Independence Day for Parents AKA First Day of School

My kiddos went back to school today.

And suddenly I’m all productive.

I put together a new recipe for a cheesy ham chowder that is going to knock their socks off this fall.

I washed the fronts of my kitchen cabinets so you can’t tell that five kids and two adults (plus three dogs) were confusing summer boredom for hunger all summer.

I washed shower curtain liners and bedding, swept floors, even mended some tears in our VERY active eight year old boy’s clothing.

I do miss them and can’t wait to hear how their first day went, but it was definitely nice to have a quiet day to get things done.

Before I start jumping back into recipe, craft and decorating posts, I want to share a few pictures of my little cuties.

Aren’t they adorable? I just know they’re going to have a wonderful year!
*The middles wouldn’t let me take photos before school. So irritating.

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Healthy Summer Tea

I truly thought I hated tea until I read about this in a healthy lifestyle book and decided to try modifying it for myself. Be warned that although this tea blend has lots of good stuff in it, my husband has occasionally claimed that I smelled like alcohol while drinking it.
healthy cold tea Contentment at Home

To make this truly refreshing drink- I’ve been guzzling it in this summer humidity- start by placing 8 tea bags in a gallon of water and letting it steep over night. My favorite is Celestial Seasonings Raspberry Zinger.

Once it has steeped overnight, remove the tea bags and add your goodies.
healthy cold tea by Contentment at Home


Add the following:

  • 4 TBS apple cider vinegar WITH THE MOTHER. That’s the good stuff. Just shake it up first
  • 4 TBS of pyure stevia based sweetener. I buy mine at Walmart. I try to avoid artificial sweeteners as much as possible and sugar is the devil if you are on an anti-inflammation diet
  • 1 TBS of lemon extract
  • 1 TBS of another fruit extract as desired

Stir well and sprinkle with about a tsp of ginger. Stir again and serve over ice. Gah, I can’t even explain how addicted I have become to this stuff. It just satisfies thirst in a way soda and artificially sweetened diet drinks could just never do.

I hope you like it!

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The Day I Almost Died For Flowers

It was insanely hot and humid when we installed the picket fence and cleared the flower bed yesterday. Any person with a grain of common sense would have patted themselves on the back for a job well done and waited for the weather to break before doing any more.

Then there’s me.

I went shopping at both local Home Depots and both local Lowes stores to see what plants they have on clearance. ( Local peeps, don’t bother. They have a few plants left and they’re still full price.)

Then I came home and PUT THEM IN THE GROUND. Oh, the foolish schemes of men (and women). Halfway through I had to ask my husband to save my life by full on spraying me with the garden hose.

Contentment at Home Gardens 2016
Daniel completed his maiden gardening voyage just today by transplanting three teeny hostas that just were not thriving where they were. The hope is that they’ll fill out in the back up against the picket fence.

And we’re done. For now.

Contentment at Home Gardens 2016
I can’t wait to put some cute fall stuff in there- mums in baskets, little scarecrows, maybe a ghost for Halloween? Boo!

Here’s a quick before and after for your enjoyment. (And for ours, because Alex and Maddie just helped me create it).

before and after by helpers


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Adding Decorative Fence Behind Flower Bed

If you needed proof that we are out of our minds, the fact that we installed this decorative picket fencing behind our front planting bed might be all you need. It is about 872% humidity today. My kiddos are verging on homicidal when they try to play together outside, and my husband barely spoke a word through this whole project. He was just determined to get it done on his day off and cross it off his list.

First, the beauty shot.


Oh wait, we weren’t talking about cute little boys.

He is, though. Cute. And sweet. Even though it’s the end of summer and he has a sister the same age as he is and they hate each other with a hot burning passion need a change of pace.

Anyway- we had picket fencing panels left over from when we enclosed our front yard, and I asked James to install them at an angle to each other behind the bed at the entry to our driveway. Until a few weeks ago, this bed was overshadowed by a bunch of extremely large pine trees that have since been torn down. The bed needs some love and affection to make it a pretty welcome to our home. I have a teensy bit of a problem lot of great ideas for projects in and around this house. This was one of them.

