Wednesday, May 25, 2016

knitting and reading

I am doing a lot more reading than knitting this week.  I think as we move into planting season, that will continue.  I am constantly trying to learn more about providing food on the very small amount of land we live on (about a quarter of an acre).

My knitting continues to consist of dishcloths.  I figure if I start now, by the time Christmas comes around I *might* have enough dishcloths knit for Christmas presents!  I have had people ask in the past if I actually use knitted dishcloths - and I do!  They are my favorite rags to have on hand actually, because they work so well.  It is also a perfectly good use for leftover cotton yarn.  If you are ever gifted knitted dish cloths - use them!

As far as reading goes...there are a lot of magazines being looked over right now.  I did purchase some new curriculum in March, but I know that I will need to purchase more at the end of the summer.  I tend to work in seasons, instead of buying everything I need for the year at once, I tend to buy 3-4 times a year.  It isn't as much of a financial outlay all at once, and I can easily change things around because I don't have so.much.curriculum on hand.

Because I have been reading so many post-apocalyptic books as of late, I dug out my copy of Survival Mom.  This book has so much amazing information in it.  It is truly a well-rounded book for moms on how to prepare for everyday disasters.  I know a lot of people hear "survival" or "prepper" and think crazy, but being prepared for natural disasters, extended power outages etc. is a worthwhile thing to be invested in, especially as a mom who has littles to look after.

The other book I am reading right now is one I refer to every year, it is The Backyard Homestead.  I love this book because of the tagline - "Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre!"  Sounds good to me!  Of course I can't do a lot of the stuff they recommend in the city, but I love the information in this book.  It is encouraging to know that I can produce a lot on my little plot of land, and learning as much as I can in order to do so is on the forefront of my mind - especially in the spring.

Do you have specific books you read in different seasons?  

Monday, May 23, 2016

Top 5 Smart Phone Camera Tips!

I am a blog ambassador with U.S. Cellular, and this post is sponsored on their behalf.  All opinions, as always, are my own!

Have you talked to your kids about phone etiquette and your rules when it comes to using their smart phone?  Download this FREE Parent-Child Agreement to get the conversation started!

I love taking pictures.  Every day when we are homeschooling, or if I am looking at my garden, playing with the kids, my food, anything, I am taking a picture of it.

I remember way back when I got my first real camera, I loved it!  I loved to take pictures.  Unfortunately, when I got those 24 prints back from the store, half of them had my finger over the lens, some were blurry, and I might (if I was lucky) end up with one good picture.  Of course, this was when I was 10, and I have improved a lot over the years!

Taking pictures with my DSLR is something I love to do now, however, lugging around that big camera is not easy.  

Instead, I tend to grab my iPhone 6 whenever I am trying to get a picture - partly because I love the filters you can use through apps, partly because I always have my phone with me, so it is seamless.

recent survey shows an increase in smart phone users taking pictures and sharing them with friends and family through social media.  I am definitely one of those people.  I also want to make sure that I am taking the best picture I can - and often take multiple shots until I find the right one.

Top 5 Smart Phone Camera Tips

Check the Lens - A dirty lens causes blurry photos.  Use a clean, soft cloth to wipe away dirt or lint from the front and back cameras.

Light Your Subject Well - Natural light is always the best option for great pictures, whether using a mobile device or an expensive camera.  The better lit your subject is, the clearer the image is likely to be.

Hold Steady - The steadier the camera is, the clearer your picture will be.  Use a small tripod, or lean your device against a solid surface.

Follow the Rule of Thirds - Avoid placing your subject squarely in the middle of the frame, instead have it a third of the way in.

Take Plenty of Pictures and Learn - The advantage of digital photography is the option to take a bunch of pictures all at once and see them quickly, we have unlimited film!

Fun Photography Apps to Explore

Camera+(for Apple) and Camera for Android - great for photo sharing and editing. Both feature a full photo editor that is very user friendly, along with the ability to connect and share your photos with others.

Adobe Photoshop Express - helps edit photos just like the desktop program – one-touch adjustment for contrast, exposure, white balance along with blemish and red eye removal and 20 one-touch eye-catching effects to give your photos special “looks.”

Snapseed - helps you tune an image to create depth and vibrancy with color saturation, brightness and contrast and also helps you crop and adjust perspective across the vertical and horizontal axes.

Magnifier & Microscope - allows you to get great close ups of small items or subjects. 

I also love my iPhone for vlogging - come on over and subscribe to my YouTube channel.

Do you take more pictures with your smart phone or your fancy camera?  Any photo tips you would add?

Friday, May 20, 2016

First Rhubarb Crisp of the Year!

When we bought our house almost ten years ago (has it been that long?!), I knew one of the first things I wanted to do was plant a garden.  Growing up, my mom always had a huge garden, and I wanted my kids to have similar memories, as well as understand where our food comes from.

That first summer, we had a jungle of potted plants, and it was awesome.

