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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

You Going Anywhere?

What does this tell you about my life?

Normally, I get dressed as soon as I get up in the mornings....except for Sundays when I put on my robe over my jammies.  I go have some coffee and start the morning wake up calls for the kids, then I go get myself dressed for church.

This morning, I woke up at my usual time....6:30ish.....but this is New Year's Eve.....and I want to be a big girl and stay up until midnight....so I tried to sleep in.  I made it to about 7:15 before I gave up.

Even though it isn't Sunday, I decided to just grab my robe and head into the kitchen for coffee, letting Rainman sleep in - so he can be the fun one at midnight.

So, I did just that.....and remembered why I usually get dressed right away.....my jammies/nightgown is not comfortable unless I am laying down.  My legs stick together and things get all bunched up weird.  So, I stuck it out in the living room as long as I could.  Then I decided to sneak into my room and grab some clothes and get dressed. 

Rainman was awake, but still laying in bed.  I grabbed my stuff, went into the bathroom, got dressed and came out to face the day.

He greeted me with the question, "You going anywhere?"

I said, "No."

He said, "Oh, because you are kind of dressed up."

Care to know what I am wearing? 

What constitutes "dressed up" at my house???

Brown yoga pants and a brown polo shirt....with no bra.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is what I have become!  Ha!

Have a Happy New Year.....we are doing our usual, make homemade pizzas, work on puzzles, a few board games and fake wine at New Year's.....and I will be decked out in my ever so fancy yoga pants and polo shirt....(although at some point I will actually need to put on a bra....because my chest is to the point where it is actually uncomfortable if I don't give it some support).....but, you get the idea!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Just Call Me Crystal Gayle

My hair has gotten really long. 

Like almost down to my butt......not down to my ankles like Crystal's was....

 (photo courtesy of  the Official Crystal Gayle Facebook Page   https://www.facebook.com/pages/Official-Crystal-Gayle/236343614779?id=236343614779&sk=photos_stream)






but it is still pretty long!



Partly from laziness.

Partly from the fact that I don't have a lot of extra money to go to a stylist.

Partly because I don't really trust anyone besides my faithful stylist, Sherilyn, from Minnesota.  (Who, by the way, was both cheap and masterful with my hair over the years!)

I sort of have a love/hate relationship with my hair.

I will admit that I sort of feel sexy with my long hair when it brushes against my arms and my back.

I will also admit that my hair makes me hot. 

No, not that kind of hot....


just plain, old, regular, hot.....sweaty hot.

So, I usually wear my hair up or pulled back.....which results in a headache or neckache....because I have so much hair.  It gets really heavy.

So, it is a delicate balancing act.

Rainman also has a love/hate relationship with my hair.  He likes to run his fingers through it when it is down.  He thinks I look pretty when I wear it down. 

But, I am always hitting him with my hair...like when he is standing near me and I flip my hair back over my shoulder.  Most of the time though, it is when I roll over in bed and flip my hair over my shoulder before settling in on pillow again.  You know?  I smack the poor unsuspecting, sleeping peacefully guy in the face with my hair....or, he ends up laying on it and I am trapped because I can't move my head.  So, I lay there and just keep whispering, "You are on my hair.  You are on my hair.  You are on my hair."  Until he hears me and rolls over.

Because of this, I have taken to usually being Caroline Ingalls at bedtime.



Yup....long braid....although I do still occasionally take Rainman out with my braid flinging too.  (That one actually hurts more.....apparently.)

I have been thinking of taking the plunge and cutting my hair.....I have enough to donate to Locks of Love....when I am ready.  But, I am not quite ready to let it go yet.

It sort of makes me feel young too.  I don't want old lady hair.  I don't want hair that will make me look...or feel....frumpy.  Although, I am pretty sure I look a little frumpy when I have my hair pulled up in a huge bun.

I am not sure what hair cut will look good on me with my larger sized.....everything.  You know?

My hair is very thick.  Very course.  Wavy.

But, see....it is only wavy in some places......



You would think that it would look good down....but, it doesn't really.  I mean, it isn't awful, but, it isn't shiny, like all the people in commercials with long hair.

This last summer, I tried going the Curly Girl, no shampoo route.  My hair is definitely better.  Softer, my waves are nicer....but it still needed a little something.

Sometimes, I can get L-girl or A-girl to curl my hair with the curling wand....but, since I have so much hair, it takes a really long time to finish.  And, I can't do it because my shoulders/arms get sore when I get to the back part of my hair.  I am sort of old, you know. 

I love the way it looks though when it is done....so I started looking for less labor intense ways to get the same look.

