Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My Lovely, Not Yet Working Stove

We, and my "we" I mean Mathew, need to trim some tree branches before we can burn anything. The installers also have to add two feet of pipe to the chimney. Why they didn't figure that out when they were installing it is beyond me. I have no idea when they will be able to finish, but since they have drywall work to do and paint touch ups and I only paid them half, I'm guessing it won't be too long of a wait.

See that green chair? I will be in it a lot.

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

I could eat these everyday with rice.

Sweet and Sour sauce:
1 C sugar (I know that's a lot. You could probably do 3/4 C or maybe even 1/2 C if you add more honey)
2 Tbsp honey
2/3 C vinegar
1 1/3 C water
1/2 C soy sauce
2 Tbsp ketchup (could use tomato paste too)
2 Tbsp cornstarch (I usually add 1 Tbsp because I mix my sauce with rice. If I were making these for cocktail type meatballs, I would add 2 Tbsp)

2 lbs ground beef
2 eggs
crackers or breadcrumbs, maybe 2 C or so
1 chopped onion

Combine meatball ingredients and bake at 400 in the oven for 20 min. Add to sauce and cook on low in crockpot until the smell is so good you have to eat them or about 6 hours. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


We are having a very fun, frog filled week.

The kids made origami frogs yesterday and have been working on their lapbooks. Maeve loves lapbooks. Finn has enjoyed cutting the things to put in his lapbook. He got a little carried away with the cutting, but he told me that that's how he wanted it.

I had planned to make a new frog habitat, but I'm having trouble finding the correct container. I will either order it online or abandoned the project and encourage Maeve to be happy with our current frog habitat.

We're going to play leap frog, sings some songs, read some books and play a hopping math game that I haven't yet created.

We are also learning about the six pillars of character. Last week we studied caring and this week we're doing respect. My goal is to make them a bit more mindful about how their actions affect others. It seems to be working because both Maeve and Finnegan have done some very kind things for one another over the course of the week.

I had planned to study George Washington and Abraham Lincoln this week too, in honor of Presidents' Day, but I'm not sure we're going to get to them. I'm hoping we finish the frog lapbooks tomorrow and can cover the presidents Thursday and Friday. We'll see. The wood burning stove installers were here on Monday and will be here again Wednesday so my plans have been interrupted a bit.

Here are the links I'm using for this week:!5747552/why-did-this-frog-species-suddenly-evolve-extra-teeth (interactive dissection)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wood Burning Stove Rant

Last December, as in a little over two months ago, we decided to get a wood burning stove to help supplement our heat this winter. I called every place in town and narrowed it down to two who carried the brand we wanted. One place was rude and only wanted to talk to my husband so we went with the other seemingly reputable place. The owner came to our house, looked around and gave us an estimate. A few days later he called to tell us when they would be out to install our new, beautiful stove.

Our installation date was cancelled and rescheduled due to weather. Fine.

Then our installation date was cancelled and rescheduled due to weather. Fine.

Then our installation date was cancelled and rescheduled due to weather. Except the temperature was in the mid 30s. Whatever. I let them know I was unhappy and that they needed to refund our money and we'd pay upon completion. I didn't hear from them for about a week or so.

They finally called and gave us another date. Perfect.

When they arrived, they set my beautiful, new, expensive stove in the mud. Then they were missing a part and I was told they'd come back in two days to finish the job and put in the chimney. Fine.

So today they get here and blindly start cutting into my living room ceiling. I do not make my living cutting into ceilings so I let them go about their business while I played with the kids outside. The kids and I came in for water and I saw the two guys talking about making more cuts into the ceiling and how there was no way they could cut through this or that. I questioned the younger of the two men and he explained that normally he doesn't even bother the homeowners about what he needs to cut out, but since he already cut through our ceiling beam (as in, the one that holds up my ceiling), he didn't feel comfortable cutting through another beam and having no supports for 48 inches. He said they would need to call in a roofer. No.

I called my father-in-law instead who called his cousin, our contractor/builder extraordinaire. It became all to clear at that moment that a) this chimney guy doesn't know what he's doing and b) he always makes cuts without going into an attic first to see what he'll be cutting.

How hard is it to do your job properly? I am paying these people a great deal of money and would like my house to be standing at this end of this process. Is that too much to ask? I've already spoken with the owner and he is not going to charge us for the labor/cost involved in fixing my destroyed beam and he's also not charging us for the extra pipe they will be using to fix the "problem". I say "problem" because this all could have been avoided had they had moved the stove over 6-8 inches when they saw that there was a big beam in the way. This leaves me wondering how many other homes they have structurally ruined due to ignorance or laziness.

And do you take no pride in your work? Have you not been trained properly? The younger guy said several times that he's "just a chimney sweep". If that's all you are, you have no business cutting holes in my home. The older guy doesn't even do this sort of thing and was here mostly for support and heavy lifting. He had no idea what he was doing either but it's because this isn't his job!

