Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Looking back, looking forward

It's hard to believe these little girls are grown up now. This picture was from just over 3 years ago.

This photo is Me & Em from this past Spring. (I know we're walking away, but yes, I'm pretty sure I'm the shortest in the family now.)

This past July, the girls in their 4-h outfits. (FYI- Arlene was slouching, she is really the tallest of the 3 of us.)

 I am always amazed that God has blessed us with these two beautiful daughters. We continually pray that God would draw them to Him and make them His handmaidens. As we look forward to the new year, we look forward to God's work in all of our hearts and lives.

Thankful Thursday 12/26/13 - Christmas

I am thankful for Christmas! The humble baby whose birth it celebrates grew up to become my Savior and King. It matters not a whit when (or even IF) you celebrate Christmas Day. The event happened and changed the world forever. 

God's Son came to earth to save us from our sin. He came to save us from ourselves. Romans 7:18 reads "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out."

Do you feel like this verse applies to you? I often do. I know that my inner self is wretched, but praise be to God, He has forgiven me and cleansed me of my sin!

I choose to celebrate Christmas because it reminds me of how great a gift I have received. It reminds me to be daily mindful of Easter, and Christ's power over death.

As 2013 come to an end, and you think back over the holidays (Holy days) that you have celebrated, be thankful of these words from Romans 5:8 "but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Today, and everyday, I give thanks for Christ's birth, life, death, and resurrection!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Bass Pro Shop -Springfield Missouri

Almost everyone I know has a favorite place to go shopping. I think I found mine earlier this year. To be fair, I've been here before, but it was about 18 years ago... it is A LOT bigger now. The store? Bass Pro Shop in Springfield, Missouri! This is the "GrandDaddy" store, the  biggest Bass Pro shop there is. At half a million square feet, you'll need some time to browse! (No, I'm not getting any kickbacks or payment for writing this post, I just really like this store!)

Bass Pro Shops store are 50% gear, 50% taxidermy, 50% atmosphere. They are much more than your average store! 

This location in particular is like an amusement park for outdoorsmen and women. We stopped here twice in May, once on our way to Oklahoma, and again on our way home. Even if you're not much of an outdoorsman, this store has enough live (& stuffed) wildlife to make it as much fun as the zoo, without the admission charge!

 I crack up every time I read the sign over the front door! It's SO true :)
(Arlene was upset with me wanting to take a picture, she just wanted to get inside!)

 The store has just about anything you could imagine for going outdoors... and  there is even a CATALOG OUTLET store next door!

 Their turtles come in all sizes, there is even a little bitty one... he was off swimming during this shot!

Some parts of the store evoke 'being there.' Kurt would never let me decorate like this at home ... but I still like it! Maybe in our next house...

 When you wander around, you gather inspiration. 
(Go afield with a good attitude, with respect for the wildlife you hunt and for the forests and fields in which you walk. Immerse yourself in the outdoor experience. It will cleanse your soul and make you a better person. -Fred Bear)

This place is HUGE! Here Emily and Arlene are standing on one side of the alligator pond...

Across the pond photo 
(See how tiny they look, and this is just one wing of the store!)

 I just could't resist taking Arlene's picture next to the 
"Redhead" shooting range guidelines!!!

Photo Ops? You bet!

So what makes this store great? It reminds me of my love of the outdoors, and provides any gear you might need or want. Did I spend a lot? Not the first stop... but on our way home the Outlet Store was having a Memorial Day tent sale. Yeah, we spent some $ then, however it money was well spent. This is one of those places you and your kids will remember for a lifetime. We spent a lot of time in their "Archery Hall of Fame."

Even if you can't visit this location in Springfield, MO, consider one of the other locations. There are about 75 Bass Pro Shops in the US, and five locations in Canada.

Take a road trip, or at least a field trip, to one sometime soon. I think you'll be glad you did!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Possibly the Coolest Rest Stop EVER!

Earlier this year, as we were returning to Indiana from Oklahoma, we stopped at what is possibly the COOLEST REST STOP EVER! It is located on Interstate 44, at Mile Marker 110 Eastbound. (Disclaimer: We don't know if the Westbound rest stop is this cool, we didn't stop there on our way out.) If you want to know the exact location, here is the website info on the Conway Rest Area East.