I sort of went right back to the Caroline Ingalls timeline.....I tried rag curls.

Yep.

Those kind of rag curls.



Aren't I cute?  Rainman didn't quite know what to do with me when I came to bed in these!  Although I didn't smack him in the face once....or whisper nastily that he was on my hair.


Look how it came out!!!


(Like the box that has been sitting on my counter since we moved in?  It is filled with those little things that I don't know where to put....so, they just sit there on my countertop....like a piece of furniture now!)


I loved it!!!  Although with my hair...this is a little labor intensive too....but much easier to talk someone into doing it while we watch a Hallmark Christmas movie.....and they don't get burned if they happen to look away for a millisecond.  Bonus!

Here it is after the curls relaxed a bit...


I totally need to get my split ends trimmed......I think I will get A-girl trained on that....for now.....one of these days I will get a new actual hair style....but, for now.....long and curly/wavy it is!!!

Any opinions on a future hair cut for me?


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Hello Fresh Review

This was a really fun review of....HelloFresh.com.




Hello Fresh is an on-line subscription company that sends you food and recipes, once a week.  We got to try the Classic Box with three meals for 2 people.


how-it-works_1.jpg

Sounds pretty good right?

Hello Fresh..... (Everytime I say their name, I think of Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl saying "Hello, gorgeous!" I even say it in her same inflection when I said it (in my head)!)

I will explain to you how to get started and how their service works....then I will tell you how it worked for us.

It is super easy to get started, (if you live in their delivery area) they currently deliver to most areas in these states:
  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington DC
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

  • So, you have determined that you are in their current delivery area - although if you aren't, you can still try Hello Fresh if you have a FedEx office hear you that accepts FedEx ground shipments.

    Now, you click on Get Started to pick your box.

    You have 2 choices:

    The Classic Box
    The Veggie Box

    After you pick one, you can decide whether you want a box for 4 people or just 2 people.   They will send you 3 meals each week.....(so you are on your own for the other 4 nights of the week!)

    Each week, the menu changes, so you have a few meal choices to make too.  For the Classic Box, they give you a total of 5 meal options....of which, you will get 3 of them.  Make sense?

    Like for instance, one week the choices may be:

    Moroccan Stewed Chicken with Citrus Couscous
    Classic Beef Stroganoff with Steam Brocolli
    Chili Cashew Shrimp with Brown Rice
    Spiced Tomato Penne with Chorizo and Garlic
    Roasted Beet and Lentil Salad with Goat Cheese

    Okay, so, at this point, if you are like me, you will say to yourself something along the lines of...

    "What?  Wait a minute....that is fancy food?  I don't even know what some of it is....much less how to make it?!?"

    I will tell you a little secret. 

    It is fancy food.

    But, stick with me and trust me for a bit, okay?

    In our week, we got Quinoa.  Know what that is?  I didn't either.  But, now we have cooked it....eaten it....decided we like it....and, guess what?  It's a superfood.  Move over, Kale!

    Cover Photo










    Anyway, set aside your fear of fancy foods, and I will get back to ordering your box....pick the three meals that you want (go ahead and pick the 3 that are the least scary)....and then a magical box will be delivered to your door the following Wednesday.

    Back to the  conversation in your head about the fancy food that you don't know how to make? 
     
    Good news there too.....you don't have to know how to make it....or even have to Google recipes and directions on the internet!  Because, in addition to sending you virtually everything you need to make it, you also get recipe cards with pictures and descriptions of how to make it.  Trust me, you will be fine....I promise!

    So, that is it.

    You subscribe, pick what you want.....then sit back and wait for them to do the shopping for you, and deliver it to your door.

    So, here is how our experience with Hello Fresh actual went down.

    The box of magic arrived!

     
     


     
    (The line on the box about "Meals that will make you reach for your camera" crack me up....but, even if you aren't a blogger...you will end up so proud of what you created....you will be reaching for your camera!  Seriously.)
     

    Our magical box came on a Wednesday.  We had church commitments, Wednesday and Thursday, so I knew we wouldn't be making anything right away.  So, we did what any curious person would do..... we opened the box.



     

    took a look around, marveled at everything and how well it was packaged (and organized....everything was labeled for the meal it was for...),



     

    then I stuck the whole box into my garage fridge for Friday.


    At some point in our week, we decided that Friday night we were going to go Christmas caroling.....  so, the box stayed in the fridge until Saturday evening. 
     
    I had already decided that we would make everything for one special, fancy meal.....since there are 8 of us and not 2.

