garden happenings

I love this time of year, when the garden seems to change daily.  I haven't really been harvesting much from my garden, but I think that there are some things I will be picking soon.

The first of which is my garlic scapes.  They came out of no where!  We were away a couple of days, there were no scapes, we come home, and there they are.  I see lots of garlic scape pesto in my well as grilled garlic scapes which are so delicious!

The kale is looking great, and so is the swiss chard.

I was surprised to see that the lettuce the woodchucks had eaten is now growing again.  Is it safe for me to eat this?  I think it will probably be fine, but I guess I should start using my friend google to make sure.

My irises and peonies are done at this point, but the day lilies are getting ready to bloom, and so my constant cut flowers in the house will continue, yay!  

I also realized that to skip the watering of my potted plants because you are running late for church is not a smart idea - I came home to a shriveled up cherry tomato plant.  Luckily a lot of water in the afternoon and evening seems to have brought this baby back to life.

My most exciting news?  I have one little green pepper growing, yay!  I'm sure there will be many more, but that first one is always so exciting to see.

Not so exciting news?  The stink bugs are back after taking a week off.  I heard recently from another blogger that she planted radishes all around her summer squash, and hasn't seen a stink bug yet.  I might have to try that next year...not sure I will be able to fit any radishes in my crowded garden spaces this year.

How is your garden growing?  If you share a post about gardening on your blog, please leave me a link in the comments so I can swing by and check it out!

AAOS & Auto Alliance #DecideToDrive campaign

Did you know that according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), of the nearly 33,000 roadway fatalities in 2012, there were 3,328 fatalities and approximately 421,000 injuries in distracted driving-related crashes? 

Those are some pretty sobering statistics.  It seems like every day I hear of some car crash involving texting and driving, but texting is not the only cause of distracted driving. 

I am a mom with two little kids.  All the moms out there should be able to relate to this.  You are out doing errands and one child needs their water bottle.  Then another child needs a snack.  Then they are both yelling because you vowed not to turn on the Frozen soundtrack again in the car.  It seems like there is always something, and often, instead of pulling over, I try and get what the child needs while still driving.  Is this safe?  No, absolutely not.

I haven’t been a big fan of cars for a very long time.  Back when I was 15, I was in a serious car crash that put me in the hospital for several weeks with a long list of injuries due to the driver speeding.  Because of this I have certain anxieties when it comes to driving with my kids.

Over the past several years it seems like the attention drivers are giving to actual driving is diminishing.  There are so many directions that your attention can go in the car, whether it is to your phone that keeps dinging with a new text message, your children in the back seat needing something, changing the radio station, or trying to eat a quick meal on the go. 

We all need to remember, the most advanced safety feature of any vehicle is the driver. The AAOS and the Auto Alliance urges all drivers to keep their most sophisticated safety features engaged at all times: eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.

As parents, we are the example, and what our children see is what they will most likely end up doing when they are older.  This is especially important to talk about when it comes to teens and driving.  It is our responsibility to show them that paying attention to driving is our first priority, not answering that text.

Will you make the commitment to #DecideToDrive with me?

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

knitting and reading

I have not done a lot of knitting, even though I bought all that pretty yarn last week!  Our days have been incredibly full, and that makes me happy, but doesn't allow for a lot of knitting.

Yesterday I finally cast on for a new scarf for Emma.  I was planning on making a cowl with this yarn, but then thought maybe I wouldn't have enough for a cowl, so scarf it is.  It is really soft and easy to knit with.  

Emma told me that I should definitely be making the new baby a matching scarf, and I had to explain that babies do not wear scarfs, so she instead decided on another hat.  I asked Jack if he wanted me to knit him anything and he said he wants a new winter hat and some mittens.  Apparently the kid is thinking about the cold...or maybe I don't knit enough summer items (none - I don't knit any summer items).

As far as reading goes, I am still working on the same list as last week.  I did finish Say Goodbye to Survival Mode.  It was incredibly encouraging.  Lit a fire underneath me in some areas, and made me think of other areas of life that could use a little more work.  I think that it is a really great book that, while directed more towards moms, would do a lot of good for anyone.

