12.31.2010

Passing on Tradition

My parents used to play Liverpool Rummy with my dad's family. Somewhere along the way, my sister and I were taught how to play. John & I play fairly regularly with my parents and always have a great time. We figure that at 17 & 15, it was about time that our boys learn how as well. I hope they enjoy it was much as we do.

liverpool-2

liverpool

What games have been passed down in your family?

12.30.2010

Hot, Hot, Hot: the Story

burner

Growing up, we always had a gas stove. Over the years, I've had a few electric stoves and some gas. But I really prefer a gas stove. Maybe it's because it's what I'm used to, I don't know. But one significant factor for me is that I like seeing the flame, not wondering which burner is on. Say what you want, but even after over two years with this lovely stove, I still manage to turn on the wrong burner. A couple of weeks ago, I nearly destroyed an empty non-stick skillet sitting on the back burner (covered), while wondering why my water wasn't boiling on the front burner.

20090106__A_appliances_0001

And then there's always that issue of how long the burner remains warm after you've removed the pan. Yes, I know there's a light on the back of the stove that reminds me that the top is hot. I also know that there's a little drawing next to the burner knobs that tell me which burner the knob will operate. Apparently I have some sort of stove instruction impairment, I guess. But there isn't a gas line piped to my kitchen. So maybe I'll learn how to better live with electricity.

What about you? Do you prefer an electric or gas stove?

12.28.2010

Wordless Wednesday - Hot, Hot, Hot

burner

For more wordlessness, check out Live From Waterloo and 5 Minutes for Mom.

p.s. - Drop by Thursday for the story behind this photo.

12.27.2010

Never Trust...

hair mess

...your massage therapist to not make a royal mess of your hair.

...your camera's auto focus to always focus where you want it to (nowhere).

12.26.2010

Dinner: Quick and Easy

When I was growing up, my mom used to can beef. It was a terrific staple to have on hand. She'd heat it up, make some gravy, and serve it over potatoes or maybe rice. It was always so delicious. Once, as an adult, I canned some beef with her and of course, we loved it and ate it all up.

Recently, I'd been thinking I'd like to can some beef again. I'd need mom's help, because I don't remember much about doing it before. Not that I couldn't figure it out if I had to, but I don't have to, because she's so handy. But when I talked to her about it, she mentioned that Costco happens to carry canned beef that's pretty much as good as what she used to can. At least my dad thinks so and he can be a little particular.

So we gave it a try.

beef-and-noodles

And it really is pretty tasty. What I love most of all is that it's a meal that can be prepared in the time it takes to boil a pot of noodles. And the carnivores in my house (read: the guys) LOVE it.

So I'm happy because it's quick and easy. My guys are happy cause it tastes so good. And all is right with the world.

Beef & Noodles
16 oz. bag wide egg noodles
2-12 oz. cans beef
1 packet brown gravy mix

Boil water for the noodles. In medium saucepan, prepare the gravy according to packet instructions. Cook the noodles.

Pour both cans of beef, along with broth, into the gravy. Shred beef pieces with spoon while stirring.

Drain noodles and pour beef and gravy over the noodles. Serve it up with your favorite side dish and/or bread.

It's just that simple!


12.25.2010

Glad Tidings

...of comfort and

joy

Wishing you and yours a very blessed and Merry Christmas!!

12.24.2010

Be Still

I have loved Lisa Leonard's jewelry for a long time {she's so sweet and talented!}, but haven't had the opportunity to purchase any for myself. I've entered numerous contests giving away her jewelry. After who-knows-how-many entries, I WON! My dear friend, Dawn {My Home Sweet Home} hosted an amazing giveaway with her 2010 Christmas Guide and I actually won!

be still -front

Then came the difficult task of choosing what to order. Goodness, she has so many beautiful pieces. But I've had my eye on a necklace titled Be Still for quite some time {even has it engraved on the back!}. Anyone who knows me knows that STILL is not exactly my strong suit. I know that stillness is a good thing, it's just so hard to get to. So it seemed to me that wearing this necklace would be a lovely and sweet reminder. A reminder that I could really use.

be still - back

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! Psalm 46:10

12.22.2010

Stop Sign

Look what we got last week. A brand new stop sign.

stop sign


I have no idea why it was replaced. The old one was perfectly fine. It handled the traffic out of our 6-house cul-de-sac quite well. It had no graffiti, no sand blasting, no missing pieces, and no gunshot holes.

I'm curious to know what this entire effort cost the taxpayers of this city. Were the stop signs in other cul-de-sacs also replaced? There are a lot of them in the neighborhood. Were those in a state of disrepair? Ours certainly wasn't. Even more interesting is the fact that our city, like many I'm sure, have been faced with a lack of revenue in recent years, and have had to make numerous cuts in city services. Yet for some reason, they're replacing signs unnecessarily. I can certainly think of some better places to have spent those funds.

