Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Thirty-One Days of July

July 2013

Hey, I made it! Thirty-one daily posts in July! It's been a little adventure for me, for sure. I put together this mosaic of some of the shots from our days. One of the benefits of blogging this whole month is that I have used my camera more and am fond of a number of the photos I've taken. Also, I've become very familiar with the "July_2013" folder on my hard drive! This has actually served to kind of stretch out my month, because some of the pictures from the beginning of the month already seem "so long ago," even though they were mere weeks. The garden, especially, has already transformed, overflowing its boxes and producing a small harvest.

I love how the grid tells a story of our days, minus all my words! When I ask my girls, a bit of wonder in my voice, "Are you having a nice summer?" I can look here and be assured that our days have been full and be thankful.

I know, too, that I can find the time to be here with regularity if I put my mind to it. Free time will grow more scarce as we move into the school months, but with planning, I am amazed at what can be accomplished in a single day!

It's my sweetheart's birthday today. Presents are wrapped, cards have been made, a cake is cooling on top of the stove.

So, it's on to August: canning, freezing, books, and schedules are in our future. But so is another camping trip - all the family this time - and another 6 weeks of summer to soak up.

I hope your month has been as full as mine. Thanks again for any time you choose to stop by this space. I plan on chatting with you again soon!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Be Good to Your Guy

"The greatest favor we can ever bestow on our spouses is to turn our expectations of them on ourselves. In other words, instead of longing for an ideal mate, become one."
- Glenda Revell

Isn't this a great reminder? How easy it is to fall into a rut or a funk... or both!... and begin to disparage our husbands, finding fault with all kinds of little things. A number of years ago, I made a conscious decision to practice using kind and uplifting words when speaking about my husband to other people. I had read Elizabeth George's wonderful book, A Woman After God's Own Heart, (a FAVORITE book of mine and one I re-read every couple of years or so) and in it she said,

"I have very few 'never's' in my life, but one primary 'never' is never speak critically or negatively about my husband to anyone. I try instead to practice the wise advice of a dear and godly saint at our church. Loretta smiles and sweetly coos, 'Ladies, never pass up an opportunity to bless your husband in public.' (And, I would add, don't forget to bless him to his face as well!)

George has much more to say on the topic of marriage in her book, but WOW, what if we really practiced just this one thing? I'm not going to pretend I'm perfect at this practice, but it is something I aim to do, something the Holy Spirit convicted me about and, I might add, continues to convict me right away if I slip up. Rest assured, I am thankful for the reminder. I do not begrudge the practice, but instead press on, like the Apostle Paul, toward a goal that is dear to me.

So maybe you've conquered speaking negatively in public, but the grouchy, grumpy thoughts arrive. Perhaps we've not had enough sleep or we're a bit hormonal - ahem. I know that when the negative thoughts begin to pile up, it's time to take action. Sometimes, the action I need to take is to speak kindly to him (see Ephesians 4:15) about whatever is bothering me. But more often, I need to take action with myself.

In Lynn Bowen Walker's super fun book, Queen of the Castle: 52 Weeks of Encouragement for the Uninspired, Domestically Challenged or Just Plain Tired Homemaker, she shares this memory,

"The best marriage advice I ever received came twenty years ago from a friend. It was just a few weeks after my wedding, and Andrea and I had gotten together for a game of tennis on the college campus where I'd recently graduated. After our game, I must have been telling her that marriage was harder than I'd thought. That was when she said something I have never forgotten.

'Have your ever thought about the difference between goals and desires?' she asked me. 'Your desire may be to have a happy marriage. But you can't control that; that takes two people. The only thing you can control,' she said, 'is you. So even though your desire is to have a happy marriage, you have to make it your goal to be a good wife.'

As our conversation progressed, this wise and godly friend encouraged me not to worry about whether I thought my new husband was doing a good job. The only job description I should be concerned with was my own. Was I being a good wife?

This was a new way of looking at things. Suddenly I saw that I didn't need to 'fix' my husband. If I was to be concerned with anyone's 'fixing,' it ought to be my own."

We must realize, of course, that the only person we can ever change is ourselves. If I was forced to change to meet the demands of my husband, or anyone really, it would not be authentic change and instead, there would be a growing seed of resentment from within. This is not what we want for ourselves and it is not what we want to be inflicting on our relationships either.

When ready to complain to yourself or others about your guy, see if you can stop a moment and do the opposite. This is good advice for almost any knee-jerk response we are bound to have, because that type of response is coming from our fallen humanity. Christ turns almost everything on its head: He did not follow the letter of the law, but instead fulfilled it; He did not come to be a conquering king, but a Servant King; He taught not to hit back, but to instead turn the other cheek.

