Cooking School Has Begun!


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When we were chatting in December about getting back to our school work, my big girl requested Cooking School. We may watch a LOT of food TV like Chopped, Worst Cooks in America, PBS cooking shows, etc. When she was about 2 1/2 she loved to watch America’s Test Kitchen before she went to bed every night. And we do cook a lot at our house as well. I had heard high praise for the International Cookbook for Kids and The 2nd International Cookbook for Kids.  I found them both for a great price on Amazon (around $7 each) so I ordered them. The first recipe she wanted to try was Lentil Soup!


It went really well. The cookbook is nicely laid out in how it arranges the steps and the way it explains things. I am hopeful it will also help us try some new foods with the international aspect of things. Of course, even thought she cooked it she still decided she didn’t like it. We’re definitely in a picky eating phase but I’ll keep trying.

It’s really fun to watch her cook something and go through the steps. And to watch the pride she has when she gets to do something like use the stove. The Grace American Girl movie recently popped up on Netflix too so we have been watching that and getting inspired to bake things. She got Bake Through The Bible for Christmas and I think we will use that for our baking inspiration most of the time. It ties a Bible story to a recipe and has some questions and further activities to go along with it.

We are getting out our Beginners Bible to do some activities also. I found these cool Beginner’s Bible Activity Book and Beginner’s Bible Coloring Book to go along with it which gives us a little more to do than just read the story.


This is our other project at the moment – getting my little girl to nap again! We have been all off kilter with our schedule and skipping naps or even skipping rest time all together. It works fine some days but lately I could tell she was just exhausted, which results in lots of crying and fighting and just difficult times all around. We are also working on potty training AND the poor kiddo has an ear infection I think (I’m assuming that’s why she told me her ears hurt at 1am…).


In a quest for more one on one time AND more sneaky everyday math, I am trying to play board games with my big girl after my little girl goes to bed a few evenings a week. We play with all three of us in the afternoons sometimes too. I made some warmed milk with vanilla, nutmeg and honey the other night and we played Candy Land and then an Eeboo Tell Me a Story game. I suppose neither is very math-ish but oh well. I also picked up Sum Swamp which just came in the mail today. I have heard it is really good.

We added some science tools and an experiment kit to our growing pile of homeschool stuff also. I feel like we have SO much stuff but I’m trying to find what sticks for us or what is exciting/fun/interesting. We also have a beautiful homeschool room on our sun porch. Which has no heat or cooling. So, we haven’t been using it since right now it is so cold in there. I need to figure out some ways for it to see some more use. It’s a beautiful light filled space with books, and a brick wall and beams and bead board. I mean… all the cute! It’s comfy too. But the minute the kids get in there it seems like it ends up a total mess. So something needs tweaking I can tell. I’m just not sure what.

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A Simple Math Plan

Our back to school had the brakes put on big time yesterday when we started the day with fevers all around and vomiting from my 5 year old. The girls and I seem to have a pretty bad cold. The vomiting, I’m assuming, was just stomach irritation from all the snot. Yuck! So yesterday turned into pajama and movie day in a big way. I’m not too worried though. My big girl is not even technically “old enough” for school since she turned 5 in November. So we are still in practice mode. Seeing what works for us, trying a little of this and a little of that.

She has learned a lot of calendar information since the summer after I put a paper calendar on the fridge and filled it in with all of our activities. She now usually knows what month, day and date it is, she marks off the days as they go by. She knows when Daddy is coming home from a business trip or which day ballet class is going to be. It really gave her some independence to be able to check her own schedule each day. She has also learned her ordinal numbers through at least ten (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.) with only us chatting about it each day. I love this type of learning. It’s so natural.

It was pretty cute when we gifted her ballet class for Christmas and she rushed to her calendar and put a big B on each Thursday to show when she has class. She had a doctor’s appointment yesterday which showed up as a D with a sad face (there was a shot involved).


