Friday, July 30, 2010

Sewing with Kids

Sewing is a passion of mine. I love perusing stores, ogling beautiful fabric and imagining fantastic creations coming to life under the foot of my machine. I love making things for pennies what costs dollars in the stores. My kids watch me sew. Much of what I make is for them so they have a vested interest in my creations.

But they don't like to sit idly by while I get to play with all the cool fabrics and gadgets. They want to create, too. We've done one sewing lesson a few months back which was a huge success. The pillows are still in use. They ask me continuously when we're going to have another lesson but time just hasn't allowed for it.

When we went to the fair earlier in the year, the kids each won a fairly large stuffed toy. I hate these things. They're made of scratchy, cheap fabric filled with those little styrafoam balls. They take up about 6 square feet of my tiny house and make a terrible crunching sound when they're hugged. It makes my skin crawl like nails on a chalkboard.

So, when they ripped I left them on my sewing desk. I gave the kids excuses about how busy I am and how it prevents me from fixing these holes in their beloved toys. I had hopes that I could secretly toss them out when they weren't paying attention and they'd never realize it. Yes, sometimes I employ subterfuge. Unfortunately, I was thwarted. They incessantly asked me when I'd get to fixing their toys so they could resume loving them to tiny pieces. I finally got sick of it today.

I made up a little sewing kit for the kids that I had intended to introduce them to when they were "old enough". But with our new ideas of unschooling, their requests for repair turned into teaching.

I've found that telling a child they cannot touch something because it is dangerous only fuels curiosity. Not to say that certain dangers shouldn't be avoided but sometimes education when they are interested helps build respect. I've found this true with sewing. Telling my three and five year olds "NO!" that pins will hurt and poke them has tiny fingers itching to grasp those shiny little pearls that stick out of my stuffed pumpkin. Showing them what they are used for, giving them the opportunity to use them curbs desires and forms respect. Pins are tools, not toys.

We discussed the parts of a needle, how fabric was woven and the importance of working to fix things we own instead of wastefully discarding them.

They learned how thread and needle come together to mend and create.

They worked for what they wanted instead of pushing it off on me.

They grew in confidence while they concentrated.

And were delighted that their hands made results that impacted their own lives.

Cordelia's fair toy didn't have a seam to mend so I introduced her to a stitch ripper. She was so proud when she finished as she was aiding me with my projects. And I was proud of each of them.

Sometimes, I forget how talented and "old enough" my kids are. Sometimes, the easier way of doing it myself or not doing it at all takes away the opportunity to involve the kids in our whole lives.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A New Spin

This is the start of a bobbin of Merino (sheep) wool and some gray/white Angora (rabbit) wool yarn. It's a bit overspun, adding in the loose Angora while spinning the Merino roving has a high learning curve. I'm not even sure if that's how you're supposed to do it. But I really like the results and this is only a single ply.

I've been spinning for almost a month. I think I'm fairly decent at it for a beginner. Since our land is only 5 acres and part of that will be needed to help sustain us, we need a product we can sell to cover those things we can't do ourselves. Enter in: Fiber.

Last December we started with one Angora. Now, we have three. We're hoping the farm will be able to support a small flock of sheep, herd of goats and a dairy cow. This Merino I'm spinning is so nice. Having a few of these sheep would be magnificent.

I'm hoping to take a class at the local knitting store to teach me -finally- how to knit properly. I already have a cozy, cream colored hat in my imagination made from my first spinnings.

My only issue now is not wanting to part with anything.
The fibers, the yarn; I love it all.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


All night my mind was turbulent with thoughts. Feelings errupted as I let my conciousness work through the happenings of the evening and my responses to them. I lost much sleep.

We did a two hour test run with a new sitter while I dropped off my car at the transmission place and grabbed some groceries.

We got home to her almost reduced to tears and a firm "no" that she couldn't handle watching the kids again. My first response was disappointment. I was upset that my kids upset her, though she assured me it wasn't because they were bad. Just loud, boisterours and oh, so numerous. I apologized profusely and hope that our adult relationship wasn't harmed by it.

Then I went inside and scolded the kids about not being able to follow her rules of sitting quietly while she did story time. And for being loud. And for interrupting. And for not sitting still. I unleashed my disappointment and anger and sent them to bed. I reduced them to tears.

I thought about these two reactions most of the night. I am not happy with my parenting. At first, I was angry that I lost a potential babysitter when my school work is coming down to a tight wire of completion. I was bitter and resentful that someone didn't instantly like my kids and want to get paid to spend time with them. I was angry that someone else couldn't do my job. Then, I turned my anger towards the kids. Why couldn't they just behave for two measley hours? I stood in the shower absently washing my hair disappointed and angry at the situation but not exactly sure where the blame lay.

