Monday, February 28, 2011

A Garden of Their Own

We may have to pare back on our gardening plans for this year, but I still wanted my boys to be part of the action with a garden of their own. I have grand visions of what this could be someday. Most of these are inspired by the adorable book, "Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots: Gardening Together with Children"
However, in effort to not forsake good for perfect (which the Happiness Project had a great post on this week), I am giving them the front of an already existing (and pitifully empty) flower bed. I wanted to include them in the planning process as well. For us, this isn't just about having veggies and pretty flowers, but also raising children who understand the process of gardening and its importance in our householding.

So I drew them out a rough picture of the garden bed (on the back of an old school paper). Once I had made my selection and had my order ready from my seed catalogs, I turned the flower pages over to them, along with some scissors and glue, and let them create their masterpiece.
This project was so good for us in so many ways. They got to be involved in our family gardening process, work with each other, and use their fine motor skills and attention spans. Tucker even told me what a good time he had.
How are you including your kids in the spring activities this year?
P.S. Sorry for the awful lighting. As my children wake up around 5 am, most of our activities are done in the dark.

Friday, February 25, 2011


Have you ever noticed how once something catches your attention, it turns up everywhere you look? That's the way it has been for me lately with clean water.

Last week in church, Paul Flickinger, Executive Director of Clean Water for the World (an organization based in Kalamazoo near my home) spoke to us. I know I have heard before how important and scarce clean water is, but this time, it was like hearing it for the first time. As he told us about a child dying every 15 seconds from water-born illness (which, ironically, the cure for is often clean water) and the fact that 1.1 billion people lack access to clean water, a little voice inside of me called me to action.
Since that talk less than a week ago, I have heard about clean water 3 or 4 times, on NPR or through emails from or I see these as God's whispers urging on that little voice inside of me. I am listening to the voice and the whispers.
A group of friends has agreed to work with me to raise money for a water purification system (made right here in Michigan). We are a group of mothers who want to help other mothers not lose their children to preventable illness. We are people who have much (in that we have clean water at all) and want to give back.
I don't know if that little voice inside of you stirs at all when you read this. But if it does, please think about doing something. There is so much that can be done-from raising money for a purification system (our group is doing garage sales, lemonade stands, and coin collection at playdates to get our kids involved), to volunteering with an organization in your area, to looking at your own water consumption and finding ways to reduce and reuse.

I know there are so many issues that feel so huge. I know that 1.1 billion sounds like an overwhelming number. But I also know that doing my part to help hundreds feels really great. I hope you are finding that same feeling by helping others and I would love to hear how.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

As I Was Saying...

There is a reason I called spring a tease. This being Tuesday and the second snow day of the week proves that. Yesterday was the ice.

Last night came the snow. With two boys at home constantly nagging each other for two days in a row, I figure the full blown cabin fever will be here by this evening
I am trying to concentrate on seed catalogs and spring project research. And looking out the windows isn't too bad either.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Re-imagining Spring Projects

This was supposed to be the year of the vegetable garden around here. I say "supposed to," because the other day I was cleaning my bedroom when I got a glance of my mattress.

You've done this before right? All the sudden seen something in your house that was dirty/disgusting and you couldn't imagine how it could be that bad and escape your notice so long...right?

Well, that's how it was with my mattress, on which I noticed black mold...ON MY MATTRESS! I know how it got there. We live in a really wet area. Which means even though our house is 3/4 earth sheltered and uses passive solar heating to stay cool, we have to run the air conditioning to actually condition the air. A lesson learned a little too late.

Seeing the mattress made me realize that if it's there, it's in the carpeting-probably everywhere. This is not a healthy way to live and needs to remedied ASAP. Yet, there are only so many resources (time, money, energy) to go around. Thus it was decided. We will plant very limited "gardens" using the 2 small raised beds and pots we have while trying to learn and focus on replacing the mattress and flooring.

There will be no new carpeting, but what we will be getting is up in the air. I am open to suggestions...on flooring, mattresses, what limited veggies to grow, how to magically manifest more resources...anything really. In the meantime, I am off to plan and research.

