Sunday Quotes

Being busy does not always mean real work.  The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration.  Seeming to do is not doing.
~Thomas A. Edison

knitting and reading

I finally was able to finish the band of my lovely hat!  I have worked a few rounds of the moss stitch pattern, and I really like it.  This is a very quick knit, and if I had an hour to sit down and finish it I could.

Perhaps today will be the day!  We woke up with the lovely national (world wide?!) Time Warner Cable internet outage.  It has been off and on all morning, and I am just crossing my fingers I can finish this post before it goes out again.

As far as my reading goes, I received a new book in the mail last week to review.  Dark Hope by Monica McGurk.  It is a young adult book and first in a series, so I am looking forward to digging into this and seeing how it develops.  Look for a review soon!

What are you knitting and reading this week?  And happy back to school day to all the kids going back today!

Linking up with Ginny, Tami, and Nicole

making ketchup and a recipe

This past weekend I got my annual 100 pounds of tomatoes from a local market for canning.  Usually I make crushed tomatoes and some tomato sauce, it is the best use of the tomatoes, and honestly the fastest.  This year, however, I had a very large request from a very small boy - for ketchup.

Now, I am not a ketchup person.  I don't like it and never have.  For my son, it seems to be another food group.  Most days he requests an egg burrito with ketchup for breakfast, which means we go through an awful lot of the stuff.  And it is not cheap to buy organic ketchup!

I told him I would make it, and make it I did!  I used the recipe for Tomato Ketchup from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.

What I didn't realize is that it would take for-ev-er for the ketchup to reduce down.  I think I did realize this in my head, but when you read in the instructions "about 45 minutes" you think it means 45 minutes...not 4 hours!

Without further ado - a ketchup recipe for my son Jack.

3T celery seed
4tsp whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks (broken into pieces)
1 & 1/2tsp whole allspice
3 cups cider vinegar
24lbs tomatoes, cored and quartered
3 cups chopped onions
1tsp cayenne pepper
1 & 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4cup pickling or canning salt

Tie celery seed, cloves, cinnamon, allspice in some cheesecloth, creating a spice bag

Combine vinegar and spice bag, bring to boil, remove from heat and let stand 25 minutes.  Then remove spice bag.

Meanwhile, in a *very* large stainless steel saucepan, combine tomatoes, onions and cayenne.  Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently.  Reduce heat and boil gently for 20 minutes.  Add vinegar and boil gently until mixture starts to thicken - about 30 minutes.

Working in batches, transfer mixture to a sieve placed over a glass or stainless steel bowl, and press with the back of a spoon to extract all the liquid.  Discard solids.

Return liquid to saucepan.  Add sugar and salt.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until volume is reduced by half and mixture is about the consistency of store bought ketchup. (My instructions say about 45 minutes, it took at least 3 hours of gentle boiling for mine to reduce.  Just watch it.)

Prepare canner, jars and lids.

Ladle hot ketchup into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Wipe rim.  Center lid on jar.  Screw band down until fingertip-tight.

Place jars in canner, bring to boil.  Process 15 minutes.  Remove canner lid.  Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.  

Do you have a favorite way to preserve tomatoes?  What are you preserving from your garden right now?

Linking up at Homestead Blog Hop and One Project at a Time

Sunday Quotes

Productivity is never an accident.  It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.
~Paul J. Meyer

The Secret Bliss of Calliope Ipswich Feature and a Giveaway!

secret bliss

The Secret Bliss of Calliope Ipswich by Marcia Lynn McClure “Oh! Do link arms with me, Calliope,” Blanche whispered, her brown eyes widening with apprehension. She took Calliope’s arm, tightly linking it with her own. “The old Mulholland house still gives me the willies every time I walk past it. I hate to think on what might have gone on inside. It’s truly terrifyin’!” “Oh, don’t be silly, Blanche,” Calliope said, feigning calm. “Poor Prudence’s lunacy…it’s sad. And besides, her fiendish acts were not committed inside the house. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just…it’s just a sad, empty building.” Calliope Ipswich felt the hypocrite, however, as an uncomfortable shiver of residual dread and unease shuttered down her spine, More than six months had passed since the All Hollow’s Eve when the dangerous state of Prudence Mulholland’s fracturing mind had been revealed to the townsfolk of Meadowlark Lake. And now, each time Calliope thought of poor Prudence and her family, not only did her heart ache for their family’s unhappy lot but a chill of lingering horror rippled through her being. In truth, at times Calliope wondered if it had all been simply a bad dream—a nightmare. But it hadn’t. It really had happened—all of it.

