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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Cranberry and Cherry Zucchini Bread Recipe

One of my all time fall favorites: Zucchini Bread!  This time of year, this is no shortage on zucchini.  Our church puts out a produce table for folks to bring their excess garden produce...it is always full of yellow squash and, you guessed, zucchini! Lately I have had quite  a sweet tooth...I blame the baby... So I wanted to add some more sweetness to it with out going to crazy.  First thought..chocolate chips.  I've added them before and it tastes amazing.  But it definitely takes the health value down a few notches sooooo....Cranberries and Cherries instead!  This started out as a Paula Dean recipe that I modified. Husband says I can never leave a recipe as it is.  Often this results in awesome discoveries...and others...we wont go there.  The combo of half whole wheat, half all purpose flour gives it a bit of a nutty taste...with out the nuts.  If you don't like nuts go with just all-purpose.

I know, that's one BIG zucchini, right!
  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour 
  • 2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon (or maybe a bit more...depends on my mood)
  • 1 cup white sugar plus some to sprinkle on top
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries or dried cherries (I went half and half)
  • I cup oil (I use Saffola)
  • 4 eggs beaten
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1/3 cup of water
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla
Pre-heat your oven to 350 F.
Assemble those dry ingredients (Not the cherries or cranberries) together and sift, or in my case I run a butter knife through it a few times.
Combine, in your mixer, your wet ingredients and mix until well incorporated.
Ready for the oven.
Add your dry and blend well, fold in cherries/ cranberries.

 Pour into two standard, well greased and floured (or spray on will do) bread pans.
Sprinkle some sugar on top for a nice crunchy topping. (my favorite part)
Bake for 1 hour and let that sweet aroma fill your house.  My mouth is usually watering towards the end.  Test it before you take it out, should come out clean.

Let stand about 10-15 minutes then pop out of pan onto a cooling rack.

I have found the best way to store it is to wrap it up tight with plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge.  It keeps its moisture this way.  But my favorite way to enjoy it is when it's still warm from the oven...oh sweet heavenly deliciousness! Honestly it never lasts the night in our house anyway.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Getting ready for the (Home)School Year 2012-2013!

Why am I homeschooling?
First let me preface this post by saying...this is only my second year.  I am NOT an expert at this.  This is just what I am doing...or better yet...attempting this year. The way I do things may or may not work for you!

  So this year I have TWO school age children! Sounds daunting doesn't it, along with two little's and a another on the way! Ack...first thought..."What the hay am I thinking?" Then I reminded myself why I am doing this....why am I schooling my own children? Do I think public school is EVIL? Um, no.  Do I want to "shelter my children from the 'cruel, cruel world?'" Again, No.  Do I think every single parent/ family should homeschool...absolutely not! So why am I?  Every year Husband and I have to reassess this, and this is my thought process:
  • What are our motives?
  • What values/morals and life lessons are we wishing to instill in the kids?
  • What do we wish to accomplish this year?
  • What curriculum do I want to teach? (I allow each kid to pick a "unit study" on top of our normal curriculum)
  •  Do we want to do a co-op?
You see its not an irrational quick decision.  A lot of thought and prayer goes into our decision each and every year.

