Monday, October 31, 2011

Day 31 - A Thought to Ponder

"You have to make peace with yourself. 
The key is to find the harmony in what you have."
Naomi Watts


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Day 30 - The 5 Languages

I have a niece who is somewhat challenging. She is extremely smart (maybe too smart) and can be very stubborn. And, she can throw a fit like none I've ever seen before. Don't get me wrong, I love her dearly. She's sweet, fun, spunky, and awesomely hilarious. But, when she gets in one of her moods, it's sometimes best to just duck and take cover.

In an effort to try to create a more peaceful environment, my brother did one of the things he does best. Research. He came across some books to help better understand your family. They're called "The 5 Love Languages".  There are several books including ones for couples, apologies, children, and parents of teenagers. 

The 5 languages are: Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, and Acts of Service.  Everybody needs to receive a little of each, but after taking a quiz, you'll find out which two are the most important to you.  Those two are the languages that you need to "hear" the most from those around you. 

The books go into more depth about everything, but you can take the quizzes here for free!  We haven't read the books, but the boys, hubby, and I have all taken the online quizzes, and we're so glad we did.  People tend to do for others what they want done for them.  Different people have different needs, though, and these quizzes will help you find what your loved ones need from you.

I can tell you that since we took these quizzes, we have been able to create a much more harmonious family dynamic.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Day 29 - Make Memories

Not so long ago, the boys and I had a wonderful conversation that nearly brought me to tears. They had gotten together, and decided to sit me down for a talk. The way that day had been going, I was expecting them to tell me something that would give me more stress.

They looked so serious when we sat down at the table to talk. Then, they told me how much they appreciate the memories I help make for them. They love that I went to their scout camps with them this summer, and they love it when I take them to the local museum and the living history museum about 45 minutes away (buying a membership for one also gives you a membership for the other - probably the best $45 we spend every year). They enjoy the picnics we take and the games we play.

Making memories with and for your kids isn't difficult at all, and it doesn't have to be expensive.  Kids just want to spend time with their parents.  If you're at a loss for ideas, just think back to when you were a kid, and try to do the things you remember.  Don't get stressed out, and don't try to make everything just perfect.  Learn to laugh when things don't go as planned (like when you get the plates and food all set out for a picnic, and the sky that had been perfectly clear all day decides to open the flood gates), and let the kids help make the plans.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Day 28 - Soak It All In

One of the best pieces of advice I received when I got marries was to take just a couple of minutes for yourself, and just look around and soak it all in.

Every once in a while, I still do that. I'd love to remind myself every day how lucky I am, but I get busy, so I it's not often that I have a chance and remember to take a few moments to really soak it all in. "It" is my life.

We're not rich, and we have our fair share of struggles, but my husband and I are able to provide our boys with a warm bed at night and we can keep food on the table. While Bug and Awesome don't get everything on their Birthday and Christmas lists, they do get enough to make them feel as though it was a good Birthday or Christmas, by 7- and 10-year-old standards.

We're luckier than a lot of people, and it's important that we all know and appreciate this little fact. The important thin is that we're happy. And, it makes me especially happy when I catch my husband or one of the boys just sitting back and soaking it all in.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Day 27 - Know Your Limitations

I had all but 1 day of my 31 Days planned, and at least most of those posts written (or at least started). Except today.

Last Friday and Saturday were the dates for a local Haunted House. My sis-in-law is part of the town's improvement committee, and since we did such an AWESOME job for Bug's Halloween themed 7th birthday party (including a haunted house we set up in 1 day in a small conference room), she was asked, about 4 years ago, to plan one as a fundraiser.

We get to use an old 100+ year old school whose last classes were held in 2006-2007. The first year, we used the basement, but we now use the upstairs area that includes a couple of classrooms, a gym, and a stage (and a few long hallways).

I usually have a role in our haunted house (I missed one year due to migraines), and we have a blast.  Each year gets better and better, even though attendance was down a little this year.  Usually the farmers are finishing up the harvesting season by now.  This year, they're right in the middle of it.  People have also finally realized that we don't tolerate rude and disorderly drunks, which has also cut down a little on the attendance.  I think this is the first year we haven't had to kick anybody out!  Yay!