Purchase your copy on


Author Marcia Lynn McClure Marcia Lynn McClure’s intoxicating succession of novels, novellas, and e-books, has established her as one of the most favored and engaging authors of true romance. Her unprecedented forte in weaving captivating stories of western, medieval, regency, and contemporary amour void of brusque intimacy has earned her the title “The Queen of Kissing.” Marcia, who was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has spent her life intrigued with people, history, love, and romance. A wife, mother, grandmother, family historian, poet, and author, Marcia Lynn McClure spins her tales of splendor for the sake of offering respite through the beauty, mirth, and delight of a worthwhile and wonderful story.
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BookBlast Giveaway $50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 9/16/14 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Back to School with US Cellular

It is amazing how quickly this summer flew by, and now we are in the trenches of “back to school.”  I have to say that I really love this time of year, the weather has cooled down some (not that Maine is known for crazy hot weather, but humidity, yes), and we are ready to get back into a routine after a summer of doing whatever we felt like doing.

This year we started school a month earlier than normal, and I am finding that there are so many ways technology is helping me along this year!

In this day and age, technology is everywhere.  Kids are given laptops to use in middle school, and even some kindergarten classes in my state are giving kids Apple iPads to utilize with their classes.  What a difference from when I was in school.

According to a recent survey by US Cellular, 74% of households have at least one tablet.  Tablets and smartphones are becoming a simple tool which ensures students are staying on top of their schoolwork.  They aren’t just for entertainment!

Did you know that according to a Student Mobile Device survey conducted by Harris Interactive, 87% of students would prefer to have digital textbooks so they don’t have to carry so much in their backpacks?  Yes, I remember those first days of school quite well, coming home with a back ache because I had so many books to carry home with me!

I talked a bit on Tuesday about how we keep track of the kids work for homeschool reporting purposes, and I thought I would expand on that a bit today.  One of the biggest things that I do with my iPhone 5s is take pictures – a lot of pictures.  I’m sure I am not in the minority here.

When I was trying to figure out how to keep track of all of the work my kids do throughout the year, big projects, science experiments, showing that they are doing some sort of physical exercise, the easiest thing I could think of was to take a lot of pictures.  With the option of Instagram and their very cool filters, I know that at the end of the year I will have a ton of beautiful pictures that I can then use to show what my children have done throughout the year.

Pictures aren’t the only way that you can help your kids (homeschooled or otherwise) keep up with school.  There are so many great apps out there to help you keep up with all the paper that seems to come through the house.  One of my favorites is Dropbox.  It is a cloud-based file sharing and storage app, and it is free – we love free!  It is easy for students to save their work and just put it in Dropbox for the teacher to grab.  No paper!  I love that.

Another app that I just recently learned about is Notability.  It allows users to complete worksheets, sketch ideas, keep a journal, integrate photos and record a lecture, keeping it all in one place. 

The integration of technology into the classroom is incredibly important these days.  Our children are growing up in a completely new world from when we were going to school, and utilizing technology every day is a part of that new world.  I love that US Cellular has such great 4G LTE coverage, which makes keeping up with school on the go (for us homeschoolers) super easy.  When we are at the museum and the kids have more questions than the little plaque has answers, I can bring up my good friend Google and figure out an answer for them!

I’m happy to report that US Cellular is donating $1 million to fund teacher classroom projects through its Calling All Teachers program.  Last year, the company donated $500,000 towards educational materials for improved classroom performance.  US Cellular is working with for the fourth time and encourages teachers to post their projects on the site for potential funding. is a charity website that helps teachers identify funds from corporate and individual donations for classroom projects.

Through US Cellular’s ongoing commitment to the community and education, they have contributed more than $7 million through this and other philanthropic programming.  Starting today K-12 public school teachers can register online at and affiliate as a U.S. Cellular teacher. Then they can start posting their classroom projects for funding consideration. Through U.S. Cellular has funded more than 4,500 classroom projects to date, which included technology tools, art equipment and science experiments. All projects must be submitted by September 21 to be eligible for this year’s funding.  Selected projects will be in announced in October.

