or services that we use. If a purchase is made through one of these links we may make a small commission which costs you nothing extra and blesses our family so we thank you! For full affiliate disclosure please click HERE.
So if you read my post yesterday you know that we had some unexpected work that had to get done around the house. What you didn’t get to see was the post holiday mess the rest of the house was still in… yep, I’m gonna show you some really messy pics of our cabin because LIFE is MESSY at times and we aren’t PERFECT so our place gets just as MESSY as everyone else’s house, and probably more at times.
One thing I know is that you can’t truly organize CLUTTER! Boy oh boy was it in abundance around earlier this week. I’m kinda embarrassed to show you all these pics but I really want to show everyone that you CAN change your LIFE one little step at a time. The important thing is to remember that the CHANGE must start somewhere and I know that LIFE can be so OVERWHELMING at times… these pics can prove that… but we can’t just sit around and wait for someone else to do something that we aren’t willing to do ourselves.
On the other hand I want everyone to know that our house has not looked this BAD in a long time. I know that HOARDING tendencies seem to run in one side of my family and that scares the crap out of me! Part Most of this was MESS was due to the post holiday chaos we had and the total LACK of ENERGY I had from not feeling well … but enough with the EXCUSES as I was determined to get past the PROCRASTINATION.
Over the weekend I had made a short To-Do List to work on and a couple of the first items to tackle were the kitchen and the bathroom. However the closet became number 1 priority when the kids demolished some of the shelving… you can read about that project HERE. Here’s the BEFORE of the kitchen:
You can see breakfast prep was ongoing when I took this and it was so hard to accomplish anything with the CLUTTER laying around. Mr. Joey wanted to help with breakfast so I did a quick tidy to make room and let him work on some Pancake Poppers for a quick breakfast.
We made one batch of blueberry and one batch of sausage… yum!
After breakfast I did a quick cleanup and had the kitchen back to a semi-normal state within 20-30 minutes… YAY!
Then I tackled the bathroom which took another 10-15 minutes. I could feel myself running out of steam really quickly though. I crossed off those two items and another as the kids had helped change sheets and tidy up the loft area as I cleaned in the kitchen and bathroom. Then I attempted to tackle the next area which was in the Main Room
This pic was actually from Thursday before I got to work on paying bills but honestly there wasn’t a whole lot of change from then to Sunday. I did start on it but got interrupted with something or another and that was pretty much the end of the cleaning for the day.
However on Monday I had a new PLAN OF ACTION. We needed to get started back to school work but I knew that there was no way I would keep anyone’s attention with all the stuff sitting around just begging to be discovered.
So I made an executive decision that for now our group studies will be completed Tuesday-Thursday. The kids can work on independent or one-one tasks on Mondays and Fridays. This change also included a temporary change in our Laundry and Cleaning Routines as the majority of those tasks will be completed on Mondays and Fridays as well. So far so good with this change and we’ve actually been able to accomplish quite a bit more in the cleaning and school areas.
Our first task of the day was to get this tree put away…
Most of the other decorations had already been packed into totes the week before so we just had to make room for the tree decor. Then everything was taken to the shed and neatly put away.
Then to get the table put back up. I put Joey to work on bagging up the random grocery bags around the house so we can reuse them.
I set to work on straightening up my bedroom… this is what it looks like after getting back from a dance. I usually have the little boys in here to change and the girls use the closet to get ready. This means I can’t get in there to put away anything so it ends up piled on my bed… sigh.
After a bit it looked much better except for the basket of laundry sitting there… but hey, at least it was clean laundry. I went ahead and checked the bedroom off the To-Do List as well, but as you will see in a bit that may have been a bit premature.
While I worked in the bedroom the kids cleaned up the floor where the tree had been. They also worked on organizing their school cubbies so we could have a fresh start for the next day. They also put away some of the items that had been cluttering the table. Things actually seemed to be getting MESSIER instead of cleaner!
They also worked on straightening up the TV area as there were dirty dishes, controllers, toys that needed put away.
We were on a roll and our next mission was to get rid of all the boxes sitting around. Most of these held Christmas gifts that needed homes. Now that we had straightened up most everything this would be an easier task to accomplish. But first Jacob thought everyone should have a quick snack of candy canes from the tree… lol.
