Herbal Art Prints Giveaway!

I have such a lovely giveaway to offer you in anticipation of my new series, A Year of Herbs (which I hope to be kicking off within the next week or two)!

Here's a taste of what's up for grabs:

Lavender Rosemary

BasilChives

Aren't they beautiful? As soon as I saw them, I could just imagine how perfect any of the prints in this herb series would look in a kitchen (you know, like my kitchen! :)

These are museum-quality art prints of paintings done by stay-at-home mom Laryssa of L.Herbert Designs (and she blogs as well, at Heaven in the Home). These herb prints are only a small sample of the work that she does, including other prints of fruit, shells, eggs and feathers, scripture verses and even children's prints. Her work really is beautiful and I definitely came away with a few of my own favorites from writing up this post!

Laryssa has offered up a choice of either one 8 x 10 or two 5 x 7 prints, a choice of anything from her shop (such as the herbs above, or anything else that you fancy)!

Here's how to get yourself entered in the giveaway:

  1. Visit Laryssa's shop and then leave a comment letting me know which print or prints you would choose if you won.
  2. To earn yourself a second (or third or fourth) entry, you can do any of the things listed below. In order for me to be able to count each additional entry, please make sure that you tell me about it in a separate comment (ie. one comment with what you'd like if you won, a second comment if you Twittered about it, a third comment if you posted about it, etc.)
  3. Put out a tweet on Twitter about the giveaway
  4. Share on Facebook about the giveaway
  5. Post about the giveaway on your own blog (leave the post url in your comment)
  6. Visit Laryssa's blog and leave a comment

**For those who were wondering, the herbs prints are featured on her front page of her shop, and all other prints can be found by clicking on "Store" up near the top of the page**

Giveaway will end Wednesday, September 23 at 4:00pm. Good luck, all!

GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.

We Now Interupt This Blog to Bring You Real Life

Canning-toms-with-jo-in-sling Being a mama, wife and homemaker is a full time, occasionally overwhelming, but always a blessed and privileged career and calling.

Lately, though, this blessed mama is finding herself with very full days! My tasks at present feel like all (and some days more than) I can handle: caring for three little ones aged 4 and under including a somewhat colicky (but still lovely!) newborn, maintaining the home in some semblance of order and cleanliness, making meals, scaling mountains of laundry, harvesting the garden (ignoring the weeds), doing my regular fall preserving (or attempting to, as you can see in the picture of me shushing a fussy baby while canning tomatoes), starting the new school year of home educating, supporting my husband as he starts a new business, and still having any degree of time and energy for relationships.

Though I'm slowly getting back into the swing of things, I'm also just plain old exhausted from lack of sleep, and thus time spent blogging is often just a bit much for me. There doesn't seem to be enough time in the day, and seriously, my brain isn't fully functioning! I would be wrong in my priorities to spend time focusing on my blog on many of these days when I am just needed in so many other ways, and honestly, my kids (and husband) need a much more pleasant and cheerful woman than I've been of late.

I've decided that I'm going to do some "play it again" posts (idea and title inspired by the lovely Amy @ MomAdvice, who occasionally re-posts previous but excellent posts from her archives). I'm going to bring back some oldies but goodies, interspersed with what I have time and energy to write fresh until I get things on the home front back under control and myself back to being a bit more rested and sane. :)

Thanks for understanding, y'all! Hope you enjoy them and can't wait to be more fully back ASAP! (Any requests?)

Cloth Diapering a Newborn

Johannas-cloth-diapered-bum

Though many mamas desire to use cloth diapers for their little ones, the thought of using them soon after the birth or with a newborn is often a bit overwhelming. I think the general impression is that it is much more difficult than it truly is.

After mentioning the other week that I was finding it a relatively simple thing to diaper my own newborn, I received several requests for more info on just how to go about using cloth diapering with wee ones. In this post, I will address the key questions and concerns to hopefully reassure those wanting to use cloth and give some helpful advice as well! Not wanting to just give me own opinions and experience, I’ve also asked a couple of other bloggers who are new mamas for their input (Lindsay of Passionate Homemaking and Michele of Frugal Granola), as well as the friendly staff over at Kelly’s Closet and Nicki’s Diapers. As a result, this post ended up quite lengthy, but I hope that you will find it truly helpful and informative!

So here we go…

What types of cloth diaper systems work best for newborns?

Kissaluv newborn Michele: We’ve been using Kissaluvs (size 0) diapers with Enoch from the
beginning (which I bought from Lindsay, off of craigslist, ironically)
:). They’ve worked great! He’s a heavy-wetter, but I haven’t had to use
the diaper doublers that I made, yet. I love that they have a fold-down
snap in front to allow for the umbilical cord. We use them along with
newborn size Proraps or Bummis snap covers.

Lindsay: If you really want to cloth diaper right off the bat,
or you have a smaller newborn, my recommendation is to go with the
infant size prefolds and newborn covers. These are a good investment as
they last forever and can also be used for burp clothes or rags in the
future. The newborn size prefolds really are not absorbent at all, so I
recommend the infant size and folding it the opposite direction,
horizontally into thirds. This makes for a smaller more absorbent
diaper.

So overall, after beginning cloth diapering my second little one, I
found that using infant prefolds is the most economical option and
transitioning quickly to one size diapers. Then he is set for the rest
of his diapering life.

Kelly’s Closet: One Size? While most one size diapers
are designed to fit from birth to potty training – this doesn’t
necessarily mean they will fit your little one at birth. Newborns tend
to have itty bitty legs and therefore the diaper is more likely to leak
than after a few weeks when your little one has had some time to
“thicken up.”

Therefore we highly recommend prefolds and diaper
covers during the early weeks for daytime use. Prefolds and diaper
covers, while intimidating for most folks, is really quite simple and
straightforward. Simply fasten the prefold on to baby and then fasten a
cover over the prefold and you’re ready to go! Prefolds also a bit
easier to wash and care for compared to pocket diapers.

