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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Netflix Rate Changes Effective Tomorrow September 1, 2011

Just a reminder, that Netflix is changing its rates TOMORROW, September 1, 2011.  If you are a subscriber and are thinking of changing, be sure to adjust your plan today.  We chose to eliminate streaming for now and go with the "1 DVD out at a time" plan at $7.99 a month.

There are several rate plans, so check their website to determine the one that you want.  DVDs and Streaming features are now priced separately.

Prices range from $4.99 to $29.98 a month.  Don't be caught off guard and paying for more than you really need.



Friday, August 26, 2011

Yard Sales / Where Does She Find Her Ebay Inventory? Part 1

I am often asked where I get my Ebay inventory and how do I know what to sell.  Believe me, it's a learning curve to figure out what sells that takes time with plenty of trial and error.  Set a moderate goal, a spending limit and just play with it.  As you may know, I started learning over the summer before I turned 50 (I confess, that was 2005) and read every book from the library I could find on the topic. [My big motivation was a new computer purchase that was just sitting in our home office doing nothing useful to earn its keep during the day!]  I am always learning by doing and believe me, you learn from both your mistakes as well as your successes.  Yes, I have had 50 cent items sell for $50+ which is a great incentive  :)  One of my biggest profit makers was an item I bought for $2 that sold for over $100 which is my VitaMix story that I love to tell about God's provision.  :)


The authors of the article below recommend specializing in what you sell which is a good basic idea although I also will sell whatever I think has resale value.  I particularly enjoy selling books, collectibles, china and jewelry but as you can see in my Ebay store, I sell much more.


I have quite a few blog posts about having a home business reselling which you can browse by clicking on the Ebay link in the righthand column.  This article below is from Auctiva's website at THIS LINK.  Quite humorous but pretty accurate on shopping yard sales and thrift stores for inventory to resell.   I'll try to remember to post next week's Part 2 article for you as well.


Check your local newspaper for local sales and map out a route since on Fridays and Saturdays there are usually at least a few sales going on.  My favorites are moving sales and church rummage sales.  Set a $ limit and get your cash before you begin shopping.   Generally, only professional estate sales will take checks or credit cards as do thrift stores (don't forget about shopping there).  And have fun!
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Confessions of a Yard Sale Diva, Part 1

Master bargain hunter shares a few of her trade secrets.


by Brad and Debra Schepp 
- Aug 22, 2011
We consider ourselves very fortunate to know the Yard Sale Diva. Now, you may scoff at such an idea, but this is a woman so adept at yard sales that she's purchased many thousands of items for pennies on the dollar. Just to whet your appetite, we can tell you that she once paid $25 for a sterling silver tea set, and found the weight of the silver, alone, was valued at $1,200!
She agreed to share some of her strategies with us, but only with a few clearly understood ground rules. No. 1: We agreed not to divulge her true identity. No. 2: We agreed not to reveal her geographic location. Once the threat of educating her own competitors was removed, she happily gave us the value of her considerable insights and experience. 
I prefer the sales that clearly scream, 'We're moving, and we have to get everything out of this house

Plot your strategy

The Diva doesn't just wander from yard sale to yard sale every Saturday morning, the way an amateur would. She plans and plots her travels based on not only geography, but also the type of sale.
"I look for moving or estate sales first," she tells us. "I prefer the sales that clearly scream, 'We're moving, and we have to get everything out of this house.' I also love finding the ones where people are selling off Grandma's things."
Many of the things Grandma and her contemporaries treasured are completely undervalued by subsequent generations. That's especially true when young family members are faced with emptying an entire household. People who have grown up among these artifacts often see them as "a bunch of old junk."
"I don't mean to sound snotty," the Diva adds "but I head straight for the most affluent neighborhoods." Well, that makes sense. Wealthy people and their offspring may have lots of stuff and little appreciation for what their castoffs might be worth.
"I also avoid any advertisements that offer antiques," she says. This surprised us, but she tells us those ads are often placed by antiques dealers who are just trying to dump inventory they purchased and haven't been able to sell. "I'd much rather go where people aren't likely to know an item is antique," she continues.
She adds that she also avoids any sale that lists baby items. "Households with young children often haven't been around long enough to have amassed old things."

