Monday, October 31, 2011

Mindful Monday: Fifteen Minutes Again!

Last week's Mindful Monday post was such a success! I got a lot done in my art room, and restricting myself to the 15 minutes made me really want to get back into it the next day. I got a lot done, but there is still more.

I also tempered my work time by getting to a couple of easy, niggling craft tasks as I came across them. This had a double benefit - it broke up the time nicely, giving me small reminders of why I so badly want this space functional and getting a couple of things done meant having a couple less things to find a home for as I organize.

For this week - I'm having anoutehr go-round of this task, to see how much more I can get done! 

Look! You can almost see the work table!
Who: Me
What: Fifteen minutes of cleaning everyday in my art room.
Why: To get 'er done.
How: First thing after Sister-Bug goes down for her nap, bust in to the space for fifteen minutes no more, no less. Last week I focused on clearing space for the future work of sorting and storing. That meant a lot of just picking messes up and boxing it for later organizing. This week, I want to focus on clearing out some of those boxes of chaos. I also want to make the "work box" drawers that I have for the kids accessible and functional. I think if they are,  I can have a little more time in my room...

I'm gonna get this done, I swear. I probably will have it all nice so I can mess it up well and good in Holiday preparations.

Daily Haiku: October 31st

Last of harvest days.
We gather for feast and fun,
Pumpkins lit a-glow.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Simple Saturday: Independent Snacking

One of the things that can drive me crazy is how the Little Bugs always seem to get hungry the minute I have gotten my hands deep in a project, sat down to nurse, or just opened my book. I know I shouldn't get peeved - they are growing and they get hungry and that's okay.

But really? I just started writing this! Two minutes ago I was in the kitchen, digging through the fridge, and you couldn't want a snack then?

In answer to this, I decided to simplify and empower. To do this I got a smaller selection of snacks, focusing on nutritional and flavor balance as well as things I was okay with both kids eating whenever. Then I got three plastic containers with lids that Brother-Bug can easily open.

I keep these bins in a low cupboards, and/or on the bottom shelf of the fridge. Brother-Bug can help himself anytime he is hungry - and he usually takes on sharing with his sister as well.

I keep refreshing the snacks as they need it, and I usually put two different things in each bin. One might have fruit leather and nuts, one crackers and nori, and one carrot and green bean pieces. I try to stick to our concept of The Three Gs as my guidelines. If there is something sweet like fruit leather, they have to eat everything in the bin, not just the sweetie) before that bin is replenished.

Some things I have packed in these bins: cheese and meat bites, seaweed, assorted nuts, chips, crackers, freeze dried fruits and veggies, cooked chickpeas, fresh carrots, peas, celery, or green beans, tofu dip, yogurt, dried fruit, carrot & beet chips, trail mix...

I'm having fun finding fun snacks to diversify their bins, and also finding a special surprise snack occasionally. I think they are both learning about meeting their own needs, saving the sweets so they last (delayed gratification), and a little nutrition. When I do go to get a more prepared snack, I find that I am more inspired to make it fun a different because it's something I do once a day instead of three or four times a day.

And when someone comes in the middle of my writing time, I can easily remind them that the snacks ate within their reach.

Daily Haiku: October 30th

Today, dreams of time
that unspools endlessly,
scattered with bright stars.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Housekeeping Week - Friday

After the craziness that is any week input home, I'm ready to slow down and have a not-so-essential chore on Friday. One that I can comfortably miss if we are out of town or there has been too much going on and we need a down day.

Friday is Clean the Bedroom Day.

We use the bedroom for sleeping, movies, and getting dressed, so it doesn't get very messy over the course of a week, but of I don't put it on the schedule it gets pretty darn messy before I prioritize it. And I feel that we all sleep better if we are sleeping in clean space.

To get this room good enough I
*clear the surfaces.
*put the clean laundry away, and the dirty laundry in the laundry room.
*pick up the random stuff.

Ultimately I try to
*wash the sheets.

Because its such a light set of tasks, Friday is also the day I clean the hall.

Like the bedroom, it doesn't need much. I feel it's good enough if I
*do a quick tidy up on our family desk.

Ultimately I try to
*dust the desk and photos hanging in the hall.
*organize the random piles that grow on the desk.
*wash the floor.

