Monday, July 24, 2017

How to Cut Up a Watermelon Without Making (Too Much of) a Mess


John and I really enjoy watermelon, but I have to admit that I dreaded buying one for years because of how much of a mess I made when I cut it up.  One day, I learned a neat trick that helped keep the mess to a minimum, and I've expounded on that idea since then.

First of all, I put a cutting board inside a rimmed cookie sheet, as you can see in the picture above.  That way the juice is corralled inside the cookie sheet -- and I don't leave marks on the pan with my knife.  A good knife is always helpful, too!


Then I like to slice off the bottom off the watermelon so that it doesn't wobble as I cut it up.  Then I continue cutting the watermelon into bite-sized pieces.


My next problem was how to get all of the pieces into my bowl.  I didn't want to have to pick up each and every piece.  A spatula!  I can pick up many pieces of the watermelon without using my hands and getting them messy.

How do you cut up a watermelon?  Do you avoid certain foods because of the mess they make while you prepare them -- like I do?  :)

Friday, July 21, 2017

What I Enjoyed This Week: Friends, CC Training, and Date Night

We visited Antarctica this week!

Saturday evening John took me on a date to a restaurant that he had been wanting to try for a long time.  It was a nice place which was a lovely change from the casual restaurants that we usually patronize.  An evening out is always fun!

On Monday, we drove up to Houston to the Museum of Natural Science to spend some time with friends.  We hadn't seen them in a while, so it was wonderful to see them again.  And the museum had some new exhibits that we enjoyed.  I especially enjoyed the Hall of Curiosities; apparently, the museum had a bunch of stuff in the basement, and they decided to display it.  We were allowed to touch almost all of it, and the museum didn't even know what some of it was.  :)  There was another exhibit of pictures someone had taken in Antarctica which is where I took the picture above.

That evening, my book club met.  But we didn't discuss the book.  There were several reasons why, but we enjoyed good fellowship.  So we had a good time.

I had training on Tuesday for my being the director of our local Classical Conversations campus.  It was all day long, so my wonderful husband took the day off to keep our children.  Shortly after I arrived at the training, he called to say that Hannah was running a fever.  So he had to deal with a fussy, sick toddler, too.  What a man!

I was glad to stay home Wednesday to get caught up on my household chores!

Here are a few other things I enjoyed this week:
  • Sarah Beth had a swimming lesson on Thursday, working on her flip turns.  While she learned, I took advantage of the nursery for Hannah and went swimming with my other children.
  • I finished a short course from Adore Your Wardrobe and found it interesting.  I feel like I've been wearing too many t-shirts and jean shorts, so I want to start dressing a little bit nicer when I'm headed out of the house.  This course gave me a nice beginning!
  • We're starting CC in just a few weeks, and I've enjoyed starting to set things up and get things ready.  
I have several errands to take care of this morning.  Then we have a quiet weekend at home planned which will be useful because I have a lot to do to get ready for another CC training course next week.  

What did you enjoy this week?  What do you have planned for the weekend?

Monday, July 17, 2017

How Many Emails Do You Have in Your Inbox? Four Ways to Decrease that Number

Sometimes my email feels as cluttered as this bed!

A couple of years ago, I read that having a bunch of emails in your inbox can make it feel cluttered.  Since I was in the middle of decluttering my house, I thought that was significant.  A little later, I read that Crystal Paine tries to keep only five emails in her inbox at a time.  I thought, Wow!  What a concept!

At the time, I probably had about a hundred emails in my inbox which really isn't very many.  But I immediately started whittling down that number.  It took a month or two, but I finally got it down to less than ten.  And I was amazed at how clean and clear my inbox looked, how un-stressful it was to check my email.  I determined then to keep my inbox fairly empty.

