Monday, June 30, 2008

A Simple, Frugal Week

I am ready for the new week! Joining in with Peggy again for the Simple Woman's Daybook. You can join in too or read what others are up to right here!

FOR TODAY June 30, 2008...
Outside My Window... the pond is still, dew is on the grass, and the air is thick. The sky doesn't look to heavy yet... I think I'll be able to get the laundry out before afternoon showers.

I am thinking... about ways to cut corners and stretch our dollars and continue to make lasting, enjoyable memories with my family this summer.

I am thankful for... God's constant provision. Saturday night my neighbor called me to come over with my daughter and go through 7 bags of clothing which had been donated to her and whomever would like them. We were thrilled to find a number of things we wanted and a few we actually needed. I couldn't believe that I found a dressy pair of low-heeled sandals. My old pair had finally broken after many years and this pair fit perfectly even though the size was printed as one half-size smaller than what I normally wear. Even more, there was no leather on the very pretty shoes - something I have been trying to avoid. God is so sweet. :)

From the kitchen... I soaked, cooked, and froze more beans yesterday. I made polenta for this morning's breakfast: Fried Polenta (in Earth Balance margarine - trans-fat-free and vegan) with Watermelon and Cantaloupe on the side. Yesterday, I also made a yummy wheat berry salad that we'll be able to munch on for a few lunches this week. Apple juice and smoothies have found their way into popsicle molds. More home-made baked goods will be treats for the week; nothing store-bought for our emergency budget (much better for everyone anyway!). This week's Frugal Vegan Menu looks like this:

Monday - Minestrone Soup with Onion Bagels (bought from bakery outlet store) and Salad with Rita's Homemade Dressing
Tuesday - Pizza
Wednesday - Spaghetti and Salad at Camp Grandma's! :)
Thursday - Polenta Tofu Veggie Quiche (a new recipe - we'll see how it goes)
Friday - 4th of July Cookout at Camp Grandma's
Saturday - Veggie Burgers and Home-Baked Fries
Sunday - Leftovers

I am wearing... right now my workout clothes from this morning's workout with the wonderful PBS show, "Body Electric."

I am creating... a knit tank with ruffle for Eve; I made one for her sister last summer. I'll also be starting a pair of fingerless gloves for me.

I am going... to be making a hot breakfast for my family, hanging out laundry, and then giving our Westie, Lucy, a bath and then a haircut. The haircut may be tomorrow, though, depending on how fast she dries!

I am reading... Gracious Christianity and continuing the study with Living More with Less. I'll also begin looking at my gardening books to get ideas for the autumn garden.

I am hoping... we will hear good news this week regarding employment opportunities for my husband. Please pray for us if you think to do so today. :)

I am hearing... my parrot, Pistachio, "singing" (squawking) her morning "song."

Around the house... are the hushed voices of my girls talking quietly with Daddy on the couch. The whites are waiting to be put into the wash. Paul began pulling out an old hedge yesterday, so more space is beginning to show in the front flower beds and we can dream of what we might put there one of these days.

One of my favorite things... is snipping out pretty images for my journal and letter-writing. You can read more about that here.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week:
We'll go to the library tomorrow. Then on Wednesday we've planned a morning trip out to Emerson Point, a state park, for a bit of hiking around before the temperatures soar and the afternoon rain comes.

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

Mmmm. Cherries are in season! Mom bought us a nice bunch the other day. Thanks, Mom! :)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Changes - No, Not a New Baby :)

I was on a pretty good roll for a couple of weeks here, but have had a bit of wind knocked out of my sails. My husband got laid off a week ago on Wednesday. It was a failed merger with the company he worked for and a new company. Everyone who worked with him is now out of a job. Obviously, with the economy as it is, it is not good timing. Also, commercial printing in the summer is notoriously slow anyway.

All is not lost yet, though. Paul is in good standing with his former place of employment and last Thursday, when he called them, they wanted to see him right away. So, on Friday he went and talked with them and came home encouraged, as they said they would call him. We had hoped to hear from them on Monday, but, alas, we are still waiting. So, it's a bit of limbo right now.

Regardless, it is likely things will remain tight around here. Obviously, right now there is no income. We have savings that will need to be used in combination with unemployment and that will last us a while. But if we don't hear from his former employer soon, I am going to need to do some looking for something myself to supplement us for a while. Certainly, that would change our lifestyle, though I would like to believe I can continue homeschooling. It's a wait-and-see game right now.

So, yeah. The summer is working out a bit differently than I would have liked, but we'll see.