Mostly I can get through both these tasks with ease, leaving the rest of the day free for a quick living room pick up.

Housekeeping schedule benefit! I don't have to worry about messes (smallish, non-sticky messes anyway) when I see them. I know that it will be less than a week - and usually less than four days - until I clean it up. I don't have to do it now, or think about those dust bunnies because I know when I will be thinking about them. My mind is free to pursue more interesting things.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Housekeeping Week - Thursday

Paradoxically, Thursday is also my favorite, and for the opposite reason of Wednesday.

Thursday is Bathroom Day.

Unlike the day-long cleaning evolution that is Wednesday, the bathroom is an easy chore that I get done first thing in the morning. I scrub the tub, pop the kids in their bath, and keep an eye on them while they play and I clean the rest of the bathroom.

I start the day with my chore already done, which is good since Thursday is also when I run errands.

If I am doing a 'good enough' clean I
*scrub the tub.
*clean the toilet.
*wipe down the sink.
*take dirty laundry out.

If the kids are both happily splashing, I ultimately try to
*wash the floor.
*clean the mirror.
*wipe out any storage bins that need it.
*deep clean behind the sink, toilet, etc.

This is really only a twenty minute chore, so that leaves me plenty of time to prep dinner, make the shopping list, and otherwise prepare for errands.


Housekeeping schedule benefit! Because each room gets cleaned on such a regular schedule, it means that the ultimate things aren't always so pressing. Odds are all of them get done within a couple of weeks, and the basics are always covered.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Housekeeping Week - Wednesday

Wednesday has become a favorite. It is the Kitchen Day.

My habit has become to start first thing in the morning and slowly work through it over the course of the day. This chore has, by far, the longest 'good enough' and 'ultimate' lists.

For a good enough kitchen I need to
*clear and wipe all the counters (including under the counter appliances).
*empty the dish drainer.
*clear out old food & leftovers from the fridge.
*pick up the laundry room (which is small and attached to the kitchen).
*sweep and wash the floors.

Looks like a lot, but ultimately I also try to
*scrub the sink.
*clean the toaster & microwave.
*wipe out the fridge.
*clean the stove and/or oven.
*sort the odd socks in the laundry room.
*wipe down the cupboards.

This happens on Wednesday for a couple of strategical reasons. First, Papa-Bug has the car most Wednesdays, so I can assume I will be at home to work on the kitchen all day. Second, since I get home late on Tuesday, we don't usually get our after dinner kitchen clean up done and the dishes are just piled up after dinner. Lastly, I run errands on Thursday, so cleaning the kitchen the day before means I have a clear fridge to put the new food in, as well as a good idea of what we need at the grocery store. Additionally, having the kitchen sparkling as we head into the last part of the week feels good - up and over the hump.

I find, as I work through the day that other kitchen tasks make their way into my chore - like sorting bones and starting a batch of broth, making fruit leather out of some fruit that must be used, and so on. It's relaxing to be tied to this essential room for the day.

Today I opted not to wash the floor - we are carving pumpkins tomorrow evening and I know it will need a wash after that mess. I ended up with time today to start re-claiming the windowsill, taking off some old hardware that was making it look unkempt. I hope to make a little kitchen altar there in the near future - something to look at while I do the never ending dishes. 


Housekeeping schedule benefit! Because I know I will have this extended time in the kitchen, I don't stress too much throughout the rest of the week - I just try to keep the mess to a minimal pile. The big things I will tackle today. This has opened up a lot of time the rest of the week for Brother-Bug's school time, my time, folding laundry, and whatnot.

Wordless Wednesday: What I Saw Out The Window

Daily Haiku: October 26th

Mother holds baby.
Arms create a circle strong,
Made of love and bone.

(Written for a friend and her new son.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Housekeeping Week - Tuesday

On Tuesday I have to be at our food co-op for my volunteer shift by 4:30. I also have to get dinner in the slow-cooker so Papa-Bug and the kids can eat dinner easily while I'm gone. I get home right before bedtime, just enough time to feed myself and hear how the evening was. So I need the Tuesday chore to be pretty simple and one that won't be really noticed if I miss it.

Tuesday is the day we clean the Playroom.

To get it just good enough, we
*pick up the toys off the floor.
*make the bed.
*put the laundry away.

