Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Let's Make Soap

I live in a toxic-to-me city (and quite certainly to everybody, but I happen to be reminded of the negative effects it has on my body every single day), and there's not much I can do about it right now, so I decided to go as green as possible inside my home.  Without becoming obsessive about it.  Which was surprisingly hard to do, once I started getting into it.

The idea of giving up commercial cleaners and their industrious feeling sudsy-ness and deliciously CLEAN scents, was one I have been putting off for a long time, but once I started getting into the whole process, I found the fascination of this going-green business and make-your-own-this-and-that experimentation more than made up for the loss.  And really, once you start reading about the benefits, it's not even a loss after all.

To start, I made my own liquid hand soap.  I Googled a bunch of recipes and they all looked pretty similar, so I ended up doing my own thing....which is pretty much the same thing as everybody else.  I grated a bar of unscented Castile soap and added it to four cups of boiling water, followed by a splash of glycerin (which was completely optional, according to the various websites I skimmed, but I'm definitely glad I used it).

(My camera was too flashy, so I turned the flash off, hoping to edit some light back into it, quite forgetting there is no program on this computer with which to edit the pictures...but at least they all match in their yellowy under-exposed fashion.)

(Note: The Electrolyte Enhanced Water was the only thing I had on hand that was not chlorinated, fluoridated and whatever other fill-in-the-blank-ated stuff is floating around in our tap water....sorry, John, I know you'll cringe.  I did, too.  Really.)

Once the soap had dissolved, I put the pot on the back of the stove for twelve hours, so it could cool and solidify a bit.  I remembered reading one online review that said a tablespoon of salt would cause the mixture to solidify before my very brown eyes, so I gave it a shot.  Didn't work.

Then the fun part, mixing essential oils and coming up with a pleasing combination.  I mixed three separate combinations and then asked myself, "Which of these do you like best?"  I love asking myself the questions, because I always get the answer I want to hear, which, in this case, was lavender and eucalyptus and peppermint.

Maybe my tacky green (but ever so warm and comfortable) sweat pants were part of my success. Then again, I can't prove it was successful, because I haven't actually used the soap yet.

As for what I can observe, the soap separates a bit, but I guess it's no big deal to give the soap pump a shake now and again.  I'll see if I can resolve the issue with batch #2.  

Next up...reusable disinfectant wipes.

And here was have an over-exposed picture of Joshua, who was happily drinking milk and munching on his QT snack during the whole soap-making process.  I love him.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Country Love

Phooey on me for forgetting the camera today.  On the other hand, it was quite foggy, especially over the rolling hills and farm fields, so they may not have looked so great.

We now live close enough to Lancaster that we can bypass all the city traffic and within 5 minutes of leaving home, we are cruisin' a country road. Every second of that drive leaves me breathless.  I'm certain I've never seen more beautiful farmland.  (<--admittedly coming from a not-so-well-traveled writer...also from someone who loves the beauty of the prairies, but considers them to be a whole different sort of category)  Perhaps I should have reworded my statement, rather than adding an entire disclaimer to explain it.

We just went to the outlets today, spending more time there than usual. I found a winter coat and jeans at the Gap outlet.  We'd usually stop at one of our favorite roadside stands, run by an Amish family.  They sell raw milk and homemade cheese, canned goods, fresh produce, flowers, and fresh cider donuts.

My craving for the fresh air and gorgeous scenery has been satisfied.  I've never loved the city, though I am fully capable of enjoying the benefits, and every once in a while, an escape to the country or a quaint small town is just what it takes for me to come back home with a renewed tolerance perspective and a thankful heart.

Ps. I am not one who particularly enjoys shopping, but I have developed an absolute obsession with Whole Foods.  They are so expensive, but I am somehow satisfied to just roam the aisles and buy a few sale items...and a jar of kimchi. Seriously...who falls in love with a grocery store?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Autumn Ramblings

The days have been filled with schooling and playing and cooking and drinking tea and eating chocolate with dear friends, and then company coming from Canada- the most delightfully last-minute, spur of the moment decision they made to detour on their way to their vacation spot- and the park, and the library, and more dinner guests (what a formal way to describe a great night with friends), and talking and dreaming.  And so the last days of summer have passed, and it is fall.

