Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Great Whole Foods

I had a mom in one of our homeschool groups email a wonderful link to me today and I wanted to spread the love.

This is a WONDERFUL, FREE, whole foods recipe collection that is geared towards breakfasts and lunches. The recipes look great and all of them are written with an eye towards getting less processed and more whole foods into our kids (and ourselves, lol!) And most recipes have substitution ideas for dairy-, gluten-, and nut-free diets.

The e-book is in easy-to-use PDF format and was put together by Alisa at One Frugal Foodie. She gathered recipes from favorite food bloggers and added some of her own. It is great, great, great food love!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

New Look

Well, since this blog is becoming a sewing blog (when it is anything at all, that is), I decided to go with a new quilting look. Tell me what you think!!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Barbie's New Togs

I have a six year old daughter that likes pink and dressing up and shoes and dolls. Therefore, I have Barbies in the house. I know some parents have issues with Barbie, and we are not completely happy with her ourselves. But I think that with a few house rules, she is harmless.

Our house rules include keeping a tight reign on the types of clothes that she is allowed to wear. I truly believe that my daughter's playthings should reflect the type of woman that I would want her to be. Playing is, after all, practice for life. So nothing revealing, nothing that is questionably motivated (i.e.-"sexy" nurses or lingerie). Nothing that I wouldn't want my daughter herself wearing, either now or in the future as a young woman.

And this rule can be hard to enforce. If you have seen the Barbie aisle in the store nowadays, you know what I mean.We are pretty much limited to the "princess" style dolls, and even those can walk the line. Add to that well-meaning relatives that see Barbie and think "perfect easy gift" and we have quite a few dolls that come to our house needing new clothes.

Luckily, Mama loves to sew, and she especially loves to sew doll clothes!


My "new" favorite for Barbie clothes are the Advance patterns from the early sixties. These patterns were made to be sewn by little girls themselves, so they are a great place to start if you are new to sewing and garment construction. (on a side note, doll clothes are always a great place to start if you want to get your feet wet with sewing. You can learn a lot of basics that translate straight to human-sized garments. Plus, if you mess up, you've only ruined 1/4 yard of material, lol!)

The earliest patterns are just known by the letters A,B,C,D,and E(E is for Ken)and are surprisingly easy to find. Within one day of discovering the existence of these patterns, I found A,B, and a partial C in a set on eBay for less than $6.00. There are also companies online that sell reprints for slightly more, if you don't have the patience to wait.


The clothes below came from these two, patterns A and B.




I'm on the lookout for a complete C, because Sydney is wanting some wedding dresses.



Recently, I have made the Sundress and Coat from Group A and the Ice Skating "sport" outfit from Group B.



Very 50's style with the circle skirt and and attached shorts and ponytail.And yes, those are paperclip ice skates. The plastic blades broke off twenty minutes after we brought them home. Sydney says she likes these even better because they leave "figure eight" marks in the aluminum foil pond we made for the dolls to skate on, lol.


I got the wool for this coat from a thrift store "power suit" skirt. Which brings me to another reason I like making doll clothes; because the needed yardage is so small, you can work with some really incredible (read: expensive) fabrics that you wouldn't normally buy in large quantities. I also like to comb the Goodwill racks and find human clothes in natural fabrics that can be re purposed.

The Sundress is very fun. With a built-in petticoat, you get the big poofy skirt that my daughter loves, and it looks cute made up in lots of different fabrics. This is one of about twenty different quilting cottons that we bought at the local fabric store for $.99 a yard.



And something else that is very cool. Every dress and skirt pattern comes with a pattern for making matching panties, lol. I really do love these patterns!



One thing to keep in mind,these patterns were made for the "old style" Barbie body, so if you are fitting dolls made after 2000, the clothes may fit a little differently. I've had no major problems though. Just "fit" the clothes on the doll before deciding where to sew on snaps.

I can't recommend these patterns enough. They are fun and easy, even a beginner sempstress could make a whole outfit in about an hour or so. They are definitely worth looking up!

Easter Dress

At the risk of this becoming a craft blog, here is the dress that I made for my daughter for Easter. I just whipped up a quick jumper-style, because you never know what the weather will bring on Easter around here. This way, we can throw on a short sleeves or long sleeves or no sleeves at all, and we are covered.



