Monday, June 30, 2014

The Last Photo-a-Day... and a few outtakes

In June, I took my sister Kati's Photo-a-Day Challenge and posted my results about once a week.  This is my last installment of photos, captured during an weekend of family togetherness and tradition (which included a trip to Walmart and a thrift shop, among other places).


I chose to complete the photo challenge with no words (aside from the daily prompt word), but I'm making no restrictions on these outtakes.

I took this photo for Favorite Color (Day 2), but I couldn't get the lighting the way I wanted it.  We use these Ball jars for drinking glasses.  They were a Christmas gift from my hubby and they make me happy.  

I took this photo to use for Childhood (Day 8), but the little wet footprint dried too rapidly in the sun. 

I considered this photo for Backyard (Day 15), but it is not my backyard, plus I didn't take the photo.  I'm just in it. 

I took a photo of this arrangement that sits on a table in my living room several times-- Flower (Day 12), Something Old (Day 18), Book (Day 20)-- but it never made the cut.

I mixed up the days and took this photo of our morning banana drink for Refreshing (Day 19) before I realized it was only Day 16! 

This was the runner-up for Green (Day 22).

I wanted to use this action shot for Hot (Day 24), but it seemed to illustrate the word sunny more than the word hot.

And finally, I wanted so badly to find a way to make these photos from our visit with our new niece (the kids' cousin) fit Cold (Day 25), but  this sweet little bundle was snuggly and warm-- not a bit cold.



Sunday, June 29, 2014

Mid-Year Goal Check-in

I love reading and writing about goals.  I  read other blogger's goals because it inspires me to new things, plus it's a nosy little peek into their lives.  Maybe that's just me.  I write about my own goals to track my progress, see what I still want to accomplish, and even evaluate if a goal still remains important to me.   I abandoned a few of my goals last year...without guilt!

The first half of the year has flown by and it's time to check my goal progress and, of course, include a few links and photos.  My goals are bulleted while my notes are written in teal.

I accomplished much in the kitchen over the first quarter of the year and I included details and photos in my March goal post.  I still have not started my vanilla, but I continued to bake sourdough bread about once a week.  I've been eating sourdough toast and a boiled egg for breakfast almost every day for the past 2 months!  It's just so good. 

Speaking of  breakfast habits, Brian likes to eat a granola bar and a piece of fruit on his morning commute to work.  After sampling a batch of these granola bars, he declared them far better than store-bought bars so now I try to always keep homemade granolas on hand. The recipe makes a large batch and they freeze well.  Owen loves them, too, and we're experimenting with new add-ins.

  • Eat at Chipotle.  (Am I the only one who hasn't been?!)
I crossed this goal off in February and I talked about it on the blog here, but on the evening before my half-marathon, I got to introduce Brian to Chipotle (and carb-load in the most delicious way!). 

  • Run a 2-mile race with Brian.
I accomplished this goal back in February.  I shared a photo and details from the race here. 

  • Train and run a 1/2 marathon. 
I did it!  I trained hard for over 3 months and then on a cool, clear morning, I ran my heart out.  I shared a few things about the race that surprised me and then I gave a full race report here

I had major let-down when the race was over.  It took time to get my bearings again and set new goals.  Still strong from my training, I decided to run a 5K in June.  I came in just short of my time goal of maintaining a 8:30 pace, but I did win 2nd place in my age category.

In the first half of 2014, I've run 465 miles

  • Build my upper body and core strength.  Hold a plank for 4 minutes.
I started the 30 Day Plank Challenge  last November, but could not get past 2 minutes, 40 seconds.  Brian and I started The Challenge together in February, but we kept forgetting about it and lacked consistency.  At the beginning of April, I forgot.  At the beginning of May, I forgot again.  Sense a pattern?  Finally in mid-May, I decided to jump in and do it my own way.  I skipped the first few days of The Challenge because I already knew I could hold 20-30 second planks.  I also choose not to plank everyday, but I progressed with the ultimate goal of getting to day 30 and holding a plank for 4 minutes, 30 seconds.  

I'm happy to report that on Sunday, June 15, I finished the
30 Day Plank Challenge.  My arms were shaking and my legs were burning, but I did it.  Did you know you could break out in a sweat and get out of breath while holding perfectly still?  You should try a plank.

  • Learn to change the oil in the van and learn to change the wiper blades, too.
This is a leftover goal from 2013 and I will do this someday! Hopefully. When it's not so hot outside.  I'm a wimp.

  • Take each child out individually for a meal at a restaurant they would enjoy.
Accomplished...and I included a few details in my March check-in.

