Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mary Mary, quite contrary...

how DOES your garden grow??? Ours is growing great minus the few bugs we have had eating up our plant leaves. We have had a REAL spring this year and not that weather that goes from cold to hot and humid in 2.7 seconds flat. Usually by now we are in 90's weather and it is hot hot hot. I hate that. This year though we have had a really nice two months of 60s and 70s degree weather giving our vegetables a nice growing season. I have cabbage growing, lettuces, radishes, carrots, tomatoes, squashes, herbs, cucumbers, corn, and watermelon, cantalope, and peppers all in my garden right now. Oh and I forgot onions, broccoli, and cauliflower. Yes that it a lot.

Here are a few photos of our garden about a month ago.

Garden beds 1 and 2

Planting seeds

Garden bed 1

Tomorrow I will show you what they look like now. They are growing so well. We are using raised beds this year and it is located on the side of our house. It is the part of our yard with the best sunlight.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Spring Storms

Recently if you have been watching any news you have seen some of the damage that has been done in the recent spring rain storms that have come through the midwest, south and mid east. We have been getting some really severe storms with heavy winds and tornados. We are certainly not in tornado alley and I have no idea how people can live with the daily summer threat of tornadoes there. However, we have had more than two or three years' worth of tornadoes right around our community this spring. We had at least two touch down yesterday. In fact I saw the big storm cloud that produced the tornadoes yesterday evening while I was checking on our garden. There was a huge cloud with a ton of lightening and lots of thunder. I could hear it off in the distance but I could tell that it wasn't going to affect us, as it was too far to our northwest. We didn't feel a bit of the rain, but it was a little windy.

Today we are currently under a tornado watch and a severe thunderstorm warning. I have been watching the weather all morning so far.

This brings me to my point. Do you have an emergency plan in place for your family? Do you have a weather radio? Do you have a good supply of flashlights and batteries? Candles, lighters or matches? Do you have a particular place in your home to sit and wait out a tornado or whatever weather emergency you experience from time to time in your area? Now may be a good time to go ahead and begin to prepare for a weather related emergency or earthquake. Just by thinking about it can prepare you a bit more than you are prepared now....just sayin....

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Yes, I coupon. Is that a verb now? Coupon? I know it is a noun but can I use it as a verb? I think so. So, I coupon. I collect coupons, save coupons (the noun) and then use coupons to buy the things we need. That is couponing, right? See a verb again.

Yesterday I talked about Food Storage here. I talked about wanting to increase our food storage in our house to three months worth of food. That is a lot of food, especially for a family of 5. How can I just go out and purchase three months worth of food with our budget? That is where couponing comes in to full force.

I used to think that using a coupon here or there really wasn't worth the time. By the time I paid for my Sunday paper ($1.75) and then the hour or so cutting out the coupons that I wanted to use or at least the coupons of the products that we actually use, then going to the store and seeing that the coupon for the specific brand really didn't make it cheaper than the generic label I was already buying normally, made no sense to me. Seriously, NO SENSE! So for a long time I stopped and was happy with just reading the ads in the Sunday paper, tossing the coupons and then buying the generic of whatever we needed. This made sense to me. I figured I was saving money buying generic and then using my Valued Customer Card on top of that for other items. This satisfied me.

Then it occurred to me, after reading a post in a forum, I was doing it completely wrong! ACK!!! I could be saving a ton more money and I wasn't getting the whole idea of couponing (the verb).

Now I am going to let you in on a little secret: Have you seen the TLC show "Extreme Couponing"? These women go out with their coupons and buy up a shelf full of deoderant, or mustard, or apple sauce, or whatever. A. SHELF. FULL! Then come home and organize it on their pantry shelves (or the shelves in the basement or garage, or under their kids' beds) and sit back and glow from their experience. Now this is extreme! And yes, I think they have an addiction problem too! However, the basic premise is this.

