Saturday, December 22, 2012

Top 5 Favorites of a Country Christmas

There is nothing better than spending Christmas in the country.   Here are a few reasons it's the best!

1.  The neighbor down the street who decorates his house to look just like a real gingerbread house!

2.  The Christmas parade down the middle of the main street with familiar faces and so much festivity!

3.  A show in the big city is such a magical treat, yet as we drive back into the country, the fields open and we heave a sigh of relief to be nearly home and tucked away from all the hustle and bustle (mainly traffic!).

4.  It's a simple affair without too much pretense, simply homey!

5.  Our neighbors are still so neighborly!  A sweet great grandmother who lives next door brings Monkey Bread for our Christmas morning, such a treat!

What sort of Christmas do you prefer?  Whatever it may be ~
Wishing you a Merry & Bright One!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Heaven on Earth

I am, along with many across our nation, heavy hearted this day after such tragedy in Connecticut yesterday.
My first response wasn't noble, (often it's not, I am ashamed to say) it was to stay in bed this morning and keep going back to sleep.
Once I knew the day was going on and I must get up and join in I wondered what my next response should be?  I turned on the news momentarily to see if any new information had been released and heard a pastor saying we can acknowledge the evil but double down on love.
Some people with their choices bring hell to earth.  Unbelievable but true.  Well I guess in a way we all at times choose this when we yell at our children, gossip... the list goes on.
But today? And really every day and as often as possible we can also with our choices bring heaven to earth.  We can love deeply, reaching out our arms as comfort, choosing selflessness, offering forgiveness, meeting needs.  And of course in the process of meeting those needs find our own broken hearts mended as well.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ah, Country Life

The view is different out my windows lately.  The leaves are gone from the trees expanding the deep horizon so I can now see the Olympics way off in the distance.  The garden sits exposed with bare earth since I haven't finished mulching.  Already I miss my fingers in the soil.  Everything is earthy damp and decaying.  My eyes search over the landscape for subtle changes, something new to look at.

I imagine myself going out and lying down, joining the earth in this deep long pause.

Our home is preparing for holiday but my heart is preparing for winter.  Days indoors, cozy fires in the hearth, hobbies for our hands, books for our thoughts.  Little trips into town but mostly simple at home life, quiet, slow and real.  A little too slow for some of us even.  It may not always be so but for now it's the gist of our country life.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Life on a Budget

I have definetly caught the budgeting bug!

I swear to you for the first time in my life I actually look forward to getting our bills each month.  Can you believe it?  I know, me either.

We have been working hard to keep our heat turned down, our wood stove cranked up, lights off and spending to a minimum.  Our children are adjusting as they at first couldn't understand why we just don't run out for ice cream or a new sweater or .... "fill in the blank" like we used to.  I have reduced my drive thru coffee habit - down to about once every two months.  Scott has trimmed his eating out budget to a fraction of what it used to be.

Here are the top reasons I am so thankful for our new budget:
1.  I feel like a grown up.
2.  It has caused me to be more organized with paperwork than ever before.  I even know what we paid for utilities for the past 2 years so I can have an idea what to actually budget for each month!
3.  We can be more purposeful in our giving!!!
4.  Choosing where to spend our money is empowering!
5.  We can make our dollars stretch farther when we respect them more!
6.   Prioritizing our personal expenses means nothing truly important gets left out at the expense of something less important!
7.  I am more thankful for the conveniences and goods we exchange our money for - heat, services rendered, internet and more.

For our family being thrifty and purposeful during the winter months is absolutely essential as our business slows way down from the full and bustling summer and fall.  While we have more time together we have much less money to spend, it's feast or famine!  I will take the family time and enjoy it more when I realize we  have prepared well!

How about your family - do you budget?  What are your tips and tricks to staying on track?

I use Dave Ramsey's online budget worksheets printed right off of his website for free in order to make a monthly budget.  

