Thursday, September 25, 2014

My son ...

created this custom fabric for a customer, using customer-provided logos. I'm so proud of him ... it sure wasn't something I could have whipped up right on the spot, but he did it. He was also able to quickly accommodate the few changes the customer and I suggested. Thanks, Ian!

The fabric was printed through Spoonflower. I was given a 10-12 day turn around time, plus shipping. The fabric arrived a week after ordering it. Very impressive.

I've considered creating custom fabric before but never seriously. Now that I know it can be done I expect I'll be doing much more of it (with Ian's help).

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Few Faves

It's cloudy, damp, rainy, icky out this morning.

I'm dying to snap a few pictures of the fabric I just got from Spoonflower, designed by my son for a customer. Pretty dang cool, but this dark weather just isn't conducive. The sun'll come out tomorrow ...

In the meantime, three of my favorite things right now, in no particular order. I have no affiliations here, just love.

Electric Floor Sweeper

Because I'm Me, a few favorite items

I bought this this summer and within 10 minutes of opening the package I was madly in love and continue to be.

The Bissell 3-in-1 Vacuum. I'm not sure what the "3" stands for, but I use it on wood floors, rugs, carpet, and furniture. Pretty much, now that our downstairs floors are wood, this has replaced the vacuum cleaner entirely. LOVE it. It weighs next to nothing, takes up no space, and lacks an overabundance of breakable plastic parts (it's plastic, but less of it).

I used a broom yesterday to pick up some big paper scraps, that was the first time I've brought out the broom since July.

I linked to Amazon, but it was recently on sale in pink and blue at our local WalMart for $19.xx. I'm not sure why I didn't pick up a spare.

Pink Pens 

Because I'm Me, a few favorite items

For years I've checked schoolwork with a red pen. And for years I'd dig and search for my red pen because the kids would snag it.

Solution: Pink pens. The boys want nothing to do with this nonsense and pink pens check work just as easily as red. I haven't lost a pen yet this schoolyear. The brand of pink pen is not the important part, just that it's a nice bright pink pen with nice bright pink ink.

Chocolate Covered Katie

I've visited the cooking blog Chocolate Covered Katie over the years but had kind of forgotten about it until a late night of Pinterest browsing reminded me of it.

Family faves include:

Chocolate Bar Pie Keep it a secret, but the main ingredient is Tofu. I don't like Tofu at all, but I like this pie, especially after it has a few hours to cool and set (much better, in our opinions, than "just made")

Black Bean Brownies Again, fail to mention the main ingredient until after the taste tests. I didn't have regular chocolate chips so I used white chocolate chips, it was decadent. The second time around I accidentally forgot the chips altogether, don't do that - the brownies where nowhere near as decadent and good (though they were still eaten).

Back to schoolwork on a dreary morning .... What are a few of your favorite things?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Adventuring Again

Family camping and exploring at Myakka River State Park, Florida

The kids and I recently spent a memorable weekend at Myakka River State Park.

Yes, it rained. However, it didn't rain hard and it didn't rain much; much, much less than the weather app. on my phone had said it would. 

And, honestly, the rain was beautiful and gave the campground a wonderful misty glow. The rain, mixed with the Spanish moss, mixed with the Boy Scout troop covering their heads with palm fronds while the fire smoked created a dreamy, mystical feel, it reminded me of a movie scene.

Family camping and exploring at Myakka River State Park, Florida
Family camping and exploring at Myakka River State Park, Florida

Rain wasn't all we encountered over the weekend. We also found climbing trees.

Family camping and exploring at Myakka River State Park, Florida

And a walkway high above the park's floor, ending with a tower that gave us a bird's eye view of the surrounding area.

Family camping and exploring at Myakka River State Park, Florida

And a bird watching path which lead to this serene view of the local river, the Myakka River.

Family camping and exploring at Myakka River State Park, Florida

And some boys who liked washing dishes, or at least playing with the buckets and dish water for a good hour.

Family camping and exploring at Myakka River State Park, Florida

And scenic tree covered roadways in our campground. (Our campground was not where the rainy tents were, we left those to the scouts and brought my camper; it has AC, electric, and memory foam mattresses)

Family camping and exploring at Myakka River State Park, Florida

And gators. No zoom on this lens and no cropping of the image. He was about 10 feet from us. We also saw deer and LOTS of bug repellent-resistant mosquitoes (believe me, we tried every bug spray available and applied crazy often, those mosquitoes were oblivious to our efforts).

Family camping and exploring at Myakka River State Park, Florida

And we found some very dirty, soccer playing Boy Scouts, who didn't seem to mind the rain all that much (they minded the mosquitoes though!).

Isn't that Spanish moss fantastic?

Off to plan the next adventure ...

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

TOS Review: The Seven Minute Life Daily Planner

7 Minute Life Daily Planner Review
I was recently given an opportunity to review a daily planner, The 7 Minute Life Daily Planner.