How do I do that?
  1. Unsubscribe.  I saw that I was receiving a lot of email that I wasn't even opening before I deleted them.  So I opened one up and unsubscribed.  It was so freeing not to get those emails anymore!  Five seconds well spent!
  2. Delete.  I delete any and every email that I can as soon as I can.  While I enjoy getting notices from Redbox about their new releases, I don't want to keep those emails.  I look at them, make a mental or written note, and delete them.  
  3. Respond.  I deal with every other email as soon as I can.  If I need to reply to an email, I try to write it as soon as possible -- and then delete it.  If I get a coupon, I either use it as soon as I can or delete it if I don't think I'm going to use it.
  4. File.  I move emails into files.  I don't know about you, but I order a lot online.  It's just easier than taking all five of my children with me.  But I had to figure out what to do with those emails.  I made a file "orders en route."  Whenever I order something, I put that email (and subsequent ones) in that file.  I have one for my CC emails, along with those that deal with soccer and swimming.  I need them, but I don't need to look at them everyday.  
Typically, I have about ten emails in my inbox every night when I go to bed.  It takes me all day to deal with some of them, and honestly, it stresses me out some when I see them and can't take care of them yet.  But it's a lovely feeling to have a cleaned out inbox.

How many emails do you regularly have in your inbox?  Is that too many or just right?  

Friday, July 14, 2017

What I Enjoyed This Week: Practicum


This week I had my first of two Classical Conversations practicums.  I need these to get my training for being director of our local campus.  They were three long days, but we enjoyed them.  Yes, we.  While I was being trained, my children went to CC camp which they love.  But we were exhausted every evening when we arrived home.  And it's hard for this homeschooling family to get out of the house three days in a row before 8:00 -- but we did it!  I utilized this strategy that I learned last year, and it was so helpful!

We spend Thursday catching up on household chores like the laundry.  And resting up!

Some other things I enjoyed:
  • sleeping late on Thursday.  Yes, I did!
  • talking with fellow CC mothers.
  • receiving necessary information to make this year a great one!
  • how well Hannah did; she was a trooper being in a nursery all day without a good nap.
  • being able to stay home all day Thursday.
  • Kroger's QuickList.  It was wonderful picking up my order last week without having to do the grocery shopping myself.  We're heading out this morning to pick up this week's order.  
I'm taking our oldest four children to see the play Mary Poppins this evening.  John wasn't very interested, and he was willing to stay home with Hannah, so he should have a quiet evening.  We have a date night planned for tomorrow night, and we look forward to that.  Other than those two things, we have a slow weekend planned.  I don't even have to go grocery shopping!  ;)

What did you enjoy this week?  What do you have planned for the weekend?

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

June Reading


Without school last month, I had more time to read although I have to admit that two of these books were fairly short, so they didn't take long to read.  I've enjoyed having more time to read -- and being able to tackle some of the books that I just haven't had time to read until now.
  • Turn Homeward, Hannalee by Patricia Beatty.  On the Atlanta tour in May, we learned about the Roswell, Ga., mill workers.  Sherman captured the mill because they made cloth and rope for the Confederacy, and then he burned it -- which is understandable.  What I find horrendous, though, is that he sent all of the millworkers, mostly women and children, up North.  And most of them were never heard from again.  Can you imagine a man coming back from the war only to discover that his wife and children had been shipped up North?  How awful!  Anyway, this book tells a fictionalized story of two children who worked in the Roswell mill and how they made their way back home.  The author includes some interesting historic notes at the end of the book which I found fascinating.  It was written for children, and it's appropriate for children, and I highly recommend it, especially because it shows what life was like for most Southerners before the War:  they were poor and did not own slaves unlike what most history books would have us believe.
  • In the Labyrinth of the Drakes by Marie Brennan.  I've read the previous books in this series and enjoyed them all.  Imagine dragon hunting (for research) during the Renaissance, and you get the gist.  In this book, Lady Trent braves the desert to research the dragons there, and she finds an amazingly preserved building from an ancient civilization.  I can't wait to read the next one!
  • A Hearth in Candlewood by Delia Parr.  This book gave me something to read while jogging on the treadmill.  It wasn't great, but it wasn't too bad.  Emma runs a boarding house along a canal in Pennsylvania during the mid 1800s.  She gets caught up in everyone else's problems, trying to solve them herself.  Finally, at the end of the book, she realizes that she can't do it alone:  she finally prays about these difficult problems and asks her friends for help.
  • North by Night:  A Story of the Underground Railroad by Katherine Ayres.  Sixteen year old Lucy Spencer has been helping her family in Ohio on the Underground Railroad, assisting escaped slaves to their freedom in Canada.  I bought this book for my children to read so they could understand this period in our country's history a little better, but they won't be reading it anytime soon.  The story itself is interesting and informative, but Lucy is caught between the affections of two men.  In their letters and Lucy's journal entries, it seems like all they can talk about is kissing, kissing, and more kissing.  On the other hand, this book would be a great example of how some "harmless" kissing can change one's heart toward the one being kissed.  Maybe I'll have them read it for that perspective -- when they're older.  :)
  • High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin.  You can read my full review of this wonderful book about World War I here.
  • Alive in Him by Gloria Furman.  This book goes through Ephesians slowly and carefully, looking at everything that we have been given by God through Jesus and how that knowledge should change our lives.  As with other books by this author, there is so much deep, wonderful knowledge here that I feel like I need to read it more than once to get all I can.  By the way, this book is not a commentary; it's just a book about Ephesians.
What have you read lately?

