Monday, January 31, 2011

Arctic Homestead

When I was growing up, my mother always started off our homeschool day by reading to us. She read us biographies and historical fiction mostly, counting it toward our history studies. I think I was 8 or 9 when she read Tisha to us. It was about a young woman who took a job teaching school in rural Alaska in the early 1900s.
I was fascinated.
I guess that was really the beginning for me, of wanting to come to Alaska. I re-read the book a couple of times in my teenage years too. As I was finishing college, I was contemplating getting dual certification (Alaska and my then-homestate of Washington have a reciprocal certification agreement) and I was going to come teach for a year or two in the middle of nowhere in Alaska, save up my money, and then go back south and get married. I was going to do what Tisha did...only Tisha found a spouse up in Alaska and stayed...and, well, if that happened that was ok too.
Only I found a spouse before I got a chance to go to Alaska and get rich. So I stayed poor and got married, and I'm not sure whether Alaska was still on my radar or not...I certainly wasn't thinking about it in any concrete way. But less than 4 years into our marriage we had an opportunity to move our family to Alaska, and even though we had never made serious plans to do so, we both jumped at the opportunity. Sometimes, something is so in your blood that you don't have to talk about it. I hadn't realized that my husband felt the call of the wild too, but he did, and we came.
And when we got here, we realized that it was home.

In the early part of our marriage, we had talked about buying a little piece of land where we could have a big garden, some fruit trees, and maybe raise some chickens or something. Now that we have realized that Alaska is home--more particularly that this region is where we want to stay for the long term (employment permitting)--now we have begun researching what exactly will be involved in creating an independent, sustainable, mostly-off-grid homestead for our family in this area. We've been getting books from the library, and reading up on everything from yurts and earthbag homes to cob houses and underground dwellings. We're learning about building with logs and how to use passive solar. We plan on heating with wood and geothermal energy, and will probably have a sod roof. We're reading about wind and hydropower. We know we'll need to build a greenhouse for our fruit trees and some of our vegetables. We're studying up on breeds of chickens and sheep to find which ones are gentle with children, which ones are hearty in cold weather, and which ones are the best for eating (and eggs, and wool...) The more we talk about it, the more excited we become. We know we need to sell our house down south before we can buy land here, and we don't want to buy land until we have tenure with a school district, so as to avoid what happened last time we bought a house (getting laid off and not being able to find another job within commuting distance of the place we owned!) So this is a 5 year plan at least...but it is a plan, and we are doing our reading, and it's exciting every time we talk about it.
Lots of people talk about things, but if the last few years are anything to go by, we are not just talkers, we are doers. We are the people who hold hands, hold our breath, and just jump already.

Recently, a fellow Alaskan friend recommended the book Arctic Homestead by Norma Cobb. She was another jumper. She and her husband took their five small children and settled in the wilderness north of Fairbanks in the 1970s. I admit I am not that daring, I have no desire to be that far north. I'll stay on my very sub-arctic peninsula thank you...but reading her story was inspiring, and reminded me of the reasons why I want to live off the land, with the land, in the land...and why I want to do it here. (It was also a thoroughly delightful read, so whether you have a homesteader's mindset or not I recommend the book!)

I conclude with a post from the book that seems to capture the way I feel about living in Alaska.

"There was breathtaking beauty in the howling of the wolves, the glisten and sparkle of new snow beneath lights, the splendid aurora borealis that never failed to fill me with wonder. It was as though God hung the great curtains of fire to fill space with myriad colors of dancing forms and vast spears and shafts of light flashing from one horizon to the next in a dazzling display of His power and majesty."

Friday, January 28, 2011

Frugal Friday: Water

Perhaps none of these will be anything new for you, but one way to make a little wiggle room in your budget is to lower your utility bills by cutting back on your water/electricity/gas use. Today, ideas for reducing water usage.