It wasn't until about two a.m. when I brought Max into our bed for the remainder of the night that things clicked together. I lay in the darkness snuggling baby and realized that there is no one to blame. My anger had no place or position in the situation at all. Then, I got angry at myself.

I was angry that I felt the need to apologize for my kids, just for being themselves. Read this again: I was sorry my kids acted the way I strive to raise them. What is wrong with me? I want them to be inquisitive. I want them to ask questions. I want them to follow what interests them when the interest strikes. They are energetic and alive. They are busy, the little ones climb, Alex literally can not sit still. It takes work to keep them out of the trouble their exploring nature gets into when it's confiened to the house.

When a new person comes to our home they are like a bug under a microscope. My kids want to know why, how, what, and who they are. They want to share every facet themselves with this new facinating person. They instantly give their love to whomever mommy or daddy has designated a worthy person for them to meet. They don't expect love in return, they give it freely without strings or manipulations. They thrive on touch, expression and honesty.

Why, dear God, would I apologize for that?

I was angry at myself for being disappointed in my kids and dumping my emotions on their fragile hearts. They were being their authentic selves and because someone rejected that I was angry at them. Yes, they're loud. There are five of them in a very tiny space. I don't really discourage their volume unless I'm on the phone or someone is napping. They have big emotions inside little bodies and very strong vocal cords. They express themselves true. If the mood strikes them to sing, they sing. They pour their every feeling into belting out the songs in their hearts. If it happens to be story time, well, perhaps it could benefit from an improv sonnet. If they want to dance, if their bodies thrum with unheard rhythm, then their legs carry them hither and tither and they want to share it with you. It's not their fault that their recital falls on your imposed quiet time.

There is a reason we are in the family we are. We are meant to be together. Always. When a new person comes in with their own expectations and requirements for what is acceptable and those things don't align with our family principles THAT'S OKAY. It is NOT rejection. It's nature's way of ensuring the people that are in my and my children's lives, are the right people for the job. It is no one's fault, no ones, when we find incompatable people. It's why we usually don't marry the first person we meet. It's why we change jobs, cities, cars. I've heard when people adopt that they just know this child was meant to be theirs. It doesn't mean there was anything wrong with the people that are left behind, they're just not right for us. 

I want to assure my readers I did not send my kids to bed crying. We spent a good hour talking quietly and gently about how we all feel and what happened and why. I apologized to them both in words and touch. We snuggled and healed the damage my overreacting caused. Today, we're going to work together again. I am going to strive to include my kids in decisions we make. Perhaps, a sitter isn't the solution. I have some time to figure it out. See if we want to try someone else or work to make my school time possible at home. 

They're my kids, my family. I'm not ashamed, disappointed or embarassed to be their mom. And I love everything single little thing about them. Even that they can take down an adult.  

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Son of a Blog

I just set up my eight year old son with his own blog. He chose the name himself which I'm kinda proud of.

We're exploring the method (or un-method) of unschooling. I think having him create a blog is a great way to teach him writing, photo editing, computer programs, and photography. I think getting comments would encourage him to share about our homeschool adventures and help with retention. Perhaps, also show others how homeschooling (or unschooling) is working for our family and how the child is directly affected. Especially, as his writing and content improve.

He's very excited about it so far. And so am I.

Monday, July 26, 2010

It's here!

The Monroe Market 3-Pocket Vendor/Utility Apron is finished and up for sale!

And a very special THANK YOU! to my apron pattern testers. Thank you for your patience and your wonderful advice.

I'm pretty proud of my pattern coming to life like this. I'm also working on a Monroe Market Helper pattern. I'll let you guess who those will be for :)


Wallowing is an easy thing to do. I've battled the dark forces of depression for most of my life, starting when I was about eleven years old and the first experience of abuse touched me. It's familiar. A worn, old quilt patchworked with the failures and sadnesses of my life. A warm comfort of self-loathing, depreciation and doubt that I can pull over my head when things go wrong. I can look at all the different pieces of pain -both past and present- that fit so nicely together and encourage my wallowing sadness to unlimited ends. The blanket of dispair is so easy for me to cuddle up to. Almost too easy.

This may sound strange to some but I have to work to be happy.

It's hard for me to focus; see the joys and eleations that are before me. Most of the time I have to look hard and deep into my life to root out the happinesses that I've been graced with. Even when they're staring me in the face.

I look at my garden and the failure is far too easy to see. Eaten leaves, dying vines, propigating bugs distract me from what does grow. The banana pepper plant has taken off. It's needed no real care other than sunshine and cool water. It's lack of issues has my eyes glazing over it's beauty until its bounty smacks me in the face.

