Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Time to Play

Yesterday was a time to play.

I haven't kept count of the number of times I've sat down with my laptop to write my next post, but I can tell you that I've done it again and again. I think, "Early in the morning, things will be quiet and calm." Emails and social media notifications from the hours I slept beckon. I think, "When Pip has gone to bed, something will come to me." I end up preparing a lesson plan, or chatting with Chris as he works into the night in his home studio, or watching old episodes of The Office. I think, "While Pip plays in her room, I will slip over to my desk and take care of it." I get caught up doing laundry, or washing dishes, or joining in her games.

In recent weeks, my blessed life has kept me occupied. Writing started to feel like a chore, when it began as a great source of joy. My primary goal with this newborn blog has been consistency. Yes, I hope the content is relevant. Yes, I want to share projects and ideas of which I am proud. Yes, I am involved in many things, and I value it as something that is just mine.

While struggling for the umpteenth time with what I might share next, I realized that I would benefit from following the sage advice of a friend who has blogged much longer than I. She said, especially when the writing got more difficult, to make sure to get out and play.

So, yesterday was a time to play. I stepped away from the laptop. Pip and I dabbled in her lessons I had prepared, but we also reveled in the fact that all nine seasons of Curious George are now on Hulu. I didn't complete the Halloween wreath I had planned, but we did figure out what we needed for Pip's costume. I was grateful when Chris offered to make dinner--something I usually enjoy doing myself--and served up some comforting grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup.

My family is content and I'm refreshed and excited to see what comes next.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Slow Cooker Garlic Tomato Beef with Polenta

When I can get a nice-looking piece of beef that will provide more than one meal for under $5, we're having beef for dinner.

This 1-lb boneless sirloin tip steak went into the slow cooker right on top of the can of diced tomatoes with roasted garlic and onions. I didn't add anything else. It cooked on low for 6 hours, and then I drained the juice and shredded the meat with a fork.

At dinner time I mixed up the instant polenta according to the package directions, and when it was finished I stirred in all of the Italian five cheese blend that I had left (we had been into this bag before), along with a splash of milk.

I plated the polenta first and spooned the beef and tomato mixture on top. The grapes and a green salad were on the side. It was simple and tasty, and the leftovers reheated well for a second round later that week.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Our Homeschooling Week

It is rare that I hear parents talking about how peaceful their Monday mornings are. Up until recently, I was in that same frantic scramble that all my public and private school parent friends were. I would wake up extra early, plow through as much of my to-do list as possible, and then attempt to entice my kindergartner to jump into music practice and writing practice and math equations as soon as she woke up and ate a little breakfast. Before lunchtime we were both frazzled.

And then I had an epiphany. I was so determined to start our lessons first thing Monday morning to "set the tone for the week" that I wasn't allowing myself the flexibility that I truly appreciate about homeschooling. While I was embracing the option to customize our year, building in days off for family travel, holidays, and special events, I wasn't even considering a customization of our week.

This rigidity had no place in our homeschool. As we began our lessons this fall, I addressed the fact that we needed some calm at the end of our family- and activity-filled weekends. I wasn't enjoying staying up late Sunday night to prepare for school, and beginning the week with a sleep deficit was not doing me any favors. Now, we're starting our week off with a whole new approach and, so far, I'm loving it.

Monday mornings are no longer for structured lessons. In addition to managing my home/work/volunteer responsibilities, I now invest that time in setting our calendar for the week ahead, preparing activities for the coming days, and gathering up the materials we will need. I don't wake Pip up; she may sleep as late as she needs, and when she's out of bed, she reads, plays, draws, and eases into her day. Our Monday school time doesn't start until we're both ready, which is often after lunch. We've been at it for only a few weeks so far this semester, but it seems to be a welcome change for Pip. I can say most certainly that it's a welcome change for me.

Last school year, we followed the local school system's annual schedule pretty closely, beginning lessons in August and finishing by the end of May. The more I think about it, the idea of a year-round schedule, as well as the idea of an on-six-weeks/off one week routine each appeal to me for different reasons, but I haven't made a commitment to either, yet. That's still up for debate.

What schedule does your homeschool follow?

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Favorite Sale: Payless ShoeSource

Pip is growing so fast that I refuse to let a coupon for a shoe store expire! If it happens, I feel like I'm just throwing money away. When I recently received an offer for $10 off a $30 purchase at Payless, I knew we could put it to good use.

As we arrived, we found that there was a back-to-school sale happening, but honestly, there's nearly always a sale of some kind going on at this store. The salesperson informed me that the coupon could be used on any purchase, including sale and clearance items, so that's where we started. Pip and I spent a little time trying things on and comparing prices of similar styles. We left the store with three pairs of shoes (two for her, one for me).

I was shooting for spending exactly $30 to get the maximum savings, but the $14 pair I selected for me--just a shade cheaper than most of the $15 sandals--were my favorites. I threw the dance shoes in for Pip for $5, knowing that she'll soon outgrow the pair that she has at home.

Just the sale prices would have been a decent deal, totaling $34. But then with the coupon I saved an extra $10, bringing the pre-tax total down to $24. It's looking even better, right? When you see the original price of each pair, you'll understand how much fun this shopping trip was!

Sandal for me: original price $29.99
Silver shoe for Pip: original price $29.99
Black dance shoe for Pip: original price $26.99
Total original value: $86.97
Total paid: $24.00 (plus tax)
That's a savings of about 72%!

For an added bonus, the receipt has a survey at the bottom that I can answer for $3 off my next purchase of $9.99 or more. I will answer that survey and I will not waste the discount. Even if there is not another pair of shoes I'd like to buy before it expires, they also carry socks, purses, jewelry, accessories, and sunglasses. I'll get something, either for us or as a gift for someone else, during this sale or the next. 


That was the end of my original post. But here's an update. I took the online survey, and took my code back in the next day. I first picked up a 6-pack of athletic socks for Chris for $9.99, but all socks were buy one, get one free, so I picked up another 6-pack of socks for him. I left the store that day with 12 new pairs of socks for $6.99 before tax. The receipt had an access code to take the survey again and earn another $3 off another purchase of $9.99 or more. If nothing else, it looks like we're all getting new socks this week! ;)