  • Set a timer when you shower. How long do you think you usually spend in the shower? It's very likely that it's longer than you think. Whether you're aiming for a true 5 min shower, or just wanting to take a couple of minutes off your standard, try a timer!
  • Bathe/shower with company! Seriously, most kids like to take baths together, and I've taken a baby into the shower with me more than a few times. Couples can share showers in both romantic or purely practical ways.
  • If your kids don't like to bathe together (or you have too many to fit into the tub at once), try to get them to take baths back to back, using the same tub (or perhaps just adding a little more hot for round two, but not having to refill the whole tub).
  • Don't wash your hair so often (if your hair is to your shoulders, you can probably make it at least 3-4 days between washes. My hair--to my waist--goes a week pretty easily.)
  • Use the 'short wash' cycle on your dishwasher
  • Use the smaller load size settings on your washing machine if you're running a smaller load.
  • Fill the dishwasher or washing machine full before running a load.
  • If/as things wear out, buy a more efficient washing machine or dishwasher, low-flow toilets, and low-flow showerheads.
  • If you can afford it, consider replacing inefficient things even if they have not worn out yet.
  • Install a toggle switch in your showerhead so that you can turn off the water flow (without turning off the water and losing your temperature settings). Turn it off to apply your soap/shampoo, then turn it back on to rinse... you might be surprised how much water goes straight down the drain in those seconds.
  • Strip cloth diapers with the 'boil them on the stove' method rather than the 'run them through 11 cycles in the washer' method. (I have a front loader washing machine so I have to do it this way, but I have found it faster and more effective as well as saving water. You just have to keep an eye on them so that you don't singe fabric or melt snaps!)
  • Designate specific cups or water bottles for each person (we have color-coding here, one color per family member). If your family is anything like my family, this will save several unidentified half-cupfuls of water several times a day. (We mostly stick with the colored camelbak water bottles for water, and the colored cups for milk or juice.) 
  • If you live in an area where you need to water your garden or lawn, set timers so that you don't water for longer that necessary.
  • Consider collecting rainwater from your roof into a barrel and using that (for watering plants if you don't trust it to be clean).
  • Don't flush every time ("if it's yellow--let it mellow; if it's brown--flush it down") 
  • When you have a bucketful of dirty water (from scrubbing the floor for example), set the bucket by the toilet, and pour it into the bowl to flush next time it needs flushing.
  • If you're building/remodeling, consider installing a grey water recycling system (which uses the water drained from things like your dishwasher to do things like flush the toilets). One of the simplest forms I've seen is the sink-toilet combo.  --->
What water saving ideas do you have?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Getting the Mail in Alaska in Wintertime

  1. Decide that you want the mail more than you want to stay warm. (Sometimes it takes two or three days to reach this decision--but if I know there's a netflix out there, or we're expecting a package from someone, I usually buck up and go for it.)
  2. Collect all the appropriate paraphernalia: coat, boots, mittens, hat, mailbox key, lighter...
  3. Put mailbox key in armpit (inside coat). This is optional, but it will most likely speed things up later on.
  4. Zip up, mittens on, venture forth...the mailboxes are one driveway over. Don't drop that key out of your armpit on the way m'kay? If you do it will be a booger to find, cuz remember it's dark 3/4 of the day, and little keys don't show up very well in snow...
  5. Once at the mailboxes, light the lighter, using your body to shield the flame from the wind, and hold the flame on the mailbox lock until it gets really frosty, and then gets all wet, and then the water runs out of it... this may take anywhere from 30-90 seconds. Once the water is running then the lock is probably thawed enough to get the key in.
  6. Retrieve the key from your armpit (it stays much warmer there than it would have in your pocket, sparing you a key-heating step, which is good, because holding the flame on the key makes it vulnerable to bending or breaking, not that I would know...)
  7. Put the key in the lock. If you can. You may need to reapply the lighter, or you may need to push the key really really hard. Or both. Try not to bend the key, it doesn't work after you do that.
  8. Turn the key. This is actually the hardest part of the whole process, as the mailbox keys are cheap little things...
  9. Retrieve mail, close box, and turn key straight again. (OK, I may have lied, that may be the hardest part.)
  10. Retrieve key. If you can. Muahahahaaaaaaaa!!!
  11. Hurry home, go through your mail, ask yourself why you live in Alaska. Then  hang up your coat, put away your boots, put on some tea, and remind yourself why you live in Alaska.

Of course, when the temperature rises to around 40 then all of this is no longer necessary...we get the mail daily in those spells!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl

on amazon here
I did it again. I browsed the 'new arrivals' section at the library. Interesting things happen when I do that, and this was no exception.

Garlic and Sapphires? Two of my favorite things! So I picked up the book.
The subtitle read "the secret life of a critic in disguise."

Whatever, let's go back to the garlic part.

So I brought the book home.

