Monday, August 8, 2016

Quick Update

It feels like yesterday we were ringing in the new year. Now we're 2/3rds of the way to the next. Summer is coming to a close, so we are getting into school mode. I thought I was going into year four of homeschooling but, doh, it's actually year FIVE. Whoa! I do not feel like an expert. Because I should by now, right? I feel like every year is trial-and-error, all year long. Maybe this is the year I'll finally feel like I've found my stride.

For the first few years of homeschooling I ran a home business and was divided between work and school. When one would succeed, the other fell to the wayside. I ended my business so I could focus 110% on our homeschool. But then we had the baby last year so it was "baby year" which often means things slide a little. Thea is our last baby and will be 1 next month, so that means more restful nights are just ahead. Suffice to say, I'm beyond excited to see what this new year holds. No home business, no new babies, no pregnancy. I got this, right?!


Our main shelf for school is jam packed with readers, books, notebooks, curriculum, manipulatives, etc, etc. This isn't even all of it as I've ordered new books that should be arriving in the next week or two. I was also super blessed to be able to provide the three girls with their own refurbished laptops so they can simultaneously do work online without fighting over my tiny Lenovo ThinkPad (my laptop has the smallest screen, not much bigger than an IPad). We're still waiting on those to arrive as well. I like to limit online time but there's so much they can do online, like learn a language, read free books, watch educational videos that tie into their lessons, etc. Plus research and writing and typing.

This year we also transformed one of our rooms into a designated school room. Back behind the kitchen we have a small room that also houses our first floor laundry. We were using it as utility/storage/laundry but I felt the space could be better served for our educational needs. I cleared out the room, painted everything and we've moved all of our desks in, the shelf pictured above, etc. We have hung fabric garlands over the windows, rainbow pom pom garland from the ceiling, covered bulletin boards in fabric and hung above each desk, etc. All I really need to do next is get a big soft area rug and throw down some big floor pillows for cozy reading in the middle of the room. It's so bright and cheerful and colorful. Pics to come. Soon, soon!


All the kids are healthy and doing awesome. Silas (3) potty trained a few months ago. He even stays dry at night now, so I'm down to diapering one kiddo. Judah (4) is really getting into learning and trying to draw, writing letters, but mostly he's my little painter. He paints some seriously amazing stuff. I mean, he's four and it's abstract, but he is almost meticulous about it and carefully chooses the colors. If anyone tells him he'll be a great artist one day, he'll kind of huff and say, "I AM an artist, now!" True, buddy, true!

Zoe (6) is learning to read and doing really well. She sometimes sighs a long-suffering sigh and tells me she wishes it was easier. Me, too, babes. Me, too! I think that teaching a child to read is more panic-inducing than algebra, and I absolutely abhor math. Abigail (9), once my struggling reader, is now reading small chapter books. She's the kid you don't push. She does everything in her own relaxed time. And not for any particular reason. It's not that she lacks smarts. She's incredibly intelligent and creative. She's just my dreamer. Which I love about her. And if I can keep that imaginative spark alive forever, then I will. I don't push her. I just support, stand back, and watch her bloom in her own way and time. It's magical.

Thea, the baby, is going to be 1 next month. She army crawls everywhere. Daddy caught her trying to crawl on her knees just this weekend (usually mommy sees all these firsts so he was pretty pumped that he saw it before I did). No rush to try to stand up or walk, though. And Elaina (11), my oldest, is growing into a young lady. She got to bring her sewing machine home from her grandmother's house and is sewing all the things. All of them. I pretty much have a list of stuff for her to make for me, ha! She wears a little bit of makeup and has hit those awkward middle school years. I'm trying to help her navigate these tricky waters of self-doubt and peer pressures and body image issues. It isn't easy. But I'll be there for her no matter what.


And this man, who walks by me in life, is doing pretty great, too. We are coming up on our 12th anniversary this October. I cannot even believe it. 12 years married, 6 children... is this real life?!