So here we are, we are definitely homeschooling.  I have decided to stick with the curriculum that has been working great for me, Abeka.  Goals have been set, and yep, we are definitely doing the co-op.  As a matter of fact, I love our co-op.  It is through a public school district, and the opportunities they offer are amazing! Piano, gymnastics, ballet, computer labs, reading enrichment, critical thinking...and for me....accountability.  That's not to say that all homeschoolers need that, but I enjoy having a "consultant" that I meet with once a month, that checks on my kiddos progress, and encourages me.  Not to mention an amazing resource library and a bunch of other homeschool parents to get encouragement and ideas from.  The kids go for a full day, to five classes.  They change classes each semester.  Also, because it is through a public school district, you receive so much funding per child to buy curriculum.  Unfortunately, Abeka is a Christian curriculum so it is not covered, but I do buy a lot of supplemental material to go along with what I am teaching. I went with Abeka originally because it lays everything out for you, and K went to a private school, for kindergarten, that used Abeka.  It made the transition easier for her and I into homeschool.  There is minimal planning, its all done for  you.  When you have a bunch of toddlers running around while you are trying to school, it really helps.  It's not for everyone, but it fits my style...for the most part.  I am always "tweaking" something. I buy the Parent and child kit.  I figure I'll only have to buy the parent kit once (per grade level), considering I will use it FIVE times. When the next child moves to that grade, I just buy the consumable materials the other kids already used up.  So the initial purchase...ouch,  but after not so bad. You can find great deals on Ebay...but the bidding can be cut throat!  They'll (Abeka) tell you that you should buy a whole new kit for each child....I say no friggin' way!  They say its because they are always "updating" their materials etc etc.  But the changes are soooooo minor that you can work around them.  Also, most of the extra stuff, like flash cards, that you have to order separately from the kit....I make them myself, and save them for the next kid. 

I would like to note that I put K in public school for the beginning of her first grade year.  I had a major meltdown that summer,: hormones, stress from A2's medical stuff, etc.  I didn't feel I was fit to teach my children at the time.  I think that it is very important for the schooling parent to be sound and stable enough to do it.  When we moved into our new home, and I was in a much better place,  I then began to homeschool.  I have to say, because Abeka is typically a year or two ahead of public school, I started at the beginning of the Abeka first grade material and it was still ahead of where K left public school.


Another task...organizing the curriculum and materials.  My good friend, who we'll call CK,  had a crate that she kept her sons materials organized in.  I loved it so I set out to create a similar system.  I see a lot of people on the online communities using it as well.  Each schooling child has their own crate.  I hung hanging files in them labeled with the name of the book or subject that belongs in that particular file. K has a seatwork file which I make a print out every night.  I also made each of them a "busy work" folder.  I added printouts related to what they're currently learning, along with work books from the dollar store that reinforce what they are learning.  If I am busy with another kiddo and can not get to them right away, they grab something from this file and work on it until I can give them my full attention. I just wanted to keep it simple.  Everything is in one place.  The kids know where all of their stuff is.  I can say "S, go grab so and so from such and such." No problem.  I also made up a crate for the A team. (my name for the two little's...A1 and A2) It consists of coloring books, manipulative critical thinking items, etc.  They can grab something out of there and feel like they are "schooling" along with us.  Which in many ways they are.  We already started school about a week ago and I was amazing at how much S absorbed just watching K and I last year.  I did no formal pre-school with S and she is leaps and bounds ahead of where I thought I'd have to start with her. 

Then there's the matter of organizing when I would teach what.  To be honest I am still working on that.  Abeka comes with History and Science in each kit. I will be working out of these during our "group" lessons.  So I read ahead and I have basically taken each subject and searched out printables as well as ordered some supplemental material through our co-op that supports the time line and science being taught through Abeka.  I really like Abeka's history, but I don't think it goes into enough depth.  I understand that it is first grade level but I want to really explore it.  Also keep in mind Abeka is written for a classroom setting, you have to manipulate it a bit for individual learning.

Then there is my binders.  These are my "brain books" as Husband calls them.  It is what I use to keep track of what I have taught, what I plan to teach, and store papers the kids have done to take in to my monthly meeting to show our consultant.  I have a monthly calendar for each month to write down important dates, meetings, etc.  Behind each month is a weekly break down of the month.  This is where I write down what we did that day.  This is very helpful when I have to go online and submit my monthly progress reports.  I also make notes what needs to be redone, what the kids need more work on ect. I have tabs for each subject, this is where I put printables I plan to do or have done.