If we are all feeling cooperative (and it wasn't too big a mess to start with!) we also, ultimately, can
*sweep and wash the floor.
*get the toys put in their proper homes.
*wash the sheets (since the kids sleep with us, I don't worry about that so much).

Also on Tuesday I water the houseplants. It's not a big deal, so I easily forget to do it - unless it is on the schedule.

Having the playroom clean on Tuesday means that Papa-Bug has a nice play space for his evening with the kids. And, like I opened with, Tuesday can get a little crazy, so this is a pretty mellow thing to get done.

Another aspect of the kids room that I recently added is the style of their toy storage. I found that a local ice cream parlor gives the sugar cone boxes away. These make for cheerful, standardized storage. The lid is perfect for writing what belongs in the box - and even if the contents are a jumble, the outside looks tidy.


Housekeeping schedule benefit! Having a small thing, like watering the plants, gives me something I can do first thing and feel accomplished right away in the morning.

Daily Haiku: October 25th

Small steps, daily work
bring about noticeable change.
Calm begins to preside.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Housekeeping Week - Monday

I have been writing so enthusiastically about the functionality of my housekeeping schedule that I thought I would go through it day by day this week, detailing the how and why of each day's chore.

Monday is the Living Room Day.

On this day I do a through clean-up of our living/dining area. Each chore has a list of 'good enough' tasks and 'ultimate' tasks. Good enough is what I need to get done to feel comfortable in the room.

For the living room, that is
*picking up everything on the floor.
*clearing surfaces.
*tidying the shoes.

If I have a busy day (like two weeks ago when a friend and I made 7 gallons if applesauce on a Monday) I know that all I must get done are those four simple tasks.

If I have a little extra time, I can tackle any of the items of the ultimate list;
*wash the floors.
*clean the mirror.
*excavate under the couch.

I set this chore on Monday, because after a busy weekend (in which we probably didn't pick up much) the Living Room really needs some attention. Also, as the primary room we use (no family room or den in this house), getting it clean first thing in the week sets the tone for the next several days.


Housekeeping schedule benefit! Since Brother-Bug has gotten used to the cleaning schedule he is easier to cajole into helping and understands which chores I will be involved in and so interrupts less while I get them done.

Mindful Monday: Fifteen Minutes A Day In My Room

I have a room of my own in this house - its for my art supplies, herbal products, sewing work, and the kids school supplies. But regardless, it is mine and it has a door. The only thing is that I don't use it. In the way of many things in life with small children, my room was the lowest on the list to unpack when we moved. And it still lingers in a state of semi-unpacked, catastrophic mess.

What the challenge looks like...
I've been hoping and waiting for a weekend day when I can really absorb into the room and do some crazy unpacking, but... Well, I've been waiting for six months. It's become a looming, awful task, a mess beyond belief, and I've been just keeping the door closed.

No more!

Who: Me
What: Taking a page (not literally) out of Gretchen Rubin's blog about tackling difficult tasks, I commit to spending fifteen minutes each day, organizing and clearing my space. In seven days that is almost 2 hours, so I should be able to get something accomplished.
Why: Above and beyond what I stated previously, the holidays are coming. I don't have a mountain of crafting to accomplish, but it sure would be nice to have a space in which to work on the little I do need to get done. And, space to work aside, I'm just bloody sick of the mess! The rest of the house is so consistently tidy that my room haunts me.
How: For fifteen minutes - hopefully during Sister-Bug's nap - I will delve into my art room, set a fifteen minute timer and clean till it beeps. No more, no less.

Here's to success and a clear work table!


Additional notes: The laundry design is going well, and I plan on posting more about that soon. It's working its way into my weekly housekeeping schedule, which will be for the best.

I missed the Mindful Monday last week - I had it mostly written. It was about holding normalcy and rhythm in a week of chaos. But the day, the week, was just too busy to post at all last week. I was more focused on getting the kids through a crazy week, with some of their routines intact to do much writing.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Simple Saturday: Our Morning Circle

A recent and successful addition to our simple family is our morning circle. With homeschooling, I notice it can be a real challenge to keep some form of structure in our day. In the short term it is easiest for me if I let Brother-Bug lounge and read the morning away in his pajamas. But ultimately that makes life more difficult, because he builds that as his habit and then getting him ready to go on days we do need to leave the house or accomplish something is really difficult.

