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July 2012

Money Monday: Grocery $ (& a Giveaway!)


Good morning, my friends! I hope you all had a nice weekend. It's a glorious morning here in my corner of the world - quite sunny, and relatively cool for this time of year. A great day for opening up the house and letting in all that lovely fresh air ...

So, Mondays used to be reserved for Masterpiece chat* ... but today I'd like to start a conversation about money. Each week I'll pose a different question/topic of discussion and we'll see what we can make of it.

But for today I'd like to follow up on this post, and ask you all this:

How much do you spend on groceries each week, and how many mouths (human or otherwise) do you feed? If you're not comfortable revealing a dollar amount, would you say you spend more than you'd like?


I have a very hard time keeping our grocery costs down, what with three growing boys, some special diet needs, a desire to shop "organic" as often as possible - not to mention, a couple of cats! And it's been all over the news lately that grocery prices will be rising over the next year ...

Still, it's one area of our family budget where I can make a difference, so I'm constantly trying to do my best. When I'm rushed and disorganized, I end up spending way more than I mean to. But when I find time to make up a dinner plan and a thoughtful grocery list and check the flyers and clip the coupons - I spend a much more managable amount.

So I'd love to hear your thoughts on this subject. :) And to "sweeten the deal" I'm going to offer a giveaway this morning ... my copy of Playful Learning, which is a terrific book, but a little young for my boys these days ... so on Wednesday morning I'll draw a name from the comments and announce a winner! (Please let me know if you're not interested in the book, and I'll keep you out of the giveaway.)

And if you have suggestions for future "money" posts, please leave those, too!

Have a great Monday, everyone!

P.s. *Downton returns January 6th - so mark your calendars! "Masterpiece Mondays" will resume early next year. :)


It's File Folder Weekend!

File folders weekend 1
Well, here's my weekend project ~ going through last year's file folders and preparing the boys' school reports. It's a good day for working inside - it's quite clammy and cool. It's always interesting going back through these folders - so many things I've forgotten, all the different ways I used (and re-designed) the weekly planning sheet that's stapled to the front of each folder. I pull some things to re-file - into storage or a future dated folder - but the bulk of it all I recyle. It always catches me by surprise when we're here at this time of year once again! How is it nearly August again? Already?

Once I've gone through my folders, I'll sift through the work-baskets and school totes, as well as my own monthly calendar. I may even flip back through my blog archives if I think I'm still missing some things. As I "research," I'm taking notes, and when I'm ready to "report," I refer to last year's ed. plans so I can be sure I'm addressing all the points of our initial proposal ...


Then I start in on a brand new plan for a brand new year ...

And that's my favorite part!


So I hope you're all having a nice weekend - wherever you are and whatever your weather - and whatever projects have you busy right now! Thanks, as always for stopping by ... I'll be back here again very soon.

p.s. Update on Dad ~ They're not springing him just yet ... but he's still recovering well. A little more slowly than he'd like I think, but I guess some things you can't rush. Hopefully another day of rest will bring him even greater healing and comfort. Thanks again for the kind thoughts and prayers!

So, I'm feeling pretty tickled tonight ...

... for two very nice reasons:

The first and more important being - my Dad did very well today! His surgery went like "textbook" according to his surgeon, and tonight he's resting (fairly) comfortably. He's on very good pain meds and has wonderful nurses so we can all rest easy tonight. Thank you, everyone, for all the good thoughts and prayers - and may I take a moment to say, thank you GOD for guiding my dad and his doctor today, and keeping those of us who love him in a place of comfort and peace. 

{I'll keep the updates coming, for sure!}

Now, the other thing I'm so happy about tonight ... my file crate system was featured at tonight! The author of this awesome post, referenced my file crate system archives and I am just so honored! I can't tell you how it pleases me to hear this system works out so well for other people. Many, many thanks to Kara for the plug! Please check out her post and the comments - lots of great file folder talk to be found there!


I'm sure there's more I meant to say, but the day's catching up with me ...

So have a good one my friends ... see you here again very soon!