It is very tempting to stick the Waldorf style most of us grew up with.  You know, everyone at a desk, teacher at the front of the room teaching the lesson. I admit this definitely appeals to me but I have had to learn to LET GO of this!  I do have a schedule for the kids but its flexible.  It has to be for a large family.  Each child learns differently.  My oldest, K, is very much like me; give me a book with directions and I am good to go.  My second, S, is the opposite.  She needs stimulation.  She needs to be able to move.  If I stuck her in a desk and told her to sit there for to long she might go nuts.  That will come with maturity but for now, nope. They can find a place that is comfortable for them. Instruction, typically, takes place at the dinning table.  K usually does her seatwork in the kitchen at the island.  There's less chaos out there.

 This is what a typical homeschool day will look like for us this year...or what I hope for it to look like:
  • Wake up:
    • Make beds and get dressed pick up bedroom floor. (Somehow, while my children are sleeping, they manage to make a mess on their floor.)
  • Chores:
    • K feeds Josie the horse
    • S feeds Stihl (our neurotic husky)
    • A1 feeds Lucky the cat
  • Breakfast/ Quiet time with Mom
    • Quiet time is a Bible Devotional, we're currently reading out of "Jesus Calling" for kids.
    • During our breakfast we discuss what we have to do for the day
    • Clean up from breakfast
  • This is where schooling starts: K and S split up
    • K grabs her seatwork folder with her daily seatwork printout and begins to work that.
    • S and I begin her "instruction" time.
    • The A team sits at the table, with S and I, and color or play in the living room nearby. 

  • K and S rotate:
    • K and I review her seatwork
    • S works out of her busy work folder or finishes any sheets from her "instruction" time.
    • I give any lessons or review that K may need to reinforce her seatwork.  This is also where I introduce new concepts,  like right now K is working on suffixes.  So I may review what she has already learned before moving on to the next item.
  • Group time
    • This is where I teach our group lessons.  I teach history and science usually during this time.
      •   We are learning about our state, so both girls are making a large map with major cities, rivers, the state seal, flower, bird, so on and so forth.  We add to it each day.
    • Remember that each kid is two years apart I don't expect them to have the same understanding of what I am teaching.  
    • I print extra papers so the A team (my younger two) feel like they are involved.
    • We don't have group time EVERY DAY.  
  • Unit Study
    • If K or S finish their work before one or the other, they get to grab their unit study folder and work the next project.  This is like their rewards for finishing their other school work. Sometimes it's before group time, sometimes after. Sometimes, its during nap time...sometimes when Daddy gets home to help! You get the idea. Flexibility folks!
Now this is a typical day.  While they work assignments I am floating around; folding laundry, chasing A2, cooking lunch, etc. We usually finish up by lunch, sometimes we have to go after lunch.  It just depends on the day.  But I am not a slave to this schedule!  Sometimes someone may be getting flustered and need a break. That's the beauty of HOMEschool.  We don't have a certain set time frame to cram all this in!  Some days someone gets sick, some days MOMMY gets sick (I believe Mom's ought to receive super immunity with each child...).  Oh, and remember...Baby #5 is on the way.  We will have to be flexible!
      We have been working this schedule for two and half weeks now, so far so good.  We did much the same last year and it worked great as well.  I just had to add S into the equation.  The other beautiful thing is,  once they're done with school...they're done.  They have the day to themselves...with in reason.  When I say that, I have images of wild banchee children terrorizing the land....They still have other chores to do etc, but for the most part they get to be kids.  Right now They're out in the back playing Captain America with my pot lids.  They got their work done so they are free to enjoy some of the last days of summer.

Unit Studies
As I said above, I let each kid pick a unit study.  Something they are interested in at the time.  We will be doing unit studies at the end of the homeschool day.  Somewhat like a reward.