Ruth Reichl is a famous food critic (I  had no idea). She had been famous for a while in LA, and then was hired to be the big new food critic for the NYTimes. Of course, all the big restaurants in NY planned to show her a good time so they could get their four stars...only Ruth was smart about people as well as about food, and she beat them at their own game. She worked up some elaborate disguises and went to these restaurants as normal people, rather than as her famous self. Oh she went as herself too of course, but then she wrote about all the visits. Boy oh boy were some chefs in for some surprises!!! She called them on their two-facedness where she found it, and withheld stars for it too. Ooooo, so mean! But so so right!

Of course most of the book follows her visits to various fancy places and discusses all manner of foods (many of them mouth-watering). She writes about her process in inventing each disguise. She also talks about her family--and how she goes to a place where she "normally wouldn't be caught dead eating" except that it's her sons birthday and he really wants to go...and she realizes that reputations are silly things, and that the quality of a night out is more about the company than the cost of the meal. She goes with friends to little hidden ethnic eateries and revels in authentic food that is excellent even if it's not 'posh.' At one highly acclaimed (but very poor) restaurant she even throws off her disguise in disgust mid-meal...but I won't ruin that story. It was very very funny.

While food and disguises are all very fun, Reichl's down to earth style was the thing I liked most about the book. It wasn't just that she was trying to get the good stories, although of course she was. It wasn't just that she was looking for the best food, although she was finding that too. In the long run, she also finds that the process of 'getting real' for her reviews helps her 'get real' about her life too, and leads to her eventual decision to leave her post as a full-time food critic and to come home to cook more with her family, which is where food is best anyway. With a happy ending like that, of course I liked the book.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Pregnancy After Miscarriage

After a miscarriage, some couples do not want to think about babies for a while, but many want to try to conceive again right away. Here are a few thoughts based on my own experiences, and on things that friends have shared with me.

1--Be honest about why you do (or do not) want to get pregnant again right away. It may be a manifestation of denial--wanting to hurry up and be pregnant again so that you can pretend that you were never 'unpregnant.' You may carry the hope that conceiving again will help heal the loss. I can say from experience that a new pregnancy may help distract you from the loss, but unless you are well on the way to healing already it will not magically fix anything.
If you do not want to get pregnant, is it a product of fear, or simply a desire to wait? It's important to be sensitive to your spouse's feelings and desires too. I don't think there is any one right answer, and certainly not a simple one, but realize that both perspectives are valid.

2--Realize that being pregnant after having miscarried is a scary thing for most of us. There is an ever present fear of miscarrying again. Women who have never lost a baby may have some concerns about miscarriage, but they do not compare to when you have actually been there before. We tend to fixate on every little thing as either a sign that all is well, or a sign that we're about to miscarry again. For example, vaginal moisture is common in pregnancy, but after having lost babies I found myself running to the bathroom six times a day to check and make sure that what I was feeling wasn't blood. When I began to feel better from my morning sickness, I was terrified that it might mean that I was about to lose the baby.

3--Consider your timing. Different providers give different advice. My first OB told me that we should abstain from procreative activities for so long as I was bleeding, and then use preventative measures until after I had had at least one normal period. Essentially his advice was to let my body figure out that it is not pregnant before trying to get it pregnant again.
I have also heard the recommendation that after a baby you should wait for a time equal to (or longer than) the length of the pregnancy. So after a full-term baby you should wait 9 months, after a 13wk miscarriage you should wait 3 months, after a 5wk miscarriage you should wait at least a month, and so on.
On the other hand, I have heard many midwives and mothers say that that first ovulation after miscarriage (in other words, before that 'one normal period') is particularly fertile, and that if you really want to get pregnant again then you should try right away. I believe the theory is that the body doesn't figure out that it's not pregnant, and is therefore more welcoming of a new embryo. I don't know if there is any science to that or if it's just an old wives tale, but I do know an awful lot of women--including myself--who have conceived in the first month following a miscarriage.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Music Monday: Shakira Waka Waka (world cup official video)

Such a catchy song, so upbeat and fun, and it makes everybody want to just get up and dance.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Speaking the Name

I was talking with my husband about this recently--we have the commandment to not take God's name in vain, and most of us take it to the extreme of not ever using His name at all. Yet I was reading in the scriptures recently, and came across this:

Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God;
That your incomings may be in the name of the Lord; that your outgoings may be in the name of the Lord; that all your salutations may be in the name of the Lord, with uplifted hands unto the Most High.
                              --Doctrine & Covenants 88:119-120

