Friday, March 27, 2009

Just SO Busy

Not even enough time to load up photos or anything. But we're all busy making lots of good memories with family. I am thinking of you, my blogging friends. I will return and visit you all again soon - most likely the first week in April. In the meantime, I hope all my North American friends are experiencing some warmer and sunnier days and my southern hemisphere friends are enjoying some crisp, autumn weather. Be well and I will talk again with you soon! :)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Image courtesy of

Wow! We are finally, finally getting a wee bit of rain here. It really needs to pour something awful, but I guess we have to be happy for what we can get. Everything's crispy, crispy and wildfires are cropping up here and there. There are advertisements on the radio urging water conservation more and more these days. Especially since the Tampa Bay water reservoir has dried up. Serious and scary stuff.

While I don't live in Tampa, I do see the effects of the drought. We walked across dry land on what used to be a pond last year just last week. And I'm honestly wondering if it is worth it for us to keep our vegetable garden growing anymore. It's so backwards to me to understand that our growing season is also our dry season here in FL. I've thought about a rain barrel, but we've had so very little rain that it wouldn't have made a difference at this point. I get more water from keeping two watering cans in my shower. You should try that too! We also keep a container under our kitchen sink for emptying half-drunk glasses of water left by guests.

April's issue of Country Living Magazine has some terrific tips for reducing your environmental impact. I know these tip lists are all over the place, but you never know when one is going to stick. One regarding water that most people may not know about concerns washing your car.

CL says:

Scrub down your wheels at a car wash, not at home, because a drive-through uses less than half the water per car than the typical do-it-yourselfer and many establishments recycle their soap water.

On another, happier thirsty note:

I have had an insatiable desire for lemonade of late! But not just any lemonade! Nope. My new obsession is Maple Lemonade. A neighbor introduced the recipe to me. It's just:

A little lemon juice in the bottom of your glass

A little maple syrup next - maybe an equal or little bit less amount than the juice


Then fill to the top with water

Yum, yum, yum, yum, yum!!!

Now, I'll admit that this taste combination may not be for everyone, but I, for one, cannot get enough of it and I have the hands of a mad, lemon-juicing woman (and frozen pints and quarts of the stuff thanks to Mom and Jerry's tree) to prove it!

For those of you who don't like the taste - though I do challenge you to try it at least once (and you may need to up the maple syrup to make yourself reeeeeallly happy with it) - agave nectar is a wonderful substitute for the classic, white sugar taste of old-fashioned lemonade without the refined stuff.

Let me know if you give it a try!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Near and Far

I know that March is supposed to come in like a lion and go out like a lamb (at least for my North American readers), but around here it seems to be the opposite. As I mentioned, in my previous post, the tidal wave of guests has begun... and the fun of whirlwind days along with it!

My brother-in-law arrived a week ago with his 4yo daughter. They are staying at my MIL's place until April 3rd (sweet vacation, eh?).

His wife and 6 yo son (both in school) will join him on the 17th until the 3rd as well.

My sister and her toddler daughter (and hopefully her dh will be able to wrangle time off from his work) will be here (at my mom's) from the 25th to the 29th.

A friend also from MN will be staying with another friend vacationing on the keys in Sarasota the week of the 23rd and we'll have lunch on the 24th.

Another friend, who is here already, will be leaving on the 21st and we're trying to get in as many "playdates" as possible!

Finally, after everyone will have gone by April 2nd, another friend arrives from SC. She'll arrive the night of the 3rd, stay for the 4th, and head to Disney on the 5th.

See? I wasn't lyin'. It's truly a good thing that all my family and friends like one another, because there's going to be a lot of overlapping of visiting time happening; many combined trips to the beach. "Now everyone, play NICE!"

So that's part of the "far" in the title. And, yes, they are coming "near" and I'm thrilled! :) Of course, that makes for some creative schooling (isn't it always, though?) and less time online here.

Around here, in the "near", we've just about finished juicing up the last of the citrus.

Eve loves to help out with this activity. We've juiced and given away many oranges and fewer grapefruits (our grapefruits are not particularly sweet), and frozen numerous quarts of the juice of both. I actually LOVE the grapefruit juice with agave nectar! So, SO delicious!

The last batch of citrus will be the huge bag of lemons Mom and Jerry gave to us. I have a delicious version of lemonade that I've been drinking daily - and which I will share in a post to come - and I need to set up my supply of frozen lemon juice so I can be sure to get my fix whenever I need it!!

A lot of knitting and crocheting, of course, has continued. This is the scarf I made out of a skein of bamboo yarn that was gifted to me last summer. If you know bamboo, you will know that it is quite cool and silky and has a wonderful drape. But also, because it has no memory, it stretches quite a bit with its own weight (it's heavier, like cotton, which also has no memory) and to me, it is therefore better suited to scarves or even light blankets, rather than garments. This scarf, I imagine, will be nice for spring and summer evenings. I think it's rather dressy and I feel like I could wear it out someplace nice.