The next summer, we expanded our garden into the actual ground.  And I soon realized that I wanted to add rhubarb to our garden.

Rhubarb is a perennial.  What that means is that it keeps coming up year after year.  Anytime I can plant something once and have it continue to come back and give delicious fruit – that is a plus in my gardening book!

We had some friends separating out her rhubarb plants, and she graciously gave us three plants to put in our garden.  They didn’t produce much that first year, but all the years since it has given us tons of rhubarb!

Rhubarb is actually a vegetable, but is typically treated as a fruit.  The stalks are red and green, and tart as anything, but they make some amazing desserts and baked goods.  My brother and I used to cut the stalks and dip them in sugar to eat raw, which my kids also love to do.

Rhubarb is also the first edible thing that grows in my garden – besides the dandelions.

This week I decided I wanted to cut some rhubarb and make something.  I had intended to make a rhubarb custard pie which is my favorite, but I didn’t have the energy to make a pie crust, so instead I made rhubarb crisp. 

It was absolutely delicious!  I may have made extra crisp to go on the top, but that is totally OK, right?!

I was a little overzealous in the rhubarb cutting, and have about 6 cups of extra cut up rhubarb, so today I will be getting to that pie, and most likely making a rhubarb coffee cake as well.

Once the initial desire of sweet and tart rhubarb treats is over, I will start canning the rhubarb.  It is super easy, chop, add some sugar, put in a boiling water bath canner, and save for the middle of winter when you want a taste of spring! 

As long as I stay ahead of the seed stalks (cutting those as soon as I see them), the rhubarb will continue to produce delicious, tart stalks right through July.

Have you ever had rhubarb before?  Do you grow it in your garden?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

National Learn to Swim Day

This post was sponsored by SwimWays as part of an Activation for Influence Central. I received products to facilitate my review.

Swimming, oh how I love thee!  I think I spent the majority of my childhood on the lake or in the pool, and it was such a wonderful experience.  I have always wanted to give my children the same experience. 

With Emma and Jack, we did not get them in the water super early, and so they definitely have a little more fear when it comes to swimming.  I knew that I didn’t want that for Lucy.

I was excited to partner with SwimWays to promote National Learn to Swim Day, which is Saturday, May 21st.

National Learn to Swim Day was started by SwimWays in 2012 as a way to educate parents and children about water safety and the benefits of learning to swim.

Last week when we went to the pool for Emma’s birthday, I knew it would be a perfect time to try out SwimWays Baby Spring Float.  This was a wonderful way to introduce Lucy to the water for the first time!

She absolutely loved it!

She loved having us push her around in the pool.  She was extremely at ease, and I was happy to have a float that worked so well for us in the pool.

It was incredibly easy to set up.  You need to blow it up, but it only took a minute or two, and then you are ready to go.  We were at an indoor pool, but the float also comes with a canopy which will be perfect for when we are outside in the pool or at the lake.  I am incredibly pleased with this product, and can’t wait to take Lucy out in it again.

After a little while of her being in the float, I took her out to see how she would like floating around with me, and she was adamant about going back in the float.  She did not want to leave that water for anything, and I was happy to see how comfortable she was.

I also think that seeing how comfortable Lucy was helped Emma and Jack.  Instead of being concerned about themselves swimming, they were having fun talking to Lucy and pushing her around in the float as well.  It was honestly a win-win for me.  I want all of my children to feel as comfortable in the water as I do, and SwimWays was a great introduction to the summer swimming season.

If you would like to learn more about #SwimWays National Learn to Swim Day, there will be a Twitter Party on May 19th from 1-2pm ET.

You can also learn more at the National Learn to Swim Daywebsite, as well as follow SwimWays on Facebook, and Twitter.

When did your children learn to swim?  Were you a fish yourself when you were growing up?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Eight is Great! A Birthday Recap

I'm not sure how we got here so quickly, but last week we celebrated Emma's eighth birthday.  Wow!  It surprised me how emotional it was for me.  I mean, eight seems so much less little kid, and more young lady to me.

We had a lot of fun surprises planned for Emma for her birthday, the first of which was Matt taking the day off from work.  

Several weeks ago we realized a big birthday party would not be in the cards this year.  Instead, I thought that it would be a lot of fun if we created a little scavenger hunt for Emma to go on.  We would write clues and she could follow them to each new surprise throughout the day.

Little did I know how excited the kids would be about a scavenger hunt.  You can watch our video here - 

The first big surprise was going out to breakfast.  My mom also surprised Emma at the restaurant with balloons, and came in with all the wait staff singing happy birthday.  I had a hard time not tearing up at this point - Emma was so happy!

From breakfast we went to the pool at a local spa.  The kids had a great time, and I was happy that no one was in the pool - benefits of going in the middle of the week while school is still in session!  After the pool, I took Emma to get her first pedicure.  She has been talking about it for months, and it was really special for me to be able to have some one on one time with her while she had her toes painted.