The same can be said for the lemon grass. I bought it on a whim, not really knowing what to do with it. I have never seen a bug on it, it has never wilted. It takes up four times the space it did when I got in a few months ago, yet I pass it by because it lacks issues. The drama of the hard-to-grow and not-so-hearty fill my attentions.

And the one small silver sage plant that errupts with long healthy leaves only gets a momentary pruning when it gets too large for the space I've designated. I have so much that I'm giving it away to a few people that said they'd like some.

That is the kind of prosperity I want for everything but I need to narrow my focus and be grateful for what I do have. I need to throw off the blanket of depression I've hidden under for so long. Fold it up and pack it away. I won't get rid of it fully, sometimes it helps to see what I've gone through, how much I've surpassed those pieces of my past. That the patchwork quilt those sorrows make up are what make up me. Who I am today. And I'll need to add to it the new pains and disappointments the rest of my life hold.

I can't say that I'll never succumb to the warmth of it again but I can try to see things as they are. Try and view the prosperity of my life fully relieved of my self-made shroud.

And prosperous, I most surely am.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Voluntary Simplicity - Work Smarter

As a side note, today is much better. I passed my test yesterday and the remaining three bunnies look healthy and good. I have to remember to stay in the moment. Not dwell on things that are yet to be, tackle each thing as it comes. Take steps forward but not engross myself so much in getting ahead that I forget where I'm standing. Thanks to all that gave your support. It was (and is, as I re-read the posts) so very much appreciated.

The girls and I are reading more of Little House on the Prairie 75th Anniversary Edition*. The life portrayed is so very close to what I want to offer to my family in some respects and it has has given me insight to how things got done before electricity and running water.

It's given me much to ponder. For instance, Pa got the bucket of water from the creek. Ma gathered up all the sheets and clothes and washed them in the water, rinsing them in a second tub. She laid them out to dry on the grass The water got drained out into the field, hydrating the land. There wasn't mounds of laundry to be done. There wasn't enormous amounts of water being used. Ma didn't spend time every single day pulling the loads of laundry through the line. Why is this?

I reason it's because they didn't have more clothes than they knew what to do with. Clothes serve a purpose, a function. They're not merely things to hang in closets, left to crumple in drawers, taking up space, sometimes never worn before they're grown out of. I speculate too, that the kids took better care of their clothes because of this reason. They knew they couldn't afford to waste what they had on. That they'd probably have to wear that outfit or those pajamas again before they got cleaned.

Then we read about Ma and her after supper routine. The family of five had four tin plates, four tin forks, four tin cups while they were out camping on the prairie. After they were used they were promptly washed. Ma didn't have piles of cups and plates and bowls stacked in the sink waiting to be washed. There was no dishwasher running excessively like it is in my house. She didn't waste money on detergent and heat drying her dishes. Why is that?

Again, here I ponder the simplicity of living with only what you need. How hated chores and overwhelming tasks break down to small, easily accomplished goals. But we must find a balance. I realize that getting rid of too much can actually make life harder. Though, knowing how things used to be puts a new glint in my gaze. I look at our posessions in a new light.

What is needed? What makes us happy?

For each person the answers will differ. For our life on the farm, we want to work smarter not harder. Less clothes = less laundry, less storage and less mess. Less dishes means the kids have to be concious of the items they dirty, less work in cleaning and less resouces wasted. I want less work in these areas to free up time to do things that make me happy. To ease the burden of housework that yolks me.

I've pared down the books and feel good about the ones that remain. This week I'm going to be looking at our clothes and eating utensils to see where I can make a difference there as I work -hopfully smartly- towards a simpler life.

What burdens do you have that discourage you? Is there a place in your life you can par down to lighten your heart?

*The link I provided is an associate link to Purchases made through this link help support our family.

Friday, July 23, 2010


"What the country needs is dirtier fingernails and cleaner minds." ~ Will Rogers

Me and Failure? We're tight like this.

I'm thinking of writing a book called Crystal's Homestead Disaster Manual. What do you think?

In a long line of Things That Have Gone Wrong, including failing my semester exam yesterday, another rabbit died this morning. Or sometime last night. Hard to tell with rigor set in and voided bowels strewn around the cage.

I am trying very, very, very, very hard not to get depressed or cry over this. But the long running streak of failure has my head full of doubt over whether this is the right path for me. I'm questioning everything.

"I failed one small section of my exam which I can retake tomorrow" turns into "maybe I'm not a smart enough person to be college educated. Why do I need a degree anyway I'm a stay at home mom?" 