In other and better news, I had already bought this lovely Bamboo Natural Blend yarn by Bernat for this bonnet I wanted to knit up for my friend, Jennifer, who is due with her first girl - after two boys - in August. The shower is at the end of July, so I've got some time to lace the ribbons through the eyelets yet. The pattern is a modified version of the "Beribboned Bonnet" from One Skein Wonders.

The booties are a separate pattern and yarn; the bamboo was just too thick for the booties, being a bulky weight. I used a dk wt. yarn for the booties - one that was given to me. I just love the darling pattern!! It was such a fast and easy knit! I'll definitely be making these again! You can find the free pattern at Saartje Knits.

Well, I've got some errands to get to. Hopefully, I'll be posting again in the next day or two. :)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Art Ideas for Kids

My friend, Laurie, asked a question in the comments section of my last post. As my response grew (and GREW), I figured I ought to just make it into a new post with the hope that it helps others in addition to Laurie!

…my 5yo DD is showing such an artistic flair these days and, being crafty but NOT artsy myself, I'm at a loss as to how to encourage this in her. Any ideas would be highly appreciated. I thought I might start at the art museum and see if inspiration hits but not sure how well that will go over at her age. Please let me know if you have any ideas. Thanks! Laurie

I would just say to have art supplies available to her, first and foremost. Let her know that she is an artist - just because she makes art! A trip to the museum may be fun. I always think it’s more fun if we have looked at the work of a featured artist, so the kids can recognize pieces. Mostly, I would stress to her that everyone has their own style and not to compare her work with others. When my younger dd got in a funk about her work in comparison with her big sister’s I did two things: I pulled out samples of her sister’s work at my younger dd’s age to show her how work changes as we grow and I pulled out many picture books to show her the wide, wide range of illustration styles there are out there. None better than the other, just different.

An art journal of her own would be handy: no loose papers, easy to carry along with her wherever she goes. Note: An art journal, while not needing to be fancy, should have paper that is thicker and can take various media. Sketchbooks are good. A simple pad can be found at Michaels or other art supply stores. You can also find nice, simple ones that are bound, for under $10 usually at Barnes and Noble. I bought some for my girls at the beginning of the last two years of school on sale there. We’ve worked with larger and smaller sizes. The smaller is easier to carry, but the larger gives them more freedom to work. See what interests her. There are also watercolor paper sketchbooks that are more expensive (not terribly, though), but handle the water and paint so beautifully – the colors will really make an impact on this paper. Let her know that if she wants the deeper, richer colors of watercolor, she will need to put it on in layers. I used to get so disappointed as a child when the color would go on so nice and bright and then fade. But if she continuously paints and then works another area while one area dries, and then lays on more color, she can have nice, bright pictures!

A pencil case with pencils, a sharpener (so important!), markers, etc. would be handy to go along with a journal. Watercolor pencils are a favorite medium of mine for being on-the-go, but also, because of the lack of mess. I know you have littler ones and this would keep things neater. She can color in her picture at home or out and about and then later add water and watch the magic! :) Or, if she's at home, she can dip the pencils into a jar of water and color with different effects that way.

Encourage her to bring her journal places and just draw what she sees if she likes. This is a nice idea for field trips and is a good memento at any age.

My girls also liked making ATC's : Artist Trading Cards. They are the size of baseball cards: 2 1/2 " x 3 1/2". The kids love the size and can make them to give away or keep or even trade with friends. That might be a good rainy day activity with friends who come over. They could all make some and then decide which ones they want to trade with each other. Since the cards are a common size, they fit into plastic sleeves made for baseball cards. It's a nice way to display a collection of little, original art pieces.

Some online inspiration – for children AND adults can be found at The Creative Mom Podcast. Even if you don’t listen to all the episodes, her show notes are a treasure trove of links and ideas and she has more information, specifically about ATC’s with helpful links too. I think some of those links will bring you to pages of pre-made ATC’s for purchase, but it is so easy to make your own using a few sheets of sketch or nice watercolor paper.

Blank index cards are fun to pack along in a baggie in a backpack and pull out in waiting rooms, restaurants, etc.

Of course, having a spot at home where art supplies are accessible is the greatest source of inspiration. Again, I know you have little ones, but an easel sitting out with fresh paper just cries out to be painted upon. Supplies in easily accessible and SEEN baskets or containers are inviting. Like covertly “strewing” books and other items of interest about the house to pique our children’s curiosity, the same should be done to pique creativity. Supplies will not get used as readily when they are always put away in a closet. If you can’t just leave things out, why not set up a table full of supplies once a week and see what happens?

Some other wonderful things to play with are:

polymer clay (popularly known as Sculpey - the website has projects too - and Fimo and found at craft stores) – my girls LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this stuff!! We often give it as birthday gifts. The colored clay can be molded into so many things and then baked in your oven or toaster oven at 225 degrees F for a mere 10 minutes and the creations are nice and hard! Now, THAT’s instant gratification! :) They even have some clay that will become erasers after it is baked and they have some that glows in the dark too.