This is another, hopefully, natural learning opportunity. We got her this basic watch for Christmas. I ask her what time it is a few times a day and then we look at it together and figure it out. She is getting her hours down already. Minutes will take more practice I am sure.


This is not my image – I found it on Facebook, but it is another simple, natural math project we are working on. We won’t use just pennies. I think using all type of coins will make it a good exercise in counting money. I explained to both girls this morning, if we did this each day all year and counted our money out, we would have enough money to go to Great Wolf Lodge at the end. They seemed to think that was a pretty awesome idea. I will be laying aside dollar bills from my cash grocery budget so that when we get to the fall and it is a few dollars each day, I will be ready. I don’t know that my little girl (age 3) will pick up how to count money through this, but I do think it will solidify her counting overall. Maybe I will have her put her contributions in mostly in pennies to really work at counting.

So, while I know one of my goals for math is to work through Life of Fred, if we don’t get very far, or my big girl doesn’t enjoy it much, I know we will be doing ok with these daily activities, board games, and time spent cooking. She plays Mathseeds and a few other math based games on her iPad as well. As with many things she probably already knows a lot more than I give her credit for!

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New Beginnings in a New Year


(My Erin Condren Life Planner ready to organize all.the.things in 2016.)

This post contains affiliate links.

A new year brings so many desires to start new for me. It’s like a clean slate with nothing written yet. The struggle is to not try to do too many new things at once. I have not yet filled out all the fancy goal setting paperwork that I have printed, and I’m sure the Make Over Your Year course I’m taking soon will give me ideas too but for now, my goals are relatively simple.

  1. School! My big girl (5) is asking for cooking school, so we are going to try to do at least weekly if not more often, cooking time together. I’m hoping we can begin reading Rush Revere and the First Patriots which she got for Christmas, and we will be reading whichever American Girl book is on the schedule for book club this month. I’d like to get her back into Life of Fred but I think I need to plan ahead for supplemental activities to make each chapter last a week. I also have a selection of Disney princess workbooks from Dollar Tree with handwriting practice that we should get to. She is beginning ballet class this week also. AWANA and Mom’s Day Out start back up as well. So many things to do!
  2. My little girl (3) needs to get used to doing some school work too. Don’t get me wrong – I do not mean she needs to sit down and do workbook pages or anything like that. She needs to learn to sit at the table and be quietly occupied sometimes though. I found some foam tanagrams in the Target Dollar Spot. We also have pattern blocks, a huge pack of dry erase tracing books I got from Groupon and a few other things for her to play with. We are on a break from Play-dough right now but she loves her Duplo so maybe those will help too. She will be starting a gymnastics class in a few weeks and I am looking forward to giving her a chance to move her body in new ways. She has a lot of energy!
  3. Food. My husband has been having a lot of issues lately related to what he eats and I am beginning to suspect he may have diabetes. I am certainly on track for it as well. Ouch. We really have to make a better effort to take care of our bodies. I need to actually eat breakfast and not put my entire day’s sugar allowance in my coffee. I need to make a realistic meal plan full of simple meats (from the freezer) and loads of simply prepared veggies. The kids are in major candy and carb craving mode also and I am hopefully I can step them down off that cliff. I am starting by just not replacing things we run out of.
  4. Bible time. I need to have devotions with the girls each day in some form or fashion. I want to step up my own study beyond just reading a verse or two a day and praying. I would also really like to see if I can get my husband to begin having some Bible reading / devotional time with me each week. We are both reading and praying and looking for direction for our future but I feel like maybe doing it together would be good to both help us find our answer, and keep us closer together. This is what I’m trying to do with the kids.

There are so many other things I’d love to get into our routine but honestly it will be plenty to work on these things and keep up with the laundry and dishes and cooking (and my cute helpers)!3

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Afternoon Delight with the Farmer

Ahhhh… I had a nice bit of afternoon fun with my favorite farmer. I have been feeling completely left out of all the Farmer’s Wife Quilt-along fun lately but between my parents visiting us for two weeks, a week of vacation, the baby learning to crawl & getting two teeth, etc. etc. etc. it just wasn’t happening.