  • Read 50 books-- not including books I read aloud to my kids or books we read for school.
I set this goal with the idea that I would read approximately 4 books a month, maybe 1 a week.  I underestimated myself and set this goal too conservatively.   By the end of June, I will have completed 46 books.

I've added 2 secondary challenges to my goal.  I want to read most of the books from the 2014 Sisters Book Challenge I'm doing with my sister.  I've read 5 of her 10 suggestions.  (It would have been 6, but my June choice was checked out of the library to someone else and I had to wait for it to come in.)  Plus I've chosen 4 classics I want to read by the end of the year.  I picked one to read each season and so far I've read
To Kill a Mockingbird (can't-say-enough-about-it-excellent!) and The Secret Garden (pretty good).

  • Develop a new chores system for the kids, including responsibilities for the two youngest.
I gave a brief explanation of our new system in my March check-in and went into greater detail in a separate post about chores. Our system has been in effect since January and it is working like a charm.

  • Take (or have someone else take) new non-candid photos of my kids. 
My sister volunteered to do the photography for me and she did photo shoots on three Sundays at the end of spring. I chose a favorite photo of each of my kids and have them displayed on my blog's right sidebar. She shared some of her favorites on her blog if you want to take a look.  

Now I need to print and frame some for my house. 

                                                   :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

At this mid-way point of the year, I've decided to tack on a few more goals.

  • Plan our 2014/2015 school year and write a loose daily schedule.
  • Focus on teaching kids to take initiative for their hygiene, school work, and responsibilities.
  • Run a 5K and a 10K in the fall.

I'll do another goal check-in at the end of September.  Did you make any goals this year? How do you plan to accomplish them?

Friday, June 27, 2014

Another Photo-a-Day

This month, I am taking my sister Kati's Photo-a-Day Challenge and posting my results about once a week.  This is my fourth installment of photos, captured during an intensely busy week of activity at our house that included day camp and meeting a new baby niece/cousin!



Monday, June 23, 2014

Hodgepodge Learning

{This post contains Amazon affiliate links. While I do get a small commission if you make a purchase via my links, these are books I love and I would recommend them anyway!}

During the summer months, I attempt to fit in some stealthy schooling. Often we get our health credit out of the way.  Last year, we did a laid-back, super-fun, world geography unit study.  This year I was uninspired and truly just needed a break from schedules and requirements and record keeping.  (Teaching a middle schooler, a preschooler, and three children in between all at the same time is not for the faint of heart.)

Break or not, our family never stops reading so this summer I asked my kids if there were any topics they wanted to learn more about. The ideas flew and we jumped in.  We read two books about Vikings, a book about the International Space Station, several books about large cats, another about pirates.

Then Maddie asked to read about zoo animals.  I wasn't sure where to go with such a broad topic so I did a search on my library's website and hit a gold mine. We checked out these 2 over-sized books.  They were so large they didn't fit in my library tote bag and my boys had to carry them out of the library instead.

At Alaine's request, we started with Out of Sightby Francesco Pittau and Bernadette Gervais  On each spread of pages, readers try to guess what animals are hidden beneath the series of flaps.  The first few pages are animal silhouettes and you must guess what animal matches the shape. Another page has ten animal patterns and you must guess which animal's fur or skin looks like the illustration.  At the end of the book comes a page of animal tracks and you must figure out what animal leaves that type of marking.  

As you lift each flap to reveal the answer, there is a very brief line of text that gives you a fact about the animal.

It goes without saying that we all loved this book and it was infinitely more fun than a dry text about animals.

After Out of Sight, we then moved on to Life-Size Zoo: From Tiny Rodents to Gigantic Elephants, An Actual-Size Animal Encyclopediaby Teruyuki Komiya.  Every animal, or piece of animal, in the book is life size.  Wonder how tall a meerkat stands?  Peek inside the book.  Want to compare your head to a giraffe's?  Open up this book.  It is fascinating.  The highlight of the book is the photographs, but there is also very brief, non-boring text on each page that points out things to look for on each animal and gives some little-known facts. 

We found this book (and several of its sequels) at our library, but Amazon has several copies for around $5 (including shipping).  It would be so, so worth the price!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Photo-a-Day Again

This month, I am taking my sister Kati's Photo-a-Day Challenge and posting my results about once a week.  This is my third installment of photos, captured during our first heatwave of the summer (and Sonic's 1/2 Price Milkshake Day) !



Wednesday, June 18, 2014

How Do You...Budget Summer Fun?