About a year ago I instituted our "morning routine". These are the things we must do to get our day going. I try to start it immediately after breakfast every day, but often it kicks off a little later than that. Once it starts, we aren't supposed to divert into other actions, like reading or iPhoning, or dressing dollies. Theoretically, we go through the routine quickly and get it done. In our morning routine we;
Clear our dishes
Brush our teeth
Get dressed
Tidy the play room - we turn on a CD and pick up for the duration of two songs.
Feed the cat and dog

And then we are free to play, persue our own interests, take a walk, or whatever moves us.

The long term issue I had been having was getting Brother-Bug to transition smoothly into the routine. He would clear his dish and head to the couch and his pile of books. Based on the idea of adding rhythm points and candle glow to a child's day (from Kim John Payne), I decided to try a morning circle to see what would happen.

I thought about it - the structure of a pre-school or kindergarten circle, what I liked and disliked about circle structure, and how much time and attention I could expect from my little folk. The first day I started it, they were intrigued. The second day they were delighted. The third day it felt pretty normal. Sister-Bug is the biggest proponent of the circle. If she even hears the word "circle" at any point of the day she goes to sit on the living room floor, approximately where we sit each morning.

It grounds us and clears our heads before our day really begins. It's a good chance to try out ideas for the day. It gives us a natural space from which we can step into our morning routine.

The structure looks like this:

*Light a candle
*Stretch, wiggle, and come to the space. We finish our stretch by wrapping our arms around our chests to give ourselves a "big hug".
*Hold hands and sing a morning song. 
*Read a short picture book or poem or do a rhyming hand game - I do the same one for a whole week so that both kids can really absorb it. I try to choose books and poems that are relevant to the moment - this week I have a Halloween poem to read. Last week we read "Every Autumn Comes the Bear" by Jim Aronsky, to get into the idea of Autumn.
*Everyone draws an angel card and we talk about what each word means.
*Each person shares something they are looking forward to, and/or something they want to do, and/or something that they think will challenge them through the day. 
*Hold hands again and say a prayer by Tich Naht Hahn.
*Blow out the candle. 

It takes us less than 10 minutes. I keep a small tray with the candle, matches, and the angel cards on a shelf, ready to go, but out of the way.

Brother-Bug has a chance to talk through the day a little bit. This is especially useful on days when I know something is going to be hard for him - like his swim lesson. Sister-Bug is learning sitting and paying attention. I find that it really grounds ME as well, and the couple of mornings we have missed, I have really felt off kilter. Papa-Bug joins us on the weekends, and we draw his angel card for him on workday mornings.

I don't feel any pressure to make this happen at a certain time each day, but I do insist that we do it before we launch into any major efforts of the day. I think the next level for me is to make no phone calls (and receive no phone calls) before circle. That can really shatter my attention for the morning.

That's that. It's great. I'll close here with the prayer we close with each day.

Breathing in I calm my body.
     (take a deep breath in and release)
Breathing out I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I know this is a wonderful moment.

Daily Haiku: October 22

Fragile train of thought
runs off spiderweb tracks...
Snap! I can't follow.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Foot Print Ghosties

We made these guys the other day, when Brother-Bug wanted to decorate for Halloween. They are delightful, so easy, and super cute.

Trace your child's foot on sturdy white paper. Cut out the tracing - it should be an obvious ghost shape.

Draw eyes and a mouth.

We hung ours on white sewing thread in the window. They could also be nice cards, put together with crepe paper to make a banner, or???

Daily Haiku: October 19th

Heater switches on,
Its low roar speaks of cold days,
Makes me think of soups.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Blog Hiccups

I usually hash out my posts on my phone in advance, taking space while I'm nursing. I can usually write about two-thirds of a post this way, in a couple of nursing sessions. Later I hop on the computer and add links, tags, images, and proof-read before I publish.

But the big OS upgrade for my phone last week has my blog app crashing if I try to do any edits of posts on progress. So I have several articles started, and you'll have to forgive if they show up more erratically than usual. Eventually I might figure out what the heck is wrong with the app. And then my posting will return to its less haphazard schedule.

Thank you for your patience.

Daily Haiku: October 18th

Open the new journal
To page after empty page
...looks like the future.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Re-Covering A Chair

We had this chair. It had been a fairly comfortable chair with a washable cover, until I washed the cover and it shrank so much it was unusable. We couldn't even fit the cushion in, let alone properly fix it to the chair frame.