What are you working on this week?

a morning routine

Can I let you in on a little secret?  I am a morning person.  I wasn’t always this way.  Growing up I never wanted to get up early, but was up early because the sun streamed right through my window.  In college I think I was up all hours of the night, and did not want to get up early at all.  Then after I graduated, I had a real job that I had to get up early for.  Early mornings became part of my day.

Then I had kids, and everything that I knew went out the window.

I think any mama of young children is sleep deprived.  Even once your kids are “sleeping through the night” they aren’t really sleeping through the night.  You have the random times they need diaper changes, or when older, they need to use the bathroom.  Someone will have a bad dream, or just start yelling in the night for no reason whatsoever.  Sicknesses, colds, hunger pains, growing pains.  It seems like every other night one of our kids has some issue that needs attending to in the night.

For a while I tried to catch up on my sleep in the morning; staying in bed as long as possible – essentially until my kids came in to wake me up.  Unfortunately, while being a morning person, I don’t necessarily have the best attitude when suddenly awoken in the morning.  That is code for “I was a bear before I had my coffee.”

I realized that I needed some sort of morning routine.  That is when the Hello Mornings challenge came into play.  It gave me the direction I needed in order to make the most of my mornings.

Essentially it is a three part process; quiet time, planning your day, and exercise.

How do I manage my mornings?

I get up early.  First and foremost waking up before my kids is the key.  Right now that looks like between 4:45 and 5am.  I tend to wake up when the sun is shining through my windows – and since I live in Maine, where the sun first shines in the United States every day, it is early.  That means that I also go to bed earlier than most people.  For a long time I tried to stay up late, but when I am up late, there is no getting up early for me.  And while it is nice to stay up late and watch some TV or read a book to relax in the evening, it isn’t worth the stress for me the next day.  So I aim to be asleep by 10pm.

After I get up, I check in with my hellomornings twitter group.  I have been with a lot of these lovely ladies for over a year now, and I am so thankful for them  Then I make my coffee and sit down to do my Bible study.  I journal and sit in the peacefulness of the morning and it energizes me to wake up.  I have more conversation with my twitter group and generally check in on social media – you know in case something really important happens!

Finally I try to plan for my day, setting up a list of tasks I need to complete.  I use my homebinder daily sheet which you can download for your own use if you would like.

Typically, by this point, my children are up and ready for breakfast.  Or at least one of them is.  I have some ideas for this as well, but that won’t come until later so stay tuned!

Do you have a morning routine that you love?  Is it hard for you to wake up before your kids?  What is one thing that would help you in your morning planning?

garden happenings

Last week

It has been a relatively quiet week here in the garden.  That, I am happy about.  After my issues last week with woodchucks, and the week before with cucumber beetles and stink bugs, I figured I could use a week off!  Of course I am writing this as I glance out my window and see another woodchuck...snacking on the weeds next to my chicken coop.  I guess we will be setting the traps again!

This week

It is amazing the difference a week makes in the garden though.  We have had a lot of sun, and some rain at night, which my potted plants seem to love.  My one cucumber plant in a pot seems to be doing exceptional - which is nice to see considering the ones in the garden are definitely fighting to stay alive.

I am happy to report that my sungold tomato plant is starting to make pretty yellow flowers, which means it is only a matter of time before we can start picking some of our own tomatoes instead of relying on the farmers' market.

As far as the garden in the ground goes, the cabbage and kale are doing well.

My tomato plants seem to be stunted, and I think it might be because it has been so cold in the evenings.  I was thinking of putting some straw down around the plants, maybe that would help warm the soil a bit?  Or maybe it would just cause it to stay colder.  I should look into that...

garlic growing like crazy!

The one thing I am great at growing right now?  Weeds, of course.  I realize that I have A LOT of weeds growing in the garden.  I try and get out there when I can, but it doesn't happen as often, or for as long a period of time as I need.  