Home Management Binder - Update!

 *Note: This post will undoubtedly be TMI for some folks, so if "binder talk" is not your cup of tea, feel free to check back tomorrow when I'll most likely be posting about something entirely different ... :)

HMN binders 1

Hello, everyone!

Well, it's been just over a month since my home management binder Q&A post, and I am finally ready to share an update. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on why you love your binder AND why you don't. I found it all very helpful as I attempted to re-work my own binder into something more ... well, workable.

One challenge I've needed to address is that I just have too many planning "tools" going at once, so I decided to try and make my HM binder as useful as possible. To that end, I set about rethinking its contents ... and I gathered some new, pretty papers. It's still early days yet, but so far I'm quite happy with it.

Let's take a look, shall we?

Front cover ...

HMN binders 2

To be honest, I'm not crazy about this paper, but I'm leaving it as is, for now. I'll probably change it up closer to fall, and choose something more seasonal.

Just inside ...

HMN binders 4

On the left, I taped down two index cards. On the yellow card I wrote down personal contact information (name, address, phone, etc.), and on the pink card I will list emergency numbers. (I say "will," because as you can see I haven't yet filled it in.)

First section: Daybook Pages ...

HMN binders 5

My favorite color is yellow, so I decided to make my daily section as sunny and cheerful as possible. I got the idea for using colored paper when I was at Staples not too long ago. They were having an incredible sale on packs of multicolored loose-leaf paper and I thought the pastel shades were so lovely. (I live in a house of all boys, I take my pastels where I can!) I also liked the slightly smaller size of the paper (8x10), so I bought a TON of it - enough that I'd have plenty of yellow paper for an entire year's worth of days.

But here's the thing ... I'm trying to keep the HMB from getting too bulky - so I only keep a week's worth of days in my binder at one time. That's 4 sheets per week ...

HMN binders 6

So what about the rest of the daybook - the sheets for the rest of the year? Well, I'll go into that a bit further down, but for now, let's move on to the next section ...

A Master To-Do List:

HMN binders 7

I'm using the blue sheets for a running "to-do" list - those things that come up but don't have a set timeframe. (For example: "Clean out potting shed." or "Find a new dentist.") I like keeping a list like this because if I write something down - while it might not get done - in theory, it should not be forgotten.

Next comes my Clippings Journal ...

HMN binders 8

First of all, how pretty is this cover page?

HMN binders 9

As I've blogged about before, I've been keeping "clipping journals" for years. In these journals, I save all kinds of things, but especially bits of magazines and newspapers. Things that catch my eye and inspire me or make me think. My journals tend to be very seasonal - a pressed autumn leaf, a note to Santa, a label from a jar of homemade jam. It's just something I've done since I was a kid, and I honestly can't imagine ever not doing it!

Up till now, I've been using plain spiral-bound notebooks for my journal, but I'm trying this idea out in an attempt to pare down my "tools." So in this section I have several sheets of loose-leaf paper (standard, lined white, 8.5 x 11). Through the week I add things to the pages and at the end of that week I retire these pages to a storage binder (more on that below). Then I add new sheets for the next week. 

HMN binder 10

These pages show some clippings from British magazines - my favorite journal fodder!

I do kind of miss my little notebooks, but I do find it easier to work in my journal, having it right here in my binder. Clippings get in here much faster this way, so we'll see ...

After the front section, come the rest of my tabs ...

HMN binder 12

... and since those are pretty much the same as I've blogged about before, I'll just give you a list. (But if you'd like more information on any of these tabs, just let me know) ...


Month @ a Glance Calendars

Seasonal Planning

Home Management

Menus & Marketing


Phone & Address Book

Home Education

Projects Index



Prayer Book


Now, about that Storage Binder I've been mentioning ...

 HMN binders 20

This is a very wide (3" I think?) binder. Inside here I keep pages from - and for - my Home Management Binder.

First, I have a Record of Days ...

HMN binders 21

Here is where I'm keeping all those soft yellow daily sheets. The ones I've already used are filed up front (a week at a time), as a "record of days." The ones that come after (separated by a tab) are for the rest of the year.