We started out by figuring out the placement we wanted for the panels.

Install decorative picket fence panel behind flower bed

Then James used a sledgehammer to pound fence stakes into the ground and screwed through the stake into the panel. He did three on each panel.

Install decorative picket fence panel behind flower bed
Because the ground is not level there, and can’t be leveled because of tree roots we just don’t want to tangle with (see what I did there???) we just raised the second panel slightly higher and leveled it as best we could. This is the same situation we ran into when enclosing our front yard, and we still get a lot of compliments on the fencing.

Once both panels were installed, James used a sawzall type tool with a metal-work blade to zip the tops off the metal stakes.

And part one of the overhaul is done!

Install decorative picket fence panel behind flower bed


I hung the birdhouse that James made for me from a branch.



I have to paint this fence, put in the plants we have chosen, and there are some plans for a special sign. For right now I’m going to get the painting part done, weed, and put out our blog sign.

Just as a reminder, it’s summer and the kids are out in force on bikes, scooters, skateboards, etc. Please drive SLOWLY and safely! Thanks from the Mommas and Daddys out there.




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Back to School Style Guide for the Girl Who Spurns Fashion

Hi! I’m so glad I’m here with you- it means I survived BTS shopping with another kiddo! A few days ago it was our high school boy’s turn to shop for Fall 2016.  Today it was all about our middle school girl, whose style could best be described as “I don’t care what everyone else is wearing”.

For our big family, I have learned over the years that the BEST thing to do is to take one kid at a time and discuss their hopes for the shopping trip en route. It’s pretty much a given in a big family that there is small budget for each child and that each purchase should count. Narrowing down what they see as their “look”, and any changes they want to make to that “look”, is something to do before you even step foot in the store.

It’s absolutely predictable that one or two of the kids will give me a big fat “I don’t know” when I ask them what they like. I have a few tips if you’re stuck in this guessing game and time is running out before school starts.

Look at the outfit that they picked out to go shopping in. Chances are that they are excited about the shopping trip, even if they don’t show it, and are wearing something they feel good in. In Hannah’s case, the outfit du jour was black skinny jeans, a pullover with the phases of the moon on it and a “sisters” necklace that she purchased with her own money. Black, gray, understated jewelry.

When I summed up her outfit as “neutral”, it led to a conversation about not wanting to stand out or draw attention because of her looks, but liking attention for her jokes and her school work. We talked about why she chose that necklace, and discovered she doesn’t care much for jewelry but this piece caught her eye because she and her older sister were particularly close at that time. She’s proud of her big family.

I asked her what parts of her outfit and general look she would definitely want to keep. She said skinny jeans. They’re a longstanding favorite.Her super long, luxurious hair with an patterned undercut is staying. She still wants to be able to express her interests in her tees and tops and still does not want a lot of color.

I asked her what she might be willing to tweak a little, and she said she might be willing to add in a little color in tee shirts. She is mildly interested in makeup this year, simple things like foundation and mascara.

For a child who doesn’t want to stand out and simply doesn’t want a lot of makeup, frilly clothes or a three pound load of accessories, that might be all you get. It was enough for me.

Here’s what we ended up with for The I DON’T CARE ABOUT TRENDS Guide to 8th grade fashion, 2016 edition.

Old Navy Rockstar Jeans, Her favorite superskinny midrise style are currently BOGO, so we got two in black, one in dark rinse and one in a whiskered finish. That’s a change from last year’s all black all the time!

ONE standout accessory via Hot Topic- the Supernatural Runes backpack.


A Totoro pullover.


Band tee shirts and anything from her tee shirt wishlist on lots of clever little tees for just about any hobby or state of mind you can think of. Having your quiet kiddo make a wishlist on that site will tell you a lot about their interests!

For the girl whose hair is an accessory all on it’s own, we couponed for some good smoothing and shining hair products. And because Hannah is mildly interested in using makeup, we also used coupons to get almost-free eyeliners, mascara, and makeup remover wipes to get her started.

That wraps up our middle school girl’s guide to back to school ANTI-fashion. Although her style is VERY different than mine, it’s a still a style, and it expresses her interests and priorities. If she’s happy, Momma’s happy!