We returned home for Lucy to take a nap and to have cake and ice cream as well as open a couple presents.  Her final search for a clue led her down the street to my mom's, where she found out we would be taking her to Texas Roadhouse for dinner.  The main purpose was that she wanted to sit on the saddle - we had never been, but she had heard about it from her friends.

Overall, it was an amazing birthday!  We all had a great time, and were exhausted by the end of the day.  In fact, that continued into the next day, where Emma took a nap.  She hasn't taken a nap in quite a while, so it was fun to see that I really wore her out the day before.

We did end up having some of Emma and Jack's friends over on Saturday, but the kids mainly played outside, we had PB&J for lunch, and then Matt took them to the park to run off their energy.  It was a perfect few days!

What is your favorite childhood birthday memory?  Did you always have a party?  

Monday, May 16, 2016

A Homeschool Co-op Survival Kit

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #GIVEEXTRAGETEXTRA #Walgreens #CollectiveBias

As a mom, I think I live on coffee.  My kids mention it to me regularly actually, that I *need* to have my coffee in the morning.  It seemed like when I started homeschooling two instead of one, the coffee increased, and then when my baby turned into a toddler, I added an extra cup in the afternoon!

With all the coffee consumption, I realized that homeschooling is not a one person job, you need a community.

Finding other parents who are also homeschooling shouldn’t be difficult, but when you are still relatively new to homeschooling, and a serious introvert, stepping out and finding new people proved a little more complicated.  

This past fall we did something new in our homeschool.  We joined a co-op. 

I did not realize going into the co-op the amount of time and energy these other moms would bring in to teach some fun subjects to my children.  It is amazing to see the passion and love that is in that group, and I definitely appreciate them.

I thought that it would be a good idea to make a little homeschool goodie basket, or emergency kit, for those days when we are at co-op.

No matter how much planning goes into the day, there are little things that are forgotten, or needed at the last minute, and this was my purpose in putting together this little basket.

What I included in our homeschool survival basket:

·      Pad of paper
·      Pencils
·      Erasers
·      Pencil
·      Pencil sharpener
·      Tissues
·      Glue
·      Hand sanitizer
·      Lotion
·      Stapler
·      Gum

Having these little items available “just in case” is a help to the other moms, as well as myself.  One of the most important items in that basket though?  The gum.

Did you see that little blurb at the top about the coffee?  Well, that is a common thread among all moms, homeschooling or not, I believe.  And we all know that come 10am, our breath is less than fresh.  I was happy to swing by Walgreens to pick up the new Extra® 35-stick pack.  The Extra® Gum Spearmint and Extra® Gum Polar Ice® packs make a nice addition to the basket.  Especially come 3pm when we feel like we *need* a treat, but don’t necessarily want to indulge in something sweet…and probably should refrain from an extra cup of coffee!

I also love that the packaging is durable, recycled packaging and that it features more gum – 35 sticks!  Which is great when sharing with the other moms in the group.  And my kids have already requested the packages when they are empty for cases when we go on our nature walks.

What is your plan to Give Extra in order to Get Extra this summer?  Do you have a survival kit for when you are out with other moms?

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

knitting and reading

There are affiliate links in this post.  If you make a purchase through one of my links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.  Thank you for supporting Townsend House!

I'm excited to be back with something new this week for the yarn along!  Last week I didn't really have anything new to share, which worked out well because our bathroom flooded, and we ended up needing a new washing machine.  But, now that all of that is taken care of, back to knitting and reading!

This week marks a very special birthday for my oldest, she will be 8!  It is amazing to me that she is going to be 8...honestly it is a little hard to imagine.  What is a birthday without a little handmade goodness.

The purple is a little bolero that I knit for her.  It is essentially a rectangle, and then I just need to sew up the edges a bit to form arm holes for her.  It will be perfect for this spring over all the pretty dresses that she loves to wear.  I really liked the ease of knitting just one big rectangle, and then sewing up the arm holes seems super easy.  I kind of want to make a larger one for me...maybe in a different color though.  While I love purple, I think I would want a more neutral color for a shawl for myself.

I also started knitting dishcloths again.  They are always needed, and I have a lot of cotton hanging around, so I am trying to knit up a few here and there.  This one is a simple basket weave pattern, one of my favorite patterns to knit.

As far as reading goes...I'm not sure if you can see in the picture, but all of those books on my kindle are books that I am currently reading...and not very quickly either.  They are all good books, but I keep jumping back and forth depending on my mood.

I did finish Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld.  I wanted to love this book.  I love Pride and Prejudice, and I have enjoyed a lot of the different re-tellings that I have read over the years.  This one was horrible.  I read the whole 500+ pages hoping there would be some redeeming quality at the end.  Nope, not even a little bit.  Perhaps it is hard to make Pride and Prejudice into a new, modern story.  But, the whole book was awful.  I can't believe I finished it!

Have you ever read a book that you really dislike, hoping it will turn out better as you read more?  What new projects are you working on this week?