The fall makes me nostalgic.  It gets me to pondering the past, looking ahead to the future, and I'm filled with gratefulness for the memories.  I'm learning to fill each day with thanks, each moment with awe and wonder at the simple beauty found in the ordinary.  I breathe thanks with each conversation, every kiss, every laugh.  Every prayer.  But I am repeatedly 'human' and it shatters the momentum, the perfect rhythm of a fully embraced day.

I'm learning: sometimes the beauty is in real-life messes, too. A simple thought, even an obvious one...definitely not an original...but much bigger when actually applied to the living of it all.  The parts where I am human, I make mistakes, or I want to give up.

Often, the pain intensifies the joy.  Sometimes the joy is in the pain, in the mistakes, not just in the obviously good things of life....because it takes us to places beyond ourselves and outside of our comfort zone.  We can't grow or learn or trust if we are in our realm of simple goodness.  The great stuff is on the other side.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

At the Farm

We went to Linvilla today. There is pick-your-own-just-about-anything-you-can-think-of, a store selling baked goods and already-picked produce, hayrides, organized events, fishing, and the main attraction of our day: a petting zoo that's not a petting zoo.  You just feed the animals.  Does that make it a feeding zoo?

Feeding the deer.

A very hungry goat.

Talking to the chickens.

Show me how excited you are!


Throwing bread to the ducks down in the pond.

I want to go back and pick pumpkins and apples.  Fall is in the air!  I'm resisting the temptation to decorate for fall until October.  We're supposed to enjoy summer, right?  But I'm so ready for the cooler weather, warm sweaters, denim jeans, soup simmering on the stove.  Bliss.

Friday, September 14, 2012

A School Post: On Workboxes

My friend sent me some info on the workbox system and I have been hooked on the idea ever since, finally putting it into practice this morning.  Seriously, I could not have felt more organized (which I love), everything went so smoothly, and Joshua loved it, too.  I would have appreciated something like this back in my own homeschool days.  Or is it home school?  Or home-school?  You'd think I would know.  I think I just found a shortcoming in my education.  That, and my overuse of commas.  ,,,,  I can see this organizing concept becoming even more useful in the years to come.

There's no point in my describing how it works.  Others have done so before me.  In fact, you can go straight to the original workbox maker-upper's website: CLICK.  But...I'm gonna do it anyway.

John ordered a 10-drawer cart online.  Joshua and I put it together on Wednesday night.  I then laminated and velcro-ized some box numbers and a chart.  I heart my laminator.  So handy.

In each drawer, I placed an assignment and the necessary supplies, then numbered the drawer, and placed it back in the cart.  I'm currently using 6 boxes a day.  I haven't added penmanship or phonics to our daily routine yet.

Joshua is basically in control of the boxes, though he must go in order.  As he completes each task, he replaces the drawer, removes the number, and puts it back on the chart.  When he empties the last drawer, he's done for the day.  He gets way more excited looking inside each drawer to discover the next project than he did when I was piling the stuff on the table.  I can throw in a random book, game, extra craft, or whatever, to help break up the day and make the boxes more exciting than ever. ;-)

Here's my chart.  I wanted to print the numbers off, but I ran out of printer ink.  In light of the 'system,' I didn't really need the "Done!" card, but it aided Joshua in learning how the process worked.

This morning, the first drawer contained a box of markers and a sheet of paper.  John and Joshua went outside with them and drew a picture of the outside of our apartment.  The second box contained construction paper, scissors, markers, cotton balls and gold glitter glue.  Joshua made a picture of Heaven, with the streets of gold.  

I purchased a box of 20 craft projects, supplies and all, that worked out to less than $1 a craft.  We did the snail (pictured above) this morning, as we are doing a sort of makeshift bug unit study.  One of the drawers just had a book, and we read several pages.  Both of us learned some neat bug facts.  

I ordered these tanagram blocks that came with 50 pattern cards.  It's a nice way to break up the hour and definitely stretched Joshua's brain a bit.  

He was a bit baffled at first...

...but he did it!

Who would have thought that such a simple concept could have me so excited that I'd blog about it?  Ha, me!  I'm so easy to amuse. But in all seriousness, if you choose to homeschool (...or home school... or home-school), it's lots of fun.  The workbox system, that is...though the tanagrams were fun, too.  :-)  

Monday, September 10, 2012

Joshua's First Day of School

Writer's block is an understandable thing, but blog-block?  I simply desired to write about the day- Joshua's first day of school.  I ended up spending more time with my finger on the back-space key, my brain in a fog of indecision, than writing.  Maybe I breathed in too many charcoal fumes.  I'm giving up on writing anything truly worthy of clicking the "publish post" button (Is anything I write really ever "truly worthy?" Good question.).  Here are the pictures and a few brief words to accompany each one.

