Thursday, February 11, 2016

5 Years of Blog Posts in the Books!

This week marks 5 years since I first pressed publish on my first post here at Townsend House.  I have blogged off and on since 2001, but Townsend House is where I really found my voice, and knew what I wanted to write about.

Townsend House has always been a lifestyle blog albeit a somewhat different lifestyle than the norm.  Figuring out self-sufficiency, or not; trying to reduce the amount of resources we use, figuring out how to live in a consumer culture as a producer instead of a consumer, reducing chemical exposure.  It is all there in the past five years.  Being able to find products that fit in with what we have learned about chemicals has been a challenge, but it has been a learning process. 

Trying to make the best choices for my family.

It is funny to think about all the changes.  When I started Townsend House, Emma was 2 and Jack was just 6 months old.  Things have definitely changed!

Through this time we have expanded our garden, converted our two family home into a single family (which is still a work in process!), started homeschooling, and added another little one to the mix with Lucy.

We got chickens for the first time, and then realized we had no place to house them, so Matt built a chicken coop.  We processed those chickens two winters ago and now I am anxious to have new chicks in the spring (we will see if Matt agrees!). 

I purged my house of stuff, became quite minimalist, and then started to allow all the junk back in.  Adding a third little one seemed to double all of our belongings, I have no idea how that happened.  Now I am on a journey to pare everything down again.

I have worked through so many emotions over the past several years.  Realizing that it is up to me to control my happiness, and at the same time releasing the guilt I felt for not making everyone else around me happy.  Knowing that I needed to concentrate on myself more, and really take the time for self-care so that I can be the best wife and mom for my family; setting up routines, figuring out chore schedules, returning to my love of reading and knitting.

It is amazing to look back on all that I have accomplished in the past five years.  I think that is what I love most about blogging.  I obviously want to be an encouragement to others, and share what I love, but also it is a way to document life, to know what we have been up to over the years.

I am incredibly grateful for this space, and the friends that I have made, and the community that I have through this little online world.  It has been supportive and informative to me through the years.

I want to say thank you for reading, and supporting me in this endeavor.  It has been so much fun, and I look forward to continuing well into the future!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

knitting and reading

Another week has come and it is time for the next yarn along.  We are coming out of another week of being sick.  It seems like one child gets sick, then a few days later the next child and so on until it goes through the whole family ending with me.  I don't know how I manage to always be the last to get sick.  Maybe I let my guard down once the kids are all well, and then I get it.  

Regardless, there has been a lot of reading the past week, and a little bit of knitting.  I finished the first skein of yarn for my scarf.  I was definitely excited about that.  Knitting a scarf, for me, is kind of a long process.  I do a few rows here and there, but since I want the scarf to be long it does take me quite a while to actually finish it.  

I am still going strong with my goal of two projects a month.  I would like to see this scarf finished this month, so that I can actually wear it during the winter that I had originally planned, instead of next winter!  My other project is still yet to be determined, but I was thinking perhaps of sewing up some give/save/spend "envelopes" for my kids.  We have all jumped on the Dave Ramsey bandwagon, and I think they would like it a little more if they had pretty cloth envelopes instead of the little plastic ones we have now.

As far as reading goes, I just got The Life Giving Home on my kindle, and I can't wait to start it!  Last year I read Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson, and I loved it.  It was instrumental in my own self-care journey last year.  When I saw this book on a few other reading lists last week, I realized that I needed to have it.  She is an incredibly encouraging author to me, and has written some amazing books that I like to go back to.  The other one that comes to mind right now is Mission of Motherhood.

I just finished reading On the Shores of Silver Lake with the kids, and we have started The Long Winter.  Emma was excited to find out that Laura and Almanzo were actually going to meet in this book.  We are three chapters in and the kids are really enjoying it.

In the complete opposite spectrum of book reading, I just finished up The Jakarta Pandemic which was on my recommendation list on Kindle Unlimited.  It is the story of a neighborhood in Maine and how they respond and survive a world-wide flu pandemic.  Yeah, it pretty much scared the crap out of me.  I guess I tend to have that more pessimistic attitude on what might happen if there were some type of issue like that.  Perhaps because I have heard so much about the Zika virus in the news.  Or perhaps because I know where in Maine the story takes place.  It was quite good, although I don't recommend reading it before bed!

And on that positive note!  I would love to see what you are working on this week!

Are you knitting something, working on a craft, painting your house?  Reading anything new?  What is your favorite book genre?

Monday, February 8, 2016

2016 Garden - The Big Picture

Is it too early to think about my 2016 garden?  Surprisingly, no.  In fact, sometimes I think that I am behind when I start garden planning in February, but I know that in my current zone (5A), this is a good time to start thinking about the big picture for my spring/summer/fall garden.

Now, for those of you that are thinking flower garden, stop.  I am not a pretty gardener.  Instead, my focus is always on food.  Yes, I do have some lovely flowers around my home.  Thankfully they were here before we bought the house, and surprisingly I have not killed them.  They need very little maintenance, and that is my type of flower!  No, I am definitely speaking about a vegetable garden.

