Screen Free Week

Did you know that this week is Screen Free Week?  If you are reading this, perhaps not!  We have decided to participate this year.

I have talked at length before of my struggle with media.  I love it, I hate it, I love it again.  We don't have cable, but we watch TV on Hulu and on Netflix.  It isn't that we have gotten rid of the TV, or the computers, or the Wii...but I have considered it.

Sometimes I think it would be so freeing to be away from all of that for a prolonged period of time.  I read books like The Winter of Our Disconnect and try to imagine what my life would be like for 6 months with no internet or TV to take me away from other activities.  Or a day when the kids don't have a "movie time" in the afternoon.  Could we do it?  Of course we could.  Would it be difficult?  I think yes, absolutely.

I want my kids to know how to entertain themselves, without the use of an electronic device.  Obviously, most parents want this.  And I do see that my kids are able to do this, but I find that they are asking for the electronics more the older they get.

Since it is finally starting to be warm outside, I don't foresee many issues with the kids this week and not having the TV on.  They love to play outside, and will gladly stay outside all day long if I let them.  And I would love that, except that I can't just let my almost 5 year old and 2 1/2 year old hang out outside while I am in doing laundry/cooking/dishes etc.  It is their movie time that I typically use to catch up on e-mail, get dinner ready, fold laundry, do other chores.  And while I don't like the phrase - tv as a babysitter - sometimes that is exactly what it ends up being.

Here are some interesting articles I have read about children and TV:

Resources: Fact Sheets on advertising and children

on how (& why) I use TV as a babysitter - Steady Mom

Electronic Babysitter Bad for Kids

Advantages for children to watch TV

This is definitely a hot button issue, and while I sometimes wish we had no screens in our home, I do recognize the benefits of having technology available.

Where do you fall on this controversial topic?  If you didn't know about screen free week, do you think you will try to finish out the week screen free?  Do you practice a sabbatical from TV regularly?  Or do you feel that "all in moderation" works well for your family?

My Green Journey - Part Three

Do you know my green journey?  Probably not entirely.  I'm sure that if you have been reading here for any length of time you will know bits and pieces, but you probably don't know the whole thing.  I decided that it would be fun to share, and also to write out for my own benefit!  You can find part 1 here and part 2 here.

After all of the recalls I realized that I needed to have better food security.  That is where my green journey really began.  Food.  If I can't feed my family safely, what other choice do I have?

Well, it became clear to me that gardening was a choice that I wanted to make.  Not that I am a master gardener by any means, but I am trying, and every year I am putting up more and more food for the winter.  It isn't just about gardening, it is sourcing food locally.

I have found local sources for so many different foods that I never really thought of as being available from Maine.  Even though our growing season is short, we are able to do quite a bit.  And not everything can be local.  I love coffee, but coffee certainly isn't growing in my neighborhood.  But, I do know someone who roasts small batches of coffee beans, and he sources them from a sustainable and fair trade source.  I may pay a little extra, but I do enjoy good coffee :-)

Once I started researching food, it got me on the track of other "green" issues.  If I didn't want pesticides in my food, why would I want the chemicals in the cleaning products I used.  So I started making my own laundry soap, which then turned into making my own all purpose cleaner and the heavy usage of vinegar/lemon/baking soda/salt to clean just about everything in my house.

A couple of great books I used for these changes are Salt, Lemons, Vinegar, and Baking Soda and Make Your Place: Affordable & Sustainable Nesting Skills.

I feel like it is a slippery slope of green changes.  Once you change one thing, your research leads you to something else that you want to change.  It leads you to research you may or may not want to acknowledge about the way the planet is being treated.  The way animals are being raised to feed us.  The amount of chemicals that are put into the products we use everyday, whether personally, on our children, or cleaning our homes.

My green journey "officially" began back in 2006, and I have made a lot of little changes up to now.  There are so many more things that I want to change still.  But, it takes time.  It can't be an overnight type of deal, although sometimes I think it would be easier that way.

A lot of these changes started out of necessity, where can we cut corners to save a little extra money?  Cooking from scratch is healthier, and there are fewer ingredients you need to worry about.  Turning the lights out when you leave the room saves money on your electricity bill, and conserves electricity in general.

Have you started making small changes to your lifestyle to be more environmentally conscious?  Are you less concerned with the environment in general and more concerned about your personal financial situation?  Can the two connect for you?

Linking up at the Homestead Barn Hop, Clever Chicks

Sunday Quotes

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.
~Marcel Proust

what i am eating

I love cooking and eating, and I especially love looking at pictures of food!  If you love food as much as I do, please add your food pictures/recipes/food related posts to the linky below.  All you have to do is link back to this blog post.  I look forward to seeing what everyone else is eating this week!