Specialize, but keep an open mind

Our Diva tends to specialize in jewelry and musical instruments. To score the best deals, she spends hours researching the value of different manufacturers of musical equipment, from amplifiers to guitars, to horns and woodwinds. "How can you spot a great deal if you don't know who makes the best equipment?" she asks.
She also never leaves home without her loupe [magnifying glass], and she's educated herself not only in the field of fine jewelry, but also in the details of costume jewelry. Costume jewelry has proven to be especially lucrative because people who don't know it well consider it all to be junk, when in reality, many of the good older pieces are quite valuable.
Although these are her areas of expertise, she will branch out and buy almost anything that seems to have resale value. "Paper is still very hot," she says. "I often seek out ephemera and even old books." She explains that she has no real interest in old books, but that doesn't mean they're worthless. "Often books can be treasure troves, not because they are valuable themselves, but because they can contain beautiful old color plates."
If you ask, you may just trigger that impulse to get rid of an item long overlooked and tucked away

Ask and ye shall receive

Never leave a yard sale without asking if the seller has the type of item you may be searching for, the Diva advises. "I always ask for musical instruments," she says. Often when people are planning their yard sales, they may not think of that old trumpet up in the attic or stashed away in a spare closet. "If you ask, you may just trigger that impulse to get rid of an item long overlooked and tucked away," she explains. "On the spur of the moment, the seller may let it go for much less than its true value."
She explains this phenomenon as the opposite of impulse buying. "It's really impulse selling!" she says.
"I also specifically ask for costume jewelry," she adds. "If I can get a pile of costume jewelry, there's often a treasure in it. I will sometimes buy the whole lot, rather than look through all the pieces. It's a clean-out-the-drawer sort of moment." Once she gets back home, she has plenty of time to look through it and pick out the valuable pieces. This way she doesn't waste valuable yard-sale time picking through a box and viewing each piece with her loupe.
"Plus, if the seller notices you're examining Grandma's junk jewelry with a loupe, he may just change his mind about letting the whole box go for peanuts," she says.

Stay aware of cultural shifts

Our Diva may adore old things, but she also keeps a keen eye on what is currently hot, and what commodities have faded.
"The trend has shifted away from Howdy Doody and Hopalong Cassidy," she explains. "The people who have wanted these things have had years to acquire them. Now it's more Star Wars and other artifacts from the 1970s. That's especially true if you can find them still in the box, having once just been stashed away."
She also keeps her eye out for things that were once popular, but are now out of vogue. "Anything related to smoking is held in very low esteem now," she explains. "But great old smoking stands, even with their negative connotations, can be repurposed. Cool old ashtrays and lighters will always find a market," she adds.
Finally, our Diva keeps an eye on current cultural trends that can boost the value of older items. "Anything mid-century modern has really taken off, with the popularity of Mad Men," she says. "I can sell almost any piece of barware from the 1950s or '60s that I can find."
Next time we'll take a look at what our Diva does once the yard sales are over, and we'll look at some of her best finds and her most promising trends. Now, you'll have to excuse us, but the yard sales are calling!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hurricane Preparation

Our family survived direct and/or near-direct hits from Hurricanes Charlie, Frances and Ivan in 2004.  What a mess that was.  The roof was damaged in several places so we had leaking inside the house with some water damage, our pool screen was torn up in several places, our large storage shed was pretty much destroyed...debris all over the front and back yard.  Our whole neighborhood / city is squirrel heaven with all the oak trees and pieces of them were everywhere.   I don't ever want to live through that again.  And that was MINOR compared to reports from friends of ours who had a direct hit from Hurricane Andrew  (Category 5) in 1992.

I remember about 10 men from our church plus our two sons (ages 15 and 10) being up on the roof with roofing paper, pitch, hammers and nails.  I was so thankful that they were available to help.