One thing we have never done before is name our homeschool. We will be discussing some options and hopefully have a great name soon.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

I Can't Believe it's REAL Butter

My family isn't a margarine kind of family. We stick to butter and oils for cooking. Unless it's fudge. My favorite fudge recipe only works with margarine! But I digress...

We recently started buying raw milk from a local farm. I got brave one day and decided to try to make my own butter. It is really dorky how excited I got doing this but I'm comfortable with my dorkiness so I shall share with you the process!


Step One: Skim the cream off the top. It is thick, like Elmer's glue! I ladle it into clean jars that have screw-on lids, like this Prego jar. I also use Mason jars.

Side note: When you get your milk home let it sit for a couple of days. The cream will separate to the top. I always have 1-2 inches of cream when I give it time to settle after being jostled about on it's journey to my house. Can you see the cream at the top of jar on the right?! Our milk comes in these big, big glass jars and it's always so full that milk is dribbling down the sides. It is OK if you get milk in the cream mixture. It will happen and won't harm anything. But do try to get as much cream in there as you can.


Step Two: Shake, shake, shake!

Side note: For best results, let the cream come to room temp, or close to it. Fresh out of the fridge will mean it's so cold that it'll take longer to form butter. Some people put their cream in the blender and let the blender do the work. We just shake the jar. Takes us about 20-30 minutes. When you start to see the butter curds, like above picture, it's time for step three...



Step Three: Strain and rinse.

Side note: Strain the excess milk off and reserve for buttermilk pancakes or biscuits or whatever. Place butter in a bowl and begin the rinsing process until water runs clear (it helps to pop the butter in the fridge to allow it to firm up as it'll be super soft and warm). Basically you're going to knead the butter with a spoon. Carefully run some cool water over the butter and use a spoon to press into the butter. Drain off the water and keep repeating until the water runs clear and you've removed as much liquid from butter as you can. YouTube videos may be your friend here. My photo above is halfway through the rinsing process so the water is almost clear.



Step Four: ENJOY! We had homemade banana bread on hand. It was absolutely heavenly.


Making butter is so much easier than I thought it would be. It takes a lot of cream to get a decent amount of butter. We only yielded a few tablespoons each time we've made butter.

Our butter looks whipped and soft (and it was). Popping it in the fridge will turn it solid, like store-bought butter. It can keep for maybe a week, but it may not stick around that long, ha!

Transformations

I have been such a busy bee lately. Having six kids can do that to ya. We're wrapping up our homeschool year and still getting the house ready for the market, to sell.

I've painted a LOT of ceilings. We've lived here ten years. Some just got grungy and others were already a lovely shade of color, like puke green in the master bedroom! You can see more of the master bedroom transformation HERE.

MASTER CEILING BEFORE:

Plaster ceilings are not my favorite. The cracks are from the house settling and nothing is actually loose, thankfully. Since we can't replace the ceiling with Sheetrock, I decided that just getting rid of the gross color was doable and necessary.

BEFORE:

 Look at the white ceiling paint on the green! It was really noticeable once paint started going up.


Ta da! Much better. Still textured and has some cracks but at least the horrid color is gone.


That light fixture is also an eye-sore IMO but we may just leave it for new homeowners, so they can choose something in their own style. Or maybe they'll like it, who knows.


So fresh!

I also painted the dining room ceiling. It had about three different shades of white up there. Now it's all one bright white and pleasant to look at.

CEILING in DINING:

 BOYS' BEDROOM also got fresh coat of ceiling paint.

I painted the ceiling on the stairway and in the kitchen as well. Phew! Can I just say... not fun. But the result is worth the neck-breaking work. If I ever had to do that much ceiling work again I would invest in a sprayer. I rolled and brushed it all by hand.

NEXT UP: The Kitchen work has begun! It looks like a Mardi Gras float threw up on the walls. So here's the deal: We're painting the walls and lovely paneling in the kitchen, we're also painting the subfloor (I've seen some cool Pinterest-y DIY stuff that transforms subfloor into gorgeous flooring). White cabinets are being delivered this Tuesday. Daniel will be doing a wood plank focal wall above the sink.

