Wicked Cold Winter Walk







Until the last couple of years, I have always been intentional about squeezing in some sort of exercise.  Whether it be jogging outside in the nice weather or dragging myself through the doors of the gym during winter for time on the eliptical or a step aerobics class.  (Dating myself here!)  

But these days, I got nothing.  Morning and evening schedules before and after work are just too full!

The best I can do is an occasional 1/2 hour walk at lunchtime.  It's not much, but it helps to get fresh air during the workday and get my blood moving a bit....so I'll take it. 

One rare weekend afternoon, we were all home and contentedly lounging around.  As nice as it was, I had a sudden and strong urge to DO SOMETHING!  I needed to stretch my legs and feel my pulse rise.  I presented it to my lazy gang as a nice winter walk to enjoy the little bit of snow we had gotten up to that point.

This got them for about 20 seconds until they realized it was as cold as nuts outside!

I convinced them to walk a little ways to our favorite community tree.  We stayed for a few freezing minutes until we started to lose the feeling in our fingers and toes.  Then we walked quickly home with watering eyes and stinging cheeks!

Hot chocolate with marshmallows always makes it better, which is exactly what we did next. :)

Stay warm and cozy wherever you are, exercise or no exercise!!!


Superbowl Sunday

(Be sure to check out my post today on The Penny Hoarder for some helpful tips about how your kids can make their own money!)


Today was sunny and warm - in the mid 50's or so.  Not bad for Ohio in February!  My older three headed out for an afternoon bike excursion, which left me with my little Lena.  Forever trying to keep up, she insisted on a bike ride, too.  Let me tell you, she is getting fast!  I walked briskly beside her and was better for it, especially before settling into our evening of football and junk food.




Superbowl Sunday is quickly becoming a favorite excuse for a very late bedtime.  ("The Superbowl is only once a year, Mom....")

Welcome to game-watching at our house, complete with 4th quarter back walkovers.  Congratulations, Broncos!







To all of you visiting from The Penny Hoarder....welcome!!!  I am glad you are here and want to know you better!

To my regular readers, I must confess that my camera has collected dust lately.  I do believe that my head has been spinning consistently since school started, but I am optimistic that this post-Christmas break may slow it down some and cure this perpetually dizziness!  

(I did manage to snap a few Christmas morning shots.  Check out Hans's wrapping job for my gift...I think I might steal his gift-tag push pin idea next year. :)





I hope the season finds you well however you choose to spend it, and the last few days of 2015 are peaceful and restful for you and yours.  We wish you the very best in the year ahead!!!

Oven Roasting Tomatoes






Because I could not find a long enough stretch of free time to can my tomatoes this year, I tried something new.  A friend of mine at work mentioned that she oven roasted her tomatoes and put them in the freezer until she needed them.  Ah ha!

For me, this was a brilliant solution!  It takes just a little bit of prep time, 1 1/2 hours in the oven and then right to the freezer.

I do apologize for these photos.  I did this at night and therefore lost my daylight.  I am saving up for a new camera, which someday might just happen.  (Just maybe.  A girl can dream, right?) 


How To Oven-Roast Tomatoes

1.    Pre-heat oven to 250.

2.    Rinse tomatoes in hot water to make sure than any critters are removed from the skins.

3.    Remove the core and quarter the rest of the tomato.

4.    Line baking pan with foil.  (I used jelly roll sheets.)

5.    Drizzle olive oil on the foil and spread, just enough to over the foil with a thin layer.

6.    Line the tomatoes up on the sheet.

7.    Add fresh herbs to the tomatoes, if desired.  We added chopped basil.

8.    Drizzle olive oil on top of the tomatoes as desired.

9.    Put sheets in oven for 1 1/2 hours, or until the tomatoes are soft.

10.    Remove from oven and let cool.

11.    Pour tomatoes and oil into jars or containers and freeze, allowing some head space for the tomatoes to expand in freezer.


When ready to use, remove from freezer and thaw.  Use as is or puree in food processor to make sauce, etc.