    The only problem was that on Saturday afternoon, I started feeling funny and light-headed.  Turns out my blood pressure was really low (I am currently taking medicine for high blood pressure.....but this has been happening more and more lately....so I am thinking I may not need the medicine anymore.)

    Anyway, I was going to be super mom and cook up the fancy-schmancy vittles for my younguns', but I was laying on the couch feeling woozy.

    So, enter my super-daughters....A-girl and L-girl!

    They handled everything.  They each picked one meal to handle on their own and then helped make the third meal together.
     


     
     


     

    A reminder here....A-girl is 13 and L-girl is 11.  Thanks to the fabulous recipe cards, they had no problems making everything by themselves.  I only got one question from them about how to chop up the garlic....that is it.
     
    Look at their sous chef-y goodness!
     


     
     

    Look at how great and large the recipe cards are:



     
    (They are 7 x 10)
     
    The front of the cards show the "tools" you will need....things like knives, pots, pans, strainers, etc.  It also has your list of ingredients....and pictures....just in case you don't know what something is.  (Hello....Quinoa!)  There is also nutritional information on the very bottom of the card.  The Hello Fresh box has just about everything you need to make a recipe, except for a few basic things.  These things are marked with an asterisk on the ingredients list.  They are pretty basic things, like olive oil, vegetable oil and sugar.  So, don't worry....just glance at your cards before you start to make sure you have those kinds of things on hand!
     
    The back of the cards has your step by step instructions for how to prepare the meal.....including pictures....so you at least, sort of, know what things should be looking like during the process!
     


    

    So, they spent some time in the kitchen and created these masterpieces!



     
    
     
    Steak and Brussels Sprouts Stir Fry
     
     
     


    
     
    
     
    Chile Dusted Shrimp with Corn Relish
     
     
     


    
     
     
    Chicken Quinoa Stew
     
     
    
    Yummy!

    Seriously...it was good. All of it.  It was also a way to get us to try something new.....without the usual fear of messing it up. 
     
    I will say that portions sizes are large....we had plenty to feed all 8 of us and even had a little bit of leftovers to have for lunch the next day. The food, even the meat and produce, stayed fresh all the way from whenever they actually packed it to Saturday when we used the food up. 

    The cost is about $69/box for the 2 people option  and about $129/box for the 4 people box

    For us, that is a lot of money....since we mostly shop at Aldi and Kroger. 

    Having said that....the food was phenomenal. 

    We felt special and "fancy" when we were eating it. 

    I could see us doing this for special occasions....like anniversaries or birthday celebrations. 

    I could have even seen us doing this if Rainman and I both worked outside of the home (and didn't have 6 kids!).....because working full-time, fitting in grocery shopping, coming up with healthy meals and making the food.....sounds (and was) exhausting.

    This would be a great service to use to help make it easier to feed your family healthy dinners and skip most of your grocery shopping for the week.  Plus, you would have less guilt on those nugget, frozen pizza, or mac and cheese supper nights, if you had given them  Hello Fresh meals 3 nights that week!  

    You know what else Hello Fresh would be great for? 
     
    Impressing someone. 
     
    You know, like say you were having your new boss and his wife over for dinner....or you are trying to impress a boy or girl that you just started dating.  Oh my word, would this fit the bill!
     
    And, you could totally make it yourself and not have to fake it by hiding take-out containers!  The only bad part would be that you would have set a precedent about your culinary skills.  You would have quite a reputation to live up to!

    In those situations, I think the $69 price tag would be well worth it. 

    Go take a look around the Hello Fresh site....see if you are in their delivery area....look at some of the recipes.....then, give them a try!  You can even get $20 off your first box by using my coupon code UQUG7Q.


    Want to see what other reviewers thought of their experience with Hello Gorgeous....I mean Hello Fresh?

     

    

    Saturday, December 14, 2013

    Let's Jump from Halloween to Christmas, Shall We?

    We had a nice Thanksgiving and celebrated with friends, since Rainman had to work a 12 hour shift that day.

    So, let's just jump to Christmas stuff.  Okay?

    Have I told you lately how much I love our new house?

    We have room for our Christmas tree....and we didn't have to remove half the furniture from the room first!  Plus we had room to put Rainman's train around the bottom!  We have never done that.  Granted, partly because we always had little babies that wouldn't leave it alone.....but, also partly due to the fact that we had no room!!!


    Look at it over there in the corner with its crooked star! 

    The three littlest participated in our church Christmas play, Chrismon program.





    A-man was a kid shopping for the perfect Christmas tree.  He got a new haircut and asked me to actually put some "stuff" in it and style it for him!  Isn't he starting to look old and sortly of manly already?!?!?




