Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My Garden Grows

I realized I haven't posted much about my garden since we had the influx of aphids. So, here is one. As far as I can tell, the ladybugs did the trick. I haven't seen damage in the garden. The weather has been consistently getting warmer, a sure sign those hot summers are quickly round the bend. The strawberries and broccoli are loving the weather.

Which means I think I might even get in a small harvest fairly soon. Though I have to look up the correct time to harvest broccoli, some has gone to flower so I think I messed up... The blueberries aren't ripening as quickly as I think they should so there's another thing on the list to check. Perhaps they'd do well with some sort of fertlizer? or not?

These are the zucchini I started from seeds. They're doing really well. Again, a lot of hope that I'll be shopping for produce in my front yard in the next few months.

The new tomato plants are flowering and this one has some little guys already. They're really close to the ground though so I'm a little concerned they won't make it. The three tomato plants really, really, really love the bunny poop I've been shoveling around them every other week or so. Duncan's earning his keep. Speaking of the bunny, he's getting a shave as soon as I work up the nerve to do it. soon.

The fig has new growth as do the romaine. The lower right corner is the size I bought them at (why those two aren't thriving I'm not sure. Again, mental note to check that.).

Speaking of growth (the segues just keep a'comin'!) Leeloo is getting huge. Well, huge for a puppy. When we got her the last weekend in February she was about eight pounds. Now she's about thirteen. Using a Tonka Truck as reference (is there any better way?) here are her before and now.

And just because this isn't loaded with enough photos...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I got an Award and so did they

This has taken me forever to post. It's not that I've forgotten, I haven't but somehow it just didn't make it to a post yet. Christephie over at Sprouting Flowers nominated me for a Kreativ Blogger "award" back in February.  Getting this notice in my comments (getting comments makes me giddy) made me really happy. It's nice to be noticed for my small contribution to the internet ether.

I've read some stuff online of other people recieving this nomination, mostly people feel this is a "chain letter' type thing. The rules for the initial recipients could make it seem that way, I suppose. Except there is no dire warning or empty promise of luck or love attached if you fail to follow through. In all honesty, I could have accepted the acknowledgment with a tip of the hat and merrily went on my way. One of the reasons I haven't posted this yet was because I didn't know what I was going to do with it. Nominate or not? Walk away with a smile that someone likes me (they really like me!) or lead on with the trend and show others I really like them?

To me, this is a "pay it forward" type of thing. Like giving someone a hug and they hug another in return. Or paying for the guy behind you in the toll booth. Just a little random act of kindness that doesn't cost anymore than a few minutes of my time. I'm all for kindness.

So, without further explaination, here are four blogs I nominate for Kreativ Blogger and why. (in no particular order)

1. A Mountain Hearth - for her incredible nature themed crafts
2. Mystic Orb - for their amazing woodworking skills and homesteading handicrafts
3. Trina's Doings - for her inspiration and tutorials and her super cute quilts
4. Twenty-one Tomatoes - for her food, her sewing, her gardening and her many thumbs-ups

There are many others out there that inspire and stir me. You've not been forgotten and your blogs are not any less important to me. To those that have been nominated this round (if I get it again by some happenstance, I'll choose four new blogs), and want to play along, just right click on the photo above and save to your computer.

Monday, March 29, 2010

At a Completely Different Beach

Saturday I was grouchy. Really, incredibly grouchy. I didn't get to the projects I had wanted, the kids were making a huge mess, not listening to anything I said, fighting and driving me bananas. Rob took far longer at the junk yard that either of us expected, though by now I should know that a "quick trip to get this one thing" will be a six hour adventure. By the time I did get out I had only enough time to get groceries and look for something at Ikea (which I didn't find). I took Emmy, which tends to add to my "quick trip" by about two hours.