I've finished the squares for the Granny Square blanket I've been working on and now just have to sew all the buggers together and crochet a border. I'll get pictures up when I've finished that. Be forewarned: it's bright!!! :)
And now for more news from afar:
A dear reader of this blog is my friend Kortney over at One Deep Drawer. She e-mailed me letting me know she had some yarn she'd like to send my way and would I like it?
Would I ever turn down yarn?!
This past Tuesday, a well-traveled package showed up from Oregon with goodies:
I love the extras she and her family dropped in: little paint trays from the re-use center (YES!) and this!

I am soooo excited about this and so excited to share it with all of you! Kortney was a Peace Corps Volunteer and sent along these materials that she used in a presentation she did to talk about her time in Suriname and the Peace Corps Correspondence Match Program. The program matches you and your students with Volunteers working overseas for correspondence! The correspondence is not one-on-one with each student, but more Volunteer to classroom or homeschooling family, as it were. We are certainly going to be looking into it!
A week ago, Monday, another special item arrived in the mail for me! I participated in this year's Holiday KAL/CAL and this year I won a prize!

I got to choose beautiful, hand-crafted beads, buttons, or take a credit from her Etsy store and choose what I wanted there. That is just what I chose and about a week later my gorgeous necklace arrived in the mail!

It's a little jug with an actual cork! So sweet! It can hold a tiny, little note (see the little piece of paper in the box in the photo above?) to send a special message to a recipient, or essential oil. And she even sent along an extra little cork in case one gets lost. Isn't it the coolest thing?! Kristy does such fine, fine work and has wonderful prices for her one-of-a-kind pieces. Be sure to check her out at The Glass Chickadee.

And finally, one more sneaky, little pal is paying us a visit. See the black, bumpy lump in the middle of the photo? That's our resident gator. S/he has lived among these interconnected,
neighborhood, water run-off ponds since it was a baby gator. It's a bit bigger now - about 4 feet in length. It keeps its distance and we do too. It's never come up on the bank of our yard - perhaps there's too much activity here. We do have to share our space and, indeed, our state, with these amazing, if frightening, animals.
It's not just a matter of having it removed, because the animals are never just removed, but instead, killed. There are over a million alligators living in the state and they cannot just be re-located every time someone wants them out of their backyard. If this guy became a regular camper in our yard and made it so that we could not go out there, I'd reconsider. But as it is, this is his/her home as much as ours and I, for one, am glad it's here.

Wishing you all a sunshiny week!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Few and Far Between

Hello, again, friends. I know my posts have been few and far between. I have a lot of news I'm wanting to share, but as it is spring, the tidal wave of family and friends from the north has begun! I have a few fun things to share and I really, really hope to be able to do that in the next day or two. In the meantime, I did finish one knitting project I was working on for me. Here is a sneak-peek:

I really do have to run, but I will be back in a day or two to share more. Looking forward to talking with you all again soon!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Sedcutive Art Tryst!

I just saw this video YouTube video today and I just love, love, loved it. It was linked over at Soule Mama's blog and seems to be one of those serendipitous little things that happens now and (wonderfully) then.

I have been missing my sketching. I made a New Year's resolution to carry my sketch book around with me in my purse this year and I have failed miserably at it. I guess I should have just called it a desire and left it at that. I think I thought by making it a resolution, I would sort of force my own hand (no pun intended!). But all the bits of free time I have are spent knitting and I'm mostly okay with that. I don't believe I have ever had so focused a complete passion and I am happy to go with it.

Still, I do get a craving for a drawing now and again. I have been thinking of doing the drawings while my girls are doing their's for school. But they usually need some guidance on one thing or another for their assignments and otherwise, I am reading our read aloud lit selection to them.

Well, yesterday, I just couldn't stand it any longer! :) The girls were doing self portraits - looking into a full-length mirror (one of those lightweight, cheapy ones) propped on its side across two bar stools - and Eve struggled with hers. I was coaching her to "draw what you see, not what you think it ought to look like." I was pointing out to her that her eyes are not really shaped like perfect footballs or lemons, but they are actually a bit flatter on top. I pulled out the dry-erase board and showed her what I meant. And then I knew I just had to draw her myself!

It was a perfect opportunity: there she was, sitting still and working on her own drawing. How often will they sit still for you upon your request? Are you done yet, Mom?!?!

So I ran and grabbed my lonely, little moleskine. I tried not to cringe as I saw the last date entered: September 9, 2008. ugh. 6 months.

