Thursday, January 18, 2018

Find Money at

Several months ago I was made aware of the website It is a database of unclaimed property records. According to the website, common types of unclaimed property include bank accounts and safe deposit box contents; stocks, mutual funds, bonds, and dividends; uncashed checks and wages; insurance policies, CD's, trust funds; and utility deposits and escrow accounts.

I shared it on social media, because I was so fascinated with the idea. I have since had several friends claim records that belonged to them. They simply had to verify their information, and the money came to them from the various state treasuries where it was sitting.

I check my name periodically, because the information is updated regularly. I have yet to find any records in my name in any of the states in which we've lived, but I think that's because I've always been careful to redeem all discounts and reclaim any deposits that were mine.

Not every state currently participates, but every state should have an "unclaimed property" database; if a place where you live or have lived is not linked to this site, you can search for your state's name and "unclaimed property" and it shouldn't be difficult to find.

I encourage you to check your name in any state where you have lived, and see if you might have a little surprise bonus sitting in a treasury, waiting for you. Let me know in the comments if you find anything!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Save the Celery

Any time I see a prepared veggie tray marked down to half price at the grocery--the kind that's all veggies, because we don't use the dip anyway--I buy it. Nearly 2 1/2 pounds of fresh produce are washed and ready to eat (or cook) and delivered to my fridge for under $5.

I picked one up this week. Pip ate the peppers, and I enjoyed the snap peas. The tomatoes went into salads. I cooked the broccoli as a side for one meal and I tossed the carrots into the slow cooker with another meal. And then there was celery.

Sometimes Pip likes to snack on raw celery, but this wasn't one of those weeks. Chris and I usually don't choose it, either. Rather than watch it wilt in my fridge, though, I went ahead and chopped it up.

I put it into an zip top bag and tossed it into the freezer. And now it's prepped and ready for the next time I make soup. I won't even thaw it out; I'll just throw it right in.

Ready ingredients can make meal preparation easier and less daunting. What items do you like to prep in advance? 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

New Grocery: Price Less Foods

I had the opportunity to step into a Price Less Foods for the first time this week (this one was in Owensboro, Ky). I had heard about their pricing concept, and wanted to see it for myself. I'm glad I took the time to check it out!

- The store was clean and well-lit.
- The workers were friendly.
- The everyday prices were good, and the sale prices were better.

To take it a step further, beyond advertised sales, we snagged some premium orange juice on manager's special for 1/3 of its "regular" store price.

Based on what I saw in that short visit, I will be going back. I want more time to explore. But I can safely say that Chris and Pip were big fans from the moment we entered the first aisle and found huge packages of some of their favorite specialty snacks for not much more than an average bag of chips.

Do you have Price Less Foods in your area? What are your favorite things to save on there?

Monday, January 8, 2018

Homeschool Field Trip: Theater

When planning your homeschool field trips, don't overlook opportunities to take your children to the theater! Arts experiences can get pricey, though, so I always start with school day performances when selecting these outings.

- School day performances often cost a fraction of evening admission. At around $6 per ticket in our area, it's one of the cheapest ways to see live theater. They also tend to be a length appropriate for their intended audience.

- Shows are often chosen for their educational merit. We've seen everything from adaptations of children's books to legends to historical figures and events brought to life on the stage. Oftentimes the host venue or the performing group will share a guide in advance that includes readings and activities to do before and after seeing the show to tie it into various areas of study.

- It's fun! One of my favorite things about being in school was taking field trips. Although Pip's homeschool experience is radically different from my public school one, I still make a big deal about "field trips" like these and she gets really excited about them (and I do, too).

If you're in western Kentucky, the Glema Mahr Center for the Arts in Madisonville and RiverPark Center in Owensboro both offer stellar school day line-ups year after year. If you're not in this area, I urge you to look for your nearest performing arts center and take advantage of any school day events they have.

I'd like to hear about some of your favorite homeschool field trips!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Second Grade, Second Semester

When I shared my plans for Pip's second grade year, I noted that I would re-evaluate as we went. Now that the holiday season--and the purchase and preparation of a house, a move, illness, etc--is behind us and we're finding our daily groove again, I'd like to share what I've found and what changes we've made.

The majority of the materials I chose last summer remain on our school shelf and in our rotation. Here's what we started with then:

And here's what was working and what was not.

- What we study in music is directed by her music teacher; in addition to daily practice, we also enjoy the weekly podcast Classics For Kids and listen to plenty of classical music because we like it.

- We took a light approach to American history for the first half of the year, mainly reading about specific events and people as we found books that interested us (from Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: One Dead Spy by Nathan Hale to I am Sacajawea by Brad Meltzer illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulus), but in the second semester we're diving straight into the Liberty's Kids DVDs and the materials that accompany them.