While kids have access to all of this technology to help them with school, it is also a good time to remember to have a discussion with your kids about what is acceptable technology usage – especially in a classroom environment.  A great way to start the conversation with your kids is to use the Parent Child Technology Use AgreementWe want our children to be safe while utilizing the best of what technology offers. 

I am a member of the US Cellular Blogger Brigade and was compensated for this post, however, as always, the opinions are my own.

knitting and reading

I took a bit of a knitting break last week.  It was out of necessity!  I have had some very generous friends give me hand-me-downs for the new baby, and it is A LOT to go through!  I'm not even sure I will be done before our new little one comes in two months.

Needless to say, I am still working on the band around this beautiful hat.  And I am also realizing that I need another skein of this beautiful purple yarn.  I thought I would be able to eek out enough, but maybe my gauge is off.  It will be really pretty once it is finished know...if it gets finished!

As far as reading goes, I just picked up the newish book by Dave Ramsey, Smart Money, Smart Kids.  It is a really great read so far!  I love the ideas that he has in order to teach your kids about money.  There is a lot of really good information in here, and I think I am going to start incorporating that into our homeschool.  It is never too early to learn about money I think, especially with the way the economy is and how expensive everything seems to be.  

What are you knitting and/or reading this week?

Joining in with Ginny, Tami, and Nicole. 

Reporting for Homeschoolers

It is a nerve wracking process, trying to figure out how to report for homeschooling.  Each state has different laws and requirements.  In Maine we have the option of putting together a portfolio for a Maine certified teacher to assess.  I knew that when I saw that option, I would definitely do that for my kids.  But, how do you stay organized when there is so much work done throughout the year?!

Deciding what is Important
Figuring out what is important enough to keep can be an incredible challenge.  I definitely err on the side of caution and keep a lot of *stuff* I’m not sure needs to be kept.  This is my first year really putting together a portfolio for my oldest, and I want to make sure that I have a lot of examples to choose from when compiling her portfolio.

We use Singapore Math for her math curriculum, this comes with a workbook, I keep the whole workbook.  When I go to put together the portfolio, I will be able to take out a few examples from each unit and include them in the portfolio package.  For handwriting, the same type of deal, we have a workbook that we go through, and you can clearly see that she has made “progress” by how her handwriting improves – these are the easy subjects though.

Science is a difficult one to record.  There are experiments, and nature walks, and worksheets and research, but what do you keep?  How do you record it?

Keeping Track of Difficult Subjects
The answer in my mind was quite simple, pictures.  I think that if we keep track of our nature walks, our science experiments, the art projects and even the yoga that we do for Physical Education, it helps in demonstrating what our homeschool year actually looks like.  Plus, this way, everyone has a pretty scrapbook at the end of the year that shows all that has been done.

The pictures, coupled with my notes from my weekly planningsheets, will help to convey the message of what we have done for the year to the teacher who evaluates my children’s work. 

What else will I include?
There will be a lot of lists I believe.  A list of field trips, a list of books read aloud, also a list of books that my daughter read herself; as well as any extracurricular activities that the kids were involved in. 

I also need to keep track of how many days we *do* school.  There isn’t an hourly requirement, but we do need to show that we have completed 175 days.  It isn’t as difficult as it seems, I make up a calendar, and check off every day that we do some type of school.  It helps that we school year round.

You want to be able to show a well-rounded student.  You want to show that they are engaged in their learning.  I think all of these are important aspects of a good homeschool portfolio.  Will there be changes and additions over the year?  I’m sure there will be, remember this is just our first year compiling a portfolio.

What if I don’t homeschool?
If you don’t homeschool, I’m sure your child comes home with A LOT of papers.  What a great way to keep track of it by putting it into a portfolio for your child as a keepsake.  If you don’t want to keep all the papers (I don’t blame you, there seems to always be so.much.paper), take pictures of your favorite pieces, and involve your child in the decision process.  What do they want to keep?  What was most important to them?

Do you do a portfolio for your child for homeschool evaluations?  What other information would you keep?

garden happenings

Our garden year is definitely winding down now.  It seems like it is such a short season!  Well, of course it is...I don't even plant until the first week in June.

This year we will be wrapping up a bit earlier than normal since we have a baby due in October.  I know that pretty soon I am not going to want to be outside cleaning out the garden, so I better start thinking about it now!