Jigglypuff  Snugglypoops (left) has been our fearless leader the last 2 years.  He's played by my rock star nephew, Holden.  He's incredibly witty and hilarious, which makes it hard for us to keep a straight face when we're trying to scare people!  Jigglypuff Snugglypoops (or "Killer" for short) leads our guests through their worst nightmares (and an UBER AWESOME vortex - I'll have to see if I have video of it somewhere, it's soooo cool!) so they don't get lost.  This year, we also had Bongina (right) bringing up the rear.  No matter how hard Killer tries to keep the groups together, there are always stragglers, so we have found that it's best to have someone follow behind.  Bongina was created and played by J's fearless uncle Mike.

The HH ran Friday and Saturday night from 8 to midnight both nights.  When we say 8-midnight, it means that as long as people get their names on the list before midnight, they get to come through.  This means that we end up running till 1 or 2am.  And, after visiting with the other haunters and munching away on soups, crackers, candy, and cookies, you don't get home till at least an hour after the last group of hauntees comes through.

If you're like me, and are usually in bed and asleep by 10pm most nights, this will kick your butt.  For a week.  I'm still recovering, which means the housework has been suffering a little.  So, yeah.  I'm definitely learning what my limitations are.  But, I do think that a one week hangover is definitely a worthy price to pay for being able to scare the bejeezus out of people!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Day 26 - Go Off The Grid

Several years ago, I believe it was 2005-2006, we had an ice storm.  It was baaaad.  While the town 15 miles away got some ice, they didn't get what we did.  We lost power for several days.  I would have loved to take my family into town to stay at my uncle's house, but it was impossible to get there.  We barely made it to the in-laws' house 5 miles away.

Why did we leave the safety and coldness of our own home?  Because they had an attached garage, and a wood stove in that garage.  There were 11 of us living in a 2-bedroom house for about 3 days (my sis-in-law & her family were there, too).  That 5 mile drive was one of the longest and scariest drives of my life.  The road was covered in ice, so we didn't dare go any faster than about 20 miles/hour.  And, as if the ice wasn't bad enough, the phone/electric poles had snapped in half, so we were also trying to avoid the poles and lines on the road.

Even though almost all of us have gas heating, our thermostats are electric.  Jeremy, the boys, and I slept, huddled together, under a pile of blankets, in two twin beds pushed together, and we were still cold.  I don't think it ever got above 0 degrees the entire time we were at the in-laws'.


My father-in-law & oldest nephew slept out in the garage to keep the wood stove loaded.  It helped a bit, especially when they got the garage up to 105 degrees!

We spent our 2005-2006 New Year's Eve in the garage, and we all went to bed by 9:00, because we got bored!  That made me realize how much we depend on electronics to entertain us.  Don't get me wrong.  I love the internet, Netflix, and my ipod, but we learned some valuable lessons.

Despite the cold, the boys had a blast.  Well, Bug did.  Awesome was only 20 months old at the time.  He seemed to have a fun time, though!  We all dug out our cast iron pots & pans so we could cook on the wood stove in the garage.  I think we ate better during that ice storm than we had in a long time.  When you cook with cast iron, you have no choice but to cook with real food!  We played several board games, and spent a lot of time just chatting and hanging out.

Since then, J, the boys, and I try going off the grid one or two evenings a month.  All electricity (except what is needed for heating and cooling) is shut off.  When it gets dark, we light candles, and we just hang out.  We do what we did during that storm.  Just play games and hang out.  Sometimes, I teach Bug & Awesome a simple song on the piano, too.  It's just a good time, and it really helps us reconnect and grow as a family.

Going off the grid is not only beneficial to the environment, but it is a great way to recharge our family.

*I took several pictures during that ice storm, but I'm not sure if I have any on a CD.  I'll look, and will upload any if I can find them.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Day 25 - The End


The End by Pearl Jam

Monday, October 24, 2011

Day 24 - A Thought To Ponder

"Harmony makes small things grow, 
lack of it makes great things decay. "
Sallust



Sunday, October 23, 2011

Day 23 - Time

After two super late nights of scaring the crapola out of people, my brain is a little tired/fried. I thought I had today's post all planned out, but I can't seem to remember a single thing.  Instead, I'll share with you one of my favorite quotes.

via Pinterest

And then one day you find
Ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run
You missed the starting gun.