And you will only get a back view. I can't get my reluctant model to pose for me today.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Yet Another Clothing Mod

I'm still sewing up a storm and I thought I'd show you all my latest clothing alteration.

My poor daughter is built much like me. Cute as a button, but round in the middle. Which means that today's kids fashions designed for thin-waisted waifs do not work. Especially when the only difference between a 4/5 and a 10/12 is 3 inches in length.

And that truly doesn't break my heart, because much of what is in the store is not what I would consider appropriate clothing for a little girl anyway, but it does leave Mama getting creative when the need for new clothes arrives.

So enter my latest fix: the side gore.


First, we begin with a knit shirt (even better if it is a 90% clearance shirt, lol).




Then we find a complimenting fabric (here I used the sleeves from a shirt that was too small). One note, if you are new to sewing, it's best to use knits with knits, and wovens with wovens. The two don't mix very well.




Cut two long-sided triangles that will reach from the underarm seam to the hem of your shirt, with a little left over to turn up and match the shirt's hem.
 




Using a seam ripper, undo the side seams from the hem to the underarm. Sew the triangle into place. If you are blessed with a serger, here is the place to use it. If not, use a wide zig-zag stitch that will allow the seam to stretch as the shirt stretches. Then turn up the excess to match the existing hem.





And there you have it. A cute, swing-style top suitable for comfortable, modest play and ease of motion.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Masterpiece Classics

I'm not a big TV watcher.

In fact, we've lived in this house for nearly two years and have never bothered to get cable. I love it, but my husband not so much. Sydney makes do with PBS and I am grateful every day that we don't have to contend with the constant barrage of commercials and licensed products.

But every winter, the television event of the year (in my book, at least) begins. I look forward to it with great anticipation. I start checking PBS's schedule in the fall, hoping to catch a glimpse of what's to come.

Masterpiece Classics


Oh how I love costume dramas. Their "Jane Eyre" is one of my favorite movies. Last year's "Little Dorrit" was excellent. It also doesn't hurt that they have done quite a bit of Jane Austen in recent years.

And this year it's "Emma"

And I am in love.

This is such a good adaptation. I tend to collect Austen adaptations. I think that I have seen every Jane Austen inspired movie that is available here in the states. And truly, Hollywood never holds a candle to the fullness and thoroughness of a job done by the Masterpiece Theater crew. This year's "Emma" is a gem. I cannot wait for part three this Sunday night.

Right now, you can watch the first two parts online.


Psst-

Don't miss "Northanger Abbey" and "Persuasion" later this winter. They are also worth the watch!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Socks! Socks! Socks!

My newly organized sewing room has me revved up and sewing away. I have several projects ready to show you guys and I can't wait to finish more!

Today's project was inspired by Disney over at Ruffles & Stuff. Oh my, do I love this blog. Disney is a wonder at reconstructing clothing. And the pink! Oh the pink!


So here goes:

Knee Socks From Tights

Sydney wears a lot of dresses and jumpers, and here in the chilly north, that means lots of thick cotton tights. And as anyone who deals with tights knows, they aren't always the most comfortable things to wear when you are an active little girl. Half of your day can be spent hauling the waistband up with both hands and scratching in less than polite places while in public (much to Mommy's chagrin, lol). Plus, heavy tights can be pretty pricey, and as with all children's clothes, they grow out of them faster than you would like. So a solution; turn them into knee socks!

This pleases Mom because she gets more life out of an item and it pleases Sydney because knee socks are infinitely less baby-ish than tights (so she tells me).

Supplies You Need



A pair of tights
1/4" wide elastic, or whatever will comfortably hold up your socks

Step one



Have the owner try on the tights and mark, with a safety pin, where you need to cut them off, remembering to leave enough extra to fold over and cover the elastic.


Step Two




Cut off the tights at your mark. (Whew! This is a tough project!)
On a side note, I highly recommend trying this the first time with a pair of striped tights. They have built in measuring marks!



Step Three



Wrap the elastic around the calf (or thigh, if you are doing over-the-knee socks like these)and decide how long of a piece you need. You want it snug enough to hold up the sock but not too tight.You also want to leave a small amount for seaming the ends. Overlap the ends and sew with a wide zig-zag stitch, making a loop.