I haven't used any of mine yet, but will post an update when I do and let you know how they turned out.  I hope the result is a good one, because preserving tomatoes this way is a great time saver.  Had I known about this a couple of weeks before, I could have been spared this tomato waste!

Happy Monday, Friends!

The School Year is Underway - Ways We Work Fun Into Our Week



1.  We find one night that is free to spend outside, preferably one that has good weather! This week, we grilled hamburgers and ate dinner on the patio.  Sometimes we take a walk or a bike ride around the neighborhood.

2.  We don't over schedule the weekend.  While it is fun to have plans and see friends, I try to keep this manageable. We tend to do better when we have a good stretch of time at home with nowhere to be.  We really like to sleep in on Saturdays if at all possible!

3.  Between dinner and homework, we try to have conversations about meaningful stuff.  Last week, we prayed for a friend in New Hampshire who has been in and out of the hospital after a major back surgery.  She is 15 years old.  Last night, we discussed the presidential debates. Tonight, we celebrated my daughter's sweet 5th grade friend who took her final round of chemo today!!!  In the busyness of the everyday, I think it is important to look outside of ourselves at what is going on in the world and with those we care about.

4.  The kid's enjoy activities, so long as their homework gets done.  Currently we have one in piano, one in gymnastics and one in soccer.  That is plenty for now says this mama.

5.  We pack Nutella sandwiches on Fridays.....enough said.  :)


Happy Weekend to You All!

cold, gray, perfect day



We woke up to cloudy skies and temperatures in the high 50's, which is the perfect weather for a soccer game, which happened at 9:00 this morning.  My boy rocked the soccer field while we shivered and cheered and drank coffee on the sidelines.

And here is the amazing part.  The soccer game was the only thing we had on our schedule for today!

Most of our week runs crazy busy and scheduled to the hilt in half-hour increments.  While this isn't exactly how I envisioned life to be, it's how we roll right now and we are used to it.

But...today.  Today was the lovely opposite and we fully embraced the nothingness.  It was cold and gray which was just perfect for having an excuse to fiddle around inside without feeling the least bit guilty for not doing yard work or getting fresh air.  

Oh sweet, melancholy day!   Thanks to you I made lots of comfort food that had way too much cheese and butter.  Thanks to you I read two chapters of my book while stretched out on the couch smack dab in the middle of the day.  Thanks to you I wore slippers and no make-up.  I opened up the windows so I could feel the chill blowing in just to give me an excuse to get out the quilts.

Yes indeed, we were cozy and content on this cool, gray Saturday.





Wishing you all happy weekend, whatever they may bring!

Making Pesto - A How To




How To Make Homemade Pesto


3 cups packed basil leaves

2-3 gloves fresh or bottled garlic

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cups pine nuts

3/4 cups shredded parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

1.  Plant a basil plant....and remember to water it. :)  Also, as it flowers from the top of the plant, pinch it off!  This helps the plant keep growing.  (Leaving the flowers on signals to the plant that it is at the end of its lifespan.)

2.  Harvest your leaves.

3.  Rinse and pat dry the leaves just before you plan to make the pesto.  

4.  Remove the stems!  (This is the most tedious part of the process, and it doesn't have to be perfect.  Just try to get the bulk of the stem.)

5.  Add all ingredients to a food processor and blend until it becomes a smooth paste.

6.  Put in clean, small gift mason jars and freeze until use.

Thaw a jar when ready to use and add as a sauce to cooked pasta, chicken, or bread or pizza.  It can be warmed or served room temperature.  For some other great uses of pesto, click here!    

Pesto has endless possibilities and is a quick and flavorful way to create a healthy and homemade meal!  If I know ahead of time that our evening is packed full, I remove a jar of pesto before leaving for work in the morning and let it thaw throughout the day.  Later that evening, between practices and lessons, I boil some pasta and toss it with some pesto, and voila - dinner is done. The pine nuts and parmesan cheese add plenty of protein.  For some added vegetables, throw together a simple salad to serve along with it.