Take one not-so-special chair...

But recently we upgraded our bed, and had an extra queen size memory foam mattress topper. I contemplated for a while, made my design, and construction began.

First we measured and cut the foam to fit the chair.

Papa-Bug and Brother-Bug work on the cutting.

Next, I covered the foam cushion with an old sheet, to protect the foam itself. I sewed this on to the cushion and it can't be removed.

Already looking better - certainly feeling more comfortable!

Finally, I found some fun fabric and made a washable (non-shrinking) cover for the whole thing. I used zippers to fasten the arm pieces under the chair. I think the zippers will pull more evenly. We will see about that - so far it's working well.

Now THAT'S a chair I want to sit in!

I also added a small pouch off the right arm, to hold books, knitting, or other useful items. So far everyone is a huge fan.

See the pouch off the side? They filled it with board books and read together for a while.

And thanks to Sister-Bug's recent gastronomic adventures, I already got to road test the washable feature! The arm covers make it really comfortable for nursing.

Daisy thinks we did this just for her. Actually, I used the leftover foam, another old sheet, and an old fleece throw to make her a special dog bed.

Papa-Bug says we should call it the Twitter Chair. Sister-Bug calls it the Bird Chair and doesn't like to share it with Daisy. I like that it adds some charm and whimsy to our living room, and is no longer a piece of half-finished furniture looking awkward and less than comfortable.

How To Make Vacuum Powder

This is one of my favorite housekeeping items. I learned the recipe from Gina McGarry about a decade ago, and have used it on my carpets ever since.

It is easiest to make in a food processor, but a blender can work too.

Mix equal parts arrowroot powder and baking soda. Add 1/2 part borax and about 1/2-1/4 part dried lavender or other scented herb. Today I combined lavender and catnip. Dried lemon peels would be nice too.

Run the processor until everything is well combined. For extra scent (as well as germ killing power) add 10-20 drops of a related essential oil - lavender, lemon, etc. Run again. Store in an air tight container.

Sprinkling the carpet and our toes.

When it is time to vacuum, sprinkle a light coat over the carpet - this is something Sister-Bug lives to help with. Allow the dust to settle for ten minutes or so. Vacuum the room.

The oils of the herbs will scent the room - which can minimize airborne bacteria - and the powder deodorizes the carpet, kills germs, and protects against fleas. And it makes it really easy to be sure you have vacuumed thoroughly...

Daily Haiku: October 14th

Daily rituals -
A place to settle your roots,
From which you can grow.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Blogging About Beans

I have a farmer friend named Kasey White, of Lonesome Whistle Farm. They grow amazing garlic, assorted tomatoes and etcetera, and heirloom beans & grains.  They also grow black popcorn, which is really exciting and a perfect Halloween treat!

Look closely at the amazing colors of all those beans!
Their farm offers a CSA for their beans and grains, and I am so excited to be on the list of CSA Members. I am doubly excited because I am working off part of the cost of my share by featuring these tasty foods, and creating recipes for them, all to be exhibited here on my blog. I like this arrangement because I love to work for food, I like the challenge of new recipes, and I want to help support farmers - especially farmers who are trying to grow heirloom species and keep bio-diversity alive.

The CSA starts officially this month, and to start us off, Casey gave me a little bag of "Ireland Creek Annie" beans from last year's harvest. Lonesome Whistle didn't grow this bean again this season, so we will have to look elsewhere for it... because it was really, really tasty.

To start learning about heirloom beans, I'm going to cook each one as a plain bean before I attempt any recipes. I had heard Kasey say that heirloom beans have more complex flavors than the regular old black bean or kidney bean you buy in the store, so with the Ireland Creek Annie beans, I set out to test that assertion.

Beautiful beans. Gorgeous garlic.

These beans are a "white bean", of the kind you might use in baked beans, or a simple bean soup (keep reading if you like the soup idea...).  With half of the pound we soaked them in warm water, and cooked them at a simmer on low for a while.

(In the future I will give better, more detailed information about my cooking process...promise.)

Sister-Bug examines the dry beans.
Anyway. They had a soak and simmer until they tested done.

I mixed them with a little of Kasey's garlic, some butter, and some parsley... and of course a touch of salt and pepper. Just plain beans.

