March Updates

I might as well summarize March right here and now, because chances are slim I’ll be back before April rolls in. There is no career future for me in blogging. No future a’tall.

Anyway, things have been cruising along. Sometimes I’m driving, sometimes I feel like life is on autopilot and I sort of occasionally wake up from a nap wondering what state we’re in and if I said anything embarrassing in my sleep.

I’m finishing up re-training for Child Protective Services here in New York. It almost feels like a secret I want to keep to myself, how much this work means to me. I suppose it’s obvious to the people who know me. I did work for CPS once before, left to stay home with my kids and returned to the same agency, so obviously I liked the work. But I’m actually deeply passionate about working with families and taking away the stigma of CPS. I want it to be what it was originally intended to be, which was a safety net for families in crisis and a resource for families headed that way.

In kitchen related news, I caved to the trend and bought an Instant Pot. I read that you can make a good cheesecake in them, so I bought the insert. I’m also a potato salad lover, and hello, six minutes? So I bought the steamer basket too. I’ll be trying those recipes out as soon as I put together a grocery list. I really miss cooking as often as I did before returning to work full time.

We’ve torn apart the house a bit. We-and by we I mean Husband- tore out the crappy builder grade pantry in the kitchen. The soffitt above it had to be removed and the wall patched as well. I’m currently shopping for brick facade to cover the part of the wall that will remain after we cut out the pass through into the living room. Major stuff going on as we expand the dining area into what is currently the bathroom and turn one of main floor bedrooms into a new, bigger bathroom with a soaker tub and double vanity. Not to mention we have to get the dog yard relocated to the back of the property as soon as possible and a new door put in for them as soon as the snow is gone, and finish the work on the exterior of the house. All while maintaining full time jobs and overtime, and keeping our six kiddos happy. NOOO PROBLEM, I say!!

In school related news, I’ve finally reached a point where I feel it’s necessary to reach out to the school district administration about alternate placement for AJ. I just don’t think his current placement is meeting his needs, and it’s sporadic now whether they even respond to my concerns. His teacher is very rigid and at times hostile. His principal addresses things by not addressing them. He uses meaningless, non-specific placating phrases. There are never any measurable, outcome-driven, time-specific goals, after which we will move on to the next option. We just drift along, while AJ progressively feels more and more badly about himself and performs at lower and lower levels. That’s just not acceptable.

Weekend plans include catching up on laundry and a trip to the bookstore at some point. There is always housework, but we need to get in some fun, too. M is always happy to try new recipes with me. I’d like to get my camera out and dust it off. I haven’t touched it in a while and I miss it. We’re clearing out the garage a little bit with the help of my father-in-law and hopefully we’ll be giving away some kid’s bicycles we collected from community members. H has a friend over, and we may be taking a trip to Lake George to see what flavors of ice cream the famous Martha’s is offering up today.

Hope you enjoy your weekend!

 

 

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Return To the Workforce

I took the plunge.

On January 3oth I went back to work for our local district social services. I accepted a position as a floating caseworker, so in theory I will be filling in the gaps in Child Protective Services, Foster Care, Preventive Services and Adult Protective Services. I’ve worked there as a CPS caseworker in the past before deciding to spend some time as a stay at home mom, and I love the work.

For the first week it felt like a blur of rushing around to get the kids to before school care, get to work, rush home on lunch breaks to let the dogs out, rush back to work and then rush to pick the kids up, frantically try to get homework done, showers done, figure out what everyone would wear the next day, and then pretty much pass out.

Now it’s starting to feel like we’re establishing some routines, starting to separate some good ideas from bad ideas, starting to adapt to a new schedule, and starting to pull together a new set of resources and back up plans for emergencies.

We also have a whole new full time income, of course, minus the cost of before and after school care, and lots of plans for wrapping up some long overdue projects on the home.

So what’s going to happen with Contentment at Home? While home is still where I feel the most content, I need to work outside the home right now to make some of the improvements and updates that I want to make to our home, and to start planning for our future. So for the next few years, I’ll be sharing ways to find contentment in your home whether you spend all your time there, or whether you have to make the most of just a few hours a day. If I can find a way to make prepping for the week quicker and easier so I can enjoy down time with my family more, you can bet I’ll share it with you. Quicker meal options that are still delicious? I’m on it. Low stress holidays? We can make it happen.

Welcome to the next evolution, Homebuddies. ❤

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My Post-Christmas Haul and Next Year’s Theme Reveal

I know that there are lots of you out there that head right out as soon as the first Christmas clearance sign goes up to score the good deals. I’m a slacker in that department. I had to go grocery shopping and thought I was going to be getting a coupon deal in the Health and Beauty department, otherwise I would have skipped Target completely.

It was New Year’s Eve and most of the shelves were picked over, but I did find some things to get me excited.