When you begin couponing you start to collect coupons for the items you use, pasta sauce, salad dressings, deoderant. Then when the stores put these items on sale you take all your coupons and buy up enough that you feel comfortable with. It could be a couple of the item or it could be a shelf full. I am not judging. Then that item comes off your weekly shopping list for a while. So if you are going through a bottle of salad dressing a week and it is on your weekly shopping list and you buy 8 bottles then you won't need to shop for it for 8 weeks. Slowly, and I mean slowly you will see your weekly shopping list dwindle and your stock up list (the items that are on super sale and you have a coupon for) will increase. You begin shopping your pantry for the items you need weekly and not the grocery store. These are for the items that are shelf stable, like packaged, jarred and canned items as well as items you can freeze if you have a big enough freezer. Eventually you will begin to run low of salad dressing so you start looking for the sale again and you use your coupons you have been gathering all this time.

There are several websites and blogs that can help you find the rock bottom prices on items in your area. I began with This is a great site and includes a forum for couponers (people who coupon) to chat with each other and beginners to learn from the experts. There is a charge however for the site and you get to pick the stores that you want the information from. The less number of stores then the cheaper your membership is. However, I have found that gives you the same information and it is completely and utterly free! How cool is that, and saving you money too! Happy couponing!!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Food Storage

I alluded to this in another post where I talked about using our camper for emergency storage, in case we had to evacuate quickly for whatever reason. This past winter we had some slow times in our household and we didn't have as much income as we had in past years during January and February. In past years my husband worked some in these months but this year he hardly had any work. Therefore, we were lacking in the money department.

Once we feel the strain we tend to tighten the belt a bit more and start to look at ways to make us feel a bit "looser" in the wallet. Sometimes we start selling stuff and other times we look for what we have in the house to get us through.

Thankfully this year I had a bit of a stockpile of foods in the pantry and we used a lot of what we had stored to help us round out our grocery budget. I was glad I had the extra on hand. Prices seem to be rising both in groceries and in gas. This little stock of food helped us out.

Beginning in April we moved our pantry from the downstairs family room closet to the first floor hall coat closet. We built shelves and moved our coats to our rooms. The closet was just a catch all for junk on the floor of the closet and old coats that we rarely wear. The closet is close to the kitchen which helps a ton in meal prep. While we were moving it I realized that we had really gone through some food that I had stored. I was not only impressed that we had this store of food and it could help us during our lean months but was also amazed at how little we had left.

This brought both me and my husband to start thinking about stocking up again. We were convinced that this is the right and good thing to do for our family. Both of us began looking on the internet for food storage organization. We found these awesome boxes to help store and rotate your canned goods. We haven't bought them yet but will be buying them soon.

We also found that many Mormons store food. This sent us through a ton of blogs dealing with food storage acquisition and storage organization. They are awesome at creatively storing food.

Now don't get me wrong. I am NOT a survivalist, I am NOT a greenie, and I am NOT thinking the world is going to end or anything. I AM thinking that we have lean times in our household.

Eight years ago we had a hurricane come through our city and it wiped out our power in our house for 14 days and our phone for 28 days. We had two toddlers and an infant at the time. I wasn't as prepared for that disaster as I could have been but we survived it. This event also taught us that we aren't immune to natural disasters where we live. Being more prepared will only help us next time.

So there are many reasons why we are going to stock up on food and related items. You may have some reasons too.

"They" (the Mormons, survivalists, and preparedness people) say to work toward a stock of three months supply of food that you already eat first. Also stock up on water. Then stash some cash for emergencies only. Once you have done that then they say to work towards a year supply of food with basic staples.

So my question today is, do you have a store of food for your family? How long can you go with the food you have in your home right now?

Summer Plans

This summer we are planning a big trip. It will involve several states and camping. At this point we are not sure what we will be camping in. Our current trailer is a 1993 or 1994 (can't remember it is so old) Coachman Catalina. It has done us well but it needs some work. The running lights on one complete side is not working so we can't tow it in the dark, which poses logistical problems. It also needs a new A/C unit as ours is on the fritz. The wallpaper is falling down in places and our kids are growing out of their bunkbeds. One child still sleeps on the couch. It has no slides and we all can't sit at the table at the same time.

