Friday, December 14, 2012

A sad Friday.............Connecticut school shooting

On days like today, of which our nation has had far too many, I cherish the knowledge that my children are at home with me.
Even on the tough days, I am SO thrilled to teach them at home.
It is a privilege I do not wish to take for granted.

First day of school 2012
Learning to knit on Christmas morning 2011
Levi working on a family tree
Evan's first Cub Scout Pack Meeting
Ava as Kirsten (American Girl)
Mad scientist Levi
Bibleman Evan with his sword of Truth
Seeding a Chia Turtle (that never grew)
I sure do love those kiddos.
And I'm grateful to get to tuck them in bed one more time tonight.
I can only imagine how the heart's of those families ache who had to say goodbye to their children today.  I pray God overwhelms their grief with his unending love.

2012 Annual Ladies Christmas Dinner...............

I LOVE Christmas!  Last Friday night our church hosted our annual Ladies Christmas Dinner again, and it was beautiful!  It is always so much fun to prepare for and I usually begin thinking about next year's table immediately after our dinner.  I already have ideas.  :)

My table this year was a "Farmhouse" theme.  I mostly used items I already had at home, but bought/made just a few things.

I originally borrowed a dark green table cloth from a friend, as we used round tables for the first time this year and I don't own a round table cloth.  But, then I decided you don't HAVE to use a round table cloth just because your table is round.  I used these two black and white buffalo check curtains I made about 5 years ago for a house we lived in that had tall windows.  I have been using them for table cloths since we moved and really like the bold, country statement they make.

I bought 3 glass candlesticks and 3 small hurricane vases at the Dollar Tree to make the candlesticks you see in the photo.  Actually, Matt made them for me and I just tied ribbon around them.  :P  The photos make the ribbon look yellow, but it is really a nice, dark champagne color.

Yes, those are REAL chicken eggs in that wire basket!  I think I got a few looks from a few people about decorating with eggs, but hey, I thought they were great!  Quite a few other women did tell me they thought they were a nice touch, also.  The blue eggs are from our Aracauna hens, and I used that as my inspiration color for my table.  I wanted a nice accent of that blue, but just that.  An accent.  I repeated it in the candles and the ribbon that I tied around the candy boxes.

My  granny gave me the oil lamp.  The milk bottles were found years ago at a yard sale.  I just filled them with salt.  The sparkly twig garland was bought from Hobby Lobby 3 years ago and I love it so much I have used it each year since!  I was NOT happy about the price ($20 each and that was HALF PRICE!), but I am getting alot of mileage out of it.

That's me on the right.  I only knew 3 people at my table.  The other 5 were guests of a friend from church.  It's always nice to meet new people!
I'll show some of the other tables another time.  They were all so pretty and it's fun to see some women's personalities really shine through the way they decorate!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Fun Fridays: American Girl thrift store makeover

I REALLY wish I had a before picture of this doll!  Her hair was a mess!  I found her at a thrift store (last year, actually) for $2.92!!!!  I REPEAT, $2.92!!!!!  Score!!!

She is a pre-Mattel Kirsten.  That means (for all you "normal" people who don't understand AG lingo) that she was made when American Girl was still owned by Pleasant Company and not Mattel.

Anway, that's not really significant unless you care about such things.  What IS important is that we gave her a little makeover for a friend of Ava's.

We washed that ratty hair and even her cloth body, although it was not real dirty.  Her limbs needed a good scrubbing with baking soda and a rag.

After she was dry, I snipped off about an inch of hair just so I could get a comb through it.  Then, tediously, I sectioned small pieces of hair and used a large curling iron to straighten and smooth it.  It took a little while and I had to trim more to make it even, but the results were amazing!

We added some color back to her lips and cheeks just using a peachy pink water soluble marker.  Color some onto the cheek area and immediately use your finger to rub it in.  Very nice!

We made her a Popover Dress free from Oliver + S.  So fast and easy!  I added the rick rack and pocket just to add a little something extra.  The crocs were bought from a sewing booth at the homeschool fair we attend every year.  They can be found at her online store The Sewing Basket.

A lovely doll for $3 buckaroos!  *Like*

Friday, November 30, 2012

Fun Fridays: Clothing refashion for American Girl dolls...........

