Dec 092016
 

This post contains affiliate links.

fireplace-coal-in-your-stocking

My husband spends some evenings reading Calvin and Hobbes to the boys before bedtime. While this particular book would not have been my first (or any) choice of reading material to grab from the bookshelf, my husband loves the comic strip and the kids love that he reads to them.

Last night, my husband had to stay late at work for a meeting, yet the kids wanted to hear Calvin and Hobbes. They were fully ready for bed at a decent time, so I acquiesced.

A few pages in, the cartoon strip covered the topic of Christmas time. As it turned out, much to Hobbes dismay, Calvin does not like this particular time of year.

Why? Great question.

Because he had to be good.

I chuckled.

{crickets}

My children did not get it.

Seems our “no Santa” household has left a few culturally accepted details missing from their frame of reference.

I tried to explain without incorporating Santa into it, best to keep it simple – “If you are bad, you get a lump of coal in your stocking.”

Jack, in all his frank wisdom, spoke up. “I wouldn’t mind getting coal.”

My curiosity was peaked. “And why not?”

I could burn it in the stove and stay warm.

I could not argue with his point (except, our fireplace is gas), so I gave him a hug and moved on, still laughing, though now at something entirely different.

Seems he would have made a good Depression Era child.

Dec 052016
 

This post contains affiliate links.

kids-garden-containers

When I was younger, think college, my plan was to work for a few years to gain experience.  After a few years, I would move back to the rural county I grew up in.  I grew up in the same county as 99% of my family.  My friends were from the same county as 99% of their family.  We used to joke that no one left the county; we all were born there and would live there till we died.  Yet, I did not mind that fact.  I liked knowing the history of the area, who used to farm where, the valley where my great great grandparents raised their family (their two room house was still there, along with the newspaper insulation and back porch kitchen), and the fact that the lakes now used for fishing and swimming were CCC projects during the Great Depression.

Yeah, it did not happen that way.  Something I had not planned on took place and changed all my plans.  I met a guy who brought me flowers and walked me home from my late night job, even when it was cold and snowing. A few months later he asked me to marry him.  And so the tour of growing zones began.

Contrary to my previously self-decided plans of living and working in the county where I grew up, we proceeded to live in 4 states over the first 6 years of our marriage.  We are now married over a decade and living in state #5.  Yup, very much not what was in my plan.

While moving has not gotten any easier or more fun, I have learned that each move brings about things I never would have considered.  Whether it is finding different ways to save money, becoming foster parents, starting this blog, working for one of the largest cities in the country, having a road side stand, or utilizing some of my minor talents to find work, I have been able to experience new opportunities and grow personally.  Several of the opportunities were things I would never dreamed of having tried had I stayed in the county where I grew up; the box I had put myself into was too comfortable.

Now that we have moved again.  I find myself asking what does this mean for various aspects of our lives?

For the blog

Not as many pictures of snow, for starters.  With a reduction in items vying for my attention, I hope to get to some of those posts that have been flying through my head.  I also want to focus on improving my writing and following through with what I start.

For my garden

It means that my gardening this upcoming year may be mainly in pots, or in places where it can double as landscape, or that we may find a house to buy and have a traditional garden.  Or we may find a house to buy and it comes with fruit trees and raised beds. (Yes, I did see one for sale as such and was instantly attracted to it … I do not remember much about the house itself. Imagine that.)

I am very thankful to my friend who offered to share blackberry starts with me once we get settled into a more permanent place than the rental house.  It is a good thing I shared my blackberry starts with her a few years ago.  I am also thankful for the time I invested learning about improving soils for my beds, both vegetable and flower.  Looking at the soils in our new area, it will come in very handy.

Our School Week collage

For the kids’ schooling

George will be starting a new school tomorrow.  The class sizes are smaller while the over all population of his elementary school is larger.  There is also a speech therapist who has been there for longer than a year, which is a great detail for a kid who has a motor speech disorder.  While I have my hesitations about starting over with a new school, I also have higher hopes for his progress here.

Jack will still be home schooled.  Different state, different laws, though thankfully I was able to find something that matched our beliefs and needs.  At first I bucked and groaned, overall throwing a HUGE internal tantrum. Then I sat down at the computer, after a few days… okay weeks, and did my research.  Now, I too have higher hopes for his progress here.

