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Archive for February, 2018

Writing Wednesday

February 28th, 2018 at 08:32 am

Today DH and I volunteer at one of my former schools. He reads to a second grade class and I work with a fifth grade class. I've been working one on one with these kids on writing. It is so sad to see what poor writers they are, but not really a surprise. Teachers hate teaching writing. Kids overall thinking writing is a pain. I'm not talking handwriting, but putting together words, sentences, paragraphs, etc. It's a pain to grade. I get that. But it is important to be able to communicate.

I get a chuckle over some of these kids who will write anything, and it doesn't stay on topic or even have enough detail, but they will inform me I don't know what their teachers wants. I finally told one attitude filled boy that I have known his teacher longer than he has been alive and believe me, I know exactly what his teacher wants and this isn't it. I know that sounds harsh, but you should hear some of the things they tell me that I don't know squat about writing. There are times after I make comments on their "sloppy copy" that I think I have written more than they have. I go over this with them hoping they will improve. And for some of them, they have.

But laziness prevails. I keep trying to impress upon them that saying things are nice and good isn't very descriptive. Gone are the lessons on using a Thesaurus. I pulled one out of the library to show them and they have been taught to scorn such old fashioned nonsense.

You probably wonder why they don't like books. Well, we had some administrators who said kids need devices and they are the end all, be all to learning.

Here's my educated response: "Ha!"

Ok, maybe not so educated and profound, but devices should be tools, not primary instruments for learning. I think if we taught kids how to learn and then use basic instructional skills, they would fare far better. Unfortunately the administrators feel that devices are necessary and are to be used almost exclusively instead of those old fashioned things called books and paper and pencil.

Our district decided to do away with math textbooks a number of years ago. And that year our math scores plummeted on the state test (ISAT). Three years ago they took away the reading textbooks and teachers are to come up with their own materials for reading and math. The district touts itself as being progressive by doing this.

As an educator I think this is horrible to put this type of burden on teachers. Most teachers are not curriculum specialists. This is not a put down by any means. There is an art to developing curriculum that is age appropriate as well instructional; assessments are difficult to write and there's more to it than just asking a question.

Well, to go back to what I was originally writing, it is a shame that these kids struggle with writing so much. I know they think I'm a nag and I probably am. But, if they don't write and they don't learn what good writing is, I fear that as students they will struggle not only academically, but economically as well. Those people who communicate well may not know all the answers, but they can ask the right questions to learn what they need to know.

You can't pick your relatives

February 25th, 2018 at 11:45 am

Like many states in the Midwest, we have had plenty of rain and gloomy days this past week. The sun is out and although it is cool, it looks to be a lovely day. I know people at church were talking about their attitudes changing because the sun had appeared.

It's been an interesting week on the genealogy front. I had the opportunity to spend over an hour at the library in the local history room using the free local paper archives. I discovered a few more tidbits from my family. My mom always acted like my dad’s side of the family wasn’t very good. Yet, from what I’ve figured out so far, my dad’s side a couple of generations back, did have some wealth and prestige. His mom and her parents and siblings came to American in 1902 from England and located to Albany, Georgia. Why there of all places, I have no idea. And how they wound up in Decatur, Illinois, is another story I will never know. But I guess when they were in England, they did have some money and a fancy home. But, things got tough here in America for them and hard scrabble would be an accurate description.

My mom has a couple of generations here in America before her. My great grandfather was arrested for stealing brass from the Wabash Railroad which is where he worked. My grandfather was arrested as a teenager for being in an east side of Decatur gang. My grandmother was arrested for shoplifting in the 1920s. My mom was arrested for disorderly conduct in the 1940s. Kind of sad to learn this, although this was way before my time. As they say, you can’t pick your relatives.

Another thing I discovered was that many of the relatives on my mom’s side were railroaders. Two cousins a time or two removed who were brothers worked for Wabash and one saw the other crushed between two rail cars as he was trying to hitch them together. That had to be horrendous.

