Friday, November 30, 2012


Please note: this post has affiliate links listed throughout.

I met a remarkable woman several months ago and we became instant friends.  While I was visiting one day, she told me about Shutterfly which is a free website that can be used to safely store precious photos.

Not only does Shutterfly store photos but they can also create a blog-like photo album (again, for free) to display photos for others to view.  I use this feature to display pictures to my friends and family that do not have a FaceBook account.

In the same visit, my friend showed me this extraordinary book that she made using Shutterfly of a trip she took with her daughter a few years before.  It was a hardback book and a beautiful way to document her trip with her oldest daughter. 

Back at the end of October, my mother and I went to Orlando, FL with my niece to see my brother who is attending school there.  I am a picture fanatic: I love to take pictures and I love to look at pictures.  Since owning a digital camera, I can tell you how many photos I have printed out: 0.  I love love love to take pictures and I have some pretty great ones I’ve taken over the years, but I have no physical reminder of the beautiful places we have visited or the beautiful reminders of our loved ones past and present. 

My mom said she wanted a disc of all the pictures I took from the trip.  After all, there were over 600 of them and we were only in Florida for 4 days!  I noticed on Shutterfly that they had the photo books at 40% off if I ordered before a certain date. I decided to try to make the photo book for my mom.

I didn’t know how difficult it would be to arrange the book, but I dove right in.  I was surprised at how many options there were to choose from to customize the photo book to my taste.  All in all, I made a 20 page hard-cover book from cover to cover within 2-3 hours.  The book I made for my mother as a memoir of our trip had over 200 photos in it and cost less than $35!  To me, the photos in the book and the memories we made on the trip are priceless.


The best part of the whole process was giving my mom the book.  I had to try to keep my project a secret for over a week until I could give it to her, and believe me, it was difficult.  I couldn’t wait to give it to her.  When she saw the front cover of the book, she thought she had to put the pictures in the book on her own.  I asked her to look inside and she squeeled with excitement as soon as she noticed our family photos were lining the pages.  I love that she loved the book that much.

In my opinion, the book turned out marvelous.  Todd and I arent ones to display photos around our home because we never have any pictures printed out from our digital camera; however,  I have decided to start making these books for around our home when Shutterfly has their sales going on.

This week, Shutterfly is offering these books at a 50% discount!  I am looking forward to making a book or two of our 5 year wedding anniversary trip to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon this week. 

If interested in this deal, please feel free to check them out.  These make awesome gifts, and not only does Shutterfly offer photo books, but they can also do photo magazines, mugs, mousepads, calendars…pretty much whatever your heart desires!


Use coupon code SAVE50 to get 50% off all hard cover photo books, calendars, stationary, and greeting cards from!

Disclosure: I was in no way influenced to write a positive review for Shutterfly.  I have used them to make a personalized item for a family member and look forward to using them to make my own personalized items for our home.  I am an affiliate of Shutterfly and receive a small commission on anything you may order.  In the future, I will be sharing when Shutterfly has great deals like this one so that you may benefit from them as well.




Thursday, November 29, 2012

Keep Up With ‘em? I Don’t Even LIKE ‘em!

…the Joneses, that is.

While driving 5 hours round-trip to my grandmother’s house on Thanksgiving day, I thought a lot about the Joneses and how much I do not look up to them.  There are so many people who do. 

There are people in my life that desperately want to keep up with the Joneses.  It is always about appearances and who has what.  Even though they have a beautiful family and more posessions than they know what to do with, they always want more.  I’m sure you know a few people like this too.

It may be my stubborn nature or my resistence to being like everyone else, but I don’t look up to material possesions.  I was thinking aloud while we were on our road trip about what I look up to* and who I am striving to become. 

This is what my (ideal) Jones family would look like!

