Friday, September 19, 2014

Cabbages and Kindergarteners

Last week, we started our year of kindergarten. Yes, it's at home, and we've already been homeschooling for a year, so I didn't really think it was going to feel like a big deal to me so I was surprised how sentimental I felt about it.

I abandoned the theme thing that we were doing last year in favor of a more flexible approach, sometimes I had great ideas, or he got interested in things that didn't fit into the theme, so they got overlooked or just didn't get as much energy as they could have.

One of the big focuses right now is practicing lower case letters and learning name writing.

Chobie stamped out his name in letters.

And of course, we have been doing crafts and handwork.

In the spirit of the changing season and the continued harvest, we found this giant cabbage at the farmer's market. We'll be making sauerkraut soon.

Yes, that is a regular sized egg.

This last week has been really fun, since we've been getting ready and making decorations for Chobie's birthday party that's coming up this weekend. More on that to come.

How are things going getting back into your fall routines? 

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Fire Safety and Preparedness

Welcome to the September 2014 Natural Living Blog Carnival: Family Preparedness. This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Natural Living Blog Carnival hosted by Happy Mothering and the Green Moms Network. Since September is National Preparedness month, our members are talking about family preparedness this month. Be sure to visit all of the posts listed at the bottom of mine to get ideas on how your family can be more prepared for a potential disaster or emergency.
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Chobie’s enthusiasm for playing fire fighter, inspired by his papa’s graduation from fire academy, has gotten me thinking about fire preparedness in our home. We all know about “Stop, drop, and roll!”and having a fire escape plan that we’ve discussed with our kids, but what about fire prevention strategies? 

As it turns out my crunchy home furnishing choices have advantages for our family besides aesthetic appeal and being non-toxic. One of the less-often discussed aspects of natural material products in the home, compared with synthetics, is their fire resistance. Natural materials like wood, wool and even cotton naturally burn less readily and quickly compared with synthetics, even those that have been soaked in carcinogenic flame retardants. This is part of what inspired our switch from synthetic couches to a wood futon with a cotton mattress. 

Besides natural fiber furniture, snug fitting cotton pajamas are a natural alternative to synthetic pajamas with flame retardants, as many of us already know.

Our fire prevention strategies:

  • Safe storage of fire-making materials (matches, lighters, etc.)
  • Fire extinguishers near the wood stove
  • Favoring natural fiber home furnishings and bedding
  • Cotton pajamas 

To be prepared for a house fire you can also:

  • Check smoke detectors regularly
  • Have a fire escape plan that you have practiced, with a designated safe place to meet outside
  • Keep fire escape ladders in upstairs windows
  • Talk to kids about how to use 9-1-1 in an emergency

What do you do with your family to prevent or prepare for fires?

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Visit Happy Mothering and to learn more about participating in next month’s Natural Living Blog Carnival! Please take some time to enjoy the posts our other carnival participants have contributed:

Saturday, September 6, 2014


Despite my best intentions to take a moment to share some photos of our stacks (and stacks, and stacks) of boxes on the blog that have occupied every waking moment of time during the last couple of weeks, I'm just now getting around to posting. 

We have moved and unpacked the essentials.

I've been using the excuse that I haven't had time because I've been busy with other responsibilities in my life, which is mostly true. The first eight weeks of kindergarten have officially been planned! We're due to start next Monday, so this weekend's major goal is to get all the homeschool stuff unpacked and organized.

Meanwhile, here are a few sneaky peeks at our new place...

 In the yonder woodlands there lies a little creek for splashing and playing where the salmon run and river otters also play...Hooray!

The house itself is an old 40's farm house that has been redone with all kinds of cute and whimsical details like the spiral above...
...and special even littler details like this little green man hiding in the corner.

  The house also has lots of built in storage, which I love. This is a corner of the room that will be the office/homeschool/project zone. Likely where I will be spending most of my time.

 How about these wine crate shelves in the kitchen?

Cast iron match holder by the wood-stove.