This week one of my goals is to get the weeds out of the garden completely...until sometime next week.  I think it is doable, especially with the kids busy this week with some other activities.  Wish me luck!

How is your garden growing?  Are you experiencing a lot of growth right now as well?  Harvesting anything yet?

Sunday Quotes

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.
~John Lubbock

zucchini and tomatoes

Once it starts to get warm, I crave simple foods.  And typically they are the all veggie variety.  Zucchini and tomatoes is one of my favorites, I have written about my love for this dish before.  My kids were even excited about this one, and that doesn't typically happen unless I make a dish regularly.

Everyone likes to joke that if you plant one zucchini plant, you will have more than enough for you and your family.  And instead you will be dropping it on your neighbor's doorstep anonymously.  Based on my luck with the cucumber beetle, I am not sure that will ever be my story, especially with the array of recipes you can make with zucchini.

Zucchini and Tomatoes

2 zucchini, halved and sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
2 yellow summer squash, halved and sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
1 medium red onion, chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 quart jar of crushed tomatoes (or you could chop 4-6 tomatoes)

Saute zucchini, yellow squash, and onion in a little coconut oil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add tomatoes and let simmer until crushed tomatoes reduce (or until chopped tomatoes are cooked and liquid is gone).  Add more salt and pepper to taste, and red pepper flakes if you like a little spice.  Top with some freshly grated parmesan and eat up! 

This is also delicious over pasta.

Do you have a favorite zucchini dish?  I am sure that soon, everyone will be looking for zucchini recipes!

knitting and reading

I haven't been knitting that much.  Even though we found out that we are having a girl, I have been spending more time outside in the garden, and less time sitting and knitting.  

I finally realized that I needed to go out to my local yarn shop and look for some inspiration.  When you are constantly trying to knit from your stash of yarn...sometimes you just realize you need something new.  That was where I was at last week.

This week I finally got out and bought some fun new yarn.  I have a few projects that I think I can make with these, and I am looking forward to casting on!  I plan on making some socks and probably another cowl for my Emma - that black and pink sequined yarn was calling her name.  We will see what else I figure out as time goes on.

As far as reading goes...I am reading too many books right now.  There are so many books that I want to read, what happens is I start reading them all.  They are all books that I need to sit down and write notes and really study, so they are all very slow moving.  To list them out:

Purpose Driven Life
Pursue the Intentional Life
Hands Free Mama
Say Goodbye to Survival Mode
Nourishing Traditions

I am far into all of these, so hopefully over the next week or so I can finish them up and move onto something new!

What are you working on this week?  Do you have any books you are struggling to get through because there is so much meat to them?

K5 Learning Online Reading & Math Program Review

Disclosure: I was given free use of this product so that I could write an honest review about it.

When I started thinking about homeschooling my children, there were two areas that concerned me.  Those were reading and math.  Obviously, when you are starting out with little ones, it isn't difficult to grasp the math and reading concepts, but how do you teach them?  We have worked with a few different programs that we really like, but I am constantly on the lookout for new ways to engage my children in these specific subjects.

Enter K5 Learning Online Reading & Math Program.  This is a perfect way for kids to get the extra exposure they need throughout the weeks.  I especially love that my kids didn’t realize they were actively in “school” time.  Instead, they wanted to play their computer games. 

K5 Learning offers assessment tests right at the start, so you are able to sit down with your child and have them do the assessment test.  Then the results are e-mailed to you, and you can also look at them through the Parent Dashboard.  From there, it will automatically assign lessons to your children.  All you child needs to do is login to the Student Dashboard, and choose either Reading or Math, and they will start on a fun little game that will take them through learning that specific lesson.  Once they complete the lesson correctly, they will get to play a cute little game.  My daughter loved collecting her “tickets” so she could get to the game.

There is very little the parent needs to do with this.  Even my 3 ½ year old was able to follow the directions the on-screen characters gave him to click the answers he thought were correct.  On the Parent Dashboard you can go in and see how the child is doing with the current lessons, if there is a lot of trouble, you can change the lessons, assign a different “grade” for the child to work on, give new spelling words, or different math facts to concentrate on.  Customize it to work for you and your children.