From Time by Pink Floyd

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Day 22 - Granola or not?

Not sure why, but it seems that as soon as people find out you're pregnant, they feel as though they can try to run your life.  Even complete strangers will tell you what to do, how to do it, and only a horrible mother wouldn't follow their advice.  Some super granola people get vicious, and I wasn't prepared for some of their comments.  Lucky for me, I have an awesome mom, and she convinced me that I had no reason to feel guilty.

When the boys were babies, I was all about ease and convenience.  Looking back now, I would change a few things.

Breastfeeding - I didn't do this.  I bottle fed both Bug and Awesome, and nothing short of a life-and-death situation could make me change my mind.  I am not comfortable with breastfeeding, and I didn't want my baby misinterpreting my unease.  It appears that many pro-booby fans seem to think that those of us who bottle feed just toss a bottle in our baby's mouth and disappear.  That's not the case.  I held my boys while I fed them, and I could look in their eyes just as well as a booby mom.

Cloth Diapers - Absolutely not.  Wet diapers would be okay.  Poopy ones would probably just get thrown out.

Baby Wearing - I honestly didn't know about this until Awesome was too big.  If I had known about slings and such when the boys were babies, I totally would have "worn" my baby.  Maybe not to the bathroom or while driving (yes, I have seen this), but I would have worn the boys around the house, or used a sling in place of a stroller sometimes.

Elimination Communication - I know that some people swear by this, but I just find this idea a bit silly.  I think it's the parents that get trained, not the baby. 

Homemade Baby Food - This is one thing that I wish I would have done.  It's much cheaper and healthier than buying baby food.

I started out not being a granola mom at all.  If I had a baby now, I'd be semi-granola.  Whether or not you were/are a granola mom, don't let anybody make you feel guilty about your choices.  You make your decisions based on what you are comfortable with.  If you try to do what everyone else wants you to do, you're just going to be stressed out, and that's just going to cause more tension in your baby's life.  A tense baby is an unhappy baby.  And, if baby's unhappy, EVERYBODY is unhappy.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Day 21 - Get Outside

I'm not an outdoorsy person. I like the comforts of being inside. However, I do try to get outside a little everyday (and I make the boys spend at least 15-30 minutes, minimum, outside every day). Sometimes I take a little walk around the neighborhood. Sometimes I just sit for a bit, either at home or at the park, and read or just think and temporarily escape housework and other responsibilities.  I find the fresh air so invigorating.

It's amazing what a 15 minute break from your day-to-day life can do for a person! 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Day 20 - All I Can Do Is Write About It

I know it's Thursday, but I'm going to file this post under Tuesday Tunes, anyway. There's a reason I'm posting 2 tunes this week, but I'll explain that in a bit.

Lynyrd Skynyrd is probably most well know for singing "Sweet Home Alabama", "Tuesday's Gone", and "Free Bird". Like many others, I love those songs. But, my favorite song is "All I Can Do Is Write About It". It reminds me how lucky I am and how I should appreciate and take care of the things I have.



On this day 34 years ago, Lynyrd Skynyrd lost their pilot Walter Wiley McCreary, co-pilot William John Gray, road manager Dean Kilpatrick, back-up singer Cassie Gaines, Cassie's brother and the band's guitarist Steve Gaines, and lead singer and songwriter Ronnie Van Zant. They were on their way to Baton Rouge when their plain ran out of fuel and crashed in a swamp by Gillsburg, Mississippi.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Day 19 - Finding Harmony in Your Marriage/Relationship

I am not a marriage counselor, and I know I still have a lot left to learn. However, I do want to share with you a few things that I have learned, most of these things were learned when Jeremy and I came dangerously close to splitting up.  As a last ditch effort to save our marriage, we brainstormed, and came up with a few ideas.  It worked, and we are now stronger than we have ever been.  There are two things that we used to consciously do every day.  Now, we do them automatically and effortlessly.