There's not much you can do to prevent  a hurricane or tornado from striking but you can at least make the basic preparations:

  • Make sure you have adequate insurance coverage--homeowners, auto and medical--deductibles for home damage on a "named" storm is 2% of the value of your home these days. We were VERY fortunate in 2004 that ours was 1% and we only had to pay it once.  Some insurance companies required a deductible for EACH storm. Check with your agent ahead of time what their policy is.
  • Stock up on extra bottled water and non-perishable food, batteries, candles, matches, flashlights
  • Refill your prescriptions if needed
  • Fill every car with gas BEFORE the storm arrives
  • Have plenty of cash on hand (ATM's may be down)
  • If you have a generator, test it to make sure it is in good working order
  • Battery operated radio
  • If you have a gas or charcoal grill, get plenty of fuel
  • Make and store extra ice in bags and coolers.  If the power goes out, it will keep your refrigerator/freezer cold for a few days.
  • Have a plan if the power goes out.  Where can I store perishable food? where can we stay for a few days until the power comes on? where can my pet stay?
  • Charge all cell phones, iPods, laptops, etc.
  • Buy disposable dishes, paper plates, cups... and plenty of trash bags (big brown ones for yard trash and tall kitchen bags, too)
  • Buy chlorine, plenty of it.  If you have a pool, get extra 5-gallon jugs of it BEFORE the storm.   Our power went out for 8 days with Hurricane Charlie and just adding a jug + tablets every few days kept it from turning green.  A green pool is really hard to return to sparkling.
  • Bring lightweight items under shelter--patio chairs, floats, decorative items, potted plants... Flying objects can be a problem and cause damage.
  • Trim your trees, especially small low-hanging branches
For more suggestions on preparations, go to THIS LINK.

We wait and pray that Hurricane Irene which is predicted to be a Category 4 this weekend, stays FAR off the coast of Florida.  Even so, winds and water here will be significant.  While much of the U.S. is experiencing drought conditions, the city of Orlando has actually DRAINED down some of the lakes in preparation for Friday.

Friday, August 19, 2011

K92FM Free TEACHER Supply Drive Saturday August 20, 2011

And my LAST post for the day...  I  heard about this when I was at the Staples Teacher Appreciation Day last weekend...


Lakeshore Learning
on 436 in Fern Park, FL 
(in the Sam's Club shopping center)











With deep budget cuts, teachers are spending an average of $448 of their own money on instructional 
materials and school supplies.


We want to help stock up their "back up" supply closet, so they have all the supplies they need for the school year, without having to worry about reaching into their own pocket.

Please join the K Morning Crew out at the Lakeshore Learning store in Fern Park, Saturday August 20th from 10am-1pm...as we broadcast LIVE and collect school supplies and donations for our local teachers.

Are you a teacher? 
Come out and stock up on some school supplies to get you through the school year! All you need to bring is your teacher ID or a recent pay stub from your current school.

Go to THIS LINK for more details.


NOTE:  Again, I do NOT know if this applies for homeschool moms but it never hurts to call and find out.  Especially if you have an umbrella school ID. Be sure to CALL AHEAD.

YMCA Back to School Event Saturday August 20, 2011

We love the YMCA so check out this free event.  For homeschoolers there is a free homeschool PE Enrollment  so your children can have structured  physical exercise during the school year.


BACK TO SCHOOL EVENT
Saturday, August 20th
10am to 2pm




Go to THIS LINK for more information.

As You Begin Homeschooling Educating Your Children

I am finishing up my final year of homeschooling. This year our younger son is a senior in high school and dual enrolling at one of the local community colleges as well.  :)



There are lots of blogs out there to give advice on "how to homeschool", hundreds of websites that sell materials and curriculum...well meaning advice from friends who approve, comments from others (including family) that do not... it can be overwhelming.

If you are about to begin this wonderful journey--and yes, even after all these years, I would call it that--I highly recommend getting three books to read along the way.  I liked skimming through them each year before we began to prepare myself to teach my children well.

1.  Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson

This book reminds you WHY you are homeschooling.  Not just for academic reasons, although that is extremely important, but the nurture of the heart of a child.  The first photo is the one that I own; the second is the new 3rd edition that has recently been released.




2.  The Way They Learn by Cynthia Tobias
Both of my children learn in entirely different ways so this was a much needed book for me.



3.  The question of WHAT to read often comes up.  A wise woman who now has her own blog, once told me in a class for young moms that the characters in the books that we read to our children and those that they read themselves become their friends.  Choose your children's friends well while you can.  An excellent literature resource that I have found is  Honey for a Child's Heart.   I used this book for many years and was never dissatisfied with the selections.  There is also a teen version of this book.