Step Four



Place the loop inside the top of one stocking and fold over to cover. This is where you would use pins and measuring if you were a good, non-lazy sewer.

I am neither of those things.

It is important that you use a zig-zag stitch here, so that it can stretch with the fabric. A straight stitch will snap the first time that your child puts on the socks. Use a fairly long and medium spaced stitch, and sew along the open edge, folding as you go. Be sure to catch the elastic in the stitch, so that it doesn't roll or bunch up in the wash.

When you are finished, it should look like this:



only, less blurry.

Repeat steps three and four to complete the second sock.


And there you have it:




Socks instead of tights. If you take a look at Disney's blog, you will see that there are all sorts of cute little embellishments that you can add to make them extra adorable, but because the tops of these will never be seen in public after this photo (not on my watch anyway), I didn't bother. I have a few ideas about some shorter socks and bows, but that will be for another post.

Friday, January 29, 2010

"You have died of dysentery"

Does any one remember "Oregon Trail"? Stocking your wagon, hunting bison, snakebites, funerals, oxen floating away at river crossings?

Classic.

I LOVED this game when I was in school. (who am I kidding, I'd love to play it now)There was something so satisfying about this game, not to mention that I was extremely nerdy (I still am) and did crazy flips for anything that remotely involved American history (I still do).

So, what does a nearly forty (!!) year old game have to do with my day to day life as a still too nerdy housewife? Easy!

Pantry stocking!

Three or four times a year we make a trek to the large Amish area in our state to pick up baking and pantry supplies. Steering away from the most tourist filled places, we shop at stores that the Amish themselves frequent, guaranteeing that we get very affordable prices and good quality products. But because we only go a few times a year, my shopping list looks like a packing list for someone making a cross-country wagon trip, lol.


Shannon's Oregon Trail Shopping List

10 lbs. Bacon
5 lbs. Rye Flour
10 lbs. Cake Flour
20 lbs. Whole Wheat Flour
1/2lbs. Baking Powder
1/4lbs. Thyme, Poppy Seeds, No-Salt Seasoning, Vegetable Flakes, Caraway Seed


We loaded everything in the 'wagon' and headed home.

And spent the next two days trying to find places to store 40 lbs. of goods, lol!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ta-Da!

I can sew.

I love to sew.

I have everything I need to churn out clothing for my whole family.

And yet I never sew.


This is why:



I have no room. Everything pertaining to sewing and my crafting in general gets thrown into this corner of the office, because it really doesn't have a proper home. And every time I feel inspired to sew, I look at this mess and promptly change my mind.

This pile not only contains my sewing machine, but fabric, patterns, a weaving loom, yarn, needles, crochet hooks, magazines, ribbon,and is that a beach ball? Goodness sakes!


So I "Did Something" about the mess.

And now:




What a change!

And I liked it so well that I bought a second shelf for the other side of the window.



This is now my favorite room! I love working in here. And my daughter's desk is near enough that I can work while she is busy with school work. I has made me so productive. I'm on a roll!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Day Two- Breads

It seems as if most of my holiday/party recipes are of the peripheral/side dish variety. Easy to transport and not so important that they would be missed. This is mostly due to the fact that I am low man on the totem pole, so to speak, when it comes to holiday entertaining. There are many relatives older than me who must die before I'm allowed to host a holiday dinner. Not that I am wishing them away, but by the time I am allowed to cook Thanksgiving Dinner, I will be so old that I won't even remember what turkey is supposed to taste like, let alone how to cook it.

Which brings us to my favorite "buffet bread" recipe. Though to call it a recipe is rather generous.


Sweet or Savory Danish/Appetizers


Take a package of refrigerated crescent roll dough (or you can use those nifty little sheets that they make now), and open it but do not unroll (so you have a little log of dough). Slice into 6 to 8 rounds (depending on your application) and lay them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Use your thumbs to make indentations in the center of the cinnamon-roll shaped rounds.

And here is where the fun begins.

Fill each indentation with the filling of your choice. Need an easy morning danish? Add your favorite fruit pie filling and drizzle with an easy icing sugar glaze when they come out of the oven. Need a tasty hot appetizer? Fill with a little cooked sausage and a sprinkle of cheese and red pepper. Your imagination can be as free as it likes. Only two rules; one, make sure the filling is cooked. No raw meats or veggies. And two, make sure it can stand up to the heat of the oven. So, traditional chocolate custard pie is out, but maybe you could tweak it a little and make some tasty fudge centers. The sky is the limit.