I'm happy to report that I didn't pull all of my tomatoes like I had planned to last week.  Why am I happy about that?  Especially after discovering blossom end rot last week?  Well, it appears as though a large majority of my tomatoes are now ripening without blossom end rot.  So, that gives me hope!  My tomato plants are definitely dying though, and I plan to pull all the green tomatoes off so that they can ripen inside.  

For some reason my peppers are deciding to flower again.  I know that I have no chance at getting more jalapenos and green peppers to grow at this point, but I still thought it was kind of funny to see.  I need to pick the rest of the jalapenos and stick them in the freezer.  I think I will have frozen a little over a gallon once I am done.  That coupled with the *many* that I have eaten over the past few weeks, and I am happy with what I have grown.

Broccoli is looking amazing, and tasting even more amazing.  I have had broccoli from the farm before, but what I picked out of my garden was absolutely amazing.  I cut some up for pizza and I don't think I have had such flavorful broccoli before.  Perhaps it is because I picked it myself, or because I planted it, I'm not sure.  But, it sure is tasty!

Cabbage seems to be closing up, which is good.  Not sure what bugs I will find when I finally cut into them though.  I am hopeful that any bugs made their way out of the cabbage before it started to head, we shall see.  

How is your garden growing?  Is your season winding down or are you gearing up for fall planting?

Linking up with Clever Chicks 

Sunday Quotes

When you establish a destination by defining what you want, then take physical action by making choices that move you towards that destination, the possibility for success is limitless and arrival at the destination is inevitable.
~Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

Daily Planning Worksheet - How I Plan My Days

Planning, it is something I love, but also something that I struggle with.  I have always enjoyed planning, but tend to want to switch it up so often, that I never really accomplish what I set out to.

When I was in college, I absolutely loved planning my schedule.  I was not the biggest fan of getting up early in the morning, but I was a huge fan of getting all of my classes done first thing, and then having the rest of my time as free time.  I remember some of the ladies in my dorm would ask how I could manage to not have classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, or only have classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  It honestly all came down to planning.

After college, planning went out the window.  I had a job, I had to go to the job (obviously), but there wasn’t a whole heck of a lot else I needed to plan.  I wasn’t stressed about cleaning a house, or making sure that my groceries and meal plan met my budget expectations.  Instead, I just flew by the seat of my pants with main anchors during my day, ie go to work and then come home and hang out with friends.

Now, however, I need to plan, a lot.  It seems like every day needs a new plan.  Why?  

Because every day with kids is different.

When I started getting up early in the morning for my hello mornings group, I knew that I needed something in order to help me plan the day.  

So I made my own Daily Planning sheet.  It has worked wonders for me!

I use it as an “at a glance” type of sheet, so I know where I want my day to go.  I know what I need to accomplish (although I hardly ever get it all done, does anyone?).  It is nice to be able to go in and see what the meals are, not think about what needs to be done throughout the day, because it is all right in front of me.

Daily Rhythm
The Daily Rhythm is what I want our day to look like.  I will put times in, but it isn’t down to the minute by any means.  It is more of a general time frame for us.  But, it also serves as a place to put any appointments that we may have during the day, and those obviously need a specific time.  

I want my days to feel peaceful and not rushed.  I want to enjoy the time that I have with my kids each day.

The Inspiration box is just what it looks like.  A thought, or scripture, that I want to focus on for the day.  It could be my word of the year repeated constantly, a quote or a mantra that I want to repeat to myself all day.  This can stay the same for many days, or change daily.  It is totally up to you!

Meals for the Day/Meal Prep for Tomorrow
I am working a lot harder on meal planning these days.  Trying to make healthy, nutritious meals every day, that my kids will eat, is a process.  Doing it on a budget seems almost impossible!  However, when I am able to get everything planned for the week, it is nice to not have to think about on a daily basis.  I already know from my main meal list for the week what we are going to have, and I just re-write it here for easy access.

To Do List
The To Do List is just that.  I list everything that I want to do that day.  I am not ashamed to admit that I often put tasks I know I will complete on the list, just to have something to cross off.  You may not need all ten lines if you don’t do that!  I tend to list my most important tasks first as well, so that I can eat my frog or whatever I need to get done early in the day.

Current Projects
The Current Projects list tends to stay the same over a longer period of time.  This is a place for larger projects that I have going on currently – like sorting through the kids clothes and deciding what needs to go to consignment or be donated.  This is also a place where I would put projects that I may need help from my husband with – like moving all the boxes of baby stuff from the attic downstairs so I can sort through them.