How are your Spring projects shaping up?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Incomparable Tease

The first glimpse of Spring is an incomparable tease here in Michigan. As the sun shines in through cold windows, you would swear it has never felt so good on your skin. Not only the snow thaws, but muscles as well, seem to creak awake, preparing for activity.
Blue skies will not be appreciated all the year as they are on the day you can walk outside without a coat in February and look up at them, smiling.
Spring has never been my favorite season. She comes in at least second to fall's sweaters, apple cider, and russet hues. Sometimes third even to winter's crisp, pure beauty. I do appreciate her more every year though, the closer I push myself toward nature. She may not hold fall's favor, winter's beauty, or summer's bounty. But she, she is the one who holds the promise. In these days, with that promise she teases and I dare say no one here minds at all.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Path of Good: Resale Shopping

I have mentioned before my fascination with the path of good and the way one always seems to find more good when it is followed. Lately, I have been thinking about this in regards to resale shopping and budgets.

Like many others, my family is trying to tighten the belt and watch the cash flow. One way to do this recommended by many financial experts (Dave Ramsey , probably being the most notable) is to use cash to pay for things. We have adopted this method, carting our envelopes along in the car to stay on budget and try to teach our boys that money does not magically appear out of robot-like machines whenever we demand.
While doing this, I noticed how convenient it is that many of the ways I now shop since I started trying to buy little new, accept cash only (or it is certainly more convenient). Garage sales, Craigslist, thrift stores, antique stores, flea markets, all are most handy with cash. Sometimes you can even get a better deal with cash in hand.

Is it pure coincidence that this way of shopping that is already better for the planet and my pocketbook follows good financial sense? I don't think so. I think (like with everything else, it seems) our grandparents knew what they were doing here-following the path of good straight to financial freedom.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Childhood Revisted

A few weeks ago my mom gave my boys and I a great gift. For me, it was the gift of nostalgia. It's amazing how one person might view these things as a pile of crappy plastic junk. But these are the old playthings of my brother and I, and so I view them as my memories.
The boys of course viewed them as great "new" toys. No matter their name, they needed a place to stay now in our home.
This dresser has been in every house I have ever lived in and is now in Everett's room even though it no longer holds clothes because I cannot stand to part with it. Now, I am glad for nostalgia of all kinds.
The kind you play with...and the kind that holds the playthings.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day lovelies! This is what my Valentine got today. I saw the idea in a magazine (and wouldn't you know I can't for the life of me find it again) and did my own take.
The envelopes are filled with thoughts of why I love him gathered over the past couple weeks of thinking (and years of being together) written out on cardstock you might recognize and embellished with magazine clippings.

How are you celebrating this year?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Guest Blogger: Krista

If I seem kind of out of it around here lately, it's because I am. Everyone around at home (myself included) is in some stage of cold/flu icky-ness. Lucky for y'all and myself that reader, Krista recently asked to write a guest post. She did a brilliant job if I do say so. Krista doesn't have her own site yet, but as soon as she does, I will let you know. With no further ado....Krista's words:

Preserving the environment doesn’t mean spending more than your budget can handle. Turning your house green can actually save your family money in the long run. It can also safeguard the long term health of your loved ones and present opportunity for some family fun.

1. Trees

A well placed tree can shade your home and shield it against icy wind in the winter time. Planting trees are, of course, great for the environment that we all share. If you’re looking for a money saver that looks great or even if you’ve been searching for a new family project, planting trees works. Of course, with the right precautions, fresh air and sunlight never hurts.

2. Low-Flow

Low-flow faucet aerators can help you save on your energy bill as well. It saves water and other resources, and the best part is that you don’t have to sacrifice that precious water pressure! Low-flow engineering pressurizes your water while using less and without the cost to you. Don’t let your money slip down the drain; reduce water waste; enjoy shower time.

3. Insulation

Checking out your insulation can save your family money and safe guard your health, all in one shot. Insulation keeps your house cool or warm, depending on what time of the year it is. If insulation is inadequate or faulty, your energy bill will be much higher than it ought to be. Also, older insulation may contain asbestos. When inhaled or ingested, asbestos can cause lung or stomach cancer. Mesothelioma symptoms are often latent for 20-50 years. Replacing old insulation with newer, asbestos-free product can save money and lives.