So, last week I got a sewing bug and just had this great need to start and finish something quickly.  I don't usually need instant gratification, so when it comes, I tend to give in.

I hope to do a tutorial soon, but for now I have an after picture of what I made. 

Addy is modeling a sweater refashioned from an outgrown sweater of Ava's.  I used the bottom of one sleeve and part of the waistband for the doll's neckline.  Ava added some brown twill tape through some of the holes in the sweater as an accent.  Super easy!

The skirt is just the bottom ruffled tier of a skirt of Ava's.  Just one seam to make a circle, and an elastic casing for a waistband. 

The leggings are cut from one pant leg of an old pair of leggings Ava outgrew.  Again, super fast and easy!  I got the idea from this tutorial on making tights for your dolls.

The headband is just twill tape we already had in the perfect shade of purple to match the outfit!

The shoes are AG from some outfit and matched perfectly.  The ice skates are just because Ava said Addy was planning to go skating later.  :)

An entire new outfit for FREE that would cost a disgusting $32 from AG.  *Like*

Friday, November 23, 2012

Fun Fridays: Paper dolls for American Girl dolls...............

Happy Black Friday!  I love Thanksgiving and enjoyed yesterday with our family!  All the food, mmmmmmmmm..............., and just hanging out and watching the kids play.  Love it.

One time, about 8 years ago, I ventured out in the wee hours of the morning on Black Friday.  I was after a My First Leapad for our oldest, who was almost 2.  I think Walmart had it for $20?  I really can't remember that well.  I was tired.  It was COLD.  And the store was CROW.DED!  Never again.  I think I saved $10.  Totally not worth it.  Ever since, I sleep in and spend the day doing fun stuff at home.  Sometimes sewing, sometimes crafting, maybe a movie, putting up Christmas decorations.

Today I showered early (Yay!) and thought of something fun to do for my now 10 year old girly girl.  A few weeks ago I found these Thanksgiving printables at Daydream Doll Boutique and thought those were really fun.  Then, I remembered I had these adorable paper dolls I bought from Sarah Jane Studios last year!  How fun to make paper dolls for the dolls!

I already had these on my computer, but Sarah Jane has some freebies on her site you can use RIGHT NOW!  Also, take a look at her store because she has a lot of really great stuff on there!  Including more paper dolls you can purchase and a Nutcracker Theater, a Peter and the Wolf Theater, and a Nativity Theater.  SO CUTE!

Anyway, after you download some paper dolls, stick some card stock in your printer.  When you get ready to print, set your page scaling to either 50% or "Multiple pages per sheet".  I did the latter.  If it only prints on one half of the page (which is what you are aiming for), you can turn it around and print another page on the other half.  This is what I did because my paper doll files were one page per file.

Hand them to your daughter and tell her to have fun!

Since they are small, I recommended to her not to cut out between the legs and to leave white space around things with tiny detail.  I also used an exacto knife to cut out face holes in hoods and jackets for her.  You can also use tiny pieces of double sided tape or folded tape to stick the paper dolls to your dollie's hands.

The dolls are having a great time!

Ava really wants to make a small Nativity Theater for her dolls, so I'll try to post when we get to that.  We are actually going on a small road trip tomorrow to a Homestead Fair, so this might make a good activity for her to work on in the van.

Whatever you are doing this Black Friday, I hope you are having fun!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

For the love of buttons!

EEK! I was reading Anna's blog and came across this ADORABLE photo!

I will now be on the lookout for an orphan gumball machine who is longing to dispense something again!  What a fun display!

That is all.  :D

Saturday, March 3, 2012

On buying chicks from a feed store............

Uh...........did anyone out there think this would be HARD???


Good.  Because I didn't either.  Get ready for a bit of a rant.  :P

So, we have been planning to order chicks through a hatchery.  Some for meat, some for eggs.  I poured over my favorite catalog and carefully underlined important information about each breed I was interested in.  Then, I circled the breeds I wanted to order with a red marker.  You know, so I wouldn't forget.

Low and behold, now we are ready to submit our order, and the hatchery is out of meat chickens.  As in, totally out.  Not backordered.  Argh!  Then, I notice several of the laying breeds we had chosen were backordered by at least three weeks, some for two months!