I hoped to have an awesome post today to share with you.  A new recipe that I have been working on (there have been a few!).  Unfortunately, I came down with some sort of illness this week, and while I am feeling better now, it isn't exactly enough time for me to pull together a recipe and picture for you!  So this week, I will be featuring my favorites from last week, and also on my what i am eating pinterest board.  I can't wait to see what you all are eating this week!

Green Week - Newman's Own Organics review and giveaway!

For all the times I talk about wanting a greener life, and enjoying cooking so much, there is one area that I still struggle in, and that is snacks.  My kids are huge snack eaters.  The could be accused of snacking all day long...but I feel like if they are eating something healthy and nutritious (and they are still eating what I make at mealtimes), then it is ok!

Enter Newman's Own Organics.  In their own words:

Newman's Own Organics was established as a division of Newman's Own in 1993, and became a separate company in late 2001. The sale of Newman's Own Organics products generates money for the Newman's Own Foundation to give away. Since 1982 Paul Newman and the Newman's Own Foundation have donated more than $350 million dollars to educational and charitable organizations worldwide.

They have an amazing assortment of products that you can choose from, cookies and chocolate, to dried fruit and popcorn.  Even extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

We were recently given the opportunity to try some of the dried fruit, and it was amazing.  We don't eat a lot of dried fruit here, I'm not sure why, but since we tried the Newman's Own Organic dried apples - we have been hooked!

In the winter in Maine it is really difficult to find any type of in season fruit - ok, lets be honest, there aren't any fruits in season in the winter in Maine.  Instead we often rely on frozen fruits.  But, when I opened that package of dried apples, it all changed.  Apparently dried apples are better than any other kind of fruit out there, because my kids devoured them, and then wanted to go for the apricots!

What I really like about the dried fruit is that the ingredients are simple. "organic apples" "organic apricots" in the case of the dried cranberries, they needed a little sweetness so "organic cranberries, organic cane sugar, organic sunflower oil."  I'm sold.  Healthy and delicious!  And so extremely easy!

Now for the fun for you!  Neman's Own Organics has generously offered to give one of my (US) readers some assorted dried fruit!  Seriously, you will not be disappointed if you win this!  Just enter using the rafflecopter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Linking up at Giveaway Day

Green Week yarn along

This week is Green Week at Townsend House, where I am spending some time talking about attempting to live a green lifestyle - which is different for every person.

What I really like about knitting (and sewing) is that they are useful skills.  I love that I can take a ball of yarn and make a beautiful hat (or a not so beautiful hat), and that it is something that my kids will use, or something I will have for myself or a friend.  I think the slowness of knitting (and my knitting is incredibly slow!) is such an important reminder to take a step back and slow down.

This week I have been doing just that, slowing down.

I started a new book, Firefly Island, which seems really good so far.  A mystery and a romance all wrapped up into one.  Definitely my cup of tea!  And I am still in the very beginning stages of a lovely shawl for my mom.  I think she will like it when it is done - if it gets done :-)  While I enjoy the slowness of knitting, sometimes I wish I was a bit faster at it!  Perhaps if I could knit more than a couple rows at a time, that would help?

Joining in with Ginny, Nicole, and Tami!

My children and growing a garden

I have talked before about how important it is to me for my children to learn to be good stewards of God's creation.  And it really is one of my most important goals.  I want my children to love to be outside, to know what is right and wrong when it comes to taking care of the environment (ie don't throw trash on the ground).

This was our first "official" year homeschooling, and I have to say, the science definitely fell by the wayside.  It wasn't because I didn't love the subject matter - butterflies, life cycle of seeds, plants, weather - all of those subjects are what I like to concentrate on without even labeling it as science, throughout the year.  But the actual experiments, those didn't really happen.

Because we are homeschooling year 'round, I have decided to have a very science intensive summer.  I feel like it will be a lot easier to teach about weather when there are different weather predictions other than just "cold" and "snow."  Also, I plan to keep my kids thoroughly involved in the garden process.  I want them to really own their garden this year.

They have both picked out seeds to plant, and will each be getting their own little section of the garden.  Jack, of course, will still need a good amount of help in the garden.  And Emma will want to be involved in every aspect beyond her little plot of land.  But, I think it will be fun for them to take some ownership in the development of flowers/herbs/vegetables.

Our rhubarb is finally starting to show itself, and Emma has been asking when we can pick it to make something.  I am really pleased with how in tune they both seem to be with where food comes from and how they can grow things they really love on their own.

Even if when they get older they don't garden on a large plot of land, to still have that knowledge in the back of their mind, that they know the land, they know what the land can provide them.  It will be of good use to them.

Have you ever taken an entire season to concentrate on one subject?  Even if you don't homeschool, do you try to use the summer to concentrate on some type of science?  To me, it seems to be the best season for it!

