Wednesday, July 16, 2014

"Jumping" & Other Crazy Camera Shots






*All photos are owned by Arrows and Olives blog and may not be copied or printed without permission.




After my brother was over this week taking more photos of my kids, I'm more convinced than ever that I may need to save up and invest in a real camera. 


And this is why:







Hey, it's not nice to step on the baby. Poor Milo.







































Sorry, iPhone camera. You may soon be replaced.
You just don't cut the mustard.








Sunday, July 13, 2014

SIMPLY EFFICIENT Part 1: Three FAVORITE things just added to my home




*All photos are owned by Arrows and Olives blog and may not be copied or printed without permission.


I've decided to write a mini series on things we are organizing, improving and upgrading around the house. No, we aren't spending tons of money doing this. (Although this post does list the most expensive change we've made lately.) In general, these are small things that I've found to make a huge difference in my daily-happenings; things that have freed up time and energy, and have kept me feeling calmer and less overwhelmed. These are small changes we are making in order to be more efficient and live more simply.

One thing I cannot stand, is spending oodles of time searching for things I can't find because of disorganization, and believe me, with nearly 9 people here, there can be a ton of disorganization. I also hate wasting time trying to do something that would take far less time if I had the proper equipment, or better organization. (More on that in the next post!) My goal is to de-clutter and donate anything that we don't absolutely need, and re-evaluate items we have to see if they fit into our new "efficiency" goals.

Which brings me to  Simply Efficient favorite item number 1: 





My Kurig.


I cannot wait until I'm able to drink coffee again. Right now it gives me acid reflux like black death in a mug, so I'm avoiding it like the plague. But MAN how I miss it.

Every year, Mike gets a "prize" catalog from one of the companies he does business with that allows him to choose a prize based on a points system. Being the good and devoted husband he is, he brings it home to me to let me choose a prize I would like to have (for free!) and this year I picked a Mr. Coffee Kurig. I wanted one for quite a while and was so happy to see it in the catalog.

So how do I like it? O' let me count the ways:

I love my kurig. I only want a single cup of coffee a day (when I'm drinking coffee) and so brewing an entire pot was always such a huge waste. Plus clean-up is a breeze with this thing! All I have to do is remove the used k-cup and wash the mug. That's what I truly love; how simple and efficient this thing is. 

I only drink decaf. Supposedly I have one of those bodies that is super sensitive to caffeine. I've found these DELICIOUS decaf K cups on AmazonThese are the best I've tasted, and I've tasted quite a few.

Guests come over to our house quite often. Guests who like regular coffee. (Here's another link to the very best k cups according to the consensus of my friends, family, and a gazillion reviewers on Amazon) With my Kurig, guests can make their own regular cuppa joe, and 45 seconds later I can make a cup of unleaded. (Or tea! Or cocoa! Or apple cider, and beyond!) I'm loving this coffee technology and the simplicity of this system.

On to the next thing:

I get really stressed out when people (ahem, you know who you are) move stuff around to places where I have not put it. Definitely this is more stressful to me while pregnant, but it's a huge time waster when I'm searching and searching for something and just cannot locate it.

The other day, I practically tore my hair out searching for dill weed when I was trying to make cold pasta salad for dinner. I know I had some, I know where I kept it,  and I know some of my kitchen minions (check them out with this link) moved it, or threw it out. Yes, it's dumb, but it stressed me out. I searched and searched through all my pantry spaces, and my disorganized cupboards but to no avail. Wouldn't it be nice if spices lived in a SET location?

Simply Efficient favorite item number 2:
                                                                                  





Spice magnets.


These clever metal gems have made life simple. Not to mention how cleaned out my cupboards are now. I love being able to see my spices at a glance and know that everyone in the kitchen is going to put them back EXACTLY where they belong. Right guys? (See me nodding my head and smiling?)

We saw these magnets in several kitchen stores, but ended up finding them on sale at Costco for $15.99 a dozen. They also came with a metallic frame you can stand-up or hang on a wall. You can also stick these to your refrigerator, or mount a piece of metal inside the door of your cupboard.

See how you can use them to shake out a little bit?  



Or a bit more? 



Or if you need a tbsp of something you can easily take the lid off.

I love these things and I'm taking deep sighs of relief knowing I won't end up breathing into a paper sack after trying to locate my spices.



And last but not least, this leads me to our biggest and most drastic change, (and my favorite!!!)