Blog Ideas/Misc. Notes
The last two boxes, Blog Ideas and Misc. Notes, are pretty straight forward as well.  If I think of something that might be interesting to write about, I try to write it down immediately.  I am attempting to move to a more digital platform for blog ideas, but I find that often I still need a pen and some paper to jot it down.  While Misc. Notes could really be used for anything – a child that decides he no longer likes green peppers, even though he was eating them like apples last week, or maybe a seasoning wasn’t quite right with a recipe I used.  It could just be something funny the kids did that I want to record.

Using a Daily Planning Sheet can seem like a monumental task, but once you find a routine that works for you, it really takes minutes to put together, and can be glanced at easily throughout the day to help move your family in the direction you are hoping for.  With any new planning tool, or planning in general, give yourself grace.

Remember that it takes 21 consistent days of effort to make a habit!

Are you trying to become more organized as the seasons start to change?  Do you find yourself changing up your routine when your kids start school again?  Or a new season starts?

Linking up with the Mommy Club

Planning my Weekly Homeschooling Schedule

Homeschooling, it is not for the faint-hearted I have decided!  It takes an awful lot of planning in order to pull off a successful school year.

We use a wonderful curriculum from Sonlight.  I love it.  I love books, my kids love books, and this curriculum comes with a lot of books!  It also comes with an in depth schedule of when things should be read, what is supposed to be taught when, worksheets, etc.  However, for some reason, I can’t seem to follow this wonderful plan!

I realized early on that the parent’s guide was just that, a guide.  It helps me to see all the notes available about the stories we are reading, to have in depth information for clarification purposes, and to see the scope of work getting harder and more involved throughout the year.  But, I knew when I saw only one chapter of Charlotte’s Web being read each day that our days would be a bit different than Sonlight’s.  And that is OK!

Last year I made a printout of weekly sheets for both kids.  They are divided into subject.  Each week I go through the schedule that came with the curriculum to see where we are.  Then I write down what I expect us to cover each week.  It doesn’t need to be done on a daily basis for me, because some days we will sit and read through 6 chapters of the Boxcar Children, when only a few are covered for the week.

On Sundays I will sit down with my notes from the previous week, the schedule that comes with our curriculum, and then any extra books we might have from the library.  I go through them all, and write it all down in these cute little boxes.  Each box is a different color, and is for a different subject.  

Then during the week we end up doing as much or as little as the kids have attention spans for.  If Emma wants to read 3 stories from her reader in a day, I let her even though I only expect her to read one each day.  Earlier in the week we tend to get a lot accomplished, and by the time Friday rolls around, we are mainly just reading stories.

Throughout the week I make notes on the same sheet about what we are doing, and whether or not we are adding in extra items.  Often the kids will get really excited about a specific topic, and so we might concentrate more on that topic and do less of what is on my list for the week.  

It ends up being a journal of sorts, which I hope will come in handy for when I put a portfolio together.

Overall, the planning sheets are so that I know we are going somewhere, but I try to be flexible with what we are learning.  There are a few things that I try to get done every day; reading, writing, math.  And then the other stuff is extra.  I want to make sure I have good notes for the portfolios I need to make, but I don’t want to stifle the creativity or excitement the kids have about a specific subject because it is not on my list.

Some weeks we do everything on my planning sheet, and other weeks we will completely derail by Tuesday and move in a different direction.  Luckily, on Sunday, when I sit down to write out the next week’s plan, I can take what we didn’t finish and just move it ahead to the next week.  I’m sure this will change as the kids get older, but for now, when they are still quite small, this works for us.

How do you plan your homeschool days?  Do you have a specific curriculum schedule?  Do you ever deviate from that?

garden happenings

In a depressing turn of events, my tomatoes started to ripen.  Why would that be depressing?  Well, when I went to pick some of those ripe tomatoes, I realized that they had blossom end rot.

I knew that the tomatoes in my pots had taken a beating from the rain, but I was hoping they would bounce back.  They did not.  So now I am tasked with dumping all of my pots of tomatoes.  Do I wait and see if some ripen OK?  Do I pick the green ones and see how they ripen indoors?  