After looking at some other hatcheries online, I realized this is a common problem right now.  In February.  Who knew hatcheries started selling out of chicks so early?  I didn't.  This was our first time to order from one.

I thought I was ordering early!!!

So, we thought we might just get some from Tractor Supply.  We called every day for several days hoping to hear they had received their shipment of eggs.  Finally, they did.  I dropped everything (I left rising bread in the oven for this!) and loaded up the kids and headed to the store.

No meat chickens like they were expecting.  Bummer.

Lots of Rhode Island Reds.  We already have several of those and wanted some different breeds.

Lots of Gold Sex Links.  Hmmm.  I wasn't particularly fond of getting "mutt" breeds.  We have some mutts and they're not real pretty.  I want old breeds.  Heritage breeds.  Breeds that can reproduce for us, if we want. 

Then, there was a bin full of fluffy little yellow chicks with two reddish stripes down their backs.  What were they?  Nobody knew.  The sign just said, "Pullets".  I even took my hatchery catalog into the store with me, and Ava and I couldn't find these chicks anywhere in it.  I asked several employees.  They didn't know.  They told me their "chicken guy" was out to lunch and would be back in a bit.

Then, a customer reminded me of another feed store just down the road that she thought had chicks.

They did!  However, bless his heart, this nice old man couldn't tell me much about them either.  I thought they looked like a bunch of Buff Orpingtons (because we have two) and a couple Barred Rocks (of which we also have two).  He told me, "No, no.  There's a bunch of 'em mixed up in there.  There's Dominickers, Buffs, Rhode Islands, and Brown Leghorns." 


When he got back there to look, he changed his mind.  "Well, we must have sold all the Leghorns.  But the rest of 'em are there."

Hmm..........I wasn't sure he knew what he was talking about.  We have RIR chicks and they don't look anything like what he had in that bin.  So, then I asked him if he knew if his Dominiques were male or female.  He said there was no way to tell.


Ava and decided we thought they were both males, based on what we remembered about the head spots on our Barred Rock chicks we' ve been raising.

We passed on those and tried our best to choose four Buff pullets.

Then, we went back to Tractor Supply and found said "chicken guy".  Turns out this guy doesn't know what breed ANY of the chicks were.  Huh?  They have signs on two of the tubs that say what breeds they are!  It was the third tub that didn't tell me what breed was inside.  He was clueless.  So was I.  And frustrated.  These people didn't know what they were selling.  How helpful is that?  I even asked him if he happened to have the packing slip that came with them that afternoon.  Perhaps that would have an itemization of what breeds were sent.  I could tell he was losing patience with me.

Mixed in with the RIR were supposed to be some New Hamshire Reds.  He couldn't tell which were which, so Ava and I decided to try two of the lightest chicks.  We also got three of the "mystery" breed and one little rogue fella roaming around with the Gold Sex Links.  This chick appears to either be an Ameracauna or Brown Leghorn.  We're not sure.  We're not even sure if it's pullet.  This "chicken guy" held it upside down by the feet and declared it was a rooster because it struggled.  Um.....okay.  We kept talking for a minute and he did it again.  This time, the poor little chick just hung there.  "Yep." he said, "I think that one's a male."

Uh, huh.

Anyway....................we brought home 4 Buffs, 1 Ameracauna/Brown Leghorn, 2 New Hampshires (I hope), and 3 "mystery" pullets.  10 new chicks, in all.  Hopefully 10 pullets.

By the time I got back home, I was mentally exhausted by the frustration I felt.  Then I remembered my bread.  It fell.  I baked it anyway.  It's meh.

All of that was just to remind myself next winter to order my chicks from a hatchery before February.  I don't want to go through that again!  I'd like to just order what I want and get it.  On the other hand, if you really don't care what kind of chickens you get, go to a feed store and they will likely save you money on shipping.  And you will not have to buy 25 of them for shipping safety.

Oh, by the way, the "mystery" chicks have been found out.  You may already know.  Do you?  If you do, you're smarter than me!  We believe they are Golden Comets.

I really didn't want mixed breed chickens because I want heritage breeds.  However, they do appear to be excellent layers, which is also important to us.  I'll let you know how I feel about them in 5-7 months.