And what do you know! They were way more flavorful than most beans I have eaten. The garlic and the butter were good, but these beans could have stood alone as just a simple bean and still been very enjoyed by our family.

Their texture was smooth and a little starchy, and the flavor was nutty. One thing I have noticed about other heirloom foods I have tried, and these beans are no different, is that they taste like the "normal" incarnation of the food (white beans in this case) only more so. These beans were "beanier" than my usual white beans.

When cooked, they retained their color and shape better than my usual bean. There were few of the exploded or mushy beans mixed in, and they held up well when I was stirring in the butter and garlic. 

They were a huge hit with my family - everyone eating them up with alacrity.

Beans, garlic, butter... Bon apetit!
 With the second half of the pound, I wanted to see how they fared in a more flavorful recipe. I invented

Dinosaur Bean Soup

It comes by its name from the addition of Italian Kale, which my family thinks looks like something a dinosaur might eat or wear.

1 large leek - coarsely chopped
1 celeriac - peeled and cubed
1/2lb bacon - cut into chunks or bits
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic - minced
1/2 lb Ireland Creek Annie beans - pre-soaked (or other white heirloom bean)
1/2 by Italian kale - coarsely chopped or torn
4-ish cups of water
Salt and pepper

Heat a large soup pot. Add the bacon (we used Deck Family Farm Lamb Bacon, which has a flavor like no other. If you haven't tried Lamb Bacon, I think you should. Unless you don't eat lamb...). I usually take scissors and snip the strips into 1/2 inch pieces as I add it to the pan. Cook for a couple of minutes to let the fat coat the pan, then add the leek, celeriac, bay leaf, and garlic. Cook for until the bacon is just beginning to crisp.

Add the soaked beans and water. Cover and simmer for about 40 minutes. Check the beans a couple of times. If you have pre-cooked your beans, you need to just heat the water and everything thoroughly. Just before serving, add the kale, stir, and wait a few moments for the kale to wilt.

(To make a vegetarian version, omit the bacon, saute the veggies in olive oil, and add 1/2 tsp. veggie bullion to fill out the missing bacon flavor.)

Serve and enjoy. This is good with crusty bread.

Sister-Bug gives these beans her hungry toddler award. She wouldn't stop eating them!
Keep checking back for more bean recipes, information about heirloom beans & grains, and other related content. And go to your Farmer's Market and find a heirloom bean farmer, because if these beans are any indication, you will not be disappointed!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What To Do When...

...the toddler eats a handful of raw ground turkey?

Clear your schedule, wear something washable, and prepare for some sticky, vomiting toddler snuggles. Yuck.

Spend some time on the phone with the pediatrician and the midwife. Be grateful that the midwife is well informed and really knows her stuff - because the pediatrician wasn't much help at all.

Also, save the package the turkey came in - in case you have to visit Urgent Care (looks like we missed that adventure, thank goodness!).

Sip Pedialite slowly, an hour after the last puke. Flavor it with a little peppermint tea to soothe the tummy.

Take a relaxing bath spiked with chamomile tea and lavender oil and wash the sticky off yourself and the toddler.

Go to bed with a movie....

Oh, wait. Wipe up and change everyone's shirts again. Sleep with the toddler cuddled up on a towel.


Plan on laundry for tomorrow. Lots of laundry.


The Belated Birthday Post

Brother-Bug turned 5 a month ago today. We were in Seattle with his Godmommies for the celebrations. Papa-Bug was supposed to bring a box with him when he drove up to meet us on Friday. In said box were 'Cars' cake decorations, the cake pans, the birthday banner, our special birthday plate... oh yeah, and all the presents. He didn't bring the box. Whoops.

My plan had been to make a 2 layer cake, and frost it with a road, then drive our 'Cars' toys all over it, as three-dimensional decorations. But the toys were at home and the cake had to be made.

I ended up doing this:

Take one blank white sheet cake...

Trace out the basic outline with a toothpick, and start to outline it with the red icing. Choose not to think about the chemicals and dye numbers that made that icing so very red.

Red - completed. On to the details!

Headlights, eyeballs, and etc.

