Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Raising a Lifelong Learner

Lifelong learning is an educational catch phrase that can be found in many schools’ mission statements, but creating a true lifelong learner starts long before a child sets foot in the school yard. It begins with the first lullabies, the first books, and even that crazy mobile that you hang in their crib. Lifelong learning is all about curiosity.

What can you do as a parent to instill this lifelong learning in your child? You can begin by thinking about how you responds to those 1,000 questions of “Why?”, “Who?”,” When?” and then adding a few questions of your own. Lifelong learning is not an attempt to know all there is to know, but a journey to learn and then learn some more. There is no destination, but instead an appreciation for the path that you take. Children are born with a natural curiosity and so igniting this flame into a fire that will fuel them for their entire life is not difficult. One of the easiest ways to inflame the ember is to model the action. Visit museums. Look at shells on the beach. Try a new skill. Travel to a new place. Taste new foods. If you exude a passion for learning, your children will naturally pick it up. They may or may not enjoy the same passion as you, but they will learn that it is not only acceptable but necessary to continue to learn at every age. Think, in your own life, how a friend’s passion ignited your interest. Did a friend’s knitted scarf encourage you to pick up your needles or his talk of the wonderful golf courses cause you to grab a club?

Part of being a lifelong learner is in fact not settling, not being comfortable, not just floating down the river, but fighting against the tide. It is always trying new things, exploring new places, meeting new people. It is delving into the daily norm and being willing to cause a little chaos: taking apart the clock that daily wakes you up; deciding to find out where pepper comes from that you put on your food; willingly and purposefully saying “hello” to the person next to you in the grocery store. This means, as a parent, allowing your child the freedom to do such things. Perhaps you don’t want him to destroy your new bedroom clock, but wouldn’t it be cool to give him an old one to take apart. Maybe you could travel to a farmers’ market in your area and make arrangements to go to a farm. If you are not comfortable with him saying “hi” to strangers, you could invite interesting new guests to dinner.

Another part of lifelong learning is having time to explore your pursuits. In today’s overly scheduled world sometimes it is hard to allow freedom to explore ourselves and our passions. This is a must if you wish to feed the fire in your child and denying him or her this time is probably the quickest way to douse the embers that are already there. Let children play. If he is playing for hours with Legos, let him play. He is learning about geometry, engineering, creative thinking and problem solving. If he is finger-painting until the dyes bleed into his fingers, let him paint. He is learning about relationships, colors, and imagery. If everything relates to dinosaurs or trains or spaceships, it’s ok. Let it be. Let him delve and devour all he can.

Lifelong learning has to come from within, not from without. You do not learn because you are required, but because you are interested. You decide what to learn and how much you want to know about the subject. Even if you are forced for outside reasons to learn something that you do not find quite as interesting, when this fire has been fully lit, you do not mind. Such an exploration may lead to some new and interesting fact or study.

Lifelong learning may be a new catch phrase, but truthfully it has been the way of some of the greatest minds in existence. Look at Einstein, Jefferson, and Edison. Maybe the pursuits of your little one will uncover the mind of a Da Vinci or Mozart. Wouldn’t it have been a shame if these men were too busy and too focused to unlock their passions and delve into their interests?

Some Simple Ways to Develop a Life Long Learner Locally
-Hike local trails with some classification books. Bring a journal to sit down and draw examples of what you see.
-Pick up a brush a local art museum.
-Take a cooking class
-Attend a performance by the Symphony or catch a show
-Plan to attend some of the wonderful events at a local festival.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Take Your Best Shot by Austin Gutwein - Book Review

I was so excited yesterday. My book to review, Take Your Best Shot by Austin Gutwein, came in the mail. I have been like a kid on Christmas morning ever since I ordered it and read the first chapter online. Finally, I had the book in my hands. I finished it last night. It was a quick read as its target reader, like the author, is a teenager, but frankly the message is universal.

The book tells how and why Austin founded Hoops for Hope, an organization that has now built a school and is working on building a clinic in Zambia. But the book is more than just an story of what someone else accomplished, it is a guidebook for the reader to find his or her passion and do something equally as marvelous. Austin explains that while Hoops for Hope is a secular organization, he himself is a Christian. he is fearfully and wonderfully made to serve God through his actions and he encourages the reader to do the same.