Bake the rounds at the temp directed on the package and remove when they are golden brown. The filling you choose will affect the cooking time. Also, the thicker your slices, the more "bread-like" your finished product will be(no kidding !?!). So for danish, a little thicker, but if you want a nice crispy platform for say ham or mini pizza, thinner is better.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Holiday Recipes

Today is Day 1 of Julie Mom's Holiday Recipe Party, and I am SOOOOOOOO excited! Day 1 is Main Dishes and my recipe is not for the "Big Day" per se, but for those days surrounding the holiday that may pose a different culinary challenge.

This is what I call a 'Pantry Meal'. It's one of those dishes that I always have the ingredients on hand. You can take the sausage straight from freezer to skillet and ditto for the cheeses. Add an easy garden salad and some frozen garlic bread and you have dinner for six adults. If you want to up the veggie content you can add green peppers, onion, zucchini, or mushrooms. Anything that you like in lasagna, you will like here.

My One-Pot Oh-My-Goodness-My-House-Is-Full-Of-People-And-I-Forgot-To-Take-Something-Out-Of-The-Freezer Lasagna


1 lb. Shaped Whole Wheat Pasta (Penne, Farfalle, or Rotini)
1 lb. Ground Italian Sausage
1 quart of Your Favorite Tomato Paste Sauce
1/2 cup Pepperoni
1/2 cup Shredded Mozzarella
1/4 cup Grated Parmesan


Cook pasta according to directions, drain, and return to pot. Simultaneously, brown sausage in med. skillet. Once pasta is back in the pot, add sausage, pepperoni,and sauce. Mix thoroughly. Add cheeses and mix again. Serve with grated Parmesan and Red Pepper Flakes.


Come back tomorrow and every day this week for more recipe fun.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Early Christmas Gifts

I've just returned from a short visit with my sister, who lives in Georgia. Sydney and I went alone, and my poor husband had to rough it on pizza and his mother's delicious home cooking while we were gone. Poor Baby, lol!

But now we are back, and I was greeted with an early Christmas surprise.

Chickens!

I've wanted chickens for ages. I'm not sure why. I just love the idea of having my own little backyard flock. And now that we live in the "country", I've been lobbying hard to make those dreams a reality. My husband, being the loving wonder that he is, has rolled his eyes and humored me.

So now I have a little chicken coop and three fat beauties.

And eggs!

We've gotten two eggs so far. Aren't they gorgeous?!




I would show you pictures of the girls themselves, but the little darlings/demon spawn are cooped up for a few days, until they learn to roost here in their new home.

And by the way, if you were driving past my house this morning about 7:00 AM and saw me flapping round in my pink nightgown, trying to get my new chickens into their coop after their return from being away all night, I offer my apologies. No one should have to see such things

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Untold Secret of Christopher Columbus

This is what happens when you have a princess/ballet crazed five-year old in your house. She automatically sees a tutu and sparkles.



Poor Chris. Nice gams though.


I guess this also explains the very fashionable sails.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ouch.

Note to all of you homemakers out there:

If you are putting up some seasonal produce and it includes peppers,
wear gloves.

No matter how hard or often you scrub your hands, there will still be hot pepper oils under your nails that will inevitably find their way to your eyes.


The 10 pints of salsa and 3 pints of relish are a happy sight though.


Or would be if I could see through my stinging eyes.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Tomatoes


I had written off my tomatoes this year. The horn worms wanted them, the slugs wanted them, and I am a squeamish pest battler to say the least. I figured that though my vines were prolific, I just couldn't keep the pests at bay without spraying all sorts of chemicals.

Add to that the fact that we only had 3 days this summer when the temperature rose above the 90 degree mark. We just hadn't had enough sun to ripen them properly.

Imagine my surprise tonight when I was on my way out to the compost pile and noticed quite a bit of red peeking through the jungle that had developed when the pole beans decided that the huge tomato vines would make a good trellis.

Tomatoes!

Ripe Tomatoes!

Piles of Tomatoes.