Dh teased me I was a cheap date for a Saturday. I was happy to go to the library, check out a couple of books (I scored the last Sue Grafton!), and then spend time doing some research. He spent the time in the children's section finding books to read out loud to the classes he reads to each week. We came home and I spent a couple of hours updating the family tree. I fixed supper and we spent the evening at home.

On the knitting front, we have 135 hats made so far in 2018. The church ladies are teasing me they are hoping to get to 1000 by the end of the year. Wouldn't that be something?

Every fall I try to purchase some name brand chicken noodle soup to have on hand in case one or both of us get sick. That seems to be a comfort food for each of us if we have colds or sinus infections. I try to catch it on sale and use a coupon and that's what I did last fall. So far, we haven't need to eat much of it. So, I'm going to heat some of it up with sandwiches for supper tonight.

I am royalty?

February 19th, 2018 at 08:07 am

A number of years ago we were going to travel to New York and one of our stops on the tour was Ellis Island. I just knew my dad's maternal family came through there.

Wrong.

They came through Boston. It took a quite a bit of research to find this out, but I finally did. I'm am, of course, struggling with the research because I have no family members alive since my folks were older when they had me and most of the family was gone by then.

Of course being frugal, I wasn't going to pay to join a site to do research so I have been relying on free stuff here and there. I found the site familysearch.org which is run by the church of Latter Day Saints. I work on this here and there and add whenever I find something. Our local history room at the library has the local newspaper archive computer site free for patrons so I have been spending hours there looking up people in the family.

Well, the other day I received an email from the site saying I had relatives in Colonial America. I took the time to look at this and sure enough I do. That was pretty exciting in an of itself. But then I clicked further and apparently there is a long list of folks from knights to kings and queens of small countries and all the way back to Emperor Charlemagne. Wow! I teased my husband he should treat me like her royal highness. He teased me back about getting a tiara and I said that was a given, but not sure where I would wear it since I don't attend balls or political events. Somehow a tiara going to thrift shops and volunteering at church seems like overkill.

Seriously, it was all pretty interesting. And other than my time, free. Is it going to change my life? Probably not. But it was fun. Cheap fun. And I'm certainly going to get some mileage out of it by telling folks. Just wish some of my rich relatives had left me some money!

Chilly Friday and Supper Planned

February 16th, 2018 at 08:19 am

Yesterday we had a high of 65. Yay! Some rain and since we are in almost drought conditions, no one seemed to mind the rain considering it is February and it could have been snow or ice. The temperatures have dropped so it is chilly, but I did see the sun peek out for a bit.

Credit Card Free shared her Ibotta link in a previous post and I finally got signed up. The first day the site was having issues, but I got in just in time to do my Kroger shopping yesterday (after our Aldi run, of course). After I did what I needed to do, it says I have $3.50 in credit. Not bad for a few minutes work. That was after I also did the digital coupons and a paper coupon too.

Friday night we normally eat out and we are being joined by another couple. That is something to look forward to!

I have my menu planned for other meals this week. One of my friends says I'm rigid, but how can I effectively shop if I don't know what I'm going to fix?

Saturday night - cod, mashed potatoes, green beans
Sunday night -- chili
Monday night -- pork loin roast with carrots, roasted potatoes
Tuesday night -- chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans
Wednesday night -- leftover pork roast, baked potatoes
Thursday night -- scrambled eggs or omelet. This is usually the night I clean out the vegetable drawer to put with the eggs.

The chili will use the tomatoes I canned and a friend gave me some beef for Christmas so I plan to use some of the "free" hamburger. The green beans are from the pantry where I canned last summer too.

Using up stuff; making a few things, thrift shopping

February 13th, 2018 at 01:09 pm

Today seems to be the day to use up things. Lunch was leftovers from a couple meals. DH and I had different things for lunch, but that was OK. He wanted leftover soup and I had two different things that there wasn't enough of either to make a meal. There is still enough soup for another lunch if we put a sandwich with it.

Last night I made a gallon of laundry detergent. A friend gave me some stuff to make some a number of years ago and I was so impressed, I bought the Borax, washing soda, and back then Fels Naphtha to make it. Now, I don't use the Fels Naphtha, but use Dawn instead. But what a reasonably priced laundry detergent and it gets stuff clean. I keep a little in a squirt bottle to pretreat stuff.