Friday, July 7, 2017

What I Enjoyed This Week: A Trip and a Long Weekend


Saturday morning we packed up and left to visit John's mother in Louisiana.  We enjoyed spending time with her and her husband, and while we were there, we also got to see John's brother and his wife.  It was a good trip.

Monday was John's birthday, and he took our three oldest children to a water park to celebrate.  I stayed home with Mary and Hannah, and I worked on getting laundry and some other household chores done.  John grilled steak for supper, and we followed that up with a caramel cake, that, yes, I bought.  It was still good.  :)

Here are a few other things I enjoyed this week:
  • the Homeschool Chess Club.  Sarah Beth and Daniel are both participating in this online club and having great fun!  They even had a tournament Wednesday which Daniel won!  
  • a long weekend with John!  He didn't have to work Friday, he took Monday off, and then he had Tuesday off -- a five day weekend.
  • getting ahead on my laundry.  Okay, I didn't enjoy that so much, but it was nice taking a couple of days off from laundry afterwards.  :)
  • slow days.  We didn't have much to do Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, so it was nice to have that downtime.
  • a new recipe:  Crescent-Wrapped Chicken Parmesan.  A couple of my children weren't sure they would like this meal, but they tried it.  And they all loved it!  A new recipe that everyone likes?  That's a winner in my book!
  • Kroger's new QuickList.  I ordered my groceries online this morning and will pick them up this afternoon.  Having someone else do my grocery shopping for me sounds absolutely wonderful!  But I guess I'll find out how well they did this afternoon when I pick them up.  ;)
Sarah Beth has her last swim meet of the season tomorrow, and I'm going to be busy getting ready for my CC training next week.  But that's about it for our weekend.

What did you enjoy this week?  What do you have planned for the weekend?

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Book Review: High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin


Eve and Simon married just before World War I started; then he was apparently killed in the fighting soon after.  Three years later, Eve discovers that Simon is still alive when she finds him at a plane crash where she is living in German-occupied Belgium.  He has actually been a POW in German prisons, and now he wants to rescue Eve and take her to England with him where they can start their married life over again.  Meanwhile, Eve has been working with La Dame Blanche, a spy network, and she has secrets she feels like she needs to keep from Simon.  Both have changed a great deal due to what they have endured during the war, and they wonder if they can make their marriage work.

I loved this book!  The characters were well-developed, and the struggles they faced within themselves and their circumstances were believable.  I especially enjoyed watching as Eve dealt with her inner demons and the barriers she had erected to protect herself, in order to love Simon again and to trust the Lord with her future.  I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction because it is so well written.  I will definitely look for other books by this author!

I want to thank Bethany House Publishing for my review copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.