I found Pinterest!

:: I received so many wonderful gifts this year, including this jar of home-roasted, fairly traded coffee beans from Chris ::

I posted yesterday about wanting a better way to organize my recipes and my plans to develop an online site for them. I've needed a similar system to organize my online homeschooling resources. I find so many great links on the internet, but as soon as I bookmark them and move on to the next page, I may as well have forgotten about it completely. Browser "favorites" folders are not very user friendly or intuitive. I wanted to be able to see all of my links in one place and go back to them with one simple click.

Recently I was invited to join Pinterest and I when I saw it in action, I thought, "this could be the answer!" Using Pinterest to organize the pages I like makes so much sense. I sat down tonight and went through my bookmarks, "pinning" some to my Pinterest board. Not everything can be pinned - only pages that have a large image on them can be pinned. This leaves out fantastic links like this one for the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute curriculum on Colonial family life, to name just one. Overall though, I think it will work for me. I'll have to test it out over the next few months and make a final decision.

Follow Me on Pinterest

Busy little elves

The girls and I have been as busy as elves this week. We've been knitting, sewing, baking, cooking and crafting. Even though most all of our craft supplies are packed away, awaiting the big move to our new home, we've been resourceful and found ways to be creative and have some fun. For Hanukkah Jeff and I gave them each supplies to learn a new craft: 'A' received knitting needles and some yarn, and 'H' received a plastic grid, craft thread and embroidery needles so that she can learn how to sew. Both are taking to it very well and love to sit and do their "work." I am thrilled.

So this is what it feels like to be emotionally alive again! I've been unhappy for eight long months. Now that our moving date is five short weeks away, I'm starting to come out of my funk. I'm excited to set up our craft room in our new home, and know that all the tools, paint, crayons, fabric, yarn and glue will be a reach away. A new life. A fresh start for all of us. It's just what we need.

The girls can sense my emerging happiness, I can tell. They are so cute, so playful, so loving, so thoughtful, so responsible lately. A pure delight to spend time with! We are looking forward to seeing friends on Christmas Eve and relatives on Christmas Day. I wish you a very happy holiday season and I'll see you back here soon!


I posted Jeff's recipe for Perfect Vegan Latkes over at From Scratch Club... go check it out and let me know if you make them too!


Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah.

Chicken Love!

In 5 weeks, 5 days I'll be moving in my new home and we'll start to assemble the things we'll need to build a chicken coop. I'll order the chicks, find out what kind of feed and supplies I'll need to keep them warm and healthy, and the fun will begin. I hope.

A few days ago I took the whole family (plus a few extended family members) to visit our friend and local state park naturalist at her home. She keeps chickens in her backyard and she gave us a crash course in becoming a mother hen. It was a great experience - sometimes I get ideas to start something new without fully understanding what it all entails (if you ask me, I think that's the best attitude to have. How many things wouldn't I have started if I knew what was truly involved?). Alli showed us how her coop was built, what food she gives her hens, how to hold them, how to take care of them through the seasons, and she talked about the life cycle of a laying hen. I left her home feeling energized and excited about raising my own hens. I couldn't wait to find out about coop plans and hatcheries. I'm really looking forward to having a few of my own chickens!

Alli loaned me this book by Jenna Woginrich and recommended I check out this hatchery for my chicks. I've browsed coop construction plans online but haven't settled on one yet (the final plan has to be approved by Jeff, because he'll be building it). I'm thinking about where in the yard to put the coop (in a sunny spot downstream of the well?). I'm dreaming about picking up the soft, warm birds. I'm wondering what their names will be. I've got chickens on the brain!

Learning to Read

'A' is learning to read, slowly but surely. I haven't been using any sort of curriculum with her. I rely mostly on my own memories of learning how to read and write and use those as guidelines. She reads one "easy reader" book a day, practices handwriting, writes short notes and stories, and I read chapter books to her. Does this formula work? She's becoming more fluent, that's for sure. But she still resists it, every step of the way. It's not so much a mental struggle for her as it is an emotional struggle.

Earlier this week I sat down at the library and cracked open one of David Elkind's books. I think he's a very knowlegable scientist and I take what he says seriously. The book I perused described children year by year. I read the six-year old chapter first. He points out that six-year olds go through a struggle as they navigate the world of rules - social rules, family rules, parental rules - and try to find the balance between following rules and doing what they want. Often they will resist their mothers and prefer to be with and listen to their fathers. At the same time, many of these six-year olds go to school and have to deal with academic and social issues, which compounds the situation. It's a time of change, exploration and struggle for these children.

I followed up that book by reading an article in the New York Times about the Finnish school system. Their system is one of the best in the world. Children don't start attending school until they are seven, and the amount of homework and testing they have is significantly less than it is here in the US. Does that make a difference?

I took all of this information and thought about my teaching style and expectations and 'A's resistance to learning to read. Is it really the right time for her to be learning this material? Should I change my approach? Is she pushing back against reading, or is she pushing back against me?