Monday, November 19, 2012

More Than Enough

I woke up this morning knowing we have an abundance.  We have enough for today which means we are satisfied.  We even have enough for tomorrow, which is an abundance.  When I realize this and the fact that we are so fortunate in America, it causes me to wonder - why?  Why do we have enough when others don't?
The answer to this question is not a simple one.  Yet, I came to the profound reason of freedom.  We have more prosperity in America than anywhere else because we have more FREEDOM in America than anywhere else.  The two go hand in hand.  And why do we have the freedom we have?
Because brave men and women stood up to tyranny in 1776 and we still stand up to it today.  Our freedom was and still is hard-won, it has and continues to cost untold numbers of lives.  Sometimes we think freedom is free or at the least, some of us take it for granted.   Many in America today don't even remember our country's history or how far we have come.  So today, when I think of the fact that we have all we need I will be mindful of the cost - and not in dollars and cents but in loss and struggle resulting in triumph.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

What is Charity?

Practically speaking, charity means the voluntary giving of help to those in need who are not related to the giver.  The virtue of charity is said to be "that it unites us to God" and reflects the heart of God to those in need.

When I searched for the meaning of this word I found this interesting article.  It really has me thinking more seriously about the causes I donate to.  It has me pondering the way we prioritize our giving.  For instance, in a crisis with wounded victims, emergency responders would quickly assess the level of care and prioritize their patients in terms of most to least critical - treating those with the most urgent need first.  I'm starting to think of charity in this way also.  
When there are still tent communities in Haiti from the earthquake and the dire conditions there... when there are people in the East still struggling to get necessities in the aftermath of the Hurricane, when there are still always children starving in Africa, & when giving directly related to poverty is so substantially down...
I just wonder, maybe our charitable donations should be reconsidered.

These days there are many non-profits but are we first caring for the most vulnerable among us?  Or, are we helping those who can help themselves?

One last thing, today I joined Pure Charity.  You can follow me on Pure Charity and start your own account.  It allows you to allocate a percentage of the purchases you make to fund causes that touch your heart.  I learned all about it through Jen Hatmaker - Before You Spend Another Penny... and also her post about The Legacy Project.  Please read them and join!  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A new old way

We have a new (for us) tradition starting this year!
For the past few holiday seasons, I've been drifting away from some of the traditional elements of Christmas.  While I still LOVE Christmas, on my heart right now is the upcoming celebration of Hanukkah!  The celebration of the Miracle of Lights is an ancient tradition Jesus would most likely have enjoyed as a child!
This year, starting on December 8th, we will learn about Hanukkah and join in the traditions of lighting the candles, playing games, eating traditional foods and so on.   Most importantly, we will remember how God is faithful.  Since we have simplified our Christmas plans, gift giving, decor and such I am looking forward to have a time and space in December for this.
My own paternal grandfather was Jewish so I know it is a part of my heritage, however small.  I am hoping it will keep our focus on Jesus more throughout this season of giving!  Inspired to include this new aspect to our celebration I found a simple and pretty Menorah from Israel and a handmade wooden dreidel on etsy.   

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Impromptu Harvest Party

An at home day, with no soccer for the first Saturday in months, we weren't sure quite what to do with ourselves!  Inspired by Kelle Hampton, I had the idea to throw a midday harvest party with our friends.  It's actually the ONLY way I am willing to host parties!  There is no pressure ahead of time which always takes away the fun (for me).

So we bundled up - it's quite cold here!  And headed down to our favorite produce stand for some treats to share.  Tracy's produce stand is one of our family's favorite outings because it's so festive and seasonal.

We grabbed a bag of kettle corn, tortilla chips, apples, mandarins, fall flavored taffies, caramel dip, chocolate covered pretzels, fresh cider and an apple cider scented candle.  Yum!  We already had the pumpkins for decor at home so nothing needed there!  The kids gathered and strung some leaves for a kind of banner over the window!  So cute, so simple.

We just needed friends!  Our neighbor friends came and my friend Noelle with her little girls! We had just the right amount of children and grown ups for a simple gathering!  With the frosty chill the little ones played outside in the leaves and yard just for a short time but inside was warm with our woodstove crackling!  What a lovely cozy day after all!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

What we are learning...

What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly:
tis dearness only that gives everything it's value.
Heaven knows how to put a proper price on it's
goods; and it would be strange indeed if so
celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be
highly rated.
Thomas Paine 1776

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Life Goes On

Yesterday was simply stunning.
I woke this morning unsure of what to feel.  Truthfully?  I was angry.  There I said it.  What no one else really wants to say.  I almost feel as though time should stop as we let it sink in, what does this all mean?