Sydney and I filled three dutch ovens and my biggest colander with plum, cherry and a few globe tomatoes. She kept saying "It's a tomato fiesta!".

I'll have enough for 9 pints of salsa and 4 or 5 quarts of sauce. I can taste it already.

I almost hate to eat those beauties above because they are so perfect!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

No Shampoo

Lest my friends think I am insane, here is a little explanation post that was sparked by a comment that I left on another blog.



All my life I have had straight hair. Super straight hair. Hair so straight that I have had perms that lasted less than twenty four hours. So straight that for high school prom, the beauty shop slicked my whole head with gel, wrapped my hair in curlers, and baked it under the dryers. I had the lovely, high-piled, curly up-do that was all the rage then, but my hair was as hard as a rock. Completely stiff. It took five washings to return it to normal.

So, as anyone with straight hair can tell you, I have always had a struggle with hair products. Almost anything (that I am willing to pay for) weighs down straight hair. Even the wrong kind of shampoo can leave your hair stringy and lifeless. This has led to a lifetime of less-than-enthusiastic hair care. Why bother when no matter what you do, it looks the same.

But...

About a year ago, I had someone suggest to me that I stop using shampoo altogether. After I looked at them like they were crazy, I did a little research and found out that my friend was not as crazy as I thought. So a new regimen was born (and has continued).

So here's what I do:

For my "shampoo"
I mix one tablespoon of baking soda/bicarb with one cup of warm water.

The ratio is important. If you want to mix more at a time, you can, but just keep that 1T to 1C ratio. I use a whole cup when I wash my hair, but I have long hair (four or five inches past my shoulders), you may not need as much. Too much baking soda/bicarb and you will have crispy, dry hair. Too much water and it may not clean effectively.

For my "conditioner":
I mix one to two tablespoons of vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar)to one cup of warm water.
(I actually make a double batch because I find that I need more for rinsing my long hair)


I mix this up fresh every time I wash my hair. It only takes a few seconds. But if you want to mix up more and keep it in bottles in your bathroom, just follow the ratios and you'll be fine.



So I wet my hair thoroughly and pour the soda mixture over my scalp a little at a time gently working it in as you go.

This is the part that may throw some of you because there is no lather. We have been conditioned to think that foamy bubbles=clean. But trust me it is working.

I let it stand for about a minute and the rinse out with cool water, completely flooding your scalp. Don't skimp on the rinsing. I made that mistake once after I had been doing this for a few months and afterward my scalp was so itchy that I though I was having an allergic reaction, lol! (the vinegar also helps with this because it neutralizes the soda)

After my hair is well rinsed, I pour on the vinegar mixture, and massage into my scalp. Let stand for one or two minutes. Then rinse with cool water.

Towel dry and you are done.


A few notes:

Cool water is important. It calms your scalp and is nicer to your hair than hot water. I normally wash my hair in water that I would consider too cold for a shower, wrap my head in a towel, then crank on the hot and finish my shower.

There is an adjustment period. Your hair has to "detox", especially if you use a lot of product. For about a week or two, you find your hair feels or acts different. The same is true if you are traveling and the water has different mineral content, so be aware. I'm not talking "Bride of Frankenstein" different, just a difference in texture and touch.

If you use styling products (i.e.-hairspray, mousse, gel) you should comb out your hair before washing. It helps to loosen the gunk and allow the soda to do it's thing.

This will make your hair clean. Literally "squeaky" clean. I find myself going longer and longer between actual washings. At this point I only actually wash my hair two times a week with warm water rinses whenever I shower in between to remove dust and dirt.

Yes, in the shower, your hair smells like vinegar, and I know that this is a smell that most people don't like. But it fades as soon as your hair is dry, I promise. Your hair will smell like clean hair, which is to say, like nothing. No perfumes or scents. If you like a little "smelly" for your hair you can add a few drops of essential oil to the rinse. Lavender and citrus are nice, Tea Tree can even help with dandruff and scalp issues. I've even used Vanilla extract. Experiment.



Why this works:

Traditional shampoo is a detergent. So, by it's very nature it strips your hair of everything, both good and bad. That's why we need conditioner; to put back all of the natural oils that the shampoo stripped away. That is also why your hair gets greasy. Your scalp is trying to compensate for all of the missing natural oils.