Klutz has some wonderful books for using with polymer clay that have fabulous ideas for years of fun. We found our The Incredible Clay Book at a garage sale and Create Anything with Clay at a used book store. They are still in use today after nearly 7 years.

glitter glue
simple embroidery using scrap fabric, a large-eyed needle, and hoop

Here are a couple of websites to whet your artistic appetite.

Camp Creek Press - Camp Creek Blog
The Artful Parent

A new book has also come out by Amanda Soule of Soule Mama (seems Typepad is having troubles today - I can't get it to load to provide a link to her beautiful blog, but you can easily do a Google search) that is probably just what you’re looking for too. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’d like to. I’ve heard so many wonderful things about it too. You should check it out: The Creative Family

Well, this was fun, Laurie! Obviously, it’s a subject I love to talk about. Hope you found some of these ideas helpful!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Weekend Pursuits: Baking & Journaling

Fluffy White Cupcakes with Chocolate Glaze

Look, Ma, no eggs!

Ohmygosh. I am not a cake person, but these are the BEST cupcakes I have ever had, much less ever made. The photo does not do them justice. Actually, nothing but eating them does. :) They are now on my forever "Go To" list if I want treats to share.

I've had the recipe forever too, but just never made them. You can find it at the Vegan Lunchbox. Here.

They got two thumbs up from my food critics and the highest praise from the biggest critic (Maia) when she said, "These are better than the kind from the STORE!"

Oh, yeah.

It totally makes me want to get her new cookbook. The best part? They are completely VEGAN! No dairy and no eggs.. and not even any egg replacers! How'd she do that? I don't know, but perhaps I'll think about it while I have just one more.

So, those of you in the U.S. and with fathers around, have you had a nice Father's Day? My husband spent the day (a wee bit obsessively) battling ants that had infested parts of our home in some window frames as well as some dying plants. But, he likes that kind of thing... really! The least I could do was make him some cupcakes to reward him for all his hard work. I don't know that he has actually had one as of this writing, since he was outside during the baking, but I know he'll have one later.

Other than playing a game of Life with the girls, I spent the greater part of the afternoon playing around with my journal and preparing pages for stationary. I have a few more letters to go out this week and wanted to get pages ready for that.

I find SO many uses for the magazines that come into our home. I do not treasure them in the way some people collect all sorts of back issues. No, I pretty much destroy my magazines! Corners are first folded down to note articles or recipes that I will later come back to and tear out to save. The same goes for any internet links I want to follow. Also, any pages that have anything that appeals to me are my favorite and those go into my journal:

But I'm not done yet, because then I go back through and find anything else that isn't necessarily my style, but is pretty or appealing or reminds me of someone and those go into a file folder of images for taping down to plain, old white printer paper and become letters for dear friends.

It takes me a while to find what I'm looking for, but I also save pictures that I will contact paper to the cover too. The notebook I have is a simple, 3-subject notebook with a pocket in the front. I keep plenty of torn pages stuck in here that I save until I am ready for a "cut and tape" night. I also keep an envelope for smaller images that would otherwise slide around or get crushed.

I don't know exactly why this activity is so very, very appealing to me, but it is one of my favorite ways to pass the time. I have kept a journal of some sort ever since I was a child. I have many, many of them saved in a cedar chest and they all come in different shapes and sizes for what worked for my life at the time. This is presently my favorite way to journal.

I think part of the reason I enjoy it so much is that it feeds two different parts of me: the visual and the language. Some of the time spent with my journal is just the preparation of the pages. I live somewhat vicariously through them. While it is not practical for me to change paint colors in my home upon every new color whim I have, I can do this in a way through the pages of my journal. I notice my own preferences and trends in this way and it also aids me when I am in the market for something new; I have all sorts of ideas at my fingertips of things that appeal to me.

After a certain number of pages are filled with pictures, I can set the journal aside for a day or two and then it is ready whenever I am ready to write. The images and the colors are enticing to me and I'll re-visit ones I really liked as I arrive at each page. "Oh!" I'll think, "I get to write on this page now!" Mostly my writing is just my ink moving across the page, but occasionally, I'll also embellish with markers, colored pencils, stamps, etc. - whatever strikes my fancy.

This month, I'm also keeping a calendar on one of the pages to fill out as we go along and record just one little snippet of our day. I don't do this every month, but it's fun sometimes.