K chose to do a horse unit.  So I am gathering information, scouring the internet for ideas, talking to other parents that have done horse units, etc. It helps that we have a horse, so she has already taken over feeding and watering...under supervision of course. I have decided to do a lap book first, with the ins and outs of horses; anatomy, feed, care, tack, hooves, breeds, etc.  Then we will dive into the history of horses, styles of riding, etc.  There is a treasure trove of information!  As a matter of fact the farrier is coming today to trim her hooves.  K will be there right beside watching and learning.  Then we will come in and do a diagram of a horses hooves.  You get the idea.  I provided links for the printables I am planning on using for the lapbook and links to the resources I found online.    

Resources: (thus far)
  • If you are fortunate enough to own a horse or know someone close that does, the absolute best resource is working with the horse itself. 
    • Maintenance: what better way to learn than to feed, water, and groom the horse.  What tack is for what.  What brushes do what.
    • Farrier coming: great lesson on the anatomy of the hoof, and why do we take care of their hooves, etc.
    • Vet: Josie just had to have some pretty extensive teeth work done.  It was a great lesson for the kids and our vet very patiently explained what he was doing, why he was doing it, and what the importance was.
    • 4H or clubs like it.  We haven't got involved yet but we're looking into it for the older two.
  • Library
    • True stories
    • Readers
    • Drawing books: We picked one up yesterday and K has hardly done anything else!  Feed that artistic thirst!
    •  History of the horse
I will make a separate post when we are all done, I had a hard time finding a post or page that provided a complete unit study on horses without having to pay for it.  I am piecing this one together myself and I am still in the process of putting it together.

Jonah and the Whale

 S, of all things, chose Jonah and the Whale.  How do I do a whole unit on Jonah and the Whale?  Well, I break it down.  First the story itself, then there's:
  • The story itself and the moral behind it.
  • Can a whale really swallow someone whole? 
  • What kind of whale was it? (Some believe it was a great white shark!)
  • Whales themselves.
  • The geography of the area.
  • The people of the area.
  • And of course, the whole point of the story, obedience.
I haven't gotten to far on putting this one together.  When I get more I will create a post for those of you interested in doing a unit study like it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Is it TEAL much? A bold color to brighten up the dinning room

My father works for a rental company in a college town.  If you ever want to score a ton of free furniture, go to one of these companies at the end of the school year and find out if they need someone to clean out rentals for them.....trust me....OH the treasures you find! It's amazing what these college students leave behind!   That is where I got my dinning table, among many other things....but I warn you....not only do they leave furniture behind....they leave a mess....a horrid, filthy, mess.....Just don't tell me I didn't warn you....

I digress.....

Here is my dinning room...notice anything out of place?
Look closer......

Figure it out yet?  The chair...every time I walk past them they scream at me....reminding me: "Hey Crystal....Finish us! Finish us!"  My table and benches also used to be this color.
Then one night, in a fit of pent up frustration (and a little rage....we where in the throws of closing on our home and had been given another hoop to jump through)....I busted out my sander and went to town on the table and benches.....Husband, unable to stand idly by, soon jumped right in (I think it was quality control).  We sanded and stained all night.  But these two chairs, I just simply did not get to them....

So here we are eight months later and a new home.  The time has come!  Have I told you that my favorite color is teal!  It happens to be the accent color for the house....

So I decided to make a bold move and paint our chairs TEAL! Husband wasn't to thrilled with my color choice but he allowed me to move forward.  (I love this man)

I went to our local Ace Hardware and bought a sample size can of paint, they mixed it up for me.  As you know I am all about being frugal and the paint and brush cost me a whole $5.00.  Considering I got this table for free some 6 years ago, I can't complain.

I plopped down in the grass with my two chairs, fresh can of paint, and gaggle of kids gathered around to watch and painted away.  At first I thought, "hmmmmm, just the seat..." which turned into the back and finally, to heck with it the whole darn thing.  So here it is folks? To bold?  I don't think so but that's the thing about opinions......everyone's got one!

Moral of the story?

Be Bold....and live close to a college town for awesome freebies you can re-do!

