Wednesday, July 1, 2015

knitting and reading

Last week I was fortunate enough to win a pattern from Sarah over at Sezza Knits.  I never win anything, so I was really excited!  Especially since I feel like I needed some new knitting inspiration.

It is the Momoka, and it is beautiful!

source: ravelry
I haven't actually started it yet.  Why?  Because I need to buy some new yarn for the project.  I'm not entirely sure what color I want to use though.  I tend to gravitate towards purples for Emma, but I was thinking this would be really pretty in a light blue.  

I thought I might have a chance this past weekend to run to the store, but with my brother and sister-in-law up, as well as my little niece and nephew, errands took the very back seat!

My reading is definitely not going well.  I want to dedicate time to it, because I love it, but have found that I need to spend my time researching books for the new school year.  

We school year round, and happen to be finishing up last year right now, and will need new books soon.  I think that we moved through this year a little faster than I anticipated.  Partly because I gave us a lot of leeway with the new baby that we didn't really need.  

I do enjoy looking through all the books that we will end up using for the next year.  We are moving into our first year of American history, and early American history is definitely a passion of mind - I actually took every American History class I could in college, even though I was an Economics major!

I am looking forward to getting all my boxes of books, so that I can get back to reading for myself and not to pre-read for my kids.

What are you working on this week?

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Fun of Living Locally

Last week I was thinking about how much abundance we have in our area for food.  I often forget, or think that the grocery store is where I have to get my food, mainly out of convenience.  But, when summer comes, that is the time that I am reminded of the bounty that Maine provides.  This past weekend we had the opportunity to fully engage in the local lifestyle that I love.

We went to a new Farmers’ Market.

I feel like a Farmers’ Market is a perfect local living environment.  They encourage community and local everything!

I love a Saturday morning Farmers’ Market because it gives our family something fun to do that is inexpensive, and we can also spend time getting food that we will need for the week.

This particular market is located at the greenhouse where I love to get my seedlings.  Since I am notplanting a garden this year, I am decidedly visiting the greenhouse more often to see everything that they have, and to think about next year’s garden!

My brother and sister-in-law were up this weekend with my nephew and niece, so it was a big family affair.

The kids were able to get a brick oven pizza and donuts for dessert.  I was able to purchase some honey that I needed, and look at all the local greens available right now.

The adults (mostly) watched as the kids ran around in the grass, and listened to the musical entertainment.  It was fun to just be able to relax in the shade, watch the kids play, and eat delicious food.

I feel like basing our food around what is locally available is healthy, but beyond that it creates relationships and community.  We live in a society where everyone wants to be left alone to do their own thing (I am included in this statement!), and often community building is left to few.

I wonder what would happen if we were all more engaged in our community; if we shopped downtown instead of going to the big red bullseye the next city over.  What would happen if we were less concerned about everything going on in our individual family, and we made it a point to step out into our communities to support the local artisans, and to engage in community with those around us?

It is definitely something that I struggle with.

I like to keep to myself.  I like to run to the grocery store and grab what I need and then get out and get home to continue on with whatever I need to do.

I admire the men and women at the Farmers’ Market.  They seem so comfortable to be out there, fully available to build relationships.

What would happen if on Saturday mornings we were out in our communities, building those relationships, instead of staying at home trying to get stuff done around the house, or doing something only with our family?

Oftentimes I will run to Target to get whatever I need, because who doesn’t love Target!?  But, then I realize I probably could have gotten what I needed from the downtown store instead of driving to Target.

I am trying to live a more local lifestyle.  I want to buy things from the local artisans, I want to shop at the co-op and farmers’ markets, and I don’t want to run to the big box stores as soon as I think we “need” something.  Will I be 100% local?  No.  I’m not sure how realistic that is these days, but it would definitely be a fun and challenging project!  I do want to try harder at seeking out local first though; keeping our local economy strong.

How local is your lifestyle?  Do you seek our local shops over the big box stores?  How about food, do you have a farmers’ market in your area?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

What is Simple Living?

Simple living is something that I am constantly striving for.  I want experiences to be at the forefront of our home instead of things.  I want to live a debt free life, only using cash to purchase items that we need.  I want the food that we eat to be simple, wholesome, whole foods; preferably local and sustainably raised.  I want to be a producer, instead of a consumer.  I want my children to love nature, and play in it daily.

This all sounds great to me, but your idea of simple living may be different. 

So what exactly is simple living?

I love the definition that Tsh of The Art of Simple uses –

Living simply means living holistically with your life’s purpose.

It seems so easy, right; living holistically with your life’s purpose.