Prefold Cloth Diapers

Diaper Covers

Now,
with all that said – for those late nights when you’re sleep deprived
and just the thought of driving one more diaper is ready to make you
cry – we also recommend some X-Small sized pocket diapers or All-in-One
diapers such as the bumGenius Deluxe All-in-One 3.0 diapers. These will
make the middle of the night diaper changes very quick and easy!

Nicki’s Diapers: I highly recommend using newborn size prefolds and Prorap Classic
diaper covers size newborn
. The newborn
prefolds fit tiny babies nicely without a lot of bulk and the Prorap
Classic diaper covers size newborn have a great umbilical cord cutout
allowing you to use this diaper cover as baby’s first diaper.  This
combination also contains the newborn explosions very well with no up
the back leakage as experience with disposable diapers.  This system
fits up to about 10 lbs whereas at that point a one size diaper system
will start to fit.

Hemp liners Stephanie: Personally, I find that we have the greatest leak protection when using a fitted diaper with a cover like Bummis or Proraps. Though I really enjoy using pocket and one-size diapers, I have had a few more leaks with those as they don’t seem to fit quite snug enough on a newborn unless you purchase the extra small sizes, which hardly feel worth it to me considering how long baby wears them for. The one-size do work okay once they’re past the first week or two (depending on how big your babies are- I have babies that are under 8 lbs), but I find that they’re fairly bulky once folded small enough to fit a newborn. That said, it is so nice to have a quick, one-piece diaper (like a pocket diaper) to use for middle of the night changes, rather than messing around with a fitted or prefold and a cover in the dark. I have also noticed that in order to get through the night or long naps, regardless of which system we use, extra liners or doublers are a MUST! I really love microterry inserts/doublers, and have just ordered some hemp doublers because I have heard that they are even thinner but just as absorbent as the microterry, and I am all about less bulk and dry bums!

How many diapers do you need to have and how often will they need to be washed? 

Michele: I have about 30 newborn cloth diapers; if I
get behind on the laundry and run out, I just use a prefold diaper with
a Snappi (to close), along with a cover. Since I’m using “mama cloth” pads, and we still have some
nighttime cloth diapers to wash for our toddler, we just toss everything
into a washer load each day.

Kelly’s Closet: As
far as how many diapers a newborn will need – our general rule of thumb
recommendation is 8-12 diapers per day – and it would be best to have a
minimum of a 2-day supply. This will allow you to wash the diapers
every other day (if you want to go slightly longer between washes then
you will be a few more diapers accordingly).

Stephanie: I would say around 20-24, which will allow you to wash every 2-3 days. My newborn babies seem to go through a good 8-10
diapers a day, so that will be a pretty comfortable amount. Though I can get by with about 4 covers for my older babies/toddlers, I think that you need to have more like a minimum of 6 for newborns, just because with more frequent changes (and poops!) you are more likely to have soiled covers more quickly. On this note, I have learned that it’s a necessity to keep lots of diapers around- in the diaper bag, near baby’s bed at nighttime, etc. Always have more on hand than you think you need!

What do you do about meconium poops? 

Michele: We only had a few disposable diapers on hand (free samples
that came in the mail), which we used for the worst of the meconium
poops. After that, we just used a flushable liner in his diapers until the
meconium was gone. We
also oiled his bum with every diaper change to make it easier to clean
those sticky meconium poops off. (I used hemp oil, but pretty much any
oil would be fine.)

Lindsay: I love cloth diapering to the extent that I wanted to place my new
infant Titus into cloth diapers immediately upon his arrival. The
husband was not so key on that idea due to my need to rest and the
lovely meconium that arrives through the baby’s bowels shortly after
birth. This substance is not fun to wash out. (That is a warning! ;)
Anyway, so we did use disposables for the first week of his life.

Seventh gen diapers Stephanie: I confess, we also did a few days (I think 5 or 6?) of disposables and I was glad that we did. I think that it would be feasible to use cloth from day 1, with disposable or old cloth liners for the meconium, if you have extra help around the house to deal with the extra laundry that will be produced (in addition to the other things you will need help with). One good option for those who really want to avoid conventional diapers is to pick up a package of newborn Seventh Generation diapers (or a similar brand that is unbleached and chlorine free), just to get you through those first days. It is also a blessing to not be worrying about extra loads of laundry in those early days, when there is already so much extra laundry just from regular newborn life (spit up, wet blankets, changing outfits often, etc.). **As an aside, you can often get a $2 off coupon for Seventh Gen diapers by signing up here**

What about the umbilical cord? 

Michele: We’ve been using Kissaluvs (size 0) diapers with Enoch from the
beginning…I love that they have a fold-down
snap in front to allow for the umbilical cord.

Prorap cover Stephanie: Prorap covers dip slightly to accommodate the cord (and I found that the Bummis covers came fairly low as well). We did find that in general any cloth diaper tended to rub a little bit and after it fell off (while it was still tender) we put a bandaid over her belly button to keep it from getting rubbed and from bleeding. After about a week, this wasn’t necessary anymore. Regardless of what you use, you can try to fold it down or position it a bit lower to keep it away from the cord.

How often do they need to be changed? 

Kelly’s Closet: Newborns are such precious little beings, so fresh
and innocent to their new world outside of the womb! Diapering a
newborn, however, can be a tedious task because they typically “go”
frequently (typically between 8-12 times a day – and almost every
diaper change is poo). Just as soon as you change that precious pint
sized bum – the inevitable gurgle and explosion tells you you’re going
to be doing it again!

Stephanie: I have found that newborns really need to be changed often, as little diapers just don’t hold as
much as big diapers. It seems to me that I change Johanna’s diaper about once per feed cycle (so usually every 2-3 hours), as well as anytime I specifically know that she has wet or dirtied her diaper, and there are sometimes longer gaps between changes if she sleeps well at night (maybe up to 4-5 hours). Usually doing a change 15-20 minutes after each feed works well,
or else just before they go down for each nap. Trying to change the diaper
of a hungry newborn right when they wake up just isn’t practical,
unless you enjoy listening to crying and trying to change a really
unhappy, squirmy baby!