    S-girl was an angel and V-girl was, apparently, a freakishly happy and a little bit creepy Gift of Forgiveness.

    Here, let's try this one, instead.....




    Okay, that is much better....a lot less psycho!

    Aren't they cute?

    I finished 99% of my shopping!  Yay!  Just a few little filler things needed.

    Five of the kids are singing tonight at our Womens Dinner at our church.  It is really cute.  They are singing Happy Birthday, Jesus.  D-man is running the sound, so he can't sing too....but I am hoping he will get a video tape of it....and that they aren't so nervous that they won't be able to sing in front of the ladies!

    I worry about S-girl mostly.  Who so desires to perform....but gets horrible stage fright even when it is just us.  Her hands shake and everything.  She and V-girl wrote some songs and performed them for us last week.  S-girl started with her back to us...and then half way through the song was finally able to turn around and sing to us....although she never once looked up from her words.




    V-girl was only a little embarrassed to perform her original song....(she dictated the words to A-girl, who wrote them down for her)....then she sang it reading the words, even flipping the page over half way through.....and all without being able to actually read!

    Here is a close up of some of the words!





    This was our view of S-girl (after she turned around for us)





    I just love these kids so much....and these little moments that are just ours (well....and yours, I guess, since I share a bit of them here)....but you know what I mean.


    Tuesday, December 3, 2013

    So....How About Some Halloween Pictures???

    I know.

    It is December.

    I have gotten a little behind around here.

    But, better late than never, right?


    Rainman will dress up every 3rd or 4th year with us.

    I dress up every year, but I always wait until the last minute because I am helping the kids, and then have trouble coming up with something.....so, I was a bunny this year.....ho hum....




    I just love Trick or Treating here in Georgia.  We had beautiful weather again this year.  We went with our good friends in their magazine worthy neighborhood.  Good times were had by all!
















    Saturday, November 30, 2013

    Shut The Fridge

    Okay, in case you haven't notice, I am now officially, www.shutthefridge.com ....no more BlogSpot in there.

    I own shutthefridge.com.

    I don't really understand it.  I am counting on my IT friend, John, to keep it straight for me.

    I made the change a week or so ago...and I am getting more traffic.

    I am a little unsure about some of it. I have a page that shows me my "traffic sources", and some of them make me nervous.

    I will just hope (and pray) that the creeps stay away.

    I also have to wonder about some of my overseas readers. 

    I mean, I have a friend in Scotland....but that is all I know about.  Seeing that someone in Russia and even China is reading my blog makes me nervous.  I mean, I think it is cool....in theory....but, you hear about such icky things these days, you know?

    Anyway, if you follow me, your link to my page should still work....if you manually type in the web address for my site...it should be easier now.

    www.shutthefridge.com

    Monday, November 25, 2013

    Something I Never Imagined I Would Say

    My Kindle thumb is nicely recovered, thank you.  I took the weekend off of reading and finished painting my living room.

    Pictures to come....if I can get my newly found camera to cooperate!

    Anyway, L-girl, when she was showing me how to use my friend's Kindle, rediscovered our hand me down Kindle that we have used for a school reading assignments, but, my friend had left it stocked with books that they had read, noticed that The Hunger Games was on there.  She asked if she could read it.

    Since I have read the whole series and found them fascinating, entertaining, and disturbing, I had to think about it a bit.  We talked about it.  I told her there was some really disturbing parts and kids, her age, were killed and it was treated as sport and like it was no big deal.  But, I ultimately decided she could read it.  (I look forward to our discussions after she has read it.  D-man and I had some great ones!)

    So, she started reading during our travel time to Minnesota too.  Then, when we got back, she had schoolwork to catch up on, then left for a church  retreat.  She got back Sunday evening.  The kids and I snuggled up and watched a Hallmark movie. Then she decided to go read a bit.  I stayed up and watched a What Not To Wear episode (more on my reasons for that in another post). 

    So, after I learned how NOT to dress, I went in to see her asleep with the Kindle and its little reading light dealie on and open right next to her.  Her hair was all flopped over her face.  She was all slumped over and curled up.

    Here is where I said something I just never imagined coming out of my mouth.

    I said, "Turn that book off and go to bed."

    Off.

    I told her to turn the book off.

    I find it funny....but also a little sad that it wasn't just a "shut the book and go to bed", you know?

    Friday, November 22, 2013

    Kindle Thumb

    Is that a real disease?

    I think it should be.

    I think I have it.