This rest stop makes you wonder from the get-go, as the front yard sign screams "Route 66!" Once you go inside the building, the main foyer has a map of Route 66 in the floor. We were just going to stop for a quick restroom break and some water, the sun was almost setting and we had miles to go before we slept --- BUT, a gentleman that was inside mentioned to Kurt that we should take a peek out the back door. (We are really glad we did!)

That began what Em termed "The Amazing Race of picnic tables." Because, you see, this rest stop doesn't just have picnic tables, it has an aura of nostalgia. The shelters above and around the picnic areas look like buildings from Route 66! Such fun! 

Need a tune-up?

There are probably a dozen different 'buildings' in the picnic part. Kurt took Arlene and I took Em and we ran against time (remember the sun was setting) to try to get a picture of each girl in front of each building.

This "motel" has 2 picnic tables
Need a fill up? Eat your sandwiches here!

Seriously, how cool is this "garage?"

You'll need to bring your own meal to "Doug's,"
but it makes a great photo-op!

This is a really inventive idea for a rest area. I hope more states take up the concept of making their rest stops unique. These were still quite functional, and lots of fun. There is a small playground area at the side of the main building. Since there weren't any younger kids around, the girls wanted to take "just one quick slide" before we got back in the car!

The next time you're traversing Interstate 44 through Missouri, stop in, have a picnic, and enjoy the views! 

Know of any other really cool rest stops? We would love to put them on our "bucket list."

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Thankful Thursdays - 12/19/2013 - Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA)

Yesterday we had a 'Civics Day' in Indianapolis. While we were planning our day, the girls asked if we could include a side-trip to the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA.) Who was I to say 'no,' I practically grew up at the IMA.

So off we went. I have always loved trips to the IMA. There are a lot of statistics about it as a museum, but mostly, it's just fun to visit. Since it was freezing outside (literally) we stuck to the inside. We'll go back in the Spring and tell you about the gardens, which are AMAZING.

We had about an hour before we had to leave for our civics meeting, and about an hour after we returned. If you've never been to the IMA before, we recommend a minimum of 3 hours. Since the girls have been there many times before, both with me, and with Grandma, we knew which galleries we wanted to spend our time in. We are currently studying European art, so those were our first stops.

Claude Monet - The Church of SanGiorgio Maggiore

The collection at the IMA is huge, and some pieces rotate off of display, so if there is a piece you REALLY want to see, check the website to make sure it is currently on display.

Georgia O'Keeffe - Jimson Weed

Admission to the IMA was free, now in 2016 there is an admission charge . (Be prepared if you visit the gift shop or cafe- they are both quite expensive.) We each have some favorite artists, and were able to see works by many of them yesterday. One thing I've talked with the girls about over and again is the ability to appreciate an artist's work, even if you don't agree with the lifestyle they lived. This is particularly important as the girls get older (they are currently 15 & 13) and read biographies, or historical accounts of the artists.

Rembrandt van Rijn - Self Portrait

Another point you just have to get past... if you go through galleries that display European art, you are going to be confronted with some scantily clad (or even nude) figures. For some families this keeps them from visiting any art museums, preferring to do their art history & appreciation work at home. When in doubt, visit the museum beforehand. Many times you can simply not visit certain galleries in the museum and still enjoy a full day of art and its history. If you can't visit in advance, make full use of the 'wandering docents' and ask for help in choosing which galleries to visit.

Pierre Auguste Renoir - Little Girl With a Hat

I personally don't like visiting the modern art galleries on the top floor of the IMA. The linear, or abstract, art in these galleries leaves no real impression on me. Except maybe one of longing to go away- lol. Emily, however, is fascinated by Alexander Calder's work, especially his mobiles...you guessed it, there is one up on the top (4th) floor, so up we went.

Overall we had a great day at the IMA, we only got in trouble 3 times. (I'm telling you, there were not this many rules at the IMA when I was a kid!) They were all minor infractions, no one kicked us out. :)

Angel of the Resurrection - Tiffany Studios

If you're in Indianpolis and have a few hours to spare, take your kids to the big art museum up on the hill, the IMA. They'll grow up with a greater appreciation of art, and history. They might even realize just how old the works are when they can get close enough to see the crack in the Seurat painting. Few of the other Art Museums I have visited allow you to get so close to the original works!