BEFORE (I was doing a test spot here to see if I needed to prime. The answer was YES!):


Priming with Zoe. Already looking way better.


Hello pretty bright room! Evening the ceilings look much taller.


This is about where we're at still. Got it all primed and one coat of the upper wall color. The paneling at the bottom half will be an enamel paint in Alabaster white. Enamel dries hard, shiny and is super easy to keep clean. It's a pain in the tush to paint with, though. It sticks to *everything* including skin. So I wear gloves but I still manage to get it on my arms. Since the kitchen is at a standstill I moved onto the second floor bathroom and our fireplace...


Which leads me to the upstairs bathroom where I just finished painting with this lovely enamel paint that I just described...

SECOND BATH BEFORE:

Best before I could find. I'm notoriously bad for not taking pics before I start a project. Daniel was installing the brand new toilet here, in February. Take note of the half-painted upper walls in grey. Lower half is dark purple. Everything was grungy and gross in here.


But then I started painting and the bathroom has been truly transformed! Yes, same color as the master bedroom and the kitchen. Because buying the same color for several rooms saves money. But also because this is a versatile color scheme. Different rooms = different light = slightly different look to the blue-grey paint.


This bathroom is so bright and cheery now. It just looks so much cleaner, even though I haven't scrubbed it yet (literally just finished the bathroom).


And finally, the fireplace. I had primed it a few years ago. I think Judah was a baby (he's four now), or maybe it was Silas (he'll be 3 next month). Regardless it's been a few years. So the primer I used was Kilz and that was to cover these ugly grey concrete blocks. I used my enamel paint in Alabaster, to tie in all these different rooms that I'm using it in, and now the fireplace looks finished and clean.


WHAT'S NEXT?

The kitchen is most likely going to have to wait a little bit. We're doing what we can in spurts, as we can afford it.

I still need/want to paint:
-laundry room (including ceiling, walls and floor as it has same floor as kitchen)
-stairway to our attic loft
-family room

Otherwise all the other room are done, except for some deep cleaning.


If you're interested in the colors we used Sherwin Williams "Sea Salt" which is a grey-blue, and Sherwin Williams "Alabaster" for the white. It's a soft white with no yellow/cream in it.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Spring Break!

Woo, officially on spring break. And I'm already dreaming up our school year for the next year. I'm going through books to sell and looking for ones to buy. It's so refreshing to make changes, even minor ones. It gets you excited about new things to come. We have a lot of familiar favorites we're keeping handy, as well.

Having a baby at the start of this school year has meant restrictions on some things. I wanted to do so much more art and art study, but too often we aren't able to get to it. Art is very leisurely and wonderful... unless you have a toddler (or two) and a baby. I'm trying to juggle so much and am often exhausted. The big girls have done stuff solo but that is met with different challenges. Overall I'm excited for what next year will bring when my hands a little more free. Of course it's bittersweet because I don't want my baby to grow too fast!

In great, irrelevant news, we have a family vehicle now. My minivan was giving us so many problems and needing expensive work almost monthly. It sat for many months and I finally sold it. We found out we were having another baby so the van wouldn't have worked for us anyway since it only seated 7.

For a very long time after I sold the van, we only had Daniel's pickup truck. Which meant we didn't all fit and we almost never left the house. I'm so happy to say that we got an Expedition a few months ago and we all fit quite comfortably. My only issue is the lack of trunk space. When I get groceries I have to pile stuff around everyone or go alone. Daniel ended up selling his pickup truck and we just have the one family vehicle now. He works two jobs so he always has it. Doh! So I'm still often without a vehicle. BUT it does mean that we can get to church and do fun family stuff on Daddy's day off, unlike before.

A peek inside our vehicle. We had to play musical carseats after this because it was extremely difficult getting Thea into the center seat while rear-facing. Thea is now behind the passenger, Silas in the middle and Abigail sits behind driver (we bumped Judah to the far back). We fold Abigail's seat to allow the other three kiddos into the very back. Much, much better arrangement. I feel more comfortable going out with all six by myself with this configuration. Elaina helps with Silas so he doesn't run off and get hit by a car when the kids get out.