Austin uses concrete imagery that will help teenagers understand better the Biblical foundations of his mission and his writing touches on many "teenage issues": being dismissed by adults, not feeling good about yourself, fitting in. His story would be an inspiration to anyone but particularly to teenagers. t would be a wonderful tool in youth groups, Sunday schools, Confirmation Classes. If the readers follow Austin's guidance and welcome the Spirit to work through them, then truly the world may be changed one person at a time.

Note: Although Thomas Nelson sends the book to be reviewed for free, I am not otherwise compensated for my review and I am under no obligation to give a "good" review.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Simple Woman's Daybook Entry 9-28-09

FOR TODAY, I have decided to join with a daybook blog. If you are interested in reading other's entries or adding your own, check out The Simple Woman's Daybook.

Outside my window... the leaves of the white birch shiver.

I am thinking...about what needs to get done today. Can I paint the bathroom baseboard too?

I am thankful for...all the people that supported our local library (see the picture below).

From the learning rooms...DS is doing his creative writing based on famous paintings.

From the kitchen... a turkey with cranberry stuffing is baking in the oven.

I am wearing...jeans and a jersey shirt.

I am creating... (need I say more).

I am going...make more dresses for Africa with the sheets that my husband put a hole in last night.

I am hoping...that I can figure out how to balance work and family.

I am hearing...Monsterquest, as a reward for DS who finished all his school work without complaint.

Around the house...there are things to be done.

One of my favorite things... flavored coffee

A few plans for the rest of the week: choir, dog's flea & tic medicine, homework, writing, book reviewing

Here is picture for thought I am sharing...
This is DD at the auction for our local library. She worked her butt off. How did she get so old and so capable?

Recipe - Tartar Sauce

Sometimes the simplest things bring the most delight. For dinner last night I made Kielbasa and cabbage sandwiches, but DS hates Kielbasa so as usual he made something else. He made fish sticks. What good are fish sticks without tartar sauce? But who uses that much tartar sauce and what else do you really use it for? So here is an easy recipe to make your own (Note: some of you may be laughing and saying, "Of course, I know how to make that. Who doesn't?" Well, the answer was me before my husband told me, so I thought there might be some other me's out there who might want to know).

Making your own tartar sauce is as easy as mixing mayonnaise and relish. I prefer Miracle Whip & sweet relish, but you can try out whatever you have. It is about a 1:1 ratio, but you can alter accordingly. Extra can be stored in the refrigerator.

I always love simple ideas that save me from buying more and use things that I always have on hand. I hope that this helps you too.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Wine Tasting - a great way to spend the afternoon

DH suprised me today with the idea of checking out some local vineyards. Unfortunately due to DD's schedule, we were only able to do one, but if you are ever looking for a way to spend the afternoon, local vineyards are a great idea.
Today we checked out Hardwick Vineyard and Winery.
The tasting was actually free, but of course I couldn't walk out empty handed and so I picked up a glass from the vineyard for our collection, a bottle of wine, and my first Christmas gift purchase of the year. My favorite wine of theirs was Yankee Boy White. DH's was Massetts Cranberry. We also picked up a brochure about the entire Massachusetts' Wine and Cheese Trail so that we can finish our Winery Tour another day.
I encourage you all to find wineries in your area and plan a visit. Please let us all know about your favorites.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Reading Resource for Older Children

I cannot keep a secret. I have found a wonderful book for older students. Actually, DD found it, but I concur with her find. DD is trying to buzz through her language arts work and so we have devised a plan that incorporates much of what she must do with her passion for reading. For one portion, she needed to read an essay so when we were at Barnes & Noble, she perused the Essay section looking for a good read and just like any frugal woman, when she found the title that appealed to her, she jotted it down so that she could take it out from the library (after having read most of this book myself now, I wish we would have bought it and I still may because the writing and topics are excellent).

The book is filled with 17 essays by some of the most well known authors / thinkers of all time including Martin Luther King Jr., Carl Sagan, Amy Tan, and George Orwell. The essay are short, as essays are; but they are chalk full of conversation and controversy. They are excellent conversation starters. This is not just a great book for your older student, or any English student for that fact, but a great book for the whole family. Dinner conversation will never be the same.