But then...  
Fortunately the sun came out and that was the first glimmer of hope.  And I remembered we were made "for a time such as this".    A little bit later, I turned on Country Radio and they were actually playing a song.  Our children dressed and headed out to school, emails came flowing in (people still expect us to work!), I even saw the very same friendly faces I always see at the bank and the library as I headed out to run some errands.   

Life goes on.  In it's beautiful complexity and it's heartbreaks and glimmers of glory.  This is how I'm feeling as evening wanes and the sun sets on the day after.  I cannot waste my one wild & precious life on anger - no instead I plan to live.  Yes life goes on.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

For the Love of God (and I mean that in only the best way)

Let's see, I'm really not sure where to begin...
The story really starts years ago when I was a young mother with a two year old and a fussy infant (9 years ago to be precise).  There was the sweetest young girl who would love on my kiddos in the church nursery and she came home with me one memorable Sunday after service.  Our little one cried, no screamed all the way home (about 40 minutes in the car) which he normally did because he was not a fan of driving anywhere!

So she stole into my heart that day, just along for the ride, just getting to know us a little bit and us her.

Her family was in turmoil, in fact they are still in turmoil.  Early on I saw her older siblings floundering, my friend and I reached out to try and help (Leah and her husband were the youth leaders at our church at the time).  It seemed too late already (not that anyone was giving up).  This dear one (only about 13) still had shards of innocence left and I was desperate to save her (I know I'm not The Savior - but I thought maybe I could lead her there).  I remember saying to Leah I would take her right now if I could - we could stop the cycle, but we both knew her mother wasn't ready to consent to letting go of her "baby". Later her mother would ask me to let her live with us but my friend would choose not to because she was too deeply ensconced in her already crazy life.
Instead, she would come and stay a week here and there - we would feed her, love her, lecture her, laugh with her and end up losing her again and again.
She has battled uphill against poverty, against drugs, against authority, against both neglect and abuse.   She has been angry for a very long time.  She has seen too much, tried too hard and been let down too often.
Lately she has walked back in our door, plopped down in tears on my sofa with her own small girls at our feet.  I am once again desperate for answers to give.  It's not enough to give money - it doesn't get used well nor does it plug the hole.  It's not enough to feed and love them for a day and go on with life as usual.
That's why the posts about "going" FPFG has been giving are reaching into my soul.  If you haven't read them...please do.
I've been wondering beyond the immediate comforts we usually offer, a meal, some cash, love or even opportunities ... what is the key?  Are there ever any real answers that pull people out of their struggles?  That really lift them up?  What hope can I give her?  Is there any possible way to change the story before it reaches her girls?
Finally, someone has at least one answer called The Open Table.  I'm not sure it's for us but something like it might just work here.  So I'm pondering, what is the key to unlocking possibilities for my sweet friend and then others in similar circumstances.
It's not easy to put this story out for all to read.  It feels like a story of failure because there was no great rescue, there is no happy ending - yet.  It's personal to me and yet it's really not even my own story.  But SHE is not a failure.  She is trying hard, she is fighting, she loves her children and she works hard.      It seems to me I need to fill in the gaps.  Just like I do for my own didn't occur to me until recently that you don't have to legally "adopt" someone in order to have adopted them.  She fills a place in our hearts.
What else can I say?  I think I just spilled my thoughts, my heart and a bit of my soul on this page.
That's what I love about Flower Patch Farmgirl - she can be funny and make you think all at the same time!  Me?  Drama and deep words will have to do;)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Pumpkin Harvest Fall 2012

We planted our first pumpkin patch this year!  It was both a success and a, hmmm... learning experience?  This garden was primarily weeds until we smothered it in used chicken bedding and black plastic long enough to kill the weeds.  Then we removed the plastic and added nice new soil and compost.  After that I planted corn, beans and pumpkin seeds.   Like a Three Sisters Garden only there is a timing catch to that kind of plan I think.  Either that or the squash shouldn't be pumpkin vines which grew quickly and expansively and took over the whole patch.  There was no delicious corn to savor and no beans either.  But, we did harvest about 40 pumpkins in all sizes and several colors from our 16x16' space.  Having the patch was also fun for the children who spent time picking out their favorites and divvying up the bounty.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Potager & making old weed patches useful again