So, try blessing instead of cursing. No, it's not easy, but that's why the road is called "narrow." BUT doing things God's way ALWAYS leads to blessing in one way or another and you just may be amazed at what trying things His way will lead to.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Crafting Curriculum, Day-Dreaming Decor, Handmaking Hat

As the summer light has begun to shift ever so slightly (have you noticed?), my reading has changed from more pleasure reading to more work-related reading. I'm still working on fiction, but my stack has dwindled as ideas for the new school year begin to swirl about in my mind.

Here are two that I am really enjoying right now:


I've got two high school level students at home with me this year: Eve's first and Maia's last. We'll be checking off the American History requirement this year and thus I am choosing to teach American Lit this year too.

In the homeschool world there is curriculum that can hold your hand throughout the entire school year. I have used and liked some of those. Other curriculum act as guides, giving you a skeleton structure and then reading lists from which to flesh out your study (to extend the metaphor!). One of the books I'm using for history this year does that. And then there is the "strike out on your own" path that I am apparently adopting this year with the literature class. No prepackaged curriculum out there contains all the particular books I want us to read and so I am gleaning ideas here and there and will hopefully end up with something uniquely tailored to my girls' learning styles and interests while making sure to capture and incorporate concepts they will be expected to know when they move on to higher education if that is the direction they choose. Doesn't that sound nice? 


This basically means I'm designing my own curriculum from scratch for this subject this year. I've done similar things in years past and it's worked out fine, but it is work. It's my largest undertaking this year, as the other subjects are pretty much already taken care of for me.

So, yeah. Busy these days. It is all worth it and is work I love doing and I love digging into great literature, but I'm at the front-end of things right now.

In the meantime, since I can't add too much pleasure-reading, I have these two, fun books I enjoy gazing at, usually over breakfast or lunch. No thinking, just pretty, pretty pictures and inspiration. Florke's book is more my aesthetic (it's a NICE book!), but I have also long loved Mary Engelbreit for staying true to her own, authentic style. How I MISS my beloved, Home Companion magazine that went away with the Great Recession. That was my favorite magazine EVAH; so much fun!!


Mary Engelbreit's, Home Sweet Home, invites the readers into Mary's own home for a tour and who doesn't love a home tour?? My mother tells me that when I was a little girl I would ask to go into people's houses so I could look around. I still love to do that! My kids tease me because I love that when autumn arrives and the sun sets early I can often catch glimpses inside people's homes while I'm on an evening walk. Honestly, I'm not trying to be nosy! I just want to see how they've decorated the place! :)


Finally, I also have started working on my hat. OH, it's delicious!! The Chroma yarn is so soft and the colors change like Willy Wonka's "Everlasting Gobstopper." I haven't done stranded knitting in a while. I'm doing it two handed: picking and throwing. I ordinarily throw, so I have no idea how the continental style might affect my gauge, but I am trying to keep my tension even. I don't particularly care if it's a bit lumpy though. It's so fun to knit and lovely to see the emerging design; I'm expecting I'll be happy with my end product.

Thanks for joining me for another "Making and Media Monday." Hope your week has gotten off to a good start!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Soul Food Sunday

"A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity."
~ Proverbs 17:17

 So thankful for the beautiful people God has brought into my life.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Linky Love

Not much time for my own thoughts today (hanging out in a tent as I am!), so I'm sharing a few of my favorite hangouts on the internet for:

Thinking outside the box for yourself and your kids: Camp Creek Blog/Project Based Homeschool (NOT just for homeschoolers - have a peek and be inspired!)

Feeling Beautiful on the Outside: Lisa Eldridge You Tube Channel ~ Brilliant!

Feeling Beautiful and Satisfied on the Inside: Woodland Hills Video/Audio Podcast

Happy Weekend Everyone! Enjoy!

Friday, July 26, 2013

This Moment

  Linking up with SouleMama blog this week for:
{this moment}
A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Camp Menu & Links!