Note: I know the walls are pretty bland.....I'm getting there...sooner or later

Monday, August 13, 2012

Heart Headband/ Earwarmer Crochet Pattern

This is  my first attempt, ever, at writing my own pattern.  Please be patient and bare with me. My Sister in-law often sends me pictures of adorable crochet items.  To me that's like a challenge.  Especially if I happen to really like it! It's like, BOOM Challenge excepted! The most recent was of this gorgeous model wearing a head wrap/ ear warmer with an adorable pink heart in the middle.  I have never tried to add a shape into something, so I began my 'how to' hunt.  Didn't find a darn thing!  I found plenty of 'how to make a heart' patterns, but not how to incorporate it into your pattern.  So here it is folks, how to!

You'll be crocheting this length-wise.
You'll need at least two colors.  I used 3 and they will be referred to as:
Color A- White
Color B- Pink...the X in the grid pattern represents color B.  Each X is one stitch.
Color C- Heather
I used Caron Simply Soft (Except the pink.  It was some random yarn I had laying around)

Chain 71 in color A
Row 1: SC down your chain, ch1 turn (70 stitches)
Row 2: SC 40, pick up color B (the X in the pattern) and SC2, drop B pick up A sc2, drop A pick up B sc2, drop B and pick A back up, finish the row, ch1 and turn.
Row 3-10 follow the grid above, SC across the row in A and pick up B when called for in Grid,
**remember to carry the opposite color along the back of the heart on the wrong side so you don't have loose yarn all across the back of your band (do not carry  B all the way across band, just the heart)
Row 11: SC70 in A fasten off, leaving an extra long tail to sew band together.
Fold in half, with right side facing in, with long tail, sew ends together to complete the band.
With Color C slip stitch at seam, ch1, SC all the way around. Slip stitch to first sc, ch1 turn
sc around again. Slip stitch to top of first crochet, fasten off, weave in ends, and move to other side....repeat.

I hope I made this as simple as possible, feel free to ask questions.  I'll try to answer them as best as I can.  And I'll get a picture up of someone adorable wearing this...so you get a better idea what it looks like.

Oh yes...feel free to use this pattern as you wish! Its free....make it, sell it....I honestly don't care
Crystal......Knot in Chains

5 KIDS!?!? You must be crazy!

These are my girls....smallest to largest: A1 (age 3), S (5), and K (7)-
 Oy! Do I ever hear this...ALL.....THE....TIME! If you haven't caught on yet I am pregnant...with my fifth child!  Yes, five.  Whoa, when I first learned of this, to be honest my first reaction was shock...don't get me wrong...I do know what causes it....contrary to what some might think....

A2 age 22 months (He was a year in this picture)
Holding A1 after delivery

Husband and A2

Shock because our entire family dynamic was and is about to change...again.  Was this planned....lets put it this way, as my doctor says: "We weren't trying, but we weren't not trying...." If that makes any sense to you at all.  This came after many people were saying to my husband (including myself) "When ya gonna get fixed...the ol' snip-a-roo-y...the chop chop..." 4 kids crazy....5 kids...inconceivable! "Fixed" HA, there is nothing broken..obviously.  It began to sound like they were talking about an animal....like a dog gets fixed...me too.  I can only imagine what was going through his head.