Our new chicken coop and tiny flock of chickens. I took this pic on our way out to feed the chickens.

Here is most of our flock, enjoying their breakfast. 

The future site of our food production (or at least some of it) and our winter garden. 

More woodland views.

And finally, this enchanted little spot for gnomes and fairies and toddlers to roam.  It is underneath an enromous mulberry tree. No not mulberry bush, mulberry tree. I was thinking that this would be a cute place for a fairy garden.

We've got a bit of space here, I'd say enough to officially drop the idea of "urban" from my homesteading pursuits. If you've been a long time follower of Handmade Life, or if you've taken the time to snoop around the archives, then you'll know that this family has mostly lived rurally and that last year we did a bit of urban living. Our new place is definately rural, but it's close enough into town that I still feel like I'm practically in town, like getting groceries is not a major excursion like it has been in the past.

Anyway, I'm so happy to be here with littles and critters roaming around this beautiful place. Hopefully we can finish the unpacking in time for homeschool to start on Monday!

How are your end of summer transitions going? 

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Harvest Time Begins

I like to maintain that it is still summer until fall equinox, meaning there's almost a month of summer remaining. Harvest time is usually synonymous with fall, meaning that so many of the things I planned for this summer (like my homeschool planning) are still undone as the days grow shorter. Whether I'm ready or not, our harvest season is beginning.

Remember those potatoes I planted inside of the wire cylinders?

We just dug them out.
Such good colors.

During the past few weeks, while things have been relatively quiet on this blog, we've also had a couple of good opportunities to visit a local blueberry farm and do some picking.

I've added an epic blueberry patch to the list of essentials for my dream homestead.

What have you been harvesting this summer? 

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Friday, August 22, 2014

Summer Learning: Our Trip to the Science Center

Even in the midst of the moving extravaganza, I'm a sucker for the science center. And when my sister called and offered to take us, I decided it was worth it to squeeze it in between filling boxes, yard work, and deep cleaning (not to mention planning chores and thinking about meal planning).

Homeschooling has been very minimal, as in occasional book reading and math games. There have been quite a few birthday parties and other special occasions in the last few weeks too, so a day of hands on learning at the science center was just what our homeschool life needed.

Bee saw some bigger kids moving this giant granite sphere, so he had to try too. The ball has a constant flow of water underneath it, so there is no friction, making it possible to move the four-thousand-pound object relatively easily. I'm not sure that Bee picked up on all that. 

Both of these little people love music (and already show a natural level of musical ability that I have yet to be able to cultivate in all of my years) so they had a good time with the music and sound area.

 Bee found another opportunity to explore friction, static electricity and gravity.

Woah! What's that crazy glowing thing with with all of those gears? Nothing terribly practical, just part of the steam-punk inspired sleep exhibit. 

We had some fun with proportions with this double sized dining table and chair set.

The children made friends with this giant caterpillar statue...

...and helped their Aunt Joy figure out how to put these insect puzzles together. What would she have done without them?

Also enjoyed but not pictured were the enormous cockroaches, various beetles, and naked mole rats, all of whom sparked my morbid curiosity enough to cause me to stare for an extended period, but neglect to take pictures. The children were less interested.

While I've been busy planning, listing and charting other aspects of my life, I've seriously neglected homeschool planning for next year. I had imagined myself working on it all summer and having enough time to dig up the best of the best in online homeschooling resources and delving into the pile of homeschool related books I have...unfortunately the reality has been that deciding to move again has thrown those plans out the window, along with my aspirations for a staycation and refreshing parenting-reflection at home retreat.

I guess it's just time to get busy...I mean busier.

How has summer learning been for you? What are your homeschool plans or domestic organization plans for this year?

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Grocery Savings and Meal Planning

I can't even count the number of times I've clicked on an article, or picked up a book, promising to teach me all of the secrets I need to cut my grocery bill in half, only to be disappointed. The tips tell me to use coupons to buy processed "foods" and buy discount low-quality factory farmed meats to save big. Ugh. I pretty much stopped looking for grocery savings tips and resigned myself to spend an enormous portion of our income on groceries to eat well.

