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Some thoughts and links from the week:

    Splash top. This iPad application is amazing. When I occasionally use my laptop I don’t have to actually lug it out of the junk guest room anymore, I just remote in using this fantastic app. In this same vein, File Browser can be used to grab and drop files (and even view photos) on our server straight from the iPad. Thanks, tech husband, for untethering me from my laptop.

    The Ergo rocks. We didn’t buy one until number three was born, but I wish we would have purchased this carrier sooner. They are sooooo comfortable, and I love the snugly-baby-on-chest feeling. I’ve also used a baby bjorn, ring sling, and mei tai, but so far I love this best.

    My brother and sister in law introduced us to Wasa crackers several years ago and we just rediscovered them on an upper shelf at the local Target. Whole grain, crispy sourdough crackers. Yum. This recipe also makes some fantastic sourdough crackers, but I’m ok with spending a couple of bucks for Wasa. It only takes a few times rolling out and slicing the homemade variety to appreciate the convenience of purchasing a box of crispy goodness pre made. Kudos to those of you who are intelligent enough to have come to that conclusion pre- mixing, rolling, and cutting.

    Do you own a Kindle yet? Here are my reasons why you ought to consider the purchase:

    • These devices are a good value. Purchase a $79 kindle (no, the advertisements don’t matter one bit, they only show up when the device is off and in a teeny banner on the home screen) and there are THOUSANDS of free books available. Not only the classics, but also contemporary reads that occasionally offer free or cheap promotional pricing. Books I’ve gotten for free or very cheap include those by Sproul, Piper, Colson, and Alcorn.
    • The Kindles look like a book. Really. I was skeptical about the whole “e-ink” concept, but the rumors are true, these puppies really do mimic paper. There isn’t the eye strain that can occur with other devices, and I find myself enjoying the light weight of the kindle over the clunkiness that can be distracting when reading a lengthy work. The pages really seem like paper, and the plastic frame melts into the background as I become absorbed into the reading, which contributes to my next point…
    • I (and most others, as I’ve anecdotally discovered) read significantly faster on the kindle. Books that would normally take me weeks to finish, if they are completed at all, are finished much quicker. I even do my daily Bible reading this device now, and along with a new reading plan that is the bomb frashizzle, I am chewing through the world’s most valuable book faster than a speeding bullet. Well, perhaps a musketball. Anyhow, you get the point.

In the interest of preventing any woman from getting all “Facebook syndrome” over this blog and imagining that some sort of perfect life is being led at MHouse (rather than the truthfully icky sight that is a houseful of sinners), I thought I’d let you in on this little tidbit: today we had to stop school not once, but TWICE so that mommy could pray for patience. And I’m only teaching one child. A kindergartner. For two hours. Even worse? I sinfully turned one of those prayers into a sermon for little ears: “and Lord, please help Jimmy to obey mommy and to listen carefully, and to not be so silly during school.” If my six year old ends up in therapy for lack of humor as an adult, it will be all my fault for stamping out all his silliness. I’m hoping to leave some crumbs 😉

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Finally, Little goat is now four. Fantastically, fascinatingly four. He’s one cool dude.

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Once again, my web browser is piling up with great tabbed links. Posted here so that I can de-tab my browser and actually let my laptop sleep for once:

  • Child’s T-shirt pattern – We have a whopping two short-sleeved t-shirts for Braniac to wear this summer. On a whim, I searched google for a free pattern, and “ta-dah!” here it is. I think I have a half yard of stretchy knit somewhere to try this out on…
  • Haircut Cape – After yet another little boy haircutting session that ended with Braniac near tears and driven loco from itchiness, here is another google success. I think I’ll probably just end up making it in a cotton weave because i don’t think I have any slick-ish material around.
  • Giacomo’s Baby Hat – a cute knit hat that I intend to make (sans pom-pom) to match newbie’s sweater. I’ve never tried fair-isle and this seems like a good project to start.
  • BuyAlaska – I’m not sure how I browsed my way around to this site, but I likey. I’m not a strictly “buy local” gal, but if I can find something local for a comparable price, then by all means I want to try to support the local economy. Etsy’s Shop Local search feature is also great for finding local treasures.
  • Handwriting Worksheet Maker – perfect for helping me in our preschool lessons. This site can generate handwriting worksheets from whatever words you choose.
  • Foraging in Alaska –  The contents of the book Foraging and Wildcrafting in Alaska by Walsh and Fongemie. This is a great resource for identifying local edible plants. If only this book weren’t out of date. It’s tempting to copy the files and have them print it out downtown. This would be a priceless book to have on hand during a long term emergency. There are a couple of other Alaska-specific foraging books listed on Amazon. Does anyone know of any others?

Right now I have a gazillion tabs open on several windows in my web browser. Many of these tabs need to be saved, but I don’t want to take the time to save them as book marks and organize them properly. So I’m going to kill two birds with one stone and save them here. That’s really more work than just saving them, but somehow it works out as easier in my distorted mind.

29 ways to reduce waste in your home – this post from keeper of the home is a good list of ways to simplify life. For us it’s not about “Saving the Earth” (isn’t it people who need saving?!), but more about striving to get rid of junk in our lives, and being good stewards of the resources that God has given us.

whole chickens – why whole chickens are a good idea, and how to cook them in such a way as to use every last bit of chicken. This is a “want to” for me, so it’s posted here as inspiration. Someday…

Crockpot soap making – I’ve had some lye sitting in my closet for over a year now. This idea of making soap in the crock pot might be just what I need to push me over the edge to finally try soapmaking.

Apron – a cute apron that I’m half-way through making. Hopefully this will be one of the projects that I actually finish 😉 It’s a simple pattern with a single pocket.

Canning Jalapeno peppers – Hubby eats these all the time, and I’d like to see what he thinks of the home-canned variety. He’s a bit of a jalapeno tasting expert.

It’s time for my annual holiday blogging break. I’ve been procrastinating on this post for several days now. Severe blogging procrastination is a good indicator that it’s time for a recess. I plan to be back posting in January. Until then, here are some end of the year updates/helps:

  • We finally painted the living room. Yay! No spanish decor as of yet, but we have our eye on these couches from Baileys that we’re hoping will go on sale half price someday 🙂
  • Shout out to the little coffee stand on the corner of Vine and the Parks Hwy. Thanks to their cheap coffees ($2 for a 12oz latte) we’ve been splurging on this little luxury more often. Not only is the coffee cheap, it is actually good too.
  • 30 weeks and I’m starting to feel a wee bit pregnant. I’ve got that whole “hafta grunt every time I bend down” thing going on. Yay.
  • December or January are good months to check your credit report for possible identity theft. The government-approved site for your free yearly credit check is AnnualCreditReport.com
  • 7 tax moves to make by year-end is a decent article by BankRate to help you make sure you’re making the most of the tax year. Don’t forget to keep track of those charitable donations, they can bring big bucks come spring tax time.

Seeya in January!

I discovered the English Russia blog a few months back while trying to find a picture of a horse and buggy going through a drive-thru. Ever since, I’ve kept up with the RSS feed and it has turned out to be one of the most interesting blogs I follow. The blurb on their “about me” page:

English Russia is a daily entertaiment blog devoted to the events happening in Russian speaking countries, such as Russia (Russian Federation), Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Kazakhstan, etc. Everyday something interesting happens in the countries occupying 1/6 of the populated world. We are here to inform you about it.

Aside from the occasional photos of young Russian women playing in fountains (and the sidebars advertising Russian brides), I find this blog very interesting. Russia has always intrigued me. In this area of Alaska we have many friends and neighbors who were born in Russia or The Ukraine, and I would love to know more about the Russian culture. I know that reading Dostoevsky and perusing a blog about Russian eccentricities isn’t going to give me the entire picture, but it’s an interesting place to start.