Well, I hope this may have given you some ideas for your own journal time. I honestly can't imagine living without journaling. When I get that "what-would-you-need-on-a-desert-island" question, the second thing to my Bible is always my journal. My mom recently mentioned she'd like her laptop. Yeah, I can see that and I'd probably like one too. But there is something so visceral about the paper and the pages that I just can't give up. There is room in my life for both, obviously, but if I could have only one... the computer would have to go.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Rainy Season

We have lived here in Florida for 4 1/2 years. An average weather pattern is supposed to contain a rainy season in the summer months. For the past two years, we have not been so lucky. The rain pattern has been sporadic at best and last year was really rough. This summer, so far, though, is looking to be a bit different:

When Sparkle Pond touches the edge of the dock across the way, the water is quite high!

We were on our way home from the library today when the downpour began. I am thankful that I am not the only one who drives very slowly in these miniature squalls. The rain comes down so fast and so hard that you really cannot see far in front of you at all. Thankfully, today we were not far at all from home when it began. I was handling it all fairly well when the hail began. Ugh. Nothing huge; the pieces were mostly ranging from dime to nickel size. But, let me tell you, it was so LOUD from inside the car!! Upon arriving home we quickly noticed that a very large branch from one of our front trees was down. Paul believes it simply collapsed from the weight. Nothing was hurt, thankfully, and we all ran into the house to immediately feel safe, and warm, and dry.

The rainy season for me is a wee bit like a northern winter in that it gives me an excuse to be cozied up inside. I know some of you may find that hard to believe, but humor me for a moment. :) We do not have the time of "putting the garden to bed" for the winter. And we have more sunny days than not. I do love this fact and my mood appreciates the sunny skies. But, when the day is sunny and beckoning nearly every day, I find it challenging to enjoy myself inside. I always feel like I ought to be outside doing something... productive! I think this comes from the lack of warm and sunny days I had in MN. The gray skies and length of the winter more than the freezing temperatures is what pushed me southward. Florida folks, I find, are pretty spoiled and don't seem to relish the weather they have quite as much. Northerners seem to work at a near frantic pace and be out, out, out whenever they can during the warmer seasons.

I think I still have a bit of that in me.

So, when the rainy season comes, I am happy and ready for it in my own way. Laundry must get out first thing in the morning to have time to dry before the first distant rumblings can be heard. Then the gray clouds roll in and the lightning show begins! Despite the warm weather, it is just too inviting to light some candles while the rain pours down. It becomes the perfect excuse to read a good book, watch a movie, or, of course, knit (but I won't talk about my knitting today... I am mad at it right now)!

This pair of black-bottomed whistling ducks doesn't mind the rain. They like that the squirrels have
run for cover and left all the seeds on the ground for them!

Yes, I will get tired of the season before it is ready to be done. I'll get tired of the wet, wet grass every day and the perpetual moisture in the air. But, like first snowflakes, the first summer thunder storms are a welcome reprieve. I hope it continues. We need the water after a few years of drought. I am happy to welcome the rainy season. :)

LMwL - RAL - Nurture People

This is the post I put up on Ravelry a few weeks ago when we covered this topic. It is similar subject matter to the post I just did this past weekend on "Contentment at Home." Seeing that it is a subject near and dear to my heart, though, I will post my earlier thoughts on it anyway.

Again, I invite anyone not reading the book to still comment if something moves you to do so. There is much here, I think, that you can gather from the posts and plenty of fodder for conversation.


Wow. There is just so much here. I wish we were all in the same room and able to discuss this…

Staying at home and frantic living are interesting topics to me. Longacre says, “It sounds too simple, even for a book on simple living. But when we are more content to stay at home, to think and to pray, we are better able to nurture each other.”

And I love this quote, “When does time spent nurturing children to be strong and responsible become the better part - better than even an assured higher education.”

Have you heard the sayings, “If I am a housewife/homemaker/homeschooler, why am I always in the car?”

This is one of these topics I like to bring up with my friends from time to time. Even if you are not a homemaker or SAHM, how often are you “running?” Do you stay home most evenings during the week or do you stay home on the weekends? I have seriously thought of challenging myself to see if I could not go anywhere for a few days. A week would probably be huge. I feel like I’d have to plan ahead for that!

But then I think of our pioneering ancestors and am amazed at how they lived. When I read the “Little House” series to my girls, I think about how they only went “to town” in the early years of their homesteading, about twice a year.

Now, I am a social personality and really like to visit with others and enjoy community around me, so I don’t see that I would do well out on the prairie on my own even with my family, but I wonder if I could just be home here with my neighbors around me.

