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Saturday, May 30, 2015

How I Decluttered My Pinterest...And You Can Too!

Earlier this week, my Pinterest account had over 3600 pins and almost 100 boards.  Call me crazy, but that seems a little excessive.  What's the point of holding onto so much stuff, anyways?  If this is supposed to be a place to save ideas and find things you want to use later, it might be time to pare down.  

So I did.  As of this post, I have about half the boards and only a third of the pins left.  I condensed my recipes into just a few broader categories.  I got rid of individual holiday boards, because I don't even celebrate St. Patrick's Day, and my kids don't hand out Valentines at our homeschool, so I don't think I need 63 ideas for them to NOT give out.

But why did I do this?  Too much clutter.  Even digital links can be clutter.

When I wanted to find a specific activity for a holiday, it was intimidating to look at a list of over two hundred possibilities.  (Christmas is popular).  When I was looking for dinner ideas, or ideas for a special treat, the recipes I saved four years ago when I first joined Pinterest no longer fit our family's dietary needs.

But doesn't it suck clicking on every single board and pin?  I didn't.

Here's how I cleaned out my Pinterest account in just a few hours:

Delete entire boards.  There were a couple of boards I knew I could delete right off the bat.  Quiet books are adorable, but I'm not going to make one for my kids at this point, so why keep the ideas around?

Condense some of the remaining boards.  I had my recipes broken down very specifically: Breakfast was broken down into Oatmeal, Eggs, Pancakes, and a few more.  Some of the recipes we had tried and didn't really love.  Some were common sense ideas that didn't really need to be here.  And some were saved simply because I link to them on my blog a lot.  Which brings me to...

Save things how you use them.  I use Pinterest largely as a way to save links and recipes I want to actually use later on.  So it should be helpful for me.  I moved all the recipes I link to my blog on Menu Plans to one board - Tried and True Recipes.  The rest of the recipes on my "Ideas" boards will be a place to look for inspiration for new meals.

Once you've done those three things, it's time to sort out what's left, board by board.  Get rid of anything that no longer appeals to you or that you won't realistically do.  If you click on the "Move" button at the top of the page, you can check off up to 50 pins at once, and either move them to a different board, or delete them.  Mass deleting was my friend.  At this point I also reorganized a few things, especially with my Homeschool boards.  It helps that I just picked curriculum for next year, so I kind of knew what I wanted to save and what I didn't need.

Final step!  Go through pins you weren't sure about in the previous step, actually clicking on them and checking out ingredients (for recipes) or directions and materials (for craft projects).  Decide if it's something you'll actually make and save it accordingly.

Is this something I can maintain?  Not completely.   I would guess I'll still want to clean this out every 6 months to a year, just to get rid of things that are no longer relevant.  I'm also going to be more mindful of what I save, and if it's realistic for me to think that I'll use it.

I'm curious: How many pinterest boards and pins do you have?  Or are you not on Pinterest?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Weekly Goals: May 31 - June 6

I just realized I never updated my goals from last week!  Better late than never...
The boys were working on some of their school projects, and Hannah wanted to do school too.  She hasn't done much with coloring yet, because she got over the whole "stick everything in your mouth" phase fairly recently, but I gave her some crayons and showed her what to do, and she's pretty much been coloring ever since, stopping every few minutes to say "Loo' it!" (look at it!).  