Tomorrow is the big day! We haven't been camping for a number of years and some rain is predicted... but isolated showers, so... we'll see! This will be our easy camping weekend - just the adults this time. Our group plans to potluck suppers and the other meals will be on our own. The campground, incidentally, is about 18 minutes from our house! So my first meal will be one that is made in my oven at home and warmed up over our camp stove! Not exactly roughing it, but that's not really what this weekend is about. What it is about is a good time with good friends; I'm all for it! :)

Today I am chopping veggies and making preparations.
The menu will be as follows:

Friday supper: Smoky Vegan Mac & Cheese w/Foil-Wrapped Fire-Roasted Veggies
Saturday breakfast:  Scrambled Tofu, English Muffins, Juice
Saturday lunch: Premade, fire-warmed bean, rice, & veggie burritos
Saturday supper: Pasta Salad w/Artichoke Hearts, Hummus & Pita Chips
Sunday breakfast: Everything Cereal

My girls called my raw oats with almond or soy milk breakfast, "Everything Cereal" years ago, because with the oats, I throw in a bunch of other things: raw apples, dates, raisins, molasses or maple syrup, nuts & seeds, and shredded coconut make regular appearances. Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries show up in place of (or hey, in addition to!) the apples from time to time, especially if they are in season, or sometimes they're frozen. This is SO good and so filling and can even be made before you shower in the morning if you like your oats a bit softer. Leftovers can just go into the fridge, because you can still have it as a snack later.

This is the Vegan Mac and Cheese recipe. I follow it to a 'T' with the exception of adding a teaspoon of liquid smoke to the "cheese" sauce and it's just scrumptious!

Thought I'd share a couple other vegan-related posts with you, since I haven't done that in a while. These come from the Happy Herbivore site which is loaded with all kinds of information. She also has e-books and weekly meal plans available for purchase. She only charges $5 for a weekly meal plan which includes some recipes. I haven't purchased any because I've got a pretty extensive repertoire of my own meals and have been doing this for a long time as it is. Plus, I'm not afraid to jump onto the VegWeb site if I want something new. That said, if you have an interest in a plant-based diet and don't know where to start, the Happy Herbivore makes things really simple.

Here is an impressive post from the site, sharing a testimonial to her meal plans. The change in this man looks amazing. I would not have known he was the same man from the before and after photos.

And this article just touched me. This young man has really gone out on a limb being vegan in Caracas, Venezuela. It's not nearly as easy to eat a vegan diet in South America as it is in the U.S. His story is inspirational.

If you have a few minutes to spare, check out the links; I think you'll enjoy them! In the meantime, I'm back to chopping and packing. Have a lovely Thursday!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Garden and Cottage Notes: July 2013, Week 4

Knitters and other crafters will know what I mean when I talk about any WIP's I may have at any given moment. A WIP is a Work In Progress and I think I can safely say that is what my garden is as well. Especially this year, this first year. 

I know, too, that if you are a gardener for any length of time, that your garden is actually always a work in progress. There are always plants to be divided and moved or shared with other gardeners. Plants get too big for their britches and need to be relocated or cut down to a more manageable, and often more "flourishable" size.

But this year I am keenly observing: light, shade, drainage. I have to be patient with the garden and myself when I see just how scraggly the front bed with the continual gifted perennial transplants looks.

Next year, I think. Next year... and the year after that. Vision. That's what I have. Vision... and not a great deal of money to spend on plants. So I get them small. Or I get them free from neighbors and friends. And I try to work with the types of flowers and colors given to me.

Next year, when we're not actually building the garden: boxes, fencing, dirt... Next year I'll have a little more money to pick out a few more plants of my own choosing... and maybe take a vacation to boot! :)

Now don't get me wrong. I love, love, love the plants I've been given and the generosity of my fellow gardeners. In fact, that is something that makes gardening such a pleasure. The community aspect of sharing with others and seeing how they use what you have given to them to enhance their own landscape is so fun! But now that I have a basic idea about where light falls in my yard and have a number of anchoring perennials planted, I have new ideas about additional plants that would look just perfect... right there... or right there!

And I have ideas about whether or not I will plant cabbage again next year, considering the cabbage moths seem to love it so. I have learned about row covers and need to decide if that's what I'll do, because that's what I'll need to do if I'm to plant cabbage again. Or... maybe a new plant will find its way into the vegetable bed and we'll just be shopping for cabbage at the farmer's market!

But the vegetables are really the most rewarding for me: their nearly-instant gratification, their beauty, and of course, their function.

My WIP Garden brings me great pleasure as I know it will for years to come. The small handfuls of strawberries and raspberries that we've enjoyed in little bits on cereal will one day be jars of jam and smoothies and muffins and maybe even get us to the day like the neighbors who shared their raspberry canes with us, saying, "We have more than we know what to do with!"

But this year, more than any, will be the one to look back on. The vision is that the spaces of ground I see between plants, the annuals I needed to buy this year to bring a little color will no longer be necessary. And some of the pictures that make me cringe just a little bit will be the ones I point to and say, "Just look how far we've come! Just look how we've made this place home!"

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Vegan Camping Preparation Links

Lots on my plate today, some of which is planning for a short, weekend camping trip with some high school friends of mine. No kids this time around, though another, bigger trip that includes them and lots of family will be happening next month, so I'm considering this the "practice round!"