HMN binders 23

So each week I take four pages out, and that gives me eight sides - each side is assigned a day (Monday - Sunday). That extra side is devoted to a weekend planning page - I fit it in between Friday and Saturday. Bill calls this our "POW" (Plan of the Weekend ... which is much like our "POD," or, Plan of the Day). This list is always much more ambitious than is even faintly realistic ... but it's always good to have a plan. :)

Since the sheets are just plain lined paper, I've been writing in my own to-do's, dinner notes, appts., etc. It's very free-form, but I like it. If I get a phone call, I write the info down here ... if I spend money, I note it here ... if I have an allergic reaction, I describe it here ...

(You probably get the idea.)

At the end of the week I file the "spent" pages into this binder, and retrieve the next week's sheets so I can start all over again. It's really pretty simple, but surprisingly it's been working out well - I hope I'm not making it sound overcomplicated!


There are still some planning "tools" that don't fit in the HMB, and I can get into those things in a future post. But for now, I'll wrap things up because I've definitely kept your attention long enough! (At least I hope I kept your attention, lol!)

So I'll sign off for now, but I'd like to thank you for stopping by, and wish you all a very nice weekend. I will be scarce the next few days as my dad has his surgery tomorrow morning. I will definitely post an update when I can, and of course I would be grateful for your prayers ... 

See you all again very soon!

Interesting Budget Article ...

Good Morning!

Well, I'm sitting here with my very first cup of coffee, enjoying this article I found at NBC News this morning: "1940s Housewife Showed How to Tame High Grocery Prices." Thought I might pass it on ... really great "food for thought!"

See you in  a bit!


p.s. What are some of your favorite frugal living resources? (Second cup of coffee's kicking in ...)


Checking in ...

Good morning, my friends!

KG hot day

Popping in quickly to tell you I'm working on a HUGE home management binder post but it's just taking me forevah to finish up. I'm really excited to share it with you, and I hope to have it up later today ...

I also wanted to apologize for the lack of posts at my daily homekeeping blog. I realize I just completely dropped the ball on that, but I do plan to get back to it, and soon. I know some of you really enjoyed those everyday posts, and I'm sorry they stopped so abruptly.

Also - and goodness, but I'm full of promises today! - I'm also working on refreshing my sidebars. Those booklists are SO out of date! I'll update the boys' reading lists and the seasonal books, as well as some resources to use as reference when planning a new year ... any other requests? :)

But for now, I'll wish you all a Wonderful Wednesday ... See you again very soon!

Happy Cousins' Day!

Thanks to (that handy dandy widget over there on the left), I just learned that today is Cousins' Day ... and thanks to a whole bunch of great cousins, I have many wonderful childhood memories! So today I'm thinking of you guys - and you know who you are - with lots of love, and many laughs!

Also, here's a great "Cousin Tree" chart that explains how we define just WHO is WHAT kind of cousin. I can never keep that stuff straight, lol. But hey, a "family tree" study would be a fun summer project! Something to bring to that family reunion, perhaps? Or include in a Christmas newsletter?

So if you are lucky enough to have cousins, why not send them a little love today? Say a little prayer for them and their families, maybe send them an email - perhaps with a photo attached, one taken years ago - when everyone had funny haircuts and skinned knees.


Have a great Tuesday, my friends! See you here again sometime soon ... 

KG cousins

Getting Ready for a New School Year

Vintage ABC

As much as I hate to rush summer along, it's right around this time when I start getting ready for a new homeschool year. I thought I'd share this overview of the steps I take, and then, in future posts, I'll go into further detail. As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts, because we all approach September differently - some of us homeschool, some don't; some of us have kids, some don't! - and I think it's always nice to share ideas.


* Planning & Preparing for a New School Year *

1. Tie up last year's loose ends.

I first pull out last year's educational plans (one for each child, filed with the town) and begin a "year-end report" document for each child. As much as I love paper, I do this on my laptop. And to refresh my memory, I go through our in-basket, last year's file folders, my calendar, and this blog, in order to remember what they/we did this past year. I then draft the three reports and after showing them to Bill, I print them out. We mail in the reports (along with our new ed. plans) in early August.