Georges Seurat - The Channel of Gravelines

At the end of the day, as we were being thankful for our outing, Arlene quipped "They have docents everywhere so you're going to get in trouble." Not big trouble, just gentle reminders to follow the museum rules... so you can come back and enjoy it again.

Theodore Groll - Washington Street, Indianapolis as Dusk

Today I am thankful that I can share this love of great art that my parents, especially my Dad, instilled in me with our own children. Hug your children, and tell them about YOUR favorite artist!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


What happened today? Not much? A Lot? Some days are both. Today we're taking break from 'formal' educating. (Yeah, I know, that happens a lot around here!) 

We've got an Art & Civics day planned for tomorrow, so we're spending today at home, doing 'stuff.'
Emily has been reading some Agatha Christie, Arlene is making gingerbread, we all watched some Art History DVD's.

As much as I want our girls to know how to operate in a classroom/ deadline/ structured setting, I feel it is important to have some down days. Today is one of those days. It's also a good time to get caught up on the laundry and bake some bread!

Christmas is coming, and in an effort to remind ourselves and others that the celebration is all about Jesus, we're plotting some fun things for Thursday. We'll be spreading some Joy!

So enjoy your day, whether it is jam-packed full, or looks more like molasses in winter, knowing that your kids need YOU more than any math assignment. (If that math page is due tomorrow, maybe you can motivate them to get it done with some post-homework cookie-making!)

Have a wonderful week!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Thankful Thursday -12/12/13 - Gingerbread

Today we were thankful for gingerbread. You know, the kind *some* people spend lots of time baking and decorating?! We have done this in the past, but today we went and viewed the Gingerbread village at Conner Prairie. Each year they have a competition (with several different categories) of gingerbread creations. 

The only problem with seeing the gingerbread creations? They make me hungry! 

This year there were some really cool designs. One of our favorite was Doctor Who's Tardis! (Complete with a Dalek, weeping angel, and the Doctor's fez!)

There was also a beautifully done carousel

And a majestic house. I really like the use of sliced almonds as shingles!

One of the simplest designs, and also one of the most easily recognizable ones, the "Operation Game" gingerbread man!

I think it's time to add some gingerbread making to our weekend plans! In the interest of being thankful for EATING the gingerbread, I think we'll just cut out people shapes and eat them. Maybe next year we'll make another gingerbread house!

If you are wanting to see all the unique design at this year's Gingerbread Village at Conner Prairie, you can visit Thursday- Sunday through January 5th. See the details here.

Our favorite gingerbread people/ cookie recipe is from Betty Crocker. You can find it on their website here. They also have other variations on the recipe available. 

Are you going to be thankful for gingerbread this week?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

These Happy Golden Years Book Giveaway

Just in time for those snuggle on the couch and read a book days, here is our next giveaway!

We will be giving away one copy of Laura Ingalls Wilder's book "These Happy Golden Years."

This is probably Arlene & my favorite book from the Little House series. If you're looking for some other 'Little House' themed gifts, be sure to check out the Laura Ingalls Wilder Documentary DVD we reviewed earlier this year!

We are hosting this giveaway ourselves, no other sponsor, just because we appreciate our readers... and because we know how much fun it is to give gifts. 

Sometimes the budget makes gift giving difficult. Those are the times when we really need to remember our focus should be on investing our time with our children!

But, for one reader, you'll get to give a gift of a book and yourself!

Just enter below, but hurry, this giveaway ends Sunday evening, December 15th, 2013!


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Oh, Snap! Guest post

My friend Ellen is hosting a 30-day tutorial on how to use your DSLR camera over on her blog, Grace Tells Another Story. Several bloggers are sharing their expertise. There is so much wonderful information to be gleaned!

When Ellen asked if I wanted to participate, I started thinking..."What about people who want to take quality pictures, but they can't afford a DSLR? What should they do?" 

So yes, my post will be about frugal photography, with a class called 'bridge cameras.'

It should be up for you to read tomorrow, but in the meantime, go read some of the first 15 days' excellent posts. Get out your camera and get ready to shoot some superb photos this holiday season!