Baking soda/Bicarb doesn't do that. It removes the dirt and debris and leaves your hair and it's oils alone to do their own thing. The vinegar makes your hair shiny and soft, while also neutralizing the soda.



So there it is. My foray into the "crunchy" hippie lifestyle. I love it. My hair has never been healthier or shinier. It actually has body and doesn't go flat two hours after I leave the bathroom.

And the icing on the cake?

IT IS CHEAP!!!

Here the Midwest US the supplies cost me about six cents a wash, and they keep on the shelf indefinitely. Take that, $35 dollar bottle of shampoo!!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Firehouse Tour



Now you know why I post so rarely.

We're always on a field trip, lol!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Field Trip!

Scenes from a recent field trip to a local airport. Although, it's only technically an airport. It has a runway and hangars, and a few die hard local pilots; and that's about it.

But the kids had such a good time. They even got some pilots together to take off and land every five minutes or so while the kids were out by the runway. It was magical!





Monday, May 11, 2009

Pita- The Recipe

Heavens! I didn't even think of giving you all the recipe!

I originally found my recipe here at The Fresh Loaf.

And let me tell you, if you are interested in baking your own bread, of any kind, this is the place for you. Along with recipes and tutorials, they have a forum where people just like you have made the same mistakes that you have made and they discuss how you can fix it. It's kinda like having an experienced bread baking mentor right there in your computer.

I've done things a little differently though.

I use 1 1/2 cups AP Flour and 1 1/2 cups Whole Wheat Flour. I add my honey and warm water together, then bloom the yeast in the resulting mixture. And the biggest change, I cook mine in a very hot cast iron skillet instead of in the oven.

The rising time is much shorter than conventional bread (I can do a whole batch, start to finish, in under two hours) and I actually split my dough into 12 pieces, instead of 8, because we use them for sandwiches. In fact, this is the only bread that I bake some weeks, lol!

Enjoy!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Pita



My very homely but oh-so-delicious homemade pita bread. I can't believe I ever bought this stuff ready-made. It's so easy to make and so much more tasty than store-bought. The whole house is addicted. Sydda even eats it plain!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Picture Post

A little pictorial evidence of what we have been up to lately.



My new pantry shelves. A huge improvement over what I had before.And I even have an empty shelf left!


Our raised beds. The green that you can see in this photo has already doubled, even though this was only taken two days ago. Way in the back you can see my new compost bin. A lovely custom design that takes advantage of the giant slope that is our yard.


The inaugural load of wash hanging on my new clothes lines.

The last board being nailed in place on the new bridge. And..


Ta Da! All done.
Everything pictured so far was built and designed by my husband. And not only that, everything except the pantry shelf was made from repurposed materials, so the costs were minimal. Sometimes it's like I live with this magical genii. All I have to do is ask and POOF, he creates it! I'm so blessed!


And finally, the lovely view of God's handiwork that the last few days of warm weather have made possible. I love opening the curtains in the morning!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Productive


Oh April, how you tease!

Today it is grey and rainy. After a lovely weekend of working outside and our first sunburns of the year, we are once again stuck inside. But we have been busy.

My husband is constructing a bridge to cross the little stream at the bottom of our hill. Now we will be able to take better advantage of the rest of our property.

The raised beds are constructed and cold-weather lovers planted. We should see the peas, spinach, and lettuce poking their heads up soon with all of this rain.

My tomatoes, peppers, and marigolds are flourishing in our livingroom window. I love the big southern-facing windows that are in our main room! I use them for so many things.

My ever-continuing home bread experiments are going well. Although, the lack of sun today has led me to find an alternative heat source for my rising dough. I'm giving my crock pot a try. I placed three drinking glasses inside the heating element, turned on low without the crock, and placed my loaf on a plate balanced on the glasses. It seems to have worked very well, and the loaf just came out of the oven looking beautiful.

My handy husband is also midway in building a new set of shelves for my pantry. All of my cans, bags, and boxes have been moved and dusted in anticipation of their new home.


I guess that we have been productive enough to make up for our rain delay.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Man's Best Friend?

The drive home from church today found me, as it usually does, chatting with my daughter about her Sunday School lesson. With this being Palm Sunday, I was pretty sure what to expect.