"My little rabbit that never really seemed to grow like the other doe I got at the same time, just unexpectedly died." morphs to "Rabbits hate me. If I can't keep a rabbit alive more than a few weeks maybe I should just scrap the whole homesteading thing and sell off the remaining three to homes where people have a harder time killing things."

The small fig tree covered in ripening fruit I bought yesterday after my FAILURE notice in a bout of I-need-instant-gratification-to-make-me-feel-like-less-of-a-loser is now a mocking reminder of my own fig I bought two years ago that has yet to produce anything.

I can go on and tell you all the crappy things that are going around right now like how we're all getting sick, how my car now is having problems, how my new spinning wheel is crooked and either defective or I've somehow bent it and I can't really use it...but I really don't want to get even more depressive than I already am.

I'm trying, truly, to see the good that's around me but it's so very hard. I try and focus on something to help lift me up and I just get more frustrated and more overwhelmed. I'm locked in my confused head with a sore heart and am struggling to pull myself up out of this ditch I've dug. If anyone has words of wisdom or sage advice, I'd love to hear it. Even just a "wow, that is shitty." or a virtual pat on the back would be so very much appreciated.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I've been quiet

Lately, it's been hard to get my thoughts and feelings together to make an adequate blog post here. There's so much going on and realizations and developments with me internally, I've been at a loss on how to express that in written words. Or even if any of it is meritous enough to be put to print.

How could I make a compelling read if I can't even sort my own faculties out?

The honest truth is right now I'm nervous, scared, intimidated and desperate. Things that don't bode well for good parenting, let alone a good blog post. I feel scattered and lost. If I think too hard about any one thing or the whole mess of everything that threatens to topple down on me, my eyes get moist and my throat hitches. Such is how I have been feeling lately.

But isn't that part of all this? To let everyone in the world know that I am no different than anyone else? That I too, have dips in my life as well as high points? Though, when I'm in a dip it seems the highs are never attainable and are so very, very few. This blog is a chronicle of my days and I try and fill what I share with open honesty. Just looking back at my own posts is a reminder that there is hope. There have been other times when I've felt this way, lost in a sea of never ending tidal waves and the days have passed by and what had seemed an unsurmountable mountain looming before me had slowly become reduced to mere pebbles under my feet.

This vast mountaious range that sits blocks me now is no different, even if my heart wimpers at the work to be done. It seems like too much and it is a lot. More than most would care to tackle especially with the number of passengers I am taking on this trip. Though my heart might tremble and my head feel disorganized, just to sit here and not start the climb is unaccepable to both. It is just merely not an option.

Today, I am making tiny steps as I do everyday, though it's hard to notice. In a few short hours I will go sit for my first semseter exam. Completely unprepared -because there really is no way to prepare other than taking the classes I'll be quizzed on- but I'll go and I'll do it and I'll give it my best. This one boulder before me will become that little pebble under my boot.

Which is really all I can -and will- do for the rest of it.

Monday, July 19, 2010


I've made lots of different breads before; sweet, savory, sandwich, rolls, you name it, I've probably made it. But why on Earth I've never tried making pita bread before is beyond me. I rectified that today.

I found this recipe from The Fresh Loaf for easy pita. If you read all the comments you can use 1/3 whole wheat, 2/3 white. I used unbleached all purpose for my "white".

The trick to these is to have a REALLY hot oven and preheat your sheet with the oven. I started the oven at 500 but didn't wait for it to preheat so the first two took longer and didn't get as poofy. They did still split when torn apart just like a regular pita.

I rotated the batches out one pita at a time. So I'd always have at least one in the oven, one cooling, one rolled out while I was rolling out another. The batch made twelve good sized pitas, though it says it makes eight. Which is really good because I've already eaten three some. One didn't count, though, because it was kinda small...

I don't think I could ever go back to buying these at the store again. Ingredients cost maybe a dollar per batch. Though they take about 2 hours from start to finish, it's less time than dragging five kids to the store.
This is definately a keeper recipe I'm glad I've added to my repertoire.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Maintenance Manual

I pulled out Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats this morning, determined to pick up where I left off -on page 27. When I originally purchased it, way back in April,  I was drawn to the methods and sense that this cookbook presents. But things got in the way, as they often do, and the book has been sitting on a shelf in the kitchen since that fateful day I arrived on page 27.

That page holds no real signficance. It's just, by that point in the book, I had just gotten overwhelmed with the sheer force of information. With my dawning realization that I might not be living up to the high standard I set in regards to our maintenance needs, today, I picked it up again. This time armed with a highlighter to help me pull out the important bits. I finished the begining of the book up until the recipes start.

One thing I love about this guide and cookbook is that there isn't a vast, overwhelming change in our diets by implementing it. It's not totally what we eat but how we prepare it; the ingredients we use; the method of deployment. For others, that might not be true.