Again things seemed to get MESSIER before they got better. This table became a sorting place for EVERYTHING. I opened a box, sorted out what needed to go where, and then we took care of EVERYTHING we had out at the moment before moving to the next box.
Here is another pile that had to get sorted as well.
It might have been a bit time saving to have sorted all the boxes at once but we had William helping out and he gets OVERWHELMED easily and then it gets a bit HARD for anyone else to get anything accomplished as you have to keep redirecting him.
I had received a ton of new school supplies from Santa… he knew just what I need, right? We also got lots of new books and William really wanted to read all of them. In the process I lost a book I had pulled off my bookshelf earlier in the day… my mistake, as I should’ve waited until we were finished with the clean up. You just might laugh, like Mr. Awesome did, when I show you the book I lost:
But anyway as I sorted the kids carried things and put them away but some items got piled on my bed… it appeared that my bed also had become a playground at some point in time. This time the MESS actually looks worse than it was.
Once most of the items had been sorted and carried to their new homes, or at least in the general area of their new home, Ms. Bella made some yummy PB&Js for the crew. As you can see everything was looking much better.
Even the bedroom looked pretty good…
As I was carrying things out to the shed I noticed something in the pond…
I had to call the kids out to take a closer peek… such a cute suprise!
I had a couple of more things to get organized and look at like this organizer I had gotten for Christmas:
And these new books that we got for our homeschool…
We also got a few more books that everyone is excited to read like this one here:
As I worked on setting up the organizer and putting away these items the girls wasted no time getting to work making some headbands, bracelets other items now that they had room to work at the table.
Then the UPS man brought my Grove package… another pleasant suprise!
I am really loving the Mrs. Meyers cleaners and have started to try out some of the other products which you can also get on AMAZON. Once I got all of these put away I worked on a little redecorating as everything looked so BARE.
I pulled some of the peacock decor out of my bedroom for now…
The gold peacock was something Mr. Awesome bought for me last year and that little pig was one I painted many, many years ago when my older kids will young.
I moved the flowes basket from the kitchen to this window. This is where my new napkin holder is sitting as well as the new globe that we got for Christmas.
It also lights up to show the constellations which is so NEAT!(I don’t know why but this made our homeschool seem so much more ‘official like’… lol)
In the kitchen I took down the cornice that was up there and put up this really cute tray I found with the after Christmas clearance at Walmart.
All in all we had a really good day and with the kids helping out as much as they did I didn’t get too overwhelmed nor did I completely wear myslef out as I have been doing a lot lately.
We didn’t do a deep cleaning or major reorganizing. We did find a HOME for EVERYTHING and we did PURGE some items as we went along. There are still things that need to be done but the HOUSE feels so much BETTER now and I’m not constantly looking for things… other than that book that hasn’t resurfaced yet.
That’s OK as the wonderful UPS man delivered me another copy today… so maybe if I find the old one I can BLESS someone else with it.
The biggest thing with all of this was to just get STARTED. Another big thing was to not get sidetracked with the fact that everything wasn’t being ‘cleaned properly’ or organized exactly the way I wanted it. If we had stopped to rearrange and/or clean every book shelf and cabinet along the way I would still be working on this project.
Now that we have everything situated we can get back to our regular cleaning tasks, even though we have changed the routine the tasks are still the same, and EVERYTHING will get clean in its own time. My main FOCUS was just to get a bit more organized as I couldn’t find anything over the past couple of weeks. Even though I lost my book and it still drives me a little batty wondering where it might have went its not that big of a deal in the BIG PICTURE.
We accomplished the GOAL that we set out to do and we can create a new PLAN OF ACTION for our next GOAL. For us this wasn’t a HUGE task to deal with as our house isn’t that BIG to start with. The MESS really did look worse than it was once we got started on it. If you have a bigger house then you might just need to FOCUS on ONE AREA at a time… not the whole house. If the task is still too BIG then focus on a smaller area at a time… break that elephant down into small pieces and work on them one at a time. A little progress is BETTER than doing NOTHING at all.