Green Week at Townsend House

It is Green Week here at Townsend House!  Today is Earth Day, and also happens to be my birthday.  Because of this, I will be dedicating this week to everything green.  Whether it is the next part of my green journey, how I am helping my kids grow to love being a good steward of God's creation, or a couple of really fun giveaways, this week will be all about being green!

My Green Week actually started yesterday with my review of some wonderful children's books that bring to light some important environmental concerns, as well as a couple of really cool giveaways - one for a kindle fire and one for an assortment of Amazon gift cards, so be sure to stop over to that post and check it out!

I would love some reader participation this week as well.  What does it mean to you to be green?  Is it a difficult change?  Something that you (or your family) aren't really concerned about? Are you working in baby steps?  What would help you accomplish some of your green goals?

I honestly believe that everyone has a different view of green living.  For me personally, it often means food safety and security.  Knowing that I can provide for my family in that way gives me a good sense of self.  And I also think that green living is about reducing the resources that you use.  For me this is good for the environment, for my husband - it is good for the wallet.

Happy Earth Day everyone!

Linking up at the Homestead Barn Hop and Clever Chicks

My Green Journey - Part 2

Do you know my green journey?  Probably not entirely.  I'm sure that if you have been reading here for any length of time you will know bits and pieces, but you probably don't know the whole thing.  I decided that it would be fun to share, and also to write out for my own benefit!  You can find part 1 here

After watching Frontier House, I would love to say that everything changed for me.  Unfortunately that is not the case.  I thought it was really interesting to see these people creating a life from nothing, being dependent on the land and what was around them rather than relying on the grocery store every week.  To see people make something from practically nothing was incredibly encouraging.  

When the show came to a close I went back to my accounting and economics classes, going out to eat every other day, buying whatever electronics I could get my hand on, and generally not conserving anything.  I didn’t even attempt recycling.  I was completely at odds with the environment, and could have cared less.

Fast forward several years.  It is now 2007 and we are in the process of remodeling – extensively (wait, I think we can still say we are in that category!).  We were eating a lot of frozen meals and getting a lot of takeout – which, if you have been reading here for any length of time, you would realize that this was not a happy time for me.  I love cooking, and not eating decent food for weeks at a time was just gross.

About this time a lot of recalls on food started.  Spinach had e. coli, peanut butter had salmonella – and the one that really got me was a recall on organic baby food because of fear of botulism contamination.  The spinach was what was on the news the most, but when I saw that organic food was also at risk, I knew that I needed to change my thinking on food and how safe it actually was.

Stay tuned for more of my green journey!

Do you have a green journey story you would like to share?  I would love you to leave a link in the comments to posts you have written, or even leave a comment about your green journey.  What put you on the path you are currently on?

Linking up at the Homestead Barn Hop and Clever Chicks

Earth Day Celebration - Children's Author Stephanie Lisa Tara & 2 awesome giveaways!

I have spoken before about how important it is to teach my children to be good stewards of God's creation. Well, it is amazing when you can utilize others' gifts in order to help with that goal!  Stephanie Lisa Tara is a children's author who writes books that help teach kids about the environment.  I was given the opportunity to review some of these wonderful books, and I have to say that my kids really enjoyed the beautiful artwork and the way the books were written.

I'll Follow the Moon is an adorable story of the journey of a baby turtle from hatching to finding his mama. Emma loved this story, and told me her favorite part was when he found his mama after traveling so far.  I had no idea that baby turtles used the moonlight to find the sea, and thought it was an added bonus that this turtle was also seeking his mama.

Snowy White World to Save is a story that follows a polar bear family as they look for food.  Unfortunately, due to the melting of the ice, it is becoming more and more difficult for polar bears to find their food.  This book also includes a kid friendly resource guide.  Emma doesn't quite understand global warming, being very concerned that the polar bears are able to stay warm and still find food, but it is still an interesting story that gets kids asking questions.

Gwynne, Fair & Shining is a fun story about a little servant girl who believes that magic comes from the hearth of the fireplace.  She continues to dream of this music, which eventually comes to her.  Because she believes in herself, she is able to become the princess she is on the inside.  Emma loved that she played music and that she turned into a princess (my daughter is all about princesses!).  It was a wonderful reminder that even though there are people that can be negative in our lives, as long as we believe in ourselves, we can be happy.

Little Library Mouse was definitely my favorite.  About a library mouse who imagines himself in all the different stories in the library after the librarian leaves for the evening.  I think it is important to let our children use their imaginations, especially in a society that is now full of so much instant gratification and digital media. And it is a good reminder to parents to allow their children the freedom to create and imagine.  Emma liked to see the little mouse change into different characters throughout the book.