- I supplement Learning Language Arts Through Literature with loads of independent reading, because that's one of her favorite things to do. She reads everything from picture books to middle readers. And we're reading Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery together right now.

- Our art study is all over the place. Pip's class at co-op covers one artist and his/her style per week, and we create something nearly every day at home. We make a point to visit art museums at least twice per semester.

- Singapore Math is serving us well. I intend for her to complete Primary Mathematics books 2A and 2B this semester.

- Science didn't go as I expected. I knew even when I borrowed that book that Pip might be young for it. I found us really floundering about mid-semester, and then a friend recommended the Sonlight Science B book she was enjoying with her son. I looked at it, and the topics it covered--animals, astronomy, and physics--and figured it would capture Pip's attention and mine. It utilizes many books from Usborne, of which I'm already a huge fan, as well as a treasure trove of online resources, all collected in one place. I initially balked at the cost, but I found that I could order the "Extra Activity Pages" for under $20 and then borrow the necessary books from the library or from friends, or find them at the (brick and mortar or online) used bookstore as I needed them. In conjunction with trips to the zoo and the science center, this book is coming to life. This was a good change.

- Although we're already a family that likes games, we've added more into our weekly rotation. Scrabble, The Scrambled States of America, and Time Bingo are three that Pip is really enjoying right now.

Being flexible and able to change course when needed is one of my favorite things about homeschooling.

Do you have any tips for keeping your homeschool engaging?

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Sausage and Veggie Gamble

Minimal prep. Few dishes to clean up. Lovely aroma to enjoy all day. Dinner prepared in the morning, when I've got the energy, and ready in the evening, when that energy is dwindling. What's not to love about a slow cooker?

This started as a gamble--one of those "throw in whatever you've got" situations--and it turned into one of Chris's favorite meals. Pip liked the veggies, and I enjoyed it all. But really, I'm hard pressed to think of something that doesn't taste good when it's been roasting slowly all day.

Sausage and Veggie Gamble

2 lbs ground pork, frozen
1 large baking potato, whole
1 vidalia onion, peeled and sliced
1 green apple, sliced
2 carrots, sliced
3 springs of fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

I put everything into the cooker in that order. I turned it on high for 7 hours (longer than probably necessary, but starting with frozen meat I wasn't sure). At dinnertime, I plated everything but the meat, tossed it into a skillet for a few minutes to crisp it a bit, and then scooped it on top of the veggies. I added a little salt and served with green beans.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Goodbye, 2017

I am not one to wish time away. I have remained patient. But wow, I am glad to see 2017 go.

This has been a hard year for many of the people close to me. They're suffering with loss, illness, job instability, and financial concerns. They're questioning what, and when, and how, and why.

There has been beauty there, too, of course, in the form of sweet little babies, and new and rekindled friendships, and good health, and so many other provisions. Those are not taken for granted. But the consensus is that we're ready for a new start.

"Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it yet." - L.M. Montgomery

The fact that tomorrow is January 1 doesn't mean that things will be different automatically. But it does bring new promise, and new hope.

Many of us see this as a time to start over in one way or another. Last year, I shared with you how I planned to be more intentional with my screen time in 2017 by focusing on the task at hand and cutting out my digital sources of stress. You can read the specifics of how I did it here, and based on my own outcome, I urge you to consider doing the same.

That one was easy; I knew it needed to happen, and the changes yielded immediate positive results. This December, I find myself unable to choose just one or two goals for myself for 2018. It's not that I don't have ideas--it's that I have too many. And I'm not going to weigh myself down with a laundry list of things to change, all in a day, as that's a proven recipe for failure.

So, for now, while I continue to search for that area of personal growth which will enrich my own life, I'm turning my attention outward. To my family, and my friends, and my community. This year CAN be better. But it won't be better on its own. People will have to do their part.

Whether or not you're the resolution-setting type, I urge each person reading this to find at least one way that you can contribute to the place you live in the new year. No matter where you are, there are opportunities to be a helper to somebody. It may be someone you know who is going through a difficult time and just needs to sit with you and a cup of coffee and talk. It may be someone you've never met to whom you serve a meal at a soup kitchen. You might find that you can assist with an after-school program, or at the library, or in a sports league. You may stock shelves at a food bank, or donate your photography skills to the animal shelter, or invest some time playing card games with residents at a nursing home. What you choose might take you out of your comfort zone, but it could brighten someone else's day and potentially change their outlook on life. And it may bless you in ways you'd never expect.

Here we are, looking at a fresh tomorrow. Let's do our best to make it a Happy New Year.