Ok, rant over.  I feel better.  :)

Friday, March 2, 2012

Save $180 on a Berkey water filter!

I have recently been enlightened to what is in our water supply.  It concerns me, to say the least.  We've been using a PUR faucet mounted water filter until we can afford a better solution.  Our biggest concern is flouride.  These common filters do not remove flouride. 

Side note:  From what I understand, Berkey filters do not remove flouride, either.  However, their filters are superior at removing contaminants and they have additional filters you can purchase which DO remove flouride and also arsenic.  See the video below.

I have already switched our family to flouride-free toothpaste and am looking into switching to a dentist who will not use flouride on my kids (among other things), but more importantly, one who will NOT give me a hard time for choosing this.  My current dental office is already giving me a hard time for not wanting unnecessary x-rays.  I can only imagine how they'll react when I tell them, "No more flouride."  It's time to move on.

Another side note:  This is the last thing I will say about flouride right now.  It is a personal concern of ours and for many others.  Many people are learning that flouride has not been proven to be beneficial, but instead may be a trigger for diseases such as cancer, alzheimers, and bone diseases.  You'll need to do your own research on that as this post is intended to be more focused on water filters, but here are just some interesting articles on the topic of flouride.

I'd love to say this is a post on how we BUILT our own Berkey water filter.  But it's not.  We're still not there, yet.  But, in the meantime, I have found several websites and youtube videos on the subject and just wanted to share them with those of you who are interested in such things.  I did not think of this money-saving idea on my own.  I just happened to stumble across a video and thought, "Duh.  Why didn't I think of that?"  It never ceases to amaze me what other people invent.
The idea is to purchase the filters from Berkey (or another source) and build your own containers from old "Ozarka" type bottles or 5 gallon buckets, etc. to save a lot of money.
This fellow saved nearly $180 building his own Berkey!  His site has a pretty good tutorial on how to do it.

Here's another at

And here's a short, helpful video showing a simple and inexpensive set up.  This video does not walk you through the building process, he just tells you how he did it and shows you the finished product.

This is something we WILL be doing in the future.  We just have more pressing projects on our plates at the moment.

I would love to hear what you have done for your family concerning filtering water!  Do you own a Berkey?  Have you built your own?  Care to share any advice on the matter?

I will definitely update this post when we build our own system.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

February Reading accomplishments......

I won't be giving much detail on each book I list.  I simply don't have the time right now.  This is more of a simple record for me to remember what I have read.  If you have specific questions, feel free to ask!  I'll try to make time to answer!

Knockout by Suzanne Somers
~good, interview style layout between Suzanne and innovative doctors, lots of information, a little over-the-top at times, though, IMO