    You see, I just took a quick trip up to Minnesota to see my mom and sisters and see my nephew in a play.  I was really busy around here trying to get things done before we left.  It occurred to me a day or two before my flight that I hadn't made my usual trip to the library to stock up on reading material for the plane ride/wait time at the airport.

    My friend, Sherri, offered to let me borrow her Kindle that had lots of books already on it.  More specifically, lots of historical romances.

    In my previous life, I read voraciously.

    I read just about everything I could get my hands on....but I especially enjoyed light murder mysteries and historical romance....again....light historical romances....not too much of the....(ahem).....sex stuff....if you know what I mean.  I really liked the historical romances that had the strong female character with the man that didn't quite know what to do with her....she just wasn't like other women of the time.  Sassy.  Not insipid.

    Just good, sort of mindless, but entertaining, escapist reading.

    We have a really, really old hand me down, Kindle that the kids have used for some school reading, but I had never used it.

    So, I accepted my friends offer of her Kindle, but I grabbed some 2 year old Good Housekeeping magazines from my stack, just in case.

    L-girl and A-girl came with me to Minnesota, so they gave me a little tutorial on the plane.  I got it figured out.  I found a book to try.

    Enter....Kindle thumb. 

    I read the whole flight up to Minnesota, then I read the whole flight home.  When we got home I was about half-way through a book, so when I got up on Wednesday to get back to my real life (and the bachelor type mess that  greeted me when we got home) I decided to read while I read my coffee....and then start my To Do list for the day.

    So, um, yeah.....I finished the book....then decided it was too late to get anything done from my list before we had to head to church....so I started another one.  I was able to get some things done Thursday, but decided to read a little at bedtime....so, I read until midnight or so....then decided to finish up my book again with my coffee in the morning.  I was able to do it....and did actually get a few things done on my To Do list on Friday.....but....

    Now my Kindle thumb hurts!

    A lot.

    I blame it on the fact that I am a fast reader and have to click the Next Page button a lot.

    I forget what it is like to really just sit around and read.  Even when I should be doing other things...to just be lost in a book. 

    And, the worst part, I only feel a little bit guilty.

    My right thumb hurts.....it really does....but I am pretty ambidextrous, now that I think about it....

    Friday, November 15, 2013

    Trees and Me

    I was talking to a friend from Minnesota recently about our new house.  She asked if we were settling in and if the house was everything I was hoping it would be before we actually moved in.

    I told her that I couldn't even explain it, but that I felt at home as soon as we moved in....even when they were boxes and mess everything.

    She responded with the fact that she had seen one of my blog posts where I was showing off some of the rooms and she thought that she had seen a glimpse of trees through the windows in the picture, and knew that would make me happy.

    She was so right.  I love trees.  Trees make me happy. 

    Ask Rainman about my feelings about trees and he will tell you the one time he decided to cut one down in Minnesota without telling me.  I looked out the window and it was already half gone. I didn't even recognize myself....I came barreling out of the house...screaming like a crazy woman...trying to be heard over the chain saw.  I was too late.  I was mad....for a long time.

    Don't get me wrong, I am not a "tree hugger" kind of tree lover.

    Trees just make me happy.

    They relax me.

    They give me a sense of being alone....yet, not alone in the world.

     I grew up in Minnesota where most of our property was woods. 

    I would go lay under the pine trees and read.

    I would go climb onto a low branch of another and read.

    I would sit on a downed trunk and read.

    (I like to read, too. Emoji)

    One of the first times we even looked at this house, we beat the realtor here and waited for her on the front porch.  Right here...



    I sat down on the swing.  The springs creaked a bit, I heard the wind rustling through the leaves and I looked out at this....




    and this.....



    ....I thought to myself.....I could live here.  It was just so peaceful.  Nobody drove by (there are only 5 houses on my street).  It was just wonderful.

    Then I went inside and saw this view from the big picture window in the kitchen....




    and this too...




    Yup....I could live here. 

    I could see past the dark walls and wallpaper borders.  I could see past the shiny kitchen cabinets with not much counter space.....because I knew I could live here and be happy.

    We get to see deer and wildlife again....right there....in our front yard....or across the street as I back out of the driveway.

    I cannot fully explain it, but I feel at peace here.  I feel like we are supposed to be here.

    My friend, Sue, in Minnesota knows we well (she should since we have been friends since the 4th grade).  She knew by seeing a glimpse of trees in my backyard that I would be a happy girl....and I am.

    Thursday, November 14, 2013

    At Home in Dogwood Mudhole

    This is a review.

    At Home In Dogwood Mudhole  sounds like it could be a post about my new place, huh?  Obviously it isn't, because I haven't exactly had time to write a book during our move or anything.