Today, as soon as the little one went down for her afternoon nap, I grabbed my supplies and got to sewing. This is block 6 – Big Dipper. This is the first block I have used foundation paper piecing on and it was nice to not be fussing with templates. I am pretty speedy with my paper piecing too, so that makes things go quickly.

The fabrics came from a scrap bag from someone else, so I’m not sure what they are. I’d guess the purple is shot cotton, not sure on the grey.

Now if I can get some bee blocks caught up I can have some more fun with the farmer!

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County Fair Fun

So, I was browsing along Facebook one day and I saw a post from my local county fair about bringing in cakes, pies, cookies and all the fun stuff that gets judged at the fair. I have been meaning to enter my things in the county fair for ages – it’s a big deal in my family. But that post on Facebook? Was for that day. Like, I had to get my stuff to the fairgrounds in the next few hours!

It was kind of crazy, and I took the quilt right off our bed without even washing it, but, I got it done, and came home with two red ribbons (2nd place). Not bad for my first fair outing!

The blue quilt in the top right corner is mine, made for my husband last year for our 2nd wedding anniversary, and the bottom row, right under the cathedral windows is mine. It has one of the Heather Ross Lightening Bugs fabrics (VW camper vans) fussy cut and is improvisationaly pieced. Here is an awesome photo of it (except it’s called “Improv Camping Collaboration” not Improve), from it’s appearance in Quilter’s World in June. I wrote about the Modern Quilting Bee – this quilt was a result of my month in the Fussy Cut Bee on flickr.

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Foundation Paper Piecing, Step-by-Step

I gave a little presentation at the Wichita Modern Quilt Guild last night to teach everyone how to foundation paper piece. I know lots of people in the Farmer’s Wife Quilt Along also are interested in learning – so here’s my tutorial. If you have questions or need a little bit more help, please don’t hesitate to contact me!
I am using this free pattern to make the block.

1. Print out (or make copies of) your paper pattern. You can use the special Carol Doak Foundation Paper, or regular printer/copy paper. I have found that while Carol Doak’s paper is nice to sew on it’s a nightmare in my laser printer. If I had a printer I could feed a page at a time into, I’d probably use the special paper. Make sure you have all the copies you need for each block – for example the Circle of Geese Block takes 4 paper patterns to make one 12 inch block.
2. Set your sewing machine to a shorter stitch. For me, this means going from 2 down to 1 – it may vary depending on the type of machine you have. This causes the needle to go through the paper more, which makes it easier to remove the paper at the end.
3. Set up your work area – you’re going to be cutting after every seam you sew, so having a small cutting mat and rotary cutter nearby is really nice. I use a 6×8 cutting mat, a 28mm rotary cutter, the add-a-quarter ruler, a postcard and half of a wooden clothespin (for finger pressing). Get all your fabric bits nearby too, so you are ready to go.
4. Find #1 on your pattern. Get a piece of fabric that covers the entire #1 area and pin it to the BACK of the paper, with the right side of the fabric up. I frequently hold the paper up to the light when lining up the fabric so I can see the pattern lines through the paper.

5. Find #2 on your pattern. Get a piece of fabric that covers the entire #2 area. Line it up in the right place with the #1 fabric so that when you sew your seam and iron the pieces open it will cover the #2 area. Place your #2 fabric piece right sides together with your #1 fabric piece. Pin in place. (using a lot of solids make this much easier!) Remember to pin piece #2 so that you sew it and then press it open (from piece #1) to cover the #2 spot on the pattern.
6. Turn the whole thing over, making sure your fabric stays flat on the back (don’t let it get folded under or bunched up). Sew on the line joining piece #1 and piece #2.
7. Trim your seam before ironing. Place a postcard on the printed side of the pattern. Line it up along the line you just sewed and fold the paper over the postcard, exposing your seam (the postcard keeps your line very straight). If you have an add a quarter ruler, use it here, otherwise using your regular quilter’s ruler, line it up so you trim your exposed seam to ¼”.