I've only camped a handful of times in my life. The food usually falls to me and that seems to be my biggest hurdle. Once I'm beyond that, the rest is enjoyable. I suppose if it weren't, I wouldn't do this at all, now would I?

Anyway, I am so, so thankful for the internet and all the creative people out there that post such wonderful ideas from which I joyfully glean. Rarely do we need to re-invent any wheels nowadays. A simple Google search pulled up these sites and ideas for me to pick and choose from and make the deciding about it all so much easier.

The Truth and the Life is a beautiful blog that I'm going to spend a bit more time checking out. Her photography is lovely and the menu was great. Some nice ideas here for cooler weather camping. We'll be warmer for sure, but her morning veggie scramble looks awesome for sure! Mmmm...

Some good ideas at Hub Pages too. The nachos look yummy and easy.

The Vegetarian Resource Group blog has me thinking I'll pack some pre-made burritos for lunch to warm up over grill or fire.

Pintrest has delectable photos galore. I haven't yet taken the time to peruse all of them. I tend to avoid foodie posts, as I don't want to pack along gobs of ingredients, but there is plenty of inspiration there from simple to as complicated and gourmet as you want to get!

Suite 101 has a nice checklist that will prove helpful for those of us who continue to wonder, "Did I pack everything...??" as we drive away from home.

And The Happy Herbivore has some ideas and some cool links of her own to share.

With all this help, I can't possibly fail, right?? I'll post my own camping plans in the next couple of days or so and hopefully some good pictures from our trip as well. Hope you find some of these links helpful too, even if you're just looking to add some more veggie ideas to your next camping trip.

Be blessed and have a great Tuesday!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Some Thoughts on Swatching... and Hypersensitivity

Happy Monday, All! I hope your work week is getting off to a good start. Mine is moving along, but I am procrastinating on the grocery shopping. *sigh* It's days like today that I truly wish I were a foodie and that I would get excited about a trip to market. For me, though, it seems the faster I can get it over with, the better. 

That's because the things I do love await me at home!  After my other chores, of course. Here is the latest update in my "Making and Media" series; the rewards that await at the end of my day:

I am swatching for a new project that has been waiting for me for quite a long time now. I think I've had this Knit Picks Chroma yarn for over 2 years now! I'm actually going to go ahead and use it with the pattern for which I originally bought it, the Noro Fair-Isle Flower Hat by designer, Katie Rose.

I attached the tail to Sage Mouse, so she is complete. I still owe her an outfit, but Mama needs to work on something of her own choosing for a little bit before I go back to projects for my girls.

I don't mind swatching. I sat out on the deck yesterday in the shade of the umbrella and began my swatch. First of all, though many knitters just want to "get on" with their projects, I enjoy the swatch process because it's usually just straight knitting. If I have just finished a project, that means that I have been weaving in ends, seaming, or in the case of the mouse, attaching limbs! That is sewing. I like sewing, but I love knitting. I am always eager to get back to the rhythm of the needles. I don't have to look when I am swatching. I can look around the yard, visit with my family, or watch a movie. With seaming and weaving, one must concentrate. With swatching, you are back to the repetition of the movement and the discovery of the fabric forming in your hands.

I also appreciate swatching, because over the years, I have evolved into quite a loose knitter. The photo above is me swatching worsted weight yarn on U.S. size 5 needles. That's three sizes smaller than what worsted usually calls for and that seems to be my "knitting m.o." these days. So, if I want anything to fit, it is imperative that I swatch. That can be said of any pattern that needs to fit, but you may be able to fudge a bit if you seem to knit with an average gauge. Not me.

As far as books go, I have made the most progress with The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. It really is turning out to be a wonderful story with a lot of unique features. I'm about halfway through and I think anyone with a penchant for fantasy would enjoy it.

I had to stop listening to The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson. I was listening to the audio book version and I can tell you that I felt the narration was excellent. The book, I believe is really compelling as well and I can see, from the amount that I listened to, just why it received the Pulitzer. That said, it was just too disturbing for me. I have a very sensitive nature and I really just could not listen to it. It saddens me terribly to think about the kind of lives the North Koreans live and I continue to pray for them regularly. I just could not listen to this work of fiction that is based on truth.

I am the kind of person that often can't handle television news stories and so rarely, if ever, watch the news anymore. I listen to the news via NPR and occasionally even that can get to be too much when the headlines are tragic. I'm not in denial about issues in the world. In fact, the opposite is nearly true; I think very seriously about the challenges of this life and when - not if - I am not careful, it has proven to be too much. I say this alluding to the fact that I struggle with anxiety and have, off and on, since my mid-thirties, though even before this, I was accused regularly from childhood on of being "too sensitive." And perhaps I am.