How do you budget summer fun?

When we put our pencils down in May, our summer days open up before us with time for new opportunities and experiences.   Summer is when we fit in all the things we didn't have time for the rest of the year. However, there are two factors I  consider before making commitments: 

  • How will this activity affect the flow of our day or week?
  • Is this activity affordable at this time?
Both factors involve budgeting, budgeting our time and budgeting our money

When planning, I aim to plug in only one major outing per week. This is for sanity's sake. (Trips the library, grocery shopping, and weekend plans don't count.)  Some weeks are busy and overbooking is unavoidable. I already know that during one week in July, my kids are attending a class one day, then spending the night with a friend so they can go to the water park the following day. Then they come home in time meet friends at a movie on the third day.  Most weeks, though, it is beneficial for us to sandwich busy days with at-home days.  Otherwise it is impossible for me to keep up with the housework and laundry, plus our meals suffer.  I keep a detailed calendar and try not to commit to anything with checking the date first.

Planning only one outing per week helps keep costs down.  Each payday, Brian asks me whether I need extra money for the coming week and we set that aside.  My favorite activities are free, though!  We live within fifteen minutes of two libraries and within twenty-five minutes of two more. I scour all of their schedules at the beginning of the summer to see what classes or programs they are offering throughout the summer.  Last summer, we saw a fantastic juggling show, watched a drama production, and spent a morning doing preschool crafts...all for free!  This year, we plan to go to an animal presentation, a hands-on forensics demonstration, and a science-themed play.

I also love the $1 movies at our local theater.  For $6, I can take the kids to a movie on the big screen and be home in time for lunch.  

Some of our most special summer memories have been made at home.  At-home activities are usually cheap and they rarely get in the way of our meals or chores. My friend, Allyson, and I have started a new Pinterest board of simple crafts and activities for summer...or anytime! 

How do
you budget extra activities in the summer? 

My How Do You...? series is back for only a few more weeks.  Is there anything you want to know?  Leave a comment here or on my Facebook page or send me an e-mail.  I'd love to hear from you.

In the meantime, you can browse the archived index of past topics.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Best of the Book Comments

This is part 7 of my Based on the Book series. First I talked about 4 books that I thought were superior to their movie counterparts.  The following week it was 2 movies that I liked better than the original books.  I also shared a few choices that were too close to call, wrote a book review, and discussed 3 books that will be made into movies this year.  In part 6, I shared 2 book/movie combos that didn't neatly fit any category.

My favorite part of this series has been the discussion in the comments. Today I'm highlighting some of my favorite comments from the previous 6 posts!

Notes From The Comments
   {All book and movie titles are Amazon affiliate links.}

In regards to Anne of Green Gables being equally excellent in book and movie form...

Allyson said, "I agree with all three of your choices. I watched the Anne movies and Little Women before reading the books and while I love the extra details in the books, I still love the movies (except for The Continuing Story."

Cheryl (my mom) said, "Anne of Green Gables...swoon! I saw the movies first and fell in love with Anne. But I also loved Anne of Green Gables completely.  P.S. Allyson and Kristin, I totally agree with you about The Continuing Story."

Oh, yes,
The Continuing Story is best forgotten. 


In regards to a movie/book I forgot to mention...

Jenna said,  "I think I'd add Pride and Prejudice to the list. I LOVE the book.  But I really love the newest version of the movie as well. I thought they did a great job of interpreting the story and characters considering you only get about two hours to tell the whole book!" 

I agree!  


In regards to the The Chronicles of Narnia series...

Heather said,  "I think the Chronicles of Narnia books are far superior than any of their movie renditions. Probably because I 'knew' in my mind how everyone is supposed to look and sound in the books, and the casting directors didn't consult me!  ;-) Plus, I get irked when movies change plot details."

to which Allyson said, "I definitely agree that these books are better than the movies, even thought I thought the movies were well done. I felt like some of the plot changes actually changed the integrity and like-ability of the characters."


In regards to one more movie/book I forgot to mention...

Cheryl (my mom) said, "Two disappointments come to mind immediately when considering movies based on books.The first is The Last of the Mohicans.  I can understand why sometimes a director will add some dramatic elements to "sell" a movie (even if I don't like the changes), but this movie changed such little details that, to me, seemed pointless.  (For example, why reverse the characters of Cora and Alice? What did that accomplish...except maybe to confuse someone who had read the book?)


The discussion is the best part of this series!  Do you have anything to add?  Have you read either of these books or watched the movies?  What did you think? 

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