2. Start a planning page for "new year" thoughts and lists.

I have a tab for this in my home management binder. I just take out last year's pages and file them, and then insert new pages for this year.

3. Think, think, think ... and envision.

I like to spend a good bit of time imagining the year ahead, and thinking about what I'd like to see happen - what we need to work on and how I'd like things to be different. I have to make time to do this - even schedule it in! But I also often have to reign myself in, because I do love to think ... and time can get away from me! Some of these ideas will be more concrete than others: (re)teach cursive and listen to more audiobooks ... immerse ourselves in nature and work on independence. I have some pretty strong feelings and ideas about this year because this is Bookworm's senior year! So it's my last year with all three boys enrolled in my "class." *sigh* 

4. Meet with my family.

This is a chance for us all to sit down and talk about our hopes and goals for the new year - activities outside the home, both academic and not (classes, sports, clubs, volunteering, etc.). I also talk with the boys about their curriculum - which subjects and topics we'll be covering this year. 

5. Write out the 2012-2013 educational plans.

I write a plan out for each one of the boys, which we submit to the school system for approval. This includes an outline of topics to be covered and the curriculum we plan to use. (I always make sure to note that we will include these resources, but not limit ourselves to them.) Then, along with the year-end reports and a few other requirements (notice of intent, instructor qualifications, hours per subject, etc.), I send the whole kit and kaboodle to the superintendent's office. (A copy gets filed under my home education tab.)

 6. Ready the space.

Some families have designated learning rooms, some learn all over the place; we do a bit of both. We do call our sitting room off the kitchen our "learning room," but we hardly limit ourselves to this space. For all intents and purposes, however, this is the heart of our homeschool. Sometime in August - when the weather's not too hot! - I like to do a thorough cleaning of this room. I wash the windows and birdfeeders (ok, Bill does this) and vacuum/dust/mop and polish ... till everything's shining bright and smelling fresh. (I also think about our outside learning spaces - all around the yard, the garden and woods.)

And as I weed out old bins, baskets and bookshelves, I begin a list of things to replenish. This becomes our "back-to-school" shopping list ... 

7. Gather our materials.

If I was really on top of things, I would order our curriculum in the spring, when Oak Meadow is having its 20% off sale. Unfortunately, I'm never ready to order that soon. So I decide what curriculum we need to purchase as I write out the education plans. Then I place our orders and cross my fingers it's all in stock! After I've made those purchases, I finalize our school supplies list and then I'm off to shop. Once I have it all home (or delivered, as the case may be), I keep our supplies set aside until our first official day. 

At this time we also look at the boys' clothes and see how things are faring in that department. Having all boys has been wonderful for reusing clothes - huge savings there! But there are always more things we need - new shoes, backpacks, jackets, sports gear, church clothes, pajamas and slippers, etc.

8. Reasses our routine.

I look at what our weekly schedule will be like - how many days are we at home vs. how many days are we out and about? Every year is different - some years we are more active than others, but I always try to have a balance. I can't function (and we can't get our work done) if we're out all the time, so I like to have *at least* two days that are free from any outside activities (at least during the daytime). Depending on what days are busy, I may need to change up some of our home-based activities (i.e. craft days, faith @ home, nature walks, baking, etc.).

Then there's the daily routine ... now, I know not all homeschooling families get up early, but we do - partcularly on days we have outside classes or Mass. Summer mornings have been much more relaxed, so it's good for us to start waking a little earlier each day - and getting ourselves "together" earlier too (i.e. dressing, eating, etc.). It's really not that big of a change for us, since we are already fairly early risers, but it helps ease the transition all the same.