    The actual title of the book is At Home In Dogwood Mudhole Volume One:  Nothing That Eats, by Franklin Sanders.

    This is actually an interesting grown up book....as a book....and how it came to be.  It wasn't written to be a book or as a memoir of what happened, after the fact.  It is actually "as they happen" accounts from letters Mr. Sanders wrote, once a month, over a period of 16 years.  They were written to be put into a family newsletter (yes, an actual paper and ink newsletter!) called The Moneychanger.

    The author, Franklin Sanders, actually is a very interesting character and The Moneychanger is actually what one of his businesses has been over the years buying and selling gold and silver.

     

    At Home in Dogwood Mudhole (the name of their town in Tennessee) is actually a three volume series of books that tell about the life and times of Franklin Sanders, his family, his brushes with the law, his various extracurricular activities, and their attempt at creating a multi-generational family farm. An agrarian farm.  Know what that is?  Here is a definition of "agrarianism" from Wikipedia:

    Agrarianism has two common meanings. The first meaning refers to a social philosophy or political philosophy which values rural society as superior to urban society, the independent farmer as superior to the paid worker, and sees farming as a way of life that can shape the ideal social values.[1] It stresses the superiority of a simpler rural life as opposed to the complexity of city life, with its banks and factories.

    Even in reading through the Preface, I found some little nuggets that I liked....and some, like this one, I loved.  "Life happens; later you figure out what it means."

    There was one part of the preface that sort of stopped me in my tracks and made me think. 

    You know what I thought about? 

    How wimpy my kids are and how they don't know how to do much.

    Actually, it started with Mr. Sanders explaining that everything they do at Dogwood Mudhole (their farm in Tennessee) looks at a 100 year horizon.  He said that he and his wife, like most people from Tennessee, were only two generations removed from farming.....and that they were rank amateurs that had to relearn everything that their ancestors knew about farming to reclaim a way of life.

    That got me to thinking about how many generations removed Rainman and I were from farming.  Rainman has no memories of any of his relatives being farmers....although his grandparents were immigrants from Poland and Slovakia, and didn't talk much about the "old world" he said that he would have a hard time picturing them as farmers.  I think he is probably right.  I frequently refer to my husband as a "city boy"....and I think he really is, passed down from generation to generation.

    Just like I am really a "country girl" at heart...from generation to generation.

    My great grandparents were the ones who were immigrants from Norway, they were farmers.  My grandparents on both sides were farmers, and their parents before them.  Now, both of their farmsteads have housing on them (although a few of my relatives also live there too).

    My parents didn't "farm" but over the years, we had a huge backyard garden (that I HATED to weed and water), and a few unlucky rounds with rabbits and chickens....before we all finally gave up.

    Anyway, this one little section in Mr. Sanders book led me down the mental rabbit hole into what wimps (they don't even like to put their hand into dirty dish water to get the water to drain!) my children have become and, how many of those "life" skills they have lost....how many of those "life" skills I have lost.....how many of those "life" skills Rainman has never even been around.

    I have been around farming, canning, preserving, dressing a deer, and I have shot a gun.  Rainman on the other hand hasn't been around any of that stuff and shot a gun for the first time when we were dating (I am sure it was to impress me.  He didn't like it.)

    It got me to thinking about all the processed and genetically modified (GMO) foods that I put on the table in front of my family, versus what I grew up with.  I mean, my mom did serve a mean Swanson's Pot Pie, and even an occasional, genuine, foil tray t.v. dinner, but for the most part, it was meat and potatoes and vegetables that they grew....or knew who grew them. 

    So, those were my humbling thoughts heading into the book.....and how I was looking forward to watching the journey this family went on to get closer to the land....or whatever you want to call it. 

    So, wanna know know how I felt about the actual book, and not just the preface???.

    Mr. Sanders writes in sort of a no-nonsense, don't say more than is necessary, kind of way.  Honestly, he reminded me of Andy Griffith as both Andy Taylor and Matlock....if that makes any sense.  Just a straight shooter that has a sense of humor about things in life, but can get sort of cranky too, when necessary. 

    This book is sort of a combination of what most people put in their yearly Christmas letter, highlighting what they have done in the past year, travel guides, restaurant and hotel recommendations, and even, history lessons (especially surrounding the Civil War). 

    It is just little snippets of someone's real life, as it happened.  Almost like reading someone's diary.  Which means, some parts will be a little more boring than others.  Some parts will be funny.  Some parts will be sad.....and some parts will even be scandalous. 

    Just life.

    I will be honest, I found the history and re-enactment portions of the book....sort of boring.  But, my brother-in-law, Randy, would love those parts.