Still confused, I called my aunt Nancy, a retired elementary school teacher. She was a wonderful teacher, the one that the other teachers requested for their own children. I told her about 'A's unwillingness to read. She gave me a lot of feedback, in essence telling me to back off and let it happen as it will. She reminded me that her daughter homeschooled her two children for several years, and although they were very intelligent (and still are!), neither child had an interest in reading until they were at least 8 years old. Studies show that children will eventually learn how to read and she saw that it was true for her own grandchildren.

Some other helpful points she made to me:
  • It's most important to instill a love of reading, and that means encouraging 'A' to write using any words she can, including made up words/spellings that make sense to her (it's called inventive language). All children use their own spellings. Many times adults cannot decipher their written language, but as long as the child can read it back and understands it, it's considered an acceptable way of communicating. In 4th grade they will start to learn the correct way to spell and write if they don't already know by then.
  • As long as she likes to write and draw pictures of things that she knows about or thinks about, she'll be fine.
  • Handwriting? No one teaches it anymore. Except me I guess!
  • Spelling? Not as important as it used to be. All computers have spell check. Hmmm... I'm not so sure I can let go of spelling lessons.
  • Rolling on the floor while she reads a book? Yes, some of Nancy's students would roll on the floor in the classroom while they read.

In the spirit of keeping it fun, I decided to change the way I teach 'A', and I ordered a year-long subscription to "Explode the Code" - the online version. It's an interactive computer program that teaches reading. She LOVES it. It's fun and when she chooses an incorrect answer, it's the computer that corrects her, not me. I think that relieves some of the stress.

Stay tuned to find out how it's working out!


I've been:
Getting ready to move, tending the home we are in now as we say good bye to it, and doing the usual in the way of teaching 'A' and 'H' some of what they need to know to grow into responsible adults. French class, reading lessons, and lessons in loading the washing machine have been taking place today.

'A' choked on dinner the other night and it was a l-o-n-g choking episode. At least it seemed that way. Jeff hovered while I called the emergency personnel. By the time I was talking on the phone, she was fine. But still, it seemed like an eternity. Nothing makes your heart beat faster and your head spin harder than watching your child struggle for air. We're glad it's behind us, and are aware that we need a few extra life-saving skills under our belts. Even though we have a good idea of what to do, it's good to have confidence that we can handle what comes our way. Today I'm counting my blessings and keeping my children close. They're alive, and that's all that matters.

I realize I've been away from this space for far too long. I've gone through a multitude of emotions these past few months. Finally I'm coming back to a place of comfort, a place where things seem more normal. It feels good to not feel depressed or angry or anxious. It feels good to feel happy and excited again. I like to look forward to a bright future, and I can finally see one in front of me. When The Noise first started and I realized it wasn't going to stop, I had my first real taste of, "this is an inhumane living environment and I cannot believe people live like this. Not me!" Then I banded together with neighbors and we protested. We made our voice heard. We got the company that was making The Noise to undertake a construction project to muffle it. It's supposed to be done at the end of this month, and most days I think it might work.

In the meantime, we decided to put our far-off dreams into action, and we listed our home for sale. Oh, the wondering that went on! Will it sell? We may love our home (and we do, we just don't love The Noise), but would someone else love it enough to buy it? I cannot say it enough: we love our home. And guess what? Someone else loves it too, enough to buy it. What a relief! Knowing that someone was going to buy our home meant that we were free to look for another home. And look, we did. We saw A LOT of homes. Big, little, expensive, less expensive, well-built, cheaply built. Large lots with acreage, small lots with no room to grow. I fell in love with a farmhouse on a big plot of land but the Universe had other plans and someone else is buying that home. Then, the day after Thanksgiving we went to see a home I had been eyeing for a few while, a beautiful old home in a tiny village close by. Once we stepped inside we knew that it's everything we want and more.

I had my mental list that I would carry with me to each house I saw. The only "must" I had was a sunny spot for a garden. The "would be nice" list was long. A room near the kitchen for my desk, sewing machine, crafting projects, homeschooling table; a guest room; a dining room; and most of all, a sense of character. Our new home will have all of that. Somehow it's all working out...

... we think. With 6 weeks to go until we move, I shouldn't jinx it. I'll just continue to put my positive energy out to the universe and trust that what is right will happen.

looking for lost things

Today finds us heading out to look for lost things. 'A's winter coat is waiting for us in the Adirondacks, right where she left it. On the way home we will visit the Hyde Collection, looking for inspiration and inner peace. We'll wander through the museum together, stopping to look at whatever catches our eye. The girls will head downstairs for art class and have a chance to create their own work. When we leave the sun will be setting and when we finally arrive home, I'll be looking for a few extra hours in the day while I make cookies for a few holiday events this week. I have a feeling we'll find everything we're looking for today.

Yesterday I decided to try my hand at homemade, egg-free pasta. I used semolina and white flour mixed with warm water. The recipe did not call for salt, and as a result it didn't have as much flavor as I would have liked. I also see that I would need to invest in a pasta machine if I were to do this again. I hand rolled it and cut the strips, but it was still too thick when it cooked. Overall though I found it easy to make.