  • A happy, healthy, hands-on family (spends quality time together)
  • Does not care about the latest and greatest kchotchke (fashion, gadgets, toys, vehicles, vacations, etc.)
  • Lives well below their means
  • Has paid off their mortgage
  • Has a cushion in the bank
  • Has the freedom to do what they love as a career and not have to worry about how much they make doing it
  • Want what they have (contentment)
I am fortunate enough to know a couple who meet most of the points above…and they are not Warren Buffet.   It is nice knowing them because it proves to me the possibility to accomplish these goals in life and getting rid of the rat-race.

 What does your “Jones Family” look like?

 *This is what I want in my life.  Everyone is different and if you don’t want the same things I do, I wouldnt hold it against you. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Breeding Mealworms

Just in case anyone thought otherwise, this is proof that I have gone bonkers.  I am breeding mealworms as a renewable food source for our chickens.  I was surprised when I brought it up to my husband that he didn’t even bat an eye which means only one thing: he has realized that I have done lost my mind a long time ago.

So, how did I learn about breeding mealworms?  It was from a post that I received from Jane who has a website entitled Hedgecombers.   When she posted a comment on one of my posts, I took a look at her blog and noticed an article about breeding mealworms.  After doing some research, it seems to be a pretty simple thing to do. 

I set out to purchase mealworms and start our own mealworm breeding operation.  I ended up getting them from this seller on eBay and I am extremely pleased with the purchase.

Mealworms the Day We Got Them
So, you may be wondering what you have to do to breed mealworms.  I’ll tell you.

1.)    Buy mealworms

2.)    After several weeks (up to 2 months), the mealworms turn into pupas which is like a cacoon

3.)    Out of the pupa (1-2 weeks later) emerges a Darkling Beetle that live up to 3 months

4.)    The beetles mate and produce eggs

5.)    The eggs hatch into mealworms

6.)    The life cycle starts all over again

Is it really that simple?  YES!

Within 3 days of owning the mealworms, pupas started to form. Once they formed, I picked them out of the area with the mealworms and put them in their own area so that when the beetles hatch, they can get busy making some eggs!  Also, please know that the Darkling Beetles don’t fly, so there are no worries of having these things flying all over the house.

I am getting a little bit ahead of myself.  This is what is needed to breed mealworms:

  • A warm place (for maximum breeding, you will want the temperature to be around 76 degrees)
  • Plastic tubs (I am using old tupperware containers)
  • A food source (bran cereal, oats or chicken feed) of 1-3 inches in the plastic tub
  • A water source (a slice of an apple, carrot or potato)
Water Source for Mealworms
Many people on YouTube use sweater boxes to start their mealworms out in, but we keep our house pretty cold and there was no way there is any one spot in our house that is 76 degrees in December, January, February or March!  Instead, we put our egg incubator that we bought when we purchased too many fertilized chicken eggs for our broody hen to work (again).  The 1,000 mealworms we purchased fit in a small plastic container inside the egg incubator.  I am pretty confident we can keep up to 5,000 mealworms within this incubator comfortably. 

The mealworms will eat through the 1-3 inches of their food source (also known as a substrate) with time.  Once they do, all you have left is what looks like sand.  I will let you in on a little secret: this is mealworm poop.  Another inside secret is that this “sand” is great fertilizer for plants.


Costs Involved:
Incubator (we already had)
Plastic tubs (we already had)
1,000 mealworms ($18.99)
Large container of oats ($2.19)

Total invested in mealworms:  $21.18 (not including electricity use and slices of potatoes and carrots that we always have on hand)

The only reason I decided to breed the mealworms in the winter is so that I could get some experience and to build up our supply of mealworms for the chickens.  I do not plan on feeding the mealworms to the chickens until the next generation of mealworms hatch.  I have decided otherwise. Our "operation" is producing so well, even within just 2 weeks of owning the mealworms, that we will start supplementing the chicken's food with mealworms in the next month or so!  It takes anywhere from 3-4 months for the entire life-cycle to take place.  My goal is to breed enough mealworms to keep a nice supply available to the chickens through the colder months next year when they arent able to forage for their food as well as to sell them locally to help recoop the costs.  I also plan on selling the mealworm poop as fertilizer when there is enough to sell.