 9. Pow-wow.

I have a group of dear friends - homeschooing mamas I've known for years - with whom I meet for coffee once or twice a year. We usually try to make one of these meet-ups at the end of the summer so we can give ourselves a little boost and see what's up with each other. We don't see each other as often as we did when our kids were small, so it's really nice to check in and catch up. And the ideas we exchange - resources, upcoming classes, etc. - are wonderful. And of course, it's great to talk with like-minded women whose "school year" will look very much like mine. I always walk away from our time together feeling inspired, invigorated and truly connected!

I am also quite fortunate to be part of a wonderful homeschool support group. We have participated in many acitivites and many ways through the years, but my favorite annual event is our "September Planning Meeting." At this meeting - run like a true business meeting - we make plans and share ideas and I diligently take minutes for the newsletter. We schedule things too - like parties and fairs and community events. This meeting always gets me fired up for a new year of home learning and happy living! 

10. Create a lesson planner.

I've used different planners and methods through the year, but I always need some way of keeping track of our academic plans and goals each week. My new planner is still under construction right now, so I'll have to get back to you on this point!

11. Plan for kickoff!

I am often asked if we have to sync up our schedules with the public school calendar, and the answer to that is, thankfully, no. We have to commit to the same amount of hours, but it's up to us when those hours fall. So we don't have to take February vacation if it's not convenient (and most years it's not) but we can take Holy Week off because that's important to us.

So we "start" our school year the day after Labor Day - every year, without fail. The older boys also take elective classes at a local homeschool center, and those start up this week, too. So we'll really be getting "back into the groove" that first full week of September! I like to plan special meals for that week, and I also like to take a "class" picture of the boys, every year.

It's always nice to mark a special day - a turn of year - in happy, familiar ways. These are the things that make fond family memories, and let our kids know we are proud of them and we're excited about learning new things, too!


Well, this got to be quite longer than I originally intended, but I hope you found it somewhat of interest. For me, and my household (and homeschool), a successful "new year" has its start here in the dog days of summer. As I stated above, I don't like to rush time along - goodness knows, it needs no help! - but I think a little forethought and preparation makes any season more enjoyable.

(Speaking of, does anyone else think about Christmas in July?)


Have a good Monday, my friends ... I'll see you here again very soon!

Sunday ☼ Snippets

Just jotting down a few thoughts from my day ...

There's a PBS preview here ...with a bit more information on Downton Abbey AS WELL AS a new Martha Stewart Cooking show! As many of you know, the MARTHA show was cancelled this year, and though I must admit I was an infrequent viewer, I will miss that big pretty studio she had! Actually, I still like her original show best - the one set at Turkey Hill, where she just showed you stuff but didn't try to "banter" with celebrity guests. Still, it's nice to know she'll continue to be a presence on TV! (And here's another article about the new Martha show from way back in April. Clearly I've been out of the loop!)

This was a beautiful song sung at Mass this morning. I'm sure I've heard it before, but it really struck me today ...

I just love it. 

I have more skls/bnls chicken breasts in the crockpot today - which means more shredded chicken for salad, pizzas, wraps, etc. I'll keep my portion plain, since I'm pretty sure it was Bill's bbq sauce - or rather, the chipolte pepper in Bill's bbq sauce - that set off my crazy reaction.

(Note to self: call an allergist first thing tomorrow.)


And Crackerjack took this picture of Archie ...

Sleeping archie 1

He's holding his own - still sneezing now and again, but also still acting completely normal otherwise (eating/drinking/playing, etc.). Hates the meds of course, but what can you do?

But I love how we all flock to the learning room, whether we're learning or not.

Sunday snippets 4

But really, when are we not?

The older boys are at a "big boy" birthday party this afternoon, so EB and I made crafts and had "Sunday Sundaes" at home. The boy just loves to paint, and he'll paint whatever I give him ... though funnily enough, he absolutely refused to paint rocks today, lol ...

Sunday snippets 5

And I had planned to do this frame craft mid-week, for the Feast of St. James, but we made them up today since the mood was just right. :)

Sunday snippets 6

EB did the painting, I did the pictures. :)

And in another window ...