    I enjoyed the stories of what went wrong in their lives with their kids or their pets, where they screwed up, and where they liked to eat and stay when they traveled.

    Any chapter that had anything to do with chickens was funny....sad sometimes too....there were a lot of gruesome deaths.....(I think anyone who has owned chickens can relate to that).

    And, let me ask you this:  How often do you read a "Christian" book where the author has been in jail...more than once?  I didn't think so.  I found it interesting to see a glimpse of what life in jail is like....since I don't plan to be there personally.....ever.

    I had to laugh at the recounting of when their son broke his arm and came in and announced to the mom, "I broke my arm, and this time I really did."

     I cannot tell you the times when we have had similar announcements from my children (not necessarily around broken bones).  My children do like to recount the time when D-man broke his leg sledding in our backyard in Minnesota, and I didn't believe him.   I made him crawl up the hill to the house so I could look at it.  What they don't tell you is that I was 7 months pregnant and didn't want to try to get down the icy hill. (Plus, I didn't think he had actually broken it....ooops.)

    Mr. Sanders described his wife as "having all the compassion a mother should, but after seven children, she is notorious for ferreting out hypochondriacs of every stripe."   Ha!  I am right there with you, Mrs. Sanders.

    The way he talks about his wife, Susan.....ahhhh.....just so sweet.  He is honest about things that happen in their lives, but he never bad mouths her.  It made me curious about what Rainman would write about me. 



    Mr. Sanders and (I am not sure who that dog is...)

    This books starts in June of 1995 and this volume wraps up near the end with an entry from December 2002, that says this, "Day before yesterday we pulled the last two rolls of Y2K toilet paper out of the barrel.  I guess it's really over."

    You will find interesting time stamp kind of references like that throughout the book.  Like one that jumped out for me was an entry from July 1997 that talked about how great it was that Carlisle's Fish Camp in South Carolina had a "No Smoking" section!  I love those little glimpses into history.  It is like watching an old Andy Griffith show and seeing the price of a hair cut on the wall behind Floyd's head. 

    The book isn't thin, at 378 pages, but the chapters are, for the most part, short, sweet, snippets that give you a window into their lives......good and bad.  It is an easy, breezy read.  Even though, like I said, there were unexpected parts that made me really think about my own life. 

    Mr. Sanders sprinkles his Christianity through the book as the "just a fact" thing that it is.  He doesn't preach.  He doesn't shove God down your throat.  He is just there along the Sanders' side.  That is how I think about my life story too....He is just there with me along the way.

    All in all, this book has been a charming read.  Like I said, I didn't like the history lessons/historical re-enactment sections very much.  But, the good news is that there was lots of other stuff in the next section about the stuff I did like.  The problems in setting up a farm, or keeping livestock alive (despite the subtitle of "Nothing that Eats"!), or having babies. 

    You can get a hard copy of At Home in Dogwood Mudhole for $22.95 or $16.95 for the Kindle/PDF version.  If you love this book, Volume Two:  The Best Thing We Ever Did is also available...and Volume Three will be coming soon.

    See what the other TOS Reviewers thought about At Home in Dogwood Mudhole.











    Tuesday, November 12, 2013

    French Essentials

    This is a review.

    We got a chance to try out a language curriculum called French Essentials. How this curriculum came about is pretty interesting.  The authors of this program are a husband and wife team that live in Quebec with their two children.  I am not sure how this next part works, but, their kids go to French school and are homeschooled in English.  Anyway, they started out as a tutoring service for friends of theirs that were homeschooling.  Then they created a DVD course that taught French and that morphed into French Essentials to help make French more affordable and accessible to more people.  It teaches something called International French, instead of Parisian French or Quebec French.  Who knew there was a difference?  Not me!



    We have full access to their on-line program for a full year. 

    There will be 10 modules in the program which equate out to 2 years of High School French classes. (Right now, Modules 6-10 are being created).    The creators say that you can start this course as young as  grade 2 and just slowly work your way through grade 12. According to  their website, if you start the modules in grade 3 and do one module per year you will complete the courses your Senior year or during grade 12.
     A-girl was the lucky one who got to try this program out this time around.  She has decided that French is her second language of choice, because she plans to spend time in Paris as an adult soaking up the fashion world. 

    We got a slightly late start on this, because of our computer/internet problems right when we moved in, but once we got ourselves back up and running, A-girl didn't lose anytime practicing.

    The lessons in French Essentials covers:

    • downloadable lessons
    • printable workbook pages
    • online exercises/activities
    • online tests
    • topics on French culture
    Want to hear about French Essentials by someone speaking English with a French accent?