Eating a Nourishing Traditions Diet requires preplanning and forethought. I have done this before, making lists of what we'll eat and when, but the difference here is that if you want pizza on Friday, you'd better start the dough Thursday. Want Ruben Sandwhiches? You need to plan at least 3 days prior.

This is a good thing. It's a way to make sure that when Friday rolls around I'm not standing with the fridge door open ho-humming about what we're going to have. The dough will be waiting for me. It also means my head needs to stay in the present. Not to say there aren't quick meals in the book too, but a lot of the main recipes call for some ingredient that requires fermenting.

It will be a challenge, I think, learning how and what and when to make things. But the health benefits to my family, the slow-down pace of planning will help level the balance on my maintenance/surpassing scale.

Friday, July 16, 2010

"Only not dying."

The past few days I've been busy filling the hours with housework, chores and errands. Trying to make the most of my week with only two kids about. A good bit of the time I succeeded but there was a fair amount of failure when I just goofed off. Life can't all be work, now.

During my lolligagging, I was able to read a few more pages in the Voluntary Simplicity: Toward a Way of Life That Is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich book. With my epiphany during the first forty pages, I cleared out at least 1,348.765 pounds of books and some clothes that are now lining the shelves of the battered woman's shelter. That was a good move and already story time is easier, feels less overwhelming. Giving to those who need it eases my heart of the burden. The cleaning also brought about my finding The Little House on the Prarie story time hardcover. The two oldest girls listened to me read the first two chapters tonight. I missed those camp-goers terribly. It was a good way to reconnect.

With the reading of the next four pages of Voluntary Simplicity I find myself at mental red light. Here, the author delves into a section called "Maintaining Ourselves and Surpassing Ourselves" again, another point of balance. (Which is what everything seems to hinge on). Maintaining our bodies while our minds seek to surpass what and where we are now. Mere maintenance allows only for our bodies to not die. Living isn't truly accomplished. Yet, focusing entirely on providing ourselves with a meaningful, soulful, existence our basic needs won't be met and we will die. The balance of both is crucial.

My mind is pondering this. I can feel the thoughts rolling over and tumbling around in the grey folds of my brain. To shun everything and merely exist won't work. This is what the author has said from the begining. Letting go of material wealth, turning off the power, sacrificing the things that make us happy or lively will not help us to move toward, well, for lack of a better word, enlightenment. For a long time I've thought that the only way to make the move to simplistic living was to get down to brass tacks, live a barren life. The key is to find a balance between technology and rustic living.

Have I been doing this? Have I been neglecting the maintenance to focus on the surpassing? Engrossing myself in classes, lessons, books and websites hoping to learn from text what I cannot learn by doing?

Then today I came across a quote on my Zen-a-day calendar.

As you walk and eat and travel, be where you are. Otherwise you will miss most of your life. - Buddha

Has this been the way I've been handling life? Constantly looking forward to "the next thing". The next course, the next article, the next blog post or workshop letting the experiences of the day pass me by while I wait? Holding an idyllic scene in my mind of what life will be like when we finally get on our land? Thinking that today isn't as good as it is because my dreams haven't been realized? 

I think I might have been. I think that scares me.

So, today I look at what today is. What can it be, what time can I spend forging memories in my children's hearts while still working towards the goals that are written across my own. I will stumble. It's the way of me, but I'm hoping as I continue reading this particular book that life starts to balance out a little more. And by only not dying, I'm hoping I really get to live.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Handmade Holidays - Lacing Cards

I'm taking full advantage of my new ink jet printer for our holiday gifts this year. My newest project is making lacing cards for Emmy, my three year old (who will be three and a half by the holidays).

This is an under ten dollar project granted you have access to a color printer.


chip board (I got mine free from the scrapbook store, they said they get it with the paper and usually just throw it out)
regular printing/copying paper
color printer
mod podge and brush
hole punch
shoe laces or lacing cords (I got a package of 12 lacing cords from Michaels for $2.00 with a 50% off coupon)
Images (Mine came from by Kate Hadfield but you can use free ones)


I used Publisher to make four images on one sheet, they measure approx 3x4" but you can make them as large as you'd like.

Print them on standard white copy/printer paper.

Cut out the images. I left a small white border around mine but you don't have to.

Spread mod podge along the back and then glue it down on the chip board.

Paint more mod podge on the front extending over the image onto the chip board.

Let it dry completely before cuting out the images. I left a border of chip board around the image to keep the seal on the image to the chip board.

Using the hole punch, make holes around the entire image approximately 1/4"-1/3" apart.