Sunday snippets 2

I love putting starfish and sand dollars in the windows at this time of year. I'm not sure if this is strictly a New England thing, or more of a coastal thing, but I see them here and there and they always make me smile ... so I hope our "seaworthy" windows make passersby smile, too. :)

Going a bit further with the shell theme - since shells are a symbol of St. James - I'm planning to make lemon madeleines and scallops provençal this week, and we may make this adorable seashell koala craft. Of course, I've been hunting high and low for my madeleine pan without any luck ... but I did find the minifig cake pan! Just in time for CJ's birthday next month! (You're not going to believe this, but he'll be 13!)

Lately, we've been enjoying the goldfinches enjoying our lavender bed ...

Goldfinches in lavender bed 1

I had kind of been kicking myself (as I do every year) for not doing much with our large patch of lavender... but seeing how dearly the birds love it, I feel somewhat less guilty.

Also, I wrote out a rather lengthy post on how I get ready for a new school year, since I've had a few requests for a post of that nature. Alas, I was on Benadryl at the time, so it needs a little polishing before it posts, lol.

(It should be up sometime tomorrow!)

Well, I'm going to sign off now, my friends - I expect my older boys and Bill home any minute, and I'm sure they'll be eager for supper. I hope you all had a nice weekend ... and I wish you a lovely Sunday night. 

I'll see you here again very soon ...

Downton Abbey News!


My friend Kristen shared a link to an article on DA, and I wanted to pass it on!

'Downton Abbey' sneak peek: Matthew, Mary quarrel

The new season officially airs here in the states next January - which seems so far away, but at least we'll have something to help beat those post-holiday blues! The UK of course, gets to view season three in September ... and with all the attention DA gets, I bet it will be tough to dodge spoilers this fall!

Also, I'm just thrilled that Downton received so many Emmy nomimations, as did our beloved Sherlock. From what I understand, the noms are a record for Masterpiece Theater ~ so well done!

Have a lovely Sunday, my friends ...

I ❤ Saturday Mornings

Spent some time sitting on the front steps this morning, with my camera, my coffee and my Earlybird ...

Birdwatching with EB

 Watching the birds, planes, neighbors, etc. Having a nice little chat. :)

It's a beautiful Saturday morning here, and I wanted to pop in and say, "Happy Weekend!" I am feeling better, though still reacting mildly. And Archie is on an antibiotic for 10 days to help clear up his cold. So we're both on the mend! A nice quiet weekend should do us just fine.

So have a good one, my friends! And thanks for stopping by ...

I'll see you all again very soon.

Friday Felines

It's been a while since I shared photos of my kitties, so here they are ...

FF jul 20 1

FF jul 20 2

Archie on top, Oliver on bottom. "Admiring" the birds from the windows.


We're actually taking Archie in to the vet this morning because he's been sneezing since Wednesday night, so we assume he has a cold. (Both cats have had colds before.) The poor guy ... he loathes visiting the vets! And we have the nicest vet ever ... but that means nada to Archie, lol.

Also, I may be a bit MIA over the next couple of days - I'm taking Benadryl for an allergic reaction and it's completely knocking me out! I'm not sure what I'm reacting to (possibly pepper) but my immune system goes wacky like this sometimes. I just have to wait it out and keep things calmed with the med, even if it puts me to sleep!

So let me say now, I hope you all have a nice weekend. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... 

I'll see you here again very soon!

Morning Funny

A little snippet from last night ...

So I'm in the bathroom with Earlybird, helping him brush his teeth before bed, when he gets distracted by the open window. So we're standing there at the window, enjoying the evening breeze, and I remark on how much cooler it is now than it was earlier today ...

I say to EB, "It's cooler now, because the storm moved away and went out to sea, taking all that hot air with it."

So EB nods (because we've talked about this before, how weather systems move) and then he yells out the window, at the very TOP of his lungs:

"Thank you, Storm! Thank you so much!"

And then in this funny little voice he adds:

"You're welcome, EB!"


Happy Thursday, my friends!

The FCS: Questions, Comments, Links

Hello there!