So for spring break I don't really have much planned. Thus far, the only thing we've planned is to take the kids to the zoo on Monday (Daddy's day off), then Daniel has an eye appointment, and then we want to put a fire in the firepit and roast hotdogs and marshmallows. It's supposed to be a gorgeous day/evening.


 I can't end a post without showing off the baby, of course! Thea is 6-months-old, as of tomorrow. She has two teeth, started waving this week, rolls over (and over and over until she's clear across the room). Still breastfeeding, still bed-sharing. She squeals in delight when she sees her siblings and her daddy. She LOVES the mirror and gets so excited when she sees her reflection that she starts shaking. She's been babbling for awhile so I sense her first word is coming soon!



Saturday, January 23, 2016

Selling and Buying: Home Edition

This is the year! This is the year we list the house, and hopefully sell it quicker than I can imagine. I'm so nervous about living in a house that I'm trying to sell, with six kids! I'm thinking we may have to go the "open house" route. Most stuff will be packed away in storage when we list the house. But first we are finishing up some projects.

I knocked out a few projects last year. Obviously did the exterior work (see previous post). Before Thea was born I got this major itch to redo our master bedroom. I knew she'd be sleeping with us for at least the first few weeks (she's still in there with us at 4-months-old!) so I wanted it painted and given enough time to air out before she arrived.

I don't have a real good before. I just found some random shots of my room. The walls were dark green, the trim was painted brown. Blech! Dark on dark. The room felt like a dark hole, and not in a good way.

 BEFORE

 We went with Sherwin Williams paint. I usually use pretty cheap paint. I did not realize how expensive Sherwin Williams was until after my paint was mixed. I'm so glad I went ahead with the purchase because this paint is amazing! We went with Sea Salt in matte finish for the walls and semi-gloss Alabaster for the trim. The exterior trim on our house was also done in Alabaster. It's the Sherwin Williams color of the year for 2016. We're so hipster.

Progress Shot! Rooms are so much easier to paint when you just have to do the walls. The trim/woodwork is so tedious. Especially as I was using oil-based paint so it was just so so so sticky and stinky! Why oil-based for the trim? It is strong enamel and easier to wipe clean. I wanted durability. The walls were latex but we're not touching walls like we touch door frames and window frames.
 Ta da! The effort was all worth it. My room went from dungeon dark to light and airy! This picture doesn't do it justice and still looks dark but that's just a bad pic. It's gorgeous in person. Such a calm, serene color.

 I was still cleaning up, but the painting was done, and yes our bed is on cinderblocks. We sold our bed frame and cinderblocks are a cheap alternative until we upgrade to a king-sized bed, from queen-sized. Notice the ugly light fixture and ceilings: that is what is left on my To Do for the master! Painting the ceiling white and maybe replacing the fixture (we may not and let new homeowners pick out a light they want).

Okay another part of our master was the little extra room. It's been many things. Now it's our walk-in closet. It's big, it's beautiful. Check it out!

"Closet" BEFORE (our AC broke twice last year so we got a window unit and everyone slept in our room until the AC was fixed, hence all the extra people and clutter here).

After! I love coming in here to sit. The nursery glider is in there right now and it's a cozy nook.


Daniel and I bought a pine board and a pine pole, cut them each in half. Then we used white closet brackets to attach it all together into the studs in the wall, creating an inexpensive and open closet system. The little white bookcase fit, on the left, perfectly between the wall and the shelves we built. I need to redo the white bookcase but it's not attached to anything and can be taken out and painted any time I get the urge to paint yet another piece of furniture.

While I had the stinky enamel trim paint out, for our bedroom trim, I started in on the downstairs bathroom trim. The door and baseboards came primed from the store, but they were never painted. I learned my lesson with painting the baseboards in my bedroom: use tape! Latex paint, no big deal. But oil paint? Tape, tape, tape.