    French Essentials teaches language targeting 4 skills:  Reading, Writing, Listening (and understanding what you are hearing), and Speaking.

    The writing piece of that equation is something that I haven't seen a lot in recent language programs.  It is also the piece that probably frustrated A-girl the most.  But, really, isn't that a super important skill in another language?  The ability to write a note to someone, or a letter to a pen pal and have them not giggling or struggle to read what you have written because it looks like a first grader did it?.  I think I was able to sell this point to A-girl, but she wasn't excited about the exercises where she had to write and spell the words and not just be able to pronounce them and know what they meant.

    So, how do these lessons actually work?

    Obviously, you log in to your account.  At this point, in the Student Area, there is a page of downloadable workbook pages and lessons (that you can save to your computer for future access) and on-line exercises and tests that you have access to. 



    I pretty much just helped A-girl get logged in the first time and let her start lessons.  One thing that was helpful for me, since I wasn't going to be totally hands on was the Parent's Corner.  This is where it had the workbook and the answer key for the lessons as well as a checklist for each module, so you knew what was coming and the scope of work they were going to cover.

    The lessons all have "clickable" or interactive portions so you can see or hear parts of the lesson.  In this example, you can click on the teacher to hear how the French alphabet is pronounced.



     
    One of the things A-girl did in her lessons were using on-line flashcards with words in both French and English.  She would also listen to  native French speakers say a word or phrase  and you had to type what you heard.  Spelling counted.  Like I said, this was her least favorite part. 

    A-girl usually did French Essentials five days a week.  If we had a particularly busy week, she would only do 4 lessons a week.  At her age, I think this is particularly helpful to help her retain the lessons, since she is working through them at a quicker pace than if she were starting in 3rd grade, for instance.

    You know I am a fan of tests, so I was glad that they actually had tests included in their curriculum.  A-girl liked that there were some "games" to play as you were learning what some phrases or words meant.  Although she was sometimes frustrated by her lack of speed, she did get better and better...probably a little of her competitive spirit shining through and being used for good, not evil!



    The lessons took A-girl about 20-25 minutes from start to finish. 

    Things A-girl Liked: 

    1. How you change the speed of how the people were talking, so you had a better change of pronouncing them better.
    2. That there was lots of time and chances to practice before you had to take a test.
    3. That there were "games" to play.

    Things A-girl didn't really like:

    1. Doesn't feel like she is learning the language as quickly as she would like (this might just be the teenager mentality of wanting instant gratification too).
    2. That she had to know how to spell...in French.
    3. That there were "games" to play.  Yes, this one appears in both lists!  (She really didn't like the race game.....too fast and stressful for her.)

    This program was specifically designed for home learners.  It has both an audio and video component that is probably pretty helpful across almost all learning styles.  There are also nice segments that teach about French culture.  A-girl really liked this part of the lessons.



    The only sort of weird thing we found about French Essentials was that it started off really easy in the first few lessons.  Alphabet, words, short phrases.  Seemed super doable.  A-girl was excited.  Then she hit, I think, lesson 4....and it seemed a lot harder, a lot quicker.  She even had me come look to see if she had skipped something, because it seemed so drastically different than what she had done in the first 3 lessons. 

    She hadn't skipped anything.  It did just get harder, fast.  This made her not like the program as much for the first few days of it being more difficult.  She still worked through the lessons but not with the glee and excitement that she had the first few days. 

    As I already mentioned, this program really stresses spelling, something I haven't really seen in other language programs.  This little fact annoys A-girl to no end and pleases me to no end....because, seriously, when she travels to Paris, she will be able to read the signs, or know how to spell things in notes she may write to cute French boys at the cafĂ©!

    The bottom line for us is that A-girl is really learning (not as quickly as she would like, in her opinion - even though sometimes she thinks the lessons move too quickly and are hard :D).  So, we will definitely be continuing to use French Essentials for the duration of our school year.

    If you have already learned some French in your household, French Essentials has a placement test available, so, your student wouldn't have to start in Module 1.  Want to take a look at some sample lessons, in case I haven't explained how they work well enough? 

    So, do you want to parlez-vous Francais?  From your home?  You can get access for a full year, to all of the French Essentials modules/lessons for $149.95...which includes over 90 lessons.    If you don't want to commit to learning that much French, you can buy the individual models for $69.95 each.  But, you can see, if you have a real interest and commitment, the option to have access to all of the modules is a much better financial deal.

    See what other "amis" that are part of the TOS Review crew felt about French Essentials.