Busy Kids=Happy Kids-Christmas Break 2016–part 4

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The fun continues around here!  This week is focused on my immediate family, so on Tuesday, we took the 3 girls to the beach.  The weather was extremely rainy, cold, and raw, so we didn’t go play in the sand, although Lovana had expressed an interest in doing that since it’s been a while since she has done that.  Instead, we took them to the Outlet Mall, and let them shop to their heart’s content.

On Monday, my 2 older girls went to the mall with the older cousins–it was quite a trip with Rachel, Caitlyn, Lovana, Ja’Ana, Alissa and my oldest daughter, Abbie (who is a great sport and actually loved being asked to join with the other cousins–she loves the younger girls and loves shopping…)  It sounds like they had a blast, although no one bought a whole lot but, instead, had fun being together.  Since Caitlyn will be returning to college in a few days, and Rachel will be heading off for a 6-month adventure soon, I was happy they could spend the time together.  Rob and I took Patsy to the YMCA to swim and I cleaned up a little from the Christmas mess.  I’m still not done, but it was a good day.

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The girls had all received some money for Christmas.  One gift promised them a trip to the outlet mall in Lincoln City (on the Pacific Ocean).  I got some, too.  We walked around the small mall, hunting for bargains.  Last year, we found incredible deals, like jeans for Ja’Ana for $1.  There were no deals that good this year, but we did find some things we liked for a price we liked.  I found 2 things I liked, a sweater for spring in a lavender color, and a sweater vest in patriotic colors.  I think they will brighten up some other clothes I already own.  I’m being very careful to not buy just for the sake of getting a good deal, since space is at a premium here.  I will be doing some more shopping later, as many of my clothes are showing the wear and tear that comes with wearing them so often.

The big girls found things they liked, also, in their 2 days of shopping.  Patsy dug out some long-hoarded birthday money and added it to her Christmas money and had a spending spree in her one-day extravaganza.  She enjoyed getting to buy what she wanted at the mall (clothes and jewelry and headbands), and spending a large chunk of her gift card at McDonald’s for fries, soda and a McFlurry.  Hmmmm.  Well, it’s Christmas, right?

We also enjoyed going out to eat at Mo’s, a favorite restaurant of ours that is found up and down the coast here in Oregon.  Throughout the day, the rain poured, with a ferocity that always amazes us, even though it is typical for this season at the beach.  Thankfully, it came in showers, and we were able to dodge the worst of them.  After a drive back home in the pounding rain, we were thankful to tuck ourselves away in front of our fire and enjoy the evening watching tv in our cozy living room, drinking tea and munching snacks we had been given for Christmas.  It was a good family day, and  we all enjoyed it.

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Saving Money—December 26, 2016

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Merry Christmas!  I hope each and every one of you had as nice of a Christmas as our family did.  It was very special.

Although “saving money” and “Merry Christmas” do not seem to go together, we were able to keep the spending under control during this holiday season, while still having a great holiday.

On Christmas Eve, we took Rob’s mom out to lunch.  We took the gifts for his sisters for her to give to them on Christmas Day.  So, no need to mail anything.  We spent a while visiting with her, both at her house and at the restaurant.  Now that we live a distance from her, it’s harder to get time with her.  I’m glad it worked out for Saturday.

Then, we returned home (over an hour away now), and got ready for our small family Christmas Eve.  We chose to go to church, then eat, do presents, then played Apples to Apples. (We always do our presents on Christmas Eve as a immediate family) Because we spend so much time with extended family (which is wonderful), it was important to me that the evening was made special for just our girls this time.  I made individual raspberry cheesecakes that were a huge hit.  I modified them to be gluten-free. Although I splurged for one carton of raspberries, I was able to use frozen ones from our old place for the rest of the sauce, making it very affordable as a Christmas treat.  I did not choose to purchase mint, but it would have looked even better with mint on top.  I will be growing a bush here, as I did at my old place, once I get organized in the spring.  Ja’Ana whipped up some pickle/cream cheese/lunchmeat rolls and Lovana stirred up some spiced cider in the crock pot.

We cut down on gifts for the big girls, at their suggestion.  We eliminated all little, easy-to-lose stuff and most candy from the stockings and instead gave them gift cards or cash, plus 1 or 2 small things they wanted.  We put a tiny bit of candy and an orange in there, and they were fine. In the end, we spent less, and they can shop for bargains.  J wanted money for our upcoming field trip to San Francisco, so that’s what she got.  L wanted a Macy’s gift card to buy some clothes, so we did that.  Because Patsy is younger and wasn’t quite on the same page, we gave her a few gifts we knew would please her.  Rob and I gave each other some things we needed, such as a new lunch container for Rob’s days at school, an umbrella, etc. for him and he gave me some nice things I needed, too.  We both feel really good about what everyone got, and that we stayed in budget.