1.  Look each other in the eyes at least once.  I don't mean just looking at your husband while talking to him, I mean really look him in the eyes.  Sometimes we say I love you, sometimes we mention something we appreciate about the other person, and sometimes we don't say anything at all.


2.  Touch each other at least once.  It can be a hug, a cuddle, holding hands, or just a touch on the shoulder.  

These two things are so simple, and are really just common sense.  By doing these two simple things, we let each other know that we love each other, we're here for each other, and we appreciate each other.  We talk more, love more, and laugh more, which helps us raise happy, healthy boys.

My great-grandparents after about 50 years of marriage.

We look forward to sharing a long and joyful life together, just like our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents.  Sometimes doing the simplest things can make for the happiest marriages.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Day 18 - Rise

This was easily one of the most uplifting, inspiring, and depressing movies I have ever seen.
If you haven't already seen Into The Wild, you should.


"Rise" by Eddie Vedder from the Into The Wild Soundtrack


Monday, October 17, 2011

Day 17 - A Thought To Ponder

"Happiness is mental harmony; unhappiness is mental inharmony."
James Allen

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Day 16 - Finding Harmony in your veggie garden

I don't know much about gardening.  I do know that when planting flowers, I should always plant perennials because the die within 2-4 weeks after planting, but they almost always come back the next year!

I also know about the 3 sisters.  Do you?

They are corn, squash, and beans.  We should thank Iroquois Indians for figuring this out and sharing it with us.  Corn makes a great ladder for the beans to climb on.  The beans not only strengthen the corn stalks by climbing them, but the beans also fix the nitrogen in the soil for the corn and squash, which helps with the feeding demands of the corn and squash.  The squash acts as mulch by keeping most weeds away and keeping the moisture in the soil.  It also helps protect the shallow roots of the beans and corn!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Day 15 - Finding Harmony in the Grocery Store (and Bank!)

To say that I hate grocery shopping is a gross understatement.  I truly despise having to go grocery shopping.  To make it feel a little less hell-ish, I've come up with a routine.

Tip 1:  Make a menu.  Since I have to drive "to town" to get groceries, I try to only have to do it once a week at the most.  We decide on our menu for the week.  We make specific plans for all 7 suppers, and lunches on the weekends (and days the boys are home from school).  J and I also decide what we want for our lunches during the week, which usually consist of sandwiches, leftovers, or freezer meals (see yesterday's post).

Tip 2:  Decide on a budget and make a VERY specific list, including estimated prices.  I use a steno pad.  In the right hand column I list the meals we have planned for the week.  Then, I go through the fridge, freezer, cupboards, and pantry to figure out what we have and don't have for each meal.  Next to each item, write down an estimated amount that either the item costs or that you are willing to pay for it.  Since we budget $100 per week, I try to keep my list cost below $95 because there's usually something I forget.  Also, keep an alternate list of 5-6 of your family's favorite meals and the ingredients each meal requires.  I write this list on the last page or back cover of my steno notebook since I take the whole notebook shopping with me.  And one of the most important lessons I've learned about grocery shopping?  STICK TO THE LIST! 

Tip 3:  Take cash to the store, and ONLY the amount you've decided you want to spend.  This will help you stay under budget, and help prevent you from becoming a hoarder.

Tip 4:  As you shop, keep a running total (estimated values) of what your cart items cost.  ALWAYS round up.  That way, you're sure to have enough cash once tax is included.  If you have extra money, pick up some of the items on your alternate list.  This has saved us a couple of times.  Like the time our monthly bills were $200 more than usual.  Since I had been able to pick up enough items on our alternate list to make a week's worth of meals, we were able to cut our weekly budget down to $60-75 that month. 

Hope these tips

Friday, October 14, 2011

Day 14 - Finding Harmony with your Cooking

We've all heard someone recommend spending a day making freezer meals, and freezing them for later use. I love that idea, but it just doesn't seem to work for me. I like things that are quick and easy. Simple dishes that taste good. I've always said I'd make a terrible rich person because I don't like fancy food. I don't like caviar, and just the sight of escargot makes me gag (just ask the unfortunate souls who were at my dinner table during our cruise - luckily they were all family, so the embarrassment was bearable).