As you can see, with the life cycle being 3-4 months on mealworms, I can make an endless supply of treats/protein for my chickens while keeping the cost of commercial feed to a minimum.   

The mealworms have tripled in size over the past 2 weeks!

I admit I am creeped out by these things.  The noise they make while digging through the oats is an eerie sound because I know it is 1,000 mealworms!  Ick.  To me, it’s like a bad horror movie.  But I know that this is the best possible food for our hens and a replenishable one at that, so I think it’s worth it.  Maybe with time, I will be comfortable enough with them to pick them up with my own two hands. But for now, I will continue to use tweezers thankyouverymuch!


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Photo Credit
Today we are spending the day at my grandma’s house with family for a wonderful home cooked meal and great conversation.   

I love this time of year with what is remaining of the fall colors and a little bit of a chill in the air.  It is a reminder of all of the things I have to be thankful for in my life.

I am thankful for...
  • My husband - who agrees to help me with all of the crazy ideas I come up with 
  • My family - who has been there for me through everything
  • Our homestead - though it's not picture perfect, it's ours
  • Our animals - who make us laugh on a daily basis and provide free-entertainment without having to turn on the tube 

What are you thankful for today?
What are your plans for this beautiful day?
Whatever they are, I pray that you are safe and have a wonderful time.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Book Review: Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy

I am a master procrastinator.  There is no denying it.  I have struggled with this trait for as long as I can remember.

Todd always jokes, “If you were a nation, you’d be procrasti-nation!”  I found this book on the library computer system from another branch and I knew I had to read it!

Photo Credit


When the book was available at my library to pick up, I immediately noticed how compact it was and I thought, “This is the perfect book for me!”  Why was it the perfect book?  Because for those of us who procrastinate (with some ADD tendencies), we get overwhelmed by large books and procrastinate on reading them!  Can you imagine?  Procrastinating on reading a book on how to train your mind to stop procratinating!

That being said, I dove right in.

I was interested from the very first page.
"If you are like most people today, you are overwhelmed with too much to do and too little time.  As you struggle to get caught up, new tasks and responsibilities just keep rolling in, like the waves of the ocean.  Because of this, you will never be able to do everything you have to do.  You will never be caught up.  You will always be behind in some of your tasks and responsibilities, and probably in many of them."
You may be wondering what frogs have to do with procrastination, but everything in the book revolves around these simple thought processes:

"Mark Twain once said taht if the first thingn you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long. 
Your "frog" is your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don't do something about it.  It is also the one task that can have the greatest positive impact ony our life and results at the moment."
 Rule 1:
If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first.

Rule 2:
If you have to eat a live frog at all, it doesnt pay to sit and look at it for very long.

I will be honest that the first 40 pages of this book were the most motivating to me.  The rest o the book was more about what to do in business-type settings to get past the procrastination.  Though it is good to know, the quote about the frog and the rules above are what have been motivating me the most to "eat my frog" every day.

The book goes on the the following 21 steps about how one goes about accomplishing the thought processes above.
  1. Set the Table
  2. Plan Every Day in Advance
  3. Apply the 80/20 Rule to Everything
  4. Consider the Consequences
  5. Practice Creative Procrastination
  6. Use the ABCDE Method Continually
  7. Focus on Key Result Areas
  8. Apply the Law of Three
  9. Prepare Thoroughly Before You Begin
  10. Take It One Oil Barrel at a Time
  11. Upgrade Your Key Skills
  12. Leverage Your Special talents
  13. Identify Your Key Constraints
  14. Put the PRessure on Yourself
  15. Maximize Your Pesronal Powers
  16. Motivate Yourself into Action
  17. Get Out of the Technological Time Sinks
  18. Slice and Dice the Task
  19. Create Large Chunks of Time
  20. Develop a Sense of Urgency
  21. Single Handle Every Task

This book is a must-read for anyone who is looking for motivation on ridding of their procrastination.  At less than 130 pages and a 3 hour read, I know it has changed my life and my tendency to procrastinate!  When I start my day, I know what “frog” I need to eat and try to get accomplished first thing because after that, the rest of the day should be smooth sailing. 

