Homeschool Room Tour 2014-2015

It’s the day before school starts!

Not going to lie, I’m a little excited LOL.

I’m still working today on our school room and getting everything ready, but since this is probably as clean as it’s going to look for a while I wanted to share our homeschool room with you even though it’s not finished.


We live in a three bedroom house – we only need to sleep in two of those rooms.  So, a few years back Chris and I moved out of the master bedroom and into the “guest room” on the other side of the house – the main reason, the back bedroom is at least 10 degrees cooler on any given day than the master suite is.  That left us this HUGE space (not even kidding, the room measures approximately 17ft by 11ft and is nearly 1/3 the floor space of our entire house when you include the bathroom and closet parts of the suite).  Until about a month ago, this room was the “multi-purpose room”, it held my office space, our homeschool space, an exercise machine (collecting dust) or two at any given time, and all my craft and sewing stuff.  It was often messy and cluttered.

Our homeschool space at the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year.

Our homeschool space at the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year.

I worked out a corner of the room to hold our supplies and do school in last year.
Fast forward to May and the decision to work hard toward selling the house.  I/we did A LOT of purging in this space (still ongoing but mostly done).  Countless trash bags full tossed away, boxes and boxes of fabric and craft supplies donated and thats just some of what we got rid of.

Then the real work started.  We spent well over two weeks scraping popcorn off the ceiling, painting, cleaning, rearranging furniture, and organizing.

Technically the room isn’t done.  The ceiling needs a second coat of paint, we will be ripping out the carpet and replacing it with flooring, and we also need to replace the baseboards and curtains, but school is about to start and I needed a functioning space, so those projects will all have to wait.

In the mean time, I want to show you the amazing transformation of this room.

First let me give you an overview of our main school space.

Like I said, it’s not 100% ready yet, but it’s pretty close.
Inara and I have separate desks this year, which are in an L Shape.  Her’s is my grandmother’s wooden desk and I have a five foot folding table.  You can also see our we chose virtues posters hanging on the wall (I used tape so as not to put holes in the walls) still trying to figure out what to do with the cork board since again I don’t want to put huge screws int he walls to hold it.  The 7ft tall bookshelf holds what feels like the whole world.  It’s got all our curriculum, manipulatives, some chapter books to use for read aloud time, and still has extra space.  Next to it I have a rolling file cart that holds extra file folders and paper, the top drawer holds extra supplies and the middle extra manipulatives.  On top of that is a paper sorter for our colored paper (I’m super excited by that little gem).  You can also see Inara’s new neon pink wiggle seat, I’m excited to add this tool to our classroom this year.  For those unfamiliar it’s a 14 inch round disk inflated to about 3 inches high, but not firm.  It’s got two different textures on the top and bottom.  It allows for sensory input/simulation, noise free wiggling, core strengthening as they attempt to balance on it, and extra bonus it’s fun to sit on (yes I’ve tried it) or play with.

This is a more detailed view of our bookshelf and supply area.  I’m going to try something different this year with our AAR and AAS (all about reading and all about spelling) letter tiles and store them on a magnetic board separately and use a small white board rather than the big wall mounted board.  In part because, again, I don’t want to put holes in the walls to hang the big board, and also because I found the large board more awkward to use last year.  It’s not far away so we can still use it, maybe sitting on the floor, for other things or at certain times, but not daily. (and yes, I love my label maker and my boxes from Container Store)

On the back wall of our space I have an awesome school mailbox that a friend gave me, it will function as our workboxes this year.  On top I have a small display of flags (purchased from which will be used to say the school pledges, which are printed and laminated next to them.  I also have our US map hanging (I did use push pins for this – sorry Chris) since we will be studying US geography this year.

On the wall opposite our school area is the new family computer area.  Chris and I both have our computers set up sharing an 8ft folding table.  Chris is working to implement networked logons, so any of the three of us can log on to either computer and find all our appropriate files and settings.  Chris just finished setting all this up on Monday afternoon while I was at co-teacher training.