I have to say that it isn’t easy, not easy at all.  Why though?  It doesn’t make sense, considering you are essentially trying to simplify your life, why is it not easy?

I have realized that it is because we live in a complicated world; one that has instant access to everything, one that demands us to make choices constantly.  We no longer feel the need to wait to buy items, we no longer see want vs. need; it is all translated as need these days.

I started Townsend House as a way to express living simply in a complicated world, at least my journey in it.  And after writing here for 4 years, it seems like I have made great strides in some areas, and not so much in others.  There are things that we used to do, that we no longer do (like keep chickens – although I hope to bring new chicks home next spring).  There are things that I want to do more of (menu planning).  And there are new things that I want to try (more sustainable living practices).

What does that mean?

Well, I will continue to take you all on my journey toward a simple life, mine and my family’s version of it anyways.  I hope that you will continue to walk this journey with me. 

I want to branch out on what I write about.  My blog is definitely more of a lifestyle/memoirist type blog.  I write about what is going on in my every day, the challenges, and what I am attempting to use to change those challenges into positive situations in my family’s life. 

I hope you will be on board as I branch out a bit from my normal gardening/knitting/food posts (especially since the garden is not in service at this time).  I need to move back to some of the old ways – like getting back to the farmers’ market and co-op.  Plus, with three little ones, two of whom I am homeschooling, there will be a lot more about organization, rhythms, and general parenting craziness.

Now, I want to know.

What does a simple life mean to you?  Are you an urban homesteader?  A minimalist?  Someone who loves the nomadic lifestyle?  Someone who is adapting in place in the suburbs?  Or are you in between all of those, not quite knowing where you want to be, or where you expect your simple living journey to take you?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Top 4 Internet Safety Tips

I am a member of the US Celluler #BetterMoments Blogger Brigade.  I am compensated for this post, but all opinions, as always, are my own!

Did you know that June is Internet Safety month?  It seems like a great time to have it, right at the beginning of summer, when kids are fresh out of school.

The internet has opened up a whole new world to all of us, especially kids.  There are so many learning and social opportunities when it comes to the internet, whether you are taking a new online class, or sharing your latest beach pictures on social media, the internet is right at our fingertips, always.

With almost half of parents (47%*) reporting that their children have cell phones, and the average age of receiving the first cellphone is 12, it is no more important than ever to make sure we are keeping our kids safe, and having that conversation as to what is appropriate and what isn't.

Here are 4 Tips for Internet Safety - for your kids and for you as well!

1.)    Make an agreement with your child.  I think the best place to start is to have a conversation with your child about what is appropriate when it comes to internet usage, whether that is on their cell phone or tablet, or on the home computer.  You need to set expectations, and monitor their usage.  Obviously you want to give your child some freedom, and setting the expectation in advance is part of that.  By using the US Cellular Parent-Child Agreement you both can sign on what is OK and what is definitely not OK.
2.)    Use Protective Apps.  The US Cellular Family Protector app provides safety and security by monitoring your child’s location and mobile usage.  You can review your child’s calls and texts, block websites and restrict certain apps.  Children are even able to send a special alert to their parents if they are in trouble or find themselves in an uncomfortable situation.

3.)    Discuss Online Sharing.  This is the age of social media.  We are constantly sharing information.  I know that I love using my iPhone to post Instagram pictures all.the.time.  What can I say, I love it.  But, we also need to know what is OK to post, and what we should definitely not post.  I like to tell my kids that once they put something on the internet, it will always be there.  They may not think about it right now, but in 10 years, they may be rethinking what they put out there!  It is something that I am constantly thinking about as a blogger as well.  You don’t want to share personal information, where you live, your phone number.  Some of this stuff seems common sense, but kids really don’t think about it in the same way.  If you have the conversation, they will be more likely to resist the urge to share something that should remain private.

4.)    Share photos appropriately.  This is similar to above.  You don’t want to post inappropriate photos.  You also don’t want to post photos that can easily identify your kids’ location. 

The bottom line is to have open communication with your children.  Don’t forget to download the Parent-Child Agreement to help get the conversation started.  And keep talking.  Open communication with your kids is extremely important in everything, not just internet usage.

What ground rules do you lay out for internet usage?  Does it change once summer arrives?  How old was your child when they received their first cell phone?

*According to a recent US Cellular Survey.

Friday, June 19, 2015

One Local Summer - Introduction

Way back when I started looking for local food in my area, I found a wonderful blogger named Liz who had a very cool blog called Pocket Farm.  That blog had a summer challenge to create one meal each week using only local ingredients.  Local was defined as something that traveled no more than 100 miles to get to you.  Some things were allowed, even though they may be from away; spices and salt come to mind, but the challenge was to make it as local as possible.