12.21.2010

Wordless Wednesday - Sweet Music

A blessed and peaceful Christmas to all my Wordless Wednesday friends.

sweet music


For more wordlessness, check out Live From Waterloo and 5 Minutes for Mom.

Lunar Eclipse

The moon was apparently at a good distance for the start of the lunar eclipse tonight. I actually got a reasonably decent picture. Not great, but probably better than any moon shot I've ever attempted.

lunar eclipse-1-wm

Same shot, cropped:

lunar eclipse-1-crop

Frustratingly, by the time it was nearly a total eclipse, it had moved to a distance at which I cannot focus clearly. Sigh.

lunar eclipse-2

However. I will be grateful to have seen an event that hasn't occurred in over 300 years and won't occur again in this exact way for over another 300-400+ years. And the Comedian was sweet enough to stay up with me and hang out in the cold, when he really wanted to come in and go to sleep. I also had a great time tweeting with other friends around the country who stayed up for this. It was a great evening!

Edited to add: Here's a very cool time lapse of the entire eclipse from a guy in Florida.

12.20.2010

3 in 30

My sweet friend, Meghan, at The Tuckers Take Tennessee has thrown down the gauntlet, so to speak. She and her friend, Ashley, have created the 3 in 30 challenge.

Accountability is not my strong suit. As much as I know it will help me, I'm more of the ethereal-float-around-my-colander-brain-goals type of gal. You know, if you can't nail down your goals (if you even have any!), then when you fail to accomplish them, you didn't really fail at all, because it wasn't exactly in stone, nor specific, and it's likely that no one really knew about it anyway. Right?

Um, wrong. Seriously wrong.

Safely low expectations. Not really a great way to live life, but one I sometimes default to. Okay, usually default to.

So now Meghan lit a little fire under me and while I'm not big on the whole New Year's resolution-thing (always destined to fail), I'm thinking that maybe three little goals (per month!) might not be so bad. Especially when they're accompanied by that accountability aspect. I figure I'll give it a whirl for January. If I can mange that, I'll go again for February. Like how I give myself a monthly out? Kind of fits the safely low expectations mentality.

Someone smack me already.

I don't know if we're supposed to share our three January goals yet, or not, but I'd better do it before I chicken out get distracted and forget to participate.

Beginning January 1, 2011, my three goals are:

72-daylight saving

  1. Go to bed on time. Minimum 5 days in 7. What does on time mean to me? Lights out (no more reading or Angry Birds) by 11:00 p.m. Earlier, if at all possible. That means from an accountability perspective, if you see me dinking around on Facebook or Twitter after 10:30 p.m. (mountain time), you can officially give me grief, hold my feet to the fire, or just pray that God makes my computer lock up for being disobedient.
  2. helen hunt falls-3
  3. Drink water. I am horrible about this. Just ask my chiropractor and massage therapist. For a little chunk of time, I did drink plenty of water. They were both very, very happy with me for that. I suspect that my body was very, very happy with me, too. Contrary to my taste buds, pumping Dr Pepper through my veins is not the best choice. What does enough water look like for me? I'm thinking 64 ounces a day. If I can manage that, we'll see where things go. I think based upon actual formulas and such (as in the one our self-defense instructor gives us), I should be drinking more. But to go from the Sahara to some lush place with plenty of moisture, a girl's gotta start someplace. Feel free to ask me about it. Twitter, Facebook, blog comment, whatever. If I don't respond, well, it could be due to dehydration.
  4. 76-mac n cheese2
  5. Create meal plans. Every week. When I have meal plans, I actually prepare meals at home (what a concept!). You know the drill here - we spend less, eat better, and have more time at home. It's a good thing all the way around. We do have times that we eat out (typically plans with others), but it's the other times in between when I just haven't pulled something from the freezer, or have nothing in mind for dinner that can become a problem. Yes, Domino's is totally cheap and delicious thanks to their new recipe, but it should be the rare occasion, not the weekly I-don't-know-what-to-have-for-dinner response. I guess I'll post my plans here and that way those who are a part of the accountability aspect of this challenge will have something to hold me to. For clarification, I say meal plans, but what I really mean is dinner plans. Breakfast is always at home. Lunch is mostly at home, but I'll throw that in there, too.
There'll be a weekly (Friday night) linky for everyone to get in accountability mode. Have something you'd like to achieve/accomplish in January? Need a little prodding, er, accountability? Come join us! You can even have a nifty little button for your blog:


Okay, I'm pushing publish before I have a chance to bail!

12.18.2010

What Title?

Sometimes I'm not sure how to title posts of randomosity. I'm fresh out of titles that are representative of such meandering.

A week away from Christmas, and I may be burning out on Christmas music already. That's not good. I finally pulled out the Christmas CDs that have been unavailable for the past couple of years. As much as I love Trans-Siberian Orchestra, I really can't listen to them 24/7 for a month. Or anyone else, for that matter.