File folders 2

As most of you know, I've been posting about my "File Crate System" for several years now. I've tweaked the system now and again, but the basic "ingredients" have remained the same: one crate (or drawer), several hanging folders and a whole bunch of file folders (52 in my case, one for each week). Most years, there are planning sheets, too.

Well, I've noticed a few of my older FCS posts have been getting "pinned" or "liked" here and there on the internet, so I thought I'd post a link on my sidebar that will point readers - new and old alike - to my FCS archive in case they would like to read more on the topic. More recent posts explain the tweaks I've made and how I'm "working the system" these days.


(And by the way, I sincerely thank whoever is doing all that pinning and liking!)

So, here it is, my ...

File Crate System Archive

If I had more time, or even a smidge of "tech" talent, I'd make a little button for the FCS link, but alas that's the best I can do for now. I may see what Bill can come up with ...

While I'm at it, here are links to similar archives, since these types of posts get linked to quite often:

Calendar & Planner Archive

Homekeeping Journal Archive

Now, if you have any questions or comments on any of these subjects, please leave it here (in the comments box below), and I will get back to you as soon as I can. Links are quite welcome, too! I love to "see" how others use the FCS, or just file folders in general. :)

Please note, though I tend to post once - sometimes twice - daily, I generally catch up on reader comments a couple of times a week. I truly don't mean to ignore anyone, so if your question slips through the cracks, please give me a holler!

As always, thanks so much for reading!

Three summery tees ...

Tie dye 4

... tied, dyed, rinsed, laundered and hung out to dry! 

(I find myself itching to do more.)


Fyi, in case you've never done tie-dye before, here's how we do it. We used a "one-step" tie-dye kit purchased at Michaels (I think it was about $10, but I had a 50% off coupon) ... a few plain tees (I paid about $4 each, but they often go on sale) ... and some elastic bands, which most of us have readily on hand.

My friend Beth who hosts an annual tie-dye party, sets up a workstation in her yard (beneath a tent on a hot day like yesterday!) and between dips in the pool, the kids set to work. Some of the dye is spray-on (see Bookworm's tee at right) and that's all it takes - you spray your design, let it dry and then "set it" with a 10-minute tumble in the dryer. The two shirts on the left were made by wetting the shirts and wringing them out, then twisting the cloth in a spiral and securing it with rubber bands. Next, the dye was applied with squirt bottles and then the bundle was wrapped in plastic wrap. Six to eight hours later (we left ours overnight), the shirts were rinsed out (till the water ran clear) and laundered in cold water.

It was as easy as that!

I like how Crackerjack's came out best (middle shirt) because I like the lighter, "sunnier" colors. My shirt (on the left) is quite large as you can see, but as I mentioned last night, I'll use it to sleep in, "beach" in or even for arts & crafts projects. :)


Well, I hope your Wednesday's going well! It's sooooo humid here today, hovering around 90 degrees ... severe storms are predicted for the afternoon, so we'll have to squeeze our library visit and grocery stop in between the thunder and lightning! (Or we might just stay in, and relish the AC, lol.) 

Have a good one, my friends!

A Summer Tradition

Tie dye 1

We spent a lovely - albeit hot as blue blazes! - afternoon at our friends' annual tie-dye/pool party. Above you see my shirt, all tied and dyed and ready to go ... tomorrow I'll unveil the final "product." I like to choose a men's X-large t-shirt to tie-dye ... it makes for a cute summer nightshirt or a fun beach cover up. :)

Well, I hope you all had a nice Tuesday ... thanks so much for stopping by!

Another Morning in the Garden ...

Just before Bill left for work, we took a little turn about the yard ... it was a beautiful morning, the light filtering softly through the garden as the sun rose behind the woods ...

Morning garden 1

These interesting plants are in the birdhouse garden, and for the life of me I can't recall what they are!

Morning garden 6

Can you help?

And here are the lovely purple coneflowers, which naturalized beautifully this year ...