Did you know that the average American meal travels 1500 miles from farm to plate?

That statistic always seems uncanny to me.  How can we not be able to feed our families with food closer to home?  What happens if there is a total crop failure at one of these farms from away?  What will that do to our current food system and how we normally feed our families?

As I started on my local food journey, I realized that so much was available in our area.  And I didn’t need to travel 100 miles, or 50 miles, I only needed about 20 miles to be able to get the majority of the foods that we would ever need to eat.  I am incredibly blessed to have such a wealth of local foods available to me.  I know that in some areas it is difficult to find even fresh food, let alone local.  But, when I began I didn’t realize even a small percentage of the offerings we have, so I encourage you to search your own area.

In the spirit of the now retired Pocket Farm blog, I plan to do another One Local Summer.

I started to do this last year, however pregnancy had other plans.  While we were still eating a ton of local food (a lot of which came from my garden), I was no longer tracking my meals; instead going with whatever foods I felt I needed at the time – read pregnancy cravings!

I would love to have you join me, if you would like, to create at least one meal each week made up of only locally grown food.

Some of the meals that we have enjoyed in the past are homemade pasta, made with local flour and eggs, and fresh tomato sauce, using local tomatoes, local sausage, local onions and garlic.  Since it is still early in the growing season here, you could prepare a local salad, with local spring greens and grilled chicken breast from a local free-range chicken.  Grill up some hamburgers using local ground beef and steam some delicious rainbow chard.  These are some of the options that I have floating around my head right now.

Do you ever make a meal with only local ingredients?  Would it be difficult for you to do?  What types of meal ideas do you have using all local ingredients?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

knitting and reading

Guys, I have to be honest, I absolutely love the chevron pattern that I started last week!  I am still knitting washcloths using this pattern, and it is making me happy to see the progress!

I think that after seeing so many people comment about how they like to have them on hand for gifts, I realized I needed to do the same thing.  And while I think it would be nice to give a bunch of washcloths with different patterns to someone, I also think it would be lovely to have several of the same.  I think most people like to match when it comes to towels and such – although I am just happy if I have something to use!

I think that I am going to try and knit a scarf with this pattern as well, but maybe find some different yarn, maybe something in a lighter weight.  I’m not sure how it will come out though.  I might have to try some different swatches to see what would work best with the chevron.  I want the pattern to come through, but I’m not sure a heavy winter scarf would work with it.  We shall see!  I guess a trip to the yarn store is in order…I wonder how many times I can come up with an excuse to go shopping for yarn?  It seems to be often recently!

As far as my reading goes, I finished up LivingWell, Spending LessI really enjoyed it.  I especially liked the parts about contentment.  I find that oftentimes, with all the social media, it is hard to be content.  You see friends going on amazing vacations, and realize you haven’t done that in several years, or pictures of the latest gadgets and fun electronics (I’m a bit of a nerd) are always in the news and it is a struggle to realize it isn’t something I need, far from it actually.

I have seen a bunch of people post about the Outlander series lately, and I think I am going to start reading the first book.  I started it a while ago, but wasn’t immediately sucked into it, so I returned the book to the library and moved on.  But, I know that I only read a couple chapters, and am sure that if I try a few more I will probably get sucked in like everyone else!

In the meantime, I am reading Harry Potter to the kids still, and have been thinking about making my way through the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which I have never read.  I also started Time Management Mama, which I saw on another blog.  I’m not sure I like it yet, but am only a little ways into it.

I think I need an easy novel to read, just to get my reading back on track, it has fallen off lately.  Perhaps more trips to the library are in order!

Joy Williams - Venus Album

I participated in the Joy WIlliams Venus album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided an album to review but all opinions are my own.

I absolutely love music.  It is something that I turn to when I am upset, when I am happy, and every time in between.  It helps me to get chores done around the house, it helps calm me when I feel at my wits end – I do have three little ones after all!

I was so excited to have the opportunity to listen to the new album by Joy Williams.  It is hauntingly beautiful.  I love her voice!  It is the kind of music that I love to belt out while having my headphones in and no cares in the world!  The album has just enough upbeat and slow music to make it well rounded. 

Venus is a story of one woman’s journey out of darkness.

It is such an honest account of Joy’s past two and a half years of life.  She wants to show how she came to live her truth, and wants us all to be able to do the same.

Here is one of the songs off of the new album:

Overall it is a great album, and I definitely recommend it!  It is available on June 29th!

Buy it on iTunes or Amazon.  And you can connect with Joy Williams at her website, on Facebook, and Twitter.