Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A Big Move

Last fall, we began investigating the possibility of moving from the mobile home to a house. It took about 6 months of looking into things, but we got the go ahead in March of this year. We began looking at houses, and also began to prepare the mobile home for sale.

Papi put in new floors in the kitchen, both bathrooms, and the laundry room. He also replaced the kitchen faucet, and the insulation under the girls' room (thanks to a smelly raccoon family who had moved in!) Before we even put up the for sale sign, we had some interest, just through word of mouth in the neighborhood. Then, we put the sign up, and had received a few different offers, though not all at the same time. Just as one offer would fall through, another would come up. A contract was signed the end of May, the night before I left for the annual Lilla Rose convention.

When we began looking at houses in March, the very first house we walked into was a definite possibility. This was in March, though, and our mobile home hadn't sold yet, so we were not in a position to make an offer on it. We just kept looking at houses, two or three every few weeks, and waiting for our house to sell. We did visit that first house again, after we had seen about 10-15 others, to see if it was still our favorite. In mid-May, the house was taken off the market. I was a little disappointed, but knew God would have the right house for us when the timing was right. Our realtor looked into things and said the house was still for sale, just temporarily off the market. So, once our house sold, we made an off on that first house. It was accepted that same night(!) though it took over 2 weeks to get the purchase agreement signed and official.

The boys at our celebration dinner. (The pics uploaded out of order...)

The shrubs removed from the front and back on after the first day of yard work.

This had been completely filled with shrubs and weed-trees.

Amazingly, this is after the first round of cleaning. There had been several metal dog crates, a pool, and other assorted garbage. Originally, we didn't know the concrete slab was there.

After the first round of tree removal in back.

JMC helping under JL's watchful eye (and I was right there taking the picture.)

Family room before we painted

We knew going in that that house was being sold "as is" and that there would be some work required before moving in, as well as for a few years to come. We were able to inspect the house (well, Juan & his friend J inspected the house, even the attic(!), I walked around and reminded myself of the layout and room sizes, since it had been 2 months since we'd last been inside.) That inspection relieved some concerns, especially in regards to having to gut the bathroom; it needed a very thorough cleaning, and some new fixtures, but we'd most likely be able to put off a complete bathroom remodel. This was great news.

Beginning to move kitchen things over, before replacing appliances

JA helped paint the family room

Watching the city workers pick up the shrubs from the curb

One of our first meals at the new house, before we had moved any furniture over.

After painting.

After removing the overgrowth from the front

All of the furniture was moved in just 2 trips with a pickup, a minivan, a 15 passenger van, and a trailer. Note the playhouse on the roof of the van. :)

More helpers. I think I counted 13 or more that day, plus the people watching our kids and helping pack.

In July, we were notified that we could move in 2 weeks before the closing, which gave us 1 week to work on the house before we had to be out of the mobile home. This also saved us the hassle of moving to a rental home for one week and putting everything in storage. That week working on the house was amazing! So many people came over and helped with a million different tasks; cleaning the bathroom, painting the paneling, removing wallpaper, pulling out shrubs, removing a raised flower garden that was improperly placed, cutting down tree/weeds, and much more. Other friends watched our kids during the day so I could get work done at the house. 

The downside to all of this is that had been the week set aside for packing, so when moving day came, the mobile home wasn't ready. No worries though. While some people were moving the furniture, others stayed back to pack the kids' rooms, the kitchen, and even the master bedroom. What a blessing that was! I was at the new house directing traffic, and Papi was at the mobile home directing things there. The deadline to be out of the mobile home was 4pm Monday, and we did it, just barely. 

Grandpa and Papi moving out the old washer and dryer

JL helped "decorate" her new room. :)

Papi and his friend J bringing my new washer and dryer

The first big rainstorm brought some unwelcome surprises in the form of water through the entryway light. Papi fixed the problem the next day by putting up flashing where the 2 levels of the roof meet and no flashing had been put up.

Papi working on the roof

Moving round 2 of overgrowth removal to the curb

Checking out a toad that was found hiding under the branches

It's so exciting watching them haul the branches away.

The girls at our dinner celebration after the closing.

Mami & Papi after the closing.

JMC, Papi, & Grandpa removing the old rusty dishwasher

New dishwasher and oven delivery

The boys filled a little pool the neighbors gave us. 

Pictures of the front & back of the house before we did any work to it.Look at all that overgrowth!