I know that for most people its hard to imagine life with this many kids, as a matter of fact, many view them as a burden, not a blessing.  I often hear things like:
  • Wow, I don't know how you do it
  • You must go crazy
  • How do you have time?
  • Aren't you exhausted
  • Don't you know how that happens
  • Why.....
  • My new favorite now that I am obviously showing: "Wow, you look really good for having five kids" ( Which one may take for a compliment but imagine the tone the comment is made in...typically shock, surprise....questioning)
  • How do you afford it  on one income
  • Soooooo....When do you plan on stopping....
I think people expect to see me as haggard, boobs to the floor, sweatpants, messy hair, no makeup etc! It makes me laugh to imagine the image they must be congering in their minds!  I get it, its okay.  It took me a while to brush off the stares when we go into town, now I even laugh.  Imagine 4 kids: ages 22 months, 3, 5, 7 and a pregnant Momma walking through Costco.....funny right.  Especially if you know my kids.  They're not your quiet kids...these are rambunctious, rowdy, fun loving kids....just like their mother.  I am often stopped by, usually older women, or women with new babies (their first) and they ask, "Are these ....ALLLLL...Yours." I smile and say yes or sometimes if I am feeling particularly chirpy I may say, "I'm pretty sure...they just kind of follow me around."  I usually get a good laugh for that....usually.  That question is typically followed up with: "Wow, you are a brave women to bring ALL of them out with you..." You see, I see brave as jumping off a cliff, or bridge, or facing down some crazed lunatic with a gun (my brother proudly serves our country...he's our hero....That folks, is bravery)....I guess everyone has a definition of brave.  Oh the stories I can tell...about my childhood that is!  And I love to see many of the lessons I learned being handed down to my kids.  So in answer to a lot of these questions....
  • By God's infinite Grace...That's how I do it....I am so blessed with an amazing group of friends...most of which have 3 or more children, who can relate.  I can call these ladies and vent, cry, get advice, etc.  I certainly could not do it on my own, that is for sure...and for all my complaints...my husband is my hero!
  • Yes, I go crazy..some days more than others....borderline asylum crazy....Its chaotic...but its not the kind of chaos most would think....It's a peaceful chaos...If that make sense to you then you must have more than three kids yourself!
  • I admit, this one is a struggle for me...my time is MINE right? Wrong! I have 4 + kiddos demanding my attention and I really had to learn time management....correction still am learning time management:
    • I gave up Facebook....I don't think that Facebook is evil...it simply became a time consuming black hole for me.  I miss it, a lot.  It's kind of sad really. I do still have my Pinterest....I have to be very careful with that one.....
    • I learned (am learning) to say no.  I love to serve others, whether its teaching a class, speaking at an event, having friends over, etc.  I am a VERY social person.  But, I only have so much time and energy and right now it is directed at my family.  If I spread my self to thin, which I was (and still tend to do), I don't have a lot left over for them.
    • I put my phone on silent...it comes back to that social butterfly thing....If I start talking to an adult...especially since I am around kids all day...5 minutes turns into an hour.
      • A funny side note on that one...I recently flew out to the East Coast to meet my new nephew...I called home every night and could hardly hear anything anyways...to much happy chaos in the background!
  • Yes, I am completely and utterly exhausted at the end of every day, I am more tired now than I ever was when I worked in the corporate world.  But I wouldn't trade it for the World.
  • Yes, I know how it happens...I happen to have a marriage, and in a healthy marriage lies a healthy sex life....that's right ladies...I still desire my husband, and amazingly...he still desires me.
  • Why not?  What holds you back?  Before I found out I was preggo with number five I was completely against having more.  Now, I no longer see it the way I saw it.  It's very hard to explain.  There are the obvious things: finances, losing my figure...again, adding more chaos to our....chaos, giving up more of my time, energy, strength...etc.
    • You'll notice how all these things are "Worldly things".....Things that I have to give up, like my time, my energy, finances...but are these really mine in the first place.  I make the mistake of thinking that I am the only person in this world...or that I have control over this world...
      • Side note....I am not advocating everyone should go out have a million children.....
  •  I certainly am not a supermodel, but I do try to take care of myself
  • There are certain things you give up on a single income (45K-55K / year) to support a family of 7, but it helps that we have no debt except for our house.....and Snap On....The Snap On man and I have a love hate relationship....its vital to my husband work....but I hate owing anyone anything
    • I'll have to share with you, one of these Blogs, how we got out of debt.
  • I have thought about this one hard.  I certainly am not aiming to outdo the Duggars but, I believe that God has a plan for our family and we will follow along with it.   I follow my husbands lead as well, if he says we're done...we're done.  Goodness, before any of you start to think I am some oppressed female....get that thought out your head...I am, by far, more outspoken than my husband, but I also respect his lead....and how can he lead if I stand in the way?  If he tells me he wants 20 kids though, he may not live to see the next day.
It has taken me along time to get to the point I am at.  It took, nearly loosing a child (A2 was born with a heart defect that was not caught until he was coding in the emergency room), a major melt down after A2's miraculous recovery, and the gentle guidance of my amazing circle of friends, family and church.  I still struggle...the rebel in me wants to yell my rebel yell...to act as the World expects me to act...But, as I have said above, my time will come, when I have no kidlets following me around, when I am not changing diapers, cleaning up vomit (I did that as I wrote this post) Spending hours homeschooling. But until then this is my life.  It doesn't mean I am some bored lady, where the only thing I can talk about are my kids.....I have hobbies....but, right now, in this moment, they are my priority...right after God and my husband.   For Pete's sake....I am only 28 years old....I have plenty of life left in me!