Next to the computer area is our new reading area.  I’m more than a little excited about this cozy spot, even if it does still have computer cables and parts stacked on it from Chris’ work in the space on Monday.  I love that Inara and I will have somewhere else to sit during school to read together, and somewhere for me to retreat to at other parts of the day where I can curl up with a book or do my quiet times.

Not pictured is the fourth wall of the room, which will be our movement area.  We have an exercise bike, and will also be putting Inara’s trampoline in that area.  It’ll be a place for her to get some energy out during school.  We often do memory work (poetry recitation, bible verses etc) while she jumps on the trampoline, or I’ll have her bounce and count to 20 or 100 for math practice.  She also enjoys using the bike to get some energy out and some movement going in her legs.

Well, there you have it, (most) of our school area.  

I’ll be sharing this post here: nbts-blog-hop-2014


We have a BATHROOM!

A little history.

We bought our house in July of 2006, with the plan that it would be a starter home 5-10 years max.  In the eight years since, we have simply outgrown subdivision living, and our interests have outgrown our land.

I was five months pregnant with Toby, and we felt like we needed to be in a house, and after having several sold before we could make a move on them, we finally found this house and bought it.

We settled, and we didn’t have a great real estate agent.

But, we had a house.  It had a nice pool, it was on a big lot for a subdivision, and we moved in.

From the get there were lots of things that needed attention.

Nearly every room in the house needed at least a paint job, many needed more than that, but I wouldn’t call it a fixer-upper, just in need of some TLC, and our personal touches.

So we thought.

When we came to look at the house the 2nd bathroom looked like this:









Yellow 4″ square porcelain tile in the shower, yellow walls on three sides with a fourth wall white, a sponged on fish border, dark pecan wood cabinets and medicine cabinet that had been stained over with blue.

It was… not our taste.

We painted it all white with yellow and blue spots lightly added in, painted the woodwork a bright medium blue, and replaced a fish theme with a rubber ducky theme.

Somehow this is the only picture I have of that:



Not even 6 months after this picture was taken, we discovered there was a problem.

Water had been leaking behind the wall of the shower for some period of time, and the drywall was rotting.  Tiles were starting to fall off the shower surround.

With the help of a couple guys from our couples bible study, Chris tore the shower and tub, and really half the bathroom, down to the studs, and then he chiseled out (by hand!) the saltio tile from the floor!
And there it sat, for nearly 5 years.

Until last month, when a tub went in!



We hired a friend of ours who is a contractor to do the tub, cement board, and tile work – and the stuff that goes with all that.

He did an AWESOME job.  Seriously, if you’re in the area and you need work done, contact Jacob Clyde – the guy can get stuff done, and it’s GREAT quality work!

After Jacob did his part, the rest was up to us.

But, I’m SO SO happy to say – it’s done now.

We put the finishing touches on it TONIGHT!


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My new kitchen, or “the awesomeness of my parents”

OK, let’s get this out of the way right up front – my parents are pretty awesome.  It totally sucks that we have to live so far apart, but they try and come visit every six months to a year, and every time they do, they bring their work clothes.

This time as we planned for their visit, they knew that Inara would be in school most days and Chris would also be at work, so they asked if there was a bigger project we could work on since there wouldn’t be small child disruption.  At first, we had planned to overhaul the front yard and begin (what I’m sure will be a long process) turning it into garden.  As the time came closer though, I decided I wanted to go a different route.  Chris and I are both great project starters, but horrible at actually finishing stuff – so I looked around at all the half finished projects, or supplies we had bought for things that had never gotten done, and decided to try and cross off a bunch of little things rather than one BIG thing.

I sat down and made a list, room by room, of all the things in the house I’d love to accomplish while they were here.  I came away with an average of two to three things in each room of the house.  I knew it wouldn’t all happen, so on the first afternoon of their visit we sat down and talked about the list, made a plan and decided what to work on.

However, mom and dad had a mini pow-wow while I went to pick up Chris and they had a whole new plan when we sat down to dinner.  The plane tickets they had bought to come here had, by in large, been paid for by frequent flier miles.  SO, mom decided to spend the amount she had budgeted on their tickets but hadn’t spent on upgrading some of the projects.