With me being able to give him more of my attention, we will not be taking December off as I had planned at the beginning of the school year.  Instead, we will slowly buckle down more and make up for lost time.  Why slowly?  Because it will be a change in routines and I would rather it be a pleasant experience rather than something that takes us another 5 months to recover from.

While we have been covering the basics of reading, arithmetic, and touching on other subjects here and there, we have not really been able to focus on them to the extent I have been wanting.  You know what, though?  I have noticed him still learning things we have not gotten to, making connections without me making any effort to lead him that direction, and his curiosity leading him to inquire and learn subjects which I thought he would buck at.

He has also improved upon how to appropriately entertain himself while bored.  If you do not think that skill is important, I encourage you to start paying attention to your day.  What do you do while:

  • sitting in traffic
  • waiting for someone to get to the car so you can leave
  • falling asleep at night
  • waiting for supper to cook or the waitress to bring your food
  • watching Kindergarten t-ball games
  • waiting in the checkout line at the grocery store
  • during that (sorry ministers) boring part of the sermon at church

These are things many of us naturally have learned to tolerate, finding something to keep our minds and/or hands busy.  These are things Jack greatly struggles with enduring. I have had to contentiously point out to him that these activities bore me also, and then share what I do to entertain myself.

There are also more outside the home activity options to take advantage of.  “Making friends” is still  the biggest reason he misses public school.  Apparently hanging with your mamma all day is not nearly as fun. 😉2 snowy seats and table

For other homemaking activities

For starters, we live closer than 30 minutes from more than one grocery store.  While I am going to miss one store in particular from our last home, it was actually in the country but was a source of huge savings, I am not going to miss sub-par produce from Small Town grocery.

Not only will be be closer to multiple grocery stores, the stores around here double coupons. :gasp:  It has been almost a decade since I lived near such stores.  While in Small Town, the closest store that doubled was 40 minutes away.  Not exactly a cost saving trip; it was often cheaper to stay in Small Town and shop the grocer there.

These past few months have shown me that the largest cost savings in the grocery category has been not shopping.  My husband and I both began making simpler meals and found we actually enjoyed it.  I hope to continue this activity to the reduction of our grocery shopping category.

Speaking of meals, my husband also works further from our house.  This means he will no longer be able to come home for lunches.  Jack suggests we find a home which would “make it possible for Daddy to come home for lunches again.”  We never took for granted the fact that living in Small Town and me not working outside the home meant we were close enough for my husband to have this benefit.  However, Jack does not remember it being any other way, and therefore did not know it was not ‘normal’.

With our current home being a rental house, I will not be focusing on decorating or painting or landscaping or any of those other activities that seems to have taken up a lot of my time these past few months years.  I will continue to use up, get rid of, or otherwise re-home items that we no longer need or love.

In addition to making our bed every morning, there are other habits which I plan to continue and hopefully build upon.  Keeping our kitchen counter clear of clutter has been something we have done well at these past few years.  In preparation of putting our home on the market, I took it a step further and cleared it as much as possible of other items.  Clean dishes were put away, only one spoon rest was left out, and the window sill was cleared of everything except one small plant.  The fruit bowl was left out, but the other small appliances and utensils were put away.

cleared off kitchen counters

When I first arrived at our rental house, my initial goal was to carry over the same counter clearing action for this kitchen.  This has been harder to do than I thought.  As soon as it gets cleared off, I find myself unpacking another box, doing a grocery shopping trip, or coming back from a long trip to visit family over Thanksgiving.  While I get items put away, new items without homes yet always seem to find their way onto the counter.

If I put off picking up the kitchen till after the kids are asleep, I find myself also falling asleep or with no energy to tackle this task.  The solution?  Try to stay home more. Too obvious?  Maybe, but it really does work.

We are back to cooking on an electric stove and non-convection oven.  I had to explain to the kids the differences with an electric stove, namely that the coils stay hot after they are turned off.

Cooking has also had a difference timing.  It takes things longer to boil, yet it keeps cooking once the heat is turned off.  I have not tried baking yet, as we still have muffins in the freezer.

purple flowers

While I can not ignore how things are different, it is up to me how I react to them.  There are a lot of changes, a lot of things I could dwell on as not being as good as it used to be.  Changes can be hard to adjust to.  It is easy to put on a pedestal the way things were.  However, taking this path only leads to discontentment, regret, and feeling depressed.