I was looking on Pinterest and saw a recipe for homemade Febreze. I made some this morning and I really like it. I haven't bought any in years. I happened to have saved the bottle thinking I was going to use it for something and I did use it for this. (I am notorious for saving bottles and jars.)

It's funny how some of my friends react to these things. One friend, the one who originally had me make my own detergent is all about saving things and making things and saving money wherever possible. She and her husband eat leftovers. And she is a good one for a bargain. It's like we are two peas in a pod.

Another of my friends thinks I'm crazy for making stuff and doing all the leftovers and such. She is all about getting stuff new. I don't think money is an issue at their home.

Yet another friend would never think of making detergent or anything and won't eat leftovers. Money is an issue as you can imagine.

I imagine the latter two think I'm simply crazy about thrift shopping. I have bought so many things at our local thrift shops -- we are fortunate to have quite a few and they have some really nice things. Lately I've been buying material and sewing things with it. I've made 3 table runners, a set of curtains for my bathroom, and one long panel for a sunroom door and material and thread together I think I've spent less than $16. I buy most of my greeting cards at thrift stores too. I like sending cards and letters, but I hate, hate, hate spending so much on greeting cards. Very few people save cards. I save ones from my husband, but I don't save any of the others; I recycle them. Giving a quarter or less for a card only makes sense to me, but maybe I'm weird.

So, that's what I've been doing today. Using stuff up, made a few things. No thrift shopping -- I'm cleaning instead. And of course eating at home. I am going to make crab cakes and we will have enough for another meal. And so the cycle continues.

Icy Sunday

February 11th, 2018 at 01:14 pm

Here in Central Illinois we had a glaze of ice overnight. We were supposed to also received 1-3 inches of snow, but fortunately that did not come to fruition. I can't say I'm disappointed.

In 2006 we had an ice storm that took down trees and electrical wires so whenever there is a chance of freezing rain, I always dread it. We were without power for a few days and it was cold and miserable.

In 1978 we had an ice storm that was worse than the one in 2006 and we were without power for over a week. Fortunately it wasn't freezing cold so the ice melted, but it did a lot of damage. It was absolutely miserable. I played more Monopoly that week than I had before or after that. It certainly made me appreciate power and heat a lot more.

Anyway, back to today. No power outages. Just some ice on the ground. I salted the driveway and by this afternoon, it was pretty clear. We did make it to church and didn't slip and slide too much on the way there and the way back.

With the slick roads, we decided to go home and stay home. I started a pot of soup after I fixed brunch. I call it Italian wedding soup, but I guess I've sort of just made it my own recipe. It is really making the house smell good. I try to make it ahead and then heat it up when we are ready to eat.

Here are in the ingredients I use:

1 pound of ground turkey for meatballs

1 onion chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 bell pepper chopped
2-3 mushrooms, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 zucchini chopped.
1 quart and 1 pint of chicken broth
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 quart of tomatoes
1 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp. dried Oregano
1 cup of pasta -- your choice -- I use what I have on hand
fresh spinach
Parmesan to taste
olive oil


I make small meatballs out of the ground turkey and bake in the oven until they are done. I just use the plain turkey, but you can add eggs and bread crumbs.

I saute' the onions, celery, pepper, zucchini, mushrooms, and carrots in the olive oil and when they are soft, i add the garlic. I then add the chicken broth and let it simmer for over an hour. I add the turkey meatballs, Turmeric, and Oregano, and tomatoes and let it simmer for another 30-40 minutes so it cooks down a bit. I add the pasta and when it is cooked , add the spinach and cook for about a minute. Ladle into bowls and add the grated Parmesan. You can also add a little olive oil to the top.

This makes quite a bit so unless you are hearty soup eaters, you may have some leftovers.

Need some ideas

February 5th, 2018 at 08:01 am

As you may have guessed, I'm pretty involved in my church. Two things our ladies guild does is have a rummage sale in June and a Christmas Bazaar in January.