Other tips or general advice?

Michele: Here is a recent post on some things I’ve sewed for
diapering: Cloth Wipes and Diaper Doublers

Bumgenius Lindsay: My honest opinion is
that you really do not need to have a separate newborn diapering
system. Most people will feel more comfortable using disposables for
the first several weeks, and that is completely understandable. You are
adjusting to life with a new little one and many really don’t want more
laundry during this stage. If you have an average size baby, you should
be able to transition to a one size cloth diaper after this point. Most
one size diapers fit babies at 8 pounds and I have found this to be so
with several brands (Fuzzi Bunz, Bum Genius & Happy Heiny’s are in
our collection). My little guy was born at 7 lb 4 oz and transitioned
into one size pocket diapers at 2 weeks. Not bad.

After
that week, we transitioned Titus into Kissaluavs Fitted diapers size 0
with newborn Prorap covers. I thought this was the best most
recommended newborn system. I didn’t think he would fit so soon into
the one size diapers as I mentioned above. I really wanted to love
these diapers because they were so soft and comfy on his little bum.
Unfortunately, I was disappointed by how quickly their wonderful
softness disappeared. A few washings later and they were rather rough
on his skin and caused irritations. He also soaked through them in less
than an hour sometimes, which resulted in more frequent changes. I had
to use a extra doubler inside the fitted diapers, causing excess
bulkiness. I found they just were not worth the money to purchase
unless you have a really tiny baby (5 lb or so). They grow out of them
so fast! Considering how many diapers a newborn goes through, and at
$11-12 per fitted diaper, it is an expensive route. Thankfully we
purchased most of ours used. It would have been far cheaper to use
disposables for those first two weeks than buying a whole newborn
system.

So overall, after beginning cloth diapering my second little one, I
found that using infant prefolds is the most economical option and
transitioning quickly to one size diapers. Then he is set for the rest
of his diapering life.

Kelly’s Closet: Changing the diapers is the easy part –
it’s picking a cloth diaper that is the challenge. Every baby is unique
and while there are cloth diapers that generally work for the majority
– getting a good fit in a cloth diaper can take some trial and error.
Therefore, before investing in a big stash of diapers we highly
recommend sampling a few diapers to get a feel for what works best for
your baby (and what fits your personal preference). If nothing else, is
frustrating to invest a few hundred dollars on a stash of diapers only
to discover they don’t work well for your little one! Therefore, after
researching the brands you would like to consider- order 1-2 of each
diaper and try it out!

Stephanie: Though I have traditionally gone the route of fitted diapers with covers (and don’t get me wrong- I still think it’s a great system and one that I’m not about to stop using), I have recently begun to use some pocket diapers, including some that are one-size. I am falling in love with these one-size pockets, mostly because they work for both my son (almost 2 1/2) and
my daughter (1 month)! This is a real bonus for any mom who finds herself with two littles in diapers at the same time. It means that I can bring a few one-size diapers out with me, and know that I have something to fit either kiddo, depending on who needs the diaper changes. I don’t have to make sure that I have several newborn options as well as several for the toddler, which only results in a very stuffed diaper bag (and an aching shoulder). It also helps to ease the amount of diapers that I need to store in their bedroom and on the change table, and just helps to keep things simpler overall. Though they certainly cost more up front, I am beginning to see how the cost just might be well worth it in the long run, as well as allowing me to have one more compact and easily storable system instead of 3 different size sets of diapers hanging around my house!

Brand Recommendations:

Bummis snap cover Stephanie: A really absorbent newborn fitted diaper or prefolds with Bummis Super Whisper Wrap
(Proraps
are also pretty decent).

Michele: Kissaluvs Size: 0
with Proraps or Bummis Snap covers

Lindsay: Infant Prefolds
with Prorap or Bummis Super Whisper covers, and then a one-size pocket diaper like BumGenius, Happy Heiny or Fuzzi Bunz
.

Kelly’s Closet: Prefolds and diaper covers, as well as a few x-small or one-size all-in-ones, like BumGenius.

Nicki’s Diapers: Newborn size prefolds and Prorap Classic diaper covers size newborn, until baby begins to fit a one-size diaper system.

**As a bonus, Nicki’s Diapers has kindly offered a 5% discount to all readers who would like to make an order, using the code FIVE. They carry all of the diapers brands that have been mentioned in this post, and I also noticed that they have a great newborn package with everything you need to get going and to help you get a feel for what type of diapering system you prefer.

Want more information on cloth diapering but aren’t sure where to get started? Checkout Confessions of a Cloth Diaper Convert, a 200+-page eBook full of useful advice about how to get started cloth diapering!

Any more questions on cloth diapering a newborn? What about other tips, suggestions or brand recommendations from all the other cloth-diapering mamas out there?

Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links.

A Wormy Update

Seeing as we've just been talking about composting, I thought I might as well continue on with the topic!

Today I did my weekly maintenance of my worm composting bin, and was so impressed with how it's doing that I just felt like I had to show you all the contents of my box (alright, I know it's a bit yucky, but sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, whether it's a lovely image or not):

Compost-box-couple-weeks 

After only one month, you can see that my food and paper scraps are quickly being turned into genuine compost (at least, I hope you can tell that in the picture- if you can't, it's true and you'll just have to take my word for it)! Go, wormies, go!

I was briefly having some issues with fruit flies and smell, but quickly dealt with those by re-reading Rachel's helpful post on worm box maintenance.

My weekly routine has now developed as such: open up the box and give it a good stir, add the contents of my compost bucket from under the sink, spread a layer of recycled paper strips over the top, and replace the sheet of cardboard that rests on top of my pile. Takes about 3 minutes, and now there is no smell, many more worms than before, lovely compost developing and no annoying fruit flies.

Kind of makes a girl wish she had more worms (of the composting variety, that is). All this successful composting business has got me dreaming of having a system of multiple, large worm bins down in my garage… one day, my wormy friends. You'll fill a veritable mansion, and oh, the composting fun we will have.