I love our immediate next-door neighbors: we do church together (house church at their house), we’ve co-hosted a block party, and we have dinner together every now and then. But what I really love is playing cards or just chatting in the evenings over a glass of iced tea… and I don’t really have that. We don’t have folks that just “drop by” for a short visit (though I know some people that would hate that idea!). I don’t think a lot of us do, because people aren’t home on a regular basis. They and their kids are just go, go, going. Everything is scheduled and sometimes even the kids’ playing (“play-dates,” you know) is scheduled too. I am VERY thankful that my girls do have neighbor kids to play with on a regular basis… And though I’m not so thankful that there are no real “community” programs here for kids (instead, there are high-priced camps and clubs, etc.) which we cannot afford, it is one of those things that has placed forced parameters on the amount of things we are involved in. We are, thankfully, not always running.

Wouldn’t it be cool if everyone just took a year off of their extracurricular activities? Everyone would have to do it so no one would feel left out. But, I just imagine that the neighborhoods would be filled with kids… just like they used to be. And maybe the kids could pick up their own game of baseball or freeze tag or whatever in the cul de sac instead of having it arranged by the “professionals.” Maybe we’d get to know each other again. Maybe we’d get to sit around a card table and play Spades or Euchre or Hearts or Bridge or board games and chat with our neighbors every once in a while. Maybe we should practice staying home a bit. Maybe with the gas prices rising like they are, some of us will do that. Maybe we should just do it anyway.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Simple Woman's Daybook II

It's the Simple Woman's Daybook hosted by Peggy! Please take a look over there to join in!

FOR TODAY Monday, June 9, 2008...

Outside My Window... I peeped my head out to let our cat, Charlotte, inside and it smells a bit smoky. Could wildfires be burning to the north of us again?

I am thinking... of ways I could raise money to contribute to organizations which work to end the suffering of factory-farmed animals.

I am thankful for... a quiet week ahead of me.

From the kitchen... A pretty flower of pumpkin scones (vegan, of course!) just came out of the oven.

I am wearing... a magenta and purple v-neck sleeveless blouse, denim skirt, and my own bare feet!

I am creating... a 4"x 4" knitted, patterned square to add to a surprise, gift afghan for a friend. Shhhh!

I am going... to be doing a bit of math, Spanish, and playing of our recorders with my girls today.
I am reading... Halley's Bible Handbook and a few decorating books from the library.

I am hoping... you all might take a look at my Sunday post on "Contentment in the Home" and join in the conversation. I think you may enjoy it!

I am hearing... the whir of the ceiling fan above my head.

Around the house... whites will be washed today, menu planning with the girls, a bit of reading, and hopefully, knitting.

One of my favorite things... is the scent of lilacs and peonies. I know they have been blooming all around my northern friends. I envy your noses!! :)

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week: Errands tomorrow. A trip to the post office, to Michael's for some picture frames for some of my art work to hang in the kitchen and a birthday gift for a birthday party the girls will attend on Saturday. I will likely also pick up some new yarn for a baby gift and some little owls I have been promising to knit for my girls.

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

My new shirt, which puts into words the prayers I have for a non-violent society... for the lives of the men who are paid to do this dirty work that no one else would want to do... for their spirits and humanity which must be quenched and numbed in order to do it... for their families who must live with the people who come home from a work day of killing and brutality... and for the animals... for God's gentle creatures not allowed to turn around, to see the sunshine or feel the air on their faces... who must wonder and fear and know the hand of man to only inflict cruelty.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Contentment at Home

A new knit dishcloth for the kitchen. Such an easy and fast knit; I plan to make more!

To start with, I would like to say that this is not a post about women staying at home vs. working outside of the home. Just to get that right out of the way. :)

Over on Ravelry, we are a bit further ahead in our read-along with the Living More with Less book. The topic we were discussing over the past two weeks has been based on the chapter entitled, "Money" and it has had me thinking about "going" and "staying" and contentment at home.

A couple of homeschooling friends of mine and I were discussing the past year and the amount of running we do among our various activities. Those of you who read my blog should, by now, realize that the concern for lack of socialization within the homeschooling community is a moot point. Actually, deciding what activities in which we will not participate is a more challenging decision for many. I, however, advocate for fewer than what many choose and part of me has begun to wonder if this is a mere personality difference of mine or the lack of practice within our culture. I suspect a bit of both.

For example, when I was having the discussion with my friends, I mentioned a couple of times that perhaps they could just drop an activity or two. Both friends seemed to want to find more time or have more peace, but seemed challenged to actually say no to the activities in which they or their children were involved. When I pressed them some more on it, one said, "Well, I don' t like staying home too often. If I stay home too long, I get lonely or bored." I mentioned a few of the things I like to do - relish, in fact - when I have down time at home (such as my knitting, painting, embroidery, etc.), and one said, "Yes, well, you have that. I don't do those things." And that is true. She does not share my interests in those areas. But I wondered what she might have if she gave herself time to look?