On a funnier note, DD also had to choose an autobiography to read: Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time By Howard Schultz and Dori Jones Yang. I am not ready to endorse or complain about this book: DD picked it as her interest and she personally loved it, but I have not read it yet, but based on her suggestion, I have put it on my reading list. Clearly she got a lot out of the book, because now anytime we go near a Starbucks, I learn something new about its inception. Yesterday, when we stopped at a rest stop in Maine, I not only got my Venti Vanila Chai Hot with Skim milk, but I was also treated to a dissertation on the Starbucks logo. I think the baristas actually thought it was rather comical and were pretty impressed with her knowledge. I guess you have to be wary about what you encourage your children to read ; )

She has also devoured Beowulf. She enjoyed the copy she had which showed both the Old English and Modern English side by side, but she could not believe that the poem was 213 pages long. She felt that a poem by definition should not ever be that long. One Caveat for parents on this one: We did watch the movie after she finished reading the book. This movie is NOT for small children. It may be animated but it is graphic and has very strong sexual undertones and nudity. It was not what I expected at all.

So it looks like I have finally been able to encourage her to step out of her Clique reading and move into some meatier content. I even noticed that on the last visit to the library she pulled out Pride & Prejudice. And she is the process of planning a reading group for tweens. If you have any suggestions for a reading series for children 9-13, we appreciate any ideas.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Join My Village

Today I had a few minutes to peruse magazines at the library. It is a rare treat that I enjoy because you are introduced to ideas, places, and concepts you may not already know. Today, I was introduced to Join My Village, a program run by General Mills which is educating people about the plight of this third world country while also making a difference through donations.
You are encouraged to learn about the Malawian villages and then choose one to join. Through participation in quizes and inviting friends, you can grow General Mills donation to "your" village. Also, if you choose to donate, Generals Mills will match your donation up to $50 per person (see their website for a full explination and limitations). This is certainly a wonderful way to change the world and, for those of you that homeschool like we do, this is a great way to learn about a different part of the world.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sending Gifts - Helping Homeschoolers

As a homeschooling mom, I love my friend Meg. Meg is my world traveling friend. She currently lives in Germany. Today, we received a package from her.
Her packages have become famous in our house. You never know what they might include. We have received comic books written in Arabic, Iranian Flags, beautiful Middle Eastern fabric, playing cards from the United Arab Emirates (if you can't tell, she lived in Kuwait for awhile). Today's package included:
A book on the Tsars, stamps, money, caps, coins, a piece of the Berlin Wall, a Gecko like stuffed animal from Spain, Art cards. Her package keeps us busy for weeks looking up all the information about the items included. My daughter jokes that this proves that we are geeky homeschoolers because we think this stuff is so cool, but I think any kid would find it interesting. Sometimes peaking the interest of kids doesn't take thousands of dollars, it takes careful selection of interesting items.
I wish for every homeschool family that they may have a Meg, but they can't have mine because she is too cool and we love her.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Knowing God - A Sunday School Lesson

The other day my birth-brother made a post on Facebook about knowing God / being religious because he is of God and therefore needs nothing else - no Bible, no community, no religious practice. I question if this is possible. This question has been brought up previously in my old Bible Study class - Can a man remove himself from society and find God in a Garden per se? I don't mean remove for an hour or a day, but to know of God just by being. In the case of my birth-brother, I questioned back more about his children then himself: asking how can the little ones know to even search for God if they are not introduced? How can they know of his ways without hearing or reading of all he has done? How can they live out his works, if they don't know that they are called to do so? This post and its back and forth with him led me to this idea for a Sunday School lesson:

Knowing God

This is an excellent lesson for the beginning of the school year

It can be heard, I can learn of God just through being one with him. but can you know someone without speaking to them, without spending time with them, without reading about them?

Start with a prayer - Dear God, Be with us today as we undertake the study of you. We wish to know you better so that we can better serve you. Please help us to know you better. Guide us in our study and open our minds to understanding your words. Amen

Have the students pair off. Ask them to spend 3 or 4 minutes talking to their partner to find out about them. They should be ready to introduce their partner to the group and share their findings.

Take a few minutes to have everyone introduced by their partner. Ask if class if the introductions were done well and accurately. Ask, "Is there more that we could learn about you?" Brainstorm ideas of how we could get to know each other better.

To help them think more deeply, ask them to name a famous person that is no longer alive. Ask them to tell us what they know about him or her. Ask how they learned these facts. Ask how they could learn more.