So, yesterday, through a wild comedy of errors, we ended up at the beach with our bikes. Well, most of our bikes. The weather was just how I liked it: overcast, windy and cool but not cold. I'm not really a beach person (even if my actions over the past three days say different) I'm not one for suntans and seaweed. I can do without lying in the hot lick of the sun, where the white sands reflect the light in a headache inducing blindness. I don't do volleyball, surfing or swimming. I think that last one is really what makes me beach-phobic. I have wee ones. None of us swim. That's a dangerous combination when in close proximity to large masses of water.

But yesterday, well, yesterday was one of those little jewels of beach time.

The water was too cold to go out far, just a quick splashing of ankles and knees before retreating back to the tide line, which relieved much of my water fears. For living in Florida for more than two-thirds of my life, I've rarely visited the beaches, which makes up a big part of the sights of the state. I actually had to call Rob to find a beach Friday. And found out it was less than fifteen minutes from my house.  Pathetic, I know.

The beach was ripe with shells. The girls and I went hunting for perfect mermaid ones.

Even though, at this beach, the sand was more gritty and rife tiny shell shards, we got to dig and play. Max loves dirt. He's the quintessential boy. I even got a photo of me.

We got rained out after only about an hour and a half but it was enough. We biked back to the car down the trail which was significantly harder than the ride in. Pulling seventy or so pounds of kid on a bike is hard. Especially, when you're out of shape. I could have complained and moaned and been irritated we spent so much money on something that wasn't very much fun (for me, at least) but I didn't. I firmed my resolve to just get better and maybe, if we can have more days like this, try not to hate the beach quite so much.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

At The Beach

Yesterday I took the kids to the beach for a photo shoot. I bought a newPentax K-x a month or so ago and part of me negotiating the purchase was talk of never having to go to Picture People again. A process that is frustrating, annoying and irritating. And expensive.

So, yesterday I packed up my gang all clad in matching outfits and headed out to snap some shots of them. We first tried the park but I was unhappy with that location so we headed over to Clearwater Beach. It's a really pretty beach.

The only problem I had was that everyone was so much more interested in the beach than sitting still for me to take photos of them. Which resulted in lots of action shots and lots of pictures of the backs of their heads.

Here are a few of my favorite shots. In no particular order. The quality could be better, I know but I'm learning.

One thing you can't get at a studio shoot: An amazing backdrop.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Chocolate Covered Homeschool

There are a few lessons we do in homeschooling where I think to myself "I wish school was like this all the time." This week was like that.

This week was chocolate week.

It started a few weeks ago with Alex reading Roald Dahl's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" aloud to me. It's thirty chapters and took us about 2 weeks on and off reading two to four chapters a day depending on length. He's seven, so I try not to push too hard. We pulled out words we didn't know and looked them up. (vocabulary). We talked about behaivors and following rules. (character development). We finished up the book earlier this week. (literature, phonics and reading comprehension)

Then we got to watch Gene Wilder's magnificent performance as Willy Wonka (sorry Johnny, he's just such a better Wonka). (art, music and theater plus a discussion on book adaptations)

Then we read DK's "The Story of Chocolate" which was really quite informative, even for me. (reading, history and science!) Though I have to admit a serious contemplation of growing our own cacao trees occured while reading this book. We also read Curious George and a lighter science based book to the smaller kids to get them in on the action.

Then the most wonderful thing happened. We made chocolates. (science and cooking) But not just any chocolates, no! We made them from cocao butter, cocoa powder and powdered sugar. We got to feel, taste and smell real beans. The kids had to read an analog thermometer for correct termperance (science and math).

And then, we ate a bunch of chocolate.

Homeschool never tasted so good. Well, those cupcakes were pretty tasty too.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Morning Epiphany

This morning I was awakened to a loud purr coming out of a cold, wet nose sniffing in my ear. The almost painful motion of Molly massaging her kneed into my ribs. The sharp nip of her claws just slightly uncomfortable. Molly is not a touchy-feely cat. I tensed, waiting for the moment she remembered this and attacked me for being so uncouth. But she didn't. 