That is how my kitchen ended up looking like this:IMG_4032





OK, so let’s start with a very brief and very crude representation of the common areas of our house:

Document3 copy


This is the gist of the floor plan.  When we moved in almost seven years ago, and up until VERY recently (within the last few months) our dining table was in the breakfast nook, and the dining room served as this large random area I wasn’t sure what to do with.  It’s been our homschool room, a catch all area, an animal area, and all sorts of stuff.  however, I was fed up with the timy galley style kitchen I had, and always feeling like the dining table was CRAMMED into that breakfast nook.  So, I moved it over to the dining room.  This opened up lots of extra space in the kitchen.  The first step was that I wanted to put in a coffee bar area under the bay window so that I could free up some counter space and organize our keurig and electric kettle and everything that went with those.  I moved a cabinet that had been the stand to Chris’ snake tank over there and it fit PERFECTly.  Only one problem, it had no top.  So I scrounged in the garage and found a skinny piece of wood that worked but wasn’t attached, and was too large. Then some friends gave us that book shelf and after thinking for a few days, I decided to put it in the corner as a place to put all my cookbooks, small appliances, and for a bit of a decorative touch.

However, I needed more counter space, so I found this old and poorly constructed shelf/counter/thing that Chris had built years ago (and I couldn’t tell you what for now – maybe to put hedgehog cages on??).  It was 5 feet long, just taller than counter hight and despite not being even close to level or even, worked well to put my microwave, bread maker, kitchenaid mixer and other items on.  Only problem, it was ugly, uneven, not level and ugly.  But it worked so it stayed there.

So, on  my list for the kitchen was to put a real top on the coffee bar and to put a new top (that was at least even, if we couldn’t fix the level part too) on the ugly counter extender.  Well, that’s the part my parents changed.  My mom offered to buy us two new large cabinets and a counter top to replace the ugly wood thing and the one small one foot counter/cabinet that was next to the stove.  It turned out to be exactly six feet so two large 36″ cabinets and a six foot expanse of uninterrupted counter space – I had died and gone to tiny kitchen heaven.  I’m not even joking when I say adding these two cabinets almost doubles our storage space and the counter is the largest counter in my kitchen.


We went back and fourth on a few different cabinet set ups (two 18″ cabinets and a 36; a set of 18 in drawers, an 18 inch cabinet and a 35 inch cabinet; a tall 18 inch pantry cabinet, a standard 18 inch cabinet and a 36 – etc.) Finally we decided on the simplest of two 36 inch cabinets and after choosing what we wanted at Lowes, mom made me go over to Home Depot just to make sure I didn’t like what was there better.  Oh am I so glad she made me do that. The cabinets at Lowe’s looked basically the same, except they had two smaller drawers and when you opened the doors there was a small support/divider that ran between the cupboard doors in the front.  The cabinets at home depot have one large drawer and an uninterrupted cabinet space.  OH MY HEAVEN!  I also ended up choosing a different counter top than we had originally picked at Lowes, and in the end I’m very happy with that switch as well.


So, with a fair amount of hard work, Chris and my dad spent three days installing the cabinets – which also included moving an electrical outlet (which they switched from a two outlet receptor to a four outlet one!), and then the counter.  Dad also cut and installed a new top on the coffee bar, and cut me SEVERAL new shelves for the bookcases in the dining room.


It’s not a total kitchen remodel (none of us could afford that, nor was there anywhere near enough time) but it’s a FANTASTIC kitchen addition.  Mom and I also talked about several of the next steps for continuing the betterment of my tiny kitchen and it’s horrid organization issues.


While the guys were working on that, my mom and I had our own project – but that’s another blog post.


Until then, I’m going to go drool some more over my new kitchen.  I have already rearranged half my small appliances and drawers twice – I’m sure it’ll be a couple months before I finally figure out the right combination.  just in time to add new things to it for my birthday and Christmas.