Finish off with black outlines and other decorations.
 I have to shout out a tremendous "THANK YOU!" to whoever put the drawing instructions online. That was a real life saver in the midst of a very quick plan-change. We added some candles, including a glittery number 5, and had a great celebration. Brother-Bug was thrilled that he had a Lighning McQueen cake. And I was (am) pretty darn proud of myself for pulling it off so nicely.

Ready, Sing, Blow!!!

Daily Haiku: October 11th

Wonder Woman could
lasso the bad guys and fly...
But could she can pears?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Simple Saturday: Into The Woods We Go

I didn't have much time to write today. It's October here in the Pacific Northwest and the past couple of weeks have been the perfect recipe of mixed rain and sun. So today was the day for one of our family's favorite annual expeditions.

It is time to hunt the Wild Chantrelle.

If you know these lovely little mushrooms, I don't have to elaborate. If you don't, I suggest you find a way to cultivate an acquaintance. They are so deliciosu.

I remember hunting mushrooms with my parents - up early and in the car, bound for the deep woods. "But DAD! I don't WANT to go hunt mushrooms!!" But away we all went, usually with the response: "You have to go. You're short and closer to the ground so you can spot them easier."

We got whites (like these) and goldens today. What a treat!

Now I bring my close-to-the-ground children mushroom hunting with me. We love the mushrooms, but as much as we love the tasty-melt-in-your-mouth-goodness, it's the annual ritual and thythm that I love most of all.

In this small act - a day searching through the underbrush for these beauties - tells us that Autumn has truly come. The smells of damp forest, decaying duff, and fallen leaves assail us. The Oregon Grape gives us tart berries to taste. We can't hear any cars. We call to each other through the woods, for location and harvest updates.

If we are lucky, we go home with a couple of pounds of mushrooms for dinner. If we are really lucky, we have some to dry and can for the year ahead. If we aren't lucky... well, that doesn't happen. Because even at our most luckless, we spent the day with one another, out of cell-phone range, enjoying the woods and the brush, crawling through faery glades (respectfully, of course), picnicking in damp and dappled forest, and remembering our connection to this place we call home. That's pretty darn lucky, even if we don't find a single mushroom.

Brother-Bug in the woods - a super mushroom spotter... maybe because he's close to the ground?

It's a simple pleasure, this yearly ritual.

Thanks to my mom and my dad, for yanking us out of bed, forcing us into the car, and teaching us to identify wild mushrooms. I'm so very, very grateful. So is my stomach.

Daily Haiku: October 8th

Out in the deep woods,
Golden chanterelles waiting
For our searching hands.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Preserve Us

Everything is ripe all at once. Peaches on Sunday, now tomatoes, Chantrelles, and applesauce in the next week. If I miss some of my regular posts it's because of a canning onslaught taking over my kitchen.

Keep your eye of the Canning Count in the sidebar there if you want to know what I'm up to...

Daily Haiku: October 8th

For my Husband:

I can't occupy
anywhere at this time of year.
My canning pot's full.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

When To Push

Brother-Bug is a cautious and fairly quiet guy. He would sit on the couch, reading to himself all day if he could. He is intensely uncomfortable in group activities and class situations. He also needs lots of encouragement do do things with his body. He is so very much in his head that active play is a huge leap for him - from thinking to moving.

I'm glad we Homeschool him so that he can do and learn within these challenges, becoming comfortable and competent at his own speed. Contradicting that is my feeling that I need to help him push his boundaries a little, help him to thrive outside his comfortable, book-lined groove.

We've tried art classes (a success for listening and following instructions) and ballet (it went okay, but it was really hard for both of us and he didn't get comfortable until his last class).

Enter swim lessons.

Brother-Bug is the shivering body on the left. He's heatedly debating with his teacher about jumping in...

I feel pretty strongly about learning to swim. Of all the activities we might choose to enroll our children in, swimming is the only one I can think of that very well might save their lives one day. Sister-Bug is also in swim lessons (of the baby, singing and splashing variety) and she loves them. The issue with her is the opposite of Brother-Bug - she won't wait to jump in. She just leaps.

But back to the reluctant child.

Know that swimming is a valuable life skill, I chose to push it. It meets the two other places I want to push a little also - group/class participation and physical activity - so it's a good deal all around.

But it's really hard to watch him. He wept through the better part of the first lesson. Papa-Bug and I watched with breaking hearts as he struggled through fear and resistance, trusting that the (vastly underpaid) young swim instructor would be gentle with our little boy's worries. We wondered if we were pushing too much. We gave him a sweet granola bar when he was done.