Breakthrough by Suzanne Somers
~very similar to above book, so similar I thought I was reading the same book again, good though, if you are into alternative healing and nutrition

~~~~I feel like I need to add a little side note here about Suzanne Somers.  I think she is a lot smarter than many interviewers would have you believe.  I like how much research she has done for the good of the population on cancer healing and prevention.  The two books above have a lot of valuable information in them--I can't speak for anything else she has written, as I haven't read them.  Having said all that, as a Christian, I have personally felt convicted that I do not want to make health my god, or idol.  I believe it would be very easy to become consumed with it all and make it the most important thing in life.  To the point of offending and/or ostracizing other people.  I don't want to do that.  Suzanne tells you she is not religious, and it is evident (to me, anyway) that health/nutrition and especially anti-aging have become like idols in her life.  This is why I am cautious to just give these books an overwhelming "thumbs up".  Now, take that for what you will.

The Maker's Diet by Jordan Rubin
~great book! Interesting personal story of near-death healing with nutrition, biblical perspective of food and how it is raised, very do-able, this was actually my third time to read this since Nov. or Dec.-it's that good!

Blood on the River by Elisa Carbone
~read this book aloud to Ava (10), a little gritty for her age, but a very good read.  She was riveted and always wanted to hear more.  Perhaps too mature for this age-but probably a good choice anyway if you have a reluctant reader you are trying to help become interested in reading.  Pre-reading this book may be in order if you are concerned.

Hobby Farm Magazine - March/April issue, one of few subscriptions I have and always interesting!

There are a few I didn't finish in time for this month but I already have a nice stack from the library I'm anxious to get started on.  We'll see how much I get to read in March!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Our First Butchered Chicken....

What you are about to view is not for the faint of heart!
There are graphic images of a perfectly healthy chicken being butchered for our dinner table.
Be aware there is blood and a headless body.

So, we've been on this chicken adventure since around March 2011 and it has been fun!  We began to desire to raise our own food and read everything we could get our hands on concerning chickens and gardening.  You see, we like chicken!  :)

We started out with a few mixed Bantams (one rooster) and a few Rhode Islands Reds.  We mostly wanted to start out by raising chickens for eggs.  It was going great!  So great, in fact, we decided to hatch some of our own!  We are homeschoolers, after all!  What better science experiment can you get than watching your very own eggs hatch!
It was awesome!

The kids (ok, me too) were just glued to the incubator windows!

We only had one hatchling!  But we are so thankful to have that one!  What an experience!

So we decided to do it again, this time with more eggs.

Well, that was a success, however, we ended up with a lot of little roosters.  Too many roosters, to make myself clear.

No worries!  We'll just eat 'em!  After all, we want to be more self-sufficient, right?  RIGHT??  Yes, yes we do.

We read blogs and watched videos on how to butcher a chicken in the most humane, efficient way.  The Deliberate Agrarian has a great blog post on butchering, and lots of great general info. for newbie homesteaders like us. 

We also found a couple youtube videos that were especially helpful to us:

The first video covers killing, scalding, and plucking.

The second video covers cleaning/gutting.

Then, the opportune time presented itself.

Meet Cheep-cheep.

Cheep-cheep was............well.............a little cocky.  He became the most agressive rooster we had.  You couldn't go near him without him wanting to fight with your feet.  Not a problem if you have pants and shoes on.  A pesky problem if you are in shorts and/or sandals.

He got to go first.  :)

 Being strung up by the feet.

Making the cut.  Do you see that he closed his eyes?
The chicken, not Matt.

 It took a few minutes for him to bleed out.  I think we need a sharper knife.  I was worried about this part, but there was no squawking.  Only a little flapping about (which is what you want to pump the blood out).  He made one little half-hearted cluck right before he went limp.  We knew it was over.

Then, Matt cut off his widdle head. 
See, his eyes are still closed.  He didn't see a thing.
The chicken, not Matt.

I warned you about the headless body.

Scalding for easy feather removal.
We used a portable camp stove and just made sure the kids stayed clear of it.

Pretty easy.  Says the one who stood by taking pictures.  ;)

Wearing rubber gloves helped alot.  The seem to grip the feathers and help pull them out easier and faster.

Ok, enough watching.  Time for me to get my hands dirty.  Gutting was a little difficult since the bird is so small and it was my first time.

All clean!  This little rooster weighed in at a whopping 1.25lbs!!!
Some people might not think a bird that small was worth the effort to butcher, but believe it or not, he actually made a nice pot of chicken and dumplings, which we ate two meals from.
