knitting and reading

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Welcome back to another week of the yarn along!  I don't have a video today.  I may still fit one in this afternoon, and can post it later, but no guarantees!  

I skipped last week because I was in the middle of Christmas preparations, but the week before I posted a video about my one and only Christmas gift that I was knitting - you can see that below.


I'm sure you know what is coming - I did not finish my gifts for my mom.  I really thought that I would finish those fingerless mitts!  The first one knit up so quickly, but instead of finishing it right after I did this video, I fell back on other holiday preparations, and my knitting fell by the wayside.  

If you read my Christmas wrap-up post, you will know that Lucy started teething the day before Christmas Eve, and she had a fever right through until a couple days ago.  Miserable baby meant less sleep for mama, and not so much time with free hands to knit.  So here I am with more excuses as to why I haven't done much knitting recently!

In my video above I also mentioned wanting to knit my mom a new headband for her to wear out walking.  I also didn't start that, but the day after I filmed that video, I received my POPSUGAR Must Have Holiday for Her Box, and in that box was a beautiful cashmere knit headband!  So I think that I started to let myself off the hook a bit with Christmas knitting...


But, but!  I did receive some beautiful yarn for Christmas from my brother and sister-in-law.  

I was really excited to see this beautiful plum color, and I think that I am going to knit myself a new cowl.  I never seem to knit for myself, not because I don't want to, but because I feel like I am constantly trying to finish up gifts for others.  This is a lovely soft yarn, and the color is beautiful, and I think that it will be my next project, after I finish up the fingerless mitts for my mom.

I have been dutifully collecting book titles to add to my "100 books in 2016" book list.

My husband had mentioned before Christmas how he wants to read more books in 2016, so I bought him a few books for Christmas.  And of course, they are books I am also interested in reading!

One is Barefoot Church which is by Brandon Hatmaker.  It seems to be the companion book to Jen Hatmaker's Interrupted which I really enjoyed.  

My sister-in-law gave me a book that looks really great as well, called Girl Meets God, by Lauren F. Winner.  She described it to me as the connection between the Jewish and Christian calendars, and a memoir.  It sounds amazing, and I can't wait to start it!  Can I still count it as a 2016 book if I start it now?

Are you starting to reflect on 2015 and planning new goals for 2016?

Staying Healthy Right into the New Year!

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SamsClubMag #CollectiveBias

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is always an interesting one for me, food wise.  I typically have a ton of leftovers from the holidays, and yet I don’t want to eat them!  I think that as I have gotten older, I realize that I need to concentrate on my health a lot more, and having a lot of unhealthy options is not what I want.  Instead I want to stay healthy right into the New Year, and the leftovers honestly don’t cut it.


Over the years we have taken several steps towards a healthier lifestyle for our family.  One that seems most important me, and also to my husband, is the addition of Vitamin D to our daily supplement regimen. 

My husband had a full blood work up last year, and found that he was deficient in Vitamin D.  That surprised us because he drinks milk every day, but apparently it was not enough for him.  His Dr. prescribed him a large dose of Vitamin D over a couple weeks, and now we both regularly take a daily supplement.


Part of the reason I take it is because I battle the winter blues.  Our winters are quite long in Maine.  The cold and dark can get to be a little much and taking the Vitamin D supplement has been a huge help to my mood during the winter. 

Every month we take a trip to Sam’s Club to get our bulk food for the month, but we also are able to find all of our vitamin needs as well as fill any prescriptions at the pharmacy.  It is a bit of an event in my house, my kids love to go and get samples of the different foods.  I love that I can get pretty much everything I need in one stop.


Trying to get three kids in and out of the car to several stores is not something I enjoy, so the fact that I can get all of it done in one trip to Sam’s Club is amazing to me.  I have noticed over the past year that they have added so many organic options, and that is a big plus.

The other big way we are staying healthy right into the New Year is green smoothies. 