Dr. Gemma of the wonderful Cogknitive Podcast did a terrific series on hypersensitivity a couple of months ago that I listened to with great interest. She noted that a certain percentage of the population truly is hypersensitive and things that bother hypersensitive people just don't bother a larger portion of the population. And, she noted, that there isn't anything you can "do" about being hypersensitive other than just being aware of it and leaning to deal with it.

This is what I have done and continue to do. I am more aware than ever of what my "triggers" are when it comes to anxiety and/or taking on the world's pain into myself. I know that may sound odd to some, but I just feel I have a highly empathetic nature that actually can take a toll on me if I am not too careful.

And so, I chose to stop listening to the book in the same way that I choose not to read books about missing or abducted or molested children or other books that are just too dark or disturbing for me. It is, in part also, why I am vegetarian.

I also realize that people do need to know about these topics in order to help others in these hurtful circumstances. I am thankful for the kind of people that can deal with these various kinds of situations: police officers, firefighters, emergency medical personnel, social workers, etc. But, like a person who faints at the sight of blood will unlikely ever become a doctor, I find that I need to limit the amount of information I receive regarding certain scenarios.

I'm sharing this, because I know that there are others like me and I just wanted to say something about it to let you know that it's not only you that experiences things like this. I don't want to make more of this than what it is, but it is frustrating to me from time to time when things that don't bother other people do bother or frighten or upset me for periods of time. I don't like feeling "fragile" when it comes to hearing about things, but it is what it is. My greatest comfort comes from my faith in Christ and the promises He has made; I highly recommend Him! :) Scripture passages on peace have proven themselves to me time and again; I am so thankful for His Word.

Back on topic, what I am reading... or looking forward to reading... after I get this shopping out of the way, is my little pile of letters! I have received two bits from World Vision. One for sure, I know is from the little boy I sponsor, Mohammed. I haven't heard from him in a few months, so it will be fun to see what he has been up to. And I also have a lovely letter awaiting me from one, dear pen-pal in Texas. I can hardly wait to open her letter, but I must until my chores are done!

So, in order to get to that side of my day, I'd best be off! I'll check in with you tomorrow; thanks for stopping by! :)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Soul Food Sunday

"There are two kinds of personalities in this world, and you are one of the two. People can tell which, as soon as you walk into a room: your attitude says either, 'Here I am' or 'There you are.'" 
- Anne Ortlund

In your home, in your church, in your community today, determine to be a "There you are" kind of person and see if it doesn't make a difference in others' lives... and yours. Grace and peace to you as you start your week!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Good Morning From the Farm!

Good morning from the farm!

We headed up north yesterday to spend some time with some dear friends of ours at their farm. We enjoyed good fellowship, food, and fun! It's a real blessing to be able to spend time with friends just relaxing and recharging. I went up with the intention of lending a hand in organizing or helping out in whatever way I could, because I wanted to spend time with them, but also because they have been in a remodeling process for a few years now. Dad does most of the work by hand himself and given that he also manages rental properties in the city and does contracting work there as well, it's a slow-going process at home. So, I wanted to help where I could, but we really just spent time talking and laughing, sharing stories in our walk of faith... and maybe the adults enjoyed a little wine and chocolate late at night as the rain started and the cool breezes finally moved in...

So, we may not have straightened up or rearranged, but we fortified our own spirits, encouraged and prayed for each other and perhaps that was the real work that was meant to be done.

A few other shots from our day:

Everyone chipped in with dinner: Burritos and a peach and strawberry cobbler for dessert. Half the kids are out of the shot here; we had six, plus us moms for dinner. Dads, unfortunately, were not with us this go round; another time, I'm sure!

We wouldn't let that delicious fruit go to waste; every one got a peach pit to get every last bit. And no, we didn't eat the pits!

That's cream soda there on the counter in the bottles. It's a local brand made with Minnesota honey ~ delicious!

After dinner and before dessert we thought we'd go on outside and check out what was growing in the garden. Sweet kitty met us on the way. He seems to have various names, which is why I'm not sharing it!

Unfortunately, summertime is also horsefly season out in the country and so it was hard to admire what was growing in the garden for long!

I think Maia is a more confirmed city girl now more than ever. We didn't stay out long. Dessert and games inside and then "Pirates of the Caribbean" rounded out the night for the kids.