This seemed like a good year to start school, and so we did.  We took pictures of the student before starting our first lesson.

One of our projects was cutting eyes, noses and mouths from enlarged pictures of John, Joshua, and myself, and making puppets.  

I wanted to start the year off with something special, something that we could do as a yearly tradition on the first day of school each year.  I'd like to add a few more details to next year's kick-off, but this time around we ended up going to the library (something that will be turned into a weekly event), followed by an evening at the playground and a hot dog and marshmallow....cookout?  <-- I'm agonizing over simple word choices; no wonder I am not getting anything written.

(Edit: I think the word I was looking for was "roast."  But who really knows when I'm in this frame of mind.)

Joshua and Andre will be together a lot this year for school and play.  Rona and I are partners of sorts in this whole schooling business.  She has enriched my life in so many ways. (Now THAT is worth publishing.  It's so true.)

First taste of a s'more.

Joshua's first taste:


I am so looking forward to the rest of this year!  It's going to be a great adventure.  But right now, I'm mostly just looking forward to sleep.  Good night. :-)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The "Sick Bunny"

I was four and I lay sick in my parent's bed.  I imagine my mom put me there because it was closer to the kitchen, where she could hear me if I called.  At some point that afternoon, my dad came home from work and came to see me.  He leaned over and kissed my forehead and placed a stuffed animal- a pink rabbit with clashing red bow-tie and white ribbon suspenders- next to my head.

I'd like to take a moment to comment on the obvious cat hair in this picture.  Our beloved Oliver has been in his new home for four months now.  I have washed the duvet cover not once, but twice.  I have put it through the dryer.  I have shaken it outside.  I have run over it with a lint brush.  And it still looks like we have a cat living with us.  What am I doing wrong?!  

Okay, back to the rabbit.  It never became favourite toy, but I still have it.  I love the memory of that day.  The rabbit was special because it was a gift from my dad.  Not a birthday or Christmas gift, but an unexpected "I love you" gift, one that came on an otherwise dismal day of fever and puking.

When Joshua got sick about a year ago, I gave him the "Sick Bunny" and told him the story that went with it.  Then I told him again.  And again.  And again.  Hey, he loves my stories.  What can I say?

Over the last year, the furry pink rabbit has become a tradition between Joshua and me (we'd include John, but he's seriously never sick, and it's really too bad because he's missing out on the fun), and we each get to snuggle with it.

The rabbit has been in serious business this week.

I love little traditions.  Especially the ones that just kind of happen.

I don't love cat fur.  Especially when it won't go away.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Our New Apartment

Okay, back on a blog roll, baby!  I finally found the camera (lost in an 800 sq ft apartment...what?), which, though broken, was still storing the card with all the pictures.  I am also feeling a bit better, and am ready to enter back into the blog world...and the rest of the world, too.

Before I begin, I'd like to give a shout-out to Katy Bowman at  If you have any sort of pain (seriously-- foot, ankle, leg, knee, hip, pelvis, back, shoulders, etc.) check her out!!  If you have rounded shoulders or are a rib thruster (even if you think you're not, check!) or have a 'sway' back, walk with your feet pointing out to the side, or your neck leading the way...check her out!  After seeing multiple doctors, specialists, naturopaths, acupuncturists, massage therapists, physical therapists, etc., and even traveling over 300 miles to try and find the right sort of is right here on her blog, DVDs and webinars.  I've become obsessed totally engrossed and super fascinated.  In fact, she's the reason why I didn't jump back on the blogging bandwagon a month earlier. Oh, and did I mention she's the reason why I'm finally starting to feel better?

Crazy how simple it is to fix most of our musculoskeletal problems. Note #1: "Simple" means relatively easy, but definitely not fast.  There's a lifetime of habits to change and tight muscles to stretch out.  Note #2:  Musculoskeletal is a word I always thought would be cool to use in its proper context.  I ought to scratch that off my bucket list.  And speaking of bucket lists, I've always wanted to see a castle.  I just found out that Boldt Castle is a mere 6 hours from here.  Definitely making plans!

Anyway, for several of you, here are the long-awaited pics of our new abode.  For the rest of you, here are the pics of our new abode.

