Monday, August 29, 2011

Missing Out On School Photos

When I decided to home school, I knew there was going to be some things we'd miss out on, and one of them was school pictures.  Like most parents, I have relied on the annual school photos to have up to date portraits to send to friends and family.  I have been considering what I would like to do instead this year. 

I looked into taking the kids to a local Wal-mart photostudio to take advantage of those back to school special packages.  But, I can't order four separate packages at the sale price, and I want each kid to have their own portraits.

Now, those of you who know me, know that I am an amateur photographer, and my favorite subject to capture is my kids!  I decided that when the mood struck me, I would attempt to take some pictures myself.  This way, I can order only the exact prints I actually want ( instead of those school pre-set packages).

Today we realized that the public schools started back to class.  Shawn had the day off, so we decided to have a NOT back to school celebration.  We headed out to Little Red River Park to run around and enjoy the nice weather... with camera in tow of course!  The light was perfect, and I was able to get some nice pictures of each of the kids.

So, this is a sneak peak at what the grand parents will be receiving this year for annual photos...


Grade 2




Age 2


2 months

So what do you think?  Will anyone miss the school style portraits?  I've already ordered prints, which means they will also be in the mail a lot earlier than usual too!  Not only do I like my portraits better  (I'm allowed to be biased) than what I had gotten from the school, but they are cheaper!  Because I was able to order only what I wanted, portraits for all four kids cost me only a little bit more than what I paid for Baden's alone last year.  Besides what I ordered for each set of grandparents, they can always have printed what ever sizes they want!

Maybe we're not missing out after all?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Thank You Loaf

I am a huge fan of the good old fashioned art of writing a thank you note.  Don't get me wrong, I still fail to keep up on writing my own, but I am going to ask for mercy because I have four young kids at home.  I try to keep up, I honestly do! I think it's a little courtesy that has been going out of style and that's a real shame.  It's always good to take a moment and thank those who have done something nice for us.  I have a stack of postcards that I ordered from VistaPrint ( 250 of them for FREE) that have "Thank You" printed across them and this has helped me for sure!  But the title is not a typo, it says loaf, not here's my story.

We've recently adopted ( or been adopted by?) our neighbors.  They're about the right age to be "grand parents" to our kids and they are very sweet.  Last week, they gave our kids the most beautiful child sized garden bench I have ever seen!  Within minutes of seeing it, the kids decided it was a train station bench and played "waiting for the train" all morning.  I wanted to find a way to thank "Nannie" and "Poppa" for their thoughtful gift, and a post card just didn't seem like enough.

I had baked some banana bread that day, and decided to send a loaf over with the post card.  I realized, though, that I didn't know what to wrap the loaf in.  I didn't really want to just put it in tin foil, and I didn't have a ziplock bag the right size.  Then, this idea struck me.

I got a piece of the flour sack tea towel material and fabric markers and had the kids write "thank you" all over it.  Then, Baden and Colleena each wrote their names, Lily scribbled across it and I added Bremen's name as well.  We wrapped the loaf in the towel and carried it over next door. 

It turns out that "Nannie" used to embroider and decorate tea towels as well, so she appreciated the flour sack material.  I think it turned out to be a bit more personal and a nice way to show our gratitude.

It didn't cost me anything to make (because I am the strange sort of person who has flour sack material on hand), but it turned out to be a priceless gift idea I'll probably use again in the future.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Empty the Pantry Challenge

In the last couple of months, my brother and his family, my brother-in-law and his family, and our close family friends have moved away.  It has left us with a big hole in our lives, and and overflow of "pantry" items.  You know, those things that you might have used once or twice? Those big and bulky, unusual items? The ones you wouldn't want to pack up and take with you if you were to move?  We've all got 'em somewhere, whether it's a half empty bag of egg noodles you've forgotten about at the back of the cupboard, or that wheat bran you bought for something or other a year ago.

When they moved we inherited a motley assortment of interesting items from each of them.  While I was wondering why on earth they even had such items ( easy blend flour...what will I use that for?), it got me wondering just what was buried in my own pantry??  Turns out, I have just as many unusual things!  Most of the time, these items represent a waste of money.  Either I didn't know they were there, so I bought it again, or I used only a small amount of a large item, or I just didn't think of using them, leaving them to sit in the pantry and go to waste anyway.

So, I decided that it would be fun to challenge myself to use these items.  Some were easy. Baking items like icing sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and food coloring will all get used up with no extraordinary effort on my part.  Extra bag of egg noodles?  Just have a pasta dish for supper.