The most time I spend on way-in-advance-prepping is cookin' and pickin' chicken. My sis-in-law raises "eatin' chickens" (the kind you eat, not the kind you keep around for eggs), so we buy most of our chicken from her. We can get a big 6-7 pound chicken for $5. She only charges us what it cost her to buy, raise, and slaughter the chickens. About once every month or two, I toss a couple in the oven for a couple of hours, then pick all the meat off the bones. I divide it in half, stick it in freezer bags, then grab when I want to make chicken soup or casserole. Half a chicken will give me more than enough meat for a big ol' crockpot full of chicken soup. And sometimes, I buy a 5-lb bag of beef, and I make taco chicken and beef to freeze. When we have tacos, I just heat up what we need, and toss what's left over back in the freezer.

When my older brother was in Scouts, they used to have potluck dinners for Pack and Troop meetings. I so looked forward to these because of what my mom would bring.



Cowboy beans

 1 lb. ground beef (I like grass fed beef that is super lean)
4-8 slices bacon (depends on how much you like bacon!)
1/2 Cup dark brown sugar
1/2 Cup ketchup or catsup - I don't think the spelling affects the taste!
2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 can (15-16oz) chili beans
1 can (15-16oz) Pork-n-Beans

Cut bacon up into about 1-inch pieces, and start browning.  Add beef and brown that, too.  Drain.  In a separate pot, mix brown sugar, ketchup, vinegar, salt, and both beans.  Add beef and bacon to pot, and heat till boiling. Let simmer 1 to 1-1/2 hours.  Enjoy!  I usually bring everything to a boil on the stove, then transfer to my crockpot (set the crockpot to low), so I don't have to leave my stove top on for so long.  Freezes well!

I like to make up a double batch, then freeze single servings.  My husband won't eat beans, so he won't eat it, but my super picky kids love it!

A few other quick & easy meals that I like to make & freeze include:
Meatloaf
Chili
Pancakes/waffles (Great for when you oversleep and have to get the kids to school!)
Tuna Casserole
Chicken boob chunks (I chop up about a dozen thin sliced chicken breasts at once, and divide them among 3 bags before freezing.  A trick to being able to easily cut them is to do it while they are still semi-frozen.  When the menu calls for chicken fried rice, I grab a bag, dump teriyaki sauce with a bit of lemon juice and sugar into the bag, and let it marinate overnight.)


Things like potato soup and any soup with noodles don't freeze that well.  The potatoes and noodles end up becoming really squishy and gross.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Day 13 - Turn Lemons into Lemonade

Within one week, I had two stressful, unwelcome, and upsetting experiences.  When you are trying to teach your kids to think positively, it really makes you reevaluate your reactions.

Bug is currently a 2nd year Webelo (he'll be moving up from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts in December or February), and is working towards his Arrow of Light (the highest honor a Cub Scout can earn).  Two of the requirements are that they have to visit a Troop meeting (Cub Scouts have Packs, Boy Scouts have Troops) and go on at least one overnight Boy Scout camping trip.  This past weekend, our two 2yr Webelos went camping, so they went to the Troop meeting the Monday before the campout.  My dad is the Webelo leader, so the plan was for Bug and I to pick up the other boy, drop them off at my mom & dad's, and dad would take them to the meeting.  Right before I came to the corner where I turn on to my parents' street, I hear a noise, the car started shaking, and one side was noticeably lower than the other.  I had a flat.  It was flatter than flat.  It was no more.  My parents picked us up, and after the meeting, we went to put the donut on.  We turned the flat tire into a teaching moment, and our two Webelos were able to finish earning their Handyman pin!

Then, Saturday evening came along.  I was browsing around Etsy, and came upon a most unwelcome sight.  Somebody had stolen some pictures that I had uploaded to my personal facebook page (thankfully, they just took the scenic pictures, and not any of my kids, nieces, or nephews), and had put them up for sale on Etsy.  After some quick work, I received an apology from the thief (who ended up being a friend of a friend), the chop shop was taken down, and it's my understanding that the person is now banned from Etsy.  This whole episode prompted me to create a facebook page and open a new shop for just my photography.