(Did I mention that it's very late at night? And that I'm functioning on extreme lack of sleep due to having a newborn? I'm not quite sure where the sudden affection for any sort of creepy crawly creature has come from, but perhaps all this gardening and composting I've been doing these past few years is starting to go to my head. Tell me that there are others out there that speak to their worms! Or, at least tell me how your composting is working for you.)

Preserving Summer’s Bounty: Freezing Spinach and Dehydrating Tomatoes

For all those who feel as lacking in time as I do these days, here are a few super simple ways that you can preserve some of summer's bounty!

Despite my complete and utter lack of attention, my garden continues to produce (it's so forgiving, isn't it?). The other day, I noticed that though my spinach had been doing really well, some of it was beginning to bolt due to the late summer heat (I planted my fall spinach crop earlier than I really should have, to get it in before baby arrived so I knew this was a possibility). Not wanting to miss out on it, but knowing that we realistically wouldn't get to eating it fresh, I decided to just harvest and freeze it all at once.

Bowl-of-garden-spinach 

Here it is, roots and all. I used my kitchen scissors to cut all of the good leaves off and tossed them in the salad spinner. I did a couple of batches, and with each one I simply gave it a quick wash while in the spinner and then spun it dry. When it was all cut, washed and dry, I set to chopping it all into smaller pieces.

Chopping-spinach 

With my large bowlful of chopped spinach, I got out a measuring cup and filled up small ziploc freezer bags with 2 heaping cupfuls of spinach.

Chopped-spinach-in-bags 

I pressed all of the air out of the bags, sealed them shut, labelled them, and voila. Done. Easy as pie!

Next on my list of garden and fruit preserving to-do's (which is pretty much endless, these days!) was another big bowlful of cherry tomatoes I had picked that afternoon.

Strainer-of-cherry-tomatoes 

(Yes, there are some greenies in there. My 2 year old hasn't quite grasped the concept of ripe and not-ripe yet, but he loves to be my little helper!)

Based upon how well my cherry tomatoes did last year, I knew that I would have literally hundreds upon hundreds of them this summer. Far more than we can just eat, since only my husband and I enjoy them. It's not practical to can them, since I only get bowlfuls at a time. I opted this year for the much quicker and easier task of dehydrating them. Each time I get a nice little amount (about every 2-4 days), I take a few minutes to deal with them and this has by far been the easiest of my summer preserving tasks!

Chopping-cherry-tomatoes 

After a rinse in the sink, I pull off the green stems, and then grab a steak knife (my knife of choice for cutting any type of tomatoes). All I do is slice them in half, any old direction.

Cherry-tomatoes-in-dehydrator

I lay them all out on dehydrating trays, with the cut side up at first (to prevent tomato juice from leaking inside the dehydrator). Then I dehydrate them for about a day, at a temperature somewhere around 105-115 F (I'm not precise, I just turn it on quickly and walk away).

About 6-12 hours in, I will take a few minutes to pull out the trays and flip them all over to the other side, then I stick them back in to finish dehydrating. I consider them done when they are no longer squishy feeling, but still a bit pliable (sort of like a raisin). It's important to make sure that the moisture is really gone, to ensure a good shelf life.

Bag-of-dried-cherry-tomatoes 

My little beauties, sealed up in a ziploc bag. I could also just keep them in a canning jar, but for whatever reason, I used a bag. This is from my first batch, not including the nice big batch you see in the pictures (or the one that I'm about to go out and pick!). Throughout the winter, when I want to use these I will just let them soak in a bit of olive oil for several hours, or even quickly re-hydrate them in hot water in a pinch. They will be perfect to add on top of pizza or in pasta dishes. Yum!

Bag-of-blanched-green-beans

This was my last preserving task of the evening, blanching a couple cups of chopped green beans. Check out this post for detailed directions on blanching vegetables.

I think it's worth mentioning how long it took me to do all of the work shown in this post: just under 1 hour. Honestly! I chopped the cherry tomatoes and put them on trays while sitting at the kitchen table, nursing my newborn on a nursing pillow. The spinach was probably the most work intensive, taking about 30 minutes to cut, wash, chop and bag 6 packed cups of spinach. The green beans were a piece of cake, and I did them while I cleaned up the kitchen before bed.

Preserving food doesn't have to be an all-day ordeal. If you're determined enough, you can fit it in to daily life, even when life is hectic! Anyone can do stuff like this, and I probably don't have to tell you just how nice it is to have these sorts of conveniece foods stocked away in the pantry and freezer for us to eat this winter!

What types of quick and easy preserving do you like to do? Is anyone else up to their eyeballs in ripe veggies and fruits needing to be put away for the winter?

The World is our Classroom

As a homeschooling mama who is just in her beginning years, I loved reading through this post! It really illustrates the type of learning environment that my husband and I aspire to develop in our home. There are so many excellent ideas here, and I hope that you will be both inspired and also that you will share some of the ways that you are creating rich and meaningful learning opportunities for your own family!

*******

Guest Post by Abbi

Ken and Jonathan building I feel so thankful to be able to homeschool my children ages 9,7,5 and 3. We love being able to learn together and just spend time together.  My husband and I were also both blessed to be homeschooled as children and know firsthand how homeschooling can well prepare you for life in “the real world”. I know not everyone wants to homeschool, and that is okay, but what makes me sad is when I have parents tell me “We would love to homeschool but we just don’t have the ability and often they will name something that they feel they are lacking in. Another thing that makes me sad is when I talk to parents who are homeschooling but they are totally overwhelmed by many workbooks and busy work that lots of curriculums provide, but they know of no other way.

My goal in this post is to tell you that homeschooling is not just for those that have parents that are super smart and have loads of patience (neither description applies to me). Nor is homeschooling meant to be a replica of the public school in your home. Homeschooling is for those that have an enthusiasm for learning and are willing to share that enthusiasm with their kids. Homeschooling can be a very fun adventure for the whole family that prepares your kids to be wonderful additions to our world.