Gah! I love this man, Husband and I...If I look tired, we went to a wedding, where my husband was in it, 2 weeks after I delivered A1....I am pooped!

Operation Front Entry

 From THIS                                  To                                  THIS

When we bought our house we saw A LOT of potential, but it was going to take work.  I have no problem with work, as a matter of fact growing up my parents used to punish my siblings and I with manual labor....until they found out that some of us weirdo's actually enjoyed it.  Funny story in fact: When I was twelve I got caught smoking....*gasp* Yes I know, I wasn't always so pure and wonderful.  So my dad, being a construction family, made me move a massive pile of tangled and snarled 2X4's and 4X4's....twice....why twice...because the first time I had an attitude.  I know side note....but that evolved into "Crystal, go chop some wood...." To which I happily obliged.  Ask me to wash dishes...I'd rather stick hot pokers in my eyes.

     So that brings me to our new home.  It was foreclosure....left unmaintained for a good year or so.  It was still in good condition...we didn't want a fixer just a few acres with room for my unruly brood of children to roam.  This was the front entry when we bought it.

And this is AFTER we raked it out and I took out the hideous brick arches.  I wish I had taken a picture before.  I love how this dips into the house, so to speak.  It sits between the garage and front entry of the house.  That is the kitchen window you see there straight ahead.  I pictured herb garden, flowers, roses...anything but this.....
It sat this way for some time...about a month.  It was Mother's Day weekend, and I went to do some errands, alone mind you.....a rare treat.  I came home to this.
Wow....Husband works fast!  This was my Mother's Day present.  My husband shows love through works...like putting in Mommy's garden, or washing my car....things like that.  He's not a romantic, but I know he loves me.

That quickly evolved into this:

Wow! And the best part...all for around $200.00.  Sounds like a lot, but imagine if you hired someone to do that for you....you'd pay:
Manual Labor
Mark up on the Materials 
(Did I mention I grew up in a construction family...I know these things)

This is the other half
That is my awesome Mom mobile...it's not fancy but it gets the job done!  And the Kitty....That is Lucky the Cat.  Her full name is "Lucky to be Alive," but Lucky is much easier. (That is yet another interesting childhood story)


 We ALMOST went with white rock and now I am thankful the woman at the materials lot messed up our order...this color is "Champagne." White would have been to stark, and I think I would have gotten sick of it real quick.  This has beautiful hues of pink and beige, especially when it's wet.
I used Slate stones that I found around the property to edge the garden, and those are slate stepping stones found at our local Lowe's on sale.

Total Materials to do this:
 1 Ton Rock around $100
1 Ton Bark (We did the front of the house as well)
7 Stepping stones
Plastic ground cover
All told around $200-$250
Not bad!

Now to plant to my hearts content! I'm thinking hydrangea...peonies.....herbs......