There is still so much to do at the new house. 7-10 years' worth of yard work that we still haven't caught up on and quite a bit of interior work to be done, in addition to finishing the wonderful task of unpacking. The important things are done though. Carpets have been cleaned, and we can change the flooring in a few years; walls have been wiped down (previous residents were heavy smokers) and the rooms are slowly getting painted; all the appliances have been replaced (a true necessity in this scenario); and most of my books have been unpacked. :)

We have big plans for this home, and would love to stay here for quite some time. We'll do a little each year, and as needs arise. As far as our plans to stay here, those are just our plans; we'll have to see what God has in store for our family. Whatever His plans are, they will be good.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Swedish Meatballs (THM - E) by Papi

I (Mami) have been following the Trim Healthy Mama plan for just over a year now. It takes a bit of study to fully comprehend, but it is also VERY forgiving, so you can get started right away while you learn the finer details. The best part? - the only essential item is the plan book, and you can get that at the library! Everything else is just extra, and not required at all. No supplements, special ingredients, or anything else. Those things are available, of course, but they are not required to be completely successful.

This is where most blogs would insert a disclosure that any links are their affiliate links & they make money if you click them. Well, not here. I'm sharing because I love this way of eating, and I get absolutely nothing out of it, other than knowing more people are eating yummy foods while becoming healthier. :) Besides, I don't post regularly enough, nor consider myself enough of an expert, to make it worth having an affiliate link. There are some bloggers who do an amazing job explaining the plan and creating new recipes, so their time and effort are truly worthy of having an affiliate link.

I could give a quick intro to Trim Healthy Mama (THM) here, but there are so many blogs that have done an excellent job already. So, check out Gwen's Nest for her Quick Start Guide,  and then play around on Pinterest to see sample recipes and find links for other bloggers' "cliff notes." To get all of the details & the reasoning behind the plan, you really need to read the plan book, but this will give you a good start. If you'd like, you can check out my THM board on Pinterest, too. :) (Two other THM bloggers I really like are Briana Thomas & Mrs. Criddle's Kitchen.)

Papi is an amazing cook, and he also happens to like a challenge. When I was following an elimination diet to try and figure out JL's allergies a few years ago, he made me the most amazing meals, even when I was down to only 6 ingredients for the first 2-3 weeks. Now, with THM, he's still able to invent the most amazing meals, all while staying on plan. (Most of the time. Like I said earlier, THM offers a lot of grace as opposed to strictness, so we do eat off plan sometimes.)

OK, back to the recipe. Papi created this last night, and everyone just absolutely loved it. We're talking seconds and thirds for everyone except the 3 year old. It was that good. Please note, Papi doesn't measure, so most measurements are approximate, and if no measurement is listed, go by taste or appearance. :)

This is a "E" meal for Trim Healthy Mama, which means it has protein and healthy carbs, and very little fat. I try to eat an E meal about 5 times each week, but there is not hard and fast rule about it, just try to find the right balance for you. (Read more about the different meal types in the Plan Book.)

Swedish Meatballs
serves 6-8

3 lb ground turkey (very lean)
Italian Seasoning
Minced Onion
Garlic Powder
Black Pepper
2 T cold coffee
3 T THM Baking Blend (I make my own from the various recipes on Pinterest, or you can buy some from the THM online store. Just be sure to use a FP version (very low carbs and very low fat)

Combine well, form into Tablespoon-sized meatballs, and brown a few at a time in a skillet sprayed lightly with coconut oil spray. Then bake at 350* for 15-20 minutes to cook through.

2 cups chicken or turkey stock
2 stalks celery, chopped fine
1 small onion, chopped fine
1 tsp. xanthan gum (or gluccomannan)
1/2-1 cup unsweetened almond or cashew milk

Boil stock to reduce by half (approximately 1 cup). Add celery and onion to the skillet the meatballs were browned in. Deglaze for a minute, then add the reduced broth. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Blend (using a stick blender) with the xanthan gum. Return to low heat and stir in milk to desired consistency.

1.5-2 lb dry noodles (brown rice, corn flour, or "Dreamfields" pasta)

Boil pasta as normal. If using brown rice or corn flour pasta, be sure to rinse slightly with cool water to prevent stickiness.

Serve all together, spaghetti and meatballs style. :)

Sorry I don't have any pictures, we ate it all too fast, but I'll be sure to update with pictures the next time Papi makes it. Hopefully soon!

JMC had a June birthday, too

Well, the summer got the best of me (moving across town to a fixer upper didn't help, but more about that later!) and I'm just now posting about our 3rd June birthday. :)

JMC turned 6 this year, and he began planning out his day well in advance. Of course there are 2 important things to consider when planning your special day: the food, and the fun. So, birthday pancakes for breakfast, pizza at Monical's for lunch (the kids all had reading program coupons, and JMC thinks it's just the best that they earn them in time for his birthday each year), and oatmeal for dinner. Pizza and oatmeal are his favorite meals.

For fun, he wanted to go to Chuck E. Cheese, and to play miniature golf. The weather cooperated, and we were able to do it all. Yay!

Here are some of the highlights (or better known as, Mami remembered to take some pictures.)