  In our home we do use regular textbooks for some of our core subjects (Math, English and Spelling) but for the rest we enjoy doing a lot of family studying using a lot of different ways of learning. Some might wonder if that really works, “Do you really learn when you don’t use a “school book”?” This Spring when the kids were taking achievement tests, my 9 year old Mara was about to take her Science test, she started to panic “Mom, I’ve never studied science!” I assured her that she knew a lot about science and didn’t have any need to worry. Sure enough the test results proved this to be quite true as she was in the 98th percentile and at a grade equivalent of 11.8 (She just finished 4th grade).

  Here are some of the educational activities we enjoy that don’t involve text books. You probably will find that you do a lot of them too, but perhaps you never thought about how much your child is learning.

SCIENCE

·         Walks in the woods with identification manuals in hand.

·         Learning to indentify wild foods, collect and eat them.

·         Growing a garden (complete with starting some of the plants indoors)

·         Raising fruit trees (even trying to raise oranges and bananas in the house).

·         Having many fun science books on hand to browse through and read together just for fun before nap times. We own quite a few and I also check them out regularly from the Library.

·         Regular trips to the local Science Center where there are many hands on activities to try and fun classes just for homeschoolers.

·         Finding a Monarch caterpillar, feeding it and watching it grow, turn into a chrysalis and then into a butterfly.

Monarch butterfly

·         Making a box solar oven together and attempting to use it.`

·         Making our own laundry soap.

·         Cleaning with Vinegar and Baking Soda and having fun watching their reaction to each other.

MATH

·         Baking together and as they get older on their own. Have them help you double, triple and half recipes (or any other amount you care to try).

·         Taking your children grocery shopping and having them help you figure out what is the best value on items by noticing volume and price.

·         While grocery shopping have a child keep a running tally on how much everything will cost by using a calculator.

·         Enjoy learning about fractions when cutting up pies, pizzas and such like.

·         We have a couple of boys that really enjoy numbers and so just for fun at some mealtimes we will spend time just challenging each other with oral math problems.

·         Have a rummage sale or bake sale and let the kids help (or manage completely if they are able) with the checkout table.

·         Get watches (not digital!) for the kids and teach them how to tell time and then give them reason to use them.

·         Be open about using math in your own life (such as budgeting). When children realize that math is actually useful it will make it much more interesting.

·         Teach them how to sew (my job) or do carpentry work (Ken’s department) where they get to do measuring and figuring and such like.

·         Play games like Dominos and Monopoly and have the kids do a lot of the number work.

Colonial period costumes

HISTORY

·         Read together! There are so many neat biographies out there as well as historical fiction. History does not have to be dry and boring!!! The kids and I have a  reading time together every day after lunch and before our rest time, this time has been a wonderful time to get through many, many neat books and series. Some familiar examples would be: The Little House books, Ralph Moody’s books (Little Britches is the first one) and many others. My kids just beg me to keep reading more on things like that.

·         Have good books available for the kids to read on their own. They will be far more likely to pick it up when it is handy and looks fun.

·         Read historical books yourself and then excitedly tell them about some of the neat things you learned.

·         Have fun learning about a certain time period complete with finding as many books (and videos or DVD’s) as possible on that era, using the internet, making foods to go along with that time period, dressing up in period dress and trying things like making candles, spinning and whatever else you can think of to go along with that time period. When doing this you don’t have to feel like you have to get it all figured out before you begin. We had a wonderful time learning about Viking Era, Pioneer times and the Colonial Period in this way and I simply got lots of books and then as we  came across something that we wanted to try we would do it if we had the time and the resources needed.

·         Visit older people and be interested in them and their lives. They have so much to teach us and they usually love to tell stories.

·         Visit Museums, Historic sites and Living History Museums. I absolutely love Living History Museums as they teach you so much in such interesting ways! As you travel be aware of learning places you might be passing. We took a recent trip with my parents and we were passing within 7 miles of the spot of the “House in the Big Woods”, so we took a little side drive to see it. Now not only have the kids heard the story but they can also visualize where it happened.

GEOGRAPHY

·         Get to know people from other countries. One way we have especially done this is befriending international students at our local university.  Invite them into your home. They usually enjoy learning more about America and then in turn love to tell about where they are from.

Aaron and Su Hyun making Kim-Bob ·         Try ethnic foods. We have had a lot of fun trying recipes from other countries, we have also had several international students who have enjoyed coming over to cook for us (and then we usually get to help). Another way is to visit ethnic restaurants.

·         Have maps and globes prominently displayed throughout your home. My favorite way we have done this is to have a laminated map on our table as a tablecloth. It is a little unusual but it has promoted many learning discussions!

·         Take advantage of the many fun books and videos available at the library. In 2008 we decided to study a State each week. We found a series of books at the library which we read from each day before naps. We also tried foods and any special activities we might learn about from each state. Now we are on to countries and again our library has a nice supply of books about many of the different countries.

·         Travel! I wish we could do this more but we do enjoy what we are able to do. We keep track of each state we have visited.

·         Collect state quarters and then have fun placing them on their correct state on a map.

·         Play games. There are quite a few games out there that help you learn more about geography.

·         Put together puzzles. After putting together a couple of puzzles (with tiny pieces) of the world I feel much more in tune with where things are.

HANDWRITING

·         Have your children write letters. REAL letters that they send to somebody. This is a much more meaningful way to practice writing and grandparents or somebody like that really appreciates them as well!

·         Get a Calligraphy set. It is even more fun to try really fancy writing!

·         Have the children write our Bible Verses, illustrate them and hang them around the house.

LITERATURE

·         Read aloud to your children! Books are so much easier to understand and get into when you can read them together.  Plus you can create some really great memories with your kids! (I know, my parents spent many hours reading to my siblings and I and we loved it!)

·         Shut down the TV and electronic games in your house. I think that kids will have a much higher interest in books if the books don’t have to compete with that.

SOCIAL STUDIES (or political science)

·         Get involved as a family in the whole political process. We have done that and are amazed at how much information our kids have learned.