I can see this as being a complete stand-alone program for reading and math.  It is really that good.  Or if you are looking to give your kids extra practice, as I am, it is a perfect activity for them to use their “screen-time” for. 

Have you used K5 Learning?  Is it something you would be interested in finding out more about?

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

garden happenings

What an interesting week I have had in the garden!  Perhaps not interesting as much as irritating in some ways.  My week started out squishing cucumber beetles, and ended with trapping woodchucks.

There were a couple days in there that I thought I was finally winning the fight against pests!  The cucumber beetles were pretty much non-existent, and stink bugs were not visible to me.  I knew the woodchucks that were living under the chicken house would need to be removed, but I wasn't in a rush.  We have a fence around our garden for that specific reason.  

made a quick getaway through my peonies

Unfortunately, it seems like the fence was not as woodchuck proof as I had thought.  There had been a spot that was not attached to the stake well, and those woodchucks just walked right into the fence and knocked a spot down.  They were able to eat just about all of the lettuce that I had planted.  I was not a happy camper.  

Luckily I know just who to call when we have a woodchuck problem.  Woodchucks are something my mom (who lives on the same street as me) dealt with for many years in her garden.  There was one summer where we got rid of about 18 woodchucks...that was quite the summer.  

So we got a couple havahart traps, and got to it.  We have caught three so far.  I know there are more, but they haven't been in the yard the past 24 hours.  We will most likely move the traps down to my mom's house next, since we are pretty sure they have a tunnel that goes all the way down the street and comes up under her shed...

The damage was significant, most of the lettuce and some of the broccoli.  Luckily I can still plant more lettuce, and hopefully this time it will stay and grow!

How is your garden growing this year? 

Happy Father's Day!!

Jack is having fun, he just prefers no pictures :-)

Sunday Quotes

Any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad.
~Anne Geddes

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there!  And especially to my husband for being the best dad ever for our two (soon to be three) children!

fruit and yogurt smoothie recipe

I absolutely love smoothies.  They are such a good way to get greens into my kids, and it doesn't hurt that they are delicious.  I have talked about some green smoothie recipes here and here.  Once in a while I am craving something a little sweeter, and that is when I make a fruit and yogurt smoothie.

I first learned about fruit smoothies way back in 7th grade in a home economics class (do they still offer those?!).  The recipe was quite easy back then, using juice concentrate, milk, banana, frozen strawberries and ice.  Over the years I changed it quite a bit, to maybe be a *little* healthier.

Fruit and Yogurt Smoothie

1 cup fresh orange juice (or whatever you can find)
1 cup plain whole milk yogurt (or non-fat/low fat if you prefer)
3/4 cup frozen blueberries
6-10 frozen strawberries (depending on size)
1 banana

Put it all in a blender and blend away until smooth.  This makes about a quart of smoothie.

Sometimes I will change the fruit up depending what I have in the freezer, but this is really what I go back to.  They are delicious and filling, and while a lot of sugar from the orange juice, I figure once in a while it is OK!

Do you have a favorite smoothie recipe?

knitting and reading

Yay!  I finished the baby hat.  Of course the total time it took was not very long, but those little interruptions keep creeping up on me!  

We found out last week that we are having a girl!  So it will be all purples and pinks from here on out I believe.  Well, I will have to balance that with some blue for my boy as well. Emma has already asked me to knit a hat in her favorite pink yarn.  I can definitely picture her asking for a lot of matching items.  I think I will be moving onto baby leggings next.  That will be something I will get a lot of use out of with a fall baby.

As far as reading goes, I saw that my husband had taken this book off the shelf a couple weeks ago.  I put it back.  I haven't ever read it before, although started it several times.  Then yesterday I saw another blogger mention that she found the book at a yard sale and she was excited to read it.  

Well, that got me thinking, I have been looking for a good, positive book to read, and this seems like a good place to start.