That was such a learning experience and gave us such a satisfying feeling, we felt confident enough to proceed with the other four "extras" a few weeks later. 

This time, Grandpa (my dad) came to help.  That was nice for me, as he cleaned two chickens and I cleaned two chickens.  This aspect is done in the kitchen sink, and it definitely has a "distinct smell" when you get to a certain point.  It was nice to have help.  :D

This experience also gave us the confidence we needed to raise meat chickens.  We have 20 on the way, along with some laying hens of various breeds for lots of eggs.  We are starting with a relatively small number, so as not to overwhelm ourselves.  If all goes well, we will order again in late July/August for another round of harvesting in September/October.

Some people were concerned with how our kids would take this.  We certainly told them ahead of time what was going to happen, and these mean little roosters weren't exactly beloved pets, so it's not like we just went out into the backyard and killed our puppies. 

I'm happy to report they were thoroughly excited, fascinated, and wished they could take part in it!  As soon as Matt was done with the first chicken, they immediately began asking if we could do the rest!  To date, not one of them has had nightmares or felt bad in the least that we killed and ate our chickens.  I love that they are learning where food comes from.

Do you raise meat chickens?  Ever butchered one?  I'd love to hear your stories!

I'm linking up to the Barn Hop at Homestead Revival!  Her site and her Barn Hops are a wealth of information for sustainable living.  Go check it out!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Homesteading Goals............

I have read so many books on homesteading, self-sufficiency, traditional food/healthy eating over the past year.  I couldn't even tell you how many.  Dozens, for sure.

So, what to do with all that information?  I don't know.

Oh, yes I do!

I thought I'd try to learn one new skill each month.  Of course, I thought of this in February, so the perfectionist in me already feels a month behind! lol

I'm not great at following my own rules, so making a list of things to try/learn/do would probably be a dismal failure.  You won't hear me saying "February will be bread month, and March will be yogurt month, and April will be............blah, blah, blah."  I finally know myself better than that.  I already have ideas for the coming months, but really, it will boil down to doing what I feel like I can accomplish and being able to access supplies when I need them.  If I made a list I wouldn't stick to it.  Dismal failure, remember?  This is supposed to be FUN!!!

Here are some of my ideas:

Sour cream
Soft cheese
Vermiculture (worm composting)
Showing chickens
Raising turkeys (I have a lot of convincing to do with this one)

In February, I decided I wanted to make bread.  When I say I want to make bread, I mean I want to stop buying bread from the store because I can make my own better-tasting, healthier, cheaper bread at home.  And I want it to be easy.  Or else I won't do it!

I found a great recipe over at Homestead Revival.  Can you tell that's my favorite blog???  I'm always posting about Homestead Revival!  If you've never visited, get on over there and learn something new!  Amy is so great about blogging about what she learns, tries, and succeeds/fails at.  She is so honest and I just love her!  She also has better pictures than I do.

Oh, yeah.  Bread................right.

The bread turned out great!  It wasn't my first time to make bread, but I had not done it in a long time, and I was specifically looking for a bread that wouldn't disintegrate when I sliced it thin for sandwiches.

I made the recipe as written the first time.  Then, I made it again with half whole wheat flour and half organic all-purpose flour with some extra wheat germ thrown in.  This was the more popular bread, by far!  So, I made it again. 

Now, I would love to use all whole wheat flour, but I have yet to find a flour (in the stores) that doesn't have that bitter, whole wheat taste to it.  I sweet friend of mine demonstrated her grain mill for me and sent me home with several flours, one of which was Prairie Gold.  All of her flour was so delicious!  It was ground so finely and it made everything soft--WITHOUT the bitter, whole wheat taste to it.

Matt isn't completely on board with spending almost $300 on a grain mill yet, so I also thought if I began making bread regularly, he'd see how much I'd use it!  See how sneaky I am?

I haven't bought bread in 3 weeks now.  Yay!

Not only that, but I think I'll continue!  This recipe is nice and easy.  I use my Kitchen Aid mixer so there is very little to do by hand.

Here's the recipe, although you should still go over to Amy's blog to read it--she has lots of pictures and helpful tips.  I just copied and pasted her entire recipe, photos and all, into Word so I could print it and add it to my recipe binder.

The little notes by the ingredients are Amy's notes, not mine.

Whole Wheat Bread

2 C. warm water (110 - 115 degrees)

1/3 C. olive oil

1/4 C. honey (I like to use raw honey)

1 egg

3 1/2 tsp. yeast

5-6 C. whole wheat flour (I like to use Prairie Gold freshly milled)

2 tsp. sea salt

Combine water, oil, honey, and egg in mixing bowl.