·         When a Governor, Senator or any other such person comes to your town, try to go see them if possible. Often you will be in a group with few children and yours will quite likely be given some attention. Last year we had a lot of fun meeting various leaders and the kids got to shake their hand and listen to them speak. They now have a personal experience to remember when we speak of various leaders.

ENGLISH

I confess this isn’t my strong point and I don’t have any great ideas for eclectic learning in this department. One thing I do know is that reading good books is helpful for learning good grammar. This is a subject I am quite thankful that we can have textbooks in . J If anybody else has neat learning ideas for this area I would love to hear them!

 There are so many ways that we have fun learning together that I have just begun to touch on them. Here are a few final tips:

~Something that I think is of major importance when teaching with kids is being excited about learning yourself. They really pick up on that. If you think learning is fun and are regularly trying to learn new things, they most likely will too.

~Another thing is don’t be afraid to learn together. You can’t possibly know everything there is to know about every subject. There are many times that we pull out books or use google and learn together.

~A third tip is: Take advantage of the knowledge and experience of others. We have many friends and family that have expertise in many different areas. We love to visit them and learn from them. For example: My dad raises goats and other farm animals , raises gardens and an orchard and grafts fruit trees plus he does a lot of metal and wood working. We have learned a lot from him. We have a friend who helps to fight forest fires by dispatching water planes and helicopters. We have been able to visit her work a  couple of times and so how she does it, go inside of the planes and helicopters and talk to the pilots. That is couple of the knowledgeable people we have in our life, I am sure you have many people you could learn a lot from too!

~Fourth thing: Remember it is not all about academics! I think we all are happy when our kids do well at academics but the truth is some people excel more in that area while others excel in other areas. God made us all different and we need to embrace that. I think everybody should work at academics but how well you do does not determine your worth. Sometimes working with your hands is not given as much attention but it doesn’t have to be that way in our home schools. Knowing how to make and fix things is very valuable and we need to encourage our children to excel in that area as well.

~Most of all (to repeat what I have been saying throughout this post) have fun and don’t get stressed! Homeschooling can be a wonderful way to enjoy the blessing of children that our Heavenly Father has given us.

Abbi lives with her husband Ken and 4  homeschooled children ( Mara, Jonathan, Aaron and Megan ) in Northern MN. She blogs at Proverbs 31 Living about living as a Christian woman, Family, Homeschooling, Homemaking, Natural and Green living, Sewing, Gardening, Cooking, Frugality and all sorts of Crafting.

What are some of the ways that you teach your children and encourage them to learn and explore, without the use of textbooks and curriculum? Do you agree that learning can often happen best in these natural, real life ways?

Frugality in Composting

Though I adore gardening and am seeking to develop my skills in the area of composting, it is definitely a weak area for me. I love taking a peak into what others are doing as I learn more about it, because I know it will be so valuable for my garden in the long run. Laura has decided to give us a glimpse into her own process, and she’s told me that she is hoping to continue to blog about her composting project as it goes on, which I look forward to reading about!

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Guest Post by Laura

Before I get started, I just wanted to say, “Hello!” to everyone, especially Stephanie and that new little baby in the world! What a joy and a blessing. I’m praying that this will be a wonderful time for the whole family.

I also wanted to say, “Thank you,” for the opportunity to ‘guest blog’ on her site! I so enjoy her writing about natural living, homemaking, frugality, etc., all from a Christian viewpoint.

My name is Laura, a.k.a. Farmer Gal. For more information about me, please visit my blog at www.FarmerGalsMarket.com, and if you like what you see and read, please keep checking in!

Compost photo 1

As a disclaimer, I must tell you that I am a fledgling in composting. This is a process that I have just begun and thought it would be fun to share. If you’re here to learn expert tips on how to compost, you may want to look elsewhere. However, if you’re even slightly interested in compost and sharing a slice of my life along the way, you’re in the right place!

About two three three and a half months ago (where does the time go?!?) my husband, two small children and I moved from Colorado to Minnesota to live on his family farm. At the time I joked that we made the trip ‘ark style’… The two of us, two children, two dogs and two horses.

About a month after we arrived on the farm, I was contemplating life while doing one of my favorite activities… Scooping horse poop.

I’m actually kind of serious. It’s kind of like meditation and exercise combined… My mind has a chance to become quiet, it’s a good workout for my body, and it brings me closer to the earth and nature. I know, I know… Manure may be a little too close to nature for some of you out there, but for me it just works.

We had moved our horses onto a different pasture, so I was out scooping away so that the piles wouldn’t kill the grass underneath and allow it to grow back while they were off it.

As I scooped and filled my first wheel barrow, I started thinking about all of this poop and how there must be something we could do with it, which quickly led my thoughts to composting. After a little online research I found out yes, indeed, horse poop (combined with other ingredients) is a suitable material for composting. It was then that our first compost pile was born.

It was also then that Stephanie put out a request for guest bloggers while she was enjoying time with her new baby, and I thought her site would be a great forum for me to share my composting adventure, so I volunteered and she graciously obliged.

From then forward, I had grand intentions. My husband and I were going to build the compost box to beat all other compost boxes. It was going to be large enough for a tractor scoop to slide in and turn it. It was going to be anchored into the ground for support. Somehow some old, huge, heavy bridge planks that were in the shed were going to be implemented.

In the meantime, life happened. By life, I mean our normal routine of raising two little ones and my husband working, the drawn out process of moving onto the farm and moving his parents off of the farm, dial-up and/or no internet access, a nasty cold for all four of us, and…. (shudder)…. poison ivy for my husband and I, which was especially nasty for me personally. We continued to add material to the compost pile, but building of the box went to the bottom of the priority list.

Thankfully, we’re all healthy again and a lot farther along in the moving process than we were even a month ago, but we are still very busy. I knew I still wanted to get this compost box up (I’m hoping I can use it in some garlic beds this fall) but I needed to do it much more quickly than our previous plan of anchors and bridge planks entailed. I started thinking about the concept of frugality and how it can also apply to how you use your time. I had a project to accomplish, but I had minimal time to do it, so I had to streamline my goals and methods.