Our 4 littles come into the house literally covered head to toe in dusty dirt. We have a huge dirt pile that used to have vegetation on it, but the kids have killed anything that hoped to live there, and turned it into a Tonka Dump-truck Superhighway. And with the dry weather and heat we've had, well, let's just say... it's a mess. Several times a day they have to get washed, changed and cleaned up before naps, bedtime, etc. That means I'm bathing 4 kids twice a day. That equals EIGHT. BATHS. A. DAY. (And I'm going to be bathing kids even more frequently after this baby comes!) Every time I turn around, I'm bathing a cute little dirt-monger, or someone with an exploded diaper or a potty accident.

This was getting overwhelming because I can barely bend over a bath tub, and the only bathtub we have is upstairs. I began attempting to bathe them in our tiny bathroom sink on our main floor. That was a bit of a joke, but at least I could stand up while scrubbing them down. And they could sit on the edge of the counter with their feet in the sink while I scrubbed them head to toe with a wash cloth.

The inefficiency of this process this led to my AHA! moment!

Simply Efficient favorite item number 3:


                                                                                                          


 A utility/laundry sink in the main floor bathroom!


Isn't she a beaut? This is BY FAR my most favorite improvement in my home. I had to wait and set a bit of money aside so I could make this switch, and Mike suggested we get a faucet with a pull-out hose for rinsing kids, clothes, shoes, anything scuzzy, etc. This change was our most expensive one in this series, but so worth it.

A deep utility/laundry sink makes the perfect bathtub for small kids. It uses less water, is faster and far more efficient when giving multiple baths a day. (No bending over!) It's also easier to bathe small babies and you don't have to own several of those large plastic baby-bathing-apparatuses. Decluttering!

Our bathroom downstairs (on our main floor) is fairly tiny. It stays very warm in the winter and is located next to our washer and dryer, so it really made sense to put a utility sink in this location. We simply took out the old sink, replaced the counter top and reused the cabinet that was already there. I'm loving it, and I think we will get much use out of it, especially when babies have blow-outs and need a quick wash and change.

I keep all the clothes and pajamas for numbers 4,5,6, (&7!) right next to this bathroom, and that makes dressing and changing them even more simple.

And who doesn't love simple?

No matter where I look in my home, I find myself searching for simplicity; for organized spaces that function well, for easy solutions, and for ways to make life more streamlined and efficient. I've still got a long way to go, but making some small changes helps elevate my moods, frees up my time and lets the household function better.


Do you have any tips on simplifying life?



Tune in for Simply Efficient Part 2: Three favorite things just added to my kitchen











Monday, July 7, 2014

I Couldn't Think of Anything Clever, So You'll Have To Settle For An Update


*All photos are owned by Arrows and Olives blog and may not be copied or printed without permission.

I've been sitting here wracking my brain trying to think of something clever and witty to write about, but haven't come up with a single thing. I guess my creative juices are just not flowing. So you'll have to settle for some updates instead!

I'm in week 37 of this pregnancy, and I'm feeling that final crunch to accomplish a thing or two before baby girl arrives. I've been really motivated today to get stuff done. I'm talking about seriously Herculean tasks.........like....uh...sweeping. And napping.

I'm still not sleeping well at night and I'm dragging along through the day. But time is counting down, and I'm getting closer and closer to delivery. I'm eating pineapple like crazy. Yes, pineapple can help prep the body for delivery!

We got this really neat 3D ultrasound photo from my last ultrasound just a week ago:


Umbilical cord in front of face



Goodness, I've have so many ultrasounds with this kiddo. Baby girl has SUA (single umbilical artery) and it's the first time I've ever had a pregnancy with that. We aren't sure if that will lead to any health issues for her down the road, but so far they haven't seen any indications or markers for issues that usually arise when a baby has SUA. So we are hopeful.

Our garden is growing well. I just harvested most of our Kale that we use in smoothies. The plants are doing pretty well for someone who has the opposite of a green thumb. (Black thumb? I dunno.)


tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash

zucchini, yellow squash
                                                                                        
tomatoes, green pepper


        
                                                                                                    

mint



In addition to those, we are growing kale, lettuce, sage  and basil. I've begun experimenting with epsom salt added to the watering can to combat blossom-rot. Since I'm basically clueless about gardening, it's been trial and error.

There was a nasty tent caterpillar explosion in our region, and the little buggers sure tried to eat everything around them. Nasty little things. Every place we went we saw their tents in trees and bushes. The kids were fascinated. Me? Not so much.

