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Saturday, August 30, 2014

reading


My current reading material is Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift From The Sea. This little gem is probably out of print now but can be easily found at the library or through Amazon. Most people know Anne by her famous husband, but she was a pretty amazing lady in her own right. The book is small and not a difficult read, but full of simple, profound wisdom.

A couple of my favorite passages on life as a woman and a mother:

Total retirement is not possible. I cannot shed my responsibilities I cannot permanently inhabit a desert island. I cannot be a nun in the midst of family life. I would not want to be. The solution for me, surely, is neither in total renunciation of the world, nor in total acceptance of it. I must find a balance somewhere, or an alternating rhythm between these two extremes: a swinging of the pendulum between solitude and communion, between retreat and return. (p.30)

In other times, women had in their lives more forces which centered them whether or not they realized it; sources which nourished them whether or not they consciously went to these springs. Their very seclusion in the home gave them time alone. Many of their duties were conductive to a quiet contemplative drawing together of the self. They had more creative tasks to perform. Nothing feeds the center so much as creative work, even humble kinds like cooking and sewing. Baking bread, weaving cloth, putting up preserves, teaching and singing to children, must have been far more nourishing than being the family chauffeur or shopping at supermarkets or doing housework with mechanical aids. The art and craft of housework has diminished; much of the time-consuming drudgery--despite modern advertising to the contrary--remains. In housework, as in the rest of life, the curtain of mechanization has come down between the mind and the hand." (p. 52-53)

Much truth here!

Friday, August 29, 2014

more crochet


 
Excuse the fuzzy pics...they were taken with my decidedly not smart phone and so the quality isn't great...but hey, at least I'm posting. And lest anyone feel sorry for me, I own a dumb phone by choice. I like the internet and all, but I don't like being tied to it 24-7, so when we upgraded, I asked Stephen to get me the most basic talk/text model that our phone company has. It can be a little inconvenient because more and more things these days are geared toward handheld devices, but I'm willing to deal with the inconvenience if it means that I am not owned by my telephone. 
 
Anywho. On to crochet.
 
Obviously I have not yet gotten it out of my system, so once I finished the doily that I was working on, I started a more ambitious project. It's an afghan, worked in a simple double crochet pattern, in stripes of red, green, cream and black. I feel vaguely guilty, like I have abandoned my first love (knitting) and slightly crazy for tackling something this huge. But I love handmade blankets. To me, they are like handmade sweaters...a wearable hug. I have visions of curling up on the sofa this winter under my Scandinavian-inspired afghan with a cup of coffee and a good book.
 
My other guilt is that I have truly crossed over to the dark side and I am knitting this with ACRYLIC. Me. Mrs. Natural Fibers and sheep owner herself. It's Lion Brand Heartland and is super-cozy, available at Wal-Mart, and doesn't cost an arm and a leg...which is a factor when a finished project will cover an area roughly equivalent to the square mileage of Alaska.
 
I will admit that I had a moment of panic last night. It was about ten o'clock and the kids were all asleep. Stephen sat reading while I crocheted on my afghan and it hit me: we have turned into an old couple already!
 
Crochet isn't reserved for old ladies any more, is it? Someone reassure me that I am still young and hip.
 
On second thought, don't say a word. If being young means that I can't crochet on my afghan, they I will be happily old, thank you very much.
 
 

Monday, August 25, 2014

quick update

My camera has stopped communicating with my computer, which means that I can't transfer any photos which means that I can't publish any blog posts. Well, I guess technically I could, but without photos they would be pretty boring. So. I am on a blogging hiatus until I either get another camera or figure out a way to break the silence between these two. Don't worry, I have all kinds of great posts simmering in my head so when I am back at it, you'll get the feast that follows a famine.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

broccoli and bok choy and kale, oh my!


At the beginning of the summer, I was almost willing to kill for a homegrown tomato, warm from the sun, bursting with all of it's sharp, July goodness. Now, forty-eight tomato plants and hundreds of pounds of fruit later, I am over them. My mind and taste buds have turned toward the heartier, autumn vegetables. Sweet potatoes. Winter squash. Kale. Cauliflower. That's why this cookbook could not have come in the mail at a better time.

It's called Brassicas: cooking the world's healthiest vegetables, and it covers every cruciferous vegetable that you can imagine (and probably a few that you can't). Broccoli. Broccolini. Kohlrabi. Arugula. Mustard greens. Watercress. Even (insert shudder here) rutabagas.

The book begins with nutrition and flavor information, and provides tips on how to tone down the flavor and smell of some of the stronger vegetables. I appreciate this, because while the stronger smells don't bother me at all, they seriously deter some members of my family. Then it moves on to the recipes. While they don't all appeal to me (kale fried rice just doesn't sound like something that I could serve to guests), many of them are on my must-try list. Brussel sprouts with parmesan crust. Creamy cauliflower gratin. Grilled baby bok choy with miso butter. Admittedly, these are not recipes for the faint of heart. Bold and adventurous are the two words that come to mind. But hey, who wouldn't benefit from a little more adventure?

I appreciate the fact that the book addresses a couple of concerns about this vegetable group--the connection between brassicas and thyroid health, and the vitamin K/blood thinner concern, which is an issue in our family (my dad is on Coumadin). It also includes a "special diets table" in the back, which categorizes each recipe so that you can see at a glance whether or not it is vegan, contains tree nuts or peanuts, dairy, eggs, etc.

I now look forward to slipping a few more of these nutritional powerhouses into our regular meal rotation. Who knows, I may even try rutabagas.

For more information, click here.

To read chapter one, click here.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

present

Photo courtesy of Ethan.