So thankful for days like this; sweet memories to store up and treasure for a long time to come! :)

Friday, July 19, 2013

Curriculum Planner Tour

Warning: I'm kind of a geek about seeing other people's planners and that's what this one is about. If this kind of thing makes you fall into a narcoleptic nap, I suggest you pay me a visit another day. :)

I LOVE planners. I love calendars and seasonal stuff in general, but I love planners, and paper planners, specifically. I do use an e-calendar, but I don't have a smart phone, so it doesn't travel with me. Also, the nature of my work, homeschooling and managing home affairs, means that I'm not regularly sitting in front of a computer; I don't have a desk job. The e-calendar reminds me of things when I am here at the computer, but it is a general overview. It doesn't hold my life like my planners do.

I have tried using "note" apps on my Kindle (since I don't have said smart phone), as well as calendar apps, but I just don't really like them. They are smaller than I like and I just like paper and pen or pencil. And the apps definitely don't have enough "pretty" factor for me. Pretty makes a huge difference to me and unless there's an outrageous price difference, I'll seek out pretty every time.

Of course, I have spent way too much time looking for - and not finding - the perfect planner for me. Ideally, it's all-in-one. But then it gets too bulky. It can't be too small though, because I want room to write.

The system I have been using lately has been to have a smaller - 8x5 Day Runner - with me for home-related things including addresses, business cards, a monthly calendar, website passwords, etc. in addition to a homeschool planner. The limitation for me a bit with this has been little space in the weekly calendar pages for all of my home-life to-do's as well as menu ideas. I have a notepad in the back, but that tends to get a bit messy. Hopefully, I've come across a new solution with incorporating this missing piece into my homeschool curriculum planner.

I linked to Tina's website a couple of days ago. I am so thankful for the effort she has put into this wonderfully helpful, FREE resource. And it's all kinds of pretty! Tina seems to be a planner junkie like me and she knows how we are. She's got all sorts of pretty front and back cover options with different designs and color choices. AND she's made them all color coordinated with the rest of the awesomely colorful inside forms. It can make the task of planning, which admittedly can sometimes get to be a bit of a drudgery (did I just say that??), a little bit more cheerful.

Some of you may not be homeschoolers though. Tina does not leave you out of the fun! She's got a cool Home Management Binder too that is also colorful and free and has many more forms than I think I'd ever use for your browsing and printing enjoyment. There's one form on there that I may have to try at least once though. She's got a 30-day menu planner. I've never planned my meals that far out, but once I get things lined up for school, maybe I'll see how that works. I imagine it would be especially helpful if you knew you were going to have a particularly busy month such as around the holidays, or if you were in a transition period, such as the first month of school or in preparation to move or were going to be having a guests.

Anyway, on to the main attraction:

Above is the cover I selected. Tina also has back covers to choose from. I was torn between two, so I put one with the lovely scripture verses she'd selected on the back...

 ...and the one with some sayings about home, motherhood, and family on the inside. Some of them are a bit corny for me, but sweet nonetheless.

I don't have quite so much new curriculum to get this year now that my girls are older, so I splurged on a new label maker. Oh, be still, my organizing heart! I had one of these years ago (a birthday gift from my sister who knows me well), but it eventually died and I hadn't picked up a new one. Like my old one, I love it and put it to use right away!

These are the sections I've chosen for my binder.

A note here: Tina does not actually recommend a binder for this planner. She is an advocate of having your planner spiral bound at an office supply store and she has some very good reasons, especially for the new homeschooling parent. So if you are new, or if you just would like some organizing guidance, if you haven't found a plan that works well for you, I'd suggest reading what she has to say.

For me, a half-inch, three D-ring binder was the way to go and I'll share why.

One, I don't need nearly as many forms as Tina offers at her site. I don't plan using a daily lesson plan, but use a weekly plan which has worked very well for me for a number of years. Also, I did want the option of adding and subtracting to the binder. She has reasons for suggesting you not do that, but again, with years of experience behind me, I am not "thrown off" by using this method.

Tina argues that the spiral bound book will lie flat, which my binder certainly does. She also says that the spiral binding proves stronger and I suspect she's right. It's true that I haven't liked the 3-ring system too much in the past, but that has mostly to do with bulk. I purchased just the 1/2 inch this time and supposedly the D-ring style (according to the tag on the front) holds more than the round. I don't know about that; we'll see how this works out. So far, I've managed to get everything into it that I want.

I went ahead and printed some of her monthly pages. I actually felt a little disloyal to my sturdy, red, home planner that has served me well over the past 4 years or so! But I really like the big picture and I don't want to have to rely on having the other planner with me at all times in order to see it. Plus, again, other than the ink cost, these nice calendars are free and it is surprising how expensive some of those purchased calendar refills can be!