(It helps to keep the kiddos busy during your basil harvesting and pesto making....see below. :)




Our Time...Or Lack Thereof



I was at the dentist yesterday to get some cavities filled. Notice the plural on "cavities." :) This is what happens when you wait too many years to go to the dentist. Ahem.

No matter, I am glad I went. I am not glad that I had to miss a couple hours of work, but this could not wait any longer!

We had a beautiful weekend weather-wise here in southern Ohio, but through it all I could not help but feel a little discouraged and here's why.

All throughout the week, I build up so much creative energy. I have many, many projects I'd like to tackle. I have visions of spending time teaching my children crafts and skills, and learning new ones together.

But when it comes down to the short (but wonderful!) 48 hours we have in a weekend, the reality is that very few of my ideas ever actually come to fruition. This can be really frustrating!

When I stop to reflect, however, on what we did do and get done, I realize that I am doing just what I need to be doing in this season of my life. Really, it is nothing short keeping all of our balls up in the air.....my own and my four kids.

In an attempt to make myself feel better because of my lack of time for creative pursuits, here is what we did do this weekend.

-Slept in! 
-Drank coffee out of a real mug and not a to go one .
-Mowed the lawn
-Watered and weeded the garden
-Laundry from the week
-Went to the pool for 3 hours to soak up the last ray's of this season's sun.
-Had a great conversation with my friend and neighbor we met at the pool.
-Grilled chicken and made spicy vodka pasta sauce. Yum!
-Watched Mockingjay with my two oldest girls in preparation for Part 2 coming this fall.

-Went to church...a new one we've been visiting.
-Went to lunch afterward with a lovely family from the church and the kid's school 
-Took my youngest two to a birthday party and met some great new folks - parents of my son's new classmates.
-Hung out with kids and worked on planning his 7th birthday party
-Took him to soccer practice and went grocery shopping with my 10 year old daughter....she is learning how to coupon.
-Packed lunches and prepared for another week....already!

I think we did what we needed, with not an hour to spare. My overarching goal is to NOT be preoccupied by some big project, but to spend time with my kids. Work scattered with bits fun is just about right for us these days. I am adjusting to becoming strictly a creative visionary with lots of ideas that I never do....but that's OK, right?

Hoping you are all off to a great start this week doing what is just right for you!



the Cost of Camping




I'm hanging onto summer here, folks.  I cannot seem to get away from these camping pictures when the hard, fast truth is that school starts on TUESDAY!  Less than 48 hours from now, I will be responsible for having all four children dressed for school and myself for work, lunches and backpacks packed, some semblance of a healthy breakfast served and out of the door and into the car by 7:45 a.m.

Doesn't that sound fun?

Really the point of this post is not to lament my upcoming morning schedule, but to share how a little camping trip 2 hours away can feel like an honest-to-goodness vacation with a very affordable price tag.

Now, I grew up camping so I do have a level of comfort with it.  We have also camped as a family several times over the years and therefore have acquired all of the necessary gear.  By the way, the gear doesn't need to be fancy. We did invest in a good, waterproof two-room tent years ago, however several camping items were received as gifts, like our camp stove. Many other things from our camping stash have been bought from garage sales or thrift stores.  

Total Cost Breakdown of Our Hocking Hills Camping Trip

3 nights at campground (We chose a KOA because of the many amenities and good online reviews) -  $111

Groceries for 4 days - $95

Ice for cooler - $20

Firewood - $28

Ohio State Parks - Free

Gas for van - $22

Total Cost of Camping Trip 



For us, this is a very affordable option for a summer vacation and we love doing it.  We usually choose a campground with a pool and other fun activities, but we equally enjoy time hanging around the campsite relaxing and unwinding or preparing for the next meal. There is work involved, but we all agree that outside kitchen work in the great outdoors is the perfect mix of work and play!




(If you are planning a tent camping trip, there are 2 items I highly recommend.  The first is a good air mattress and the second is a camp potty for the tent at night.  I am all for roughing it, but these two gems sure do make a lot of difference in my world!)