Instead of the ‘Goliath’ of compost boxes, we ended up with more of a ‘David’… Old t-posts that were here on the farm, some leftover plywood from the construction on my brother-in-law’s new house, and some fencing wire. It may not be the most beautiful compost box, but it’s going to get the job done, and I feel perfectly content with that for now.

Compost Photo 2

So that’s the long version of how we have begun the composting process. Next time I will share with you how we slapped together constructed the box, the reasoning behind the materials we are putting in it, and some online sources that I have found useful. Down the road I hope to share the fruits of our labor and how we end up applying the compost, and some pretty pictures of the finished product, all from our happy little ‘David’ box.

Ladies, please tell us about how you do your own composting… what type of box or pile do you use, how did you set it up and how is it working for you?

You can visit Laura at her blog, Farmer Gal’s Market!

What Bone Broth Should Really Look Like

Gelatinous-broth-up-close

The topic of homemade bone broth has come up many times on this blog. You just might know by now that I think it is fantastically nourishing for the body, as well as the perfect way to help stretch out the budget and make good use of all that we’ve been given.

One common question that comes up when the topic of bone broth arises is:

“Is it supposed to get thick and gelatinous? If so, how do I get it that way? Mine never seems to thicken up.”

When I first began making bone broths, I couldn’t seem to get them to the texture that I wanted them either. The books told me that to know that I was getting the benefits of the gelatin in the bones, I should end up with a broth that is actually thick and jelly like when cooled. I knew that something was missing in the way that I was making my broth.

As I read more, I realized that the addition of apple cider vinegar in the beginning was very important, so I began to do that, but was still only occasionally achieving a gelatinous texture. In fact, the only times when it worked really well was when I used my crockpot to cook a whole chicken, with some water in there to start off the broth. Once my chicken was cooked, there would be small amounts of gelatin in the crockpot as well, which I would save to add once I began making broth with the remaining bones.

I then read somewhere that the bones should soak in cold water for about an hour before beginning to boil them. I put two and two together. When I make a chicken in the crockpot, it takes a while for the water to heat up. Thus, the bones were being soaked in cool water first, before being boiled. Aha!

The next time I made broth, I added apple cider vinegar to my pot with the bones, covered the bones with cold water, and let it sit for 1 hour. Then, and only then, did I turn the burner on and begin the process of simmering the bones to make the broth. For the first time, I suddenly achieved broth that cooled to the perfect, gelatinous texture, proving to me that I had indeed reaped all of the benefits (gelatin, minerals, etc.) from those bones. Success!

I took these pictures when I made a huge batch of beef broth some months ago, because the gelatin was just so thick that I hoped that you would be able to see it in the pictures. This is when the broth is completely cool, after being in the fridge overnight before putting it into jars to freeze. When it was warm, it was completely liquid and runny, which it should be (because who wants to eat jelly-like soup?), but once it cooled I could tell that it had turned out just right.

Pouring-thick-broth-into-jar

So that, my friends, is what bone broth should really look like. Any questions? Or tips from those who also make it?

How to Have Natural Childbirth in the Hospital

Though I am a huge advocate of homebirth with a trained midwife (having just had my second successful homebirth), I also know that it is not for everybody. I was delighted when Emily offered to write a guest post presenting another angle on natural births and how to have a beautiful birth experience in the hospital. I would love to hear from others in the comments who have also had a positive hospital childbirth experience!

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I think it is so important to prepare for your birth, especially if you are going to give birth in a place that does not put a high value on natural birth. Here are seven of the ways I found that helped me achieve the birthing experience I wanted while in the hospital.

Guest Post by Emily

When I became pregnant with our first child in 2007, I knew right from the start that I wanted to have a natural birth. Mostly, I wanted to avoid having a c-section for any reason other than absolute medical necessity.  I knew that too many interventions could lead down the path to a c-section, and I knew I was willing to deal with the pain of labor to prevent going down that path.  I also knew that it would not be easy for me to have a natural birth, and not just because of the labor.  Unfortunately, in today’s society it seems that there are many obstacles in the way of a mother that desires to give birth naturally, and the most powerful one is the place where the majority of women give birth, the hospital.

Hospitals don’t expect women to give birth naturally.  They don’t expect that you understand or are prepared for your labor and birth.  They don’t expect you to be able to manage your contractions. They expect that you will be in pain, be overwhelmed, and want interventions and medication and that is what they are set up to provide. They don’t expect that you would actually desire to have a natural birth experience.

I think it is so important to prepare for your birth, especially if you are going to give birth in a place that does not put a high value on natural birth. Here are seven of the ways I found that helped me achieve the birthing experience I wanted while in the hospital.

1. Do your own research. Read, read, read as much as you can about natural birth. You are the final decision maker for your birth experience and how you want your birth to be, not the nurses, the hospital staff, or even your doctor.  Research and knowledge will help you to make good decisions and overcome the fear and unknown of labor. (A great place to start is with Unbound Birth, an ebook that offers many great suggestions on how to have natural birth in the hospital.)

2. Take a good birthing class.  This is one that I didn’t take my own advice on, my husband and I just went to the class that the hospital offered.  If I had to do my first birth over again I would take a class that was more focused on natural birth, like the Bradley Method. This will help you feel prepared and supported in your decision.

3. Make it a family affair.  It is so important to know that your husband is on board, and understands and supports your desire to have a natural birth. Your husband will probably be your most important birth coach. Encourage your husband to go to childbirth classes with you and also to read books on natural labor.  It is so helpful if your husband understands the process of labor, what you will be going through, and how to comfort and encourage you.

4. Get support in addition to your husband. The best decision I made with my first birth was to use a doula. The support of my husband and my doula helped me to feel confident in my ability to birth naturally and allowed me to achieve the birth experience I wanted. Not feeling supported in your decision can make it harder to resist giving in to interventions and medication when the going gets tough. So whether it’s your sister, your mom, your best friend, or your doula, have someone with you that supports you 100%.