These are the stairs that we face when walking through our private entrance (another favourite thing about this particular apartment complex).  The stairs are cleverly covered in outdoor carpeting, so we don't have to worry about taking our shoes off until we get upstairs.


This one of the few purchases we made for this place, and well worth it, methinks.  Since living here is only temporary, we didn't want to invest much any money into it, but we did find it necessary to part with three separate bookshelves from our house, and consolidate everything into one place.  And I like it!

Sometimes, when I'm very, very focused on the task at hand (usually any task at hand), I don't hear things like timers.  I just burnt dinner.  Don't worry, it's salvageable!  This is our dining room.  I have since put up curtains.  At least their bare appearance will allow my Papa Jones to see how low/high the windows are, since I was describing the size to him.

This living room picture (and the next) make it look rather bare and dismal, but it's not really.  At least, I don't think so!

Another bare and dismal looking angle.

This is our kitchen- rather roomy for an apartment, though I did have to buy a small pantry cupboard for just outside the kitchen door, in the dining room:

Apparently, I didn't finish rinsing the sink out before I took this picture.  However, I assure you this shot is staged.  It never looks this nice.  The counter space is currently loaded with water bottle (full, at least, not empty), and supplements.  But you can imagine by the sounds of it, that it looked very clutter-y, so I moved it for the sake of your eyeballs.  

Ps. The walls look very grimy to me.  I hope that's just the finger prints Joshua has left all over the computer screen.

And the last picture of the heart of the home.  Yes, this was staged, too, or you'd be staring at a heap of clean dishes in the drying rack, waiting to be put away in that cupboard over there...right next to the dryer.

Oh, here's another.  This is the top of the cupboards, which I am using as a "catch all."  Same goes for the master bedroom, which is why you will never see a picture of it.  Unless I am able to work some extraordinary magic in there.  Yikes.

In the other corner, there's a fridge.  Lots of stuff stored on top of that, too.  Also, a small stack of bins near it, containing towels and wash clothes; and saran wrap, baggies, etc. in another.  The plastic storage containers are in a crate under the china cabinet in the dining room.  I'm telling ya, we are maxed out!  And that's after a yard sale, 1258 trips to Goodwill, and generous neighbors willing to take stuff off our hands.

Our balcony.  Love.

The brown door is the furnace/storage room.

Our neighbors across the way, and their pretty balconies.  I feel sorry for them having to look at ours.  It's usually full of clothes hanging on a drying rack.

This is the main bathroom.  I didn't get a picture of the master bath.  Just picture a toilet identical to this one, a smaller sink area, and a shower stall.  

 This is Joshua's room.  It wasn't quite unpacked at this point, but if I took another picture today, it wouldn't look much different.  Just a little neater.

Oh, bonus picture!  I have one of the fridge.  Joshua decorated the fridge for me. :-)  And you can also see where I am storing pots and pans.  Makes me super grateful for the kitchen I no longer have.

So...I'd better go eat my burnt dinner before it is also cold.  Cheerio!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Moving In.

On June 9th we moved into our new apartment.  When our house first sold, we talked of relocating.  We still might.  But the time wasn't right and as we got closer and closer to moving day, it became obvious it wasn't going to happen this year.  After checking into the outrageous cost of renting a two-bedroom apartment in this area, still close to John's work, we thought it might be cheaper to buy.  For a short time, we considered buying again, but our life was still up in the air as far as where I would feel better and where we will live long-term down the road, and our sanity eventually brought us back to the rental option.  We talked about a 6-month lease so we  could continue to pursue other options, but in our hearts, we both felt that God was saying a year.

The thought of living in an apartment after owning a house was a bit of a downer.  Mainly yard space and freedom of creativity.  But we ended up with a lovely 2 bedroom apartment in a mostly (for an apartment and even for this area in general) quiet, out of the way location, lots of trees and common grass areas, a pool and playground, and my favourite: a balcony.  The complex is only 2 stories all around, so it is not too high up and the sliding glass doors let in floods of sunlight.  That wee bit of outdoor space to call our own makes the difference between a prison and a retreat.  We quite like it here, actually.

I got hit with a flu-bug within days of moving.  I haven't been that sick in years.  It was topped up yesterday with my first earache since toddler-hood.  But other than that, my pain is already subsiding.  I get up in the mornings without stiffness and debilitating joint pain.  And my feet aren't swelling up as quickly when I'm standing.  Not bad for a few days away.