So, my question to you is, what is your frog?
I know for me, it is housework and getting organized. That is the main reason I got this book: to get motivated and take care of the tasks (or the frogs) that have been piling up on me for years. 

Ribbit! Ribbit!

Photo Credit


*Disclosure:  I was in no way compensated or influenced to write this review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Giving to Others

On November 11th, 2011, I was drawn to a little girl by the name of Anabel from Bolivia on Compassion International’s* website.  I cannot explain the draw I had to this (then) 3 year old’s profile, but I immediately texted Todd and asked if he would mind that we sponsor this child in Bolivia.  He agreed that we are blessed and should start passing our blessings along to others.

I signed up with Compassion International and wrote Anabel immediately using their online message forum where I could choose adorable stationary and attach 3 photos.  I attached a picture of Todd & me, a picture of Lana (our pup) and the cats.  I wrote her a brief letter and committed myself to write her often and keep her up to date with all that was going on in our life and on the homestead as well as to learn about her life.

I wrote consistently and attached many pictures for approximately 3 months before I got my first letter back.  It wasn’t much of a letter, but many hand-drawn pictures from sweet little Anabel who had turned 4 a month after we started to sponsor her.  And then the letters started arriving consistently.  It seems the more I write, the more Anabel writes.  Not all of the letters we get are from Anabel, but her mother and her tutor write to us as well to keep me updated on what is happening in her life.

"I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver."  ~Maya Angelou

Getting to know this precious 4 year old (soon to be 5!) has been a huge blessing to me over the past year.  My heart is attached to this little girl and I look forward to the day when Todd and I can make the trip to see her in the future.

Compassion's Gift Catalog

Even though we are consciously trying to give throughout the year to others, it is this time of year that I feel like my heart will explode with gratitude and contentment for everything we have been privelaged to have in this life: Our faith, freedom, health, one another, family and friends.

Giving does not have to be monetary.  I have noticed just by smiling at people on the street or while going through a drive-thru, it makes a difference!  I’ve had several people comment on how happy it makes them to see me smile.  And guess what?  They brighten my day too!  Most people will smile back or say hello.  I have had a few that look at me as if I had 3 heads but I didn’t let that ruin my day.  I said a little prayer for them and went along with my day.

There are so many things that can be done to serve others that require very little other than time and/or a few resources.  For instance, giving blood or donating plasma could save a life.

Another way I am giving (non-monetarily) is by growing my hair to give to Locks of Love.  I started to let it grow out this past summer so that by the spring I can get it lopped off and send it to Locks of Love to make a wig for a child in need of some hair.  The donation has to be at least 10 inches long and I will tell you that I have never had my hair this long before.  Those days when I am frustrated that it doesn’t ever seem to dry and I cannot style it to my liking, I think of the little girl out there who dreams of having any hair at all!   It is humbling to think that something most women complain about is something that others don’t have and want.

Lastly, please keep in mind the food pantries and City Mission are looking for canned goods and donations to help feed and clothe families in need right in our own back yard.

These are the little things we are doing to help give to others.  I pray that there will be many people blesssed this year by the giving of strangers they may never meet.

DISCLOSURE: I was in no way compensated for saying these things about Compassion International.  I love them as an organization and believe in what they are doing.  If you are interested in another great organization, I highly recommend Amazima as well.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Chicken Solarium

It is getting cold here in NorthEast Ohio, and I know that with time, that beautiful thing we call snow will be falling.  I was looking into ways to get the chickens outside to enjoy the sunshine durring those frigid cold months. The chicken coop we have for the chickens is perfect for roosting and sleeping 17 chickens, but not 24/7! I found a link showing someone's chicken solarium, and I started to think about what we could use to make one here on the homestead.