 Our downstairs bathroom was gutted and done for us by our brother-in-law. He did a fantastic job and we just love it. The walls are Tranquility (a paint from Lowe's but I forget brand) and the trim is Sherwin William's Alabaster. At this point, all that is left to do in this bathroom is to put the vent plate in and touch-up  a little ceiling paint.

 I was so done with painting by the time I got to this door. But I'm so proud of it every time I walk into the bathroom and see how clean and glossy it looks now. Before it was painted it got extremely dirty from the kids' hands and it couldn't be cleaned off! You can see toward the top of the door that it is yellowed and stained looking, yuck. The primer just soaked all the dirt up. Now the door is wipe-able and beautiful. Taking the doorknob off was such a good idea. I was able to paint much quicker without it in the way.

+++

Thanks for checking out my updates! I realize the pics are mostly dark and not the greatest but I'm not a photographer and used my phone for most of them, ha! The rooms look way better and brighter in person.
There are only two major projects left to do before we are ready to get the house appraised and listed. Those would be the upstairs bathroom (I'm actually in the middle of painting it right now) and gutting the kitchen.

Upstairs bath: finish painting, new sink faucet, new toilet.

Kitchen: replace all the walls, paint walls and ceiling, put in new cabinets and counters.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Fourth Month

We have been back-to-school from winter break but today it's been very relaxed. Today it is snowing these big fluffy snowflakes. The baby and Silas are napping while Abigail bakes Snickerdoodle cookies, Zoe and Judah attempt to clean up Legos that were dumped everywhere and Elaina is playing on her Kindle. Almost 2pm and we still haven't started a lesson, oops.

I could get frustrated about it, or I could let it go and start something momentarily. It was a three-cups-of-coffee kind of morning for me. It's going to be a leftovers-for-dinner kind of night. Because baby kept me up all night with her restlessness and first cold. And because I've been busy selling used books online and just trying to play with the kiddos. Sometimes I just need to stop and really look them in the eye and say, "I hear you. I see you. I love you."

So Miss Thea turned 4-months-old this month! She is still such a sweet and happy girl. Lately she has wanted to be held, seemingly constantly. She's been suckling and chomping on her fingers. Only mommy will do, for the most part. She's smitten with her daddy and I've been able to leave the house solo a few times for quick errands (usually my exclusively breastfed babies go everywhere with me because we don't have bottles).

 Four-Month Beauty

Roly-poly with the prettiest almond-shaped eyes.
Thea is trying really hard to roll over now. She makes this whining-shrieking sound when she gets tired (I have jokingly referred to the sound as a "stuck pig" because that is what it reminds me of). She has lost almost all of her hair and has some lovely cradle crap. She's really liking this Peek-a-Boo game that Mommy started playing with her lately. She thinks it is hilarious when we jiggle her arms and make her dance. Her laughs are mostly silent but I can get some good sounding belly laughs from her when I tickle all her chins (ha) and behind her thighs. 

One of her favorite things is diaper changing time. I've never known a baby to be calmed down, from crying, by simply laying them down and taking their diaper or clothes off. She's never had a rash so it's not seemingly discomfort. She just likes being undressed. She will stop crying and start grinning (like the B&W pics above). Her newest thing is to lift up both legs and crash them down together, over and over, when I change her. Not so fun if she does it before I can move a dirty diaper out of the way because it gets on her feet, ew!

She also loves the television. If it is on she will crane her neck to try and see it. Her biggest entertainment comes in the form of five big siblings, though. She loves all of them and gets delighted to see them. 

I love waking up to her sweet, sleepy grins and shrieks. She's such a wonderful blessing!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Better Every Year

Each Christmas that passes gets better and better. The kids really get into the giving spirit now. They are remembering Christmas past. They still get sparkly eyes and are full of wonder at all the festivities. It really is a wonderful time of year!


At Nonna and Poppy's house on Christmas

We're all sugared out from all the goodies we've baked and we are enjoying playing games. We are still waiting for snow, though I'm not personally in any hurry. It sure feels cold outside! Perhaps we will ring in the new year with some flurries.

We hope you had a Merry Christmas!