Tell them that the same applies to God. Loving God is an action. We must get to know him. We may never know all of Him, but as part of our spiritual path we must work to strengthen our understand of Him. Through this understand, we can be guided in our actions. Brainstorm ways that we know about God. Ask what other ways we might get to know him better.

Craft: Create a God's Eye - Using longer chopsticks, make a cross. Knot the yarn around the center X and then weave around each of the sticks making a full loop around each one. When the eye is completed and tied off. Write the words Prayer, Worship, Fellowship, Bible on longer pieces of ribbon. Tie a ribbon off each stick end. Explain that by using these four standards, we can better know God. God can see through his eye that we wish to be Christians and wish to know more about what he wants from us.

Try to explain that knowing God is one of the purposes of Sunday School. By knowing Him better, we can be better. While it is important to have a private relationship with God, it is also important to learn and share in community so that we can get a deeper understanding of God. Tie this into the beginning activity, "Did you know all those facts about each other before we started?" (hopefully the answer will be "no") "By working together, we were able to learn more and we should do the same in our religious studies."

Bible Verse: Proverb 12:15 "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto council is wise."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Do what you love and love what you do

Singing is one of my passions in life. I will never get a recording contract or be invited to sing in Carnagie Hall or the Grand Old Opre, but when I sing, I think I get more out of it than the audience does. One of the first groups that DD and I joined when we came to MA was the Old Sturbridge Villiage Singers. I figured that eventually we would sing in our church choir, but I wasn't sure how long it would take to find a church choir. In the meantime, this group would do wonderfully. Plus, I thought it was very cool to combine history and singing. DD was a little hesitant when she found out that we had to dress up. But somewhere in the recesses of her brain, under all the teenage angst and peer pressure, she must think that it is pretty cool too, because this week she brought the camera for us to take pictures. I'm glad we share this time together because we share the love of singing, but also because it is a clear message that if you love something - DO IT! Don't worry about what others think. This is a tough message for anyone to internalize, let alone a teenager. So be inspired, what do you want to do that you are nervous about? Look at this beautiful face and think of her stepping out of her comfort box and do the same. Find what you love and do it no matter what others think.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Diving Right In

I dove in literally. I cannot tell you how long it has been since I have put on my swimsuit, let alone got in a pool. This weekend though, I did it. From running and exercising, I felt good enough about myself that I decided to take the plunge. Sports Illustrated certainly won't be calling me anytime soon, but I enjoyed myself and the kids enjoyed having me swim.

I guess that is when you know that you have gotten too out of shape: When your body starts stopping you from doing things that you love. I'm not asking to be Twiggy, but I need to drop some weight and get back to a reasonably healthy size.

The kids and I swam for hours. The pool at this Holiday Inn was not very large and although it had a posted limit of 2o it seemed crowded with even the three of us. I guess you could have twenty if everyone stood still. If you wanted to actually swim though, the limit was significantly lower. We were alone in the pool, except for an older couple that came in for a few hours to use the hot tub. We swam aggressively, swam slowly, swam under each others legs, hung on each other, floated around, and laughed. It reminded me of swimming with them when they were little, but they aren't so little anymore. They are practically bigger than I am. In fact, DD may have grown taller than me overnight. It was a very special time of closes that isn't as common as it was when they were toddlers. It was certainly an inspiration to get more of this weight off so that we can have many, many more times together.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Saving Local Libraries During Times of Budget Cuts

I guessing that since you are reading this blog for fun, you probably like reading in general. If this is true and you have a few dollars to spend on your reading interest, check out the West Warren Library Autographed Book Auction. A list is available for your review and there is information on making a bid. The proceeds are going to restoring the funding that has been cut by the town. It may seem like it is a little early for Christmas, but some of the titles would make wonderful Christmas gifts. Some of the better known books available are:

Dean Kontz - The Husband
Jacquelyn Mitchard - Deep End of the Ocean
Amy Tan - Saving Fish from Drowning
AJ Jacobs - The Year of Living Biblically
Wally Lamb- Couldn't Keep it to Myself
Anne Rice - Called out of Darkness

Some of my favorite autographs available are:

Jack Hanna
Vera Wang
Billie Jean King

So check out the list and make a bid. The actual auction will be held next Saturday, so your time is limited.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Take Your Best Shot by Austin Gutwein Preview

Sometimes, I am awed by how God works in this world. Yesterday, I was blogging about using your time to help others and today I find a book that speaks just to that point. In fact, it takes it one step farther: It not only encourages you to use your time to help others, but shows the power that one life has to change the world.