Basic needs of a homeschool:
  • Your Bible
  • A place to read and work at home
  • These two books  :)
  • A good math curriculum
  • A good language/writing curriculum
  • A good local library
  • Network of other moms 
  • Umbrella school (I think this is only really needed once a child reaches high school)

So, relax and enjoy / instill the love of learning in your children.  Starting when they are young is ideal because you can grow with the child as they learn, you learn as they do.  If you are starting in the middle or high school years, study hard, but don't feel guilty about hiring outside teachers to teach what you are not comfortable teaching. For me, that was Spanish, Geometry and Algebra 2 and the sciences (Chemistry, Biology....).

And pray for patience.  I encourage  and challenge you to make this school year the best it can be ONE DAY AT A TIME.  :)

A dear friend sent me THIS LINK to a peaceful site [The Holy Experience / One Thousand Gifts site] with a "perfect" homeschool setting.  It is a pleasure to listen to and look at but frankly, we used our dining room table or the library most of the time.    I love two of the quotes that are on the site:

  • Education is the atmosphere we breathe, the envelope of wonder that surrounds us, held by the gravity of our daily habits.
  • Atmosphere is the warmth that holds us and grows us and our fragrance can last generations.

Does your home have an atmosphere of warmth and peace that gives a child (and you) comfort and security and love?  These are the primary elements of a successful homeschool experience.

Help me, Lord, to remember to see each of my children as You do. Help me to see the beauty in each one, their potential but also the beauty that resides in them right now, this moment, beauty in them because they are my blessing from You.  Help me teach them in the way that they should go and give me strength, like manna, for each day trusting that You love them even more than I do.   Amen.

NOTE:  I have several other posts on this blog re: homeschooling.  Check them out if you'd like.

My friend Virginia is a prolific writer (much more than I have time to be)  and has several excellent blogs that you will find encouraging:


Also, if you have chosen other options for educating your children i.e. private school, public school / state college [we have done all three], the concepts in each of these books and websites will still be helpful for you and your family.  


Deuteronomy 6:7-8
These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 
You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house 
and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. 



FREE Annual Pass to LEGOLAND FLORIDA for Certified Florida Teachers

It does not appear that this amazing offer applies to homeschool mom teachers and I have not yet had a chance to call to find out.  If you do, please let me know so I can update this post.  It is a great deal, however, for certified teachers.
UPDATE August 21, 2011:   Go to THIS LINK for more details on this offer as well as other discounted tickets for Legoland Florida.




Florida Teachers, Explore LEGOLAND® Florida With Your Free Standard Annual Pass



LEGOLAND® Florida is offering all Florida teachers one year of free admission with a Standard Annual Pass*.

To receive your free Standard Adult Annual Pass: please go to THIS LINK and  print the page and bring it, with your most recent paystub, Florida photo ID and teaching certificate to the Ticketing windows at the entrance to LEGOLAND® Florida.

Discount Code: 11080605

To receive this offer you must print and bring the printed page noted above with you to LEGOLAND® Florida. 

You can get your Annual Pass before the Grand Opening of LEGOLAND® Florida by attending Advance Pass Distribution, September 16, 17, 23 & 24 from 10am to 5pm as well as September 18 & 15 from Noon to 5 pm.

*This offer is valid for currently certified teachers in the state of Florida only, and may not be transferred to any other person. LEGOLAND® Florida reserves the right to refuse entry or use of this promotion to any individual upon its presentation. Guest must present discount page, proof of certification, paystub and Florida ID to receive this offer. If all forms of eligibility are not presented, LEGOLAND® Florida has the right to withhold this offer. This offer may not be redeemed online and has no cash value. This pass has no value toward the purchase of an upgraded Annual Pass.






Thursday, August 18, 2011

Homeschool Curriculum and Classes 12th Grade 2011

Well, the planning is over and school has begun.  I thought you might like to see what we are doing for 12th grade this year.   Although college classes begin August 22 and most public schools began classes this week, we actually started on Friday, July 29.  