Tentatively, I reached up to scratch her between the ears. She responded, rubbing her head in my hand. Her purring loud and encouraging. But Molly can purr and attack and not blink an eye over the mixed message. So, gently and cautiously I rubbed on. Moments turned to minutes and soon she was like liquid in my hand. I smiled at the hitched noise of her love, grumbling in her purr box.

While this kitty-love-fest was occuring in the early morning hours I took the time to really think about what this means.

Molly can be gruff, aloof and sometimes downright nasty. But this morning she was asking for love. Reaching out to me when I'm most vunerable. I redoubled my rubbing efforts, thinking she's surely changed! My lovable kitten is back.

I wondered how many people I know that I have lost relationships with, taking their gruffness personally. Perhaps, all they needed was to see me vunerable, see that I too am human, that I have the same problems and give them love and kindness when they open themselves up to me in the smallest of ways instead of pushing them aside remembering the times when they were rude or mean to me. Using their past behaivor as punishment instead of forgiving and loving in the moment. Scratching under her chin I thought, "Perhaps, the world would be such a better place if we could all learn this huge lesson of forgiveness."

And then I stroked my hand down her body and to her tail and realized it wasn't Molly at all. It was Hiro.

Perhaps, it's a lesson well learned anyway.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Nutrition Smarts

To those of you that read my blog and don't have kids -or maybe have a squeamish tummy- I apologize for yesterday's post. But that's life with kids. That's my life with kids. Two things this blog is about. I'm happy to say that I think the worst is over and thanks to those that sent well wishes. All of this brings me to a subject I've been dealing with for many years, even before kids.


It's such a vital, integral part of our short time surviving on this big ball and something highly neglected. There are many sides to the food debate, meat or no meat, animal products or not, organic or doesn't matter, farm raised or styrofoam packed. I don't have an answer to what you should do. I can only work towards what is good for us, what we feel comfortable and secure doing. Be it eat meat or not, or any of the other questions being posed at the time.

Back in my youth I was a vegetarian for about six years. It initially started as a "fuck you" to my mom, just one more teenaged thing I could do to piss her off. My family ate meat daily. Sometimes multiple times a day. Sometimes for every meal. I didn't like it. I was forced to eat it if I didn't want to. Made to sit at the table until all the grisly pieces were ingested. But, not truly knowing what vegetarianism was, how to do it or having a very valid reason for doing it to begin with, I was a very bad vegetarian.

I ate carbs and nothing else, really. I hated onions, peppers, squash. I despised celery, lettuce and eggplant. Nary a mushroom would pass these lips! Then I got pregnant and my body screamed for MEAT! So my carnivorous days began again. But I was a bad carnivore too.

Fast food, processed meats loaded with salts and "flavorings", adding meat to dishes just because it had a slot on the pyramid. I didn't know what I was doing was wrong. TV, billboards, media as a whole, bogged me down with false promises of healthy eating for me and my kids with very little thought towards what it was exactly we were ingesting. I'm slowly pulling myself out of the fray, slowly trying to find my balance.

Over the past year or more I've been trying to find a balance in my life as a whole. Where new meets old. Where technology has a place right next to old fashioned. A peaceful marriage between parts of my world that have fallen out of sync. Food is a huge portion of that. It gives me the energy to persue the things I want, to keep us from being sick or better able to fight illness. Over the weekend we ate crappy food. Fast, easy and loaded with garbage -one meal would probably not ever decompose. I felt sick after eating it too after so long away from food I used to eat multiple times a week. No wonder we fell ill to whatever we picked up! If our food makes us sick how could we prevent true illness?