Here is a little corner of the potager with zucchini, potatoes, asparagus, beans & peas growing.  The large flowering plant in the back is celery from last year that has gone to seed - I'm going to try collecting and saving them even though they may be sterile.  They were from nursery starts last spring.  Even if they don't grow it was lovely to enjoy their seedheads in the garden while they lasted. I also have carrot seeds to save this year from last years remaining carrots - those will be good as they were from heirloom seeds to begin with.
Out of all my hobbies, potager gardening is by far my favorite!  I love the process of creating a beautiful garden that produces fresh delicious and nutritious produce to feed our family & friends.  It's so incredibly rewarding to eat what we have grown - even though I know I cannot take full credit.  It's up to the sun and the rain and the cycle of life that our creator so graciously lavishes upon the earth to sustain us and it! 
I also just planted a corn, bean & pumpkin patch in another garden area down by the pasture.  The corn was from starts (we got a late start) as we just finished preparing the ground - it used to be a weed patch after years of going to seed.  In order to make it useful again we cut the weeds down, layered old newspapers over the top, next I layered used chicken bedding and covered with black plastic.  We left the garden this way for about 3-4 months and then covered it with new top soil mixed with compost.  I have one more garden area that I am starting this same treatment on so that in the fall I can plant a cover crop and have it ready next spring hopefully. 
One of my goals with gardening is not spending much money on it.  We have chickens who provide fertilizer and straw to amend garden beds.  We also have lots of ashes from our wood stove, fireplace, barbecue & fire pit.  Another free amendment is used coffee grounds and tea leaves (I supplement by taking bags from Starbucks of their used coffee grounds since ours isn't enough).  Some of the neighbors save their newspapers for me too.  I'm learning to save seeds and I usually start most of the plants from seed directly into the garden.  It just doesn't make much sense to me to spend a lot of money on the garden since it doesn't take long before you could have bought all that produce much more cheaply!
My absolute favorite time of day is in the evening when the sun is starting to go down.  I wander down to the chicken coop to gather eggs, take food scraps & fill waters.  Then I make my way back up watering the gardens and checking to see how they grow.  It's quiet and peaceful and I feel alive and present in the moment.  I know, some garden experts say to water in the morning and sometimes I do but it's such a good way to wind down the day I can't stop myself! 
How does your garden grow?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Somewhat Summery Menu!

It's been a woeful situation here at meal time lately.  Not much happening - but, I've been noticing a buzz of summer -ish meals all around me and I think inspiration has finally struck.  For the record though - this is a half summer/half cozy up in your home menu really.  We don't have warm June days here in the PNW - they are little snippets of sun and lots of variations of cloudy with some drizzle.  So, hence the light comfort food!
Here is this week's menu (notice we have already begun so some have been made and others have not yet):
Monday - Maple Salmon & Stir-Fried Rice with Veggies
Tuesday - Caesar Salad with (leftover cooked) Salmon, Parmesan & Croutons
Wednesday - Fish Tacos with Pico de Gallo & Dill Sauce
Thursday - Light & Crispy Tuna Casserole
Friday - Avocado & Chicken Enchiladas

We have no idea what we are doing this weekend so I didn't plan that far ahead but I did buy all the ingredients for the above list and I am sure we will have leftovers!  Later I will post recipes and photos of our favorites! 

What's for dinner at your house?  Do tell!!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Inspired by...