I like to plan our school calendar with 1-2 days off each month, one week off in October, November, and March and about three weeks off in December.  Seniors at our umbrella school have to be finished with everything by May 9, so in order to accomplish that, we have to begin a little early.  It is SO worth it.    I can't believe this is our final year of homeschooling OR that my "baby" will graduate from high school and begin college next year!.

Courses for this year and some of the books we are using:
  • Composition  2  [Dual Enrollment at community college]
  • College Algebra [Dual Enrollment at community college]
  • Psychology (1 semester)
    • Biblical Counseling Foundation manual
  • Personal, Family and Social Relationships / Bible  (1 semester)
    • Biblical Counseling Foundation manual
  • American History
    • United States History, A Beka
Three classes are taught by others; a couple are primarily reading and some are independent study work.  By 10th grade in high school I hopefully have taught my children to be able to work well independently for the most part in preparation for dual enrollment in their senior year and in college.  I review the lesson plans, answers to my questions/comments and devotional notes at the end of the week (some things daily) to make sure that everything that needs to be done has been completed. 

I also require that they read one book per month.   I haven't completed my book list yet but here are a few titles for this year:

Some of these I have on our bookshelves already from our older son's reading, some I ordered for free through Paperback Swap [see link on the RH sidebar].


Three SAT and ACT testings have been completed and so far, my younger son qualifies for a 75% Bright Futures scholarship.  We continue on the search for other essay-based scholarships to help pay for college expenses when he begins in 2012.

If you have a student in the 11th grade, you may find my list from that time helpful at THIS LINK.

If you are just beginning the homeschool journey, relax and have fun.  Take it one day at a time and just love your children as you learn together.  :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

COUPONS: Inexpensive Cheap Date Night: Dinner / Takeout from Smokey Bones

After a full week of work usually the last thing my husband wants to do on Friday nights is go out. I admit, I'm ready to relax as well.  Last Friday we had an inexpensive date night in:  Dinner / takeout and a movie at home.  

Every month or so, Smokey Bones puts these great coupons in the Sunday paper.  This past Sunday (August 14) there were at least two more in the paper plus since I get the neighbor's newspaper coupons, I now have three to use for this coming month. 

Coupon from the newspaper:  $10 off a $20 purchase (combined items = one purchase), expired August 13, 2011.  I'm glad I checked the date because it was only valid through the day that I used it.  I hate to waste good coupons.



This is really a great coupon.  We used to use them for bulk pulled pork which bought enough for about 6 meals (I bought buns and made the sides).  We also have used it for a rack of ribs as well.  The restaurant wised up though and now no longer permits this, so you have to be calculating to get the maximum benefit from this coupon.  I needed to order something fairly large to split between two people.

Before ordering takeout I  checked the online MENU to see what was available.  We don't eat steak very often so I chose the New York Strip 12 oz. steak ($17.99) which comes with two regular sides.  That is PLENTY of red meat for two people.  I ordered one Fancy side, the Loaded Mashed Potatoes ($2.99--but they didn't charge me since I replaced the two regulars with that).  I was still short just a bit--the total has to be $20 BEFORE tax) so I also ordered a flavored Passion Fruit  iced tea which was very good.  I think the total was about $22.00 - $10.00 coupon = $12.00 for a nice dinner for two.

If we had actually gone to Smokey Bones, it's unlikely we would have split a meal.  Typically everyone buys something separate.  The portions are certainly large enough to do so, but I rarely can get my husband to do this.  If we had both ordered steak, our bill would have been at least $40.00.

I made a nice spinach avocado salad at home and voila, a great meal for $12.00.  I had some leftover cherry pie that a guest had brought for us last week that was our dessert.   We enjoyed our meal while we watched a movie from Netflix.


Take advantage of the coupons, Entertainment Club books, etc. that you may have or receive.  With a little pre-planning you'll find that they really do save you a lot of money.   They're not just for groceries anymore.  :)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Monday Madness: Pray, Take a Deep Breath and Go for it! :)

OK... it's Monday everyone, pray,  take a deep breath... and go for it.  :)




Lamentations 3:22-23 
The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, 
For His compassions never fail. 