Last year I did not have a garden.  I have written about how disjointed I felt about that repeatedly, so I won’t continue to drone on about it now.  But, because I didn’t have a garden last year, I am feeling quite optimistic about the entire thing.

Now, in years past, I have had issues with pests.  It started with the cucumber beetles, moved onto squashbugs, and then, most recently, I had a family of woodchucks that no matter how many we trapped and disposed of, kept coming back.

My positive thinking is “I didn’t have a garden last year so the pests will have moved onto greener pastures.”  Clearly, I am delusional, but, I am going to keep that delusion going for the time being.

Two years ago, my desire was to grow all of our summer vegetable needs from the garden.  That may seem like a big deal, or for you more experienced gardeners, not a big deal at all.  For me, it was a big deal.  Especially considering it was year 4 of me battling pests.  We did surprisingly well that year, regardless of the intrusion of uninvited guests.

My goal for this summer, again, is to provide all of our summer vegetables.

Having the option to go outside and pick part or all of your meal is probably the most satisfying experience to me when it comes to food prep.  I love to cook, but picking vegetables straight from the garden, and then preparing them is an amazing accomplishment to me.

I love the entire process – well, except for that whole weeding thing, but we don’t need to think about that now!

With the goal of growing all of our summer vegetables, that means planning starts now.  While I do spend a fair amount of money on buying seedlings from the farmers’ market and our local greenhouse, one area where I have wanted to improve over the past several years is our seed starting capabilities.

My mom has always been a wonderful gardener (both with food and flowers), and she used to start her own seeds.  Several years ago I did actually go all out and start all of our seeds.  I was incredibly proud of that accomplishment.  That accomplishment was then destroyed when the town came to dig up our entire yard (including my garden) to replace the sewer lines – who knew all those sewer lines were running right under my yard?  Not me!  After that experience, I have put in some half-hearted attempts to start seeds, but I think in the back of my mind I am always concerned something else will happen, and all of that effort will again be wasted.

The kids are a bit older now, obviously, and they (thankfully) love gardening as much as I do.  They have been asking me about starting seeds, and so I plan to sit down with the kids to choose some seeds from the seed catalog (most likely anything purple) and will place a seed order.  Then we will do a homeschooling unit on starting seeds.

I’m really excited about the possibilities this year.  I figure it will be a clean slate, especially since I left the garden beds alone last year. 

Do you garden?  Are you already planning for spring plantings?  What is your favorite vegetable?

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Choice by Nicholas Sparks

This post was sponsored by Lionsgate as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central.  I received complimentary products in order to facilitate my review.

How far would you go to keep the hope of love alive?  That is the question that is explored in the hit novel by Nicholas Sparks.

I absolutely love a Nicholas Sparks book.  There is always so much emotion in those pages.  The Choice did not disappoint! 

From the back cover –

Travis Parker has everything a man could want.  In full pursuit of the good life, he holds the vague conviction that a serious relationship would only cramp his style.  That is until Gabby Holland moves in next door.

This story is all about looking at the choices in front of us.  Which path are you going to take when there are two completely different, but happy, outcomes?

Gabby has moved to this small town in North Carolina in order to be closer to her boyfriend, Kevin, whom she is sure will ask her to marry her…soon.  But, when Kevin goes away on a business trip, and her neighbor invites her for an afternoon on his boat with friends, a spark happens.  Does she really want to be with Kevin?  She knows she loves him, but what will her life look like if she makes a different choice.

This book is made for the big screen and I am so excited that the movie, based on this book, comes out tomorrow, February 5th.

The book starts out with a prologue in the present day, and then Travis has a flashback to when he and Gabby met.  The entire first part of the book is that short time span when he and Gabby meet, and the choices that they both are faced with.  It is a love story, there is happiness and sadness, everything you expect from Nicholas Sparks!

I can’t wait to see how this love story translates in the movie.  Watching the actors take hold of the characters and their emotion is going to be wonderful! 

To watch Gabby struggle with her decisions, is she making the right decision by being with Kevin, they have been together so long and this is what she wants, isn't it.  She knows she loves Kevin and sees their life in front of her.  But, she also has a spark with Travis, and can see that life as well.  Which one should she choose, neither is bad. 

It is all about choices, we all face them every day.  I know that I am constantly trying to make the *right* choices for me.  It is a constant battle, whether in love or how to raise your children.

I can’t wait to see this movie!  Are you going to see it?  What is your favorite Nicholas Sparks book?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

knitting and reading

This post contains affiliate links.  If you make a purchase after clicking on one of these links, I will receive a small commission.  Thank you so much for supporting this blog!

First up my progress with my "make more" goal for January.  I was able to complete the cowl for Emma, as my one finished knit of the month.  However, I did not make anything else.  I was hoping to get some sewing done, but I need to buy some zippers and haven't had a chance to run out and get them, so I put the sewing aside.  Then I thought I might do some coloring in my very cool Harry Potter Coloring Book, but I realized after I got that very cool coloring book that I need some very cool fine point markers in much more subdued colors in order to cover the amount of detail.