Behind the next tab is the new, daily section that I hope to put to good use. I had already printed some of Tina's older, black and white pages when I discovered her gorgeous, new colorful design. So I've alternated them for now. So pretty! You can see there that there is a place fore the daily menu, a small shopping list (not my grocery list though - of course I have another form for that!), a place for random notes, the daily schedule if I need to use it (sometimes I do, sometimes I don't, depending on how many things we've got going on), etc.

 Here's a new form that I've got in the pocket behind my "Lesson Plans" tab.

Tina intends this form to be used only occasionally and that's how I intend to use it too. When new activities are added into our schedule, my head can begin to swim. As our schedules change, I may need an overview from time to time to see where I need to be when. Especially as I will be doing my own schooling this year too, it will be helpful to know what blocks of time I will have available to me to study as well as family time and free (including blogging) time. Often, if I don't have something like this to see, I can be doing one activity and wondering if I should be doing something else. That happens especially when I sit down to relax and just do something for me. Hopefully something like this will assuage any guilt or bewilderment of how I am spending my oh, so precious time.

Below is where lesson plans will go. Again, there's not a great deal of space here, but these days, with PSEO, co-op classes, and some curriculum leading the way with very little involvement from me, I don't always need a great deal of space.

I couldn't decide on which design and color scheme I wanted. She has even more choices than these, but I settled on two and alternated them. :)

The last section I've labeled "Reference." As you can see, I've got extra note paper here in the pocket.

Behind this tab is the overview of the school year. Again, three, pretty colors and designs to choose from. I'll mark out holidays and count out our weeks here, etc. Behind this, I've also got some records I've already got going on the high school credits the girls have earned, volunteering they've done, field trips taken, etc. Tina has all kinds of forms for these too, but mine are from Donna Young's magnificent site. Her forms aren't as jazzy as Tina's but she seems to have a million or more there. Her site is definitely worth checking out too!

And so that's it! I'm looking forward to putting it to good use and it makes me happy looking at it. Perhaps I'll do another post in a few months time once we're into the school year starting at the end of August, giving you an update as to how it's working out. I'm sure you'll all be waiting with bated breath! lol! :)

We're off visiting friends at their farm today, and are staying the night. So hopefully I'll have loads of photos to share tomorrow, but the post will be up later than what I've been doing of late. Until then, enjoy your Friday. We've made it to the end of another week! Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Thoughts on Social Media

With all the blogging I've been doing this month, I've been thinking about social media. How do you use it? How many networks do you use and why do you prefer one over the other?

It seems there are so many social networking platforms and I'm genuinely curious to know why one chooses one over the other. Years ago, my blog here was my biggest platform for easily connecting with other people beyond the people I already knew and talked with via e-mail. It was, and remains, a way to get to know people with whom I have shared interests in addition to being a repository for the current events of my life to share with family and friends and to keep as a record for myself.

Then Facebook came along. A friend invited me there and I really thought I had no interest or time for it, maintaining the blog as I did. But many, many more people use Facebook than blog and living long-distance from so many family and friends as I did at the time and learning that I could reconnect with friends from my past proved useful and so that is part of my present repertoire as well.

Ravelry is the social networking site for the knitting and crochet community. It's really marvelous and has so many wonderful tools for organization, shopping, pattern searching, and, yes, socializing. I'm not there nearly as often as some people are, but it is a valuable resource for me.

Pintrest is an indulgent feast for me. Presently, it is probably my favorite social media site, though I don't do a great deal of socializing there. I have found it to be more useful than I originally thought it would be for me. I used to think that it was just eye candy... delicious, delicious eye candy... and it has proven "useful" in that sense. It's definitely the place I like to go to when I just want to wind down. I can just scroll and look and look if I want.

Pintrest can also work as a tool of discovery. Having moved into my home only a year ago, there is much that I would like to do with it as far as decorating goes. Fashion-wise too. As I get older and my style naturally evolves with me, sometimes I'm not so sure about what I want to be wearing. I  know what I used to like, but often that is no longer working for my work situation, my climate, or even my body. It's been helpful to pin items to my "Style" board that appeal to me without thinking too much about whether or not I would "really" wear that. If I just pin what I like, I begin to see patterns and discover what my eye is trying to tell me is pleasing to me. Then when I go shopping, even at thrift stores, which is where I cultivate the majority of my wardrobe, I have an idea of what to look for: certain lines, patterns, textures, drape of fabric, accessories and of course, colors, that have "revealed" themselves to me prior to my shopping trip.