I am still reading Pursue the Intentional Life with the Bloom book club.  It is really interesting to see what everyone has to say about the book, and I think the discussion is keeping me in the book at this point.  I will have to look through some book lists to find some lighter reading soon though.  That is before I break into the stack of homeschooling books I will need to go through for the fall.  Hmmm...maybe I should look for that light reading sooner rather than later.

What are you working on this week?

yard sale season

One of the easiest ways I have found to save money is to buy used.  Whether that is through a thrift store, a consignment store, or a yard sale.  Now, not everything that we get at a yard sale is needed, and one could argue that some of what is brought home is not necessary.  However, once in a while we find a real gem.

That was the case this past weekend when Matt went out to an estate sale.  He found this beautiful hand-crafted rocking horse.  My kids were so excited to see this come into the house, and have not let it sit in the corner alone.

In fact, we are now on a timer system for who gets to ride this fun rocking horse, and for how long.

Jack has affectionately named him tomato-squash.  Perhaps all that garden talk is rubbing off on him!

Yard sales are also a great way to find useful items for the kitchen.  It seems like everyone always has canning jars to get rid of.  Considering that new they typically cost $14/dozen jars, getting a bunch of jars for next to nothing is always welcome in my book.

Have you been to any yard sales this year yet?  Is it something you look forward to, or something you avoid?  

the garden battle begins...

I thought I had more time!  I thought I would come up with a miraculous solution before it happened.  Unfortunately, that was not the case.  What am I talking about?  The battle of the cucumber beetles and squash bugs.  

Honestly, I thought that planting last weekend, and then figuring out some sort of row cover this weekend would work.  I guess I need to move faster.  Or maybe I need to not grow any type of cucumber/summer squash/pumpkin/winter squash plants for a while.  

I went out to check on my garden, like I do every day, and it seemed like devastation overnight.  The zucchini plants are totally gone.  The leaves have tons of holes and the vines themselves look like shriveled up dead plants.  All of this seemed to happen in a day, because they were just fine yesterday.

It is slightly depressing to see the destruction, especially when I try so hard to garden organically.  I never spray my plants, but I can't seem to figure out a way to make these pests go away.

They have left some of the seedlings alone, for now.  My potted cucumber plant is doing well, as are the watermelon and another cucumber that I planted in a pile of composted manure.  

Alas, I am the one person that can't seem to grow that plethora of zucchini that everyone talks about!  Maybe I will try for a late planting, to see if that changes anything.

Do you have any pests you can't seem to get rid of?  How is your garden growing?

Sunday Quotes

Just living is not must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.
Hans Christian Andersen

knitting and reading

I haven’t made as much progress on the baby hat as I had hoped.  But, that’s ok, because I got my garden all planted.  I think that I will probably be able to finish up the baby hat today though, because we are expecting rain, and really, the baby knits seem to fly off the needles since they are so tiny!

This week I started my book group study of Pursue the Intentional Life.  Last week I was concerned about the stage of life that the author was in compared to me.  But, she has talked repeatedly that she has a passion for helping younger women.  I am also not the only person that has brought up that concern in the book club, so we will just continue and see where we go.  I’m only 3 short chapters in, but I am trying to read it slowly to get as much out of it as possible.  I have a habit of sitting down and just reading a book cover to cover, but I don’t like to do that for more in depth books, I end up missing some things.  Maybe that is why I like to re-read old books!

What are you working on this week?  Any new summer reads?

summer bucket list - or not

I have seen a lot of people talking about their summer bucket list.  I love the idea of a summer bucket list for kids, and for myself.  In fact, I sat down recently and started writing out a list.  Things like go to the beach go to the local amusement park, hikes, BBQ’s; all pretty basic ideas.  I wasn’t going out on a limb and sending them to summer camp (they are too young), or signing them up for a bunch of activities.

I realized then that I didn’t want to actually have a bucket list.  What I want is for a relaxing summer of my kids playing outside and making their own entertainment by riding bikes and playing with dirt. 