Another point: My daughter has a friend whom she would like to see more often, but she only sees him once-a-week at church. She keeps asking to have him over to play. I know that she wants this because she has a great deal of fun with him, but that when we are in our more regular group of friends, he is inclined, as most children are at this age, to gravitate to his friends of the same sex. The situation with this family, whom we all like very much, is that they live approximately 40 miles east of us. It is not conducive to a simple play-date. The gas, alone, for a round-trip in our minivan would be $16.00. Our resolution is to have him over when his mom comes into town to run errands. I didn't used to think so concretely about these things, but I have really started calculating the cost of gas into our destinations. I wonder if others are beginning to do the same?

For me, being at home is a pleasure. I honestly cannot remember the last time I was bored. Loneliness is another thing, as I can attest, having moved 1,500 miles away from those dearest to me and having fewer women at home in the neighborhood around me. Such is the magic of the internet for me and I am grateful to have connected with so many people who share many of my own interests in this way. That said, when my friend mentioned that she did not do the same things I enjoyed, I wondered to myself, "Do you not like to read? Or play an instrument?" A whole list floods my mind: learning a new language, trying new recipes, tending to the gardens, taking quiet time to pray and read God's Word, playing a game of cards with the children, learning a new craft (from among oh, so many!), writing a letter (and decorating it beautifully), inviting someone over, making bread for your family and a neighbor, having tea, decorating for the season, taking a bike ride, writing in a journal, and the list can go on! And these are things listed merely for pleasure. There is menu-planning, laundry, cooking, cleaning, and the regular maintenance of home life among all of these pursuits.

In a favorite book of mine, the author, Karey Swan writes, "I've learned to keep lists and consolidate our trips, I find that I need to remain home for long stretches of time in order to get beyond the maintenance part of homemaking (stuff like cleaning, laundry, and ironing). If I don't stay home, I miss the creative part of homemaking, which for me is needlework, crafting a dried flower wreath, training a young heart, or giving hospitality to a tired friend. Without these, I'd go crazy and burnout would become a serious threat."

It is a goal of mine this summer, for frugality, but also peace, to limit our excursions. I hope to make outings just once-a-week. I can see that it may be a challenge, given what we are used to. Without giving up our van, though, I'd like to behave as though we only have one as gas prices continue to rise. It may be that twice-a-week will be likely, but I'd like to plan for just one day, not including Saturday which is often when we do things out and about with Daddy.

Do you find peace and contentment at home? Do you consolidate trips or try to limit your outings? Do you foresee a peaceful summer for yourself?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

LMwL - RAL - Learn From the World Community

This is a picture of my kitchen taken in February. Pretty much the same today, except that we just
installed a white dishwasher last night.

Continuing with our study today. Even if you are not reading the book, the questions are good food for thought! Please feel free to participate in the discussion in the comments section; we'd love to have you join us! :)

A few questions for discussion here might be:

Do you find that you own unnecessary kitchen gadgets?

I have pared down a number of things, but I do have a Vita Mix (which was given to me) that I use every day and a food processor that I use almost every day. I have a coffee grinder (also given to me) that I use for grinding flax seeds and nuts. It’s a convenience thing, because I don’t have to get the food processor dirty. I have an electric countertop mixer that I got at a thrift store. I use this to make bread and cakes, but I don’t really like to bake a lot, so it doesn’t get used quite as much. I think Amish women would tell me to go ahead and get rid of it! :) And I do know that my eating style/preparations would be quite different if we didn’t have electric power. Do you ever think about that?

We just installed a new dishwasher last night too. Our old one was 11 years old. That doesn't seem that old to me, but I guess it is for dishwashers nowadays. After 2 weeks of doing dishes by hand - and having them take over my kitchen counter space, I am welcoming the new arrival! It is a Bosch and is rated one of the highest for environmental standards and energy efficiency. We spent a little more for that, but I am happy knowing that it aligns with our values and will save us money in the long run. Of course, Paul figured that by the time we receive our ROI (Return On Investment), it may be time for another dishwasher! lol! Oh, well. We'll see.

What we don’t have is a microwave. We had the one my husband had since college and I’d always said that when it finally died, we wouldn’t get another. Well, that was 3 years ago and we haven’t. The only reason I would want one is that it would mean I wouldn’t have to wash my pots and pans so much… and that’s not a good enough reason for me.

Could you imagine planning ahead and cooking just once a day?