My family loves green smoothies.  I’m not sure how I convinced my kids to drink them a few years ago, but they do, and they love them.  In fact it is the most requested “green vegetable” for dinner.


I tend to use the same recipe most of the time, spinach or kale, a banana, frozen berries (usually blueberries and strawberries).  We buy the fruit and greens at Sam’s Club at a huge cost savings – we go through A LOT of frozen fruit in our home, especially in the winter!

I have also started using magazines like Healthy Living Made Simple to get ideas on staying healthy.  I especially like their section on feeding baby.  Lucy is just over 1 now, and is eating all the time!  I want to make sure that she is getting the most nutritious foods that I can give her, and this magazine has some great ideas! 



I liked this article called Freshen-up Your Produce.  I love to find new ways to serve veggies in our home for my older kids.  One of my favorites is to do a “snack lunch” where I offer lots of cut up veggies, different dips that I have made such as white bean dip or hummus, and the nuts and some cut up fruit – it is a favorite of my kids, and bonus, super healthy!


I know that having a diet rich and fruits and vegetables and the right vitamin supplements for me are what keep me going.  I need the energy with three little ones running circles around me, but I also want to show my kids what a healthy lifestyle is, so that they are comfortable with it as they grow. 


What are you doing to stay healthier in the New Year?

*I am not a doctor - please speak to your own doctor before starting any type of vitamin regimen.  These are my personal family's experiences.

the one with the Christmas wrap up

Christmas.  The day that seems to take the most work leading up to it every.single.year.  And yet, it is still my favorite holiday to celebrate.  I love to see all the lights, the lights on the tree and the light in my children's eyes.  It is a magical time for me.  At least that is my desire, to make it a special and fun time.  That is why we have so many traditions.


This year seemed extra special to me.  I'm not sure why that is.  Going into the Christmas season I knew that I did not want to be overly busy, yet we were.  Actually busier than all the previous years it seems.  The thing that I was avoiding as much as possible - stress.

It seems like every year the stress (and sugar!) get to me.  Learning to not stress out if things don't go as planned, that was a wonderful lesson to learn!

 

I put off my Christmas baking longer than I ever have, and was unable to deliver goodies to some friends.  They will instead be after Christmas treats.  There were activities I had planned that were put on the back burner, and then their was a teething baby who decided to come down with a low-grade fever right before our Christmas Eve party.

Christmas Eve was spent at our house with friends.  I made a ton of food and invited people over to visit, there were a lot of kids, and a lot of cookie decorating.  It was a great time, and a tradition that I have been trying to re-create since my mom stopped her Christmas Eve party.  My mom was on hand to hold my little one much of the evening so that I could play hostess.  While I would have loved Lucy not to have been teething, she was a trooper and just wanted to be passed back and forth between my mom, Matt and I for cuddles.


After all of our friends left I worked on getting the house somewhat cleaned up, and the kids watched a Christmas movie.  When everyone was finally in bed around 9pm, Matt and I started the wrapping that we had put off the entire month.


Yes, that is a little late to start wrapping!

I do enjoy that little bit of procrastination and the self-made craze that happens on Christmas Eve with no wrapping done.


I was convinced that the kids would be up super early on Christmas morning, so I made it a point to wake up super early, get the coffee going, and sat down to look at my tree with the lights glowing since it was still dark outside.  And I waited.

...and waited...and waited some more...until finally Emma woke up at the very late hour of 7:45.  Now, that may not seem late, but for my girl who loves to roll out of bed at 5:45 every morning and have quiet time with mama, this was an accomplishment.  


She opened her stocking while I took videos of her, and then we sat together and had some special mother daughter time.  

Matt and Lucy didn't get up until 8:30 and then Jack was up at 9!  It was a very late morning for my kids!

My mom came up at 9, thinking she would have missed all the presents, but we hadn't even started.  

We spent the rest of the morning leisurely opening presents, and putting Lucy down for a nap multiple times.