When teaching or discussing these verses, we always seem to focus on the first verse--about being organized, prepared, and having a "house of God." However, on this reading, I was struck very strongly by the bolded part--that all your salutations may be in the name of the Lord.
All my salutations.
I think that means we should be using phrases like "God bless you" or "go with God" or "thank God for ___" (meant in seriousness of course, not flippantly) and of course the glorious phrase "Praise the Lord!" I think that we sometimes get so worried about breaking the blasphemy rule that we back SO far off as to be stupid. It's actually a bit pathetic if you think about it; akin to taking the counsel to "choose your media carefully" and deciding to not have any music or movies in your home at all

SO, based on what I'm reading in scripture, I've decided that I want to start using God's name more--in appropriate situations of course. Not long ago I was telling a friend about our adventure this summer where our transmission literally imploded while we were on vacation. I told her how the van happened to still be under warranty, and we happened to be in the city with one (of only two) kia dealerships in the state; how we had to spend 3 extra days in Fairbanks, but we weren't out several thousand dollars for repairs, and we got a brand new tranny. I used the phrase "Thank God" rather than "thank goodness" (which was what I would have said before) and you know, it was so appropriate. After all, I think it's God's goodness that all those things 'just happened' so that it worked out ok. We could have broken down in the middle of nowhere. We could have lost the tranny here at home where there is no dealership for 200 miles (and what would a tow cost?! I have no idea!) It was such a blessing that it all happened where it did. And why say thanks to some vague thing like "goodness" when I can actually put the credit where it is due--with God?!

A family friend refers to "God-incidences" rather than "coincidences," and I adopted that phrase sometime ago. I've also always loved the common pagan farewell "Blessed Be." Now I'm just broadening my vocabulary a bit more.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Our Celebrations

 I find that life is much more full when we find things to celebrate on a regular basis. While many people talk about feeling stressed during "the holiday season" of November and December, I find the celebratory spirit uplifting and exciting. Celebrations do not (in fact should not) have to mean stress! They can be simple and still be joyful and uplifting without being elaborate or complicated. Our family has ancestors from many countries, so on the national day of each of those countries we have an authentic meal from that place. That is no more stressful than making dinner on any other day of the year, except that I'm learning a few new recipes (which we like to do anyway!) On the equinoxes and solstices we mark the passage of the year and the beginning of a new season by having a potluck with friends.
There are so many days in the year where we celebrate that I thought I'd put together a little calendar here as a sort of index. I've been trying to document them more here with photos this last year especially, so anything that I've posted about has a link (and anything that does not have a link, well, I'll work on making more posts this year!) ☺
As a note, we are Christian, so we celebrate Christian holidays. We celebrate national holidays of the USA, and family birthdays and anniversaries. As I mentioned above, we also celebrate (a little) the national holidays of our heritage. You may also notice several traditional Pagan holidays on this list (the 8 "quarter days" and "cross-quarter days" of the wheel of the year). We do not find this to be in conflict with our Christianity at all, and I have written about that in some more detail. (You can also follow more detail of integrating LDS and pagan holidays at MotherWheel)

1--New Year's Day/Hogmanay
16--Bear's birthday
22--Hubby's birthday

2--Imbolc/Candlemas ~ making candles, candlelit medieval meal (no electric lights, no utensils, just simple food eaten with our hands)
14--Valentine's Day

17--St Patrick's Day (national day of Ireland) ~ Irish meal
21ish--Spring Equinox/Ostara ~ Spring cleaning + eggs, bunnies, lambs (for dinner, as cookies, etc)

1--April Fool's Day ~ crazy dinner (we don't play jokes on anybody)
(varies)--Easter/Resurrection Day ~ all about Jesus, no baskets, no eggs (that stuff was on Ostara)
6--Jesus' birthday
23--St George's Day (national day of England) ~ English meal

    mid--Mother's Day
    17--Norwegian Constitution Day (aka Syttende Mai) ~ Norwegian meal

      5--Danish Constitution Day ~ Danish meal
      6--Swedish National Day ~ Swedish meal
      12--Russia Day ~ Russian meal
      15--Wolf's birthday
      mid--Father's Day
      20--Family Birthday ~ celebrate the beginning of our family, usually with a big family gift (such as camping equipment)
      21ish--Summer Solstice ~ dutch oven/fire-cooked potluck with bonfire and staying up late

        14--Quatorze Juillet (national holiday of France) ~ French meal
        22--my birthday!