Two second graders left to finish up, and those should be interesting. See you soon!


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Back to School Shopping for Tenth Grade Boy

We’re starting to get ready for back to school, which is a joyous time of year for me.

I love my big family, but I will confess that it is extremely difficult to placate a gaggle of bored kids of all different ages. The momma guilt eats me up every summer because we pretty much stick to the same routine as always, and when we do make plans we inevitably seem to get derailed by the weather.

Not to mention my health is a joke. More on that later.

Daniel and I went on quick shopping trips two times over the last week or so. Out of his whole crew, Daniel is probably the one who cares most about what he calls his “style”, and these are the things he tells me are “in” for the high school guys.

  • the “jogger” pants that exploded in popularity toward the end of last school year. He has them in five or six colors and insists that they are pretty much all he needs for pants. He wears them on the tight side to avoid the 80’s atrocity that was Hammer pants. If I force him to buy jeans as well, he’ll stick with skinny jeans.
  • Pullover hoodies in upgraded fabrics. We’re trying out some linen blends this year.
  • Pullover sweaters, once the weather changes. Are we done with cardigans? Sad face.
  • Plain black mid-calf socks, as opposed to the patterned Zumiez style socks he’s been wearing. According to Daniel, those are a “summer thing”.
  • Drawstring bags that can be worn over the shoulders like a backpack for carrying gear. The one we bought won’t carry his binder, books and lunch, but it will be great for sports practice, biking, day trips with his crew or outings with the family.
  • Tees with subtle graphics- Daniel’s current favorite has a small scale lightning bolt pattern on it. No inappropriate graphics. Apparently “class” is in, thank the living Lord.
  • The classic Gatorade water bottle for sports and biking.
  • Good quality sneakers and cleats

What we’re reusing from last year:

  • Classic black backpack. We bought a good quality one last year, and this is a hated necessity for Daniel, not a “style” item. So we won’t waste money buying another one.
  • Gym sneakers. Last year’s every day sneakers will do for gym a couple of times a week until they’re too small, and help us get our money’s worth.
  • A coat. I’m not going to bother. Neither Daniel OR Hannah ever wear the coats that I buy them. EVER. If for some reason wearing a coat seems more socially acceptable to them this year, they can wear the one’s from last year. They probably still have the tags on them. If they outgrow last years and need something for shoveling the sidewalks, etc, they can either borrow from us, the parents, or I’ll buy cheapies from the big box stores.

That wraps up our BTS shopping guide according to Daniel. If you enjoyed it, make sure you come back and check out the guides according to our 8th grade girl and 2nd grade boy and girl. See you soon!

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How to Get That Great Aged Finish

Great (Easy) technique for getting that beautiful aged finish on your wood projects.
Great (Easy) technique for getting that beautiful aged finish on your wood projects.
My husband built this cute birdhouse for me out of salvaged pallet wood. He knows what I like, that man. I just finished it yesterday, since it’s too darned humid to go outside. I thought I’d share the combination of products that I used to achieve this pretty aged and distressed finish.
Great (Easy) technique for getting that beautiful aged finish on your wood projects.
I started by painting on a nice heavy layer of this gray stain. On the rough dry pallet wood used in this project, the stain was soaked up instantly. Use your judgement with newer wood. A couple of thin layers with plenty of drying time between might work better if your wood is less porous.
Next I painted the roof and base with a layer of Woody Rosemary paint from the HGTV Home line by Sherwin Williams. You can find it at Lowe’s- and they have 99 cent samples right now!
When the paint and stain were dry, I used a fairly damp cloth to spread on the antiquing wax. For this kind of work I almost always use a rough cloth. In this case it was a rag cut from an old towel. Once applied, I rubbed firmly to blend the dark streaks and get the depth that I wanted.
Great (Easy) technique for getting that beautiful aged finish on your wood projects.
Great (Easy) technique for getting that beautiful aged finish on your wood projects.
I love the way this birdhouse turned out, and you better believe that I asked the Mr. to make me a few more in different shapes.
Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you soon!



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