The great part about the solarium is that we had everything we needed on hand!  We replaced sliding glass doors at the front of our house several years ago with french doors, so we had a large, heavy pane of glass ready to be used as a solarium.  The best part is, the glass is so long, it can accommodate most of the chickens in the area!

We know which direction the snow drifts form, so we closed off one side of the solarium with bricks that we had lying around from other projects that have taken place around the homestead.  As you can see from this picture, the sun shines on this area pretty nicely between the hours of 10AM and 5PM. 

Now, when the snow begins to fall, we will have to shovel a pathway from the chicken coop to the solarium for the chickens to enjoy the warmth and sunshine… and get the stink blown off of their feathers!


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Great Debate: Butchering Chickens

It is quite humerous to me the opinions that people have about our purchase of fertilized chicken eggs.   I work with a majority of men and they loved hearing about the fertiliezd eggs that we got; however, opinions started flying as soon as I mentioned what we plan on doing with some of the chickens.    

Take Gentleman #1:  His wife is a vegan: He is not. Together, they adore animals and do not believe in animal cruelty (neither do I!).  Please note: this gentleman eats meat.

Gentleman #2: Just read a book about a plant-based diet entitled The China Study and converted his ways from a meat-loving carnivor to a (mainly) vegetarian diet.  He has had this new way of eating for two months with a couple of meatatarian slipups now and again.

Both gentlemen have been giving me a hard time about our plans to butcher some of our chickens.  Gentleman #1 argues that it is not humane to butcher a chicken.  While trying to defend myself about how slaughterhouses work with the meat he purchases from the grocery store, he rebuttled with an “ignorance is bliss” type of attitude.  I find this completely hypocritical.

Gentleman #2 gives me a hard time about eating meat in general, stating that it will be the death of me and that humans were not meant to eat meat.  Again, this is his opinion.  And as the saying goes, “Opinions are like…*

 My opinion:

{I am not saying that my opinion is the proper opinion to have; however, it is something that my husband and I strongly believe is right for us.}  

We do not want a lot of chickens running around our yard and I will not tollerate several roo’s pecking each other to death.  Our current chicken area is over a quarter of an acre where the chickens can roam and eat bugs as they please.  I like knowing that our food source is able to run free and I dlike knowing what they are consuming.  There are no cages to keep them in or horomones fed to our chickens to bulk them up.  They are a la natural, and I feel that we give them a great life here on the homestead.  Did you know that chicken bought at the store is generally butchered between the ages of 35 days and 45 days old?  I remember what our chicks looked like at a month old, and they werent a fraction of the size of the chicken breasts that I purchased from the store.  Our chickens will not have to deal with being bulked up for slaughter, as we can patiently wait for our chickens to mature naturally before getting ready to butcher them.

3-4 week old chick
I know our chickens are happy.  They run up to me when I go into the back yard and will eat goodies (cracked corn or kitchen scraps) out of my hand.  I find them running around free-range at 6 in the morning and sometimes I see them roaming around at 9:00 at night when I take the puppy out to go potty before bed.  I feel that the environment we provide for our chickens is the best possible atmosphere for them to have to live out their happy, healthy lives!!

Please note: I am still not 100% sure we are able butcher the chickens ourselves, but we are not ruling it out.  We are researching methods of humanely butchering some of our flock.  I found this video of a way to humanely butcher a chicken.

These are three very different points of view on butchering chickens.  I am sure you have your own point of view on this topic and I would love to hear what you have to say about butchering chickens.  


*If you havent heard the saying, it is:
"Opinions are like a-holes. Everyone’s got one and  they all stink.”