Me: So what was your lesson about today?

Sydda: Um... I don't remember. (also usual, lol.)

M: Did you do anything special today? (I knew they were supposed to have a "Palm Parade")

S: Yeah.

M: Like...?

S: Um... Oh! We talked about Jesus riding into town on a dog.

M: A dog?!

S: Yeah, a dog.

M: Do you mean a donkey?

S: No mom. A dog. (said with her best teenage disdain)

M: Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.

S: No, I'm pretty sure that my teacher said a dog. And everybody shouted
something at Jesus and threw down their plants.


M: Oh? They threw down their plants?

S: Yeah, and shouted something... I can't remember.

M: Hosanna?

S: Yeah! That was it!

M: Sweetie?

S: Yeah?

M: Jesus rode a donkey, not a dog.

S: ...

S: Oh.



And then ensued a discussion of the Palm Sunday story. It's funny how mishearing a word can change your whole perspective of a story, lol.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Clean Home Carnival

I haven't posted since President's Day?!

Goodness!


Well, today should be entertaining anyway.

My friend-for-oh-so-long, juliemom, is hosting a jumpstart to spring/fall cleaning on her website today. And here is my contribution.

First, let's start with an exerpt from a letter that I sent to juliemom a few weeks ago.


"...I also wanted to tell you that the Lord used you and your pots as a wake-up call today.

We have been living the 'drop-it-and-run' lifestyle lately. It's seems as if I am never home, running from playdate to program and my home has been suffering. It's been making me feel restless but I just kept telling myself that I was too busy and there was no helping it. And I've been noticing that look in Brian's eye, the one that says "you are dropping the ball around here, but I'm not going to say anything
because you will just snap at me and tell me how hard you work everyday and that I just don't understand". I HATE that look, mostly because it is perfectly justified and I don't like having my shortcomings as a wife and mother pointed out to me.

I've been praying for peace about my running around and half-finished tasks, knowing full well that the unease I've been feeling is straight from God. It's so strong that I can almost literally hear Him speaking. "You are not doing this the right way. Your job is to nurture your family and teach your child, not play keep-up with the other homeschoolers. I gave you Brian and Sydney to care for, not to ignore and blame. Slow down and do what you know is right. Stop this busy-ness. It's not what you need or want."

But, as per usual when I'm feeling chastised, I played dumb and and ignored the wisdom being sent my way. All the while, praying for a change.

And, as per usual, God gave me exactly what I needed. A good swift kick in the behind. Well, actually, the ankle.

As I was running around today, desperately dashing in from a shopping trip, trying to come up with something for lunch in the hour before Brian had to leave for work (because I have been too busy to do my meal planning lately), Sydda asked for a glass of water. My first reaction was annoyance, "Why does she always want something from me when I am my busiest?". So I half-stomped into the kitchen peeved and distracted "Why do I never have enough time!", and... I fell over a can of paint. (Paint that my husband was nice enough to go and pick up for me so that I could finally finish my part of the bathroom refurb that was begun over a month ago (because I was too busy to pick up the paint or to do the actual painting)). And when I say fell, I mean FELL, arms windmilling, body twisting, frantic grabbing for anything within reach, and a mighty crash.

Sydney came running in from the living room, asking if I was alright. I sent her out to the garage for Brian, thinking that by the feel of it, my ankle was broken. I crawled over to the cupboards and propped myself up, pulling off my sock and trying to catch my breath. The ankle was already purple, the faint outline of the can's handle bail showing in the bruise. I was sore and embarrassed at my lack of gracefulness, seething at one more thing making me run behind.

Brian came in, took a look at the ankle and deposited me on the couch with some ice and assurances that he would order a pizza for lunch. I was told to sit and rest. "Oh great! Just what I needed. Yet another delay in my already busy day. I don't have time to just sit around." But I sat and rested as I was told, for really the first time in two weeks. And that's when I noticed it... my house...

MY HOUSE IS A COMPLETE WRECK!!!!!

It looked as if no one had really cleaned in weeks. Sydney's copywork on the whiteboard were the same words that we had worked on two weeks ago. There were Valentines and envelopes still stacked all over the coffee table. A mountain of library books were piled on the floor near "my end" of the sofa, unread and over due, even though we make two trips to the library a week. The dust was thick on the TV and stand, and Sydney had drawn pictures in it. The carpet was so covered with crumbs and hair that I can't believe we were brave enough to walk on it barefoot! Truly disgusting!