I recently found myself smitten with the well-known blog soulemama and loved the way she presents her life in these snippets.  I thought I would try it myself!
listening... to the sound of my husband and children enjoying Nanna & Poppa who've come to town for a visit
eating... chinese food they brought to share
feeling... blessed that the warm sun came out to show her face today
working on... spring cleaning before summer commences!
loving... cuddling up my littlest one on my lap while I type because she's sleepy
appreciating... examples of other momma's loving their role and living it up
dreaming... of getting my studio set up to make soaps, melts & candles
plotting... a little weekend road trip to find the warmth and sunshine we've been craving
enjoying... that their only little for a little while
thinking... this is gonna be a busy week
planning... a summer full of adventure, nature and good books
creating... a new menu plan for meals
looking... for inspiration, always, it's how I get by in life!
treasuring... the way our little cozy yellow house welcomes us home and brightens even a grey day (or as it may be, many grey days in a row)
wishing... you a lovely week

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sweet & Simple

This is the mood I am in right now - trying to simplify and keep life sweeter!  My window boxes this year reflect this pursuit.  When I went shopping for flowers with my mom at our favorite nursery she was wondering "are you really sure you don't want to add in at least one pop of color?"  She is the queen of container gardening & she really knows how to put together the wow factor (as seen above) but working with my minimalist color palette is a new one for her.  Last year I at least let her add in blue with the greens, whites & yellows!  This year I wanted to streamline even further!  My daughter wonders if next year I'll opt for even less color - white & green and leave out the yellow!  Who knows?
We finally found the yellow and brown pansies in the middle to give the contrast that makes it "pop".  Isn't it funny we were able to find a non-color for my craving and still complete the look!  Anyway,
this is what is going on around our house - decluttering, giving away, striving for simplicity!
What is going on around your house?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Spring's Delights (in no particular order!)

1.  The way the sunlight comes in through the trees and dances on the new green leaves.
2.  Playing outside with the children all day long... catch, swings, batting, gardening, bikes and the park all in one long beautiful day!
3.  A winter garden becoming renewed with celery, artichokes, asparagus, carrots and one little lone beet that made it through our snow, ice & wind storms!
4.  Warmth - need I say more?
5.  The feeling at the end of the day that you worked so hard and have so much to show for it!
6.  Fruit trees in bloom!
7.  Projects on our home coming to completion!
8.  Gardening chores - can I call it a chore?  It's been so long since I've done any that it's all just fun!
9.  Our animals - kittens and dogs mainly frolicking in the yard around us while we play!
10.  Finding new baby birds in the same hole in the tire swing tree as last year - chirping away with their tiny mouths wide open!!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A measuring stick

I've been developing my own vision for what I expect for our children's education.  The main criteria in my eyes is joy of learning.  That will be the "measuring stick" for deciding what is working or isn't.  For instance, if public school is a joyful place where learning and thriving are taking place as in the case of our daughter Anna, then that is just the right choice for her to continue her education!

Here are a few more key elements for their proper development we have begun to implement:

1.  Nature study ~ that they may be in awe of the creator who created all things wondrously.  And, as a foundation for learning about science as Charlotte Mason suggests.

2.  Good literature ~ the classics and any work recognised for being exceptional.  To introduce ideas and knowledge - food for their minds.  To increase vocabulary and understanding about the world, history and social issues.

3.  Narration ~ to teach them about comprehension and how to form stories

4.  Scripture ~ not lessons out of curriculum but scriptures read and copied from the bible because it is a living word and they will learn to apply it with their own discernment

6.  History ~ I hope to encourage a view and knowledge of history that is sequential that they know the order of things and how we got to where we are at this point in history

5.  I believe we all have natural curiosity and desire to learn and our job as parents and educators is to promote it by making learning joyful - what is the use of joyless learning?  The only purpose I can see is to prepare children for joyless work.  But I believe we should all be able to find our natural talents and abilities to make our own mark on the world and when we have found our purpose there is much joy and fulfillment there!  So they need to be encouraged to follow their instincts and think outside of the box.

So many of these ideas come from Charlotte Mason and they resonate with me.  I hope to apply these concepts right along with whatever schooling we are doing.  Next year will look much the same as this year except that Anna will be in middle school and Carolyn will start preschool.  Every year we will evaluate our choices and decide how well everyone is doing! 

Education is an atmosphere, a discipline and a life. Charlotte Mason


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Climb every mountain

A dream that will need
All the love you can give,
Every day of your life
For as long as you live

My girls and I love The Sound of Music and we decided to watch it over the weekend.  As we were listening to the Reverend Mother sing to Maria "Climb Every Mountain" the words of this verse caught my attention for the first time as a mother.  I realized that our lives are meant to wear us out - we are meant to find a life for ourselves that require everything we have to give.  It was so inspiring!  I love how when we read or watch classics they always have something more to offer us. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

A new way to celebrate

Today is a celebratory day to be sure - Jesus is Risen!