Homemade Egg-free Pasta
(adapted from The Complete Book of Pasta and Noodles)

Put in the bowl of a food processor:
1 3/4 cups white flour
3/4 cup semolina flour

Add in a thin stream while the machine is running:
3/4 cup hot water

When the dough starts to become a ball, stop the machine and remove the dough. Knead it on a clean counter for one minute until it is smooth and elastic. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap to keep it from drying out.

To shape, take a small amount from the plastic wrap and roll it with a rolling pin into a long rectangle. Try to roll it as thinly as possible. Using a paring knife or pizza cutter, cut into noodles. Toss the cut noodles in flour until you are ready to cook them.

To cook, place the cut/shaped pasta into a large pot of salted, boiling water, and cook for about 5 minutes.

Goings on

I have to say, selling our home and finding a new one may have been (and still is, as we haven't closed on either house yet) the most stressful thing we've faced as a family in a while. Now that we can see the home stretch, I'm starting to relax a bit. I'm coming back to center, back to this space, back to my world.

I've been:

:: admiring the brand-spanking-new E-book published by From Scratch Club, filled with do-it-yourself food projects like gluten-free pasta, limoncello, garlic greens, spice mixes, mustard and MORE! You'll find my recipe for homemade lotion in there as well. You can download it here. If you want to print it out, grab this glossy version for print. Go!

:: finding new homeschooling materials online. I love the day-to-day rhythm of our life without worksheets and drill, but deep down I'm an old fashioned girl and I do believe that some things we must learn by drill. Early math, handwriting, and sight words are some of those things (so are compass points, telling time, manners and social interaction skills but those will come). I found two websites that allow me to create math worksheets and handwriting worksheets for free and I like them a lot! The Math Worksheet Site allows you to customize worksheets for your child. Let me point out that I really don't like worksheets. The word makes my skin crawl. BUT I do believe that math worksheets have a place. Basic math is all memorization. Completing worksheets helps store answers to math problems in our memory for years and years.

Handwriting Worksheets are useful for teaching that ancient skill of handwriting. I know, everyone types these days, no one pays attention to handwriting. Even my own handwriting has gone downhill significantly since the dawn of the computer age. I do believe that everyone should have an opportunity to learn good handwriting skills and decide if they like to write and if so, if they like to write legibly. Perhaps my children will decide that they don't want to handwrite anything, but if so at least I gave them the opportunity to decide.

:: making bread, and more bread. I made Liz's sandwich bread today and am looking forward to piling cheese and homemade tomato jam on it for grilled cheese sandwiches tonight. I changed a few things in her recipe - I ran out of oatmeal, so I used bulgur wheat as the hearty grain; and I used one egg instead of 2. So far, so good. It's a good recipe, and I recommend you try it.

:: waiting for us all to come down with colds. I'm exhausted, 'A' looks like someone painted purple eyeshadow around her eyes, and 'H' is whinier than usual. She even melted down when I checked the mail today and found nothing for her in the box. Yup, it's coming. I'll be amazed if it isn't.

I'm back, and I'll see you soon!

Getting ready for the next step

:: Homeschooling writing lesson. Apparently we use the bafroom in our home. ::

I've been preparing for the next step in our family journey. The preparation is half physical, half emotional. We are selling our home, the place where our memories have been born and nurtured for almost six years now. The only home my children have known. The fact that it sold so quickly in this housing market is incredible. Almost as incredible is the fact that we found a home we would like to live in, and if everything goes smoothly, we'll be living there at the end of January.

Our criteria for a new home were steep. We wanted a place with a big sunny spot for a big garden, and a place for chickens and honeybees; closer to Jeff's place of employment, and close to our current social networks. We wanted to find a house we would love to call "home", and that's not easy. I think though that we finally did it. I LOVE the house we are going to buy. I can't wait for you to see it too.

To prepare, I've been learning about tending honeybees and chickens, packing up our belongings, talking with the girls about moving, pushing paper around relating to mortgages, contracts, septic and well inspections, and the like. I've been doing my own mental preparation too. I try to absorb the memories I want to carry forward, and say good-bye to the things in my home that I've taken for granted these past few years. Good-bye to the mightly oak, to the sage and mint plants, to the foxes and the deer. I'll miss my neighbors and my neighborhood, my drive around the lake, my trips to the farm to pick up our vegetables. I'll miss our library and the farm stand down the road.

I'm excited to go, but sad to leave. It's the right step for us at the right time, but it's hard to wade through the emotion sometimes.

You know who is going to look great in this new home? Grace. She has a regal presence, and so does the home. She will fit right in.

:: Grace ::

About Me

My name is Jillian. I started this blog as a way to experiment with my camera and it's a become a nice little spot where I enjoy spending time. I'm a mother to 6 and 4 year old daughters, wife to a cool computer guy, and mama to a cuddly cat. We enjoy eating local, organic food; managing several food allergies; homeschooling with love; spending time in nature; and we love to take time each day to be creative. You can also find me over at From Scratch Club from time to time. Welcome!