Some of my favorite entries over the past year:

  • The Northern Fleet Submarines – pictures of the Russian fleet based off the White Sea and the Arctic Ocean
  • B-413 Submarine – Pictures of the interior of this Russian submarine, commissioned in 1968 and decommissioned in 2000
  • Vladivostok war mazes – This stronghold was built in the 1920’s and held functioning arms until 1992
  • Amber Room – This room paneled in amber was given to Peter I by the King of Prussia in 1716 until it was taken out of the country by Nazis during WWII, never to have reappeared

Originally posted here. A Maxwell House note: we’ve since swapped all of our old DVDs for veggie tales and kid movies. This service has been great for us.

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Do you have a bunch of books/movies/music laying around that you don’t use? Want to trade your old stuff for some new stuff? We recently started swapping our old DVDs for kid movies, by using the service SwapaDVD. SwapaDVD allows you to list all the old DVDs you don’t want any more, and build a queue of DVDs you’d like to own. Each time you send out one of your DVDs (at your expense) you recieve a credit. When one of the DVDs in your queue becomes available, SwapaDVD notifies you, and if you have a credit you can opt to have it sent to your address (at the shippers expense). Sweet!

It costs about $1.85 to send out a DVD. Because of this cost, I wouldn’t recommend it as a rental type service (there are better options available, like Netflix, Blockbuster, or Blockbuster rewards). However, it’s a great way to get some movies that you’d like to keep for a while. Right now we’re trying to stock up on Veggie Tales. This way we get each movie for $1.85 instead of the $10 it costs to buy new. SwapaDVD makes it super easy to ship. They have a mailing label you just print off your computer, wrap around your DVD, slap on some postage, and send.

If you’re interested, they also offer PaperbackSwap (for swapping books) and SwapaCD (for swapping music). There are a few other sites out there that offer this service (like SwitchPlanet, which I checked out) but none seem as simple as SwapaDVD. The next best thing would be getting DVDs free from friends (a local swap would be sweet) or getting them for a quarter at a garage sale. Can you even find stuff for a quarter anymore?

The 2008 tax season is over. Now is the time to start preparing for next year’s taxes. Here are some helpful links to get you tax-inspired:

It’s Deductible by TurboTax – Free deduction tracking software allows you track your charitable contributions, including cash contributions, items, stock, and mileage. If you use TurboTax to file your taxes, ItsDeductible will automatically transfer your info when you start your filing preparations next spring. If you tend to donate lots of items to charity, ItsDeductible has a handy little section that incorporates the IRS’ item worth tables so that you can easily enter items and see their tax worth come next spring. Make a list of the items you are donating, and staple that list to your donation receipt for ease in claiming the items come tax time.

IRS Withholding Calculator – This calculator can give you a rough idea if you need to change the amount you’re having withheld in order to keep from paying taxes (or loaning money to the government) next year. Just make sure you enter as accurate figures as possible, and if you use the calculator, consider re-calculating every few months to make sure you’re still on track.

Record Keeping Tips from about.com – with regards to length of time a taxpayer should keep their tax records:

Although legally you need only keep tax records for three years from the date you filed the related income tax return, you should keep a copy of your actual tax returns, W-2s, 1099s, etc., indefinitely. The IRS destroys original tax returns after three years, and you or your heirs may need information from the returns at some point, or you may need to prove your earnings for Social Security purposes.

3 tips to Maximize Deductions – this article includes a paragraph on bundling medical expenses to maximize your deduction. You can deduct qualifying expenses that exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income. The author of this article recommends determining an estimate of 7.5% of your AGI at the beginning of the year, then keeping a running tally of medical expenses and if you near that amount, consider if there are any expenses that could be brought into the current year. For example, a household that makes $55,000 would realize a deduction after $4,125 of medical expenses are incurred. If, in December, a household is at $3,900 of costs, it may be a good idea to reschedule a couple appointments back into December (well-child checks, dental cleanings, chiropractic appointments, etc.) in order to realize a tax benefit.

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