I saw the message posted on many church signs we passed yet we didn't enter a church today, persay.   I recently stumbled upon this lovely quote by George Washington Carver "I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in." 

We didn't go in... no, we went out of doors today. 

We shared our own lesson of the Resurrection Story.  We went out into our neighborhood to clean up and share flowers with our community in celebration.  The "Easter Bunny" did not come for the first time in our family history but instead we shared what we could with others.  As a momma, I have watched the delight of chicks and bunnies crowd out the message of our servant Lord.  We have been missing something good in all the unnecessary "stuff" from before that we were able to take in today.  Blessed by a warm and bright sunny day and the ability to take our lessons out of doors - uncommon for April in the PNW! 

There is freedom in going your own way and joy to be found there.  Traditions can be good yet sometimes they can be remade into something better!  And isn't freedom the reason why he came!!

Friday, March 30, 2012

One foot in and one foot out

We have entered into the world of homeschooling slowly. 

One foot in and one foot out!

Since February one of my boys is home 3 days a week learning about Math, Geography, Writing, Reading, How Machines Work and more.  Since I didn't plan this from the beginning I am having to develop a vision for what I expect an education to look like for our children as I go along.

This is no easy task.  Especially with a mid-course direction change.  We have one child on the brink of middle school, one semi-homeschooling, one in 1st grade and another almost ready for preschool and with all I'm finding out about schooling vs. education - well, my head is simply swimming. 

A few things I can tell right away...

* When my child is struggling with a concept I can quickly see that a new approach is needed.  When he is excelling and a concept is already mastered we are able to bypass some of the repetition and gain ground also much more quickly.  As his momma I am able to focus on what needs attention right away instead of with school finding out much later from a progress report what is lacking. 

* "Schooling" is not the same as education.  I have only just started researching methods, theories and curriculum but one quote I found from Charlotte Mason is this:  "The question is not, - how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education - but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care?...and therefore how full is the life he has before him?"  I think this sums up what I hope for my children.  Curiosity that develops into a knowledge of history and of nature and of how everything is inter-related and connected.   Understanding and compassion of different cultures, social issues and how the world works...with all of it's goodness and imperfections - all of it!  Then of course finding their own purpose is the goal but I knew that part all along!

* Ignorance is bliss.  Self governing is very hard (as my friend Leah put it).  It would be much easier to continue sending my children off to public school and letting the National Education Board decide what an education is.  Or in a different light, it would be much easier to eat everything from everywhere buying right off the grocery aisles without considering things like local, organic, & fair trade instead of striving for eating locally and seasonally in order to better my community.   But one final and very important thing I've been learning is that community is what makes life beautiful, deeper and more meaningful.  Whether that means knowing the farmer that grew our grass-fed beef for dinner tonight (my lovely 80 something year old neighbor Betty)!  Or it may mean having our children home schooled so they can be part of our business (not as child labor, heaven forbid) to be present to learn the details about how business works and to be included in the adult world...  and much much more! 

So these are my thoughts so far on our new venture into homeschooling.  Next year has not been decided yet as there is so much to weigh.  I wish the answer was easy and obvious and laid out clearly before us but like all big and important things it's not and much deliberation is needed!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Thinking Local

Hi there!  Since spring has only started in the way that makes March weather completely unpredictable (including snow, hail, rain wind & sun in the same day) - I have done some more winter reading instead of the gardening I am dying to do!  I recently read two books about eating locally and living with less Year of Plenty and Plenty.  They have me pondering just how ridiculously complex our system is for the process of securing food for our family and farm animals such as chickens. 

Today I looked into making chicken feed from scratch to supplement our mostly free-ranging chickens diet.  They are full of ingredients that I don't even know how to get and many are certainly not local.  The whole idea of eating locally requires that we eat more whole foods, know where they come from and live without many modern conveniences (such as premixed, ground and bagged feed).  It would also require eating seasonally which is very uncommon and not so easily done!