 They are new every morning; 
Great is Your faithfulness. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

RECIPE USING LEFTOVERS: Bananas AND Cereal

Here is another recipe from my Use It All Leftovers cookbook...Banana Muffins.  Similar to the previous one I posted only this recipe uses leftover bananas AND leftover cereal.

I don't know about your house, but at mine when the  bananas start looking like this, no one will touch them except me.  It's like they have a disease or something.  I think I could let them set on the counter and literally turn to decomposed liquid and still, no one would say anything or touch them.  :)   When too soft to slice or eat from the peel, I use them to make bananas bread, banana muffins or just freeze them for smoothies at a later time.  



Here is the cookbook again.  It's an old one and I love it.  Still available on Amazon even though it's vintage.


Here is the recipe [I always write the date in the cookbook the first time I try a new recipe].  Just click on the recipe to enlarge it.


I substituted Great Grains cereal for the All-Bran this time and have also used Grapenuts.   I imagine you could use any cereal you have on hand.    Same thing with the cereal at my house... if there is 1/3 cup of cereal left in the box, no one will touch it.  I guess they don't want to be the last one to use the last little bit of something because then it has to be written on the shopping list!  :)   

Although I did sift the dry ingredients into the cereal, I added everything else all at once, then stirred by hand for about a minute.  Three whole bananas = about 1 1/2 cups mashed.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes and you have a fresh, hot bread in about 30 minutes.

This recipe makes 12 large muffins and they really are good.  Great for Saturday morning breakfast or to accompany your dinner tonight.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

SUNDAY WORSHIP: Psalm 91:4 He will cover shelter you with His wings...

Thanks, Jacque, for sharing this with me.  Have a blessed Sunday.


Psalm 91:4

He will cover you with His feathers,
and under His wings you will find refuge;
His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. 







Psalm 46:1  
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

RECIPE: Cheesy Hash Browns Casserole Recipe

We were served this dish at my nephew's welcome home party a few weeks ago.  I got the recipe and made it this week for our National Night Out neighbor gathering.  Very easy and most ingredients are on hand.  Very tasty, definitely NOT low-cal but you can make alterations.  Everyone loved it.

CHEESY HASH BROWNS CASSEROLE



INGREDIENTS

  • 1  2-lb. bag frozen shredded hash brown potatoes, thawed (I suppose you could make these fresh as well.  You can also use diced hash browns--see comment below)
  • 1/2 c. chopped onion
  • 1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 pt. (2 cups) sour cream
  • 1 stick butter or margarine, melted
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • Salt to taste
  • Bread crumbs, potato chips, corn flakes or tortilla chips (OPTIONAL) [the photo above is with corn flakes]


DIRECTIONS
  1. In a LARGE mixing bowl, add onion and cheese to the thawed potatoes
  2. Mix remaining ingredients and add to potato mixture
  3. May top with buttered bread crumbs, crushed potato chips or crushed tortilla chips.
  4. Bake in 9 x 13 greased dish for 35 minutes at 350 degrees.  
  5. We broiled it for about 2 minutes to get the top crispy brown but WATCH while doing this so it doesn't burn.

I had never purchased shredded hash browns before, so if you haven't either, this is what they look like (Publix brand).  It's not quite 2 lbs, but close enough.


My mini-food processor makes quick work (about 20 seconds) of shredding cheese.  This little appliance of mine  is 25 years old and still going strong!  I guess it's officially vintage now.  :)  My parents bought this for me back in my single days after  I had just  purchased my first home (a condo) in 1985. 



Everything mixed together in my largest mixing bowl.  I need plenty of elbow  room to stir so everything stays in the bowl and NOT on the kitchen counter!


Finished dish is in the first photo at the top of this blog post.  
Take this dish to your next potluck or serve to  your family and guests.  
They will love it.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Hospitality Tip: Folding Cloth Napkins / Using Your Good China & Crystal

We use cloth napkins almost exclusively at our house.  I pick them up on sale at stores and nice-neighborhood yard sales as well.  Not opposed to paper and if I can buy them at a great price, I'll stock up.  [Found 1,000 last year at Sam's Club for $2.00!]   Using cloth napkins, however, is  one of my few "green" efforts.