I forgot to get birthday pancake pictures on JL & my birthdays, so I got a combo pic.

We had 2 teams, guys & girls. JL was asleep in the stroller, so I bowed out after the first 6 holes, and got to watch everyone else from the shade. It was great! I snagged a few pictures, too.

A quick pose after finishing miniature golf

So big!

A selfie after his birthday photo shoot

He asked for a frog cake again. :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

JL turns 3!

Happy 3rd birthday to JL! She's been counting down for at least a week, and anxiously awaiting her birthday since JT's birthday in April!

For her birthday, we had samoa donuts (caramel & coconut) for breakfast, pizza for lunch, and birthday pancakes for dinner. She brought birthday napkins to Sunday School for her friends to use at snack time. There was even a mango filled birthday cake in the afternoon. Grandma and Grandpa joined us for the day, and after they left, we spent an hour at the pool. What a fun-filled day!

JA singing one of her choir songs to Grandma.

Trying to hide behind the shade umbrella stand

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday, Aunt Mary! It's been a beautiful day today. Not too hot in the morning, and a nice relaxing day for the family during the heat of the afternoon. I made a yummy coffee cake for breakfast, but it wasn't ready when we had to get out the door for church, so we ate it for afternoon snack instead. JT said he thought it was just okay, and then he did eat 2 full pieces. :) Everyone else enjoyed it, too. Papi's making dinner, and the kids are watching a movie. I'm here, thinking of you, and wishing you were here to enjoy my family and celebrate with us.

We used to enjoy sharing our birthday month, didn't we? I had forgotten about that. When JMC was born early, and I suddenly shared by special month, after years of having it all to myself, I was just a bit disappointed. And then, God sent us JL, just 3 days after my birthday, and I was let down a bit more. But today, I remember sharing the month of June with you, and I am grateful to share my month with 2 of my children now. It's been fun planning with them, choosing what we'll do on who's birthday, spreading the celebration throughout the second half of the month. Making sure to include all of our favorite activities and meals, without taking away from anyone's special day.

Leading up to today, I kept thinking that I had plans for the 12th. Then, I'd check the calendar and it was empty. Strange. Why did I think I had plans? Oh, yeah, because for the first 18 years of my life, I did have plans on June 12th. If we didn't get together, we at least talked on the phone. It wasn't just some other day, but the birthday of one of my most favorite people. Even though I don't get to see you today, nor talk to you on the phone, I still remember and celebrate your birthday on the 12th.

You would love my family, and they would love you, too. I talk to them about you. Did you know that? I tell them how special you were to me, and I pray that they have someone in their life they can always trust, always turn to. Part of me wishes to be that for them, but I also know there comes a time in adolescence that trusting the parents completely becomes a bit of a stretch. When and if that happens, I pray each one has someone like you.

How did you ever manage to write to me every.single.week. while I was at Dordt? Those letters were so meaningful to me, at a time I felt out of place. I got the last one after returning to school from your funeral. I still have that letter in my drawer. Anyway, I tried to write regularly to my nieces this past year. One went to college, and the other joined the military. I knew they were each going to have to adjust, and may have times of feeling out of place. I tried to write to them, to encourage them, but I didn't manage it nearly as well, nor as often, as you did for me. It's a result of my phase of life, I suppose, but I was disappointed in myself for it. I'll try again this fall, with about the same lackluster rate of success, but maybe trying despite failure is part of the blessing.

How old would you be this year? It's been bugging me that I can't remember. I'm going to be 38 this week. Can you imagine?! The last birthday you celebrated with me, I turned 18. You gave me bath towels to take to school with me; white towels so I could bleach them and keep them looking new. :)

We didn't have birthday cake, nor sing "Happy Birthday," but I celebrated you today. I remembered so many special memories: going to the mall together, watching the deer out your window, roasting marshmallows in the fireplace, joking about bra sizes. Thank you. And, happy birthday!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Creation to the Greeks

For the 2015-2016 school year, we studied history from Creation to Ancient Greece. JMC & JL even joined us for most of the science experiments and some of the art projects. Music appreciation was normally during lunch, and now JL has a particular fondness for Vivaldi & Bach, though she never quite took to Handel. :)

Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the year.

Everyone busy working on something!!

During one of the Biblical feasts we studied & celebrated this year.

still life drawing

the green soccer ball represents the sun, then the planets in order, somewhat to scale

Learning about bird feathers, and how they are similar to velcro

basket weaving with construction paper (note the Steelers' colors JT chose.)

JA went for a natural look with 2 shades of brown.

Next year we will continue with history in chronological order, studying Ancient Rome through the Reformation. The science book we used this year was amazing, so we'll be continuing with the next in the series, which teaches scientific concepts in the order they were discovered, along with biographies of the scientists of the time. So fun!