Recently, I had seen Thomas Nelson Book Review and had applied to review books for them. I was intrigued because while you agree to review books, you are not required or even encouraged to make the review positive. They want an honest opinion of the book. Today, I received my acceptance to review and got to choose the book that I wished to review. I poked around the options, but then this book, Take Your Best Shot by Austin Gutwein, caught my eye. The website allowed me to preview a few pages and I was hooked. I even went to far as to follow up and check out the YouTube video, Maggie's Story, that sent Austin on his Journey.

Now I just have to wait for the book in the mail so that I can finish reading it and give you a clear run down on its worthiness, but judging by its first chapter, you'll be hearing some positive praise.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Sewing Help

Let me introduce you to another member of our family, Bandit. As I I created my Little Dresses for Africa yesterday, he couldn't help but get involved. Of course, I'm not sure if he was more of a help or a hinderance.

Helping Others - Little Dresses for Africa

Every day we are gifted with another 24 hours that we can use as we wish. Sometimes we have household responsibilities that fill the minutes or we’re caught up with work or shuttling the little ones from one place to another – but each activity is a choice that we make with our time. Each day we can choose to make the day better or we can just trudge through the moments that make it up.

Yesterday, I was frittering away the hours, lost in our daily grind, when I decided to make a different choice with my evening. DH and DS had meetings out of the house, so it was just DD and me at home. So after making dinner for us, I gathered my belongings: sewing machine, notions box, and old pillowcases. Yes, I said pillowcases. I decided to use my time today to help others.

Several weeks ago, I was alerted to Little Dresses for Africa by a fellow blogger (I'm sorry to say that I don't remember whom) and committed myself to making some. Last week, I culled my pillowcases and pulled out those that were mismatched. Tonight, I got everything together and put the dresses together. Even my 14 year old daughter thought they were very cute. She thought with a pair of leggings they could really make a statement. Tomorrow, we will package them up and send them off. I only made two, but hopefully I will find time in the next few weeks to make some more.

So today I chose to use part of my time to improve the world. How can you change the world with your time? If you knew your time could make such a difference, how might you change your schedule?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Promised Picture - Daddy Daughter Time

I know that I promised you a picture of DH and DD singing Kereoki at my B-I-L's birthday. We'll I finally got it today, so here it is:

See, dispite all the push and pull of the Daddy / Daughter relationship, they can still have fun. FYI, they are singing Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire. Everyone, including my husband's mother, said that he won't do it, but I knew for just one minute of fun and bonding with his daughter, he would have walked over hot coals - - - In fact walking on hot coals may have been higher on the list of things to do for DH compared to singing in front of everyone. What we'll do for love!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

How many times do you see a movie based on a book that you have read and then regret wasting your time watching the movie. The movie didn't capture the angst in the book, the characters weren't true, it just wasn't how you imagined it. Well, here is one that broke the mold.

I read Revolutionary Road about a year ago with my old church's book club. It is not a new book: it was originally published in 1961 (interestingly 1st editions start at $79.00 on Amazon). However, it seemed to be popular again in reading circles about a year or so ago and became a movie with Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio in 2008. I can't say that every detail was fresh in my mind when I watched it, but certainly the general story, feeling, and characters were; and the movie nailed it.

This is NOT a family film, but a chick flick / tear jerker about a very conflicted couple, who have lost their spark. They once felt so special, so on the move. Now they have fallen into the dulldrums of suburbia. How will they ever get that spark back? Can they? How far will their life go to hold them in their place? Although written more than a generation ago, the theme endures. I can almost garuntee you that you can see a piece of yourself in this book and film.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

From Inspiration to Execution - Crocheted Bookbag

My daughter pulled out this great bag that my birth-mother (AKA Grandma Out West) made for her at some point

and has been using it to carry her books. It is absolutely beautiful and shows yet another talent that my birth-mother has. I was so intrigued though that I emailed her to ask for the directions and was releaved to find out that it was crochets, but disappointed that she didn't know the exact pattern.

