Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Rewards of Backing Karelian Soundscapes

This video is to explain some of the rewards that can be yours for supporting Michael's Karelian Soundscapes Project!!! Like some albums of music, the top picks of our current donors. :) 

Friday, January 11, 2013

House Makeover in a Day

Okay, don't get too excited. We didn't remodel or anything.
But yesterday, Michael and I both got crazy and tackled all the problem areas of our home. We did something for every room! I love having a handyman around. :) Michael did all the heavy work.
Sorry these are crummy phone pics. I'm not feeling well, so I'm too lazy to try and get some nice ones.
The kids were super good all day, which was really nice. They played together and stayed out of the way while we buzzed around. (Oh hey, see those dishes at the sink? I washed them all. In addition to everything else we did. I'm quite pleased).

 I don't have Before pictures for any but the last of these, 
but I think we'll survive not knowing what stuff looked like beforehand.


Problem Area #1: The entryway. 
We got in a dumb habit of tossing our coats on the couch, and the lineup of shoes by the couch edge always turned into a scrambled mess that reached into the living room. Annoying! Now, it is tidy and put together with designated space for those things. Ahhh.
PS: that pile of things on top are things I need to take out to the car...they're not a regular part of that. 
 Problem Area #2: the Calendar
I guess this didn't even used to be an area! I had our old calendar by the pantry, and that meant walking around the table to the trash can to look at it, which was a nuisance if I had to check something for my harp students. Now it's all organized and attractive and accessible and visible. 
Problem Area #3: the Fridge
I don't like cluttered fridges. And mine was very cluttered. I put up with the magnet letters because they're awesome for kids, and I had Ender's drawings on the fridge because his drawings are awesome...but the result was not awesome. The fridge looked like a magnetic trash can or something. 
I still need to sort through all the junk above the fridge, but that can wait a little. 

Problem Area #4: the Fish Tanks
With this one, I actually do wish I had a Before picture just to show you how hideous our previous fish tanks were. They were meant to be cool the way they could be stacked like apartments, but they were just so ugly. I can't even find an image on Google for you. Imagine plastic canisters turned on their sides, looking super uneven because of a huge lid-like piece on one end, with knob things sticking out on each end, and an ugly round hole on the top. And then imagine a ton of mold inside those canisters because they were so hard to reach into for cleaning. I did not care if our fish died, I was not excited about yet another cleaning job.
So I requested that we simplify. Here are our beautiful new tanks.

Problem Area #5: the Bathroom
I know nobody wants to see my bathroom. Or maybe it's just that I don't want anybody to see my bathroom. :) In any case, it's clean, so as far as bathrooms go, we're safe here. This wasn't as much of a "problem" as it was just not pretty. And it still kind of isn't, what with the economic suspension rods at different heights. But I'm happy with this set up because...split curtains open the space and make it seem lighter and larger, and they even offer some extra insulation during showers because they cover the gaps on the sides where cold air likes to seep in. Even though the curtains are white, which can seem very sterile and boring, our tiny bathroom benefits from the illusion of space that white creates. So there you go.

Problem Area #6: the Kids' Bedroom
In fairness, this room was mostly a problem because we had the recliner in here to make room for the Christmas tree. But it wasn't that great looking before that anyway, so improvement is always good. The kids are playing with LEGOs in their circus tent, so you can't really see how their room is really opened up with the new furniture arrangement. Um, so maybe there's no point in including this picture. But we did work on this space, so here it is.
 And this is the corner of the room...

Problem Area #7: the DVDs
This isn't the most attractive solution, since we have some awkward furniture placement in that corner because the dresser on the left (cut off in the pic) is centered under our TV. This was a problem area because with so many movies, we were double-stacking all over the place, and I had movies on that bottom area where I change Scarlett's diapers. She enjoyed sabotaging those movies. So that needed to change! Now, it's her changing stuff. Perfect. (And I do like the DVD tower; we're still double-stacking on one shelf, but with bulky VHS movies that I haven't copied onto DVDs, that kind of can't be helped yet).

Problem Area #8: the Plant
Our beautiful Majestic Palm plant died a slow death. Finally, with one weak branch left, we've replaced it. This new one was a fourth of the cost and looks healthier than our old one did even from the beginning. I love having plants! Plants do something magical for a room. (They're good for your emotional health as well as your physical health, too...and we've got a water "mist-ifier" in the corner behind it that adds a lot of...uh, I don't know, mood decor? Anyway, the sound of water is good for you, too).

Problem Area #9: the Computer Desk
This was the biggest nuisance of all. I hated this area. I reworked it so many times trying to make it visually pleasing and practical for use, but every time it just exploded on itself in mess-inducing ugliness. Big stress factor. This, my friends, is the Before picture:

And if you don't think that's so bad, try digging through it every day. That's a "clean" version of how it usually looked. Not enough room for the mouse, papers and stuff everywhere, two mismatching table things to hold it all, bla bla bla. There's more. I'll spare you. 
Here's the After picture, and it makes my heart sing (especially since we got it $100 off):
Even with our behemoth of a printer, this is perfect. I adore it.