Last Week's Goals (catch up on everything from the week before):
  • Mop the downstairs floors. Done!
  • Move my craft stuff into the room upstairs.  I paid the boys each $1.00 to do most of the work.  I just had to carry a few heavier things.  I left my shelves downstairs for use in school things, so I still need to find some storage solutions upstairs, but hey! I have a craft room.
  • Take pictures of our mostly planted garden and write an update blog post. You can see that here.
  • Start reading a new book. Nope.
This Week's Goals:
  • Start planning for next year's homeschool curriculum.  We'll have Jonah in Kindergarten (his second year because of birthdays and because of how things worked out this past year), and Matthew in Pre-K.
  • Figure out a loose meal and snack plan for our trip to Minnesota in a few weeks.  We may or may not get fully reimbursed for food from our congregation, so I'm trying to figure out a way to do several meals cheaply so we still have money for Caribou Coffee.  Because it's that yummy.
  • Cash in points from various apps and rewards sites for Paypal money and see what my swimsuit budget looks like.  I'd like a new one by July, and I'd like to not pay for it. I have about $20 already in there from Swagbucks, so adding to that, plus looking at clearance deals, I'm hoping to find something that will work.
  • Work on the June church newsletter.  Because it's the last week of the month, so of course I haven't done it yet.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Iron Craft Challenge #10: E Is For...Embroidered Card

This week's challenge was another alphabet one, which I like, because they're pretty broad.  I have trouble when the focus is too narrow.  In this case, E is for embroidered card.  I've done embroidery, and I've attempted to make pretty cards, so why not combine the two?  I've seen this on Pinterest too, and it looked easy enough.
Most of the cards I make are really random sizes.  I picked up a big bundle of envelopes for 50 cents once upon a time, so I just size the paper to fit whichever envelope I'm using.  
First I wrote out what I wanted to embroider in pencil.
Then I started.  This was actually really easy, and fairly quick, and I like how it looks.  Makes my handwriting look fancier than it actually is...
I finished the front off with a couple of lovebirds and some Sharpie.  All in all, I think it turned out really cute, and I'll probably use this technique again.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Garden Update: Little Plants Are Growing!

Little plants are growing!  Vines are growing!  Trees are blooming!  Flowers are pretty!

One of the cool things about moving to this new house has been seeing all the things that were already planted that we get to enjoy now.  The previous pastor and his family did a lot of landscaping and planting, and I feel a bit spoiled that we get to just come take over.  We're trying to add to it and make it even better.

Let's start with the purely pretty things.  Last month the tulips were in full bloom.  They're mostly gone now, but now these have popped up.
There's still a few purple and yellow tulips on the other side of the front porch (there were also pink and orange a few weeks ago). 
They're just gorgeous!
On the side of the house are some other flowers, so we've been learning what they are as well.

In the backyard, the apple trees (2 different kinds) are flowering, which gives me hope for lots of apples for applesauce this fall.

We also inherited both a grape vine
and several raspberry bushes. Sorry for the weird picture angle, but the neighbors were out and I didn't want them to feel weird about me taking pictures.


Everything up to this point in the blog post has been stuff that was already here.  Aren't we spoiled?

I showed you our tilled up garden plot a few weeks ago, and here's what it looks like today:

We bought several more plants at the garden center, so we now have the potential for watermelon, pumpkins, broccoli, peas, beans, onions, and tomatoes.  Some are doing better than others.  This is the year of trying a bunch of stuff and learning what works.

(tomatoes in cages)

My favorite part is the strawberry plants.  We planted six of them, and while they're tiny right now, they're supposed to come back each year, so we are hoping to help them get nice and big!

Inside, we still have butternut squash, dill weed, some kind of lettuce, and a few more pepper, jalapeno, and tomato plants.  Those will be planted outside in the next week or so.  We still have some extra onion bulbs, which will probably get planted one per cup and take over the table in the window.  Might as well grow them, since we know we'll eat them!

We also got a parsley plant and a cilantro plant for me to keep inside.  The parsley is thriving!

The cilantro is not.

Most of the stalks wilted, so I picked them off to salvage the cilantro and dry it.  I'm trying to revive the remaining plant but I'm not too hopeful there.  At least we only paid about what I would have for one bunch of cilantro at the grocery store?

And finally, our bucket potatoes.
(Matthew's, mine, Jonah's, Jesse's)
We each picked a seed potato to plant.  We're having an unofficial competition to see who picked the best one.  Jesse's looks the biggest so far, but since we can't actually see the potatoes, we'll have to wait until fall to find out who picked the winner.