Anyway, last week I had a small ladies luncheon here as a birthday surprise for a sweet friend.  At the last minute, and I mean 20 minutes before everyone arrived, I had a crazy idea of folding the napkins in a different way.  Don't laugh, I do last-minute changes all the time.

The table looked nice with the napkins folded flat...


I went to the internet, googled "how to fold cloth napkins" and found THIS SITE on how to fold them. I picked what I thought looked pretty simple [it was the first photo on the page].  They recommended ironing them but, no time for that.  It took me about 20 seconds to fold this.  I even put this on my Pinterest board. :)


In  less than five minutes (8 guests) I had them all folded.


A special touch for special friends.

P.S.  Are you using your good china and crystal regularly? Or does it stay in quilted storage containers or sit in your china cabinet?   [I realize that many of the young couples don't even register for this anymore.]  

This is our wedding china.  My husband and I married at an older age [38 and 31] and had a large wedding since both of us had lived here for most of our lives.  Our friends and family were very generous so we have place settings of china and crystal for twelve.   I use some of the pieces each week, for our family and our guests.  Why save it for __________?  When the meal is finished, it goes in the dishwasher.  I've been doing this for 24+ years and it still looks great.


Who is more special than your family to use your best things?  Your friends feel appreciated as well.  Just another way to show others that you love them.

I generally ask everyone to bring something to share when hosting a meal.  Most people enjoy helping with the food and feel a part of the hospitality at the same time when doing so.  Plus, it takes the pressure off of me since I truly am just an "average" cook.  That way, I can enjoy the party, too!  :)


One of my favorite authors on homemaking, organization and hospitality is Emilie Barnes.  I have been reading her books for many years and wish I knew her personally [Her website].  She's an organizer, like I am, so I feel like I already know her in a way.  I have several of her books.  Two of her titles about hospitality are:   Homewarming and Welcome Home.  I  own the latter book and refer to it occasionally for ideas. The way it's written,  a tour of her own home, feels like you've just visited and had coffee with her.  :)  Browse through one or both for some ideas on making others feel welcome in your home, and click on the link above on her name  for a list of her other books which you may find helpful as well.  






Romans 12:10-13 
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; 
give preference to one another in honor;  
not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, 
serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, 
devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints,
 practicing hospitality...







Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Life Lessons from Music Practice: Review Your Scales Before Playing

I have a regular practice, no pun intended, of playing the scale of a new piece of music before I actually begin to learn it.  Sometimes I am given a piece of music to play for an event, church service or special occasion that I have never seen before.  I am blessed that I am a good sight-reader [I can play most things without having seen them before] but running through the 8- or 16-note scale before actually  playing the piece is SO helpful to me that I have made it part of my routine.


I always advise even my advanced students, and insist that they do it when they are here, to play through the song's primary scale.  If there are key changes in the piece, then 2-3 scales would suffice as a warm-up.   This gets your fingers warmed up and accustomed to which notes are played on black keys and which are played on the white keys so there is less fumbling around when you see the notes on the page.  Needless to say, some roll their eyes before doing so but always discover that it really does help them master a piece more easily.

Learning scales with their corresponding chords  is such a basic part of playing an instrument.   It enables a musician to play just about anything they come across.  To fudge on this part of one's musical education will leave a huge gap in their abilities to play new songs when there is no teacher present to help them.  There are those that disagree with me but that's OK.  For my students, it is a fundamental element of music.

Many occasions in life require us going back to the basics and remembering what we learned when we were younger.  Excelling in higher mathematics still requires knowing how to add and subtract or what certain symbols mean even if one uses a calculator.  Writing a thesis requires knowing basic sentence structure and good grammar rules.  Persevering when all seems hopeless requires remembering the basics that the Lord is with you and that all things work together for good for those who love Him...[Romans 8:28]

I am reminded of the story of Naaman in the Bible [2Kings 5]  who was told to go wash in the river Jordan seven times to be cured of leprosy.  His pride got in the way and he didn't want to do such a basic thing at first.  When his servants convinced him to do what Elisha told him to do, he was cured.  

Don't let your pride keep you from going back to the basics or from asking for help in whatever situation it is needed.  Sometimes pausing and reviewing the basics enables you to see things in a new light that you might not have before, both in music and in life.
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