One of the inherited items I found most entertaining was sunflower seeds. You know, the ones you use for baking that are already shelled? From one household, we got three separate containers of them (clearly I am not the only one who does that haha!).  From the other household, I got a bulk bag the size of a four liter milk jug of them.  What's up with all the sunflower seeds?  I did find a neat sunflower seed bread recipe.  Shawn and I liked it, but the kids gave it mixed reviews.  Besides, using the one cup that the recipe calls for, I'd still be ages using them all up.

I was POSITIVE that I had seen three bags of poppy seeds in there, I must have thought I was out and bought them on some occasion.  I remembered a wonderful poppy seed cake that a friend of mine made recently, and called her for the recipe.  When I got out the ingredients to bake it, I realized they were sesame seeds! Haha!  When I told the friend about my mistake so we could share a good laugh, she suggested a recipe she has for granola bars that calls for both sesame seeds and sunflower seeds.. two for one!

I also inherited a bulk bag of slivered almonds that must weigh five pounds.  I can think of a few good ways to use them up, like putting them in beans,  baking them in cookies, and candying them.  I'm always open to new recipes, though, so if you have a neat one for almonds, let me know!

In my pantry, from a previous try at homemade granola bars, I had a bag of wheat bran.  I have no idea what I am going to do with it ( the old recipe was a bust, and it's not called for in the new one)!  Coupled with the wheat germ I inherited, and the wheat berries I always have in there, I have a lot of wheat parts!  Any good ideas out there?  Bread or something?

The partial bags of chocolate chips, raisins and dried cranberries will probably get tossed into the granola bars.  I might even toss in some of the random sprinkles and decorating sugars I have left over from previous baking projects.  The duplicate bags of cinnamon will get used up easily, but what about that bag of cinnamon sticks? Any suggestions?  The saskatoon jelly will get used up, but what about that jar of sauerkraut?  I must admit I have never ever tried the stuff, and didn't think I was missing out.  But, I'm willing to be adventurous if someone can tell me what I am supposed to do with it?

It turns out, easy blend flour is for things like cheese sauces and gravies, helps keep them from getting too lumpy. Huh! Cool, who knew?  So far, my empty the pantry challenge has been fun.  I'm thinking it might also be fun ( and just plain 'ol a good idea) to do an empty the freezer challenge, or an empty the cold storage room challenge!  I'm sure there are lots of items going to waste, and creating clutter in those areas too!

So, what would you do with these items? What's the most unusual thing buried back there in your pantry?  Dare you to try this challenge too!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

No Fair!

No, I am not quoting two year old Lily, or that would be " No fair! Never!!" which is her newest thing... I'm talking about the summer fair.

Yup, it's that time of year again in our city, where the fair comes to town. As a kid, and a teenager, I loved the fair.  Shawn and I would go and enjoy the rides and games, the competitions and displays... all the fun stuff that goes along with the exhibition.  Sometimes, we went everyday the fair was in town! Now, as parents, we usually dig up the cash and take the kids.  They love it, and we grit our teeth and bear the mess, noise and crowds.  But, boy, does it cost!!

Last year, at this time, we were just returning from our big trip which included a stop at Calaway park.  We decided that in comparison, the local fair would not be worth it.  Calaway was so clean, and fun and had so many great age appropriate rides.  And, it cost less!

Gate admission this year is $13, and ride bracelets are $40, tally up the various pieces we'd need for our family of six, and you get a pretty steep hit... and that's not even counting the food and games that one always manages to spend money on.  I know the fair wasn't cheap even when we were teens, but, at risk of making myself sound like a crazy old lady, I swear it's waaaaaay more expensive now!

So, we sat down and discussed it.  We looked at the budget with it's narrow margin for extras.  We decided that this year, there would be " No Fair".  I just can't justify that cost.  As much as I know this decision makes sense, I still feel a little sorry about it.  My kids feel the loss.  When a friend phoned to invite Baden to join him at the fair, I had to tell Baden that we weren't planning on going this year.  He was sad, but we were able to plan a play day with the friend instead.  A day playing at the friend's farm will be more fun anyway ( and cheaper, for sure!).  Still, I can't quite shake the guilt of not taking the kids.  I wish I could afford to take them, but in the end, I know the things I am choosing to pay for instead (piano, ballet, a week at the campground with Grandma and Grandpa) will be enjoyed longer and are more valuable experiences anyway.

Are you taking your kids to your local fair this year?  Did you budget in the cost and plan for it?  If you don't plan on it, how do you handle your kids' disappointment ( if there is any) ?

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