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Living with this pain has become such a way of life for me, I almost forget what it's like to be "normal."  This mental adaption has been a blessing in the last year when I've been at my worse, but a bit discouraging, too.  Of course, I want to get better!  Desperately.  But I feel my drive has weakened-- not to a point of apathy, but a state of...perhaps resignation.  Less of a craving.  It's hard to look forward to something that you can't really remember.  I mean, what will it be like to cook without taking multiple breaks or sitting in a chair while I work?  And to cook more than one fast meal a day?  What will it be like to sit on the floor and play games with Joshua?  To go for long walks with my family?  All the simple things I used to take for granted, now it's almost overwhelming.  It's a life my brain can't comprehend.  I know, what a twisted mentality!  I'm sure it will wear off as I begin making steps towards wholeness.  If my pain was constant, I'm sure I'd feel differently, but when I'm sitting in a chair, where I've learned to live most of my life from, I can be symptom-free 90% of the time, other than painful, aching joints on humid days.  I've just...adapted.  To this.

It takes so much focus and concentration to be me, to move, to walk, to get up from a chair, pick something off the floor-- there is no aspect of my life that isn't affected-- that I feel like to NOT have to think and to just DO, it seems like a crazy thing.  A notion I'll quickly get over, no doubt.

I'm almost afraid to post these crazy thoughts.  I know they can't make much sense.  I guess it's the same as an able-bodied person trying to imagine life with PGP/SPD.

The unpacking is going slowly, of course.  Every day that we're here, I'm able to do a little more, but that's still not much.  When we're done, I'll post some pictures.  In the meantime, I may come back with more words. :-)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Hello. Good bye.

My life right now:  Downsizing.  Power Packing.  Paperwork.  Happiness.

It's been a long couple of weeks, full of ups and downs, first more stressed than I think I have ever been at one time, and then the satisfied contentment of knowing where I'm supposed to be for today...or more technically, for the next year.  We signed a lease for an apartment about a half hour from here.

That's a really long story cut short.

So hello and good-bye.  My last post from our little row home in the 'burbs.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

On Big Decision In Vague And Uncertain Terms

There are a dozen things I planned to write, but didn't.  I have a folder of pictures I planned to post, but no, I didn't do that either.  First we were busy, then I was sick, now we're busy again.  We are making big, potentially life-changing decisions around here.

Oh, and we also sold our house.  That kept us on our toes for a while because the inspection, etc. didn't move along as quickly as it could have.  Now that things are firmed up and I wasted a week being sick, and Joshua before that, we have about 30 days to do a lot more than 30 days worth of stuff.  Most of us have been there before.  We'll make it through, just like everyone always does.  In the meantime, we don't eat at our table because there are boxes covering it, and all the chairs besides, where they are at an easy place for me to access without having to bend or lift; we are sorting and organizing for a future that is still uncertain as far as when and where and how we will move; the rest of the house is neglected in the meantime and I wouldn't let you through the front door unless I was quite certain you loved me for me and not the way I keep my home; and every. single. second of the next month is overbooked.  We also need to find a new car before the end of June.  A "little" thing like that can really throw one's life off-course when it happens at inconvenient times such as this.

So that's why I'm STILL not blogging.  I'll try and make it back once or twice over the days to come, but I don't suppose I'll *really* be back until we're in our new dwelling.  Wherever that is.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

My Little Fisherman...And Other Faces From The Day

Today's fishing trip was inspired by one of Joshua's favourite books, "The Little Fish That Got Away," by Bernadine Cook.  "We need to dig up some worms and get a basket for the fish we're going to eat after we catch them," he said.  For weeks, he has been asking us to find a place where he can fish.  One of our neighbors has a bunch of fishing slogans and fish decals on the back of his pick-up truck, so John asked him if he knew of a good place to take a four-year-old.  He recommended what turned out be little more than a pond that supposedly has small fish.  We didn't catch anything to prove it, but that could be the fake bait we used because Walmart was fresh out of wormies.  We're going back tomorrow morning with fresh-from-the-garden worms and we're hoping that the fish are hungry for breakfast.  Catch or not, Joshua loved fishing and I think we'll be doing a lot of it over the next few months.

He tried sitting like the boy in the book.  He also tried lying down to take a nap (I can't remember if that part was from the book, too), but in the end he decided that he'd do a thing or two like Joshua G, and that meant standing, squirming, walking about and reeling in the line faster than a fish could possibly chomp on the hook (until we explained the necessity of patience).

Learning to cast.