I'm slowly going through all the pictures I still have saved on my computer,


Then, I'll start going through the ones I've already burned to disks.


I'll keep adding my favorites to my facebook page, and I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I enjoyed taking them!


Since I'm just starting out with Big Cartel, I have only signed up for their free service, which limits the number of products I can have in my store to 5 products.  I will start with some of my favorites, and will switch inventory out and around to accommodate requests.  If you see a photo on my facebook page, but it's not in the shop, just send me a request, and I'll have it up within 24 hours of receiving your request.  Same goes for any pictures you see here on the blog.

The photos are being sold for $5 each, and you will receive a digital copy (the big, noticeable watermark will be replaced with a very small one that blends in so well, you'll really have to look for it) and photo release.  I'd love to sell prints, but I don't currently have the proper packaging to safely ship a print.

Art should be named, but that is sometimes easier said than done.  Therefore, I will be running a few photo naming contests here and there.  As of right now, I'm thinking that the winner will receive a free digital copy of that photo.

Stay tuned!


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Day 12 - Finding Harmony with Melaleuca

My brother introduced me to a company a couple of months ago, and I am in love. The company is called Melaleuca. They've been around for a while, but aren't well known because they don't advertise. Their only means of advertising is word of mouth.

You've probably heard of all the benefits of Tea Tree Oil.  If not, here's just a few of its hundreds of uses:
Helps heal cuts
Great for acne
Gets rid of fungus (like toe fungus and athletes foot/ringworm)
Kills Germs
Deoderizes
Disinfects
Moisturizes skin
It's great for sunburns, poison ivy/oak/sumac, and blisters
Drop it on a leech or tick, and they will remove themselves
Add a couple of drops to shampoo to get rid of lice
It works wonders for your hair

Seriously, you can use Tea Tree oil for EVERYTHING.  My 2 favorite things about it is that it works better than anything else I've used, and it's all natural!

Back to Melaleuca.  Melaleuca is the fancy schmancy scientific name for tea tree oil, which is an ingredient in all their products.


I love their all natural products.  I haven't had a chance to try them all, yet, but I plan to!  I haven't been even the least bit disappointed in any of the products I've tried. The cleaning supplies are AWESOME.  The Renew lotion is even better than Eucerin or Aquaphor.  And, their vitamins are packaged in a way to help your body absorb them.  I didn't realize that with most vitamins, your body only absorbs about 20% because of how the pills are made.  They have a beauty line called Sei Bella that includes hair care and make-up.  I haven't tried anything from that line (but have heard wonderful things about it), but I have tried their $5 shampoo.  I don't even remember the last time my hair looked this healthy!  The antifungal cream works wonders, and my sis-in-law says the acne line is better than any of the other thousand products they've tried.  The stain remover finally got out a stain that I haven't been able to get out of a shirt for months.

Depending on what you already use, Melaleuca might be a little more expensive (if you use the cheap stuff), but cheaper if you use more name brand stuff (like Tide, for example).

Anyone can order from their site, but preferred members get cheaper prices.  Preferred members can also make a little money.  There are many benefits to being a preferred member, but I don't want this to sound any more like a sales post.  If you have any questions, feel free to ask me!  And, if you sign up to be a preferred member, please let them know Heather Nabower sent ya (or contact me, and I'll get you signed up)!

I have found that Melaleuca products are just much better for the environment than even the "green" products I find in the store, and have been a big step forward in my family's journey to live our lives in a way that's healthier for us and our environment.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Day 11 - Bama Breeze

Growing up, my mom was always listening to and playing music. I'm sure that's why my emotions and moods can be so affected by what I'm listening to. Jimmy Buffett is one of my long time favorites. I sent him a wedding invitation, and received an autographed photo in return. Dad and I danced to "Little Miss Magic" at my wedding.

Jimmy's music is some of the first I turn to when I just want to relax. There's a lot more to Jimmy Buffett than Margaritaville...