A little bit about the author in her own words:

I've always believed that magic hides in special places.  As a child, people would often stare at my bright red hair, which was very, very bright indeed.

Unfortunately, I developed a bad habit of making up rhymes about all of them, and they soon became funny characters.  I didn't have much time to think about being different; fanciful lyricism danced in my head, and no one was safe!

Since then, I've come to believe that storytelling has the power to inspire a deep love of language and learning.  Words tripping off the tongue in somersaults that stick to your thoughts like taffy - those are the things that stay forever in the mind.

I've lived in many special places: on a farm, in a city skyscraper, on a tropical beach, and in the beautiful country of France.  Now I live in northern California, between the redwood forests and the sea.  Even though I'm an adult, I'm as silly as ever.

Many nice words have been used to describe my books, such as fun, engaging, delightful, and whimsical.  Some folks say that I deliver timeless messages of love for kids and parents to share again and again; this makes me very happy.  I hope that you'll enjoy my stories, too.  Captivating children with language is something that I believe in, and I strive to live my life with this always.

Find out more on Facebook, Amazon and her website.

Now for the giveaway!  Stephanie Lisa Tara is giving away a Kindle Fire and Amazon giftcards!  You can find out all about this giveaway at the official Blog Tour page.  And then you can enter using the rafflecopters below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Full Armor of God review

Do you believe in the influence of spiritual beings in this world?  Are you concerned about the grip they have on your life?

The Full Armor of God gives you practical steps to guard yourself against these negative forces.  Instead of letting them draw you away from a life of righteousness, the author gives us a plan to follow to draw us closer to God.

Larry Richards uses Paul's letter to the Ephesians in order to show us all the tools we need.

I really enjoyed the practical side of this book.  To show the different situations we face daily, and how they can be used to derail our spiritual journey in a different light was incredibly interesting.  Instead of falling away from God we can use these situations or challenges to strengthen our relationship with God.  With steps to follow, you are able to move ahead with God's plan for your life without falling away completely.  The information in this book allows you to see challenges in a different light, almost remove yourself from the situation to see what exactly Satan is trying to do to you.

Excellent book for a look into the spiritual realm, which we often put off as a problem of ancient times, not something we see today.

I was sent a copy of this book for free from Chosen in return for my review.  The opinions are my own.

what i am eating - comfort food

I love cooking and eating, and I especially love looking at pictures of food!  If you love food as much as I do, please add your food pictures/recipes/food related posts to the linky below.  All you have to do is link back to this blog post.  I look forward to seeing what everyone else is eating this week!

I am so glad that I decided to take a bit of a break this week.  I decided before everything happened with the Boston Marathon, and I think God was preparing me.  I used to work right there when I lived in Boston.  I knew exactly where the bombs went off, I knew the surrounding stores, and the streets.  It hit way too close to home, and I have to say that I was in complete shock for a couple of days.  Thinking that the craziness of this world is so close.  

It was a beautiful week outdoors, so I spent the time unplugged and with my babes playing outside, going for walks, and absorbing as much vitamin D as possible.

On the food front, it was all about comfort food for me this week.  When I am stressed, I like two things, to cook/bake and listen to music.  That is what I did.  I made 2 trays of homemade macaroni and cheese, and I made cookies - oatmeal raisin.  And it was all very comforting!

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

375 degrees ~ 8 minutes

3/4 cup coconut oil (not melted - stick in the fridge for a bit if it is warm where you are)

1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cup flour
2 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup raisins

Cream together coconut oil and sugar.  Add eggs and vanilla and mix well.  Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl, and then add to coconut oil/sugar/egg mixture.  Mix until combined.  Fold in raisins.  Drop small spoonfuls onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake about 8 minutes - depending on the size of your cookie.  

Here are my favorite recipes from last week:

Now onto the link up!  Please link your food related posts/pictures/recipes below!  Can't wait to see what everyone else is doing this week!  And don't forget that I am pinning recipes to my what i am eating pinterest board - you can find it here

Linking up at One Project at a Time

short break

Hello all!  I had planned on writing part two of my green journey for today, but it didn't happen.  Yes, I did write a part two, but honestly I wasn't happy with it, and I want to share something that I am happy with!

The weather has been a bit of a downer for me lately.  I mean, it was snowing/sleeting on Friday and Saturday, and to me, that is a little depressing!  I am ready for spring.  I am ready for the warmth of the sun on my back as I work in the garden - and my kids are ready for digging in the dirt!

So, I have decided to take a short break this week!  I will be back next week with a fun Earth Day (week!) celebration, because my birthday is on Earth Day :-)  There will be some fun giveaways, and hopefully a lot of green living talk!