If you need a little motivation or encouragement then be sure to reach out to me via email or on Facebook in the Kirby’s Kabin Blog Group I’ve just started.
Have a great day and stay tuned for a look at our first couple of days with our new homeschool schedule!
**This post may contain affiliate links which help to support our blog and our family.
I had originally written this series of posts in honor of National Simplify Your Life Week, which falls during the first week of August, I decided to make a short list of 7 easy steps that almost anyone can use to simplify their life starting today. With the New Year fast approaching I thought it might be helpful to post this again for anyone looking to simplify their life and have more FREE time.
Now I’m not talking about anything drastic like selling everything you own and moving into a small secluded cabin with no electric. This actually sounds like a really good idea to me right now but my kids wouldn’t really like that. The tips below will not only help you to simplify your life but they will help you to be more efficient.
Click on each link for more information and helpful tips.
I know most of us are probably not ready to think about the New Year as we are in the midst of holiday choas right now but with as many kiddos as I have I am always looking ahead. There are doctor appointments, dentist appointments, birthdays, and so many other events that I need to keep organized.
Our calendars keep our day to day activities running smoothly and help to keep us prepared for upcoming events. They are vital to keeping this Momma sane!
What features do you look for in a calendar? I know I like it to have enough room to write things in the blocks. I also like to have the moon phases and holidays on the calendar.
Do you like the stickers or not? I kinda like the idea of stickers and it helps me to tell at a glance what we have coming up if there are stickers on it.
While I absolutely love my Cozi mobile app and I always have it pulled up on my laptop. I keep everything from appointments to recipes on my Cozi calendar and my family members all have access to it as well. I still like to have a wall calendar as well so that I can refer to it quickly if I’m on the phone or if Mr. Awesome needs to double check something he can refer to it as well.
This led me to check out Amazon for some new planning calendars today. There is such a selection to choose from I’m really not sure which one I want to get yet but here are a few of the ones I’ve found:
Have you been crazy busy this first week of December? How many of you have finished your shopping? How many haven’t bought the first gift yet? Well, I have been busy and my shopping is somewhere in between the two but I have a few ideas here that the kids can help with and they could double as really great gifts for grandparents and family members too!
Some of these links are affiliate links but there is no extra fee if you purchase through these links… it just means we may get a teeny weeny kickback which helps support our blog and our family.
I think we are going to get really busy with crafts so be sure to keep an eye out for lots of pics! If you aren’t feeling crafty or just don’t have time to shop for craft supplies then check out the following links for Amazon deals that can be shipped right to your home and most of them include everything you need to start crafting and keep the kids busy while you finish your shopping!
**This post does contain some affiliate links which could possibly earn me a small commission if a purchase was made through them. These links help to support our blog and our family.
I know I did another post about our Gold Rush Party preparations but I thought it might be helpful to just post the basic menu that we used and decorations that did. This was a lot smaller scale than we had originally planned as I had some unexpected bills come up which made our food budget a little tighter this month.
Here was the menu that the kids came up with:
Gold Rush Party Menu
Lemonade (The actually chose some ‘Tampico Island Punch’ instead… it was a golden/yellowish color so we went with it.)
Party Hats(They couldn’t find any yellow or gold ones so they chose Minions, of course.)
LED Party Favors(we had these left over from a product review I had done a while back.)
They also used a lot of the different candies as decorations around the centerpiece and around the house. They also had to include a dinosaur… who knows maybe there have been some dinosaur fossils found while gold mining?
We had some gold flakes to show everyone as well as a few pieces of pyrite from their Gold Digging kit that they had done last week. This would have been a great activity for kids to do although it would be best for older kids as it was a bit difficult for the younger ones.
I printed out this Gold Rush Wordsearch for the kids to do as well. There are a ton of ideas for games that you could do. We just didn’t get around to playing any as the kids had too much fun with the LED toys and glow sticks. They were also busy helping out with the decorating and and putting their skills learned from Kids Cook Real Food to help with the food prep.
The girls also gave a speech about the California Gold Rush and answered questions. Joey gave a simple speech as well off the top of his head. All in all everyone had some great fun and enjoyed themselves quite a bit.