We've been letting our chickens free-range around our yard and it's been fun to watch them. I'm fairly certain that an impostor squeezed into our flock and that he is,  in fact, a rooster. I'm disappointed about this because I'm not allowed to have any roosters in my neighborhood, so I'll either have to give him away or slaughter him. So far, he (she?) hasn't made any noise, so at this point I'm waiting to see it it's a hen or a rooster. If it's actually a hen, she sure does a good job of acting like a roo. Bossy thing (he/she) is.

                                                                               
                                                                 (apparently pants are optional)
                                                                                                  




We had a great Independence Day with family around to celebrate with us. My brother Matt is in town for a limited time before moving away again to begin his residency as a Physical Therapist. While at our house, he took some amazing photos of our kids. It's amazing what a REAL camera can do. My iPhone camera can't hold a candle to his fancy-schmancy Nikon. In a world of crummy camera phones, you tend to forget what quality photos look like when taken from an actual camera! Huge difference! It might be time for me to make an investment in a high quality camera. SERIOUSLY.

Here are a few fun shots from the day:



                                                                                                
















I hope your weeks have been filled with joy and laughter!


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A New Piano!

We love music in this house. For over a year, we have been praying and hoping to acquire a piano. Because this family NEEDS more noise and chaos, don'cha know.
But pianos are pricey and we just haven't had it in the budget.

Our oldest son, Micah, loves the piano and has wanted one for several years, but he has settled for learning to play on an electric keyboard that lives in our garage; propped up lopsidedly between two folding chairs, while he sits on his knees or slouches hunched over while sitting on a bucket. I assure you, it's not a pretty picture. His posture is terrible and I'm sure his piano teacher would absolutely cringe if she knew this was how he practiced. (Please don't tell her. Be cool.) But he has a real talent for music and is willing to do whatever it takes. 

Recently I found a nice looking piano listed for free on craigslist that piqued my interest and it fit perfectly in our price range, which was $0.00 dollars, but I ignored it because I thought someone would snatch it up quickly before I had a chance to arrange a viewing of it. But several days later I looked again, mostly out of curiosity, and to my surprise it was still there! Mike quickly encouraged me to try for it and I sent out an email. And after a few hours we got a reply that it was still available and we could see it.

Many pianos for sale or for free on craigslist are junk, so we weren't sure what we'd be getting into when we looked at it. We invited a few knowledgeable friends, Sue and Rich, along to help us  check it out. Our friend Sue had been a piano teacher for over 25 years, and her husband, Rich, (besides having a keen eye for a deal) knew quite a bit about what to look for. Plus he brought a trailer to haul it if we decided it was worth getting.

And off we went.

The sweet couple that owned the piano live somewhat close by, and were so happy to see us. They wanted the piano out of their garage because their kids were grown and they were planning to downsize and move to a smaller home.

Honestly, I wasn't sure what to expect. It could have had any number of issues, or needed repairs that would be too expensive for us to invest in. I expected several things to be red-flags or warning bells.

Sue sat down and pounded out the most incredible rendition of "Amazing Grace." It sounded beautiful. Everything about the instrument worked perfectly, and when she was through

playing, the lady who owned it said "That's one of my favorite songs!" and it struck up a conversation about our Christian faiths, our families and God's timing.


I'll blame it on pregnancy hormones, but my eyes welled up with tears. I was SO thankful. And I stood there crying in their garage as we visited. This piano was perfect for us. And it was totally FREE. It didn't cost us a dime. I couldn't believe their generosity to us. This lovely Christian couple listed this piano FOR FREE on craigslist. They considered selling it, but instead prayed it would go to a good home. The owner had this piano since she was a girl, and it was very special to her. The owners had gotten over 35 emails about it, but for whatever reason, people didn't answer back, or show up to look at it. I believe God held it just for us!


They were so happy it was going home with us. It was really a touching moment. 

So we loaded our "new" piano onto the trailer and hauled it home. Rich, who knows a lot about pianos, their values and models, assured us that we "stole that piano."

God is so good!

Our children have been thrilled with the piano and although it needs tuning, it still sounds good in the meantime. And since its arrival, several other children have expressed an interest in learning to play it.

Makenna and Mikayla have been taking piano lessons FOR FREE through an awesome website :    https://www.hoffmanacademy.com/ 

We put our laptop up on top of the piano and they have piano lessons that way. Don't you love it when technology works this way?





God is good and He meets our needs in abundance! We are so thankful He met this one.

And we look forward to years of sweet music.