I think that we, as parents, often forget that our kids are just that, kids.  We don’t need to spend a lot of time signing them up for every activity under the sun, although it might be easier sometimes.  What they need is the sun (and the rain sometimes, too), and an opportunity to create their own entertainment.  If I constantly have activities lined up for my kids, they will not know what to do with themselves with down time.

So instead of writing a bucket list, no matter how basic it may be, I am instead going to encourage my kids to get as much vitamin D as possible.  To tell stories about their adventures outside; and to appreciate all that is around them every day.

Of course I say all that and see that our weekends are quickly filling up for the entire summer, and with a very busy fall ahead of us with a new baby on the way, I know that we need to keep our weeks relatively free for exploration and unlimited play.  I want to focus on fun, but in a much more relaxed way.  If we want to go to the beach because it is a beautiful day, great, but I don’t want it on a list, hanging over my head if it doesn’t happen for some reason.

Do you put together a bucket list for your kids?  Do you get concerned about summer passing too quickly because of all the activities you have planned?  

Kids Academy App Feature!

As a homeschooler I am constantly on the lookout for apps that will help with the learning process.  This app was just that!  It is an easy to use app that allows my kids the freedom to engage in the learning that they want through little games. 

I absolutely love all the worksheets!  I think that when my kids are able to self-direct some of their learning, they become more interested.  My 3 1/2 year old is constantly asking to play the "owl" game on my phone, and when I watch him tracing letters, and then trying to do it on his chalkboard upstairs, I know that it is worth it!

My 6 year old, while officially not in the age range, also loves the little games, and I think that any additional practice on letters and numbers is extremely important.  It helps that she doesn't really think she is learning!

You can find the Preschool Kids Games and Worksheets on sale right now through iTunes and also on Amazon.

I received compensation for this review, however, the opinions are my own.

state of the garden

It is amazing to see how much we are able to accomplish in one nice weekend.  Nice, being the key word!  This past weekend we finally planted all of our vegetables.  It was something hanging over my head.

Typically, we plant everything over Memorial Day weekend.  Well, this year we were away one day, one day was filled with church and shopping for seedlings, and then Memorial Day itself was kind of a wash out.  It didn't rain heavily, but when the weatherman says there is the potential for hail, you decide to skip planting all those little baby seedlings.

Last week there was a lot of rain, and a lot of cold, including one night of frost, so I guess I am happy I didn't actually go through with planting anything.  

Saturday, my wonderful husband cleaned out all of the garden boxes, and also dug me some new beds.  I think every year I end up expanding the garden.  It started with a bunch of pots on our second floor deck, and has now taken over half the yard.  We live on a very tiny quarter of an acre, but luckily our entire yard is located in the back of the house, so it feels a bit bigger to me.

The kids were fully involved with the planting.  Jack helped me plant in the 4x4 garden boxes, and Emma helped with all the pots and the other garden beds.  They have been telling me all winter how they "can't possibly eat veggies not from the garden," so we planted a lot of veggies that they are going to have to try, especially since they picked out the seedlings and placed them in the ground!

What did we end up planting?  A lot.  

Romaine lettuce
Green head lettuce
Jalapeno peppers
Ace green peppers
Roma tomatoes
Brandywine tomatoes
Striped German tomatoes
Black Grim tomatoes
Sun Gold tomatoes
Sugar Baby watermelon
Pickling cukes
Slicing cukes
Bush cukes
Yellow squash
Green beans
Brussels Sprouts
Red Russian kale
Lacinato kale
Golden Acre cabbage
Red cabbage
herbs (basil, cilantro, parsley)
Swiss Chard
Garlic (which I planted last fall and is doing amazing right now!)

Wow!  That really is a lot when you list it out.  Hopefully it will be enough to satisfy our veggie needs this summer.  I decided not to do winter squash or pumpkins this year, mainly because I will be 9 months pregnant when they are ripening, and I want to have the garden all cleaned up well before that point.  I plan to put more lettuce seedlings in as I pull heads out of the ground, to hopefully keep this salad loving house fulfilled for the summer.

How is your garden growing?  Have you planted anything new this year?