I'm pretty sure my response when asked about my interest in the product went something like this: I've tried planners in the past, even written my own, but have just never been able to stick with them for more than a few days (yes, days). However, as crazy busy as my life is with raising kids, maintaining a home, home schooling, running a business, and being involved in my kids activities, I really could benefit from this product ... if I can just figure out how to stick with it.

In reality, it's not that I just don't stick with it, it's that I've never found a planner that fit into my life any better than what I was already doing. I find that changing my system screws up my system more than it helps. I've been told I don't adapt to change well ... maybe so.

But I do so want to be more organized, to focus on what's really important (um, not Words with Friends) and get those necessary things done in a timely manner. I'm not adverse to organizers and planners, I'm a huge list person so I do understand the value of writing down what needs to be done, and I know it helps immensely, it's just that whole adapting to change thing.

The 7 Minute Life is a time management and productivity company. In addition to webinars, other products, and speaking opportunities, they offer The Seven Minute Life Daily Planner, which I received to review.

The premise of the planner is that it will help the user simplify their life, stick to priorities, beat procrastination, declutter the mind and life, stop feeling overwhelmed, and get rid of stress, all in 7 minutes a day. The planner is a time management tool, not a typical date book.

First of all, the planner is not downloadable, it's an honest to goodness book. You know this makes me happy. The pretty softcover spiral-bound book came arrived via snail mail. Two options are available - pre-dated or undated, and I opted for undated so I could begin at my beginning, rather than being unable to use a few pages that might be printed before my first day of use. The book measures 7.5" by 8.5", is just under 1" thick, and includes 90 days worth of pages. Its pages are pretty and uncluttered, using simple black and two tones of green to print on a white background. It's not huge, this planner can go places - it fits in my school bucket and next to my bed, it could even be carried in a medium to large sized purse or tote.

7 Minute Life Daily Planner ReviewThe planner begins with an Introduction which includes opening exercises. I found this introductory section to be invaluable. To begin, the reader is asked to do some work on "Life Ideas", kind of looking at the big picture of who you are and what you need to do over the course of 90 days. The reader is first asked to examine their values, then discover their purpose. I spent a good amount of time on this exercise, doing my best to answer from my heart, and I found the end results to be very eye-opening. I've got a pretty strong idea of what my purpose is, but what I really took away from the exercise was the things I spend time on that have nothing to do with my purpose and are things that I need to stop giving my time and emotional energy to.

From that exercise the book moves on to a series of ten "Micro Actions", tiny changes and activities to implement on a day to day basis, all to be examined before using the daily planner. Micro Actions include listing unfinished tasks, creating a home repair list, developing a list of annual projects and tasks (things that need to be done once a year), and a meeting planner. Going through these sections ahead of time is key to using the system successfully, as these micro actions create guides to use on a day-to-day basis.

The planner then moves on to an annual calendar (to be filled in by the user), annual projects and tasks, 90 days overview pages, monthly calendar at a glance, and, finally, the Daily Progress Report, the daily journal pages of the planner.

One of the key items on the Daily Progress Report is the "5 before 11" section, a list of five items to be completed before 11 am. Just five things ... not so overwhelming when it's put like that. I really appreciated this section and found it to be the most useful of the planner, writing those five "must do" items down and specifying a time limit to complete them really bumps them up on the priority list and they get done. Things that landed on my "5 before 11" list were quite varied, everything from "complete and ship orders" to "write this weeks school schedule" to "do laundry".

7 Minute Life Daily Planner ReviewOther Daily Progress Report sections include:
  • Daily Contacts (track people you contact and speak with each day)
  • Unfinished Task
  • Appointments
  • What I Spent
At the end of the day the user is to fill in the box asking, "Did I do what I said I would do today?" In other words, "Did I meet my goal?"

I found the planner to be geared largely toward business people. Many of the sections, such as Daily Contacts, didn't apply to me as I work from home through the Internet and do not spend much time on the phone or making new contacts, it just isn't the nature of my business. That said, the sections can be reworded to reworked to meet personal needs. If you take a look at the other TOS Reviews you'll see how other users personalized their planners.

So ... did I use it and stick with it? Not exactly. I have to honestly say that even after reading and rereading and working the introductory section I didn't fully grasp the 7 minute concept. I am using the "5 before 11" section. And I am incorporating the information I gained from the Life Ideas and Micro Actions into my To Do list. I set some 90 day goals that I fully intend to meet. However, I have to admit, reluctantly, that I have struggled to use the majority of the Daily Progress Report on a regular basis. Even so, what I did gain from the planner was well worth it to me and I have learned some solid organization, time management, and simplification skills I'll use moving forward.

The 7 Minute Life Daily Planner is written for busy adults (that'd be all of us) and is available from The 7 Minute Life for $24.95.

Click to read Crew Reviews

Monday, September 15, 2014

Oh, those video games ...

Easy solution to limit time on electronic devices at Because I'm Me

Adam and Kaden were given Kindle Fires within the last few months by their father.