I was so impressed with this idea. It was one of those things that I was talking about before in the other thread. The idea of doing something so differently, but never thinking of it, because no one else does it that way. It honestly never dawned on me. I think this one would be a real challenge for me, because, though I regularly take the time to make out our menus for the week, I have not considered cooking just once a day. That would require a whole different level of commitment - one that I don’t know that I’m ready to make. Still… some people don’t have a choice…

Does your town have or are you able to use public transportation?

We have buses here, but they don’t reach out to where we live. We live in what used to be “country,” but, of course, is all developed now. I do wish the bus would come out this way, but I think that is highly unlikely, because I think the county believes that people here have more money and therefore would not use public transportation.

Do you often choose to walk or ride your bike instead of driving?

We are fortunate and unfortunate in this area. 1)We live in FL which is flat, flat, flat and even when it is hot, it is still doable for biking, 2) We have a grocery store about a mile and a half away that we can get to using our own neighborhood roads to bike to, and 3) We know a number of back roads to bike for fun, go to the park, and even visit Grandma if we are up for a longer bike ride. UNfortunately, other amenities, such as the library, are located on a very busy highway and there is no back road access for us. I do wish we were able to get to everywhere I wanted to go by bike, but our suburbs were designed with the automobile in mind and not people. >:( Grrrr. Our town is also veeeeerrrry spread out (again, for the automobile), so that while I might be willing to ride somewhere at a bit of a distance, my children are another story. It is a fantasy of mine to live in a walkable village.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Great Escapes

Whew! Well, I made it through our evaluations unscathed and now I feel like a kid on the last day of school: freedom for a whole summer! Indulge me just a moment...


I am thinking knitting and painting sound pretty good right about now. That and I ought to be able to get to re-covering the dining room chairs and perhaps even the cushions for the rocking chair.

Yesterday we had our day at the beach and can I just say... ow? I usually don't underestimate the sunshine, but obviously I did yesterday. Both Maia and I are a bit pink - not too bad, but enough to have made us uncomfortable last night and Maia even a bit queasy.

You know, I realize I live in Florida and it's almost sacrilegious to say this, but I am not the hugest fan of the beach. I'm not saying I don't like it, but I know people who love the beach and say they would be there all the time if they lived down here. Now, whether or not they really would is one thing. And I imagine, for a kid, like snow, the beach is just pretty darn great. But for the adults, the beach includes packing plenty of food and drink, sunscreening and re-sunscreening all of the family, packing all the beach toys (and there are plenty), packing the umbrellas and the implements to get them to stay lodged in the sand (ours still blew away once yesterday), gathering towels and blankets and beach chairs,etc.

I guess I have kind of a love-hate relationship with the beach. The beach itself is always beautiful. Siesta Key has to be one of the most beautiful beaches in our country. The sand is a very, very fine powder white quartz. You really must experience it to know that there really is a difference! That said, that superfine sand loves to blow into your lunch quite easily and coat everything, everything else.

Also, I love sea creatures and I enjoy studying them and watching them. Yesterday we were treated to at least six of the dolphins that call Sarasota Bay home. They were so close and like the change of the leaves in the autumn, I never tire of seeing them gracefully moving by. There were schools of other largish fish, approximately 1 foot long each, swimming in the shallows where we swam and the kids - ours and others around us - all seemed to try to catch them in their hands and obviously never could. But the waves would sometimes push the school right into someone and that was always funny. "Hey, I just got slapped in the chest by a FISH!" one of the kids yelled as the wave moved past him.

The pelicans are also a favorite. I know many love to see them dive, but I especially like seeing them glide literally inches above the water. They get so close to the surface and yet just skim on by.

But I don't like the way my skin feels after a day at the beach: tight and dry. I always feel weathered upon returning home. And my hair always manages to lighten a shade, which is great if you are blond, but my hair always gets a bit red and brassy.

So, enough whining, I know. But it's funny, because as I said, it's almost sacrilegious to dare complain. So many times the picture of a dream vacation is planted somewhere on a beach, but I guess it's just not that for me. I can't help that it's not my first choice. Perhaps it is because I have not traveled much that I imagine that seeing Italy or the English or Irish countryside is more appealing to me when I think of "escape." Experiencing those cultures and old, stone buildings are the things that call to me. Perhaps if I lived right among them, they would not hold such appeal, but presently, those are the types of things that do that for me.

So, what do you think of when you think of a vacation paradise? Are you going to get to do any of that this summer or sometime in the future? This summer won't hold any travel plans for us, but we are saving our pennies - quite literally - for a trip to Europe someday.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Simple Woman's Daybook

Today I am participating in Peggy's, "The Simple Woman's Daybook", which she hosts every Monday. You can stop in to visit others' daybooks or join in too!

FOR TODAY Monday, June 2, 2008...