*same step with a regular quilting ruler –

8. Iron the #2 piece open. In the same way you trimmed the seams, trim each edge of the #2 piece so it extends ¼” beyond each pattern line. If it is a piece on the edge, this is not necessary. You will trim the edges at the very end.
9. Find #3 on the pattern. Repeat steps 5-8 for #3.

*I don’t iron every single piece – that would be a lot of up and down and would take forever. I use half of a wooden clothespin to finger press the seams and take the piece to the ironing board every 3 or 4 seams.

10. Do this for each additional number in the block (for example, Circle of Geese has 9 pieces in the block).
11. Make any additional block components (Circle of Geese has 4 6” blocks that make up the final 12” block). Some blocks have multiple odd shaped pieces within the block that will be lettered (A,B,C,etc.).
12. When you have made all the pieces for your block, you have a choice to make. You can remove all the paper before stitching the pieces together or, you can leave the paper on and remove it at the end once your block is sewn together. Leaving paper on gives you nice seam lines to follow, but can get bulky. I prefer removing the paper first, then stitching block components together. Removing paper is easy – just start at and edge and pull it off. For small pieces, you can use tweezers if the paper is not coming off easily.

If you plan to do only several blocks, you might still invest in the add a quarter ruler. It is an awesome tool for foundation paper piecing. For really tiny work, there is also an add an eighth ruler.
If you print patterns on the back of junk paper that already has printing on it, beware, a hot iron can spread ink around and make a mess of your fabric.
Start with big pieces. As you get more comfortable with the process, you can use more carefully cut pieces and have less waste. In the beginning though, go big to avoid frustration and mistakes.
In many cases if you sew on a piece and it’s too small, you can just add another piece to cover the area and continue. You will have an extra seam, but in my opinion it’s usually better than picking out those tiny stitches!

Finished look after fixing that oops…

Additional resources –

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The Farmer’s Wife Sampler Quilt(along)

Hello! Greetings from mommy-land where babies are teething, puppies are being housebroken and sewing time is short. I have gotten some things done though! I’ll address those later. The first thing I want to mention is the Farmer’s Wife Quilt along. Based on the book The Farmer’s Wife Sampler Quilt and started by Amanda and Angela. The quilt has 111 blocks and the loose plan is to make 2 blocks per week for a year. These are 6 inch blocks, made with templates. Lots of triangles. I thought it would be a perfect exercise in matching up points, being careful and doing things just so for me. So far I am loving it.
Here are my blocks from the first week – Attic Windows and Autumn Tints.

Right away in week 2 we got hit with applique. Now, I used to love needleturn applique. But, I haven’t done it in awhile, so I’m pretty rusty. On my list of things to do is go back and fix the basket handle! Block 3 is basket, and block 4 is basketweave.

I am putting all the templates onto plastic since some of them are used again. And, I figure I know enough quilter’s someone else might find them handy at some point. I just trace from the templates included with the book (on a CD) onto the plastic with a sharpie. The plastic is nice in case I want to fussy cut something, I can see it.

Finally, after being totally inspired all the time by Amanda and the cute, yet precise totally useful stuff she makes, I decided to do it myself. She made a Hoop Bag to hold her Farmer’s Wife book and blocks, and a little pouch for her templates. I have no little template pouch (yet) but I did conquer my fear of zippers to make the hoop bag. The pattern explains it all!

I used some Melody Miller Ruby Star Rising fabric and some Kaffe Fassett shot cotton (ironically already planned to be used together for a quilt workshop I never got to go to). The inside is hot pink with black polka dots that I got on a clearance rack for $3 a yard(!) on a random road trip right before Easter. I think it’s from Itchin’ to Stitch in Severy, KS, but, anyway.

If you’re interested in joining up in the quilt along you can find it on flickr and lots of us are tweeting about it using #FWQAL (I’m @cjclark on Twitter).