Living in the city gives us lots of options but it also limits them too. There aren't a wide variety of suburban farms at the ready to sell us the freshest food we could get. Though there is a plethora of restaraunts at the ready to serve us a quick dish. It's a major reason I want to be a farmer and to move into the country. So I can walk out my door, head over to a cow I raised from a babe, that's been free feeding in our clover and relieve her of some milk. Then to the chickens for a few eggs, the garden or greenhouse for a pepper and tomato and a few leaves of basil. Gives "vine ripe" a completely new meaning. And while I'm scrambling up that breakfast for my bairn, I know every ingredient has been created under the best circumstances, using the best available methods and can't really get any fresher. I can't get that kind of guarantee from the grocery store. I can't get that kind of satisfaction out of my life if I just went shopping for it.

So, for today I'll try to do my best with what I have. I might not do it right all the time but I'm trying. Trying to create nourishing food for my family that might not be "convienient", might not be the easiest, but are the best I can give.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Pulling out all the stops

It started last night. A child crying in the darkness. Her parents rushing to her side trying to figure out what was wrong with the wee one. A child crying at night is never a good sign and we take these things seriously in our house. With soothing words we tried to calm little Emmy, who is almost three, back to the comfort of slumber but alas, the rancid smell of vomit wafted up to us. Poor Emmy is sick.

We cleaned her bed. We cleaned her. We cleaned me, the floor, the bathroom and gathered up towels and a vomit bucket. I grabbed my pillow and nestled next to her on a sea of towels hoping she wasn't really sick. That maybe, just maybe, it was a fluke thing. Something she ate.

Twenty minutes later Cordelia started vomiting.

Then the diarreah started.

All night long both girls took turns rushing to the bathroom and getting wiped with a cool cloth. I don't resent them for my lack of sleep, the odd smell of vomit in places it shouldn't be, or the mound of laundry I have waiting for it's turn in the washer. I just want my babies better. I want them loud and crazy, bouncing off the walls no matter how many times, when they are well, that my sanity is streched towards breaking with their rambuncious behaivor. These despondent flacid lumps on the towel lined couch strategically positioned towards their vomit buckets while watching Ponyo aren't my babies. Not the way they should be.

My heart hurts seeing them struggle with how their bodies expell the illness. I want to take away the pain, make it my own and never have to see them hurt again. I want to go lie with them on the couch, soothing their aches and providing them with at least the smallest measure of comfort I can give. But I can't.

There are three other kids that aren't sick to care for. Even though I woke up with a runny nose and red, itchy eyes, I've popped a benedryl and am carrying on. I'm writing to you with my fishbowl coke-bottle thick glasses on (though stylish they may be) because my eyes can't stand contacts right now. I'm trying not to analyze every twinge in my gut that might signal that I'm falling to the tummy bug. Rob, on the other hand, didn't get by so lucky. He's sick too but is still trudging through it, the soilder that he is, and heading off to work.

Wish me luck today as I pull out all the stops. Every trick I've stashed in my mommy handbag over the past eight years will be getting a workout. I'm hoping this is just a twenty-four hour thing. Max was sick on the way home from the land. We thought it was just car sickness but perhaps he was the precursor to last nights events. God only knows what we picked up in the hotel room. Maybe, it'll run it's course with us four and leave the oldest two alone. Maybe it won't be as bad as it could get. Maybe.

Monday, March 22, 2010

I need help

For all of you readers, I need a little help. I have seemed to have created two blogs, which, at their births were independent of each other. But as, we move forward with our dreams of moving to a farm, I'm caught with an issue: updating two blogs with virtually the same information.

Both blogs have followers. Albiet, not that many but I do want to be conciencious of those that are interested in our little lives over here. I don't want to shut one down, focusing primarily on the other. I'd like to somehow merge the two. I just don't know how.

So for the help I'm in need of, if anyone can suggest ways to merge them into one new one, possibly with an archives to the other blogs which I will keep open, or transfer the posts to a new one I'm all ears and open to any ideas.