I did find another really pretty adult coloring book that is all about Bible verses, but that just came in the mail yesterday, so obviously it wouldn't work for January.

I hit a wall with my knitting progress.  I was doing so well the past couple of weeks, and then, nothing.  I finished up Emma’s cowl, went back and knit about 15 rows of my scarf, and haven’t picked it up since last week. 

You would think when the weekend comes around I would have more time to knit, but you would be wrong.

For some reason, when the weekends come, instead of sitting down and relaxing with my knitting, I am running around like a crazy person trying to clean up the house because I have an extra set of hands to help with the kids (that would be my husband).  

Honestly though, I think that most of my time is going towards purging and trying to go through the kids' stuff lately, so not so much knitting time.

I still have this lovely yarn that I bought in December.  I knew that I had to buy it because it looks so pretty, but I still have no idea what I want to make with it.  Do you have any pattern suggestions? 

I am finishing up The Choice right now, and am really enjoying it, although it has entered the incredibly sad part of the novel, and I am hoping it bounces back.  I’m also fighting the urge to turn to the end and see if it turns out OK.  I was horrible about doing that when I was younger…and sometimes I still have to stop myself.

I am also reading Breaking Busy by Alli Worthington.  I have seen so many people talking about it that I wanted to read it for myself.  I am only a couple chapters in, but it is refreshing, and speaks to me in all the ways I like; “say no, figure out what is important to you, do that.”  I think it is motivational to hear.  I love to know it is OK to say no and that the world will not end if I decide to do something different.

What are you working on this week?  Any new books?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Kids Toys - How to Weed out what you don't Need

This post contains affiliate links.  If you make a purchase using one of these links I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.  Thank you for supporting this blog!

We have a lot of toys.  They are everywhere, honestly.  I don’t know how this happened either.  When I had Emma I was incredibly strict about what was brought into the home as far as toys go.  I wanted wooden, I wanted open ended, but most importantly I wanted very few toys.

Right before Lucy was born, I went on a tear through the house and packed away a lot of the toys. 

I had incredibly low blood pressure during my pregnancy (odd, I know), and so was completely run down most of the time, which meant not as much picking up as should have been happening.  Well, right before Lucy was born, I got that nesting instinct, Matt took the kids out for an afternoon, and I packed up just about every toy that I saw not put away throughout the house…there were many.  Those toys were not looked at or used for a several months, but instead of just taking the entire bag to donate, I started to go through them, and slowly introduced almost everything back into our home. 

That may have been a mistake.

A lot of these toys were things that I wanted to save for Lucy, lovely open ended wooden toys, toys my husband said we should keep for Lucy.  But now, instead of a very few toys like we used to have when Emma was little, we have a very large amount of toys.

the toy organization when Emma and Jack were little - all the toy organization

I love open-ended toys.  Things like LEGO, wooden blocks, play food; they are all things that my kids love and use.  The problem is that there are a lot of pieces – especially as the kids have moved from Duplo LEGO to those teeny tiny LEGO pieces.  I love that they are creative and spend time using these things, but trying to keep them organized is another thing altogether.

I have noticed that we have let a lot of toys into the house in the past several years that we never would have had it been just Emma, or even when it was only Emma and Jack. 

Now, it is nobody’s fault but my own.

I know that if I don’t want specific toys, I need to make more of an effort to weed them out and pack them up.  I want to keep the toys that my kids play with regularly, but I want to pack up the toys that just take up space in their room without really being used ever.

This, of course, can be a point of contention with the kids, but my priority is to have an environment that promotes creativity, and if the toys have not been played with for a long time, are broken, or missing pieces, there is no reason to have them take up valuable real estate in their bedrooms. 

What is my strategy for de-cluttering my kids’ rooms?

I would love to say that I can go through all of their stuff on my own and get rid of things I know they don’t play with, or that are broken.  But, the fact is, we homeschool, and that means my kids will know when I am going through their toys. 

Instead I plan to have them help me.  Novel, I know.  I know that it will not be easy to go through the toys with the kids, but I feel like it is important for them.

I talked a bit yesterday about how I plan to use Organized Simplicity to go through my home.  The one exception is the kids’ stuff.  Instead, I will be borrowing the “spark joy” method that Marie Kondo discusses in her book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

I think that once my kids touch all their toys, and realize that they don’t play with them as much as they think, it will be easier for them to part with them.

I do expect some issues on toys that I know they don’t use, but that they may want to keep. 

My plan for these toys is to pack them up in a bin, and stick them in the attic.  In a few months we will revisit the bin.  If one of the kids asks for a toy from the bin during the time they are packed away, I will know it is more important to them and will reconsider donating it.  If not, the whole bin can be brought to a donation center in the spring.

My main hope with going through the kids’ stuff first is that we will have a lot more space in our home.   Our house is large, we have space to live, but the clutter has been taking over, and I am tired of it.  I am ready to move to a more “minimalism” approach to our lives.  I need to make space for the important things, and move out the things that take up time and energy to care for when I don’t actually care for the items.

How do you manage your kids' toys?  Do you regularly go through them?  Follow a minimalist approach?  Have a dedicated toy room?