Better late than never though and I quickly drew this:

Oh, I was so pleased! My fingers rewarded me. It doesn't always come this easily - getting that expression or the eyes just right. But it did yesterday... almost as if to say, Doesn't this feel wonderful? Don't you miss me? Remember our love affair?
Yes, yes I do. And I must arrange for more quiet, little art trysts in the future!
I am thinking of coloring in with watercolor pencils and doing a wash. Do you think I should?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Recipe for Literature Love

Hello and how has your weekend been? We've had a longer weekend of sorts. One Thursday a month we have an all-day science co-op with two other families. Due to illness with both other families, the co-op was postponed two weeks ago and then finally cancelled for this month altogether last Thursday. The girls were pretty disappointed; not only do they have a great time with their friends, but they also get out of all their other subjects.

After two disappointments (as well as a lack of lesson planning for that day, since we'd planned to be at the co-op), I decided we should have a reading day. This is something we do a few times a year - more often when someone is not feeling well, but in this case as a kind of treat. The girls had a few little things they had to get out of the way - Eve, studying her spelling words and a bit of language arts, and Maia had to spend a bit of time typing and editing her story - but Spanish and math and science were out the window... and we were out of doors!

I really couldn't have picked a better day. Not only was the weather a breezy, upper 70's day, but just as Eve was finishing up her language arts, I got the all too familiar aura that precedes my migranes. :( Thankfully, they don't scare me anymore. I only started getting them after the birth of my second child when I was in my early 30's and they aren't severe. I can take 4 ibuprofen and keep them at bay. I'll have a headache for the rest of the day, yes, and kind of a woozy, muddled feeling, but it's not something that I need prescription medication for, as I know many people have.
So, I was happy to have decided on reading. I picked up my latest library read, Debbie Macomber's The Shop on Blossom Street and settled into my seat in the sunshine while the girls read their books. Macomber's book is not my usual fare, but it is light and fun and about a knitting shop (of course!) and so it was a perfect fit for that day.

We alternated with our own silent reading and my reading aloud to the girls. In the morning (photo above) I read a long chapter from Dickens' Great Expectations and later that afternoon I read a couple of chapters from Jane Birdsall's latest Penderwick book, The Penderwicks on Gardam Street. Have you read the Penderwick books? We really love them. There are only two so far in what I hope will turn out to be a few more in this charming family series. They are definitely ones the girls could read to themselves, but we really all enjoy them as read-alouds.

I have to say that I think my girls are enjoying Great Expectations so much more than I did as a girl in 8th grade. My own educational philosophy includes more lying-on-your-back-in-the-sun and discussing the work, marveling at Dickens' vocabulary and sentence construction and re-reading favorite sentences or passages over again just to savor them, rather than a long list of vocabulary words and multiple choice questions at the end of each chapter.
I confess that I really do not remember much from so many of the classics I read for my literature classes in middle and high school. What I remember more is feeling nervous about tests, scrambling to get questions answered, and feeling grateful when I could find Cliff Notes. I even came to believe that I really could not understand much classic literature or read it for pleasure. It became something that I believed was good for me, but not something I would truly enjoy.
I was surprised, then, shortly after Eve was born, that after I picked up the copy of Wuthering Heights that I had on my shelf and read it just to read it that I really, really enjoyed it. I'd remembered liking it in high school, but beyond the ghost of Catherine coming to haunt Heathcliff, I couldn't remember much. What I found instead of it just being good for me, was that not only did I enjoy the language itself, but the story was a real page-turner.
I have been just as rewarded in my homeschooling journey. For yes, although it is my children I am teaching and their journey through their schooling years, it is my own journey as well. For the sake of my children I have filled their ears and minds with books I never glanced at in my elementary years, but that I'd heard were foundational stories in so many others' childhoods. I thrill that the characters in The Chronicles of Narnia series are as familiar to my children as old friends. I love when my children will point to a modern day movie character or even person they know and say something like, "She is so much like Anne!" (from Anne of Green Gables).
So now we just dive right in. There have been very few books over the years that we have decided we really don't enjoy. For example, I tried reading and then we tried audio books to get us through Hans Brinker and it just didn't hold our interest. There is too much good literature out there to get hung up on one we don't like, so I am okay if we drop those and then forge ahead and find so many others that we do.
Dickens, I find, requires some explanation with some of his language, but because he was a serial writer, his chapters are more often than not, cliff-hangers at the end of each one and the girls just love his writing. His characters are so real and funny and interesting (I'm discovering along with them) that although he wrote for an adult audience, even my fourth grader is following along, with great interest, Pip's adventures and wondering what the odd Miss Havisham will do next. I just remember kind of groaning my way through Great Expectations. I felt a bit lost with the story and dreaded the nightly assignments. It thrills me to no end that I hear and eager, "Okay!" when I suggest reading another chapter from it.
When accompanied with a lie out in the sun, a cuddle on the couch, on Mom and Dad's bed, or alongside our weekly art assignment (as the girls draw and I read), I find it creates the perfect recipe for a life-long love of great literature.

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