Keep an eye on our Facebook page, I'll be sure to let you know when our post is ready!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Technically Challenged

Ever feel technically challenged? Ever get frustrated with your computer ... or a program on it because you just can't seem to get it to do something? Me too. I am often technically challenged. I used to get really upset when I couldn't figure out the "How-to's."

After all, I'm usually pretty bright, and I did grow up with computers at school, but sometimes technology just escapes me. 

In the past, I would try to 'search' for the answer on the internet. The main problem with that method is that most of the responses would include other technical jargon I didn't understand. (Which would lead to endless searches.)

Now, I have a new approach. I ask my friends. Especially my blogging friends. They are amazing. Just this morning, I couldn't figure out how to share a particular link. (Put on my thinking cap, try twice,...nothing.) So I went and asked one of my blogging friends who I knew understood ...because I had seen her 'share' the way I had been trying to.

My friend Meg from Adventures with Jude knew just what to do. It worked! Huzzah! 

I may feel technically challenged again tomorrow. That's OK, I'll remember the important key: ask your friends for help. Isn't that usually the answer anyway?!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Frugal Friday- Pizza

Sometimes I am asked about how we feed our family well on such a small amount. It pays to be frugal! 

It also helps if you know how to make some simple yet filling meals often and then buy the key ingredients when they're on sale. Most grocery stores rotate their sales items, so if you get in the habit of paying attention, you can stock up on the things you use most at the lowest prices.

For example: about 2 months ago, our local grocery had an sale on their higher end store-brand items. If you purchased 4 items from the mix-and-match list, you saved $4.  I took a quick walk around the store to see exactly what was on the sale. One of the best 'deals' from the sale was their pasta. It made the packages $0.69 each. So choosing in groups of 4's, I purchased 16LB of pasta, in lots of different shapes, for only $11.04.

One of my other most-watched sales is the price of cheese. We enjoy having pizza often, but it isn't realistic for us to order pizza for delivery. So we make our own. If I can find shredded Mozzarella cheese on sale for $3LB, I can make our family 2 large pizzas for under $5. (By the way, Kroger has cheese on sale this week for $3LB- through next Wednesday in central Indiana.)

The one on the left is just cheese, the one on the right is deluxe...the girls don't like olives -LOL!

So how do we work our Under $5 magic?

First: assemble your ingredients. Many of these are 'parts' of a container that we have for some other meal. (So no, you can't start from scratch and buy it all for $5, but you can come close by buying enough for 4 pizzas for  about $10.)

For Two large pizzas:
Crust ingredients (double the recipe below) $0.45
Cheese for 2 pizzas $3/LB
Sauce (use 10 TBSP of whatever spaghetti sauce you already have in the fridge or pantry) $0.10
Olives ($1/can at ALDI) $0.10
Kroger brand frozen 3 pepper & onion blend (1/3 bag) $0.40
Enough Parmesan cheese to lightly cover the sauce $0.30
      Total cost $4.35

If you want, throw in a little extra ground beef you saved from last night's spaghetti...it makes it right about $5 for 2 pizzas.

Second: learn to make your own crust. This is super simple. You can choose any recipe you like...ours is from the Betty Crocker Cookbook. 

Pizza Crust: (double it if you're making two!)
3/4 cup hot water (tap hot, not boiling)
1/2 teaspoon rapid rise yeast
2 cups (+/-) flour.

Mix the hot water with the yeast, then slowly stir in the flour. If it's a little too sticky, add a TBSP or two more flour. Knead lightly in the bowl, spray the outside of the dough ball with oil (we use olive oil, but make use of whatever is already in your cabinet) then cover with a clean towel and let rise in a warm room for 45 minutes. When the pizzas are made, bake for 12-15 minutes in a 425 degree oven. We like our cheese golden brown.

*Note, if you don't want to keep all that shredded mozzarella you just bought on sale in your refrigerator, put it in the freezer until the day before you plan to use it. If you buy the already-shredded cheese (as opposed to blocks) it thaws quickly, and works just as well as if you bought it yesterday.

While it may not be every week, I'll continue throughout the next year to share ideas on frugal living under the tag "Frugal Friday"... even if I post it on a Wednesday! 