So that's our garden right now.  Honestly, growing things from little tiny seeds intimidates me, which is why I've let Jesse do pretty much everything so far.  I'm more comfortable with plants that are sturdy and close to harvesting, and then preserving everything afterwards.   Still, I'm really excited with the potential for all this yummy food!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Menu Plan May 18 - June 1

Hannah's birthday brownies from last week

I don't think I posted the menu plan for the beginning of May, and I'm a few days late with this one.  Better late than never!

Monday, May 18
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Sandwiches, Fruit
Dinner: Crockpot Jambalaya
Snack #1: Energy Bites
Snack #2: Apples

Tuesday, May 19
Breakfast: Eggs and Sweet Potatoes
Lunch: Cobb Salads
Dinner: Leftover Jambalaya
Snack #1: Bananas
Snack #2: Ice Cream

Wednesday, May 20
Breakfast: Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Oatmeal Muffins from the freezer
Lunch: Cobb Salads
Dinner: Chicken Butternut Quinoa
Snack #1: Yogurt
Snack #2: Pears

Thursday, May 21
Breakfast: Yogurt and Homemade Granola
Lunch: BLTs, Apples, Peanut Butter Dip
Dinner: Leftover Chicken Butternut Quinoa
Snack #1: Pears
Snack #2: Popcorn

Friday, May 22
Breakfast: Eggs with Ham and Cheese
Lunch: Black Bean Burgers, Sweet Potato Fries
Dinner: Pizza with Spinach, Mushrooms, Black Olives, and Pepperoni
Snack #1: Apples
Snack #2: Yogurt

Saturday, May 23
Breakfast: Oatmeal with Pears
Lunch: Chicken Fried Rice
Dinner: Gluten Free Lasagna Casserole
Snack #1: Bananas
Snack #2: Homemade Granola

Sunday, May 24
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Leftovers/Sandwiches
Dinner: Crockpot Beef and Broccoli
Snack #1: Mom's Lazy Trail Mix
Snack #2: Canned Mixed Fruit

Monday, May 25
Breakfast: Squash Hash and Eggs
Lunch: Italian Sausage and Rice
Dinner: Ground Turkey and Pinto Bean Salads
Snack #1: Energy Bites
Snack #2: Pears

Tuesday, May 26
Breakfast: Squash Hash and Eggs
Lunch: Leftover Italian Sausage and Rice
Dinner: Ground Turkey and Pinto Bean Salads
Snack #1: Pears
Snack #2: Popcorn

Wednesday, May 27
Breakfast: Yogurt and Homemade Granola
Lunch: Mini Pepper Nachos with Pinto Beans
Dinner: Chicken Pepper Bake
Snack #1: Bananas
Snack #2: Oranges

Thursday, May 28
Breakfast: Gluten-Free Chocolate Banana Muffins
Lunch: Baked Potatoes with Ham and Broccoli
Dinner: Oatmeal Pancakes, Cinnamon Apples
Snack #1: Oranges
Snack #2: Energy Bites

Friday, May 29
Breakfast: Leftover Muffins
Lunch: Black Bean Taco Soup
Dinner: Grill Out Hot Dogs and Brats, Fruit
Snack #1: Popcorn
Snack #2: 4-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies

Saturday, May 30
Breakfast: Oatmeal with Peaches
Lunch: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Tomato Soup
Dinner: Mexican Chicken Soup with Navy Beans
Snack #1: Canned Mixed Fruit
Snack #2: 4-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies

Sunday, May 31
Breakfast: Cereal
Lunch: Leftover Mexican Chicken Soup
Dinner: Roast with Potatoes, Onions, and Carrots
Snack #1: Mom's Lazy Trail Mix
Snack #2: Apples

Monday, June 1
Breakfast: Eggs and Toast
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Chicken Fajitas
Snack #1: Imitation Starbucks Lemon Loaf
Snack #2: TBD 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Weekly Goals: May 17-23

This little princess turned 2 this week.  She thoroughly enjoyed her gluten-free brownies with peanut butter frosting and loads of sprinkles.  She's such an awesome little person right now, and 2 is a mostly fun age!