Add yeast and then three cups of flour and salt.

Continue adding two more cups of flour. On the sixth cup, add only as needed. Starting timing your kneading process with a timer for 10 minutes. Watch the dough as it kneads and add just a bit more flour here and there as you see it getting too sticky and leaving too much on the sides of the bowl.

Transfer dough to a well greased container for proofing (rising). Roll the dough over to coat it with oil. Cover and place in a warm location. Proof until doubled in size.

After the bread has doubled in size, turn out, punch down, and shape into two loaves.
Place into loaf pans and brush with melted butter.

Proof again, letting the loaves rise to just above the top of the loaf pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Cool 10 minutes and then turn out of the pans.
Now I just need to make a bread bag to store my loaves in.

FEBRUARY SKILL:  Make bread so I can stop buying bread

Check.  :D

Next month, I'm already spying making yogurt from the Raw milk we get.  We'll see..........

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

On piercings and other metals in the head.......

When we had our daughter 10 years ago, many people asked when I was going to have her ears pierced.  What?!  Why would I pierce her ears???  She was just a baby!  Well, I know that this is common practice where we live, but I just couldn't stand the thought of doing it to her.  Not yet.  Not to my baby.

Well, fast-forward 6-8 years and I would occasionally ask her if she would like to get her ears pierced.  "NO. WAY.", she informed me.  She wasn't ready.  Fine by me.

When she turned 9, the dentist highly recommended an orthodontic exam for her, due to some pretty severe overcrowding and protrusion.  She got her braces on April 1st, last year. 

She was so proud.  She felt so grown up!

And she LOOKED so grown up!  Where did my little girl go?  I took in a 9 year old, and left with a 12 year old!!!

So, not long after she got her braces, she began to ask to have her ears pierced.  Finally!  Yay!  Special girl time!  We talked about it a bit, and we decided when she got her braces off, we would have her ears pierced.  I thought that would be long enough away that she could still change her mind if she wanted, and it woud be a sort of "rite of passage" after having the braces removed.  Also, I thought if she could take care of her teeth with braces (not easy), then she would do just fine taking care of her ears.

Last Friday was the big day!  She did not forget, and she did not change her mind (much to my delight). 

First the braces:



Then came the ears:
Before (she's a little nervous)


Admiring her new look :)

She didn't even cry!  I was so proud! 

Then................... as we were walking around the store waiting to be checked out, I looked over at her and noticed she seemed pale.  I called her over to me and put my arm around her and asked her how she felt.  She told me she didn't feel quite right and she kind of sunk into me. 

Uh, oh. 

Not good.

She looked so pale, I thought she was either going to vomit or pass out.  She was very listless.  It made me very nervous.

I had her go right outside the store and sit on a bench with her BFC (Best Friend Cousin), Bethany (who came along with Aunt Susie and baby Colton for moral support).

We had planned to eat lunch inside the mall right after the ear piercing, but I was wondering if I shouldn't just take her home.

She wanted to go eat.  I had her lay down on the bench in the restaurant for a few minutes and she felt so much better!  When she sat up, Bethany said, "Hey, look Ava!  Your lips are pink again!"  Lol.  It wasn't very lol when it was happening, but as soon as I realized she was fine, it was a little humorous.  I think she was trying so hard not to cry, that she suppressed a little too much.  I'm pretty positive her blood pressure dropped significantly.  Scary.

Anyway, now she has pretty little earrings and she is proud of them.  She says she swapped one metal in her head for another!

I love having that little girl.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Baby chicks!

My, oh my, are baby chicks cute!  This is the 5th time we've incubated our own eggs, and it never ceases to amaze us when hatch time arrives!

This time, we incubated 8 Rhode Island Red eggs.  I've not been successful at candling in the past, but we tried again later during gestation.  Success!  We spied 5 live chicks inside our 8 eggs.  1 of them appeared to be unfertilized, the other 2 were just dark, without movement.  I marked them with an 'x', and two '?'.  The rest got check marks.  I wanted to see how accurate the candling was.

In our experience, Rhode Island Red chicks have always hatched on day 20, instead of day 21.  This time was no different.  It took all day, some were quick and some were very slow, but all 5 of the expected eggs hatched!

They are so cute with their tiny pink feet!  My niece was also able to witness one egg hatching, and she enjoyed that.  The kids took turns holding an egg (being careful not to turn them/disorient them) to feel the chick moving inside.  That was so fun!

You aren't supposed to be able to sex RIR at hatching, but based on the markings on the back of their heads, I predict we have one male and four females.  Our rooster rate has been too high in the past, so I'm hoping for hens!  We need eggs!