        24--Mormon Pioneer Day


        21ish--Autumnal Equinox/Mabon ~ Pie night (usually held on the nearest weekend)
        22--Bilbo and Frodo Baggins' birthday ~ a hobbity dinner

        3--German Unity Day (national holiday) ~ German meal

          12--Eagle's birthday
          30--St Andrew's Day (national holiday of Scotland) ~ Scottish meal

            6--Finnish Independence Day ~ Finnish meal
            6--St Nicholas Day
            20--Our Wedding Anniversary
            21ish--Winter Solstice/Midwinter/Yule ~ soup potluck with family/friends, or a solstice spiral
            23--Lil Juleaften ("Little Christmas Eve")
            24--Christmas Eve
            31--New Year's Eve

              Monday, January 10, 2011

              10 10s in roudup

              final report
              original goal list ~ update Apr 14 ~ update July 6 ~ update Oct 25

              (since a number of items appear more than once, I am putting notations by the first occurrence, then making the font on subsequent ones smaller. I'm also shrinking the font on anything that hasn't changed since last time...)

              1--Keeping My Home
              1. Create (and then stick to) a housekeeping system more or less epically failed here (what a way to start off the list eh?) however, there aren't any mice or cockroaches and I do continue to vigilently battle the mildew that creeps in on all the outside walls, so maybe who cares if my 'system' is just 'do what desperately needs doing today' eh?
              2. Try out at least one new recipe each month Jan-Troy's Chicken and Speedy Burritos Feb--Spider Spaghetti, Mar--Lebanese spinach puffs and cheeseburger buns, April--black bean/rice veggie burgers and pound cake and trifle, May--spinach stuffed pork loin, June--tarragon cream halibut, July--Salmon burgers and salmon-dill quiche, August-- veggie gingerbread muffins, hot Mexican salad, September--gluten free cookies and stardrop (GF) cookies and Indian-style chicken, October--(I have no idea what I did in Oct, but maybe the extras in sep cover me huh?) November--stovies and oatcakes, December--fruit braid.
              3. Serve balanced meals (with a protein, a vegetable, and a starch/carb) at least most nights
              4. Grind my own wheat flour
              5. Make bread all year
              6. Build up my food storage--at least 3m worth of all non-perishable items some pictures
              7. Learn about gardening in Alaska--what foods grow well, when/how to plant and harvest, etc
              8. Have a garden
              9. Can/freeze produce in season
              10. Participate in the butchering and/or preservation of a moose that Hubby shoots (that's one of his goals for the year) He didnt' get a moose in spite of much trying, BUT we got a half a cow from a local farmer. ☺
              11. Render tallow from the beef scraps to make candles!
              2--Read Books (ideally including the following specific titles)(* means I've started it, date indicates when finished) I scrapped half the list and instead am putting things I actually did read
              1. 4/10 To Kill A Mockingbird
              2. 11/10 A Christmas Carol
              3. 7/10 something by an Alaskan author
              4. a biography or memoir nope
              5. *Going Rogue by Sarah Palin (mostly for cultural literacy) didn't finish...didn't mind
              6. 1/10 Icy Sparks
              7. Fablehaven I am now halfway through book 3...I have to keep swapping reading time with Wolf, as he's reading them too
              8. 10/10 The Mists of Avalon
              9. 8/10The Passage by Justin Croner (NYT top book)
              10. 6/10 The Audacity of Hope by Barak Obama (alternate)
              11. 12/10 Drawing Down The Moon

              3--Improve Financial Stability
              1. Pay off (at least) one account
              2. Keep current with tithing (unfortunately some months this has been hard for us, and then catching up on our tight budget is even harder)
              3. Live within our means, always considering wants vs needs, and making the modest choice even with the latter.
              4. Use coupons and shop sales at the grocery store
              5. Use our tax returns and PFD's wisely (for food storage/debt, not playing!)
              6. Build up our food storage
              7. Build up my year's supply (the non food stuff, like toilet paper and toothpaste and laundry soap) to 3-6 months worth
              8. Do not buy any new diaper/etc fabric
              9. Sew items to sell using the fabric I have
              10. Actively market my etsy shops