Two Christmases ago I crocheted little crochet thread ornaments and put them on Christmas trees and donated them. The trees sold, but I think I paid more for the trees than what they got at the bazaar. I bought the trees at thrift stores and an estate sale, but I felt like I did a lot of work for nothing. I also found a candlewick stocking and did it and donated it and it sold.

This year with leftover yarn from the hats we make in the knitting group, I crocheted dish clothes. I think I donated over 30 and they all sold. So, I'm going to continue to make those.

But, I was wondering if you have some ideas on other easy things to make that I can try and donate to either the rummage sale or bazaar. Are there certain things you like?

Thanks in advance.

Two Four letter words

February 4th, 2018 at 12:51 pm

The first four letter word is what it is doing right now as I look out the window: snow. Yuck. Ever notice how in the movies and on television that suddenly everything is wonderful when it starts to snow. Guess I missed the magic of it because I worry about shoveling, walking, and driving in it.

The second is the mother of all...the f word. No, I'm not using it, but when we did our thrift store outing on Friday, DH looks at all the kids books because he uses a lot of books when he volunteers and reads to classes. He gets the bulk of his books at the library, but there are some he likes to own since they are seasonable and sometimes he has difficulty getting them. He showed me one book that was on the shelf and said he was taking it to the cashier to show her since he bet they didn't want it on their shelf. This is a thrift store run by a church. The title was "Get the "F word" Asleep." It looked like a kid's book with the graphics on the front and the illustrations throughout, but it had all sorts of cuss words in the story. I am not lily white when it comes to my language and to be honest, many words don't really phase me unless it is taking God's name in vain, but I personally think a book like this shouldn't look like a kid's book. Someone had put a sticker over the title so I imagine someone putting it out didn't notice, but what if a child had picked it up. I am all for keeping stuff like that out of kids' hands. Anyway, the cashier agreed and immediately disposed of it. If people want those sort of books, fine with me -- just don't let them look like a picture book for kids. Mark it some how so it doesn't get confusing.

Pulled some soup out of the freezer and put it in the Crockpot to warm up for supper tonight. I tease DH about if he wants to go out to eat and he always says no. He likes saving money and apparently likes my cooking. So, maybe I'll add a third four letter word: save.

Kind of an Expensive Week

February 3rd, 2018 at 02:58 pm

Every notice how you think things are going along and you aren't spending a lot and then suddenly "bam!"? I expected the carpet stretching, but then a few other things came up.

I could of course not bought these items, but eventually I would have caved anyway.

Our router has been on the fritz for over a year. I have restarted it so many times, unplugged, unconnected, did everything that was suggested on the FAQ site. I think it just was ready to quit. Besides my computer, we stream Netflix on our television and it got to the point we couldn't watch anything. The modem was even older than the router so we decided to bite the bullet and replace both with a combo.

Then I was being the good little "do bee" and washing the mattress cover and when I went to put it back on the bed, realized it was splitting in many places. I don't even remember when we bought it, so I'm thinking it has some age on it. I have been waiting for Kohls to put linens on sale and they did this weekend so we went out, bought a new mattress cover, a set of towels to replace some badly worn ones, saved some money, had $5 off, and then got $10 Kohls cash.

None of this, of course is going to break the bank so to speak, but it sure seems like things pop up all at the same time.

A friend gave me some gift cards for my birthday. We stopped at Starbucks and had a treat. DH had a Frappucino and I had a straight cup of coffee. DH says he doesn't like coffee, but loves a Frap. Since it was basically free to us, it was a nice treat. We don't often go to Starbucks.

We came home and did some caulking in the bathroom. Not exactly a pleasure, but something that needed to be done.

So, it was a bit of a spendy week, but we did get some things accomplished. Looking forward to a week of not spending too much.

Oh, I almost forgot, I did splurge for a bottle of Gatorade. I saw and shared a meme on Facebook that said we should get as excited about church as we do the Super Bowl and if the Pastor makes a good point during the sermon we should dump Gatorade over his head. So, stopped and bought a bottle of Gatorade to kid him. It cost $1.09 with tax. I'm sure he will get a kick out of it and we will put it in the food pantry basket so it won't go to waste. Someone might think of it as a treat!