The second week of lessons he didn't want to go. We went anyway and he wasn't as resistant as the week before. And, wonder of wonders he did great! He even managed to blow some bubbles, which is a major accomplishment for him.

The (someday going to be) courageous swimmer...and his excellently patient teacher.

He did everything his instructors asked of him, except jumping in to the instructor's waiting hands. He didn't believe her when she promised to catch him. He jumped in holding her hands. He almost did his back floats all by himself. And we took him out for a donut afterward.

I hope he continues to flourish in these lessons, and that I continue to let him struggle just a little bit. I don't need him to be a joiner, and I don't need him to be a professional swimmer. I want him to know that he can push those boundaries - that it can be safe and even fun sometimes. And that there are occasionally donuts afterward.

Daily Haiku: October 6th

Baby is waking,
Sun begins to light the day,
I go to my work.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Golden Chantrelles in a Pan

September Kindergarten Review: Maps and Compasses

September was a certain 5-year old's birthday and we took a trip to Seattle to celebrate. His Godmommies live up there and we hadn't seen them in about six months. It happened to fit into his birthday weekend, so we planned it as a surprise. I also planned to do maps this month, to fit in with our trip.

Several days before his birthday he woke up to find a map from "The Birthday Faeries", directing him down to the train station parking lot. The map was in a series of 7 or 8 maps, each one building on the one before. He told Papa-Bug what the directions were and we drove him to the train station. At the station, he found a package with train tickets to Seattle and a Seattle Map in it. Away we went. We brought our compass. In Seattle we got several other maps - tourist maps and whatnot. We used these maps to find out where the Godmommies live, and how close they are to things we could see (like The Space Needle). When we got home I found a topographical map of the Seattle area and we compared the maps to one another - one showed a small area of Seattle, one a larger area, the road map showed a LOT more, the topo map didn't show us roads, etc.
On the train, listening to tunes, impatient to get there...
I got him a puzzle of the United States - you know the one, were each state (or almost each state) is its own piece. He has had a great time putting that together, and he is a master of basic US geography now. One evening, with friends over, we did the puzzle and marked where each person had lived - more than 14 states were covered! Our favorite related book is "The Scrambled States of America" by KK. It is a fun and silly way to learn about US geography.

I had planned some math exercises involving distance, but he did those on his own. I found him with his puzzle, tracing his finger across different routes: "North Carolina is over here and it is so far away. Minnesota is here and it is closer..." and so on. He was doing such a good job counting states, comparing size and shape, exploring distance, and so on, that I didn't feel a need to interfere with the natural math lesson happening in front of me.

One of the best projects we did was so simple. In the morning, we traced Brother-Bug's shadow with chalk on the driveway. The shadow was pointing West. Again in the afternoon we traced the shorter and North facing shadow. In the evening, the East facing shadow. It was very easy and a simple way to teach direction and the sun's movement. Unfortunately I didn't get a picture before it rained and washed our project away.

Easy map making for a 5-year old.
We made a map of our neighborhood as well. Brother-Bug went out with a camera and we took pictures of landmarks and street signs on the walk from our house to a nearby playground. I printed the pictures out and made construction paper streets. Then I let Brother-Bug figure out how the streets fit together, and where the pictures should go. With some assistance he came away with a lovely map of our neighborhood. I only wish I would have printed the pictures a little bit bigger.

Look at those piano-playing hands!
I did less this month, because we started learning piano as well, and I wanted to make sure we had enough slack around school things to accommodate piano practice and lessons. How grateful I am to my music teachers of days gone by - I am more than competent enough on the piano (as is Papa-Bug) to easily teach primer level piano at home. This is not only a financial savings, but an emotional one as well - we don't have to get to lessons, stress about practicing enough, or anything else. We just sit down and explore the piano together with gentle guidance and some pushing from a parent. As of this writing, Brother--Bug has 4 or 5 simple songs that he plays all the time. He is loving piano.

So those are the high points of our September. Of course, we read related books, found relevant websites, and all the rest. Learning to use a compass proved to be too tricky for us right now, so we will save that for another adventure. Now, on to Weather and Seasons in October! We'll be making our own barometer, among other things.