I have been thinking a bit about my green journey, and wondering if others have shared their own stories.  If you have written about your green journey, I would love to read about it!  Share your links or stories in the comments.

Enjoy your week!

Linking up with Homestead Barn Hop and Clever Chicks

Sunday Quotes

I used to visit and revisit it a dozen times a day, and stand in deep contemplation over my vegetable progeny with a love that nobody could share or conceive of who had never taken part in the process of creation.  It was one of the most bewitching sights in the world to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil, or a rose of early peas just peeping forth sufficiently to trace a line of delicate green.
~Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mosses from an Old Manse

what i am eating - homemade coconut milk

I love cooking and eating, and I especially love looking at pictures of food!  If you love food as much as I do, please add your food pictures/recipes/food related posts to the linky below.  All you have to do is link back to this blog post.  I look forward to seeing what everyone else is eating this week!

I wanted to let everyone know that I have started a board on pinterest specifically for the what i am eating link up! Each week I will choose a few of my favorite recipes and pin them to this board.  I will also try and put the featured recipes on the next week's what i am eating post.  I would love for you to follow me on pinterest here.

I absolutely love coconut milk.  I never really used it in cooking until I started making my own curry, and then an entire world of coconut recipes opened up to me!  I thought that my only option was to buy the canned coconut milk.  Silly, I know.  Even though I know that all the ingredients we use at one point had to have been made from scratch, it still surprises me sometimes!

It is probably one of the easiest recipes you will ever learn.  And once you make your own, you will not want to go back to the canned stuff!

Homemade Coconut Milk

2 cups flaked unsweetened coconut
4 cups hot water

Put the coconut and hot water (not boiling - I used hot tap water) in a blender, blend for a couple minutes and then strain through either a nut milk bag or a fine sieve.

Store the coconut milk in the fridge.  It will separate, but just give it a shake before you use it!

My favorite recipes from last week:

I'm looking forward to seeing what is going on in your kitchen this week!

Linking up at One Project at a Time

Spring Cleaning Series wrap up

I can't believe it has been a month since I started my spring cleaning!  And honestly, I was hoping that by this point my house would be nice and clean so that I could get outside and work on the garden.  Unfortunately, the house is clean, but it isn't very nice outside.  No gardening yet.  And with the kids still cooped up inside, I don't know that my house will stay clean for that long!

How did everyone do?  I have to say that I am very happy with how my house has turned out.  I take a lot of time moving furniture around every year, and I finally think I have figured out what works for the house - a good use of all the rooms, and some semblance of organization!  Plus, all the extra plastic containers my mom gave me have been put to good use!

Not everything is perfect, but when is it ever?  I have fully accepted that I am in a stage where my kids like to make messes, and it is OK!  We are all enjoying ourselves, and that is what is important!

I have one more thing that I still need to do with my spring cleaning, and that is wash all the windows.  I thought I would have time to wash them and open them up to let in fresh air.  But, since it is still cold and rainy, the windows are staying shut.  That will end up being a big project that I will probably keep putting off in favor of being outside when it is nice!

Have you finished your spring cleaning?  Or is it still winter in your neck of the woods?

spring sweater *mostly* done and a new project

Alright, I know that this is probably the last time you want to hear about Emma's spring sweater.  Honestly, I don't want to talk about the sweater anymore either!  It is just about done.  I really thought I would be done, and I really don't have much left to do.  Everything is knit, just not completely assembled.

Obviously you can see the pink shirt sticking out on the other side, which means it still needs a sleeve attached.  But, overall I am really happy with it.  You also can see that I ran out of this lovely green yarn and changed over to white for the hood border.  I didn't completely run out of yarn, but obviously needed some for sewing it together.  Emma really likes it, and Jack requested one for himself as well, so that makes me happy!

Even though I am not done with the sweater, I had to cast on something else.  I found this beautiful blue yarn and decided to start another shawl.  It is actually a lot darker, like a navy, and it is so soft!  The pattern looks to be a fun one though, and something to keep me going for the long haul.

I have done absolutely zero reading for myself this past week.  Instead I have been watching a lot of TV.  I caught up with Revolution and started in on Once Upon a Time again.  And of course, I got sucked into the 50th anniversary of General Hospital.  I started watching General Hospital at a very young age with the help of a babysitter - please tell me I am not the only one!  So, the fact that a lot of the old characters are coming back, well it is fun to see.

I have been reading to Emma and Jack a lot though.  We have been reading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader also The Story of the World: Volume 1: Ancient Times: From the Earliest Nomads to the Last Roman Emperor and we started Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone again.  I'm not sure how far we will get through that before Emma wants me to put it down.  I feel like there are some pretty scary parts at the end, but all of the lead up and back story about Harry is so fun.