Christmas tree


I decided I'd like to enjoy our 3-dimensional tree this year. The 2D tree has been a blessing and served its purpose in other years (09 & 07), but sometimes one just needs a little more dimension for the holidays. ClayGuy was kind enough to share his Lego train with our tree, so it has a little loop going around the tree skirt. Santa's even taking a ride. Guess he wanted a break.

We're so blessed that John's business is still fairly steady. That's always a very good thing when you're in the RV industry in Colorado in the winter. God's so faithful to provide for us. He never ceases to amaze me!

We're taking a break from homeschool - at least a week off, anyway. We'll see what happens after Christmas. We may have some light days the week between Christmas and New Year's. And then we'll be hitting it pretty hard.

The sewing projects are coming along well. My hardware order finally arrived. Took a little longer than anticipated, but it's here. That's all that matters now. Cause if it wasn't here today, I was off to the thrift stores to find some purses from which I could pirate some pieces.

purse hardware

I'm looking forward to finishing up these couple of projects so I can work on something new that I'm a little excited about. It's a purse, but it's a very cool purse. All I have is a couple of photos and a hopefully-not-too-foggy memory, so I don't want to wait too long to get to that one.

I have way too many books from the library to read. It's a sickness, really. I think I got it from my mom (thanks, Mothra!). I go the library, intending to pick up no more then 3-4 books, and leave with 7-10 or 15. I'm allowed to have them for three weeks. As if I think I can read them all in that time. Fortunately, there's a button on the website called RENEW. It's one of my favorite buttons of all.

For some reason, I can't seem to utilize Facebook and Twitter at the same time. Not simultaneously, but if I'm hanging out on FB, I don't open Twitter. And vice-versa. Which is kind of funny, given the strange multi-tasking that I seem to do. In fact, I've been painfully aware of my weird multi-tasking habits recently.

  • Diffusing my hair (w/a blow dryer) while brushing my teeth or putting on makeup.
  • Talking on the phone with my sister, while emailing a friend, and texting yet another friend. Conversations began to suffer.
  • Cooking dinner and playing Angry Birds.

Maybe I think I can read multiple books at the same time, too. Well, I do, but again, not simultaneously. That would just be bizarre.

I have too many tabs open most days, too. I think I need an intervention.

No wonder my posts are random.

But I do love Google Reader. Which I only recently began to utilize. It's a very good thing.

I think I need to make a list. There are too many things rolling around in my head. Perhaps that's why I couldn't sleep last night. And why my posts consist of either pictures or randomness. There's nothing in between.

Quote from my 6-year old niece:

Sometimes I just say random words for no reason.

Obviously we're related.

silly mrs


Enjoy your last weekend before Christmas.

12.15.2010

Wits & Wagers Family - a Review

My family loves to play games. Hubby, the boys, and me, but also my parents, sister, and her family. We all love Wits & Wagers Family from North Star Games. We played when the game arrived and then on Thanksgiving night, we played with family members ranging from 11 to Grandpa and everyone had a terrific time. Well, we've also played plenty of times since then, too.

From the website:

Wits & Wagers Family simplifies the rules and scoring system of the popular Wits & Wagers. Now families and kids can get into the Wits & Wagers action! First, every player writes down a guess to a fun question. Then players try to score points by choosing which guess is closest to the right answer without going over. That is it!

The game features 300 new family-friendly questions. And even better than that, Wits & Wagers Family includes Meeples-- fun, cute, human shaped wooden pieces that the players use to select which answers they think are correct. Meeples have been a hallmark in European style strategy games for years, but this is the first time they have made an appearance in a party game.

The Meeples are the cutest! I think I'll have to keep an eye on them. I have a certain niece who might like to take them out for a spin. Or ClayGuy may think they'd make a good clay accessory.

On the box, the game is for ages 8 and up and can be played by 3 to 10 people. With 3 to 5 people, you an play as individuals, but more than 5, you play in teams of two. We've played both individually and in teams. Both ways are every bit as fun as the other. It's great that you don't have to know the answer to the questions, you just have to be good at figuring out who has the closest answer.

If you're in the market for a new family game, I would absolutely recommend Wits & Wagers Family.


Oh, if I didn't do enough to convince you, you can go to the TOS Crew Blog to read more reviews.

Disclaimer: I was provided a free copy of Wits & Wagers Family to play and review. The opinions stated here are my own.

12.14.2010

12.13.2010

Sweet Shot Tuesday: Tic Tac Toe

I have wanted to participate in Sweet Shot Tuesdays ever since Darcy started. But my Tuesdays are super crazy-busy. Yeah, I know, I could post in advance. Sounds good in theory...