I ran into a similar problem with making soap.  While it can be made with tallow from the local butcher and lye (you still have to order lye from somewhere else unless you want to get REALLY adventurous) and the end product is considered inferior by some and offensive to others (because it isn't vegetarian).   So many handmade soaps by local artisans are made with items shipped all over the place before they meet up and are made to saponify into a lovely soap product.  This is where the romantic in me idealizes that thoughts of going back to the olden days!  So in many ways simplifying isn't so.... simple. 

The reasons I am contemplating all of these ideas are many.  I desire to spend less money, live more simply, become a better steward of the resources we have, support local farms so they don't disappear, care lovingly for the creation all around me and become more self-sufficient.  Another big reason is I want to eat and feed my family real food.  Most of the food in the stores and even in our own cupboard has a long list of ingredients that I don't know and don't believe to be real food.  Then we attempt to eat more healthfully and have chickens that then require bags of food with ingredients I again don't recognize.... so it is a process of learning how far to go with these ideas.  We actually began eating many organic, whole grain and homegrown food years ago so it has been a process we've been at for awhile.  Still,there is much more to consider! 

Any thoughts on this subject would be welcomed! 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Looking ahead...

This one came home yesterday with a packet for MIDDLE SCHOOL!  Whew!  I just don't know how a momma readies her heart for these kinda changes!  I mean entering kindergarten as our oldest a mere 6 quick years back was hard enough!  But my girl?  She is so excited!  She is one to rise to a challenge and she looks forward to meeting new friends, gaining new experiences and growing up!  I love her confidence and her optimism and I hope it always lasts!  If they must grow up (and I'm told they must) then I guess I will let her!  I am thankful for the responsible and sensible girl she is and has always been so at least I can trust her to make good choices (for the most part) along the way!  Anna, you are a darling and a dear, I am prouder than proud to be your momma!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Stories Told

I've had my nose in books the last few weeks and I wanted to share my winter reading!  I have been pondering how in depth to pursue farm animals and gardening this spring considering the many other responsibilities under my care!  It's much easier to read someone else's farming adventures than trudge out into the rain and cold mucking stalls, milking and feeding every day!  The books I've read most recently are:

Homesteading in the 21st Century - How One Family Created a More Sustainable, Self-Sufficient, and Satisfying Life by Goerge Nash & Jane Waterman.


Growing a Farmer by Kurt Timmermeister

Both books are stories of farming with it's pleasures and trials written in a modest way.  I found many things I could relate to in our own story since we bought our home and humble 2 acres almost 7 years ago.  We have had chicks, a bull calf, goats, rabbits, a pony and a horse, kittens and dogs and children!  (but not all at the same time) Apparently there are more stories to tell about our own adventures up to this point!  I also thought they were realistic and very informational! 

The one called Growing a Farmer is about a farm on Vashon Island which isn't too far from where we live so it was easy to relate!  Also, I grew up visiting grandparents on Vashon and have fond memories on their 10 acre farm so that was a bonus! 

I do have one more book that I would like to read but I will need to order it first called Year of Plenty!  Since it's been too cold to get my hands dirty I have been satisfied with reading about it and dreaming!  Please do tell if you have other reading suggestions! 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Suddenly schooling

Well, let's just say there has been a bit of a mid-course direction change around here lately.  It started with all the missed school around the holidays and then during our recent winter storms really.  Then we had a boy on our hands who just couldn't seem to transition back into the school day.  A few tearful mornings on top of a few phone calls home from teacher gave us the clue that finally our son has had enough of the traditional classroom.

It has been 3 1/2 long years in coming to be honest.  Failure to thrive.  But not on the part of anyone in particular (and especially not our son) but more along the lines of the current popular method of schooling.  It just doesn't suit everyone.  In fact, I think there are many of us it doesn't suit very well.  Don't get me wrong, our daughter loves her school, is thriving and learning and is social as a bug.  But as wonderful as school is for some it is simply painful for others. 

And so I have a new job it seems!  I am a part time teacher now and we started just this week!   Don't I seem enthusiastic?  Well...