Tie a knot on one end of your lace and start lacing!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Wooden Hanging Organization Tags -Tutorial

I am desperately trying to organize my craft stuff. I have carved out a tiny seven by four foot space in the dining/living/entry room for which I have only crafty stuff. I also have a bunch of fabric stacked up in the only real downstairs closet. I'm working on thinning out my stash. Really, I am.

In the mean time I need a place to store all my goodies that doesn't really look like I'm storing craft stuff above the diningroom table. I found these great wicker baskets on clearance at Joann's today and decided these would be great. Trouble is, I can't see what's in them and labeling wicker doesn't really work. So, I searched through my supplies and came up with these: Hanging Wooden Labels.

Materials -
yarn or ribbon
sharpie paint pen
round wooden discs

a power drill with a 1/4-1/8" bit depending on your yarn thickness though you could just thread the yarn in  a needle and poke it through that way.

CAREFULLY- I cannot express how careful you need to be here- drill a hole through the disc near the top.

Write on it.

Thread the yarn through.

Tie it to the basket.

This project is really inexpensive and if you have better penmanship than I do, you could make some really beautiful labels for your stuff. You could also use a wood burner to write it...which I would have done if I didn't just this second think of it.

These would be cute decorating drawers, gift baskets, book bags, lunch boxes, heck, all kinds of stuff that needs labeling.

Voluntary Simplicity - Books

Yesterday, I started reading a book called Voluntary Simplicity: Toward a Way of Life That Is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich . I picked it up at the thrift store a few days ago. It looked like something I needed to read. For all my wishy-washy posts about paring down and simplifying and being completely bewildered at where to start and how much was too much, I wish someone would have recommended this book to me.

So, for all of you that are as confuddled as I have been, start reading this book.

I'm only about forty pages in but so far the gist of the book is not to simplify so much that you lack, but to remove the things from your home that hinder your ability to enjoy everything else. It's not about the amount of things but what those things mean to you. How they enhance your life and help you along your inward journey. You may have many things or very few. Neither is wrong or right, it's a personal balance we must look inside our hearts to achieve.

There is one part of our home that we are overrun with; Books. I love books, to get rid of a book is like sacrilege to me. I love the brightly colored covers, the surprise endings, the myriad of places you can visit snuggled in your own bed. I love the thoughts and ideas that igneight my brain when I'm fully engrossed in a story. I love every single thing about books. Except...

We are overrun with books. The kids have three books shelves stacked so high they can't find the ones they want. Two nearly reach the ceiling. They become hard to put away neatly, get bent and torn because they can't be cleaned up easily. Good books get shoved into the background behind fluffy television-character featured books. We have a full bookcase downstairs, plus magazine racks in assorted places and another two shelves that line the top of one wall. Some books are very, very good. Others are senseless stories that hold no value save for relative entertainment. And that's not including any of our homeschool books, which take up another floor to ceiling shelving unit in the once-diningroom-turned-homeschool room.

Today, I start the task of simplifying our books. As much as it pains me to part with them, there are just too many to fully enjoy the good ones. The start will be easy, ridding ourselves of the books that hold little value to make room for the classics and dearly loved. These books will be packed up and donated to either the library or the woman's shelter down the road.

I can take comfort that they will have a good home and get loved by other children while my life becomes a little easier at story time. I look forward to sharing with you our efforts for voluntary simplicity and hope you check out the book I mentioned above, even if you too, have too many books.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Living in Fear

Today, I have been reading some of the blogs I follow and there has been a recurring theme in the posts; simplifying life, reducing dependency on the mainstream, giving up, letting go and creating a sustainable homestead. This is something we've been striving towards, learning about and yearning for. I dream of hearing our dairy cow beacon to us. Walk our fields surrounded by a herd of goats. Fire up the outdoor handmade brick oven to bake the bread for the week.

The life I envision is not all homemade lemonade and fireflies. It's hardwork, devotion and a frugal simplicity that quite frankly, I'm not used to. I long to drop everything, leave it all behind and stake our new life out on our five acres. To pay for in sweat and sore muscles what I can't afford. To plan our meals by scouting out what's ripe in the garden instead of what I can coupon-match from the store. To have the abundance of wealth around me instead of in our bank account.

But those dreams and goals have to be accomplished with infiniately small baby steps. We are not the pioneers of old, strapping everything to a wagon and heading out with a wish on a sleeve that it'll work out. There are laws about living in vehicles with kids now.

Nor are we even the young, newly wedded couple that my grandparents were, building a house without permits with doors from an old box car. I grew up in that house which didn't have indoor plumbing until I was two years old. But there are laws now about acceptable materials, waste disposal and ceiling heights. (Though I will add, that house is still standing  fifty some odd years later and currently being lived in.)