I had planned an amazing brunch menu, blueberry cake, breakfast casserole, and my mom was bringing a delicious fruit cup - but the only thing we ended up with was the fruit cup!

We ate leftovers and decided to hold off on making anymore food on Christmas Day.  It doesn't seem very Christmas-y to not have a Christmas dinner, but we didn't, and that was OK!  Instead, the kids played with toys, we continued holding Lucy through her teething troubles, and overall enjoyed one another's company.


Why am I sharing such a detailed description of our Christmas with you?  Well, partly to remember it for myself.  The reason I started blogging so long ago was to have these memories written down.  The other reason?  Because I want to stress that it is OK when things don't go quite as planned.  We still had an amazing Christmas even though Lucy was under the weather and cried for four days straight.  We still had an amazing Christmas even though we ate leftovers on Christmas Day instead of having a nice meal.  We still enjoyed Christmas even though I forgot to give the kids their last two Advent bags because the house was in chaos.  

I am incredibly excited about what 2016 will bring for my family and for this blog.  It is a wonderful thing to be able to look forward and back and have peace about life.  

Over the next couple of weeks I plan to bring a lot of reflection of the previous year and also to share my goals for the New Year.  I hope that you will join me in this!

What was your favorite part of the holiday season this year?

Top 5 Apps to Keep Your Health on Track in the New Year!

I am a member of the #BetterMoments Blogger Brigade and this post is sponsored by U.S. Cellular, as always the opinions are my own.  

If you are giving a mobile device to your child this holiday season, don’t forget to download the Parent-Child Agreement and have a discussion about appropriate usage of that device!

It is Christmas Eve Eve – yes, I am that person who has a crazy countdown to Christmas every year.  My kids have been bouncing off the walls with all the excitement that is going on – and the sweets…there are so many sweets!

Actually, I have been a lot better about staying away from the sweets this year.  I finally figured out that all the sugar I eat around the holidays contributes to me getting sick (that and stress – yuck!).  With all the different activities and running around, I have been trying to keep our health on track.


Even though we aren’t quite at Christmas yet, I am still thinking about my health goals for next year.  There are some amazing apps for my iPhone, and pairing it with the amazing coverage that U.S. Cellular provides can help keep me on track throughout the busy holiday season and beyond

A recent U.S. Cellular Better Moments survey shows a growing assistance on smartphones for fitness and health. The survey reveals 22 percent of smartphone users keep track of exercise with an app.
Top 5 Apps to Help with Your Health Goals:


Fooducate – free for iOS and Android.  This app was the first winner in U.S. Surgeon General’s Healthy App Challenge.  Fooducate goes beyond counting calories, instead helping users to lose weight and live a healthy lifestyle.  Users are able to track the quality of the calories, not just the quantity by scanning over 250,000 bar codes that then give a grade (A, B, C, or D).  It also integrates seamlessly with Apple’s Health app. 


With the stressful holiday season, those who need to monitor their blood pressure can use iBP Blood Pressure.  It uses colors to indicate normal or high readings, and over time can analyze the data to create graphs and illustrate trends.  It can also be synced across all your wireless devices.


The wearables fitness world seems to be gaining popularity.  If you are thinking about trying one out, you can look into Garmin ConnectIt has a free app that collects personal health and activity data and then uploads it via Bluetooth.  Users can then see which workouts and routines are helping them with their fitness goals. 


If you are looking for a fast and easy calorie counter, MyFitnessPal is a great choice.  It has the largest food database and fitness data entry.  Users can easily see when their calorie output isn’t matching up to their calorie input!  The MyFitnessPal Network also encourages users to connect with friends as they pursue their fitness goals as well.


Another great app to track calories is Lose it!  It tracks your caloric intake and monitors your diet, letting you manage a weekly calorie budget.  This app also lets you connect through Facebook and Twitter so you can stay connected to friends and family across the country, to encourage you to stay on track.