We reduced the amount of gifts we gave.  Some people that got one in the past did not get one this year.  I was able to put together nice gifts for Rob’s co-workers with home-made caramel corn, soap and a dishcloth or dishtowel I crocheted or embroidered, for not much money out of pocket.  One lady liked the caramel corn so much, she offered to pay Rob to make some for her to give away.  He gave her the recipe:)

I did not buy Christmas and Thanksgiving outfits for the girls this year, for the first time in years.  I sewed Patsy a festive skirt from some fabric that was in the shop, plus a $2 pattern.   I did need to buy some thread as well.  The biggest challenge with that was finding my sewing stuff–I’m still a bit mixed up here, but I found enough. Rob got Ja’Ana a sweater at Ross Dress for Less for $6 and she wore it on Christmas Eve with jeans she already had.  My sister got them clothes for Christmas and they love them.  They got money to go shopping with, as well.  We are going to take them to an outlet mall this week so they can spend their money.  I’m pretty sure it will be on clothes, but we’ll see….img_3852

For extended family, we were able to find some nice things, but did not go overboard there, either.  On Christmas day, we went to church and then spent the day at my sister’s house, doing fondue and spending time together.  5 of our kids were there, plus cousins, aunties, uncles and grandmas.  We missed the ones who couldn’t make it, but are already planning another get-together for next Sunday, where others will join who couldn’t yesterday. Everyone brought food, and we deep-fried, cheese-dipped, and chocolate-fountained to our hearts’ content.  The weather was lovely, and mild, and the view of the river from my sister’s house was serene and peaceful.  Everyone was happy, and there was peace on earth, in our house, at least for a day.  There’s not much more I can ask for:)

 

Busy Kids=Happy Kids-Christmas Break, 2016-Part 3

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The last 2 days have been busy, and full.  On Wednesday, Rob helped my niece, Rachel,  move home to her parents’ house.  She is leaving on a big adventure to Ireland in January and does not want to keep her apartment for the 6 months she will be gone.  He kept our girls occupied with that project and some errands, and I kept Jake occupied.  We hung around his house all day.  Since Jake’s big sister came home from college late, late at night Tuesday, all of the big girls were exhausted, since they had gone to get her from the airport.  Jake did not go.   So, he kept me busy.

I had him do his usual chores, eat his breakfast, get dressed, etc.  Then, we did crafts and played with trucks, Legos, read stories and played games.  (I will say that his rules are definitely his own, but since I don’t care if I win, it works for me better than it does for Patsy, for instance.   We use various cars and little trains for markers. We have to drive them along in a certain way that only he knows and the rules change every minute.  About 1/2 way through the game, he is done, but as long as he had fun….)

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I’ve been having him try the Perler bead projects.  I was so proud of him. This penguin is the first one that no one had to finish for him.  He got it all!

Today, we did chores, etc., and some more crafts.  I had no idea he liked crafts so well.

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This is definitely the time to buy kid crafts.  I have been able to pick up several kits for 50% off, or even 60% off.  I shopped at JoAnn’s and Michael’s.  I got a lot of bang for my buck.  He wanted me to sit beside him most of the time, all day, both days, but it was mostly for company.  He loved doing the crafts.

So, this afternoon, Rob came, with the van,  and we went to the library where they were having an activity where kids could go from table to table making Christmas gifts.

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He made crafts until he had visited each station, and even made some things twice.  Who knew?  He also enjoyed visiting with Santa, who stopped by.  We even got an Amelia Bedelia book, as he has begun to enjoy that character.

While he and Patsy made crafts, the big girls (all 4), wandered through the huge library, enjoying themselves.  It was good to spend time with Caitlyn as she isn’t home very often.

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We couldn’t resist a photo shoot in the remaining pile of snow in the library parking lot.  It’s the closest she got to the fun of the big snow, since she goes to school in southern California.  The only piles left are where people plowed or shoveled it into heaps during the storm.  It worked for her!

Once we did an errand for Alissa, bought a few more crafts for tomorrow, the library, and picked up some photos Rob had ordered from Fred Myers, several hours had passed.  The afternoon was awesome, and I have to admit that french fries were involved.  Tomorrow, I will spend another day with the kids, again focusing on Jake, and then I have next week off from such structured activities.  We will still see one another, but their mom and day and big sister are going to keep Jake happy and busy since they all have the week off,and I’ve got a few things planned for Rob and my girls to do a few of the days, plus at least 2 family dinners.  Fun all around!