"Dear Dawn,

Unfortunately, no I do not have a pattern for that bag, but it is easy to make.It is crocheted.You just make a chain a little shorter than the width you want for the bag. Single crochet down the chain and then around the other side of chain. Then keep on single chaining round and round to height you want.The white fancy row contains double or triple crochet bobbles down into the second or third rows below depending on how big you want the design to show. If you have trouble, I could try to make another and write down what I did as I go.

Love and hugs,

Did I let that stop me - - - no! I dove in and even used a different stitch. I added a bottom trim and fringe. I tried crocheting with three threads at a time for the strap and here it is:

Because I use a wider stitch and a stretchier yarn, I am planning to sew in a cloth insert tomorrow.

Don't let not knowing what your doing stop you. Try new things. Reach for new horizons. The results may suprise even yourself.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Week in the Life of a Homeschooler

I know that many people wonder what a week in the life of a homeschooler may look like. DD decided to create a series that will show just that. She is posting her schedule for one week on our Blog, A Cup of Tea with Mom and Me. She decided instead of just picking out the good / interesting things, she would make notes every hour so you get to see the good, the bad, the interesting, and the boring of it all. Take a minute to go see what her week looks like.

Disclaimer: This is just a week. It by no means represents every week. Our weeks are varied as snowflakes, bubbles, and fingerprints - but this will give you a taste.

Develop Yourself through Drawing

In Massachusetts, one of the required courses to cover is drawing. I personal find demanding people to draw is bizarre concept. How do you call a muse? I do understand allowing kids to have the opportunity to draw if they are so inclined and providing materials toward this end. Anyway, I explained to the kids that we did need to investigate drawing to meet this “requirement”, but that I intended this to be very informal and they could investigate and draw whatever they wished as long as they did at least one drawing a week.

DS loves drawing and this really wasn’t a big deal for him. I have also used drawing as a way for him to understand and remember his science facts.

DD, on the other hand, is very frustrated by her drawing ability. She is very hard on herself and angry when her drawings don’t come out perfectly, so I was very surprised when she took this task to heart and on her own found a subject of interest and began her drawings. DD is very interested in fashion and design, so she pulled her subject matter from Vogue. She focused on advertisements by designers that intrigued her (although she proclaims she is not ready to try to draw a model).

This has been interesting from both a drawing perspective and also in an advertising perspective as she has noticed how the photographers, ad agents, and designers work together to emphasize their products. I also find it interesting because her interest reminds me so much of myself when I was her age. I loved fashion. I drew and drew and drew so many designs you can’t even imagine. It is funny to see your own interests emerge from your children. Do they arise because they are near you? Do they arise unrelated to yours? Or is there some genetic seed that grows from soul outward?

This week I did try to look a little deeper at her drawing and critic her drawing a bit- Trying to draw her eye toward dimension. This is of course difficult when you are drawing from a flat picture. So I tried to show her how to focus on detail and focused just on the one slouch boot in the Payless ad that she had picked out.

I think she was a little frustrated by my apparent ease at drawing, but I tried to tell her that I never was a “good drawer”. It wasn’t until it didn’t matter if I failed that I did better. Perfection is not the goal – perception is and no one’s perception is the same. You cannot do art wrong. You are your own worst enemy. I think in the long run, this study will be as important in the development in her drawing as it will be in the development of herself.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

What to do if you develop CRS?

Have you ever heard the phrases:

  • He isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer.

  • She isn't the bightest light bulb.

  • One french fry short of a happy meal.

Well, my kids have come up with a new one for me. "Mom, go flip the fish sticks."

The other day, I was making fish sticks. The kids were in the kitchen. I was doing other things. I turned the timer on and left the room. When the timer went off I went back to flip the fish sticks - - -problem being that I hadn't even put them in the oven. Ooooppps! The kids thought it was very funny though.

I would really begin to worry about Alzheimer's except the next day when we were going hiking and needed a compass. I was the only one who knew where it was. It isn't mine. I wasn't the last one to use it. It wasn't in my dresser. But, I knew exactly where it was.

So apparently the important things like feeding my family - forget it; but obscure crazy things - I've got it covered.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Enhancing your Family time

This morning on Facebook, one of my friends posted, "lazy, rainy day for cleaning". My response, "lazy, rainy day in my house apparently equates to hiking. Not sure how those two things equate, but we're off." And so we were.