Hope you'll come back often!

I did a guest post at my friend Marcy's blog www.benandme.com back in September. It was The 5 P's of Grocery Savings. You can read it here.

Hero Tales From American History - 3 CD pack Giveaway

In the spirit of the season, we would like to bless one of our readers with the 3 CD set "Hero Tales From American History" from Raising Real Men. Hal and Melanie Young offer products designed to encourage and inspire on their website. As the parents of six boys and two girls, Hal and Melanie know the joys and struggles of raising a family (and homeschooling!)

We reviewed this CD set back in July of this year. You can read our review here. Right now the set is selling for $20 in the Raising Real Men bookstore. While you're there, take a look around. Several of the Young's workshops are available as mp3's to download for only $4 each. If you're feeling a little worn down, or even just at loose ends, Hal and Melanie have real-life experience with their boys that just might be the encouragement you need.

This giveaway will end next Tuesday evening (12/10/13), so enter today - and please tell your friends too!


Disclaimer: This 3 CD set is the set we received in July in exchange for our honest review, we did not receive any other compensation. They are in like-new condition. We are disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Thankful Thursday - 12/5/2013 - Today

I am thankful for today! For all the small things that make life go smoothly.

For a husband with a job.
For kids who help with housework.
For a vehicle that runs.
For friends who brighten my life with their smiles and encouraging words.

I am thankful for the season, even though we're supposed to get a winter storm. Because this season is a time when many people at least consider the gift of Jesus. May my words lead them to Him.I pray that hearts are opened to His love and forgiveness. That we would celebrate the gift of a Savior!

I am thankful for sparkly ornaments and yummy cookies. For a turkey that can make 4 days' worth of dinners and when peppers are on sale. 

I am thankful for a warm home, good health, and a Savior who loves me!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Anonymous

No one cares about the anonymous. I mean, why should they. We only show up rarely, when we make a statement that deserves our anonymity, then we disappear. Hiding in plane sight, disguised as stay-at-home moms, 9-5 dads, and full time students. Blending in by shopping for groceries, driving kids to sports, recitals, and dance, having barbecues  and pool parties, and drinking $7 lattes. 
We show up all through out history, disguised as different people. Dukes, military leaders, monks, poets, singers, inventors, writers, scientist, teachers, the list goes on and on, yet you never notice us. Sure you register that we existed, and you admit that we did something important, and you put us in your textbooks in the tiny footnotes. But then you store us in the back of your mind until you need us to prove a point for you, or give you some profound quote for your thesis. Once in a while though, one of us will scream loud enough to  escape the jaws of time, and you will give us as much respect as to put us in your timelines or to be mentioned in a discussion. 
But we are out there, then and today and forever after, so go look for us. Open up a book and find our names, read a poem, or listen to a song. Go find us at your work, your schools, your communities. Make sure we are still there for the future, and then take a look at yourself to see if you are one of us. The history changers, the earth shakers, the life savers, the Anonymous.

The Anonymous
By E.L. Emmert, 12-2-13
We are there
All around you
Hiding in plain sight

We are behind your 
 and your

We are between the lines
Caught in your photographs
Heard in your music
Presented in your classrooms

We are there 

to hold up your world

Saturday, November 30, 2013

And then there were none...

A recent picture of Aunt Edie by my cousin Tanya
Last week my Great-Aunt Edith died. She was the last living sibling of the ten children of my Great-Grandparents Homer and Gertrude Smith. My Grandma Lucile was the oldest, Aunt Edie was number 7. Each of my Grandma's brothers and sisters played an important part in my life. They each taught me something valuable about life and family. I miss them all, but I am making an effort to remember the things they taught me, and teach them to our children.

Aunt Edie - Circa 1940?

There are 4 lasting lessons I learned from Aunt Edie:

1- Be comfortable as yourself. No one else is you. So why try to be someone else? Find out who you are and be yourself.

2- A smile is your best accessory. Your smile can brighten someone's day. A smile makes anyone beautiful.

3- Good manners DO matter. How long has it been since you heard someone say "Thank You!"?  I think it is time we get back to using good manners and teaching them to our children.

4- Love is never-ending! Leave a legacy behind you, one that speaks volumes of love.