I will be calling the owner again tomorrow and discussing the possibility of him sending out another chimney guy. I want someone who doesn't storm out when he's being talked to about the importance of not cutting out ceiling beams in 150 year old houses. Or any houses for that matter.

This whole thing just leaves a bad taste in my mouth, you know? I'm terribly disappointed in the quality of workmanship we've received and I'm dumbfounded that they guy was upset at us for pointing out his blatantly obvious mistakes. Yes, the guy is young, but he's probably close to my age and should have a good enough work ethic at this point to stand up, admit his mistake and listen to constructive criticism. It also upsets me that there was little care or thought put into attempting to install our wood burning stove. We are going to be burning wood at 400 degrees (or whatever...this is my husband's area of expertise) and I want to know that my house isn't going to start on fire or FALL DOWN.

So I have a hole in my ceiling and our installation date has been moved to Monday. It's supposed to snow on Monday. Shall we start taking bets on whether this stove will see a fire this winter?

Menu and Groceries

Friday 2/18
Ham, scalloped potatoes, green beans (If you read this blog regularly, you might have noticed this keeps getting put on the menu. I keep not fixing it.)

chicken and noodles

Breakfast: hashbrowns, fruit, eggs, bacon

lasagna, bread, green beans

most likely out

nacho bar

sweet and sour meatballs over rice

Friday 2/25
meatloaf, mashed potatoes, carrots and kale

chicken or beef pot pies

Breakfast: hasbrowns, pancakes, eggs

chicken alfredo with peas, bread


tacos or maybe enchiladas if I feel like making the sauce

chili from the freezer, cornbread

lasagna noodles
apples (and whatever fruit is cheap)
tortilla chips
Colby jack
Italian seasoning
ricotta (or maybe make my own with the milk in the freezer)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Valentine's Week Randomness

We were all feeling lousy last week so not much got accomplished other than feeling very cooped up.

This week we'll be starting to learn about the six pillars of character. I'm going to start with caring since tomorrow is Valentine's Day. We've already done some Vday crafting and tomorrow I've planned some math and reading activities that fit with the wonderfully overrated holiday.

As an aside, my husband and I celebrate eight years of marriage on the 15th. I always feel the need to clarify that we did not pick that date because of Valentine's Day. February 16th, 2002 was the day of our first date. It was a study date initiated by yours truly, however I had no intention of studying. Mathew came over with pages and pages of typed notes. Nerd. Our date ended with us kissing on top of giantic playground slides. Aw. I still love him. The end.

Anyway, we are going places this week. The weather is supposed to be warm (as in 40+ degrees) and sunny and we are ready to be out of the house. I will be doing a lot of teaching as we go and I am certain new interests will be discovered.

I will be putting stuff together soon for a unit about plants and gardening. I bought Maeve a strawberry plant from Target's dollar section and the old woman checking us out went on and on about her strawberry plant and how growing something with the kids would be a fun learning experience. I nodded and happily added that the kids had just helped me start 38 tomato plants. I didn't bother mentioning the fruit trees, carrots, kale, chard, peas, squash...... We've got the growing and learning thing down to

Speaking of cashiers, we were at the grocery store today buying Cadbury eggs and the high school aged cashier was very confused. For whatever reason, he thought the Cadbury eggs were .99 cents each. I had four. He got out his cell phone and explained that he was using the calculator to add. I explained that the chocolates were two for a dollar. It took him a minute and he said "so that's two dollars." Yes, yes it is. Shall we ask my three year old to be sure? Of course I wasn't rude to him, but I wanted to say that he was one of the many reasons we home school. Why the young man wasn't using the register was beyond me, but adding .99 cents really had him stumped. I wonder if he can add 100s and subtract 4?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Frugal Ways to Decorate Your Home

Paint, accessories and wall art can add up quickly when decorating or redecorating a space. Here are ways to minimize the cost:

1. Visit your community's paint recycling center. I live close to my county's household hazardous waste/recycling center. I just have to sign in, pick out whatever paint I want, and sign out. Easy and free.

2. Curb shop or, if you're not comfortable with that, visit thrift stores. We recently found a very nice glider and foot stool for $15. Craigslist is another way of finding a good bargain on furniture. Our dining set (buffet, table with three leaves, six chairs and hutch) is vintage, in good shape and was only $150. The ReUseIt Network and Freecycle are two online free sites that sometimes have good stuff.

3. Liquid starch and fabric. This is on my list of things to try. You paint the liquid starch on the fabric and can then stick the fabric to the wall. It's like the pricey vinyl decals without the cost. The fabric peels off easily when you are ready for a change.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

No Poo Update

I tried using baking soda and apple cider vinegar to rinse and condition my hair, but it was not successful. I endured an entire month of smelling like apple cider, but my hair became somewhat unmanageable. It was soft but the fly aways were crazy and there was a lot of fuzz. I'm not sure if I was using too much baking soda, not enough baking soda or too much/not enough apple cider vinegar. Honestly, I don't care. I did really want this to work, but I don't want to have to think about proper ratios of washing ingredients while I am showering. A shower in my house is a luxury. Well, I should say a quiet shower is a luxury. My last shower was spent convincing my 17 month old to put down the toilet brush and stop splashing in the toilet. The joys of motherhood.