Friday, March 19, 2010

On the Morrow

We'll be rolling out of here early in the AM. Dropping off the dog, packing up the car and heading North to our land. Saturday will be filled with car rides, a trip even further North to check out some sheds, then a night in one room of a hotel. Sunday we'll be meeting a guy to mow the land, plotting where we're going to put stuff and heading back. It's a three hour drive. One way. Monday I'll be back with photos and news. See you next week!

Feeling Sew Sew

Lately, just about every blog post has been about homeschooling or homesteading. Both of which are admirable and enjoyable but not all I'm about. I have crafting in my heart. More accurately: Sewing. Its ingrained, its part of my DNA. I think if I was X-Rayed they'd find 100% cotton multipurpose thread blocking an artery. But I've become wayward with my passion and recently started feeling sew sew.

I want to create again. I want to see the product of hours of work. I want to have fat cuddly babies nestled in plush quilts that I made.

What spurred on this sudden need for pins, rotary cutters and see through rulers? I saw my cousin's fat, cuddly, cute-as-can-be newborn baby nestled in a plush quilt I made. It fed my addiction. I want more. More babies, more plush, more cuddles. My own babies are getting a bit too big for the crib sized quilts I enjoy making. I need to find other babies to force my quilts on. Strongarm their mama's into cuddling them in cottony goodness.

*One adorable baby

The fabric is there, calling to me. Asking me, pleading to be one of the chosen to have the opportunity to rub up against silk soft baby skin. I walk past my machine every day, multiple times a day and get the craving to just sit down and sew.

But life isn't that easy or that accomodating. For now, I have to be content with what I have and that is very little time for sewing persuits. Very little room when I do get the chance. And very loud fabric calling to my addiction.

*Photos courtsey of my cousin up in New Hampshire and her adorable baby girl who happens to be in an outfit that matches her blankie :)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

My relatives must have been Irish

Ever since forever I've had a lusting for Ireland. The accent, traditional clothes, food, sheep, rolling hills, thick wool sweaters, dimly lit pubs and rainy days. When I was a tween I had a crush on an Irish boy named Billy, he didn't have an accent though. I even thought myself a sports fan* of who else but Notre Dame.  I can't watch an Irish movie (OMG! I love "Once") without wanting to hop on a plane. I think sometimes my relatives must be Irish. At least one had to be for me to have this odd craving for a land I've never seen. If someone came up to me and said "Hey, here's a house and a job but you have to move to the Emerald Isle." I'd be packing boxes before the words left that strangers lips. Yeah, it's a little odd.

So, I tend to get all excited when St. Patrick's Day rolls around. Up until now I've hidden it really well.

Yesterday morning I woke up to the wafting smell of corned beef, potatoes and cabbage slow cooking their way to dinnertime. (I had the foresight to make the meal the night before, go me!) I made the kids dress in green. Then had the inspiration of making green chocolate chip waffles.

At lunch we headed outside with our St. Patrick's printed worksheets (again, thanks to Enchanted Learning) after reading St. Patrick's Day book (isbn 0-8234-1173-7 $6.95). The book has a Legends about St. Patrick section where the kids read about different things. One being St. Patrick and the Poision. The legend states, in a very simplified way, that a wizard tried to kill St. Patrick by putting poison in his drink. St. Patrick turned it to ice and dumped it out. Here's an excerpt from the following conversation:

Me- Do you think legends are real?
Alex - Probably not. People like to make up stories about stuff that isn't true.
Me - Do you think St. Patrick could have turned the poison into ice?
Alex- Well, the wizard could have.

So, there you have it. The legends about St. Patrick aren't real but wizards are. Oh, I love my kids.

We talked more, we colored some, we ate sammies of green bread, almond butter and honey.

We hunted for shamrocks in the yard, of which we have an alarming amount.

Then the healthy (well, except for the green food coloring) lunch was topped off with green frosted cupcakes. The "frosted" and "cupcakes" are two separate links to the BEST EVER recipes for chocolate sheet cake and frosting made with flour. Yes, you heard right, flour. And regular granulated sugar, not powdered. It's magnificent and I ate four too many of them yesterday.