 

 

Busy Kids=Happy Kids, Christmas Break 2016, Part 2

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Want to keep them busy and interested?  Sign them up for a squid dissection class!  That’s just what we did today.  We spent the day at OMSI (the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry).  My sister, Gail (Alissa’s mom) is the field trip guru.  She put together a day for all of our kids, plus some friends.  Some of the kids are homeschooled and some go to various schools, but they all had the day off because of Christmas break.

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We had no idea that our little friend would enjoy dissecting, but she had a blast and held her own!

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The boys had a great time, too (I promise–he just looks a little sober in this picture)

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After the kids finished their class, we had some time to wander around OMSI and eat our lunches.  I was so glad to have a knowledgable person in charge of the dissection, and that that is checked off the Biology list!  Then, we watched 2 movies, D-Day and Jerusalem, on the OMNI Max Screen.  After that, we wandered around the museum for a while, enjoying exhibits, then headed home.  It was a great day, and the movies fitted in so well with what we’ve been studying in history.  We are just finishing World War II, and the movie brought it to life.

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Happy kids = happy moms!  I was so glad to see some of my friends that I hadn’t seen for a while, spend time with family, and give the kids such a great learning experience.  It was a great day.

Busy Kids = Happy Kids: Christmas Break 2016, Part 1

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I am going to be spending a lot of time with the cousins this week.  I am planning on some super fun activities.

Yesterday, Michaela was telling us how much she wanted to decorate sugar cookies for Christmas.  So, last night, I made 2 batches of gluten-free dough.  I wanted to chill them all night.  Because I am so sensitive to wheat, I don’t even keep regular all-purpose flour in my house, so everyone will enjoy gluten-free cookies this year.

Lovana came to the rescue and went with me, bringing her expertise and creativity.  We made royal icing and buttercream.  She tinted the frosting several colors and we pulled sprinkles out of our cupboard and my sister’s cupboard.  We had tons!  She decided to bake the cookies first, then ice and decorate.  We often decorate first, then bake, but Michaela wanted to do it this way this time, so we did.

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They made lots of pretty cookies.  We froze some for Sunday.

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Here’s the recipe.  I got it from a little magazine I bought years ago at the check-out counter called “Gluten-Free Recipes.”  I tweaked it a bit.

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup softened butter

1 egg

2 cups Bob’s Red Mill One-to-One gluten-free flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon xanthum gum

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 Tablespoons milk, more if necessary

Cream butter and sugar.  Beat in egg.  Add salt, baking powder, xanthum gun, cinnamon, vanilla and flour.  Add milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until desired consistancy is reached.  Add more if dough is too dry.  Chill for at least 15 minutes.  Roll, cut out, and bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until brown.  Makes about 2 dozen cookies, depending on size.

I was a bit baffled by the instructions about the milk.  I made 2 batches.  The first time, I put in the 2 tablespoons.  It was really stiff.  I put in a little extra the 2nd time.  It was almost too much.  Lovana rolled and cut out the cookies and she had trouble working with the 2nd batch.  On the other hand, the cookies themselves were much more tender with the softer consistency.  The first batch was super crisp, then second was softer.  Both had excellent flavor.  Everyone loved them, whether or not they needed to eat gluten-free.

The rest of the day was filled with kids playing with toys, lunch, tons of dishes and cleaning from the cookies and playing (I also had Jake do his regular chores such as “pick up 8 things”) and then we had a huge game of Apples to Apples with Lovana, Alissa, her friend Kim, Michaela and myself. Earlier,  Jake and I had played a version of Life which sort of resembled what the directions said, so he played other things during this game.  Ja’Ana and Patsy were off to the doctor and errands with Rob, who is off work for 2 weeks now. (He works at a school.)

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We took a few home for Patsy to do, since she didn’t want to be left out of the fun!  It was a great day, and we have a great one planned for tomorrow.

 

 

 

Saving Money–December 18, 2016

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I enjoyed the sunset over the Willamette River while I was with the kids at my sister’s house.

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The girls and I were treated to lunch with my sister, Rosalie, her friend, Harnet and little Dinuite.  We went to Bob’s Red Mill and little Dinuite loved climbing up and down the stairs.  The big girls took turns reading to her, helping her up and down safely, and we all loved lunch. Then, I did a little shopping since I love their products and I was there.  I especially love using the gluten-free one-to-one flour so got some more of that.  I was able to finish using up a gift card I’ve had for some time, so that was a nice bonus.   Then, we took the little cutie to McDonald’s to play on the toys.

