Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Homeschooled 13 Year Old's Favorite Books

I thought I would share my daughter's favorite books.  She is an avid reader and aspiring novelist. You will rarely find her without either a book or pen and paper in hand.  

l.  The Ranger's Apprentice by John Flanagan
2.  The Brotherhood Chronicles by John Flanagan
3.  Both Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
4.  The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan
5.  The 39 Clues by various authors
6.  The Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley
7.  The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
8.  Ella Enchanted by Gail Carlson Levine
9.  Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene
10.  The Hardy Boys series by Franklin W. Dixon
11.  Jack Blank by Matt Myklusch
12.  Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo

She has read these books over and over while still managing to fit in new reads.  She is amazing!  

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Horror of The Hunger Games

I must confess, I did read The Hunger Games.  Not because I wanted to mind you, but because my 16 year old son is enthralled with it, as well as a teen cousin of his.  Or maybe entranced.  And that concerned me, especially since my son is not a big reader.

So, I sat down one night and read the whole book.  And I was shocked at what was in The Hunger Games.  I had thought it would be part fantasy, part science fiction, but I was wrong.  It is pure horror written for kids.  Stephen King for the young, if you must.  

The violence was shocking and horrible.  And so unfeeling.  That stunned me.  And where were the "good guys" ?  I couldn't find them.  The whole tone of the book was hopeless, disturbing and thought-provoking in a bad way.  And, in a way, almost hypnotic.  As my 19 year old daughter said, she hated the book, yet wanted to keep reading, and that fact bothered her as well as me.

The book is about the future where the government, in retaliation for an uprising, selects children from 12 and up through a lottery.  These chosen children are then placed together in a designated area where they are to eliminate all the other children in any way necessary.  The last child alive is the winner and their family is compensated with food and supplies.  And, by the way, this whole scenario is watched live by the nation on a reality TV show.

Why are we allowing our children to read The Hunger Games especially as Christian homeschooling parents?  There is no redemption, no love, no faith in these books at all.  They are the opposite of what we are trying to instill in our children.  

Isn't anyone else concerned about the way The Hunger Games has become an obsession with children and teens?  I beg you to read one of them so you at least know what your children are being exposed to.  It will be an eye-opening experience for you. 

Please let me know how you feel about this issue and leave a comment as I feel very alone in my thoughts on The Hunger Games.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Overwhelming Worry

It happened again.  A new study came out about bacon and sausage causing pancreatic cancer.  Just one more thing to worry about.  I'm not sure if this study will stick, but just in case, since we have pancreatic cancer in our family tree, we'll scale down our bacon and sausage intake to just special occasions.
Worry, worry, worry.  It gets so overwhelming sometimes thinking about all the bad things out there in this world that can hurt us. I begin to feel that life is scary and I worry about that!
Every time I pick up a newspaper or magazine, or watch TV, there is something to worry about.  Coffee is bad, there is a deadly virus on the horizon, ticks live in the yard all year, Lyme disease is running rampant, a child was abducted, the car has safety issues, Norovirus is in the area, a cruise ship sank, a candle caused a house fire, immunizations cause autism, e coli is in the meat, salmonella on the vegetables, is that mole cancerous, well, need I say more?
But I am determined not to let worry overtake my life and my family's.  I am doing my best to focus on the best in life.  As St. Paul says, "whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things" Phillippians 4:8.
God doesn't want me to focus on the dangers and perils of life.  He wants me to focus on the graces and blessings of this life, and to realize that this will all pass when we are with him in heaven.
So, these days, when I begin to worry (which is often) I say the little prayer, "Jesus, I trust in you" and know that whatever comes my way, He will be there by my side helping me to deal with it.
May God bless you all today!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Valentine's Gone Bad

It all started innocently enough.  My hubby wanted to make plans for Valentine's Day and so mentioned this past weekend about cooking steaks on the grill.  I thought it might be a good idea, but suggested hamburgers rather than steak, as the budget is a little small this week. He agreed.

So, Valentine's morning, I made coleslaw to go with the burgers and chips.  Later that day, hubby called saying he was leaving work (late of course) and that he would stop by to pick up the ground beef, rolls and wine.