A little home improvement

I don’t know if you remember the little incident when, two days in a row, Inara managed to get ahold of a sharpie and add a lovely amount of artwork to our home – all over the backs of couch cushions, the end of the cabinets and more than one wall…  Well, after looking at it, crying over it, scrubbing it over and over with Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (more than once, it seems to be the only thing that ever came close to touching it!) I finally decided that the walls and cabinets would simply have to be sanded down and repainted – this was months ago.

This last weekend I finally got around to doing the two spots in the hallway, because I wanted to hang a shelf and I figured before I covered up the section of wall, I better fix it or I never would do it.

There were red sharpie coloring marks on both sides of the hall, almost as mirror images, and I had to sand off a considerable section of the paint and texture (almost a square foot on both sides).  This didn’t make me any happier about the whole situation.

About a dozen coats of paint later (and a small scare that I’d chosen the wrong paint can considering the kitchen and living room are two different, but very similar shades of yellow and I couldn’t remember which the hall was) and a couple hours of dry time the walls were repainted, free of red sharpie, and unless you knew where and what to look for, not really noticeable.

Then this morning, with some help from Chris, I got the shelf up – as you can see, it’s where I plan to store all our jars of home canned yummies.

I’m totally pleased with the outcome of the shelf, just wish I could have skipped the middle steps of removing “art” from my walls.

This week’s plan

Once again this week’s menu is almost exclusively from A Year of Slow Cooking… I just can’t help it, I LOVE that site, and I LOVE LOVE my crockpot! The other thing about this week, is that it’s my final, full week, being home before MOPS national convention, as well as this week and next are going to be super busy, so I’ve worked in a cleaning plan too…

Monday: Gyro’s (I didn’t get to make them on Saturday, and the meat is still in the fridge needing to be used!)  Cleaning – bathroom & closet

Tuesday: Baked Ziti! As soon as I saw this recipe I knew I had to try it! I’ve been in a major pasta craving lately but haven’t wanted to really make anything (read: turn on my stove or my oven to cook pasta) so I’m super excited to see how this turns out!  Cleaning: Kitchen

Wednesday: Salsa Chicken Chris and I made a TON of homemade salsa two weeks ago that is reaching the end of it’s prime and needs to be used, so I’ll be using some to make this.  Cleaning Inara’s room & our bedroom

Thursday: Applesauce chicken Cleaning: Living room

Friday: Our small group is coming over for dinner and fellowship, but we have a couple people with dietary restrictions, so we’ll be having either Meatballs in Peanut Chile Sauce, or Asian Shredded Beef – whichever meats all dietary needs (still waiting to hear back) Cleaning: spot cleaning before everyone arrives

Saturday: We have two birthday parties, and Chris has a men’s thing at church, we’ll be super busy all day, so I’m planning this to be our meal out for the week.

Sunday: We’ll be having whichever of the two meals for friday didn’t make the cut. 🙂

Also on the cleaning list:

multi-purpose room- I’m hoping to spend about a half hour cleaning in here each day because it’s a disaster and far too overwhelming for me to try and tackle all at the same time in one day.

Animal area- needs a good sweeping and dusting as well as to be de-cluttered a bit now that we’ve lost our last hedgehog and condensed the snake tanks to a smaller area.

We’re also going to the zoo one day this week with our friends Erin and Brynn as well as a few other activities on the calendar. Next week we have an information meeting with an adoption agency we’re heavily considering, I leave for convention on Thursday and don’t get back till Sunday and who knows what else – talk about jam packed!!

Hope everyone has a great week!

Menu for the week

It seems like for the past couple weeks I’ve been cooking almost exclusively based on recipes from A Year of Slow Cooking and I have also posted links on Twitter & Facebook of what I’ve put in my crockpot that day. So, instead, I’m coming back here to put my menu plan for the week in one location!

Monday: McDonald’s between picking Chris up from work and going to HEB for our weekly shopping trip…

Tuesday: Layered Steak Dinner, it’ll be my first time trying is method of slow-cooking

Wednesday: Summer Roast Chicken (left over chicken will be chopped and used latter in the week) I need to get back into the habit of cooking whole chickens again, they made life easier

Thursday: Candy Chicken with couscous and peas. We’re having our awesome friends the Connellys over for dinner for Inara’s birthday, so it’s her dinner, she loves peas and couscous and by her request there will also be pink happy birfday cake and we’ll sing the happy birfday song. 🙂

Friday: chicken (using left overs from Wednesday) and broccoli quiche (might also toss in some mushrooms, just for kicks.