I definitely need a new book to read.  I am thinking fiction, maybe fantasy, maybe dystopian.  So, if you have any recommendations, please let me know!

Joining with Ginny, Nicole and Tami!

Homeschooling Update

How can it possibly be the second week in April already?  This school year has completely flown by for me!  I'm not sure if my daughter would say the same thing, but it is incredible how quickly the days pass.  OK, that is not something new in my life.  However, looking back on all that we have done this year, it seems crazy.

Emma has made great progress in all of the areas we have been working on this year.  She is able to sound out most of the words in her beginning readers.  It is really exciting to watch her make sense of a word and start to understand the story.  I still feel that those beginning books should not have pictures.  My daughter (and I'm sure most children) likes to look at the picture and proceeds to make up an entire story about said picture - instead of "Sid has a bat."

She is through with the first book in her math curriculum.  She actually completed it several weeks ago, and probably would have completed it sooner if her writing had been at the same level as her math ability.

That has been one struggle, making sure that she can do all the writing involved with her curriculum.  She really started picking up on her writing of letters and numbers after Christmas.  And since then we have made up a lot of time from the fall, when she wasn't as interested or as able in the writing.

We will continue to school through the summer.  But, we will be concentrating more on science studying seasons and planting schedules, watching seeds grow into plants and learning how to identify weeds/vegetables/flowers, as well as good bugs/bad bugs.

I have really enjoyed this year of learning with my kids, and am happy to be making the progress that we have.  I like to know I can take my time when things aren't clicking, or look into different ideas to show the same concept until she understands it.  If she is having difficulty or getting frustrated, we can take a break.  There is nothing that we have to "get to" next.

We are following our own schedule with the read-alouds.  It works better for us to read chapters at a time, instead of a few pages each day.  I have also added in other chapter books that Emma has requested.  The Narnia series seems to be a favorite right now - we are on the third book in the series.

It is amazing to me to see what kids are supposed to learn each year these days.  Maybe I learned the same things growing up.  But, I don't remember that long ago :-)  My niece is learning long division right now, long division!  She is 8!  Maybe that is normal though, and I just don't want any of the littles in my life to get older :-)

How has your school year gone?  Are your kids enjoying school - public, private, or homeschool?  Are they accomplishing things that you never dreamed of at their age?  

Linking up at Hip Homeschool Hop

My Green Journey - Part 1

Do you know my green journey?  Probably not entirely.  I'm sure that if you have been reading here for any length of time you will know bits and pieces, but you probably don't know the whole thing.  I decided that it would be fun to share, and also to write out for my own benefit!

I started blogging in the year 2001.  Yeah, that was a long time ago.  I was in my third year of college, and one of my apartment-mates had a blog.  I thought I should jump on the bandwagon, especially considering the insane dynamics in our apartment of 6 women.  What did I learn that year?  That I was crazy for living in an apartment with 5 other individuals...and I liked my privacy :-)

9/11 happened during my first few weeks of junior year.  It was completely surreal.  Two of the women I lived with had family in NYC, and a third had a father who was a pilot and regularly traveled one of the routes one of the planes had been on.  Luckily, all of the family was found to be safe and sound.  We were glued to our little TV watching news constantly.  It was jarring.  Being in college you are in such a fish bowl, it doesn't matter how big a school you go to.  It woke me up.  I started to think about how fragile our society really was.

What does any of that have to do with my green journey?  Well, it got me thinking about my life and how I was so reliant on everyone else.  During the second semester of that year, I learned about a new show that would be airing on PBS called Frontier House.  I have written about my love affair with Frontier House before, but I will reiterate it here.  I watch it just about every year, and every time I watch it, it renews my desire for self-sufficiency.

It was during a time when reality television was still relatively new (except for the Real World and Road Rules, which no one ever seemed to mention).  It was captivating.  What an amazing premise.  Take three 21st century families and put them back in the 19th century.  The show was really entertaining.  Obviously the dynamics of the three families interacting was the biggest draw, but to see the families working hard to provide for themselves was encouraging.

At this point I had no knowledge of "green."  I'm not even sure that was a well-used term at that point.  I knew nothing of GMO's or pesticides.  I honestly thought that all food was grown the way my mother gardened when I was younger, just on a much larger scale.  And really, I didn't think about the source of my food at all.

Before 9/11 I had no thoughts about not having what I needed, but after 9/11 everyone seemed to think more about their place in the world.  Then when I watched Frontier House, it made me wonder how much I would be able to do on my own, or in a small community setting.

Was there a turning point in your life where you could say you started your green journey?  Was it something that happened on a national scale, like 9/11?  Or was it perhaps a silly reality TV show, like Frontier House?