              4--Be More Present with my Family
              1. Read more books to my kids
              2. Acquire a couple of new children's books in order to do #1 without losing my mind ☺
              3. Cuddle my kids every day
              4. Include the kids in the housekeeping schedule (give them assignments)
              5. Stay OFF the internet one day a week (generally Tuesdays)
              6. Be a good example for the kids by limiting my screen time on other days
              7. Say "just a minute" less often
              8. Play with my kids, not just work near them
              9. Have a monthly 'date' with each family member it's been hit and miss, but pretty good...
              10. Go to bed at the same time as my Hubby usually ☺

              1. Create (sew or knit) at least 6 things per month, for my family or my shop Jan FOs, Feb FOs, Mar FOs, Apr FOs, May FOs, Jun FOs, July FOs, Aug FOs, Sep/Oct FOs, Nov/Dec FOs
              2. Introduce a new product (or two or three) in my shop(s) this year. Four so far.
              3. Allow myself the thought-outlet of blogging frequently
              4. Finish Wolf's sweater sewed him a hoodie instead
              5. Knit something for myself (I have no idea what yet) No knitting, but I sewed a pretty blue gown for myself, so I think it counts
              6. Use up existing stash rather than buying new materials
              7. Try out at least one new recipe each month
              8. Learn how to make shampoo/conditioner strike
              9. Make handmade gifts for my family/friends (not necessarily to the exclusion of purchased items). I made the gifts for each of my family members for Christmas☺
              10. Help my children make things

              6--Focus Inward

              1. Be more active (I'd like to go walking, though in winter in Alaska with two little ones and no where to walk indoors this is a challenge...)
              2. Work on my poor ignored abdominals...crunches or pilates or something very hit and miss...
              3. Get outside more often
              4. Read more fiction (see list above!)
              5. Read my scriptures also a bit hit and miss...
              6. Pray more (an ongoing challenge for me unfortunately)
              7. Get the local breastfeeding support group on it's feet.
              8. Sing more 
              9. Take time to be still and quiet
              10. Check in on these goals at least quarterly to monitor my progress

              7--Focus Outward
              1. Do my visiting teaching every month
              2. Become a Big Sister with Big Brothers/Big's something I've wanted to do for a long time. or not
              3. Build up the local breastfeeding support group.
              4. Fulfill my church calling  I'm now the music coordinator for the ward.
              5. "Pay It Forward" whenever I can (in whatever ways I can)
              6. Look specifically for opportunities to PIF/send out good karma
              7. Shop locally or handmade whenever possible.
              8. Feed the local missionaries each month
              9. Teach a friend how to do something new
              10. Teach my kids how to do new things
              11. BONUS--start a nonprofit organization for miscarriage support and education (ha, who'd have guessed!)

              1. Read a parenting book Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn (review coming sometime...)
              2. Read a marriage/relationship book The Soul of Sex by Thomas Moore
              3. Read a political book The Audacity of Hope by Barak Obama
              4. Read a nutrition or health book
              5. Read a biography or teachings of a latter day prophet or apostle aww scrappy
              6. Read my scriptures
              7. Learn new knitting techniques Jan--increases, Feb--seaming (shoulders, sides, and setting in sleeves), Jun--picking up stitches
              8. Learn how to make shampoo and/or conditioner
              9. Try out at least one new recipe each month
              10. Seek to find/recognize the sacred in all aspects of life, and the connections between truths ("spiritual" and otherwise) this has been just awesome

              1. Write a series of posts about The Family proclamation strike
              2. Finish the final post in my "motherhood" series done ☺
              3. Finish the birth-related posts that are sitting in my drafts folder done ☺
              4. Research and write more posts on specific vaccinations
              5. Write reviews of the books I have read but haven't written about yet: Hold On To Your Kids, The Omnivore's Dilemma, Raising Your Spirited Child strike (my goodness I didn't do a single one of these books! Oh well, there's 2011, right?!)
              6. Write reviews of books I read this year meh
              7. Post more regularly on my cooking blog
              8. Post more regularly on my family scrapbook blog (it's private, for keeping extended family updated mostly)
              9. Fill in gaps by posting older stuff on the family scrapbook blog too
              10. Leave comments on my friends' blogs
              11. BONUS write a series on the Relief Society proclamation