Morning garden 2

These are some of my favorite summer flowers, because I just love orange and pink together. But I suspect they are also a favorite of the bunnies - not for their color, but their taste. Note the frayed petal edges? I don't mind really, as long as the plants are not harmed further. But speaking of bunnies, as I took these very pictures, a good-sized rabbit flew out of the raspberry hedge, tore across the road and into our neighbor's yard! Little white tail bouncing behind him ... :)

So after Bill left, Crackerjack and I headed out to the deck to fill the hummingbird feeders and check on our herb plants. We were thrilled to see (and hear) two gray herons fly over - we've never seen them travel in pairs!

Morning garden 5

(At least, I'm pretty sure they are herons - it's kind of hard to tell from this angle.)

The herb garden is certainly feeling the effects of this hot weather (aren't we all?) so we watered and checked over the plants. One of the plants - the Chinese Lanterns - was riddled with tiny, bizarre, crustacean-like bugs ...

Morning garden 3

We have no idea what they are! Any thoughts?

And how about your favorite non-toxic method for beating garden pests? I have several books here with recipes, but not sure which is the best.

As always, I appreciate your suggestions!


And another update on my dad ...

Well, he heard back from the surgeon's office last night and it looks like he not only *will* be having surgery next week, but most likely on both the neck and the lower back at the same time. Not sure what that will mean for his recovery time yet - my folks have a meeting with the surgeon on Tuesday to reassess and confirm all the details. In the meantime, they're starting him on a steroid to reduce inflammation ...

Thank you again, for all your kind thoughts and prayers. They mean so much to us. I will keep you all posted as best I can. I think right now we just wait ... and hope ... and pray.

Have a wonderful Tuesday, my friends. I'll see you here again very soon.

Homemade Caramel Sauce

Caramel sauce
Because it's National Ice Cream Month after all, and to my mind, nothing tastes better on ice cream than caramel sauce. :) It also happens to be the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel so I thought "carmel sundaes" might be a fitting dessert ... and yes, I realize that caramel is not the same as carmel - in spelling or meaning or even pronunciation! - but for today, I'm calling it close enough. :)

{And truth be told, this is actually butterscotch sauce - my grandmother's recipe - but we'll keep that our little secret. ;)}

In continuing with today's "caramel" theme, I'm also caramelizing onions tonight to serve atop homemade pizzas. But I'll wait for Bill to get home to start that, because I just cannot cut onions without weeping like a fool ...


An update on my dad ...

Some of you might remember he was wearing a neck collar at our Father's Day cookout. Well, he had been having significant pain in his neck/shoulder/arm that he assumed was from an aggravated prior injury. A few doctor's visits later and he was diagnosed with spinal stenosis - cervical, not lumbar - and it was affecting the discs in his neck (C4-6, if I'm remembering correctly). So he was given some pain management guidance and told surgery would be warranted sooner rather than later. (Surgery is necessary, because if things deteriorate any futher, he risks paralyzation.)

In the meantime, my dad began having severe pain in his lower back - running down his leg to the top of his foot. When he met with the surgeon he was told the two issues were entirely unrelated so he needed further testing to determine the cause of pain in the lower portion of his back.

So he had the second MRI last Friday night and this morning he saw the surgeon's nurse for results. She explained to my folks that he has a badly herniated disc pressing on his sciatic nerve, and that this too, might require surgery. Sometimes a herniated disc can be treated with cortizone shots and physical therapy, but sometimes not ... it will be up to his surgeon to make that decision, so we're awaiting his call sometime tomorrow.

Whatever is determined in this case, the neck surgery will have to wait. It's just a very unfortunate thing that he has both painful issues flaring so agressively, at the same time.

So potentially, he may have surgery next week ... or not, depending on the surgeon's opinion. But I will definitely keep you all posted, and I thank you for your thoughts and prayers - I appreciate them so much. Please know I always remember my friends here in my daily prayers at home, and my weekly prayers at Mass. I appreciate you all so very much. You have always been so kind to me ... and my family.

So there's the news of the day ... and now I'll wrap up because Bill should be home any minute. We've got pizzas to cook and an evening routine to unfold ...

Good night to you all ... I will see you here again very soon ... :)