I imagine everywhere on St. Patrick's day, in color-coordinated Ireland, everyone busts out the green food coloring, creating food that might look a little "off" (see green pancakes above) and it's not just a silly thing that American's have done to sterotype an entire island nation. Though if you're Irish and completely apalled by my celebratory actions, please feel free to *gently* enlighten me in the comments section. And if you could somehow do it in an Irish accent, all the better.

*I am not and will never be "a sports fan" of really anything, ever. Except maybe sheep shearing or pie eating. Those are sports, right?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Another Constant Reminder

I printed out photos of our property through Snapfish to post around the house. Visitors might think it odd to have such a picturesque landscape scotch taped to the bathroom window and the kitchen cabinet but it's our way of reminding ourselves what's important.

Sometimes it's easy to get caught up in the rush of life. The very real needs and wants of seven people can override the dreams we share. I see these when I'm getting ready to go to the store. It helps me to remember what we're supposed to be doing. To keep us on track.

I see these and I think "Maybe we don't really need all those groceries...", "Maybe we shouldn't go to both stores." A tiny, gentle, yet poignant way to tell myself to stop unnecessary spending. Money is the key to our dream. Even if we get things recycled, second hand or flat out used, chances are they're not going to be free. Though we can hope, we're realistic too. From what I've read about others building their own homes mortgage free and by their own hands, everything you think costs one price is usually double and takes twice as long to do.

I can accept that and I can work towards being finacially okay with it too.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Lesson in Ladybirds

One of the things I'm still learning, four years into homeschooling, is how to take life and make a lesson out of it. You would think that merging home and school would be easy, it's called homeschool isn't it? But detaching from traditional teaching methods imbued into my soul as a young child is not. I'm slowly relearning while I teach.

A few posts ago I wrote about our aphid issue in the garden. I had the epiphany, while searching for live ladybugs on Amazon, to go ahead and order a few early elementary level science books to go along with them. Then I went to Enchanted Learning -the best site for printables- and printed out coloring pages on a ladybugs lifecycle.

I'd like to think that these past four years that is how I've done things; relating learning and projects to real life situations. Unfortunately, this has been a hard lesson for me to learn. I struggled for years trying to fit in what was on the list for a particular grade/age of a particular child based on public school requirements* and still be able to bake, change diapers, play with the kids, clean, grocery shop, get oil changes, do laundry, garden, drop off donations and the million other things that make up my day while still wedging in a slice of time for personal goals, college and projects. And maybe even get in a shower. School isn't about what you do in life, it's what you learn in books, right?

Throwing a stick in the cog of my mental processes, I headed outside. Crayons, printables, books and ladybugs in hand. We sat, we read, we colored and we learned. We released our ladybirds and watched excitedly as they explored the garden.

Then we sat at our gorgeous new picnic table. In the beautiful cool morning breeze we colored our books and learned about how ladybugs live.

I even learned some things I hadn't known about these marvelous benefactors to my garden. While we were doing this, Max was doing this...

We were careful not to squish any as we watched them run around, fly away and um...feverously mate all over my vegetables. They crawled all over as Emmy squealed in delight when one got up the gumption to crawled all over her. Fifteen hundred ladybugs is A LOT. They were everywhere in a few hours and even places we didn't necessarily want them.

The ceiling in the house.

I think the kids had a better time learning about them hands-on, seeing how they related to our lives and were important to us. I didn't have to fight to get them to sit and listen or read. I got to tend the garden while they were participating instead of being frustrated I couldn't get out to do what I needed to. I hope that I can learn -and remember- to incorporate more of these life-school lessons as we go on.

*These requirements are guided to meet a test called the FCAT here in Florida. A test that is in our top three reasons why we DO NOT send our kids to public school. Is administered every three years and directly relates to the monies the schools -and teachers- recieve from the gov't.