DH did some quick letterbox hunting and found a good local spot to head out to. The hike was great. We had to bathe in bug spray, but the path was wide and almost completely falt. We saw incredible mushrooms (I must admit I have a fetish for mushrooms.

They can be so beautiful), salamanders,

and a waterfall. We did find the letterbox

and left our mark.

Afterward, we surveyed some of the local orchards. We got cider from one, some apple butter and marinades from another, and then one of my fall favorites, cider donughts at the last. MMMMMmmmmm - Good!

We then came home and watched Inkheart, an enjoyable family film and a great way to end a family friendly day.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Adding a new "R" to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Going back to yesterday’s post about going green, which I certainly have a lot to learn I admit, I have added an “R” to the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle mantra. It somewhat falls under the “Reuse” concept, but is definitively a different use of the word. I think, as consumers, we think of “reuse” as using the same object again i.e. a reusable razor vs. a disposable; but “reuse” can also mean “re-purpose”. Re-purposing means that before you throughout an item that has finished its usefulness look it over to see what other uses it or parts of it may have. (You will, by the way, find this to be a great way to save some money. Here are just a few of the repurposes that we have around our house:

Composting – I do not adhere to the perfect mix, but instead just pile the green (grass), brown (leaves), and organic material (kitchen waste – vegetable scraps, egg shells, fruit rinds). Even our indoor container for compost is repurposed from its former life as a coffee can. The compost becomes lovely black gold for the garden and I reduce the amount and therefore the cost of my garbage.

Decorating – Old sheets have become curtains with a little needlework. Old jeans are becoming a rag rug. Old wood became my shoe stand.

Landscaping – DH and DS this weekend created a wonderful new fire pit and spent not a penny. Rocks were reclaimed from elsewhere in the yard and even the sand came from a leftover sand pit that must have sat under the old owner’s swing set. We have also begun to plan next year’s garden and have decided to use raised beds. I pulled from the backyard and old door frame that had been dumped in the woods. I think it will be perfect for at least a portion of the garden (and my wood’s are cleaner too).

Going green is about using fewer resources AND making those resources that we have go as far as we can. I would love to hear what you have done to Re-purpose items in your house.

I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself,than be crowded on a velvet cushion.
from the chapter "Economy" in Walden

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Going Green - Better for the environment or for someone's pocketbook

I don’t know if it is because I am reading Walden (Henry David Thoreau) to my son at night or if is the Cash for Clunkers or the 10,000 other “Green” messages that we are inundated with, but I am really beginning to be suspicious of this entire marketing message. I am not being kind here I know, but I am beginning to feel it is exactly that “a marketing message”. Please understand, I do believe that we need to be good stewards of the earth and I do believe that we have strayed away from that. I do believe that many of us have our hearts in the right place as we attempt to “green” our lives. But . . .I would be interested to see how much we waste as attempt to do better.

I have been watching decorating shows that rip out entire kitchens or houses because the homeowners want to go green. I have watched congress convince us all to rid ourselves of old vehicles so that we move to cleaner vehicles. I have watched women toss makeup, purses, and clothes to get greener fashions. Where are all these resources going?

I’ve been watching products tout “green” just to entice the consumer: Nothing has been modified, no recipe changed. It is as if two “green” camps have arisen: one, which is really interested in helping our planet, and another, who is trying to reap a benefit from this mindset. The consumer is caught in the middle, trying to decipher which is real.

I think we could take a lesson from our grandparents during the Great Depression, everything that exists has value. Have you ever noticed how people of that generation hoard things? They have button boxes, nails and screws in small containers, extra pieces of wood, etc. etc. Cooking became an art of not just planning one meal, but figuring out how to use the leftovers - - -every last one of them. Isn’t this more green than scrapping everything and starting again? Shouldn’t we bring ourselves back to the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle concept? Use less, reuse what you can, recycle what you can’t and then, only then, go buy a new greener item.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

My Heritage Birthday Reminder

I thought that you would find this funny. The other day, my husband received this email the other day from My Heritage:

Dear DH,

This is an automatic notification from Our Family Name Web Site on
Here are the upcoming events in your family:

Coming up tomorrow

September X 2009

39th birthday of Dawn

Dawn is your wife

It was the last line that made him laugh. . .as if he needed to be reminded that I was his wife. Then he thought of how he would take the email if we were in the middle of a heated divorce. Thanks My Heritage for the good laugh.