As I mentioned in my last post about cleaning, fall time, combined with the fact that we're moving has heightened my enthusiasm in the domestic sphere. I've been meaning to revive my existing menu plans to better mesh with our gluten-free and fewer grains style of eating that we've gradually adopted in my family since I orginally made these menu plans last fall.

Only I've been dreading it, because somehow, the act of officially changing our meal plans will make it real that our grocery bill is SO EXPENSIVE.

That is until, I discovered the Grocery Savings Made Simple course, which is all about saving money on groceries while eating real food, including a lot of high quality protein from pasture raised animals. It's an e-course that starts September 2nd, you can find more information about it here, and also get a free download of one of the grocery saving prinables. I've had the chance to talk with the course creator, Shannon, who blogs at Growing Slower and preview some of the course material and I can tell you that I can't wait to learn more about her grocery savings system and implement it in our family. It's all about real strategies that I already use, like buying in bulk and cooking from scratch, but how to get organized with it and do it smarter.

I'm signed up, and if you sign up before August 26th, there is a special pay what you can option. I have to say that I think this is so awesome on Shannon's behalf to recognize that the families who need this information the most will have the hardest time paying. I know that a lot of us blogging mamas out there are trying to help support our families by sharing our creativity and expertise through our blogs, so being paid for our work is important. That makes the reduced rate for this course a really generous move and honestly, I'm impressed.

Time to get it together on grocery savings and have a meal planning revival! Ahhh, I love my autumn organizing and planning spree.

Note: I am receiving a free pass to the e-course in exchange for my honest review and social media promotion of the course. The opinions stated in this post are my own.

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Fabulously Fresh and Clean Chores Checklist with Free Printables

I know. It's supposed to be spring cleaning, but something about autumn approaching gets me jazzed for a household deep cleaning renewal, along with all of the vows to myself to never let it get messy or dirty again.

Yes, I know what you're thinking, with two young children in the house, this is an extreme position to be taking. And maybe that's the point, cleaning binges drive me to the extreme. That's one reason why I've taken the time to create my epic cleaning schedule.

In the busy, ever so demanding world of mommyhood, it's an attainable way to create the solace of a clean and orderly home. It breaks up the compulsive cleaning into manageable sections you can do each day.

In other words, this is my method for achieving the housewife's ultimate dream: a clean home

...while still having enough time in the day to take care of other responsibilities and enjoying life. Since adopting this cleaning routine, even cleaning has become more enjoyable since I'm not driven to a manic state by the overwhelming expectation that I will get it all done today.

The chores schedule is actually broken down like this:
  • Daily Chores: a list of essential chores that get done each day to keep the house functional and keep clutter levels down. These are the ones that get done every day, even when I don't have time or energy for cleaning.
  • Chores for Each Day of the Week: deep cleaning certain parts of the house each day. If one of these gets skipped for a week, I know I'll come back to in next week...which keeps me out of panic when I get to the next day of cleaning.
  • Monthly Chores: take care of all of those areas that are too easy for busy mamas to forget about for months at a time, on a rotating basis.
  • Seasonal Chores: things to do each season to keep the home orderly and free of clutter. 
  • Semi-Annual Chores and Annual Chores: minor DIY repairs and home maintenance.
 I have two lists: one is the master list with all the chores from daily to annual, and the other is a checklist that you can hang in an inconspicuous place to keep track of the daily chores and monthly chores. And there's even a section for kids' chores.

These chore lists have inside and outside chores, along with basic household management tasks, so nothing important gets overlooked.

Get the complete list and the daily checklist. There are plenty of blanks so you can customize according to your needs. You can take a look at my complete list to get an idea of what kinds of things you might want to fill in the blanks with to make the list as detailed as you need.

With this list our houses will sparkle and we'll be calm and collected cleaners, or at least we'll have a solid plan for how that will theoretically take place to carry us beyond the urge to binge clean.

What kind of cleaning schedule has worked for you? 

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