5. Talk with other moms who have had natural births, especially those that have given birth naturally in a hospital.  This was one of the most encouraging things I did before my daughter was born. It really helped me to believe that I could do it.  It also wouldn’t hurt to talk to moms who didn’t have great birth experiences.  All births that end with healthy babies and moms are good birth stories, but it may help to learn from those who had births that didn’t go exactly as the mother had hoped.

6. Write out your birth plan.  Go over it with your doctor or midwife ahead of time and take it with you to the hospital to give to the nurses.  You might be surprised that your nurses may really want to help you achieve your goal of natural birth.  I was so fortunate to have great nurses for both of my births who were supportive and encouraging because they read my birth plan and knew the type of birth I wanted.

7. Once you are in labor, stay home as long as possible! Laboring at home is much, much more relaxing than laboring at the hospital.  And when you’re relaxed you will probably progress faster and easier (although that’s not a given).  Plus, as long as you are at home you won’t have the option of medications and interventions so you will learn to manage the contractions without them and know that you are able to do it.  That way you won’t be as easily tempted by the meds once you get to the hospital.

For those of you who don’t have the option of having a homebirth, or just don’t feel comfortable with it, but still desire to give birth naturally, I’m here to encourage you that it is possible to have a natural birth in the hospital – I know, I have done it twice now! In planning and preparing for natural childbirth I learned, and experienced, that it is not just about avoiding a c-section, but is about the joy and strength that comes from the amazing experience of working with your body to give birth to your baby.  Believe in yourself and trust your body! You really can give birth naturally – it is what your body was made and designed to do!

For more information on natural childbirth, these are books I found helpful: The Official Lamaze Guide: Giving Birth with Confidence
by Judith Lothian and Charlotte DeVries; The Birth Book: Everything You Need to Know to Have a Safe and Satisfying Birth (Sears Parenting Library) by William and Martha Sears; Homebirth in the Hospital: Integrating Natural Childbirth with Modern Medicine
by Stacey Kerr M.D.; and Empowered Pregnancy by Theodore Peck.

Have you had a natural hospital birth? What things did you find helpful in your experience?

Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links.


Beautifying Heart and Home

I immediately knew that I liked Sharon when I read the sub-title of her blog, The Good Woman, “…she’s not flawless, she’s forgiven“. She is a wonderful example of a woman desiring to teach the younger women in the model of Titus 2. I know that you will be blessed by what she has to share!

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Guest Post by Sharon Kaufman

Heart-home2

Could your house, with its tasteful and attractively arranged furnishings, make it into the pages of House Beautiful? Most of us would say, “No, but I’m working toward beautifying my home in such a way.” A well-cared-for and pleasingly outfitted home is what many godly women strive for. But regardless of how visually stunning and impeccably organized our homes are, there is yet a greater priority for the Christian woman – the beautification of her heart.

The other day I took up reading John Piper’s, The Pleasures of God where I had left off the day before:
“He beautifies the meek with salvation.” (Psalm 149:4)…God is an infinitely beautiful person…One of the ways God expresses His delight in this beauty is by giving it away to His people. He takes pleasure in them by adorning them…with His own beauty.” (The Pleasures of God by John Piper, page 186-87)

There you have it – the beautification of the heart, the Christian woman’s priority. Our homes will never really be beautiful until our hearts reflect back to God and to those around us the ever-increasing image of the loveliness of our Savior.

Proverbs 14:1 says, “The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands”. The wise woman takes time to behold the beauty of the Lord and wait quietly as He instills that beauty within her. But godly, inner loveliness is of no consequence to the foolish woman. She may even be pursuing worthy goals – homeschooling, serving in women’s ministries, singing in the choir, etc. But these pursuits are vain without first sitting down at the feet of the Beautiful One.

So why should we be so beautified? Why? But for the glory of God put forth in our own little worlds. For women, this happens as we nurture others, as God has so designed. Regardless of our marital status, by prioritizing our time at Christ’s feet, we are empowered to nurture those God puts into our lives. It is the overflow of the Lord’s beauty, as the Spirit of God produces in us God’s quality of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control.

As nurturers, we have countless opportunities to profoundly influence the next generation with the beauty of the Lord, and it happens as we bring this beauty first into our own hearts. Even an unbelieving world acknowledges this “influence principle” in their secularistic way. I became aware of this fact after having read a magazine article about a man who educates young girls in northern Pakistan, a poverty stricken region where girls have never had the privilege of attending school.

In his own way, this former U.S. Army medic, has gone to war against Islamic fundamentalists. His method is based on a simple yet profound idea: that by helping to provide secular education (especially for girls) in this most explosively unstable part of the world, support for the Taliban will slowly evaporate.

The importance of women as nurturers in the home and the huge impact that nurturing has upon society is obvious even to this unsaved man, having stated in the article that nothing would change in northern Pakistan until its girls are educated, for they are the ones who remain in the home and instill values in the upcoming generation.

Isn’t it interesting that in the little book of Titus, Paul instructs Titus, the pastor on the Island of Crete, to teach the older women how to train the younger women to love and submit to their husbands, to love their children, to be pure and kind and to be workers at home? God had redeemed these women who were now exiting out of a culture in which it was customary for them to sip wine in excess and gossip maliciously. It is significant that “of all the ways Paul could have instructed in how to combat the decadence of that culture, he told the older women to invest their energies in training the younger women to live Christianly in their own homes.” (Spiritual Mothering by Susan Hunt, p. 43). What you do there really does make a dramatic difference. And by outwardly manifesting a heart that displays the exquisite character of Christ, that difference will resound for God’s glorious cause.

So while it is important to look well to the ways of our homes, it is imperative that we first beautify our hearts. My little cottage, though it may never be featured in House Beautiful, though the couch is a bit threadbare and the carpet worn, if the beauty of the Lord dwells there, it is perfect. May we find ourselves sitting at the feet of our stunning Savior, being adorned by Him so that His radiance and beauty may be enjoyed by all who dwell alongside us.