Anyway, the no poo method once again gets a huge thumbs down. I'm sure I will try it again sometime after I read more glowing reviews and convince myself that it will bring me curly hair happiness. And who knows? Maybe the third time really will be charmed.

Tampons, Glorious Tampons

I recently helped Maeve clean off and organize her desk. She had a huge cup full of tampons that she had been saving for a tampon party. Our conversation went something like this:

"Maeve, what do you want to do with these tampons? Are you ready to throw them away?"

"NO! I want to use them to decorate the house!"

"Tampons usually make people uncomfortable if they are hanging from the walls."

"Can we hang them from the ceiling?"

"No, but you can certainly hang them from the shelf by your work station."

And so she did. The ninth one from the right is her favorite because it's not poofed out like the other ones and it came out of a plastic telescope. I guess she's a Playtex kinda girl.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Hot Cocoa Pouring

The kids played outside for about 30 seconds today and were very disappointed when I didn't have hot cocoa ready for them. I apologized for not being a magacian and graciouly made them hot cocoa. Well, lukewarm cocoa so there wouldn't be any complaining.

Oren loves to pour. He would probably sit and pour stuff for hours if he never got wet. Unfortunately, he sometimes misses and sometimes gets a bit creative about his pouring containers. Hot cocoa is no exception.

Do you see where all of the cocoa isn't going?

Oops. Or maybe he was sharing?

Lots of drippage.

Here you will notice his creativity. He put one glass inside the other. 

I'm sure it tastes better this way. If only it had gone into his mouth.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Menu and Grocery list

I have been working hard to clean out the freezer in our main fridge. I have been very successful and crap no longer comes crashing out when I open the door. Now we have space to stock up on frozen fruit and veggies. I need to better organize all of our freezers, but it's cold in the garage so it will wait until spring.

Friday 2/4
Breakfast: orange slices, oatmeal
Lunch: pasta with Parmesan, chicken and peas (or maybe Costco if we time it right)
Dinner: pork roast, potatoes, carrots

BBQ pork, homemade rolls, oranges, leftover carrots
Husband's birthday party!
*make bread, start yogurt after breakfast

fruit smoothies, toast
waffles, hash browns, fruit toppings/syrup (whipped cream in freezer, sing happy birthday)

I'm feeling lazy and don't want to plan breakfast and lunch since I rarely follow it anyway.

Penne and meatballs, salad, rolls

Out to eat?


ham and bean soup out of the freezer, rolls

Friday 2/11
ribs, boiled potatoes, sweet corn

ham, au gratin potatoes, green beans

the usual: breakfast

chicken Parmesan, broccoli, rolls

Out to eat?

beans and rice with homemade tortillas
*cook two chickens

try a new soup recipe

This is a Costco list, fyi:
syrup x 2
blueberries x 2
strawberries x 2
dishwasher detergent ($3.50 off coupon) x 2
flour x 2
Colby jack cheese
broccoli (fresh and frozen)
chicken breasts
bread (I have not yet perfected sandwich bread)

Feed store:
rabbit pellets and dog food

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

When I'm Not Looking

This is what happens when Finnegan finds my camera. I have several more that are just like this one. I also have many, many pictures of the cupboards and computer screen.

Head Scarves

Today I had planned to go get my hair cut while my littlest was napping. The knee high drift of snow, however, prevented me from going anywhere. My hair is unruly and at an odd length so headbands and pony tails don't work. I consulted  Weekend Sewing by Heather Ross and found a solution. In less than an hour, I made four head scarves. They were easy to sew, keep the hair out of my face and stay on my head. I love them!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Frugal Gardening

I am frugal for two reasons: most of the time I don't have the money and if I do have money I don't like to spend it.

I planned to buy a tall, wire shelving unit for seed starting this year, but the shelves are $35. That's not a lot of money, but more than I want to pay. Thrifting is not always do-able with three small kids so that lead me to thinking about reusing what we have around the house.

This is a wire shelf that was never installed in one of the closets. It's propped up with four of my kids'
play food containers. The blue lights were found on clearance for next to nothing and provide warmth for the seeds overnight when the house gets cold.

I save yogurt, sour cream and cottage cheese containers throughout the year when I remember to keep them instead of recycle. The green leafy thing is a remaining celery end that sprouted in a bowl of water. We finally put it in dirt and I'm hoping it continues to grow.

I have been save plastic baggies to reuse over the     tops of the yogurt containers to help retain moisture and warmth. I also saved all of our seed sprouting/planting containers from last year so that we can reuse them when/if the seedlings outgrow the yogurt containers.

The seeds seem to like the new setup because most of them have already sprouted.