Linking up at the Homestead Barn Hop, Clever Chicks, Your Green Resource

Sunday Quotes

In search of my mother's garden, I found my own.
~Alice Walker

what i am eating

I love cooking and eating, and I especially love looking at pictures of food!  If you love food as much as I do, please add your food pictures/recipes/food related posts to the linky below.  All you have to do is link back to this blog post.  I look forward to seeing what everyone else is eating this week!

Quinoa Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing

Last weekend was Easter, and I planned a very large veggie based meal.  It was really awesome to plan a vegetarian Easter!  I roasted root veggies (potatoes/parsnips/carrots/onions), made a fruit salad, made a quiche from our chickens eggs, had spinach salad with strawberries and an orange balsamic dressing, and I made a quinoa salad with a cilantro lime dressing.  It was all delicious, and although we were all full at the end of the meal, I didn't feel the same sluggishness that I sometimes feel after a feast meal - maybe I just ate less!

Quinoa Salad

2 cups dried quinoa (rinsed well!)
4 cups water (or veggie stock)

2 tomatoes, chopped
1 seedless cucumber, chopped
1/2 large sweet onion finely chopped
cilantro leaves for garnish
salt and pepper to taste

Cook 2 cups of quinoa in 4 cups of water or veggie stock.  Make sure that you rinse the quinoa before you cook it!  Otherwise it will be extremely bitter.  Simmer for ~ 20 minutes and then fluff and set aside.

Chop and dice tomatoes/cucumber/onion and put in a bowl.  Mix with the quinoa.  Add Cilantro Lime Dressing (below) mix together and serve.  Can be served hot, warm, or cold :-)  Perfect for BBQ's or potluck meals!

Cilantro Lime Dressing

juice of 2 limes
2 T balsamic vinegar
1 good handful of fresh cilantro
3 cloves garlic
3/4 cup olive oil

Put all ingredients in a blender, and blend until combined and no chunks of garlic are in there.  Pour over Quinoa salad, mix well.  This would also taste delicious over a taco salad, and you could definitely add a chopped avocado to the dressing and decrease the olive oil a bit.  And you could also put a jalapeno pepper in this - which would be delicious, but too spicy for my littles mouths.

What are you eating this week?  Coconut Milk post will be coming, in case you were looking for it!

Spring Cleaning Series - Week Four : Play Room/Craft Room

Over the next several weeks I will be talking a bit about my spring cleaning.  I would love for you to join me!  Please add your link from your kitchen organizing posts below!

How did last week's kitchen deep clean go?  It was a little stressful for me.  I wasn't in a place to clean before Easter, and with all the leftovers from Easter dinner that lasted a few days, my fridge was/is not in a place to be deep cleaned.  But, it will get done!

I have completely cleaned off my counters though.  I always love to look at my kitchen with absolutely bare counters.  No appliances, no olive oil sitting out.  It is so much better to look at.  Granted, it usually only lasts about 5 minutes before dishes start piling up again and random snacks get set out on the counter.

I was able to re-organize the cupboards to work better for me right now.  Especially the spices - which seem to get used and then shoved into the spice cupboard with no thought to where it was before it came out!  At this point I am storing a TON of glass jars which are mainly cleaned and empty from my canning this past summer.  I am down to the last few jars of preserved food at this point, and that means that all the empty jars need to be organized.  A lot are stored in my dining room armoire, but the others are in the cupboards.  This is the point where I wished that I had a pantry to put them in!

spice cupboard before

spice cupboard after

In case you were wondering, that is a whole lot of shredded unsweetened coconut on the top shelf.  I have started making my own coconut milk, and it is pretty much amazing.  I will try and post the extremely easy recipe this Friday for what i am eating.

This week we are going to work on the play room/craft room area of your home.  You may not have a dedicated room for this, but I am sure there is a section of your home that your kids utilize as their play space, or you use for your craft supplies.  So we will focus on that this week.

If you have a craft space, most likely you have A LOT of craft supplies.  I know that I do.  Some things I need to replenish, but there are also some that I know we will never use.  This is the time to make a large donate pile.  Is their fabric or yarn that you have picked up, and then realized you will never use?  Bring it to goodwill, or give to a friend that will use it.  No use storing it if you won't use it!

We already worked a lot on cleaning up the toys for the kids back in week one, so we won't be getting rid of anything this week, but organizing is a MUST!  I have gotten a ton of clear plastic containers that you can find holding cosmetics in drugstores (thanks mom!) and the kids have taken to separating their toys into categories and then putting them in the containers.  It is nice because they are clear, so even when they are on the shelf, they know which toys are in there.  That helps to decrease the amount of toys that are pulled out looking for one specific thing.

Do you need a better organizational system?  Would shelving and baskets work?  Can you check at a drugstore and see if they are getting rid of any commercial storage containers that might work in your space?  Maybe you should re-access your space and see if it belongs in another section of your home - I do this almost monthly!