Right now we live in something of a state of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of pursuing our dreams and failing, fear of taking on more than we can chew. Fear that money is key and if we don't have enough we'll never survive. We even have trepidation of the animals we long for. Having never experienced them in the flesh, reality can be nerve-wracking. Fear that taking a chance or risk will have others up in arms, that their fear and ignorance will have these law-seekers taking our children from us. There are just so many, many laws regarding child welfare.

There seems to be a crux we are too afraid to cross. A point where the life we lead now splits off to the life we want to have. I feel soul-deep that to make that transition is going to take a hard sacrifice and a two-footed leap of faith. That continuing with baby steps and waiting until things are "just right" -that job that gets lined up, the raise that gets us just "that much" more money, the house gets completed, we get that tractor or the baby gets older so we can do more on the land- will delay our dreams until we're too old to accomplish them. But no matter how much I wish to have the biggest yard sale of my life, pack up what remains and move three hours north, I just can't. Even though my heart, soul, and head all scream for me to do it.

Perhaps, I'm just voicing the thoughts and feelings of all those others that came before us, those men and women that did what we want to. Perhaps they too, lived in fear.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

My New Hat.

I never thought I was a hat person. Maybe I am still not.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Another quilt finished!

 had been requisitioned by the hubby to make a quilt for his co-workers new baby. It's their first and a boy! I got the request a few weeks before the baby was due and just now finished it, a few weeks after he was born. Oh well, better late than never right?

I did this in an assortment of red, blacks and whites. I love the way it came together. I used a Kona white for the alternating patwork solid.

And a meandering quilting through the three layers; top, natural cotton batting and back. The back is made with a black, white and red print from IKEA.

I hope the little monkey likes it.


Thursday, July 8, 2010


I've declared a state of marshal law in my house this morning. I am overrun by many small children that have the lovely habit of not picking up after themselves. And, when I try and enlist their assistance in cleaning up their mess I'm met with a deluge of complaints, whines, flat out refusals and ignoring. I'm frustrated and nearing a full-on burned-out emergency. The weight of everything that needs to be done is pressing down on me.

Hubby's car is officially dead. It's a huge, gigantic, enormous adjustment to now be a one car family. Indefinately. Saving up nearly four grand to fix it is going to take some time. I'm trying to take it in stride, figure out a week at a time but next week the kids have camp and its not figured out yet. He was supposed to drive them in and me pick them up which is going to be hard to do with one car if I also have to go pick him up from work. Or he'll have to get off early every day. Or we'll have to scrape the money together to rent a car for the week. Or...I'm getting a migrane just thinking about it.

I did just submit my very last assignment for my last class of my first semester in college. Yeah for that! I was sitting on it for weeks trying to get "the right time" to work on it. I realized that isn't going to happen. So, I fudged together a five paragraph essay which consisted of a lot of "according to"s and "so and so writes" but it's done and all I have to do is pass. Now, my final exam is looming and I'm freaking out because when we moved I kinda got rid of a couple of my books. I found out the exam is open book. Which is hard to do when you don't have them. ::Sigh::

The rabbits have settled in and are doing great. I put Conner's new cage together and the girls distracted me so the door now sports a 1" gap. Those little clippy things are a PITA to get on, never mind getting them off. Hopefully, sometime in the near future I'll have a white rust-free rabbit again.

The kids are driving me up the wall, over the fence and down the street. I am so tired of finding garbage just thrown wherever they happen to be. Half eaten food under the couch. Toys left out, strewn to all corners of the house. I'm tired of spills not cleaned up, the baby painting himself in someone's yogurt or applesauce they got out of the fridge behind my back and abandoned miscellaneous-baby-high places. Sticky door knobs, unidentifyable smears on the TV, windows and walls, broken crayons smashed into floors. My house is never really clean because I just move from emergency clean-up to emergency clean-up. I never get to enjoy anything being tidy for any length of time. I vaccuum three times a day. Minimum. With a shop-vac.

I'm done.

So, this morning we had a "talk" which means I yelled and hopefully, a bit got into their heads. No TV. No PC. No fun. No games. Nothing until the house is put back in order and they keep it that way. During the clean up they're going to loose toys if they start in with the complaining, refusal to help or start wandering off when I'm not paying attention. Perhaps, the idea of loosing things they want will help keep them on the straight and narrow.

Once they start up the bad habits again we go back to a day like today where it's spent cleaning, tidying and organizing. I'm not a slave and I'm not raising kids that are selfish and ungrateful. I won't pawn off my lazy son to some woman that will pick up where I left off. He's eight, I know there's a long way to go but eighteen isn't a goal, it's just a number. He won't magically start being responsible just because he's "grown up".