We were so close to purchasing a new 40ft. fifth wheel and had the financing all lined up and a deposit on it and a signed contract when the scandalous RV dealership sold it out from under us. We are assuming they got a higher price for it and therefore a better deal for them. We were so sad but in our family, where this sort of bad luck follows us, we roll with the punches and obviously there is something better out there for us. Okay, I am still mad about it and so very disappointed, but I can't do anything about it so I move on.

Anyway, back to the trip. We are still planning it even though we don't know what we will be going in. This year we are planning for 5 weeks. We will first go to Delaware and visit the Dupont Botanical Gardens. We want to see the pretty flowers and the fairy garden they have there. Then we want to go to Philadelphia and see Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, The Franklin Institute, The National Constitution Center, Betsy Ross House, and maybe get in the Philadelphia Zoo. I am thinking that will take three days. We also want to try to get in Valley Forge.

Then we want to travel through Amish Country, tour about there a bit. Then move on to Gettysburg and then Harpers Ferry. This will be a possible quick one day trip for each. Then we have to be home for The Pickle to go to Boy Scout Camp. After his week at camp we will pick him back up and then go to Tennessee and into Nashville. We want to see the Grand Ole Opry Building, the Worlds Fair park, and perhaps pick up a show or two. Then move on to Memphis and eat some BBQ (Memphis style) and see Graceland and spend a day on the Mississippi River. Then we have to be in western South Carolina for a family reunion.

So this is the plan and as with the Sears Family, plans can change quickly and without warning. LOL

Friday, March 18, 2011


The other night our kids' school had a fundraiser spaghetti dinner. We walked in and our older two kids' fifth grade teacher walked in right behind us. She sat with us for dinner. So we chatted about the day, weather, etc, until she asked us how our weekend was last weekend. She knew we had taken the kids out of school on Friday (she is their teacher) and the kids had told her we went out of town.

She isn't the most friendly of people to begin with so I was glad she asked and was interested in our trip. I told her that we had gone to the Udvar Hazy museum and then on Saturday we went to the American History Museum at the Smithsonian. We talked about some of the exhibits we saw and all. She seemed interested but mostly I talked and she ate. She didn't ask many questions about what we saw. But I can talk so I did and filled the time.

Then she asked us if we were going anywhere for spring break. Uh, YEAH!! We are going away. It is a whole week and we wouldn't want to "waste" it by not doing something fun. So I told her we are planning a trip to Florida to see the Space Shuttle launch. We are also planning some time in St. Augustine to see the oldest city in America and then hoping to get some National Seashore time in where the kids can work to get their junior ranger badges there. Then she asked "well are you going to go to the beach at all?" Yes, we do hope to spend a day at the beach too. We finished eating and the kids wanted to go look for a book in the book fair that was going on too. Thus ended our visit with the teacher.

Since then it has got me thinking about some things. I know we aren't the most "normal" of families. We have considered selling everything and living on the road, roadschooling the kids for a year, and other "odd" ideas. We travel a lot. More than many families. We love to explore new places, learn about stuff, and have fun doing it. The kids are great in museums and they love to look at things as well as touch them. They are explorers too.

The beach is fun and we will enjoy a day or two at the beach but we aren't the kind of family who can go to the beach every day and do the same stuff over and over again. I know that some families love the beach and being on the beach every day. Don't get me wrong, my idea of a good relaxing time is at the beach with a good book and an ice cold diet Coke.

But for us having a busy day filled with fun and learning and exploring is fun for us. We look forward to it. I love to plan the days and my family loves that we see some really cool things. The kids will talk about these trips for the rest of their lives and I think about that when I am planning them.

Yes, sometimes we need a vacation from our vacation. But isn't that the fun of it?

So back to the teacher. She didn't at ALL seem impressed that we go to some really neat places. She didn't seem impressed that we are taking our kids all the way down to Florida to see a launch, to see the oldest city. She didn't seem impressed that we took our kids out of school one day and took them to a really cool museum about all kinds of airplanes and that the kids learned about some really interesting times in history where planes became important to the story. She didn't seem impressed one bit. Now I know I shouldn't be out to impress anyone but I just would have thought that she might have said, "wow what a really cool day you had" or engaged my kids by asking some questions about the planes or what they saw, or even if they enjoyed the day.