He finally arrived bearing ground beef and a steak, fired up the barbie and I formed the burgers.  Did I mention that he purchased salad fixings, too?  And the fact that I had already made coleslaw?  And that he bought 1 steak?  Remember, we are feeding 5 people.  Anyway, so out to the grill (in the dark) went the meat.

Ten minutes later, the back door opened, and there is hubby bearing an uncooked platter of meat.  Seems the grill is not functional at this time, which means that I will now have to make either the stove top or oven greasy, depending on the method of cooking the meat.  

My crabbiness ensues.  More work for me!  I then drag out my panini/grill and look for my directions which are generally underneath the grill in the pullout drawer.  But they are nowhere to be found and so I have to remember the settings and the time for cooking steaks and hamburgers.

The steak goes on first and proceeds to steam to a lovely shade of gray.  Into the warming drawer it goes.  The burgers go next and they are more succesful.  

So, at 7 p.m., all the hungry vultures descend on the food.  I look at the steak (aka shoe leather) and decide to have a burger and a big glass of wine to fortify me for cleaning up the greasy stove after dinner.

I do have to add that hubby and kids did help with the cleanup after our "romantic" and disastrous Valentine's dinner, so it wasn't all bad.

It seems we haven't escaped the Valentine's Day curse even after 30 years of marriage, since I can't recall a Valentine's when things have gone right.  Something always seems to happen!  Maybe we'll try takeout next year.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Conquering Clutter Challenge 3 - Mission Accomplished

Wow, I thought I'd never finish with this last challenge!  But, boy, am I thrilled with the results.  I can't wait to start creating in my new clean space.  To remind you of what this sewing space looked like before, here's the photo:
There it is, in all its glory.  First thing I had to do was to find a home for my items I'm going to sell in my new Etsy shop called Cottage Garden Vintage, opening soon.  That was easier said than done.  I had to clear a big shelf for those.  So, those things on that shelf had to find a new home.  They were mostly older homeschool books that I had tried to sell previously on Ebay, so I had to make the executive decision to donate them.
I then put all my assorted sewing supplies in the drawers they belonged in, as well as thread, pin cushions and measuring tapes.  Patterns were placed back in their file boxes.  
I put up the curtains that had been draped over my serger and actually opened my serger after ? years.  Wow!  
Other random items either found a new home, were tossed in the trash or were donated.
And now, for the final reveal.  Brace yourselves!
Isn't that beautiful?  I think so.  
I hope this gives you the inspiration to begin your own conquering clutter challenge.  
I know I am looking for my next challenge to share with you.  Stay tuned and God bless you!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Quick Money-Saving Hints

Here is a short list of easy things I have been doing to save a few dollars:

1.  Hang clothes out on clothesline on nice days, even when it's cold.

2.  Washing clothes in cold water.

3.  Replace regular light bulbs with fluorescent bulbs.

4.  Cancel magazine and newspaper subscriptions.

5.  Cancel XM radio subscription.

6.  Shop at thrift stores for clothes and shoes.

7.  Plan my menus before grocery shopping.

8.  Drink brewed iced tea instead of soda.

9.  Stretch meals with pasta and rice casseroles.

10.  Buy drugstore cosmetics rather than department store counter cosmetics.

These were just some simple changes we made that put  a few dollars back in our pockets.  Small changes can feel less painful than some big changes!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Simplifying Is Not So Simple

Recently, I read a post at regarding simplifying life.  It is a beautiful, wonderful post which got me thinking about my own life.
My life is not simple.  Not even close.  Sometimes when I wake up, I feel overwhelmed with everything that needs to be done.  I have "too many balls in the air" as they say.  You know how it is--just everyday housekeeping like laundry, cooking, straightening, cleaning, homeschooling can sometimes be overwhelming.
But add to that the fact that we are trying to pull all our paperwork together to apply for another mortgage modification, my trying to earn a couple of dollars online, trying to declutter, well, I just feel google-eyed and like I'm running after my tail.
Nothing ever really gets done.  Everything is "in the process of" and that does wear on me.  I get overwhelmed just trying to decide what to focus on!  When I get stressed I say to myself "Jesus, I trust in you" and that helps so much.  But it doesn't get anything done.  It just calms my soul.
I feel like I need someone to come in and whip me into shape; to tell me what to do because I'm just drifting aimlessly, so lately my prayers have been asking for discipline and to keep my energies focused.
I guess for now, I'll just keep making more "to do" lists and perhaps start a "to don't" list so that for now, I can forget about doing some things, and decide what I really, really need/want to get done.
And I'll keep reading those inspiring blogs from other Moms that help me in my muddled journey.
God bless!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Movies: To Be or Not to Be

