Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Favorite Sale: thriftbooks


I don't know how my house of bibliophiles made it to 2017 without knowing about Thriftbooks.com. Well, Chris may have known about it, but I sure didn't! A homeschooling friend of mine told me about it a couple of weeks ago, and this morning I checked it out.

Although many of the children's books are listed for more than I would pay at McKay Books, my favorite used book store, I found an activity book for our upcoming homeschool year for $4 that was about $13 on Amazon. I also found a research book Chris had been looking for priced at 1/5 of the Amazon list price. (Let me stop right here to say that I still like and use Amazon all the time!)

Here's a link for you to check it out. It includes a 15% discount for you, if you've never ordered from them before, that is good through June 5.
Shop Now!

If you find something great, I would love to hear about it!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Slow Cooker BBQ Pork

It seems like many people think to use their slow cookers during the cooler months. They do make great cold-weather foods like soups, stews, roasts, you name it. But I like to utilize my slow cooker during the warmer months, too, because it doesn't heat up the kitchen!

One of our current favorites--and it's SO EASY--is pork barbecue. Here's what I'm going to do today.


























Place approximately 2 lbs of pork loin boneless country style ribs into the slow cooker with 1/2 cup water.

Cook on low for 5 hours.

Pour off the water and fat, then cover the meat with Sweet Baby Ray's Sweet 'n Spicy sauce. (You can substitute your favorite sauce, of course. This is one that my whole family agrees on; it's not too hot, and it's gluten free.)

Cook on low for one more hour.

Shred the meat with a fork and serve however you prefer to eat BBQ! We go bun-less, and I like to serve it with pineapple and chips. It makes for a quick, light meal. It makes great leftovers for lunches, too.

Enjoy!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Donating Blood

I understand why so few of us donate blood. It takes time. We might be turned away due to health or history. It's not at the top of anyone's list of fun things to do.

Few of us expect to need a transfusion, but when you or your loved one needs blood due to an accident or medical emergency, the gratitude felt for the people who donated, never knowing whose life it might save, is immeasurable. 

I know, because I had this experience in the fall of 2015. Chris suddenly started feeling very bad, and we thought he had food poisoning. By the time we realized it was much more severe, he had to be transported to our local hospital by ambulance, and from there, transferred to a larger hospital that could perform an emergency surgery immediately. By that point, he had already lost a substantial amount of blood due to a Dieulafoy's lesion (as it was described to me, an ulcer that formed on an artery in his stomach wall). Thankfully, the surgeon was able to stop the bleeding quickly.

Chris recovered beautifully, and we are grateful for the emergency staff, the surgical team, and the nurses and doctors that made up his post-surgical care team. He now has a local GI specialist and we know to keep an eye on these things. I drive him a little bonkers, probably, but any time he has any discomfort with his stomach, I am immediately questioning him about what it feels like, what he has eaten, if he's had too much coffee recently, and on and on.

What does this have to do with donating blood? Well, following surgery, Chris needed to replenish his blood supply, and not just a little bit. When all was said and done, he required nine units of blood. NINE. I don't know how much he started with, but I can tell you that this was a LOT. Nine people, at some point in the days or weeks or months prior to his hospitalization, donated blood so that my husband and Pip's dad could survive this unforeseen and horrific medical emergency.

After we left the hospital, I decided I wanted to donate blood in order to give back. I had never done so before, and the idea made me slightly nauseated. But I was so thankful that the supply was there for him when he needed it that I was determined.

The first time I donated, I didn't do great. I got dizzy and a bit weak. The sweet women running the drive knew what to do for me, and I was fine, of course. It turns out that although I was mentally prepared, I hadn't done everything I could to be ready, physically. They recommended that, next time, I be sure to eat a good meal and drink plenty of water in the hours prior to donating.

The second time, I followed their suggestions, and it didn't go much smoother. I was only able to give what they referred to as a "baby bag." I asked if it would even be useful. Yes, I was assured, it could literally be used for a baby who needed blood. Thinking about an infant needing blood--and the thought of being the parent of said infant--reinforced my resolve.

I haven't given up. I'm sure the third time will be better.

I am clearly not the best at donating blood, but I am trying. I sincerely ask anyone who is reading this to at least consider finding out how to donate where you live and if you are eligible. You never know whose life it might save: it could be a stranger you never meet, or it could be someone you love dearly. Like I said before, few of us expect to need a transfusion. I hope you never do. But if or when the need arises, having the resources available could make all the difference in the outcome.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Favorite Sale: Kohl's

Let me start by saying that I am not a big Kohl's shopper. I like the store just fine, and I have heard from people who have found amazing bargains there. I just don't make my way over to any of their locations very often.

However, they recently mailed me a coupon for $10 off any purchase of $10 or more. Game on.

I went into the Clarksville, Tennessee, store yesterday. I had my coupon and a short list of things I would like to find, if the price was right. I wasn't particularly pleased with the selection or prices of any of the items from my list, so I scoured the outer edges of the store, looking for the clearance sections of each department. I was determined to find some way to sensibly spend this $10 rather than lose it.