These things have been problematic. I love Kindle's, don't get me wrong, I just don't like that the boys spend their time screwing around on the Internet, not reading books.

Honestly, I've never been a fan of video games for the kids anyway and until they got these Kindle Fires it wasn't an issue at all. I much prefer their time to be spent interacting, reading, playing, or physically pursuing an interest, not glued to a screen. Especially not in the middle of a beautiful summer with a whole world out there to explore. And especially not when one boys lack of solid reading skills is becoming very, very apparent ... he needs to spend his time reading books, not playing games.

I recognize that most people have no problem with this kind of stuff and I respect that. I do also realize that these hand held electronic devices aren't going anywhere. I also respect that while I don't like the Kindle Fires they were a gift from the boys father and I prefer not to forever banish them from the house.

For what it's worth, Minecraft was banned from this house ages ago. Too much of a brain and time suck. I get that there's value to it but I didn't like the isolation, which they solved by playing together somehow, but that just led to fighting non-stop. Buh bye Minecraft.

Anyhoo ...

I decided that for every age appropriate book they read they'd get five hours of time on the Kindle.

One boy said, "ok, I'll go get a book" and did, the other responded, "that's not fair" and went off to play guitar. Guess which one is my very, very reluctant reader.

To gauge their reading, so I know they'd read the book without reading it myself, they must choose books from their age-appropriate section at Book Adventures and pass the quiz at the end with an 80% or higher (some books vary due to translation, like Swiss Family Robinson, so they might get an answer wrong simply from having a slightly different version ... with the 80% rule they aren't penalized for these kinds of things).

Once they pass the quiz they come tell me and receive 5 "One Hour Kindle Time" tickets. When they want an hour on the electronics they turn in a ticket. I write the current time on the ticket and it expires one hour later. I write the time for two reasons ... most importantly, because I'd never remember when they started, and also to mark the ticket as "used".

It didn't take long for both boys to find a book to read, even Mr. Reluctant Reader. Perfectly, they picked a series, Artemis Fowl. They both got hooked on the first book and are now working their way through the entire collection.

We're over a month into this little experiment. Both boys currently have 24 hours of Kindle time saved up. Turns out, five hours is overkill and I should have given them 3 hours per book ... but a deals a deal, so they just keep racking up the time. The boys are reading ALL THE TIME. I can't get either one of them to stop. Seriously, the books are taking over around here. And it's WONDERFUL.

The reluctant reader has discovered that books are awesome. He loves reading. He just needed that little push and a good series to get him started. One of his creative writing papers last week mentioned that he wished he'd started reading earlier, another stated that he'd make his kids read a lot because reading is great.

The non-reluctant reader is in heaven. He's got someone to talk to about books and, between the two of them, they can check out eight books each time we go the library so he's got more to read.

Both boys have shown immediate improvement in their own writing. Bigger sentences, proper sentences, better paragraphs, improved spelling, all sorts of good stuff.

Another bonus: The time they are spending on the Kindle is much more valuable to them now. They're making different, more thought out, choices of what they want to do with that time. It's neat to see their brains working and thinking about this, maximizing their time and minimizing wasted time.

So far, I have to call this system a roaring success. I'm happier with it than I imagined I ever would be. I knew the Kindle time would be cut down, but I had no idea how much both boys would fall in love with reading.

How do you tame the electronics at your house?

Check out this easy solution to controlling time on electronics

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Back To School - Home School Schedule

The boys (Adam, 13, Kaden, 11, and River, 5) started back to (home)school a few weeks ago when their older siblings went back to their "traditional" schools (which now includes two in college full-time ... holy mackerel, time flies!).

Just for fun I thought I'd post our current school schedule, which is subject to change at any moment (and probably will).

7th and 8th Grade (what the boys are doing together)
Vocabulary For Classical Roots, Book A and Book B
Fix It Grammar, Level 3 (for an upcoming review, we LOVE this program!)
Stewart English 2
Basic / Not Boring Math Skills, Problem Solving
Virtual School Science, History, and Keyboarding
Creative Writing (Mama led with random writing prompts, they each write one page or more per day)

7th Grade
Saxon Math Algebra 1/2

8th Grade
Saxon Math Algebra 1
Mathletics (20 minutes, 3 days per week)
Rock Star Essay (for an upcoming review)

1st Grade
Saxon Math 1
Spelling Workout A
Logic of English Foundations B
Comprehensive Curriculum, First Grade
Brain Quest, First Grade
Mathletics (20 minutes, 3 days per week)
Reading  (20 minutes per day, either by himself or me reading to him)

I've included links to most of the curriculum, not because I think I've found the best place to buy the product, but so that you can take a look and see what the product is.

I know it looks like they do a lot of work each day. They do. But not as much as it appears, not every text is done each day, and Fridays are left pretty open to allow them to use that day as a "catch up" day.

Feel free to ask if you have any questions. :)


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