And now, I was stuck on the couch and could do nothing about it! Great!

But then I realized, at the rate I had been running around, I probably wouldn't have noticed the extent of the mess until we were about to have company. Which, with Brian's schedule, wouldn't have been for another month. I would have continued to plow my way through the house only picking up what was necessary to keep us from tripping (ha ha) because I was too busy.

Well, since I had all this time on my hands and I was feeling guilty about the state of affairs, did I pray and ask for guidance? Was I grateful for the situation being brought to my attention? Of course not. I picked up my computer and proceeded to ignore and squash down my feelings. Hiding in my email inbox and my blogroll list. I wasn't about to admit that this was a message created especially for me, as an answer to my prayers and guidance as to the way I knew I should go. A forced slowing so that I could actually see the damage I was doing to my husband, daughter, and home.

Ignore it and it will go away.

But God is ever patient and persistent. And He knows that it takes a few beatings over the head sometimes to get me to listen.

Here is where you come in. Browsing around, I came upon your half-hour pot scrubbing pictures and I was inspired by your Spring/Fall cleaning. (kudos by the way, your pot looked spectacular!) There are no such things as coincidences. God was not allowing me to mentally run away and forget. ("Look! I will not let you brush this off yet again.") Your post reminded me of why I was so uneasy with the state of affairs around here. Why it bothers me so much that we run, run, run and never get anything accomplished.

God was saying, "Remember, you enjoy being a wife and mother. You enjoy serving your family. All of this other stuff is just busy-work created by the world and yourself. That is why you are so unhappy and unfulfilled. Because running around and ignoring your home and family is not my plan for you or for wives and mothers anywhere. You know this is true. Wake up. Pay attention"

And so I woke up.

Brian had taken Sydda outside to play, so I was alone. I had a good pray-n-cry, felt my conviction renewed, and started to make a list.

So thank you. Thank you for the reminder, even though that's not what you meant it to be. God did. Also thank you for being there for me to send this ridiculous ramble to. Your friendship to me over the years has meant so much.

And here is where I need to ask you for one more thing. I need someone to be accountable to. I know myself and all of this new conviction can fade very easily if I don't have someone checking in on me. I am planning on taking a whole batch of 'before' pictures first thing in the morning and I'd like to send them to you. You can just ignore them if you like, but I'll send them on anyway. As I finish, I'll be sending you 'after' pictures. I've given myself a week to deal with the actual "dirt" and two weeks for the clutter. Also, I have decided to cut any and all playdates, homeschool outings, and out-of-the-house lessons to two days a week. This includes library trips. If we can't do it in those two days, we are too busy. I need to schedule home time much more than yet another playdate. This is actually perfect timing (is God awesome or what?) because it is time to renew a few of our commitments, and I plan to drop them cold turkey. I would like things to be running smoothly again by Easter, so here goes..."




Reading over that letter, I am reminded again of how really desperate I was feeling, but, out of a misplaced sense of obligation to my daughter's "education" I was ignoring the feelings. I am now happy to report that things are running more smoothly.

I managed to get everything major done in one week, with just a few organizational projects left (pantry, I'm looking at you). Of course, scheduling a Mom's Night get together at my house helped to keep my conviction running high. And also a renewed desire to have my daughter learn more about helping around the house has given us both a reason to clean and enjoy it.

So, here are a few before and after photos for your entertainment...

Our living/diningroom before






And after...





My office before...





And after...



And the project that has had the most impact on my daily life,

The Homeschool Closet!

Before...



After...




Mostly, things have stayed under control. I have noticed a few areas that tend to collect stuff (mainly my desk) that I have to be extra vigilant about keeping clean. All in all, it's been a much happier home for all of us.

I think the biggest help has been actually staying at home. I've made good on my plans to keep all homeschool/play running down to two days a week. It has made for a much calmer and more productive week.

So, there it is, my mess and recovery. It feels wonderful to have a neater and more organized home. If you are feeling inspired, go on over to juliemom's blog and leave a link to a story and some pictures of your own.

Happy Cleaning!