I heard once the best quote I've ever heard in my life though I can't site the source "My job as a mother is to work myself out of a job." And by God, I'm going to work hard to be unemployed.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

1+1 = mmmmmm

I love to use canning jars for single-serving-take-along ice teas. We're in Florida, ya'll, our lives center around good cold Sweet Tea. I've wanted to expand this so the kids could have some too but I've struggled making lemonade. No idea why, just couldn't get the water-lemon-sugar ratios right. Yesterday, a fellow blogger posted a lemonade recipe. Boy, is it good!

For the tea simply place one tea bag in each pint size jar and add boiling water leaving a little headroom for adding flavoring or sweetener. Steep for 10-15 minutes. Seal with a well fitting lid and refrigerate. Hubby likes his unsweet and I like mine sweet so I just make them all unsweet and add sugar to mine when I have one. It's easier than trying to figure out whos is whos.

Now, here's where life gets a little more interesting. I made Shaken Lemonade Iced Tea. Ohhhh. Now that I have a good solid lemonade recipe making my favorite after-coffee drink from you-know-where is easy. And a lot cheaper than the 3+ dollar drink.

Crystal's Shaken Lemonade Iced Tea

Make one jar of tea but reserve one additional empty jar. Make up the lemonade while it steeps. Pour half the tea into the empty jar and fill both jars the rest of the way with lemonade. It's THAT easy!

You can modify the ratios (I like that word today) to more tea or more lemonade per jar to taste.

Using jars makes it easy to grab some hydration to take out to the garden and the lids keep the bugs and dirt out too!

I scored some canning jar drinking cups at the local thrift store.

I got this whole lot for $1.82! So, if you don't have jars at the ready, before you go looking to buy new, see what you can find! Deals like this make the tea even sweeter.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Good Day.

I'm pretty sure yesterday is going to go down in my mental record book as a milestone. I landmark memory that I'll keep forever. One of those days I'll look back at when my hair is snowy white, hands crimped with arthritis, back huntched from a lifetime of toil, and gather my grandkids around me to tell them "a story".

The story of the very first day I spun my very first yarn.

It's not perfect, uniform or particularly long. I'm not even sure I'd get a hat for me out of it. But it's mine and that makes it good.

I set off early yesterday morning leaving hubby and the kids behind. I knew I'd be gone most of the day and that alone lifted me up a bit. A day just for me. The weather didn't want to cooperate though and the deluge that poured down made for slow moving towards my destination. I stopped at the Feed Store and picked up a 30x36 cage for two new baby does I was planning on getting from A Fuzzy Farm, where I was also getting my lesson. They had to order the cage for me but after Conner's more-expensive-worse-made cage fiasco that I'm still dealing with, I wanted to get a Pet Lodge cage again. Duncan has one and we got Conner a new cage of the same brand. Stick with what works, that's the lesson I learned there.

The back of the van had a large cat carrier all set up to bring the girls home. With their new cage stowed on the seats, I was ready to welcome more rabbits to the farm. I'm still skittish but I'm not letting it stop me from persuing my dream.

About five miles out the sky miraculous cleared up. The bright blue smiling down on me as if there never had been a storm cloud around, as if telling me it would hold up while I had my day. I wound my way down scenic back streets to Lorie's house giddy as a school girl with a new crush. I just couldn't keep the grin off my face.

Lorie's house is a fiber arts wonderland. Spinning wheels, drop spindles, bags and bags of fiber. She even has a gorgeous loom. I was a kid in a candy store, my eyes couldn't focus for a minute, as they glided over all the treats. She was a wonderful host and we chatted while she instructed me on the treadles. I think it helped that on the drive to the land Saturday I read The Whole Craft of Spinning: From the Raw Material to the Finished Yarn from cover to cover. The initial intimidation at a wheel was diluted by my newly aquired knowledge.

We visited her alpaca boys, the chickens and Angoras in the back. I think an Alpaca or five might be on the farm wish-list. She even cooked me a delicious lunch. That in itself was magic. Food I didn't have to shop for, plan out, cook, serve or clean up after. I love feeding others but those special times when others feed me goes down bonus points in my book.

Before I knew it, my yarn had been plied and strung out on the niddy noddy, ready to be washed and set. It's just regular non-descript off-white sheeps wool but to me it might as well be made of gold. So precious it is.

There is just something really special, something just bone-deep right about the entire fiber process. To care for an animal, have that animal share part of itself with you, create a product from that which can either pay the bills or keep you warm. I like that co-dependency. A lot.

The wheel I used came home with me after the many hours of class time learning on it. I loaded the two girls in the back of the van and headed back home. The sky opened back up telling me the day was over, that it wouldn't hold back for me any longer. It was the perfect end to a very, very good day.