This is the cutest little snowman who's a part of a bigger scene - Snowmen vs. Penguins tic-tac-toe. I shot a bunch of these little guys, but I loved this one with the blue lights and garland providing the cool bokeh in the background.

penguin-snowman game

Sweet Shot Day


ALEKS Math - a Review

ALEKS (Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces) is a web-based math curriculum that utilizes artificial intelligence to provide an adaptive, individual learning program. It able to identify what your child does and doesn't know and then directs him/her to the next appropriate math skill to learn. It provides examples, assessments, and immediate feedback for the student.

Yes, I am able to do high school algebra, but there's some re-learning involved (it's been more than a few years!), so it's nice that my son has a program that gives him individualized lessons and help. He really likes using ALEKS in our homeschool. While math is a sequential subject, he has the flexibility to jump around from one math skill to another - all within the confines of what ALEKS identifies appropriate for his learning path. So if he's a little stuck or bored with a specific topic, he can work on something different for a time, and come back to that later.

He also really likes being able to see his progress immediately (no waiting for mom to grade papers!). A Student Pie Chart is provided which is split up into pieces for various learning areas. At the center of each pie wedge, a darker segment of color extends out, indicating mastery in that particular skill set. It's nice for both him and me to have a visual review like this. As you mouse over a particular area, a window comes up which further explains what's covered and includes a link to an example of that skill.

ALEKS doesn't use multiple choice questions, so your child has to come up with an answer, not just guess. Because it's individualized and the student has to reach mastery of foundational skills, he/she is not moved on to new topics until ready. ALEKS is also able to identify gaps in your child's math knowledge and provide the lessons and practice needed to cover them. Courses are available from 3rd grade through 12th, from basic arithmetic to Pre-Calculus and Trigonometry. There is also a wealth of resources available and are listed by education role (parents, students, homeschoolers, and tutors).

ALEKS uses Java and is compatible with both Windows and Mac. You can sign up for a free 30-day trial to try it out and see what you think. If you decide to continue, it's a subscription-based program with three payment options. Monthly - $19.95, 6-months - $99.95, or 12-months - $179.95 (one child). For multiple students, there are family discounts at the 6- and 12-month levels. There are no textbooks necessary, just the internet.

There's so much to this program, I'm not sure I've done it justice! Please be sure to read more about ALEKS in other reviews at the TOS Crew blog.


Disclaimer: I was provided with a free trial subscription to try out ALEKS. The opinions stated here are my own.

Christmas Wrapping

I was reading Katie's post at Making This Home and it made me realize how long it's been since I've purchased ANY wrapping paper. I used to buy new Christmas paper nearly every year. Anytime there was cute paper on sale (especially after Christmas, I was all over it. A number of years ago, I decided that this was ridiculous, because I didn't have room to store it all and I had so much more than I was going to use anytime soon.

Christmas wrapping-4

{the Comedian thought black crayon was a good choice once when he was younger}

So I made an agreement with myself that I wouldn't have more wrapping paper than would fit in my storage container. It actually took me a few years to use up the excess rolls that wouldn't fit in there. And it's still been a number of years that I've used only what's in the container. It's actually amazing just how far a roll of wrapping paper can go.

Christmas wrapping-2

I really love this storage tote - it can go under the bed, it an serve as a wrapping surface (if the package isn't too big), and it's super organized. It has two trays that sit at each end, in which I keep tags, small bows, pens, tape, and scissors. I lay gift bags and tissue paper in the space between the two trays. It keeps them well-protected.

Christmas wrapping-3


Yes, we still generate trash - probably more than necessary. I haven't gone as green as Katie. Maybe some day. I do recycle bows (and bags), as does my sister. In fact, that's become a long-running family joke/tradition. My brother-in-law, who is incredibly frugal, never wants us to save the bows. I'm not sure what that's all about. But he tries to destroy them, while we try to salvage them. Even the kids get involved. Some years, I put the damaged ones on his presents. Recycling at its finest. Occasionally we put a lot of bows on his presents.

I have been known to pick up tags occasionally, but I think when these run out, I'll make my own. I've stamped and scrapbooked for many, many years. I was a Stampin' Up! Demonstrator for seven of those many. I have plenty of cardstock, papers, stamps, inks, and other assorted bling. I have no doubt I could make some cute tags. But first I'll use up what we have.

I am absolutely amazed that my wrapping paper has held out as long as it has. I would've thought it'd be gone by now, but no. And that's okay. That's one less thing to think about each year. Fortunately, it all fits in my tote (other than some bows), which makes me very happy.

Christmas wrapping-1

One quirky little thing about me and wrapping - I like to use gift wrap for Christmas and gift bags for birthdays. Most of the time. I have no idea why. Do you have a preference?

Yes, some years I get a little bored with the same old papers (I finish off only a roll or two per year, at best), but I stick to my guns and refuse to buy any new paper.

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