My greens, on the other hand, are doing great (despite the weeds).  I think that every year I will plant kale from now on, it seems to thrive in my garden.  Of course I say that this year, and next year I will have some sort of infestation of whatever eats kale. 

yellow squash deciding to make a comeback

I am already thinking to next year and what I can do differently to try and prevent the issues I have had this year.  Not sure I will end up changing anything, but there is always hope in a new gardening season!  

I would love to have a fall planting of things like lettuce and broccoli, but I think instead I am going to put the garden to bed a little early this year.  There is still a lot of preserving to do, and I plan to concentrate on that in the coming weeks!

How is your garden growing?

Sunday Quotes

Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities.  Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.
~Gloria Steinem

One Local Summer

This past week we have been all about birthdays, specifically Jack's fourth birthday.  I can't believe he is already 4!  It seems like time just flies right by us these days.  Because of this, we have been eating a lot of cake and ice cream, and other not so healthy treats.  So, my One Local Summer meal this week is some fresh veggies from the garden.  A little salt on cucumbers and some slices of green pepper, and I start to feel a bit better about myself!

There would be cherry tomatoes to add to this plate as well...but for some reason they never make it inside the house.  

In other news, we have some red tomatoes!  Unfortunately, when I went to pick them, they all have blossom end rot.  Isn't that always the way!  I am not sure if I will be able to turn around these tomato plants with some calcium or not...And I realize that all that rain we received a couple weeks ago really was a detriment.  I sure hope some of the tomatoes will ripen so that we can actually eat them!

Did you make an all local meal this week?  It can be as simple as picking fresh veggies from the garden and chopping them up!

Strategies for a Good Morning

Last week I talked a bit about how I have a mother’s helper, and she is a great help!  I also talked about how if you are not able to afford a mother’s helper, or some sort of outside help, it would be a good idea to try and get up early in the morning and accomplish some of the personal development/planning tasks that you need to work on at that time.

What are some strategies for a good morning routine?

I think first and foremost you need to have a plan going into your morning.

It sounds funny, having a plan to work on planning, but it is necessary.  If you try and get up early, but have nothing ready, you will end up spending all of your planning time on preparing to plan, rather than sitting down and actually doing it.  That was a mouthful!

At first you may not know what you want to accomplish with that time in the morning, or it might be such a short amount of time at first (especially if you are adjusting to getting up before your kids), that you will have a longer list than time allows.  That is what I struggle with, too many things to do in a short amount of time.

The best strategy is to prepare the night before.  If you want to work on homeschool planning in the morning, then make sure you have your homeschool planner out and in a spot that you can easily get to.  If you want to work on personal development, make sure to have those resources available.  If you have to go searching out these different items, it will be more difficult for you to settle and work on what you have set out to accomplish.

If the main goal for your morning is to get out for a walk, make sure to set out your workout clothes the night before.  Have your iPod sitting next to the front door charged and ready to go.  If you want to spend time journaling and having a bit of a mind dump in the morning, make sure that your journal is sitting with a pretty pen next to your coffee maker.

Little things will make a big difference in making sure you accomplish what you set out to. 

If you have early risers, like I do, I suggest putting together a Good Morning Basket.  It has revolutionized my mornings.  Instead of getting up, starting my quiet time, and then having my children descend down the stairs 15 minutes later looking for breakfast, toys, games to play, wanting a show etc.; they go right to their basket and sit down and work on whatever is in it.  They have a little snack, and I am able to work *mostly* uninterrupted.

Another idea would to make a good morning basket for yourself; something that you only have in the morning to work on, something that makes getting up early a bit easier.  Put some special quotes or scripture on note cards.  Have your family mission statement available to look at.  Maybe include a candle that you can light and enjoy in the early morning hours.  These are all little things, but they definitely go a long way.

How do you utilize your morning hours?  Do you feel stressed out trying to accomplish everything?  What strategies might be helpful to you so you don’t feel that stress and are able to use time for personal development or other planning activities?

knitting and reading

The hat is coming along slowly but surely!  I didn't have as much time to work on it as I had hoped this past week because I have been in the mad rush to finish getting ready for the start of our homeschool year.  Now we have started, and I’m not sure I am going to have time to work on it anytime soon!

It is a whole other thing to homeschool two children in different grade levels I have decided!  I know that there are lots of mamas out there that have a few more than two and they manage to do it.  But, as this is my first year attempting it, well, I am not sure how it is going to go.  I think as time goes on and my oldest is able to work independently, it will work out a lot better.  Right now it is a little more challenging.  It doesn’t help that the older remembers doing the math/writing/reading that I am currently doing with my youngest and wants to get right in there.  I’m sure we will find a rhythm eventually!