Choosing to keep how things were in the correct perspective, looking for the good in what is now around us, and finding ways to reach out to others rather than retreat into my shell will take me down a completely different path.  Just as I slowly found beauty in the flat corn fields surrounding us in Zone 5, I will eventually find some beauty here in Zone 7.  I may not like all the changes life is presenting to us right now, but I may grow to love them once I get over how they are not the same as they used to be.

Unit I reach that point, I will continue to challenge negative thoughts with lists of the good things I see happening.

Dec 032016
 

This post contains affiliate links to a great book.  I received a copy of this book from Edelweiss for review consideration.

This post was originally shared last autumn.  Since then I have thought of it several times.  As the holidays approach, this would be a great gift consideration for the gardener in your life … or for you.  😉  Once the moving boxes are no longer a daily decoration in my home, I plan to go back and read this book again.  Yes, I liked it that much.

This past summer we were able to take a last minute trip to our nation’s capitol.  Between visits with several different friends, we made stops at various sites around the area.  Many I had been to before, but a few were new.  For our kids, they were all new and most were about times in history they had yet to learn about in class.  A few of the sites, however, really peaked their interests.

The White House was a favorite as they had heard of it before (my husband often watches reruns of The West Wing on Netflix).  The kids found it even more interesting when we finally convinced them that the President is a real person, not just an actor, AND that he actually lives in the big white house behind the gates.

A lot of the history I know about the White House itself, which is not much, has to do with random facts throughout history that I have picked up while reading.  I love history, hearing the how’s and why’s as to events, details that make it come alive in my imagination.

When I began reading All the Presidents’ Gardens: Madison’s Cabbages to Kennedy’s Roses, How the White House Grounds Have Grown with America I expected to pick up a few tidbits here and there on the gardening practices used on the White House grounds and long lists of plants used.  In general I thought it would be a boring read that would require cups of coffee to help me stay awake.  What I found surprised me and showed me a new way of looking at this home that has become a symbol over the years. 

Gardening history is not something I have been exposed to previously.  In my past there were mentions of how the Native Americans planted and how the early settlers gardened to provide for the table during winter months.  I have also visited sites such as Mt. Vernon (Jefferson’s home) and the Biltmore Estate, learning about how they landscaped, invented, studied and produced tools, methods and plants that we now think are common.  However, I never had found a book that actually walked a reader through the history of gardening in a particular place and how the look of the gardens were also affected by events of the day.  As it turns out, I had exposed myself to a book that kept me up at nights, long after I really wanted to be asleep, exploring our nation’s history and the people and gardens it contained.

Marta McDowell did a thorough job of researching the various gardeners, plants, sources, designs, struggles, Presidents’ preferences that have resulted in the gardens and the house we now see today.  She showed how the political events of the day – protests about wars, the Great Depression, the war of 1812, etc.- also had a result in shaping the look and use of the gardens and grounds.  The reader was taken along a path showing the various gardening styles and philosophies, and how they flowed from one style to the next – English, Italian, french, formal, practical, native and exotic.

All the Presidents’ Gardens quickly became one of my favorite history and gardening books.  I loved the flow, the story behind the story feel, and how it all felt tied together in a smooth fashion.  It was so seamless that I often forgot when a chapter had ended and another began.  There were a few points that I wondered why they were mentioned, only to find a  few paragraphs or pages later how it was all tied together.

All the Presidents’ Gardens: Madison’s Cabbages to Kennedy’s Roses, How the White House Grounds Have Grown with America is a book I would wholeheartedly recommend for you to read.  You will have to wait a bit though, as it will not scheduled to be released till April 27, 2016.  You are able to pre-order it now so you will be able to receive one of the first copies.

I also learned that the White House holds a free garden tour twice a year.  This past year’s Spring tour was in mid-April, so you may be able to get in on this year’s tour if you keep watch for the announcement.  (The fall tour was held in October.)

Nov 282016
 
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Nov 252016
 
Black Swallowtail Butterfly, a nature lesson

  Here is another post from the past.  This seems like just yesterday, but was actually from almost 3 years ago! Wow, we had not even finalized their adoptions at that point.  What a different time in our lives that was.  Of course, the kids did not let that slow them down … A walk […]

Nov 242016
 
Earn Double Cash Back During Black Friday Deals Week At Swagbucks

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