Bama Breeze by Jimmy Buffett


Monday, October 10, 2011

Day 10 - A Thought To Ponder

"Gracefulness has been defined to be the outward expression of the inward harmony of the soul."
William Hazlitt


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Day 9 - Volunteer

Being a volunteer is not only beneficial to the people/group you are volunteering for, but it's beneficial to your soul.  There's always somebody who needs help, and I think we all want to make a difference.

In elementary school, I was part of a program called "Magic Me". Every Wednesday, after school, we would board a bus and head over to one of the local nursing homes. The first time we went, we were assigned a resident for the year. I found the experience to be one of the most enjoyable experiences I've had.

There are so many organizations out there. There's the Habitat for Humanity, Meals on Wheels, Tutoring, animal rescue, and so many other ways to volunteer. If you want to find something in your area, check out this site or this one, and start making a difference now!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Day 8 - Find Your Peace of Mind

I play the piano. I have friends who run, do yoga, ride their bike, work on cars, etc.  There is one thing that all of these things have in common - they are therapeutic. 

For me, playing the piano releases both mental and physical energy.  While I enjoy playing a little every day, I tend to play more when I'm in a not-so-good mood.  It helps to, at least temporarily, ease my mind and get any frustrations out.

If you don't have something that does this for you, I highly recommend you find something.  It's much cheaper than therapy!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Day 7 - Cloth Napkins with Mitered Corners

We go through napkins and paper towels like nobody's business. I try to buy recycled products, but it gets expensive having to buy these paper products so often.

I am also a fabric addict. Part of my journey to trying to find harmony in my home is to become more organized and declutter. So, obviously, my napkin dilemma has provided me with a wonderful opportunity. I am going to make napkins. Lots and lots of napkins.

They are really easy to make, even the mitered corners!



First, you need to decide how big you want them.  Mine are 15"x16" because when I fold them, they fit perfectly into my basket.  The napkins you can get at Pottery Barn & Anthropologie are 20" square.

Once you've decided this, you will need to cut your fabric 1" larger on all sides than you want your finished napkin.  For example, you will need to cut fabric for a 20" napkin at 22" square.

Side note: I used 1/4" hems on my napkins, so that is what the pictures will show.  However...1/2" hems will make the mitered corners MUCH easier, so that is the measurement I'm using for this tutorial.


On all four side, fold and press a 1/2" hem.


Fold and press again.

Now for the mitered part...
Looks like I missed a space in there!  It's suppose to read
"1. Open your hems, then cut at the cut line."

Once the hems are folded back over, you can pin and sew around your napkin.  
Your corners should look like this:

 Now enjoy your new, custom (and earth friendly) napkins!


I can't wait to pick up some linen to make some embroidered linen napkins!

Just a couple of other notes...
I have found that 100% cotton fabrics work best.  Be sure to wash and dry your fabric as though it was already your napkins BEFORE you start cutting.  The fabric will shrink, so it's best to have it do that before you've cut and sewn it!
To make (4) 20" napkins, I would recommend getting about 1-1/2" yards of 45" wide fabric.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Day 6 - Getting Kids Excited About Their Chores

After constantly fighting with the boys about doing their chores (and taking showers, brushing teeth, etc), I came up with a plan that has worked beautifully! Since January, we have been using Chore Charts, a Token/Reward System, and the Token Store.

It has been working REALLY well, and the boys are so excited when I open the store!  A couple of months after we started this, I did have to do a little tweaking, though.  They would do everything on their chore charts, except cleaning their rooms.


Now, they only get awarded tokens if their rooms are clean.  And, the store is only open to those with clean rooms.



The store is open every Sunday, and on the last Sunday of the month, we have our Sunday Sale.  If we have something that has been in the Store for a while, I'll reduce the price.  If the boys have been behaving REALLY well that week, I'll reduce the price on their favorite things.  And, sometimes, I toss in a small toy or something they've been wanting for a while, and they can buy it with their tokens.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Day 5

I have to cut into what I had planned for today, because I just can't let this pass without saying anything.