These are all great tools to bring us into the New Year looking to stay healthy, and live a healthy lifestyle.  While I have been really good over the past several weeks, I am definitely giving myself a pass over the next few days!


Are you thinking about New Year’s goals and resolutions yet?  Are you trying to stay on track throughout the holiday season with your health?

Prepare for a Great Financial New Year!



Have you finished your Christmas shopping?  I haven’t yet…usually I am all done by this point, but this year I am getting down to the wire!

This year I have been working extra hard to make sure I stay on budget for Christmas.  Actually, this is the first year Matt and I have actually sat down and done a budget for Christmas.  Usually we decide about what we want to spend, but then we don’t stick to it.  This year, this year was different.


It is so important to be able to stay on track with your Christmas spending.  If you go overboard, you end up starting the New Year on a sour note.

A recent Capital One survey found that only 1/3 of Americans felt they accomplished their financial goals in 2015.

I found that to be a sobering statistic!


One way that Matt and I have been able to better prepare for our own financial goals is to utilize the 360 Savings at Capital One.  These accounts have no fees and no minimums, and are perfect for categorizing our spending and savings goals.

I absolutely love that you can open up as many as 25 different 360 Savings accounts - all for free - and name them all different things.  This helps me to stay on task what we are saving for. 

One of the best ways for us to focus on our savings goals is to use the Automatic Savings Goal tool.  This allows us to automatically have money transferred from our checking account into the different savings accounts periodically throughout the month.  Having the money moved right when our check hits the checking account helps us to stay on track financially.


My husband and I have a lot of financial goals for 2016.  One that we are planning on concentrating on is putting more money in savings.

I am planning on using the My Savings Goal tool which allows users to track progress, stay motivated, and celebrate milestones along the way. 

Giving each savings account a nickname helps to not lump all of our savings together.  To see “heating oil” on an account, I know exactly what that account is for, and I don’t have to worry about using it for something else.  It also makes budgeting for big ticket items a lot easier.  Knowing we have a fund especially for home maintenance, or new car, helps us to visualize our savings goals, and easily see the progress we are making, rather than looking at one account for everything.  

One fund I really would like to have this year?  The Vacation fund!

What are some of your savings goals for the New Year?

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

knitting and reading

We are getting so close to Christmas!  I can't believe it.  I can honestly say that I am not ready yet.  I still have shopping to do, still some knitting to do, and wrapping, well I haven't even started that...

Here we are in another week of the yarn along though.  And, like last week, I have created a video for you - you can find it below.


I don't have much to show you in the way of knitting.  I am knitting for my mom, and since she reads my blog, it makes it a little hard to write about Christmas presents!  But, this is the most knitting I have done in quite a while, at one sitting I mean.  The kids have been cooperative about bedtimes lately, and that has allowed me a bit of down time to knit.

And as far as my reading goes, I'm not actually reading anything new this week.  Instead, I am talking a little bit about my 2015 reading goal of 100 books, and how I failed miserably at that.  I wrote about it yesterday as well.



Instead, I am putting out a call to all of you wonderful knitter/reader types to help me make my 2016 book list!  My idea is that if I actually write a list of 100 books to read, perhaps then I would be able to read all of those books.  I tend to get stuck when thinking about the next book.

How is your Christmas knitting going?  What is one book you hope to read next year?

Falling Short on my 2015 Reading Goal

At the beginning of this year, I decided that I would once again strive to read 100 books during the year.  I had the same goal in 2014.  Can I let you in on a little secret?

I have failed with my reading goal for this year.


I know that there is absolutely no way I can pull it together in the last couple of weeks of the year to read, oh, I don’t know, 60 books.  That’s right, folks, I have only read about 40 books this year.  Honestly, most of the books I read were in the first quarter of the year.


That list that I linked to above, well, that is pretty much my list of books read for the year.

I started off the year doing really well, reading the majority of those books.  But, when the summer came, my personal reading slowed down.