Yesterday, I had a discussion with my 16 year old son about action/adventure movies he wants to see, either at the theater or on DVD like "The Hunger Games", "G.I. Joe, Rise of the Cobra", "Transformers" or "Contagion" for example.
So I looked to my favorite Christian review sites:  Common Sense Media and Plugged In to check and see if he might be able to view any of those movies.  I was shocked to see what was in these films in terms of language, sexual situations/innuendo and violence.  
Now, I try to not to be puritanical in deciding what is appropriate for him, but where does a Christian parent draw the line?  Five swear words?  Ten?  None?  And which words should I let pass?
How many sexual references do I allow?  How many violent acts?
Is there nothing for him (and for that matter, other Christian/homeschool families) between "Cinderella" and "Battle LA"?  Should we just give up and wait for a decent film to come out?
He (and our family) really enjoyed "National Treasure", "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" and the "Narnia" films.  But that's all we've been able to watch that is appealing to him.
Are we the only family struggling with this?  Is it worse because we homeschool and so the harshness of life seems more harsh?  Trying to stick with Christian values, yet trying to find something entertaining to watch, is definitely a huge challenge.
I would love to hear from you with suggestions for movies for Christian families.  If I hear from enough readers, I will put together a movie list in a future post.
God bless you and thanks for reading my blog.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Conquering Clutter Challenge 3

OK, it is now time for the greatest challenge yet--my sewing/craft area.  It is embarrassing to show this to the whole world, but it must be done. This area is necessary to my earning extra money, and currently it is unusable.  Right now it is covered with glassware for my new shop I'm trying to open on Etsy, called Cottage Garden Vintage.  So my biggest challenge is finding a safe spot to store all this glass while it is listed in the shop.  
There is also a serger, still in its box on the left and stacks of books to sell on Ebay.  
In the foreground is another box with Ebay items.  There are curtains to be hung up, statues to be glued, and a TV at the end of the table.  I feel tired already!
So please pray that I have the energy and focus to get this area in tip-top working order so that I can actually use my sewing area as it was intended.
So my projected date of completion will be Sunday, February 12, God willing.  On Monday, I hope to share my "after" photos.  
Please join me in this challenge and share your thoughts and links to what you have accomplished in conquering clutter.  

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Homemade Pizza for Superbowl Party

I have decided to break into the family vault and share our famous homemade pizza recipe, just in time for your Superbowl party.  It's easy and cheap to make and my family gobbles it all up every time I make it (which is every couple of weeks).  
In a large bowl, place each of the following and mix well:
7 cups all-purpose flour
2 pkgs. quick rise yeast (or 4 1/2 tsp.)
1 Tablespoon salt
In small bowl, combine:
3 cups very warm tap water
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 Tablespoons oil (olive oil or any vegetable oil)
Slowly add warm water mixture to flour mixture until crumbly dough forms.  Turn onto lightly floured surface and knead 4-5 minutes until dough is satiny smooth and elastic.
Let rise until double in size (about 20-30 minutes) in a warm spot (I use my oven with the light on).  Remove dough from oven and preheat to 450 degrees.
Punch dough down and separate into 3-4 pieces, depending how thick you like your crust and place in oiled pan sprinkled with corn meal.  Spread carefully with hands, coaxing the dough to the edges of the pan, being careful not to make a hole.  If hard to spread, move to next pizza and let the other rest a moment and then try again.
Spread sauce (recipe follows) on dough and add toppings, cheese first (I use pepperoni, crumbled pre-cooked breakfast sausage and shredded mozzarella cheese).
Bake at 450 for 12-14 minutes.

Pizza Sauce

3 cups tomato sauce
3 Tablespoons tomato paste (I use the one in the tube)
3/4 teaspoon oregano
3/4 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon onion powder
Couple of good splashes of olive oil
Mix well with whisk

I guarantee this will be a crowd pleaser.  I am asked to bring pizza to family gatherings as it is very popular.

Enjoy and go Patriots!