Last Week's Goals:
  • Clean the kitchen garbage can (done!) and mop the downstairs floors. (not done)
  • Move my craft stuff into the room upstairs after vacuuming the rug and moving it to the girls' room. I vacuumed and moved the rug, but I didn't get my stuff up there yet.
  • Take pictures of our mostly planted garden and write an update blog post. Not done.
  • Start reading a new book! Not done.
This Week's Goals:
  • Catch up on everything from last week that I didn't get done!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Here's another recipe that I switched from whole wheat flour to oat flour with success!  This is quickly becoming another morning favorite for breakfasts and snacking.  I don't remember where I got the original recipe, but I think it was from my mom, because these are one of my dad's favorites!
First, make your oat flour.  You need 3 cups of this (measured before grinding).  I've found it easiest to do this 1 cup at a time in my blender, but if you have a fancier blender or use a food processor, you could probably do more at a time.
Add the remaining ingredients (except chocolate chips) and mix just until combined.  If your butter is still warm, mix everything a little bit first and then add it in, so you don't end up scrambling your eggs (ask me how I know that one). Fold in chocolate chips.
Scoop into greased muffin tin, filling until almost full (because they don't have gluten to help them rise), and bake at 400°F for 18-22 minutes.  Let cool completely before removing from pans.  If you take them out while they're still warm, they're a crumbly mess, but if you let them cool, they're moist and delicious baked goods.

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
(makes 24 muffins)


  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats, ground into flour, plus additional 1/2 cup oats (unground)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 16 oz. pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil (can replace 1/4 cup with applesauce)
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips
Grind oats using a blender or food processor.  Mix with remaining ingredients (except chocolate chips) until combined.  Fold in chocolate chips.  Scoop into greased muffin tins, filling until almost full, and bake at 400°F for 18-22 minutes. Let cool completely before removing from pans.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Big Picture, Little Picture

When I look at my kids, it's easy to see how much they've learned.  What they've picked up on, what I've purposely taught them, and the things they don't quite grasp yet.  Big picture, we're doing pretty well.

But.  The day to day is hard.  The days where I feel like all I've done is cook food that no one liked, and wiped butts, and swept sand off the floor for the fifteenth time.  Little picture, I sometimes (often) get frustrated.

One of the qualities I've been working on in my life is trying not to complain so much.  I used to complain all the time.  Some days I still do.

When I can take a step back, realize all the blessings I have, take a moment to pray and give thanks, the big picture comes into focus.  When I'm right in the middle of what can sometimes feel like thankless work, the little picture barges back in.

Big picture, little picture.  Which one is the focus today?

Monday, May 11, 2015

It's Okay To Want A Day Off

What I'm about to say might be a bit controversial.  Maybe that's why I'm posting it the day after Mother's Day and not on Mother's Day itself.  

It's okay to want a day off.  

It's also okay to think that's crazy.
All last week, I saw various posts being shared about "the perfect gift for Mother's Day".  There were a few different options, but one that I kept seeing is that "Mom just wants a day off" or "time to herself".  The comments are divided here, but they're pretty much both extremes with very few in the middle.  Either you agree and think a day off would be awesome, or you can't see how someone could possibly want time away from her precious blessings, and if you say you do, you're a terrible person.
Mothering is hard, guys.  Why are we making this a battle?  
Kids are a lot of work, and for introverted people who fill their tanks from moments of peace and quiet alone, a day off sounds like a perfect reward for all those times you've had to inwardly sigh as another kid climbed on top of you and the baby woke up from her nap and you really just wanted five minutes to read a book and drink your coffee while it's still warm.  (Can you tell I tend toward that side?)
But kids are also amazing blessings.  You see the things they've picked up on and learned without you even meaning to teach them.  You get compliments from other people about their behavior, or how cute they are, or anything else, and you feel like you're awesome at this job and how could you ever want to leave them?