Truthfully, this is not the plan I would have chosen for myself.  This year I thought I would have 3 older children in school and one tiny darling little helper home with me.  I thought that my husbands untraditional work schedule would mean that I would have time to work on soap & candle making, time to volunteer, and a little time to myself.  Actually, he has worked more than ever and now I have a new role I didn't expect. 

It's not what I's taken a few days to get used to the idea...reframe my expectations.  Realize I am still much needed by the little people in our home. 

And of course then I remember this is absolutely part of the dreams I have for our family.  The hobby farming, the gardening and soap making and children raising and homeschooling are a beautiful fit in this country lifestyle we have chosen.  Most of all, it's the children who are the blessings that make everything else worthwhile.  So we will do whatever it takes to see them healthy, happy and thriving and we will in return be blessed beyond measure. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Old House Love

On nooks and crannies... I think the English have got this right.  In our old country cottage which was built in 1927 we have many interesting features.  Some may say they are drawbacks or quirks one deals with and tries to remedy.  While I happily feel they make our little house a home.  A list of my favorite old house quirks...

* an old brick chimney in our kitchen
* a miniature linen closet built into the hallway with a small cabinet door
* a tall thin built-in bookcase on the landing on the upper floor
* a pixie sized attic door leading from the girls room into the south attic disguised with little shelving for special little girl displays
* another door in the boys room leading to the north attic (note: large attics with easy accessibility is definately another old house charm)
* a vanity in the master bedrooms closet (okay this one isn't my favorite, for one the vanity isn't pretty and for two even I would prefer a seperate bathroom from my closet)  or we could just pretend it's a dreamy "ladies dressing room" and then maybe it will seem more desirable
* a secret reading nook in the basement under the stairs

These are just a few of the little details that offer up the charm that drew me in the first place.  It's funny though sometimes I see new houses with all their gleaming shiny and convenient features and think I must be crazy.  It just takes a little while to settle back in at home and then I remember it's the imperfections that enable me to relax, cozy up with my family and not sweat all the living we do here. I don't worry about wear and tear because use and age is what makes it more beautiful!

What about you?  Old house love or all new?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


For a very long time I've been drawn to anything having to do with herbs... growing, cooking and creating with them.  Since I became interested in gardening as a young wife (with our first home) and started growing things from seeds (because it was what I could afford) I have always had herbs in my garden.  Even before that while I took some massage therapy courses I also dabbled in arometherapy. 
So as I began soul searching for a new sense of direction recently, I wanted to use what has already been established in my life.  My gardens and love for all things creamy and herbal.  And so soap! 
I have been dabbling and trying out recipes and combinations.  I have done oodles of research on packaging ideas, labels, ingredients, formulas, suppliers and such.  And finally, now it is time for
a place to be, my own studio.

In the place our office now resides there is the potential for a new place to create! Tucked conveniently between our kitchen and potager is a room that has struggled to find her best purpose until now! 

Here are some of the items I plan to use:
2 lovely stainless steel tables in the middle with caster wheels, shelves below &
mismatched stools all around
(I wish I had a photo but they aren't set up yet)
a chandelier from pottery barn glowing prettily overhead
simple open shelving above with mixing utensils, jars & the like
(no toaster but the rest can stay!)
And voila! 
Not only are soaps pretty but they are oh so practical too!  I am looking forward to getting set up so that I have more space to work in.  Just another month or two and we should be able to move some things around and create the space I'm dreaming of!  Not only do I plan on working in the studio but I also look forward to the day when I can pass on what I have learned in some workshops.  I would love to teach young women just starting out in life not only the practical skill of soap making but also some of the concepts of entreprenuership too.  I love being part of our community which is a small farming town.

The Boys

While the girls are away the boys will play!  They didn't catch much but look at the sunshine and clear skies in mid-January!  Just a little glimpse into the calm before the storm that recently overtook our area for 8 very loooooong days!  So glad to see normal Pacific NW rains today (who says that?!)

About Me

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wife & mother of 4 beautiful children, 2 girls & 2 boys. small business co-owner; catering and a restaurant/alehouse, writer, gardener, lover of freedom and humility found in christ, small town enthusiast, book reader, admirer of noble truths, beauty and love