So all of this kind of happened, but my mind had been working up to it for some time, gauging the needs of the house. We did all of this yesterday, and we did even more! We practically gutted the house of its junk. There are still a few more Problem Areas that need my attention, but they can definitely wait. They're more the type that just needs serious organization. Yesterday, we took down the Christmas tree and put all the Christmas stuff away. We cleared out the closet in the TV room, and even though it's still not pretty in there, it's organized and free of junk. At this point, that's what counts. Michael also moved and rehung a picture for me so that we could put the Calendar Area together, and even though the house got astronomically messy in this whole process, it got cleaned in the end, too. It feels so good. Those big stressors are no longer nagging on my mind! I love my tidy entryway. I LOVE my tidy computer desk. I love my tidy, organized home. It makes my brain feel less crazy.

What are your house's Problem Areas? Are they easy to fix?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Produce Price Chart

With groceries and meals on my mind, here's something I have found extremely useful! I had this chart when we were in the WIC program (Women, Infants and Children). It made everything so easy when I wanted to buy fruits and vegetables, and it helped me get into the habit of making fresh produce a regular part of our meals. I think I used to imagine it would be so expensive to get all that produce, and it can be, but this chart helps break it down on the cheaper levels, too.
I've put this together to share because it's been something of a life saver for me at the grocery store. I like math, but only when I can sit with paper and pen, not when I have to figure it out in my head or take the time to work it through on a calculator while I'm trying to get groceries.

For your further convenience, here's a copy with just the chart for printing.
I'm keeping mine laminated in my purse.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Planning Groceries by the Menu

I saw a cute little menu template somewhere, but there was absolutely no link to the source (and the picture was a photo of someone filling it in, so I couldn't just use that). So I made one.
(this is just an example of how it's used)
It's not fancy (despite my efforts), and it could probably use some adjusting and improvement. Still, it's handy. I might end up using two boxes for Sunday because I have to plan breakfast as well as dinner.
This menu template is for picking the meals you want for the week (with an extra space for non-meal recipes), and below each meal idea is space for writing which ingredients you'll need to pick up with the regular groceries.
I generally try to put my menus together with as little grocery shopping as possible, using what I have available. But this is still really helpful to me. I put things in parentheses if I was low on that ingredient or had to thaw the meat or something...kind of a lazy system. Anyway, here it is. Maybe it will be helpful for someone.

Right-click and save.

UPDATE: Pretty soon after I started using this, I realized I prefer a landscape format. So I changed it up. Here it is: 

Primary - ASL I Am a Child of God

The song of the month for primary is "I Am a Child of God." Since my primary kids (and hopefully most other primary kids) know this song very well, I've decided to teach them first verse with sign language.
I don't know sign language! So I used the church's resources to find a video and learn it.
If you click this link, you'll find the page for the song. On the upper right hand corner, there are files available for free download. I downloaded the ASL video.
It's kind of hard! It went a bit fast for me, so I had to pause frequently. I sketched [ugly!] doodles of each motion for myself, and then after about every three or four moves, I would try going through them myself at speed. I'll share my doodles, but I doubt they'll be helpful! They're so ugly, hahaha! But since I drew them, they'll help me when I teach the primary tomorrow.
Right click, select "save image as" and choose the file location. 
I've left out a few of the "lesser" words like to, the, etc.
And I think that when I teach the kids, I might end up leaving out even a few more signs just to keep it simple for them (although with repetition, they could pick it all up eventually).
After some searching, I finally found a simply ASL dictionary site. This site is very useful, I think. I just wish the video were larger (it's ridiculously little; but since there are SO many on the site, it must help with loading). I was looking for one with illustrations, but I think those are reserved for books-- maybe because it's so much work to illustrate signs clearly that they don't want to dish it out for free? If that's the case, I understand! 

UPDATE: I learned there is a big difference between ASL (American Sign Language) and SEE (Sign Exact English), and I also learned that there exist strong feelings about which is better. The Church has opted to use SEE in their sign language videos (mislabeled as ASL, mistakenly) to better communicate the messages of the songs. If I had realized there was any opinion on any of it, I would have probably found someone to help me learn the "true" ASL version...or probably not? 
In any case, my JR primary picked it up fairly well, and my SR primary learned it so quickly that we had 10 minutes extra in singing time for other songs. 
I enjoy both kinds of sign language. I think it's a beautiful thing. I love the simplicity of ASL and how it can bridge a gap between mother and baby. I also love the precision and language of SEE, the way it is very complete as a language. We felt the Spirit as we worked on this song. 

Home Taught

We were all watching a show together, and somebody in the show said the Lord's name in vain.
Ender glanced at me and said "they should have said goodness."

:) That's my boy!

I love those moments--those times when he shows me that he's been listening, and that the important things are sinking in. When I had told him a long time ago that we should say "oh my goodness" instead, he just kind of casually accepted it and moved on, and I wasn't sure if he would care or remember. I'm so glad he did.

It comforts me because sometimes, the way things are, I feel that I really can't shield my children from the world even a little bit. It's there, it's even here in our home in little ways that are practically unavoidable. What I can do is teach my kids. It's my desperate mission as their mom, because if I don't teach them, they will be at the world's mercy. Sending them to school would be utterly threatening without the comfort of knowing that our home is their foundation, on which they solidly stand.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Karelian Soundscapes

This is what my husband has been up to lately-- putting together a Kickstarter project! :) 
We feel really grateful for the support we've already received, and we are excited that this dream has the potential to come true.  
"Please come check out my new Kickstarter project Karelian Soundscapes! Start by watching my video and then choose which reward level you would like to sign up for! As little as $1 gets you involved, but lots of unique rewards are available from $2 to $900. Help me create a new album of compositions inspired by the sounds of Russia."
R. Michael Wahlquist