Maybe your tank gets full from seeing the awesome things your kids do and being around them.  Maybe you'd love for them to do some extra chores on Mother's Day, or  to make you food, or bring you dandelions from the yard.  Or chocolate.  That's pretty much always a winner.  And you know what?  Those are also really awesome Mother's Day gifts.

We're blessed to be mothers.  Let's not battle over our differences.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Weekly Goals: May 10-16

Being a mom often means being literally covered in children.  At least in my house it does.  I love these four little people, and the one we never got to meet.  They make me a better person, and I hope to do the same for them.

Last Week's Goals:

  • Move my craft stuff into the extra room upstairs.  Didn't happen.  For a stupid reason (I want to vacuum the rug that's up there and put it in the girls' room, and I didn't vacuum upstairs this week).
  • Work my way through my spring cleaning checklist.  I got about half of the items done.  Which is actually better than I expected.  The most important ones for next week are the kitchen garbage can (it's gross) and steam mopping the floors downstairs.
  • Figure out an Iron Craft project for the current challenge.  I still have no ideas.  I'll probably be skipping this one.
Next Week's Goals:
  • Clean the kitchen garbage can and mop the downstairs floors.
  • Move my craft stuff into the extra room upstairs after vacuuming the rug and moving it to the girls' room.
  • Take pictures of our mostly planted garden and write an update blog post.
  • Start reading a new book!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Homemade Takeout: A Simple Dinner Recipe

Homemade Takeout 
(serves 4-6)

For a long time, Jesse and I have enjoyed getting Chinese takeout for a quick and easy dinner.  But eating out, even for just the two of us, adds up quickly.  Add in the kids and you're talking a lot of money for what is truly a simple dish.  Last week, I decided to see if I could recreate one of our restaurant favorites at home.  With a little prep ahead of time, this dinner came together quickly and easily!


  • 1 cup chicken, cooked and shredded ahead of time
  • 4 cups cooked rice (I used about 1-1/3 cups dry brown rice)
  • 2-3 carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 eggs
  • 4-6 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 cup frozen peas*
*You could also use a frozen peas and carrots mix and just skip cutting up the carrots yourself.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet.  Add the carrots and onions, and saute until starting to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.  Move the veggies off to the side, and scramble the 2 eggs.  Once the eggs are cooked, add the remaining ingredients, and stir everything to coat with the soy sauce.  Cook on medium low until everything is heated through.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

What's In The Garbage: We Started A Compost Pile!

Last week, I showed you our garden beginnings, along with a sneak peak at our compost pile (next to the garage in the picture above).  I had a whole list of questions about composting, and I still haven't found all of the answers to them.  But on April 22, which was Earth Day, we decided to jump in and start anyways.  Want to know what prompted that change?

The episode of Curious George on PBS that morning was about composting.  Real life here, folks.

The kids got excited about it, so we decided to start.  We gathered up the veggie scraps and egg shells we had so far, added some banana peels later in the day, and some grass clippings a few days later.

Now we have a bowl like this on the counter, and any extra scraps or peels or shells go in there.  Every day (or every other day if it's not too full), someone takes the bowl out and adds it to the pile.  I dump my coffee grounds directly on the pile when I make my cold brewed coffee every week since it's less messy that way.

This was what our pile looked like that first day.  Jesse had made a big batch of carrot apple celery juice, plus there were a few other bits.
The pile has already about tripled in size between the food scraps and the yard waste we've been cleaning up.  It's pretty cool to know that that free stuff will help our garden grow!