Saturday, lunch will be chicken sandwiches (more of Wednesday’s leftovers) and dinner is Gyros!

Sunday we’ll have a good ol’ hobo dinner in the fire pit and roast some marshmallows for s’mores to knock another item off the summer list and have a small fun time for Inara’s birthday with just us three before getting back to the grind on Monday morning!

Soap whats?

Almost exactly a month ago, I took my crazy dirty hippy ways a step further and ordered the starter kit of Soapnuts from Laundry Tree.

Upon mentioning this on Twitter & Facebook I got a mixed bag of reactions as to my sanity and others personal interest in the product. However, for the few of you who were truly interested I promised a comprehensive review, so here it is.

I guess I should start at the beginning…
I heard about Soapnuts on Simple Mom (really, I do love that blog!) and they piqued my interest. After thinking about but not buying them (I think maybe back around Christmas) Simple Mom again brought them to mind at the end of May during her Summer Week of Giveaways series. I did some more research and convinced Chris to let me try them and the next time I was starting to run low on laundry detergent, I ordered some.

I guess I should maybe explain what the heck a soapnut is.

Soapnuts are a fruit of a tree that have been de-seeded and then dried in the sun. The outer shell of the soapnut contains saponin, a natural substance known for its ability to cleanse and wash. So, really it’s the casing of the fruit you are using to wash with, that’s where the “soap” is.

How you use them is to put 3-5 in one of the drawstring bag that’s included in your kit. Tie the bag closed and toss it directly in with your laundry. The saponin only releases in warm or hot water though, so if you wash on cold, you will need to use a soapnut soak which is what I do for half our diapering loads. The soak is really easy to make, and then you simply put in 1/4 to 1/2 a cup of the liquid with your cold water laundry.

I’ve also used the soak to dilute and use as a household cleaner, and let me tell you I’ve NEVER seen our windows and mirrors so clean.

So, my review:
I really love the soapnuts soak for cold laundry and household cleaning I did not however like it at all for a hand cleaner and was really disappointed by it and the foam pump that I ordered from laundry tree. I did realize the need to refrigerate the soak solution though or it went gross.

For our regular laundry, I was on warm and toss in my soapnuts bag and everything comes out clean and fregrance free, the way laundry should. I have noticed that our clothes are softer and our towels are fluffier. Keep in mind that I don’t (and haven’t for years) use laundry softener or fabric sheets in the dryer. I also use a scoop of oxyclean with Inara’s clothes and our whites and everything comes out great looking!

I have started using the essential oils that I’ve bought from laundry tree but haven’t been enamored with the results. I’ve tried both adding it to the wash and the dryer per the instructions from Laundry Tree’s site, neither with amazing results, then again I may be asking too much since I’m used to the artificially strong chemical laundry sents associated with fabric softeners.

The original starter kit lasted us about 1 months worth of laundry, and I do at least one load a day Monday through Friday of regular laundry and a couple loads (3ish) of diapers a week. This week I ordered our next supply and since I’m totally satisfied (and Chris begrudgingly said he thought it worked OK) I went ahead and ordered the 500g package which should last us at least 6 months I’m guessing.

Since I was so happy, I also ordered some fun to share the love with others. In the starter kit I originally ordered it included this handy drawstring 20g bag of soapnuts with a basic instructions tag attached. I kept it, I also ordered a second one with my new order. So, I’m giving them away!

Only, there’s more to it than that – I realized as I was unpacking this order and putting the soapnuts in the jar I store them in that I had WAY more than would fit in the jar, and had extra wash bags that had never been used…

Two lovely winners will each recive two 20 gram wash bags of soapnuts and one insturction card! Thats enough for around 20 loads of laundry!

To win, all you have to do is comment with one way you are trying or have thought about doing to remove the chemicals from your home.