              1. Celebrate the earth cycle holidays (equinoxes, solstices).
              2. Finally start our long-planned family tradition of having an authentic medieval meal (ie, big meat, candlelight, no utensils) once a year. It was pretty cool
              3. Establish a new family tradition for Jesus' Birthday This was also pretty cool
              4. Have a family pizza night at least twice a month frequently, and invite someone to join us.
              5. Have a family or couples game night at least once a month strike
              6. Go to playgroup and mom's support (breastfeeding) group and RS meetings and thus rejuvenate myself often meh
              7. Visit some major sites of my own state this was quite an adventure, to say the least...
              8. Play music in the home/car, and sing more
              9. Get outside often and breathe deeply
              10. Do my best to live deeply and suck the marrow out of life
              11. BONUS start a new family tradition of celebrating the countries of our ancestors by having a meal of authentic foods on that country's national holiday (some I've hit and some I've missed...and I'm just being ok with that at this point)
              12. I know I posted somewhere my plan to make cakes for each family member's birthday, but can't find it on this list... I have done it for Hubby & Bear, Wolf and Eagle.
                So, six strikes off a list of 100 (but did about that many 'bonus' things)...not too shabby! ☺

                Friday, January 7, 2011

                2010 In Review

                I did this last year, and it was fun, so I thought I'd do it again.

                Take the first most interesting sentence of each post, find the best one (or few) from each month, and post them together as a synopsis of my year. ☺(For your browsing ease, I have linked each post...enjoy!)

                Bear's birth was empowering and triumphant. Eagle's birth was a thing of beauty and peace...and a whole new kind of power.

                I was just putting on my seatbelt when Orion barfed everywhere.

                Bear interjected, "I'm a cow."
                These kinds of questions can keep one up at night you know. 

                But really, who forgets their own zip code? Especially when they've had it for 7 months? Me, apparently. 

                Since when is one person less of a person than another? Oh yeah, since forever.

                Nothing like a camo nursing cover to say "you can't see me, but you know I'm nursing over here!" 

                I don't fancy the idea of mummifying myself before I've even died

                I also like french fries. With a LOT of salt.

                It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a boy in possession of a long skinny thing anything, will make of it a sword weapon.

                Kids know if you are bluffing, and although they will call your bluff, they would rather be able to just trust you.

                I admit it, I'm an idealist.

                Here mommy, you can have a pretty pink money.
                Oh, thanks honey, where did you get that?
                From Daddy.

                There is no such thing as too many cuddles, too many children, too much laughter, or too many books. (and other things my mother taught me)

                It's ok to be "weird." Conformity is for those who don't have enough imagination or self-esteem to be themselves. (and other things my father taught me)

                Reality is only limited by how little you are willing to dream (and other things my husband taught me)

                I am Letting Go.

                Crunchy Wench

                Finding the book + seeing the movie + this recent train of thought + my recent path of trusting and following rather than trying to control things = perhaps I'm supposed to do this?

                For the record, I didn't like clams before, and now that I've gutted and carved a few dozen clams, I have no intention of ever eating one again.

                Eagle grinned impishly.

                He walks and runs as though he thinks he's big, and he says three words. One is "dada" and the other two are not.

                One dog in particular, Bibs, apparently had an irresistible urge to investigate those porcupines.

                I'm getting in touch with my pagan side, and I think I'm a better Christian because of it.

                God used me to make a miracle for someone who needed one today.

                "After all, cows are solid at room temperature!"

                Wednesday, January 5, 2011

                Nov and Dec F(inished) O(bject)s

                Christmas Gifts
                • Refinished a nightstand for Hubby (took it from a garish yellow to a cozy foresty green and brown)
                • Fleece hoodie for Wolf (I haven't gotten a photo yet because he rarely takes it off! I used this pattern)
                • Knitted woolies for Eagle  
                • 2 pairs of fleece pants for Bear (he doesn't like jeans, just soft pants)
                • Bear's pants--the candy canes
                  were this year's jammies
                • 4 pairs of jammie pants (Hubby, Wolf, Bear, and Eagle)
                • A bunch of fabric gift bags (like 10? I didn't count)

                Other Stuff
                • Christmas Advent Chain
                • Advent Nativity velcro playset (I only got a few of the people/angels/stars sewn...I guess I'll have to do the rest next year!)
                • Refurbished some jeans for Wolf--a year ago we had bought two identical pairs, and he had completely busted through the knees of both (both knees on both pairs had been patched at least once). So, I cut out the knee section of each leg, then cut the bottom hem off the lower leg portions of one pair, and sewed it into the middle of the legs of the other pair. Now he has one pair of pants that is long enough, free from holes or patches, and the extra seams just give it a 'cargo pants' look. Not so weird after all. And he has 'new' jeans that didn't cost me anything but a half hour of time!