One positive benefit we've already seen is about a 1/3 reduction in our garbage, right off the bat!  I'm really excited for that to continue.  Between getting back into cloth diapering with Elizabeth, making sure to keep everything we can recycle out of the garbage, and now composting, we're at our goal of just one bag/week!

I'm sure there's still more that we can do to lessen our waste, but it's really cool that we made it to this goal in just a few months!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

How We Use Money Saving Mom's Pizza Dough Recipe To Make Easy Frozen Pizza

To say our family loves pizza might be an understatement.  If you ask my husband what he wants to eat, the answer will always be steak, tacos, or pizza.

Our favorite homemade pizza crust is this freezer-friendly one that Crystal shared, because we can get everything ready ahead of time.

The original recipe is set up to make two crusts, which you can freeze as a ball of dough.  That works fine, except sometimes we decide we want to eat pizza around dinner time (or for a late night snack), and we don't have four hours for the crust to thaw on the counter.  So I started experimenting...

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Weekly Goals: May 3-9

Earlier this week, Jonah asked if I would draw a picture of the snake creature from his Ninjago movie.  In high school and college, I actually used to draw and paint fairly often, but I haven't done a lot since then.  I ended up drawing about six different people and creatures for the boys to color.  A good reminder from the kids to never stop being creative...

Last Week's Goals:
  • Price everything for the garage sale. I finished Thursday night, and we had our sale Friday and Saturday.
  • Figure out May birthday presents. I ordered Mother's Day cards and figured out about half of the presents, plus I made a list so I won't forget anyone!
  • Do the May church newsletter. Done! I also discovered that I can do a church newsletter in about 2 hours if I need to.  Someday I'll learn not to procrastinate...
This Week's Goals:
  • Move my craft stuff into the extra room upstairs.  Since we've decided to homeschool (again), we're going to use the other half of the toy room downstairs for our school room.  Now that the garage sale stuff is out of the extra room upstairs, it will become the craft room.  Once those spaces get a little more complete, I'll post before and afters on the blog!
  • Work my way through my spring cleaning checklist.  I have 10-15 extra cleaning tasks that I've written down but haven't done yet.
  • Figure out an Iron Craft project for the current challenge.  The theme is "faux", to make something that looks like something else.  I have no ideas right now.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Garden Beginnings

About a month ago, we started our seeds inside.  I had been saving egg cartons for this, and the boys helped poke holes in the bottom for water drainage.  

We (and by "we" I mean Jesse) planted them in the egg cartons.  Unfortunately, they didn't get labeled before the boys started bringing them in to put them on our card table.  Mystery plants!
We had seeds for carrots, bell peppers, jalapenos, tomatoes, and lettuce.

After a couple weeks, Jesse transplanted some of the thriving plants into plastic cups, because they had outgrown the egg cartons but weren't ready for outside yet.  He put these on dark towels to help them really soak up the sun and stay warm, since we don't have a heating lamp.
(I can't figure out why this picture won't rotate in the blog post. It's not sideways on my computer!)

At that point he also planted some additional seeds, yellow squash and dill.  The squash and dill are growing well, as are about a third of the egg carton plants.  The 5 egg cartons in the picture above didn't really grow well, probably because they didn't get quite as much heat and sunlight.  Live and learn!
Earlier this week, our church president came by and tilled up the land behind our garage.  It's a huge plot!  I don't know that we'll even be able to fill it, but it's awesome to have this much space!  We're going to work on putting up a chicken wire fence around it to hopefully keep out the rabbits.  If you look really closely, you can also see our compost pile behind the garage to the right of the garden.  More about that next week!

Jesse picked up four more tomato plants, four red pepper plants, and four jalapeno plants, which are a little bit farther along than our seeds.  We're hoping to transplant everything to the garden in a few weeks.

We're still pretty much novices at this since we only had our two tomato plants in pots last year.  Any advice for beginners?  I know a lot more about the saving the produce once it's actually grown than I do about growing it...