Because I tend to be a.) a worrier; b.) a planner ; and c.) very busy and often distracted, I am usually doing two or more things at the same time, or at least doing one thing while I think about something else. Such is the life of a mom. While I read to Anwyn, I answer questions about Ethan's schoolwork and rescue Beatrice from the top of the kitchen table. While I talk to a friend at church, I am making sure that the kids aren't into anything and wondering if the roast that I put in the crock pot for lunch is done. While I exercise, I am mentally writing a grocery list, planning the school day, outlining my next blog post, and trying keep from squashing the baby (she likes to come sit on me while I do sit-ups).

This week, I read a challenge from an author to practice being fully present in everything that I do. She's not talking about being irresponsible or lazy ("just ignore your kids while you enjoy that dessert!"), but about not letting the past or the future or unnecessary or unhealthy thoughts rob the joy of the moment. She's talking about living fully where you are. She's talking about being intentionally aware.

 It is my new daily practice and requires a re-training of my mind. Of course, there are times when I have to multi-task,  when I have to interrupt Stephen mid-sentence to soothe a screaming child or keep the spaghetti noodles from boiling over, but let's face it: there are a lot of distractions that I can completely control.

When I walk to the mailbox with the girls, my old self carried on an inner dialogue that went something like this: "Wow, it's hot out here. Look at the grass in those flower beds...I really need to get that out. What should I fix for supper tonight? It's really too hot to cook...maybe we could grill some steaks. No, we're out of charcoal. Maybe just do salad. We still have some good tomatoes in the garden. Uuuggh, I can't believe how I have let that garden get out of control. If anyone comes over, they're going to think that I am a lazy bum. We haven't had anyone over for awhile. I really want to do that. There are so many people that we want to visit with that I can't decide who to invite first. Let's see...what does this week look like...no, Stephen has a meeting on Monday and church Wednesday and a baby shower Friday so this probably wouldn't be a good week. Maybe next week..." and on and on it goes.

These aren't all necessarily bad thoughts, although my inner dialogue does tend to disintegrate rapidly into negativity...but as I talked to myself, I completely missed what was going on around me: Anwyn's hand, safely tucked into mine, her bare toes curled around green grass, her curls bouncing as she walked, her non-stop chatter; Beatrice waving wildly at the cars that passed on the road; a mockingbird, high in the pine tree, flinging notes into the thick summer air; the buzz of a hundred cicadas; the arch of a pony's neck and the dark eyes in his dishy face as he stands at the fence and begs for food. I missed the joy of this five-minute walk and I came back to the house feeling a little agitated. Had a focused on the present, I would have returned feeling refreshed, focused, and happy.

It's a moment-by moment exercise in taking every thought captive. It's a million little choices every day...will I stare at the computer screen, or will I turn and give my full attention to the little boy who is showing me the Star Wars battle ship that he has drawn? Will I fully engage in a theological discussion with my husband, or will I tune him out while I think about my upcoming trip to the grocery store? Will I truly savor my steaming coffee, poured into a heavy, hand thrown mug, or will I hardly taste it as I stress about happenings in the government that I can do nothing about?

I have only been practicing this for a few days, but I already am amazed at how much richer my life feels. Nothing in it has changed as far as circumstances. There are still meals to fix, dishes to wash, diapers to change, groceries to buy, cobwebs in the corners that I haven't noticed and an out-of-control garden. But I feel like I am milking so much more out of my everyday experiences.

My kitchen chalkboard currently has this quote written on it: "The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from ordinary things". I thought that I knew how to do this. I now realize that I have only just begun to learn.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

school days


 
We're easing into our school year slowly, as the books that we have ordered arrive. Some of them are out of stock until the end of the month, but we decided to go ahead and start what we do have. I like to start mid-summer so that we can take some time off in the spring and the fall, when the weather is nicer.
 
Every year looks a little different for us in terms of structure and schedule. We lean toward a more relaxed, story-based, wholehearted learning approach, but this year we are using a math curriculum that requires a little more structure (Teaching Textbooks...I'm so excited about it, and the boys are too!), as well as  Science that takes quite a bit of preparation and time. I am learning more about whales and other sea creatures than I ever knew, and I think I'm enjoying it as much as the boys are!
 
I am not a naturally gifted teacher, and I'll be the first to say that homeschooling has been a challenge for me. But with every year, I love it more. Love the flexibility. Love the learning that goes on around here. Love to see my kids stretch and grow. 
 
 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

blocking lace



My grandma taught me basic crochet stitches when I was eight years old and wanted to make rugs for my dollhouse. She was the queen of crochet...afghans, baby blankets, hot pads, and little pot scrubbers that she made out of nylon mesh that worked better than anything you could buy (I sure wish I had some now!). I'm more of a knitting person, but occasionally I get the urge to pick up a hook instead of a needle. That happened a couple of weeks ago when some crochet books that I've been eyeing went on sale on the Knitpicks website.
 
Lacy Crochet is published by a Japanese craft magazine and I love it because the patterns are simple and sophisticated-- not your average Methodist rummage sale hot pads here (no offense to all of you fine Methodists!). They call for cotton thread rather than heavier yarns, in muted, natural colors. I can't recommend this book for beginner crocheters because the patterns and directions are extremely hard to follow, I guess as a result of translation. Even their explanation for a chain stitch left me scratching my head. BUT, if you have some crochet experience and you can read a diagram, then it's a lovely book.
 
This little doily only took me a couple of days to make. I don't have any special blocking equipment, but I find that towels and straight pins work just fine. I'm thinking that it will look just right under the oil lamp on my kitchen table.