                I'm also working on a quiet book for Eagle--that was the original plan for his Christmas present, but I didn't get it done. Luckily, the woolies were close enough that I was able to finish them instead.

                Plus, being a season full of gatherings and feast days, I did a lot of cooking! (yes, these links go to my cooking blog where there are mouthwatering pictures. Don't say I didn't warn you!)  Peppermint pie, eggnog pie, fruit braids, cardamom bread, sugar cookies, gingerbread men, thumbprint cookies, cardamom meringues, plus of course the actual dinners, ham, turkey, meatloaf, etc...

                Monday, January 3, 2011

                Plans for 2011

                Last year I took on a lengthy list of intentions, and fulfilled the vast majority of them. The year before I had a short list, and still didn't get to all of them...
                This year, I'm taking a new approach. Rather than having specific goals, I have some general areas of focus; some mantras, if you will, by which I want to guide my life at this time.
                1. Family First
                2. Mindful Serenity (also stated as let it be, peace be still, it is what it is, or let go and let God)
                3. Celebrate
                That is it.
                There are some specific things I want to do in regard to these foci, but a lot can change in a year, and who knows but what the specifics may change as the months go I will write about those things as they come. For the present, this is where I am.

                Family First (at the present) means that I'm putting my etsy shops on the back burner. I'll sew things to sell if or when I feel like it, but I will sew and knit primarily for my family, and I probably won't be taking custom orders.  I'll continue with my efforts to read to my kids regularly (even the big one, you might be surprised how much readers still enjoy being read to!). I'll continue to try to say "just a minute" less often. I will not hesitate to say 'no' to demands that pull me away from my children and spouse (which, by the way, includes facebook...I'm making myself a few rules that will keep me off it more, as it has a tendency to be quite a time-suck).

                Mindful Serenity (at the present) means practicing mindfulness and surrender in the pursuit of personal (And familial) peace. It means stepping back from the stress and chaos that could be, and instead embracing gentleness and intentionality. It means releasing judgment. It means taking time to observe and ponder, and noting the interconnectedness of things. It means seeking the spiritual side of everything, even the mundane.

                Celebrate (at the present) means that I'll continue seeking ways to make life a continual celebration. "Man is that he might have joy" and I thoroughly object to the notion that only 6 weeks of the year can be "the holiday season." My goal is that my family will have holidays and celebrations to enjoy all year long. (I'm working on a post with our annual calendar of celebrations.) It also means finding joy in the little moments of sunlight or barefootedness. ☺

                Sunday, January 2, 2011

                "One Day" by the Maccabeats

                I enjoyed The Maccabeats' Hanukkah song Candlelight a great deal (obviously, since I shared it here!), so I went searching for other songs they had done. I love a cappella (or, perhaps I should say, I love good a cappella!) and I love that these guys are not only skilled singers, but passionately religious as well (if you pay attention, every boy keeps his head covered with a kippah, and several of them have the strings of their prayer shawls visible). How often is it that you find a music group that's composed of good, upstanding folks, you know?
                Anyway, this song touches me, and I thought I'd share it today. It seems like a good way to start off a new year.

                (When Eagle is upset, or having a hard time getting to sleep, I let him watch this 2-3 times and he settles right down. ☺)

                Saturday, January 1, 2011

                Happy Hogmanay!

                Hogmanay is the Scottish New Year's celebration. In various traditions it lasts as long as 4-5 days, but we basically just take a few of the ideas and apply them to our New Year's celebrating, rather than putting on a week long fire festival!
                • We light candles (or a fireplace when we have one).
                • Do some housecleaning or "redding"  in the evening, so that the year has a clean start.
                • Right after midnight we find the tallest, darkest-haired male in the house and send him outside so that he can come 'first footing' (the first person across the doorstep in the new year brings the luck of the year--tall, male, and dark-haired are all good for luck, while short, female, or red-haired are all bad luck).
                • If the first-footer brings food (and/or drink), that's extra good luck, so send him out with something so he can bring it back in! 
                • Ringing bells and toasting at midnight.
                • At midnight, open a window (or door) to let the old year out and the new year in.
                • Singing Auld Lang Syne is a Hogmanay tradition (although we don't do it, because I neither know nor like the song!)
                • Making New Year's Resolutions is also a scottish/hogmanay tradition.
                Here are links with more details about Hogmanay traditions:

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