And that brings me to reading.  My reading has definitely nosedived this past week.  Well, I guess I wouldn’t say nosedived, I am still reading a ton, it is just all for the under six set.  Still enjoyable reading though, so that is a plus, but I will be happy when I can get back to my book list. 

Speaking of book lists, has anyone signed up for the Kindle Unlimited plan?  I just signed up for a free trial.  I probably should have waited until I had more time to look at it.  I know a lot of people are saying that you can just go to the library – and I do just go to the library…a lot.  However, I am also on a waiting list for a large number of books, and if this cures that, well it will be worth it.  We shall see if I continue it once I have to pay!  Would love to hear your thoughts!

What are you working on and reading this week?  Tips for homeschooling multiple ages welcome!

Kids Academy Apps Feature!

I absolutely love the Kids Academy Apps!  They are great at giving my 4 year old some extra practice, and my 6 year old loves to play all the extra games.  She feels like she has mastered it, so it is a great way for her to continue to practice what she has learned.  We just started our new homeschool year this week, and sometimes the kids need a break from their regularly scheduled work.  I love that I can give them these apps to use, they are still learning, and they feel like they are playing a game instead of sitting at the table doing worksheets.  The colors are bright and engaging, and the different options keep it interesting for the kids.

I especially like the Kids Academy Best Kids Songs.  My littles absolutely love music, and anything that can get them moving is a good thing in my book.  They will rock out to this as much as I allow them!

I was compensated for this review, but the opinions, as always, are my own.

Back to School early!

I am a big advocate of schooling all year long.  I know that it sounds mean, and there are definitely times that we take breaks (everyone needs a break!), but it is what works for us for right now.  I bet that you school all year and you don’t even know it.  If you bring your kids on educational trips to museums during the summer, that is school, nature exploration, that is school, workbooks in the summer, reading to your children.  All learning, all the time!

Every year we have a definite “start” date for school though.  Typically this is after Labor Day for us.  I like to get out every bit of summer weather we can.

However, this year, I have decided to start school early; this week to be exact, the first week in August.  It seems completely un-natural to me.

Why are we starting so early?  Well, with the addition of a new little one at the end of October, and our usual desire to take off between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I figured we should get the ball rolling with more of our formal schooling, earlier.

The kids seem to be ok with it.  I think because they are still very little, and enjoy the school that we do during the year.

It will be a slow start.  I will still have my mother’s helper here two days a week, for a couple more weeks, so our school weeks will be shorter, but we will get a jump on the seat work that I want to accomplish before the new baby arrives.

I have been rushing around, trying to make sure that we have all the supplies we need, and getting all of my planning pages done so that I have an easier time with schooling two babes this year, in two completely different cores.

That is why I am happy that the back-to-school sales are already happening!  While it may seem early for some (it is awfully early to see those displays in July around here), it has made my planning a little bit easier because I don’t have to wait around to find what I am looking for!

When do you start school with your kids, public or homeschool?  Do you have strategies to help when a new little one comes along?  I would love to hear them!

Linking up with One Project at a Time and Hip Homeschool Hop

garden happenings

I pulled my garlic this past week.  I knew it was time, although it seems a bit earlier than last year.  I had pulled a couple heads already, mainly because I wanted to use them, and they were huge, so I figured I might as well pull them and start curing them.

Last year I put the garlic in my entryway to cure, but this year, they seemed to be exceptionally pungent, and I decided to put them in my mom's shed instead.  So it is looking like a regular old farm barn down at my mom's now!  

I ended up with 74 heads of garlic this year, which I think will be enough to last us until next summer.  Unfortunately, I know that I won't be able to plant garlic this year - unless my wonderful husband decides to plant it while I am in the hospital having a baby...

The rest of the garden is looking really great as well.  I have tons of kale and cucumbers.  The kids did a round of picking from the jalapeno plants, and we got a ton of those.  They will be going in the freezer, and also into some peach salsa that I plan to can this week.  

I have a few more weeks before my tomatoes start turning red I think, and then I will be canning tomatoes as well.  All the important things that need to be done before winter sets in.  It is an exciting time to be in the garden though, lots of fresh food every day!

How is your garden growing?  Are you planning on preserving a lot?