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We got a drink and one package of french fries because we think it’s only fair that if we are going to use the toys, we buy something, but since we were full from lunch, we didn’t need much. (Didn’t need food at all, really, but we were there to spend time together and for the toys!)  It was so great to visit and that we could let the little girl loose to run and play, with the big girls climbing up and down the play structure when needed.

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We stayed home for several days during the snow storm.  I took one big walk with Patsy, and she played in it for a while the first day.  Rob doesn’t mind driving in it, so he went and got Jake for 1 night, so we were not lonely.  We ran off coloring pages from the internet for him to color.  He also enjoyed working on a Perler bead snowman, but Patsy needed to finish it for him.  He also played with our train set, Legos, Transformers, stories and the Wii.  I was pleased with the fact that he found so many other things to do, since the Wii is so attractive to him.  I actually severely limit his time on it, but I love having it for him to enjoy for short periods of time.

I had a ball and cooked lots of meals, including  2 kinds of soup, spaghetti, chicken, pizza, and more.  I also spent time sewing on Michaela’s Christmas p.j.’s. and took a big nap and went to bed early.  Absolutely free and amazing to get a nap!  I also cleaned the house a bunch and Lovana spent several hours organizing the food storage in the garage/family room.  We saved money by not shopping after the first day when I stopped for milk, bread, etc.   It’s so important that I use up leftovers and make sure food items are not getting overlooked in the storage area.  Both are important kitchen management skills that I try to implement.

We went swimming at the YMCA using our membership.  I hope to use that several times this week.

We are entering a week where we are going to spend quite a bit of time watching the cousins.  We are going to do several kid-friendly activities throughout the week to keep all of the kids busy.  We will see what gets done, but so far I have sugar cookie dough chilling in the fridge to bake cookies tomorrow.  Rob is off for 2 weeks because he works for the school system, so he is taking one of our kids to an appointment in the morning, plus doing some errands.  Then, we will spend time with the kids together.  It will be more fun that way for everyone.

We made some more caramel corn for gifts, and included some in the gifts Rob took to his co-workers.  They loved the gifts and said the caramel corn smelled just like the beach (candy shop) and ate it up before they left for the day, for the most part.  We also made another big batch we will give away soon.  We are mostly finished with our Christmas shopping.  We kept it simple.

More Snow

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It’s unbelievable!  We got hit with a snow event even bigger than the one last week!  This is very rare in our area, so I don’t think people took the weather people very seriously.  After all, we have been promised snow many times and no snow showed up.  So, all of the children went off to school Wednesday morning, as usual.  People went to work.  Around noon, it began.

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By nightfall, we had over 4 inches.  Incredible!

I have to say, it was very hard for everyone to get home.  I was doing school with Ja’Ana and Alissa at Alissa’s house, around 20-25 minutes from my house when the flakes started falling at my house.  Lovana called me a couple of times to tell me it was snowing.  So, we finished up what we were doing and J and I started home.  I decided to stop at the store to grab a few things were were out of, such as milk.  I should have kept driving:)

By the time I had pushed my way through the people grabbing items, got the things that were left on the emptying shelves, and stood in a long line, the snow was pelting down, mostly in the form of ice pellets.  But, I had my milk!  I began to drive home.

The roads were clogged with drivers, all of whom were driving deliberately and carefully through the ever-falling snow.  We got to go about 5 miles per hour in quite a few places and got all the way up to 20 in a couple of places.  I spun my tires on a hill, but got up fine once the tires got a grip!  For me, that was more than enough excitement!  I have not left the house since I got safely home, between 45 minutes and an hour later.  Then, we waited for Rob to show up.

He was at school and needed to ride the bus home with a child, as he normally does.  They let out 2 hours early.  He did make it safely, but it was much closer to his regular time–not very early.  He was on that bus for a very long time and there were a few dicey moments, but it was all good for him.  In Portland, Oregon, the story was a bit different.  Some students did not get home until 11 at night, buses were sliding down hills, and traffic was gridlocked for hours and hours, taking some people 4-6 hours to return home.  Glad I didn’t go to Portland that day, as I had planned.

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I think the lettuce is finally done for:)

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Each day since, the schools have been cancelled, the snow has melted slightly during the middle of the day, and frozen back up each night, with temperatures down into the 20’s.  For many of you, that is nothing.  For us, here–it’s so very, very rare it is a novelty.  Rob drove to get Jake, my nephew, yesterday, with no problems.  He will go drive around a bit today, just because he likes to.  As for me, I’m content to sit in my warm, cozy house and enjoy the luxury of being able to cook and sew to my heart’s content!  I just may finish Michaels’s pajamas today, and the meals that I have time to cook and pretty yummy, I must say–warm soups, home-made pizza, and more.  All-in-all, it’s been a terrific vacation for me!