*** Off Topic for a Moment***

And can I say something about nicely organized thrift stores? I actually like them better for the most part than new-clothing stores. They generally have a much wider selection of clothing and they are not limited to a particular seasonal trend or color palette. Jeans and pants especially are generally abundant and every cut and style seems to be available, from acid-wash, to skin-tight capris, to wide-legged flare bottoms. If you are blessed with a number of nice, large, second-hand clothing stores in your area like we are in the Twin Cities, take advantage of them! They'll support your local economy, are better for the environment and your pocketbook, and offer great selection.

***Back on Track Now***

Another way I've been using Pintrest is as a sort of filing system and even blog reader. Many pins link to great articles now as well as amazing tutorials and, of course, recipes.

The last networking site I use with regularity is Goodreads. I generally use this for my own organization as well as book recommendations. There are plenty of active groups on there too, but as with so many of these places:

how do you find the time???

I know that there are aggregate readers out there... I signed up for Delicious, but I've yet to use it. Blogging every day this month has me on the computer more than I think I've ever been and while I kind of like it... I don't love it. I can see how one could literally sit all day in front of her screen. And that's something I definitely do NOT want to do.

And then there's Google Plus, which I don't have and I'm sure there are more things, because it seems there are always more things - more links, more creative sites, more and more and more. And so many of them are really lovely and have great content. But how do you weed through it all to get to what is important to you and has you using your time the most wisely so that you're not just going down the rabbit trail? 

For me, I know that beyond this month, I will be scheduling a limited amount of time in my planner for regular blogging and it's going to have to be limited as things pick up again when the school year begins (I'll have more on my planner and scheduling tomorrow!). And then I'll just have to schedule my reading time too. I pop on to Facebook about once-a-day, sometimes twice if I'm looking for a response to a message and I check my e-mail about the same. But my free time being regularly limited as it is, I can only do the other things sporadically. Otherwise, I'd never get to my more wonderful real life things!

So, I'm curious. If you have the time to respond here: where do you spend the most of your online time? What is your favorite space and why?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Garden and Cottage Notes: July 2013, Week Three

One of my favorite things to do is get outside and hand-water my garden with the garden hose. We've had a good balance of rain this summer so far that I haven't had to do it every day and that keeps things enjoyable. I know that drip irrigation is really the better way to go, but my garden is really pretty small and it doesn't take much to give the boxes a good soaking. I love, love, love watering the tomatoes. Their aroma hits me every time and it's a quintessential smell of summer to me.

We are really experiencing the "dog days" of summer here this week. It's the warmest week so far this year. I've been hanging out inside for most of the day and expect I'll do much of the same until Friday when a cool front is predicted to move in. So far, the garden doesn't seem to mind. We're definitely a couple of weeks behind schedule as far as growing goes, due to the cool, wet spring, but it hasn't proved to be much of a problem so far. I'm just hoping I'll still get a lot of tomatoes before first frost.

In the meantime, the lettuce has treated us mighty well the past 6 weeks or so (it and the arugula - "rocket" to my friends in the U.K.) is starting to bolt and I hope to collect seeds for next year) and now the kale and Swiss chard is reaching a nice size for harvesting. I also pulled one of our first kohlrabi plants last night for a stir fry. I use the greens too. We haven't had kohlrabi since last summer! It was a nice addition.

You can see the small bunch of strawberries I gleaned from our new plants. I expect they'll completely take over the box they're in in the next two years. I'm quite pleased with the small amount they've given us already, and although they were sour at first, they have a real nice flavor now.

I don't have any pictures this week of the tomatoes, but it is fun to see now, the larger varieties distinguishing themselves from the smaller, grape tomatoes that I've planted. Though still small and green, my longtime favorite Brandywines are beginning to take on their lumpier, more disk-like shape compared to the rounder varieties.

Below, is the lone Blue Lake string bean I've picked so far from that plant. It is waiting in the refrigerator for its little bean-sibs to catch up. I expect to pick more in just a couple of days.

Here is the back side of one of my pyramid trellises. On the left are some Sugar pumpkin vines and on the right are Butternut squash. I'm training them upward. It's the first year I've tried this with any hard-shell squash variety. I wonder if they'll be too heavy, but I expect they'll be okay. The sugar pumpkins shouldn't get too big.

And finally, here is my little yellow squash survivor. I went to yank out my radishes that had grown taller than I had ever seen radishes get without giving me a single radish worth eating. The first plant I pulled, unfortunately was actually this poor, little squash. I shoved it back in the ground as soon as I could, expecting it to die, but I figured I'd give it a try. So far, it looks hardly phased and even has continued to bloom! Marvelous!

Well, that's it from the garden this week. I hope that if you're in the midst of growing season that you are finding it to be a fruitful year as well. Hopefully I'll have more harvest pictures to show next week; the eating is getting good around here!
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