Making Your Dreams A Reality

One of the great things about having more time on my hands is that I can explore my creative side. I can dream and turn those dreams into reality. Last night, I dreamed about creating a wreath. So this morning, I pulled one of the metal wire frames that the homeowner’s of our last home had left in the old house (13 years ago – yes, we save the strangest things), some flower shears, and some string. Florist metal may have been a better choice, but I didn’t have any and I have learned not to put off my ideas just for lack of supplies. The idea will practically haunt me until, I accomplish the task. I wasn’t 100% sure about how I wanted to accomplish the wreath. I knew that I wanted to use hydrangea which grows in the yard. I add a purple flower that is growing out front which I’m not positive what it is and I added some seed pods from Oriental poppies. This is what I created:

Isn’t it lovely. And better than that, my DH and son installed the pineapple doorbells that I have been waiting for.

Welcome! Welcome to my home.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Internet Safety

This weekend we were in a campground outside of Binghamton, NY. I have tried to be more careful about what I post when both for the safety of my family and our home. We are so quick to let our children know when they post information that is too personal or too identifying and yet we as adults do it all the time. Before we left, DD made some post on FB declaring our trip and I commented back, “Why don’t you just give them the keys to our home?” Thus, I thought the best of posting our trip on Blogger. While you have all become “friends”, I’m sure there are still a few lurkers too. So we should all be reminded of our safety.

Having said that, I did spend a wonderful weekend with my family camping at a campground. It is about a four hour ride to Binghamton, NY and we were very lucky not to hit any major traffic. While this weekend was actually my birthday, we went to celebrate my brother-in-law’s birthday. He was actually kind enough to include my birthday celebration too - - -even if he did age me an extra year in the decorations. One of the best part of the weekend, was watching my husband and DD kerioki to Ring of Fire. Everyone said that DH would not sing, but he surprised us all and I think made DD’s day – not that she would ever admit it. (Hopefully, I will have pictures to share soon – my other brother-in-law took them.)

We did come home Sunday instead of Monday, which was actually a good choice. That way we hit no traffic, had a day to relax and get things done around the house, and the shorter time with my MIL gave less option for something to go wrong. What did you do this wonderful holiday weekend?

Monday, September 7, 2009

What to do when a porcupine raises his quills?

Sorry that I haven't posted in a few days. We have been traveling, I will tell you more in the next couple of days, but I wanted to show what we came by along our route:

Mind you we have seen porcupines in the zoo, but never up close and personal. As you can see, when DH tried to take his picture out his window, Mr. Porcupine became a little camera shy and raised his quills. This was the only picture we took before we decided to move along. Of course, when I look at this, I thought how useful quills could be on humans. When someone was annoyed or out of sorts, we would know to avoid them just by quill position. Just think of all the fights and uncomfortable conversations you could avoid.

Porcupines, by the way, are rodents. He is a mammal and dines on plants (herbivore). Porcupines cannot shoot there quills and regrow quills as they loose them. One of Mr. Porcupine's relatives actually can grow quills up to a foot long. He does not have quills on his under belly. When a baby porcupine is born the quills are soft but harden within an hour or so.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Visiting Maine

Do you have the list of 1,000 places to go before you die? I have checked one off this week. It isn’t far and now that we moved it is even closer. Years ago, when we were nearby I actually made my husband cross the border just to say that I’d been in Maine. I literally felt giddy when we crossed the border. You would have thought I was a child going to see Santa. This week, I actually got to go to Maine. It still was not for a very long time, only about 24 hours, but I really enjoyed it.

We took time to lighthouse hop along the Southern Portland coast. One of the greatest parts of traveling as a homeschooler is the questions that arise. When we stopped at the beach near the “Two Lights” Lighthouse, we were amazed to see a rock beach that looked like fossilized trees. When we walked through the edge where the stone was broken and shattered, it sounded like you were walking through glass. The stone was amazing and of course when we came home we had to find out more.

We also enjoyed a tour of the oldest lighthouse in Maine and then a window shopping trip at the wharf in Portland. We had a wonderful trip, but I cannot say that I can in good conscience check Maine off my places to go. In fact DH says that he may have to go back next month for another meeting and I must admit that I will eagerly plan another trip.