Then I found the clearance bedding and remembered that we could, in fact, use a new set of sheets. Never would I pay the original price of $109.99, but this set for $32.99 with an additional $10 off? Yes I will, thank you very much!





















That's right, down from $109.99 to $32.99. And I was able to apply that $10 coupon. These very nice, 100% cotton sheets were only $22.99 plus tax! That's less than a pair of pillowcases from the same collection normally run.


I felt like a champion when I left the store with my "Total Saved: $87.00" receipt!


What's the best buy you've gotten at Kohl's?

Friday, May 5, 2017

Recycling Clothes at H&M

I've been going through our clothes this week, trading sweaters and coats for tanks and shorts. Along the way I have encountered more than a few items that are in too poor of condition to share along (please don't donate worn out/torn/stained clothes to charities), but I was pained to think of just throwing them in the garbage and sending them to a landfill.
Enter H&M's garment collecting initiative! Not only will they dispose of these garments responsibly, but at the H&M store in Nashville's Opry Mills Mall, at least, they give you a discount on your purchase if you bring in clothes to recycle. Garments can be any brand, and in any condition. There's more info and a store locator on their website!

Their fashionable clothing is pretty affordable, generally, and their clearance prices are often big bargains! And they're well-made, too. I found a "size 2-4Y" dress from there--at a thrift store, so I assume it had already been previously worn--for Pip when she was two years old. It was her favorite because it was so soft, and she wore it as a dress that summer, and the following summer. The next summer and the next, it was a tunic. Then it became a shirt. I am not even kidding; at age 7 1/2, that kid is still wearing that shirt!!

So, bag up your worn out garments and head to your nearest H&M!

Monday, May 1, 2017

May is Celiac Awareness Month


May is Celiac Awareness Month, and this is a subject close to my heart.

Pip was diagnosed with Celiac Disease--an autoimmune disorder triggered by ingesting gluten protein--just after she turned five. This was after more than two years of stomach aches that were ignored and glossed over, because she was still playing and growing and learning. There were no other glaring outward symptoms. I knew something was not right, but the list of short-term dietary changes I made didn't seem to make a difference for her. Two pediatricians looked at her and her charts and said, "let's wait and see." A third doc in a third city heard what I was saying, ordered some tests, and found the markers in the blood work. A pediatric GI confirmed the diagnosis.

The first month--which happened to be right at the winter holiday season--was really hard. Pip was frustrated when she didn't get to eat the same dessert or snack as everyone else. I didn't know how to make anything gluten free that tasted good, and I certainly didn't yet know which packaged GF products were the most palatable. I read every label. I asked every host what was in every dish. We practically stopped going out to eat due to fear of cross-contamination.

Over time, things got easier. I found a variety of foods and meals that were gluten free that Pip--and our whole family--enjoyed. I started packing her a lunchbox every time we left the house. I quickly realized how fortunate we were that this disorder is managed entirely by diet, no medication required. As long as we're vigilant and she's not ingesting gluten, she's healthy. At seven and a half years old, she's her own advocate, making sure that any new foods--and all foods served outside our home--are safe for her. She's a champ about it, too. She'll even ask me, when she's about to eat something new to her, "Mom, are you sure this is gluten free?"

Now, she's growing like a weed. She's a ball of constant energy. Where a little virus used to take her out for more than a week due to an already-taxed immune system, she's generally quite healthy.

As I said, May is Celiac Awareness Month. I've learned a lot about Celiac out of necessity in the past two and a half years, and the damage it does to your insides is not worth going undiagnosed. There are many potential outward symptoms, and people are affected in different ways. If you suspect that you or someone you love has Celiac Disease, please request the blood test to rule it out (or to indicate that further testing is needed). Although I'm glad we caught it when we did, I wish we had done it sooner.


A great resource for more information--before and after diagnosis--is Celiac.org.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Homeschooling: Kentucky Unit

Our family had the pleasure of attending the Southern Kentucky Book Fest in Bowling Green this past weekend, where Chris was a guest. There were many highlights--hearing childhood favorite R.L. Stine speak, for one!--and we picked up some great books along the way. One of them, I'd like to share now, as I plan to use it soon in our homeschooling adventure.



It is titled Kentucky Puzzles: Bluegrass Brainteasers for Ages 6 to 106 by Evelyn B. Christensen. It's a 30-activity workbook about the state that teaches facts like our state bird and flower, sites of historical significance, famous people from the state, geographical wonders, and, of course, basketball, among other topics. I expect that while it will be fun for Pip and me to work through together, both learning along the way, it will also inspire some day trips and maybe an overnight or two to see first-hand some of the locations mentioned.

I remember studying Kentucky when I was in elementary school, and I still remember some of the facts (in case I ever need to know off the top of my head that there are 120 counties). And I figure there's no time like the present to learn about the state in which we live. More information about this book and the author can be found on her website. Note that there are a few printing errors acknowledged in the front of the copy I purchased, but it was complete with a link to download updated puzzles.

Have you included a unit study of your state in your homeschool?