Now, I definitely agree with The Deliberate Reader when she categorizes kids’ books that are over 100 pages as books she herself can add to her “books read” list.  Unfortunately, a lot of the books that I am reading this year with the kids are quite a bit longer, and we have not finished a lot of them – the problem with having several long books going on at once is that it takes quite a bit longer to actually finish those books.

I can make a million excuses as to why I didn’t finish 100 books, but the one that sticks out the most to me is that I didn’t know what to read.

I often get books to review on my blog, which I love to read and review, but sometimes they aren’t the greatest books, and I have a hard time getting through the book, then I don’t feel like picking up another book.

My plan for this year is to actually work on a book list.

I have never made a list of 100 books I want to read, and perhaps that is part of the problem.

When I finished my short list, I had no idea what to read next.  There are a million good books, but sometimes it is hard to know what to read next.

I was definitely in a self-care phase last year, which is partly why I wrote about self-care in October.  I needed to get back to me, especially after welcoming our third little one into the world at the end of the year.  Because of that, I was reading a lot of non-fiction, encouraging books.  Books that would help me figure out my needs, and help me to figure out how to meet those needs.  

When those were done, I was stuck!


I didn’t have a huge desire to read novels last year, and so I turned to my favorites when I wanted something to read, Pride and Prejudice, Harry Potter, Twilight, easy books that I tend to re-read a lot.

I’m not a person who minds re-reading books.  I have a lot of favorites, and I like to read them periodically.  But, this year I would like to try and read more new books, new genres, try new things.


I have a ways to go.  Right now I only have five books on my “to read in 2016 list.”

That is why I need your help!

I would love for you to leave a comment below on a book that you love, or a book that you would love to read.  Help me compile my 100 books to read for 2016.


Do you make a to-read book list each year?  Do you have trouble deciding what the next book to read will be?

League of Little Laughers Play Date with Bright Starts!

I received these products for free from Bright Starts in order to facilitate my review.  All opinions, as always, are my own!

With a toddler in the house again, I am starting to think about toys.  It seems like so much has changed since Jack was a toddler, and that was just a few years ago.  There are always new products available, and finding something that the kids love and play with is important.  I don’t like to have a toy that the kids don’t interact with, what is the point of that!


I was really excited to have the opportunity to have a League of Little Laughers Play Date recently.

When the box of toys from Bright Starts was delivered and I opened it up, my older two were immediately excited to get to playing.  Of course I wanted to wait until our play date to get everything out…it was hard to keep the children at bay while I prepared for our little party.


The day of the party I kept it pretty simple.  I made my blueberry muffins that the kids absolutely love, and got started setting everything up. 




I think the kids loved all the toys, but surprisingly the one they all were fighting over was the Bunch of Balls!  Who would have thought that such a simple toy would steal the show, but it did.



I think that the kids also really loved the Spin & Giggle Puppy.  I know that was one of my favorites.  It took a few days after the party for my one year old to understand how it worked, but now she loves to press the buttons and see the balls fly out. 


My plan was to pack some of these toys up after the party to give to my youngest for Christmas, unfortunately, she has made these toys her favorites, and I couldn’t bring myself to take them away, even when I knew I would be giving them back to her.


All of the kids had a wonderful time with the toys, and I was happy to have the chance to try out some new things.  I loved that even though they had batteries, the toys were not overly loud.  That is a big plus in my book, especially with three little ones running around playing all day - which you can tell by the blurry pictures throughout this post!  They all were running the whole time!


What is your favorite toy gift to give to kids?

I received these products for free from Bright Starts in order to facilitate my review.  All opinions, as always, are my own!

How to Enjoy Family and Slow Down during a Busy Season

We are two weeks out from Christmas people!  I don’t think I have ever had a year seem so busy and move so fast!

Part of the reason that we take such a long winter break from homeschooling is because of the inevitable busyness that comes along with December.