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Yay! Look at all the pretty Christmas stuff!
A nine dollar velvet tree skirt:
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Mugs wearing sweaters! Oy, the cuteness! They were less than $1.50 each and I’m going to stuff them with goodies for the kids next Christmas.
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Cute little odds and ends like pompoms, gift tags and advent stickers for the calendar.
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Loving the candy cane and houndstooth bows in these packs.
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And the last two packages of red ornaments:
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I was so glad to find these things at 70 to 75 percent off, since next year’s theme is all about Mrs. Claus and her red and white Christmas home. I have lots of work to do between now and then!

Have you hit the clearance sales? Do you choose a new theme every year or stick with something traditional?

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Main Floor Master

We recently made the decision to move our bedroom down to the main level of our home. There weren’t too many drawbacks, but we did have to consider the size of the room and the size of our furniture because we really downsized!

The paint color in the room is Graystone by Benjamin Moore.
Benjamin Moore Graystone paint in master bedroom

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It looks stunning with the bright white baseboards. I still have to paint the trim around the door and the closet doors, but I thought it best to let the wall paint cure for a while.
In the meantime, I’ve been e-shopping for bedding. We already have comfortable deep pocket organic cotton sheets that we love in gray and in white. We use a fleece blanket for added warmth, but we’ve discovered over the years that we do not like puffy comforters on our bed. James says I give off too much heat! We both like the weight and warmth of quilts, so I’m looking for one right now that isn’t a youthful boy print like the one we’re using now.
This one is my top contender:
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I’d like something to add some interest at the bottom of the bed, as well as some added warmth when we aren’t using the heat in the fall and spring.
This quilt has a great price and a pretty scalloped edge. It may be fully reversible. It’s hard to tell from photos.
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I’m looking forward to getting the main elements of the room in place so I can start with the details, which everyone knows are the “fun” things. I’ll keep you posted!

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Post-Op Momma and Some Stocking Tags

I had surgery on December 8th. The next day I googled robotic surgery. It’s pretty cool but I’m glad I waited until it was done to look it up. There’s something a little disconcerting about letting someone cut into you from across the room. Anyway the surgery went well and I am on post-op day 5 today.

I am not allowed to lift anything over five or ten pounds (so basically nothing), or overexert myself in any way. I am taking narcotic pain medication and I have a love/hate relationship with it. I love the way it takes the pain away, obviously, and I also love that it takes away my anxiety about sitting on my butt doing nothing. It allows me to nap here and there, and I know that my body needs that. On the other hand, I hate that I NEED it, that without it I can’t focus on anything but the status of my innards, and that it makes me stupid. I suppose it sounds funny to anyone else, but I have occasionally given up on following a thought from beginning to end it is just too much work. Every day I try to sub Ibuprofen as much as possible and I am looking forward to the day that I feel back to normal. And ohmygoodness, Christmas is less than two weeks away!

In the last couple of days I have wrapped up some Christmas projects. Maddie and I finished up some chalkboard tags for our stockings.

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These are just little wood cutouts shaped like mittens and tree ornaments. I think I got them at JoAnn Fabrics last year and never finished them. Prior to my surgery, I spray painted them with a semi-gloss white paint. Then yesterday Maddie and I painted the fronts with chalkboard paint.
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My paint was a little watery, so I did several coats, sanding off the brushstrokes between the last two coats.

To attach them to the stockings, I threaded thin twine through the precut holes and knotted it several times. I trimmed off the ends, but you could definitely leave them dangling, or even add more decorations to them!

I “seasoned” the chalk paint by rubbing white chalk all over them, then wiping it off and using chalk board markers to write our names. I will probably fidget with them a bit more, but I am very pleased with the simple, seasonal cuteness. And the kids won’t have to look in each others stockings to figure out which one is theirs.

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God has really blessed us this year, even in the midst of stress and illness. I can’t wait to celebrate the birth of Baby Jesus on Christmas with all of our family around us.

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Pumpkin Coffee Cake with Streusel

pumpkin coffee cake with streusel

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I’m holding onto the last little bit of fall here. I’m just not ready for winter yet. Today I brought fall into my kitchen with an indulgent pumpkin treat. This pumpkin streusel coffee cake is super moist, super rich, and full of great pumpkin flavor.
pumpkin coffee cake with streusel
pumpkin coffee cake with streusel
pumpkin coffee cake with streusel

For the streusel:

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 cup butter, melted
2 1/2 cups flour

For the cake:

3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup brown cup sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
2 eggs
2 (15 ounce) cans pumpkin puree

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with non-stick spray.

To prepare the streusel, stir together the sugars, cinnamon, salt, and melted butter in a medium mixing bowl until well combined. Stir in flour and set aside.

To make the cake, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
In a stand mixer, beat sugars and butter until light and fluffy.
Beat in the eggs and pumpkin until just combined.
Slowly mix in flour mixture until combined.
Spread cake batter into prepared pan.
Spread streusel in large crumbles over cake.

Bake for 50 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out mostly clean.
Cool completely. (Yeah right. Cool it until you don’t burn your lips off taking a bite.)

It feels pretty good to be back here on the blog. I’m hoping to be able to spend time here more often. See you soon!

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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.
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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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