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31 Days to Clean: Days 6, 7, 8 & 9

Homemakers Challenge - 31 Days to Clean

I promise, I’m not trying to be a show off or anything by getting ahead. I’m about to be out of town for 2 weeks so I’m trying to get ahead. AND, we *just* finished the kitchen remodeling so I just put things back into cabinets and drawers, making it already pretty well organized and tidy. When we get to bedrooms and living room, oy, it will be a different story!
Day 6 – the Mary challenge is simple – print out and use the “six list” for 6 days. I printed it and am using it -I’ll let you know in 6 days how it’s going! Today so far I’m on item 3, not bad for 2pm. Not great but then again, my helpers keep me kinda busy too.
baby, chocolate lab puppy, yellow lab dog
The Martha challenge for today involved cleaning and organizing cabinets. I went a bit different and took the time to finish putting away all the things we had out of the cabinets while we were painting them.
messy shelf
messy bookshelf
It took me about an hour to get everything off those shelves and put away. On a side note, I was able to put all the plastic containers into the Goodwill box. We’re switching to all glass and I found a pile of them on clearance at the grocery store on the weekend. A few are going to the garage for my husband to use for nuts and bolts and things but most are out the door.
empty area in room where shelf was
When I had the shelf unit cleaned off completely, I moved it to our sunroom and used it to stack up all my craft supplies that were um, strewn all over the floor… When my husband came home at lunch he literally stopped in his tracks and said “Whoa, where’s the shelf unit?” He was definitely pleased and impressed with progress!
Day 7 came with some Bible reading and cleaning the pantry. Since I just organized it last week, I got to skip that part. There were pantry items here and there around the kitchen and dining room that I found a place for though.
Day 8 involved cleaning and organizing drawers. Same story there, added to a few empty ones, but didn’t need to do much cleaning or org work there. The Mary challenge was a bit tougher, thinking and writing about some difficult times and God’s work during them.
Day 9 was the sweep and mop day. We’ve been doing this every day since the puppy arrived to keep things somewhat sanitary after each day of accidents. The Mary challenge was a bit harder to face – confronting laziness. No one wants to admit to it but I know we all struggle with it at some point. I think my biggest obstacle lately is just using tiredness as an excuse. The baby still gets up multiple times each night most nights – last night found me letting the puppy out a few times too. I think I got out of bed maybe 5 or 6 times between midnight and 5am. So yeah, I’m tired. I’d like to nap, relax or just veg out. But I have to be up and about taking care of the baby, the dogs… so I might as well be productive. It’s definitely nice to know when my husband comes home at the end of the day and asks what I did, I can name off several, tangible things, instead of saying, oh, you know, baby stuff…
Next up is the living room – we have an actual living room, a family room off the kitchen and a family room in the basement. I’m gonna be busy! The family rooms are okay, but the living room upstairs? Well, just to keep it real, here it is this morning –
messy room It’s currently my sewing space, holds the dressers from our bedroom, our old couch, a cabinet yet to be installed in the kitchen, inventory for my shop… it’s a wreck!