We will also be purchasing chicks from Murray McMurray later this week.  Both for meat and eggs.  Our back yard will be bustling with chickens soon!

And, just for fun, my pet:  "Sheriff" Andy Taylor

This is my first link up to Amy's Barn Hop over at Homestead Revival!  There's always neat things to see...................head on over and check it out!


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Gardening....Back to Eden

This post is about gardening, which is what we are gearing up for currently.  If you aren't interested in gardening, feel free to skip this post.  Then again, this film is so neat you might want to watch it "just 'cuz".   Here's the trailer.

This guy, Paul Gautschi has the most incredible garden and method of gardening I've ever seen!  So incredibly simple, yet very successful, just the way God designed it to be.  Paul is a believer, and gives all credit and glory to God.  Refreshing!

Here's where you can watch the entire film:  Back to Eden

Such an incredible amount of gardening information in this film!  I can't wait to show it to Matt.  Last year, our garden was such a flop.  Basically, we got loads of zucchini, a few green beans, and a couple of tomatoes.  Everything died from the 108 degree temps we had, or was eaten by bugs.  Not exactly what we'd hoped for.  We are arming ourselves with information in order to have a much more successful year!

You can get a pretty good summary of the film over at Homestead Revival, which is where I heard about it.  Thanks for sharing, Amy!

I'd love to hear what you think about it!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Family Portraits

It has been 3 years since our last family portrait, so it was high time we remedied that!  My favorite portrait studio closed a few years ago, and ever since then, I have struggled to have portraits made on a more regular basis.  The place we went to was affordable, and they took AWESOME pictures!  I have yet to find another studio that is THAT good AND affordable. 

The family picture was to be for our Christmas cards.
Anyway, I decided to beg my sister for the use of her Nikon D60 for the afternoon (she's really quite protective of it :D ) and take some outdoor portraits of the family by myself!  I took photography in college, but am still quite an amateur.  I know what I like, but executing what is in my head can be a challenge.  I also do not have good interior lighting or backdrops so shooting outside was a must for professional looking results.  Well, as professional as I could get them, anyway!


It turns out, the very best family portrait turned out to be the FIRST shot I took!  It's certainly not perfect--the posing could be a little better, someone could have smiled a little less cheesy, but I was happy with it!

Yep, for Christmas cards, that'll do!
Evan is all boy. Well, so is Levi. Did you notice their dirty knees in the family shot above? Yep. Kept them clean all through church and lunch, then it took me two minutes to set up the tripod and they managed to find mud.

Here are some random shots.

What a good lookin' bunch of kiddos.

That shot was a good pose with a nice background, but obviously, the lighting was not perfect.  So, we moved on.

Well, we moved on after some little boys got their fill of hanging from the chain.

And one right-side-up.  For good measure.

We had lots of cheesy smiles.  At least they smiled, right?  Stinker.

Ava's glasses are Transitions so I had her remove them so I could see her beautiful, blue eyes!

There they are!

Me and my sweet girl.  I'm so happy to have a girl! 

     Ava loves to read, read, READ!  This girl can polish off a dozen books in just a few days.  And I don't mean Amelia Bedelia, either.  I'm talking about books like, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Guardians of Ga'Hoole

     She also loves to cook and make crafty things.  She's becoming quite good at cooking.  I tell her she's on her way to becoming an amazing wife and mother!  Her children will say, "Mmmmm..........."  when she sets food in front of them.  I also tell her that she might not think so now, but one day, hearing her kids say, "Mmmm....." will make her very happy!

Levi is very photogenic. The kid hardly knows how to take a bad picture.

He is brilliant with numbers.  Really.  This little dude has been multiplying numbers since he was about 4.  He is also the kind of kid you find taking stuff apart to see how it works, and tying things up to see what will happen when you hang from them.  We think engineering of some kind may be in his future!

See what I mean?  Seriously.  Is that boy not handsome?

This one, too.  Handsome little fella.

If I could use one word to sum up Evan's personality, it would be LOUD.  Now, I mean that in the dearest way :)  He might be the youngest, but he has never tolerated being left out of any.thing.  He makes his presence known.  We joke that he will become a preacher someday, lol!

Ok, so this one was pretty good, but I couldn't stop there.  Nooooooo, I just had to keep going. See the progression for yourself.

Oh, all right.  We're done, ok?

After pictures were over, we let them play and had a great time.  This park is beautiful and we've been going there for years for pictures and just for fun.

I just love those kiddos.

Looking back, it was a really fun day.  I hope they remember it :)