Outside My Window... the sun is shining and the air is still over Sparkle Pond. A blue jay and red-winged blackbird have alighted into the tree and are having breakfast at the feeder. A few, lavender blossoms still cling to the jacaranda tree.

I am thinking... about the task before me of getting the kitchen organized and deep-cleaned today; I am strangely excited about this! :)

I am thankful for... a healthy, vibrant family, friends new and old around me, and... summer vacation!

From the kitchen... Pinto beans will be simmering on the stove. I'll be making sun tea today and fresh guacamole to go with our tacos tonight - served in blue hard shells!

I am wearing... a white, cotton tank top and chocolate brown shorts

I am creating... a knit pair of socks ~ 3/4 done on those, a crocheted blanket for Project Linus ~ almost done with that too, and a new, knit washcloth for the kitchen. I'm also in the middle of a self-designed, embroidered piece that I hope to frame... someday! :)

I am going... to the market this morning to pick up a few more things that I couldn't get at Whole Foods this past Saturday.

I am reading... my Bible, Living More with Less (I have a read-along over at my blog!) and waiting for some requests to come in from the library.

I am hoping... that the weather will not turn sticky and I can leave the doors and windows open all day!

I am hearing... many birds singing and the moorhen scolding it's neighbor on the pond.

Around the house... my kettle of tea should be singing to me at any moment and I'll need to wake the girls.

One of my favorite things... is sitting out on the lanai and having my Bible and journaling time.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week:
Knitting group Tonight
Beach on Tuesday
Homeschool Evaluations on Wednesday
Re-organizing my Homekeeping planner
perhaps a chance to see the movie, "Expelled" at the dollar theater

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

A recent picture of the back yard and Sparkle Pond

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Welcome to June

Hello all and welcome to the warm, sunny month of June! :) For my friends in Australia, though, I suppose things are pretty chilly these days. How is your weather down there?

Whew! Well, it's been a busy weekend of checking off chores and I'm ready for a nap! But, alas, it is 6:21 p.m. at the moment and napping at this point will never do! So, I figured I may as well plug ahead and put up a post! :)

I've just spent the last two hours typing up the two curriculum lists I used for the girls this year. We will have our evaluations on Wednesday and this is essentially the last thing I needed to do to get ready. I am happy it is out of the way, but I really do somewhat enjoy the task, because it takes me on a little mental voyage of everything we did this year; it's always quite a bit more than I think it is.

I am looking forward to tomorrow because I have set aside time for finally getting to organizing those book closets (see the post below!). I'm just in an organizing, spring-cleaning kind of mood. I also plan to give the whole kitchen a good scrub: pull small appliances off the counters, get the crumbs and dust out of little cracks and maybe rearrange a little bit on the countertops. Somehow even the little bit of rearranging freshens things up a bit. I'll be putting a tablecloth on our little breakfast table that also serves as our school space. The tablecloth will signify that school is officially closed for the summer! :)

Okay... technically, we're still going to poke around in math 2 days a week, but no major assignments. Also, we'll continue to play our recorders once-a-week and do Spanish once-a-week just to keep from getting rusty. But this coming week, for sure, is free and clear! We'll even head out to the beach on Tuesday with some friends.

I thought I would do what many folks do and that would be to post a menu for the week. The only reason I will be doing this, though, is that I often have people ask me, upon hearing that I am vegan, "What do you eat?!" So, I thought I'd list our menus here for a while so that everyone could see the wide variety of our meals as well as the fact that they are pretty normal! :) I realize that there are some ingredients that some folks aren't as familiar with and which are associated with vegetarianism: i.e. tofu and tempeh. But they are not exclusive to vegetarians and are really very easy to cook with and very, very good.

Summertime also means we will be re-instituting our "Adventures in Cooking" series (see sidebar subjects for last year's fun), which simply means that Eve will cook with me on Tuesdays and Maia on Thursdays. Wednesdays are still dinners at Camp Grandma's, so that will reflect itself on our menus too. We've also decided to try categories or themes for each day to make meal selection simpler. We thought we try it for a while and see how it goes as well as see how many meals we can make within said category.

Sunday - Soup - Split Pea Soup with Onion Bagels and Fruit
Monday - Mexican - Hard and Soft-Shell Tacos with all the fixin's including Fresh Guacamole and Salsa! Yum!
Tuesday - Eve's night - Pancakes and Fruit Salad
Wednesday - Camp Grandma!
Thursday - Maia's night - Omlets for the vegetarians and Tofu Scramble Breakfast Burritos for the vegans (Eve's gone vegan too :) ), Green Beans and Fruit Smoothie
Friday - Baked Eggplant This will be a new one for the family. We'll see how it goes.
Saturday - Pizza!
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