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31 Days to Clean: Day 5

Homemakers Challenge - 31 Days to Clean

Priorities, priorities… what are those? I think they all flew out the window the second my little girl was born. SHE became the priority. Absolutely understandable for the first few months I think. But, now that she’s 6 months old I think it’s certainly time to regroup and re-prioritize things. Thinking about those priorities is the Mary portion of the Day 5 challenge. Here are my top 5 –
1. God – obviously should be the top of the list, and it’s the “right” answer. I want to work on making sure it’s the real answer, and it shows in my day to day life. I am going to work on getting quiet time in every day (I’d love suggestions for a thoughtful, Mama-based study to work through) to start. I need to charge my iPod and download it to my phone so I have my praise and worship music available more easily too. I could certainly do some praying and praising while I’m nursing the little one.
2. Husband – poor man. Since the baby arrived he’s almost been a third wheel of sorts. She is by far a Mama’s girl and he’s not into babies enough to try and change that. I need to remember that I am a WIFE, not just a Mama. I will continue to ask what I can do to help him or bless him each day (today I picked up all the sticks in the back yard so it will be easier for him to mow whenever he’s ready), get back to reading “The Power of a Praying Wife” and make sure to spend some specific time on him during my quiet time. I will also work extra hard to make sure there’s an extra long kiss, a backrub, a tight hug or some other physical closeness for him each day since I know he craves that from me. There are some other ideas, but I’ll keep them to myself. 😉
3. Baby Girl – She’ll only be a baby once so I need to savor her sweet baby moments even if the house isn’t clean. I need to work on cleaning, organizing, decluttering and getting a system in place before she gets bigger so the house will run smoothly and I can have abundant quality time to devote to teaching, playing and loving her.
4. Home – It’s hard to tell we have a lovely home. I feel sometimes like I am at the bottom of a very deep hole. Our home has not had a thing done to it since it was built in 1967. We have wallpaper to scrape, trim to change, floors to redo and on and on. But, the kitchen is almost done. The master bedroom is getting close. The nursery just needs carpet. It’s moving along. There’s no reason I can’t be organizing it as we go and gathering ideas for the decor. I LOVE to have people over and so does my husband. I want our home to be a comfortable, relaxed, enjoyable place to visit.
5. ME – I need creative time to sew, to write. I need time to read, time for quietness, time to plan meals and opportunities to just go out on my own once in awhile. If the house is in order and I’ve given to everyone else, I can truly enjoy those times. And, I think if the home is running smoothly my husband will be more relaxed too and more willing to help me find those me times. Right now, our home causes some stress because of all the projects, the stuff and the chaos. If I can remedy that, I will have more time for myself.
a window
It’s hard to get a good window photo, but this is my before. It was pretty grimy. It also doesn’t have trim, was covered in sawdust and had junk on the windowsill. I fixed all that and cleaned up the counter next to the window too.
kitchen window This is the area all cleaned and straightened. We are getting measured for new countertops and backsplash soon so we can lose the ugly ripped wallpaper border – thank goodness!
window I chose to work on the dining room window area also since it’s basically open to the kitchen, and as you can see, rather cluttered (from when we had no cabinets to use).
more windows I got the windows cleaned, cobwebs down from the ceiling and curtain rod and the buffet cleaned off and dusted. I did not choose to clean the drapes as they would require dry cleaning and we will not be keeping them forever. In fact, they may be replaced in June with something much cuter and lighter.
kitchen area I also cleaned the other area in the kitchen just because I was there and it needed it. The only other thing the kitchen really needs is to clean the stovetop. I need to read the manual before I do that since it’s a new one and I don’t know if I need to use special cleaners or something.
How is your 31 Days to Clean journey going?

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31 Days to Clean: Day 4

Homemakers Challenge - 31 Days to Clean

Day 4 is about having a “Put Your Feet Up” kind of home. What a perfect day for this to fall on for me – Tuesday! For almost three months we have had friends over (Mama’s and babies) for baby yoga time on Tuesday evenings. I have tried to keep it casual and not stressed too much about how clean everything was. Clean guest bath, vacuumed floors, obstacles removed from the path to the family room… They have seen my kitchen in all stages of transformation. This Tuesday evening gathering has inspired my Taco Tuesday idea. I want to continue the Tuesday evening gathering into the future, but include more than just Mamas and babies. I’d like my husband to be able to enjoy the time too! I will make a special effort tonight and bake a chocolate chip skillet cookie for everyone to enjoy for our final yoga evening. Not everyone can join tonight, but these are the core yoga Mamas and babies we’ve been spending time with on Tuesdays (as you can see, the house is clean but certainly not tidied!). (My little one and I are in the bottom row on the left).

Moms and babies

On task for Martha – clean the microwave and oven. Pretty easy considering the oven got installed last weekend! I think it’s still pretty clean! All the microwave needed was a quick wipe down since it’s only been installed a few weeks, and we don’t use it all that much.

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