There are still basketball practices and games, homeschool co-op, library trips, and general household day-to-day activities, but there are also Christmas parties, Christmas dinners, Christmas presents, cards, crafts, and probably other C words that I haven’t thought of yet.

How do you make life slow down?

Honestly, that is a question I have been asking myself a lot lately.  It seems like no matter how hard I try to be present and in the moment, the days move by quickly.  I want more time to enjoy my family.
  

I can’t remember a day or week that seemed to drag on or a time when I was bored and didn’t know what to do.

That sounds a bit ominous, doesn’t it?  It absolutely is not though.  I am having the most fun that I have had in my life, being a mama to my three little ones, and having so much activity and energy in the home.


When I see the joy of my kids playing basketball, or making a new friend, or running off to play in the woods behind the co-op; it is all fun.


For a very long time I lived looking towards the next thing.  I was constantly thinking ahead, planning, trying to make sure that times were filled in appropriately.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I still plan – a lot.  In fact I probably am planning more than I ever have with all the schedules we are juggling.

However, I am definitely trying to slow down the unnecessary items, enjoy my family and quiet more.

This life right now, with kids, and sports schedules, homeschooling, extracurricular activities, co-op; it is what I signed up for.

I know that come January, life will seem a bit slower.  The holidays will be over and we will be back to a regular school routine.  The dark days that I used to despise are now a comfort to me, knowing that life will be a little quieter.

How can we allow ourselves to have a little quiet now, especially with all the Christmas craziness?


Well, I think that having downtime is extremely important.  And often, we need to schedule that downtime.  I know that the kids will have basketball practice and games every week; they will have co-op and library trips every week.  But, are there moments that we can slow down?  Absolutely!

The first area I found that helps me to slow down and enjoy family is the laundry.


Are you laughing at me right now?  Even as I write that it seems funny to me.  Laundry.  I have so much laundry in my life.  It honestly is never-ending.  However, recently my kids have been asking me for chores they can do around the house (they want ways to earn money), and laundry is a good place for them to start.

They love to help me sort the clothes, and Emma does a great job of folding towels.  Jack matches socks and helps put Lucy’s clothes away. 



Typically I like to do the household chores myself – it is faster that way!  But, I realized that I am doing a disservice to my children if I don’t let them help me – especially when they want to.

This allows me time to enjoy my family while we do something that needs to be done anyways.  The kids are happy to help, and chat with me, and I am happy to have the help.  I realize that part of my job as a parent is to raise kids to become adults, and this is one way to do that.

My next tip?  Drink tea.  It seems so incredibly simple, but the process of boiling the water, letting the tea steep, and then sitting down with my family is a wonderful thing.  My kids especially like raspberry lemon tea with a little honey.  It isn’t something they have often, so it is a treat, and since it is also one of the ways we stay warm in the winter it is a great way to slow down as well.


If you aren’t a tea drinker, you should try it.  There are a variety of herbal teas available, and they are delicious!  The right pick me up in the afternoon, especially with a cookie – this is the time of year for a lot of cookies after all!

Finally, breathe.  No matter how busy you may feel, if you have an infant like I did last year at this time, or if you are in the middle of a huge project at home or work, stop and breathe.  Taking a few minutes to re-center yourself, pray, meditate, it will do wonders for your nerves and for your health.

Everyone has busy seasons.  It is inevitable.  But, that does not mean that we can’t all still slow down and enjoy our family during that time.  We do not have to move at warp speed, even though sometimes it feels like we are on a crazy roller coaster that will not stop. 


What do you do to calm yourself during the busy season?  Is there a favorite chore that you do with your children?

knitting and reading

This week I decided to do something a little bit different for the yarn along - I took a cue from Willfulmina and decided to make a video!  It is not long, and I hope you enjoy it.



If you prefer to look at pictures, I have included those as well!  There isn't any progress to show this week - because I am knitting a couple Christmas presents!  However, I did take a trip to AC Moore for yarn - it was fun!









What are you working on this week?  What activities do you enjoy during the dark months?