Green Tip
Having kids means a lot of crafts are in our lives.  Save all of your scrap materials and separate into baskets or boxes in a craft area (or closet!) of your home.  Anytime the kids want to create something, you can give them all of the old newspapers and random cardboard boxes for them to go to town.  It is getting more use out of otherwise disposable products, and you don't have to buy new supplies!  My kids are very aware of all of the garbage that leaves our home, and my daughter often reminds me that we should use x for a new project.  She then rescues it and stores it in the craft room for another time.

Do you have a craft space in your home?  Do you save any of your "trash" for the kids to use in their projects?  Please link your kitchen organization posts below!

Linking up with Tsh for Project Simplify

spring sweater progress...again!

I know, the sweater should be done.  It really should be!  I haven't made much more progress from last week - so we will just leave it at that.  I am still enjoying the knitting, but with the addition of a little warm weather last week, we were spending a lot more time outside cleaning up the yard, and not so much time sitting!  It will be done soon though, and then I will have to figure out what my next project will be!

This week I am reading The Full Armor of God, which is a really nice complement to the book I was reading last week - Your Beautiful Purpose and you can find my review here.  I have just started this book, but so far so good.  I think that anything which helps to improve your chances against the negative forces of this world is an important one.  It is so easy to fall into, especially these days of constant information overload.

In other news, you may (or may not!) have noticed that I started a Facebook page for Townsend House.  Well, yesterday somehow I was blocked as not a real person.  Very cool, considering I am actually a real person!  Apparently in order to unlock my account, Facebook wants me to either provide a cell phone number so they can text me a code (I don't own a cell phone), or upload a government issued ID to show that I am a real person.  Yeah, that is not going to happen.  Seriously?  A government issued ID?  Who in their right mind is going to send that to Facebook? - no offense if you actually have done that.

If you have recently liked my page, and wondered why I haven't liked your page, well this is why.  And also why there are no updates.  Being unable to login to my account, I can't even delete I am sticking to the much less complicated twitter :-)  You can find me over there @townsendhouse1

Are you working on any new projects this week?  New books I can add to my growing list?  Do you have an intense dislike of Facebook as well?

Linking up with Tami and Ginny

Easter recap

We had a wonderful Easter this year!  The Easter Bunny definitely outdid himself with a huge Easter Egg hunt for these two beautiful babes.

We enjoyed a great morning at church, and then came home to a beautiful afternoon of playing outside (while mama cooked our Easter dinner!).  It is amazing to me to watch how excited my children get from such small things as an Easter egg hunt, and new pencils.

Every year the kids get older and it is hard to see how fast they grow, but each stage is so exciting and new!  Now my daughter is growing into a little lady, and my little man is becoming his own unique person, and I realize that every stage of parenting is different, and every stage is my favorite!

We enjoyed a very nice long weekend of searching for the perfect Easter shoes, and dying Easter eggs, egg hunts and delicious food.  It was incredibly simple, but so much fun!  These are the memories that I want my children to treasure as they get older.

I hope that you all had an amazing Easter weekend as well!  Do you have a favorite stage of parenting?  Or is each new stage as exciting?

Linking up at Hip Homeschool Hop

transplanting tomato seedlings

I spent some time this weekend transplanting some of my tomato starts.  I have to say that it was incredibly stressful!  I have started some plants indoors before, from seed, but never had to transplant them into a new pot.  Instead, I typically put them right in the ground, and they are usually much more robust than these tiny tomato seedlings.

Seeing as how they were getting incredibly tall, and most of them had shown their first true leaves, I realized it was time.  I had all of the supplies, it was just doing it that hadn't happened yet.

Now, onto the stressful part.  I was completely unaware how fragile they would be.  I mean, I had an idea, but I didn't really understand.  Couple that with trays that were not cooperating on popping out the soil, and it was...complicated!  So stressful and complicated, in fact, that I wasn't paying attention to which tomatoes I was transplanting.

That's right, my very neat (handwritten) diagram of which plant was in which cell...totally thrown out the window at this point.  I was concentrating so hard on not killing the tomato plant, that I didn't know which ones I was grabbing to put in a new pot...and certainly not keeping them organized once they were in the new pot.  The plus side?  They are all tomatoes, so at least I know that much!

They seem to be doing well, so I am hopeful that they will thrive in their new pots.  I'm pretty impressed that they are still alive at this point, and they are starting to look like tomato plants!  I am also hoping to get out into the garden this week and plant my peas.  Not holding my breath...but it would be nice to get them in before May!

What are you planting this week?

Linking up at Homestead Barn Hop, Clever Chicks, Your Green Resource