It seemed to me that she was more upset that the kids weren't in school and not in her class that day. Hmmm.....

Now I am a teacher and I know that kids learn differently. I also welcome the opportunities where parents are able to be facilitators of learning, particularly by participating in learning activities, like going to museums with their kids or going places to learn together.

But there is more that bothers me. We have members of our extended family who also don't understand why we are "always on the go". They complain (for lack of a better word) that we are "never home". They don't seem to understand our excitement about traveling. They don't seem to understand or appreciate why we want to show our kids other places. This bothers us, but it doesn't stop us. We know what we are doing. And we also know the many reasons why we are doing it. We love that we spend time together. We love that we are given the opportunities and we take the opportunities to explore new places with our kids.

Do you have people in your life who don't understand? Do you try to explain it to them? Do you try to help them understand? How do you handle this?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum

Two Fridays ago we went to the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum. It was phenomenal. Seriously, even for girls it was wonderful. This place is huge. It is an enormous hangar with three levels of airplanes both on the ground and suspended in the air. It has several sections, military, helicopters, commercial planes, early planes, and it has the space section.

First, this museum is located near the Dulles Airport in Northern Virginia. It is an extension of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. Admission is free but parking is $15. For a family of five $3 a person is a really good deal.

We loved this museum. When I planned our trip I figured that we would spend about 2 1/2 hours there and it would be sufficient for our family, both boys and girls to have their fill of planes. It was not near enough time.

When we arrived we admired the sculpture out front. We liked the swirl of the metal, but these fun orbs caught our eye and the kids had to see how comfortable they were.


Once we arrived inside we immediately found a bathroom and went to the only restaurant in the museum (McDonalds) for lunch. One rule in our family is that everyone needs a full belly before starting to tour a museum. It just makes for happy kids and that makes happy mommies and daddies. So we ate.

Then we began our tour. We started at the front desk where we were given activity sheets for the kids (no patches at the end but it kept them on task).

We began on the second floor. We found this fun fighter jet painted in a shark motif.


Ladybug didn't think it was that heavy! (wink wink)


We saw the Lockheed Blackbird! Oh my goodness this is a big plane. This is looking at it from the second level.


It is really an impressive plane. We then went over to see the Enola Gay. This is a B29 Superfortress. It is THE plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. I was amazed at how I felt around this plane. It holds a lot of history in its wings. I needed some time with this plane but the kids moved us along. Some planes with such significance just seem to need some reverence, you know? This one does. It is a big, heavy plane and it looks almost like it was a miracle it just got off the ground much less fly some really important bombing missions like it did. I could imagine the conversations between the pilots, the silence the plane probably had when it dropped the bomb, the nervousness of the gunners, and the complete concentration of the bombardier sitting up in the nose of the plane.



We continued around and began to examine the markings on planes, identifying the American and the German planes, military vs. commercial. We even found a bored docent who welcomed the challenge to take our picture.


We saw an Air France Concord. This is a big plane too.


We then spent some more time with the Blackbird.


Is it okay for a girl to call this plane "sexy"? It truly is sleek and aerodynamic. It is HUGE. It is skinny.

But the next stop was exciting. The space shuttle Enterprise. This is the shuttle that they did the test flights in gliding back to earth in. It is actually smaller than I thought.


It is big but I, for some reason, thought it would be bigger. I really enjoyed walking around it though and seeing the huge rockets in the back.



They had exhibits from all the space programs from Mercury on up. They even had Alan Sheppard's module that he circled the earth in.

Overall, our impression of this museum was first rate. We really enjoyed all the planes. We didn't get to any helicopters or did we get to the third floor catwalk to see the other planes suspended up there. We HAD to leave as we had dinner plans we had to get to, and we promised that we would return. It is worth going back.