4. CFLs

Compact fluorescent light bulbs, or CFLs, may be a tad bit more expensive than your average incandescent light bulb. But statistics say that switching even five of your most used light bulbs, say your kitchen, living room, and bedroom bulbs, could save you hundreds of dollars in the long run. If more families tried this, it could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly a trillion pounds.

5. Candles

Family night doesn’t have to mean gathering in front of the TV for movie night. Turning the lights off and lighting a few eco-friendly candles sets up a pretty awesome story night. If you have a fireplace, roasting marshmallows or just cuddling up for family sharing time means some real bonding and a cut in energy costs and output.

Being eco-smart doesn’t mean throwing fun out the window. Place importance on family time by planting trees and using that candlelight; promote long term health by watching for mesothelioma symptoms and replacing old insulation; understand financial efficiency. All of these go hand in hand with transforming your house form guzzler to green. Maybe it’s time that you made the switch!

Thanks Krista! If you are interested in doing a guest post, feel free to contact me!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Old Maid Finds A Home

You might remember that one of the few things I did right this Christmas was get the boys traditional card games. The good news is that they love them and Tucker is Skip-Bo pro. The bad news is they are hard to store. Enter a little old suitcase that I picked up at a garage sale for 50 cents ages ago and has just been kind of laying around the house for years. Turns out this little green beauty is just right for storing card games and goes perfectly in Tucker's room. Thank you innovative economy.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Innovative Economies

I have been listening to the audio book, Peace and Plenty: Finding Your Path to Financial Serenity. Sarah Ban Breathnach beautifully articulating her own words is one of the most divine free treats (as the book is borrowed from the library). In the book, she outlines what she calls "elegant economies," affordable luxuries even the most financially strapped woman can give herself.

I have been thinking about this as I try to keep myself on a budget by making the most of what I have. This has led me to the idea of innovative economies, using innovation with what I already have to avoid buying something new. Over the next week or so, I hope to share some of my recent innovative economies with you, starting with exhibit a.
This is a "magnetic" dry-erase board. When I bought it I thought that meant it would stick to the fridge...not so much. So I (sadly) applied magnetic stripping to the back so we could use it for family communications, lists, etc... Well, as you can see, that's wasn't working out so well for us.

I racked my brain trying to find a new solution that would respect the fact that we don't have much kitchen wall space and I didn't want to spend any money. Then, my brilliant husband stepped in and pointed out that the fridge could be a dry/wet erase board....and it can!

This allowed me to move the sad board out of the kitchen and into a place where it would be more useful...keeping track of daily to-dos in the boys' bathroom.
Two problems solved, no money spent, innovative economy.

What innovative economies have you been employing recently?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Handmade Love: Teacher's Gifts

While Tucker's classroom valentines are very cute, we wanted to do something a little different (but also handmade) for his teachers. Inspiration for these scented hear-shape ornaments was found in a book the boys were given by a family friend called "Love the Earth Crafts", and a post at 5 Orange Potatoes.

Because we did this project on the day we were snowed in from the blizzard and did not have all the ingredients for Lisa's recipe, we combined the two. We used a salt dough mixture consisting of:
3/4 cup al purpose flour
3 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon cooking oil
1/3 cup water

Instead of painting the dough once it baked as the book suggested, we added red food coloring during the mixing. We used a small heart cookie cutter for the shape and a plastic straw to make ribbon holes in the corners.

After cutting out the shapes, place on a cookie sheet at bake until hard, about 3 hours at 250 degrees F. We learned that there is no point adding the oil before baking. A few drops of lavender essential oil will be added to each ornament before gifting.
I found leftover ribbon, string, organza bags, and small boxes saved from presents we were given and used those to pretty them up and wrap them. I also cut out a card from the leftover cardstock to go with each one which says, "The smile that lights the face will also warm the heart. Thank you for making us smile and warming our hearts."

Are you doing separate teacher valentines? What did you come up with?