When I first heard about the Amanda Knox/Meredith Kercher story, I thought Amanda was guilty. But as I learned more about how she was found guilty, I began to really question. I was thrilled yesterday, when I watched the verdict being read at the end of her appeal. I hope she can find a way to move on and live a happy, productive life.

My heart goes out to the Kercher family. I can't imagine how they must be feeling, and I pray that they can find the strength, peace, and comfort they need during this difficult time.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Day 4 - Finding Harmony with the Kids

A couple of years ago, our family went through a tough time. You know the phrase, "When it rains, it pours"? That's a good description of that time. As soon as we were able to come back up for air, something else would happen, and we would feel like we were drowning again. The hubs and I tried to protect the boys as best as we could, but kids are smart (sometimes too smart), and knew when things weren't right. While I never want to go back there, I'm glad we were forced to go over those hurdles together, as a family. We are now stronger as a unit, and it made us reevaluate how we were raising the boys, and we began to brainstorm ideas to make sure our boys have the best lives we can give them.

We found that making just a few small changes can make the biggest difference. A few that we have made are:

Daily Journals - I bought composition books for each, and let them decorate them to make the books their own. We started out requiring them to write at least 3 good things about their day, but have since changed it a little. Now, they can write pretty much whatever they want. We just ask that they write at least 1-3 (minimum) things that make them happy, along with whatever else they want to write. J and I don't read the journals, unless the boys ask us to. When there is something that is really bothering them, they usually write about it, then ask us to read that part of their journal. Once we've read about the issue, they are much more willing to talk about it.

Me Time - 15 minutes, every night. If I'm with Awesome, J is with Bug (we alternate boys and nights). The boys get one of us all to themselves for 15 uninterrupted minutes. I love this time. Sometimes we talk about our day (if we don't get it all talked about at dinner), music, or plans for the weekend. Sometimes, we just cuddle.

Picnic Time - We try to go on a minimum of 2 picnics a month. When there's 2 feet of snow on the ground and it's below freezing, none of us are really excited at the thought of sitting outside to eat. That's when we have our in-house picnics. We just decide what room we want to picnic in, lay out a blanket, and sit on the floor to eat. Or, we build a fort and eat in there!

Game Time - No, I'm not talking about video games. I'm talking about good old fashioned board games. This is a weekend ritual that we all love. Lots of snacks, laughs, and good times!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Day 3 - A Thought To Ponder

"Beauty is being in harmony with what you are."
Peter Nivio Zarlenga

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Day 2 - A Little Tutorial for You

I LOVE those mirrored stars that I would see in Pottery Barn and Ballard Designs catalogs, but $200 (give or take a little) is way more than I'm willing to spend. Hobby Lobby had some, but they still weren't cheap enough for me (even with a 40% off coupon)!

So, I thought about why I like the stars. I realized I was drawn to them not as usable mirrors, but as accent pieces, and I really liked the contrast between the mirror and the dark outlines. So was the mirrored part really all the important? Mmmm...probably not.


I used...
An old star that used to hang outside,
Oil Rubbed Bronze spray paint left over from my bed redo,
Some silver spray paint I had on hand,
and painter's tape.


After cleaning off all the dust & stuff, I put 2 coats of Oil Rubbed Bronze spray paint on the star.  Once both coats were dry, I added the tape.  I measured 1/4" from each edge, and added my tape.  It was a little time consuming, so I got lazy and started eyeballing the measurements.  They turned out pretty good, though!


I then added 2 coats of silver spray paint, waited for those to dry, and peeled the paint off.

Here is the finished product, right at home!

While I do like the way it turned out, I think I need a little more sparkle in the silver. I think that can be fixed with a little chrome spray paint. Until I can remember to pick some up, I believe our new old start will do just fine.  For now, I think it looks great, especially since it didn't cost me anything!

Now, how does this tie in to my 31 Days? It's helping me live a little more harmoniously with my house, and my pocketbook loves the cost! If you can't afford something you love, improvise. There's no reason any of us shouldn't have beautiful homes just because we can't or don't want to spend a lot of money.

I will also be linking up to some of these parties!

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