A Mother Daughter Tea Party

Emma and I had the awesome opportunity to throw a mother-daughter tea party right before Valentine’s Day. 

As Emma gets older (going on eight this year!), I have noticed that I need to make more opportunities for us to have some epic mother daughter time.  She loves all the frills and fun of putting together a party, and I thought this would be a great way to get together with our friends, the kids could play dress up and the adults could chat and drink tea.

One thing I always remember from growing up is that my mom and her friends always drank tea.  She almost always had a tea bag in her purse for when we would stop at someone’s house.  The adults would sit around the table and drink tea and the kids would play.  It was a Sunday tradition throughout my childhood.

Our tea party featured Lipton’s new black and herbal tea varieties as well as an improved green tea.  Gone are the days of plain old black tea!  The new black teas provide bold aromas and unique flavors to put a new twist on traditional black tea – my personal favorite was the Lady Lipton.  

The new herbal teas combine real ingredients with Lipton’s best herbal tea blends to awaken the senses.  The kids preference was for the Peach Mango and Cinnamon Apple herbal teas.  You can find the full line up of Lipton Green, Black and Herbal tea flavors here.

I made quite a large spread, choosing to have it be a bit of a brunch tea rather than an afternoon tea.  We had lemon and almond scones, pumpkin muffins, fruit, and individual cheese frittatas. 

The adults were able to gather and have some fun conversation, and the kids immediately got to playing.  The girls all came dressed up in their pretty dresses, but pretty much immediately they all had Emma’s princess costumes on.  What better way to celebrate a tea party, than to be dressed to the 9’s as a princess!

Overall it was such a fun time, and I am glad that we had a couple of hours of quality time with all of our friends.  I think that it will be something I will definitely do again in the future because the girls all had such a nice time.

Have you ever attended a mother-daughter tea party?  What is your favorite kind of tea?

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

not knitting but a lot of reading

It is almost the end of February, and I haven't finished one knit project this month as of yet.  And I haven't made any progress on the two scarves I am knitting either.  Well, some progress, but not enough for it to make much of a difference.  That means that I am going to have to put some of my reading aside this week to finish something before the end of the month, otherwise, my knitting goal for February will not be met, and it wasn't even an ambitious goal!

What I have been doing if I am not knitting?  Well, you can check out my Day in the Life video that I posted yesterday, and that can give you an idea!  

I have been spending a lot of time reading.  And I haven't quite figured out how to hold my knitting and read a book at the same time.

I finished up the Perseid Collapse series.  I flew through those 4 books pretty quickly.  I wanted to make sure that the post-apocalyptic society would turn out OK.  

Once that series was done, I started reading The Lifegiving Home by Sally and Sarah Clarkson.  I saw that a lot of you were reading that last week, and I was anxious to start it.  I really enjoyed the book!  I usually do enjoy Sally Clarkson's books.  They seem to speak to my mama heart.  I really enjoyed how they went through every month of the year, and the traditions and activities that they do during that month.  I also had the overwhelming desire to get rid of technology in my home again - I think that happens to me every year.  

Technology is such a struggle for me.  We homeschool, and a lot of information and support is found online, the kids don't watch exorbitant amounts of television, but, in the winter especially, we turn to PBS Kids and YouTube videos to round out some of our learning.  The kids have kindles and will play Minecraft as much as possible.  They absolutely love making videos, and in turn have the desire to sit at the computer and edit them with Matt.  

Then on the other hand, I want to turn it all off and just knit and read books and play outside.  I guess it is all about balance!

What are you working on this week?  What part does technology play in your home?

Homeschool Day in the Life (with a 7-, 5-, and 1-year-old)

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Some of my favorite blog posts to read are day-in-the-life posts.  I love to see how others manage their day, especially when mine seems so crazy all the time!  It is nice to see that I am not alone in that. 

Today I am going to take you along on what our day is actually like.  This isn’t an ideal day, this isn’t a “most of the time this happens” day, this is straight up exactly how our day went.  I would love to hear about your day in the comments below!

5am – My alarm went off.  I don’t normally wake up to an alarm, I more often wake up on my own or by kids, but today I did.  Somehow I was able to make it all the way downstairs with not one of my kids waking up.  Brush teeth, make coffee.

5:15am – Lucy just woke up, and so I am back upstairs nursing her and trying to get her settled again.  Miraculously it works.  It doesn’t always work, I would say 50% of the time I can get her to go back to sleep, the other 50% she comes down and plays in the living room.

After I get back downstairs, I pour my coffee and do my Bible reading and quiet time.  I am trying to read through the Bible this year, it has been a few years since I have done that, and I am using the SheReadsTruth app on my phone.  I also read the Proverb of the day.  I spend some time writing out my prayers and then fill in my to-do list in my Erin Condren Life Planner*.

6:15am – usually everyone is awake at this point.  Today, for some reason, everyone is still in bed.  I thank my lucky stars and start writing my blog post for the day.  I take some video – we are trying to do more videos these days, for ourselves and also the blog.  I am on cup of coffee number 2!

7am – Everyone is still in bed, I think that perhaps my family has been teleported to another dimension, because they are never in bed this late.  I continue to go with it.  I look through my Erin Condren Teacher Planner* which is where I write out my plans for each week.  I gather up the books that I am planning on using for the day and set them on my table for easy access.

I spend some time reading e-mails and answering some blog comments because I don’t know what else I should be doing.  My kids never stay in bed late, and while I love it, and have been praying for them to sleep later, it is so outside of the norm, and I don’t know what to do with the extra time!

7:49am – Everyone is up now.  The breakfast time begins.  They start with apples, then oatmeal with bananas, then they want toast with blueberry jam.  They are starving this morning, so I am assuming they are all going through a growth spurt.  While they play with Lucy, I jump in the shower and get ready for the day.

9am – We typically start school now, but with the kids waking up so late, we don’t start on time, instead the kids have a little free time, and we end up starting around 9:30.

The first thing on our list is Bible.  Each of the kids reads in their Bible.  Jack is reading The Beginner's Bible and Emma is reading the Discoverer’s Bible.

After Bible we move on to reading.  Emma is reading Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew.  She got a box set of these books for Christmas and has really been enjoying them.  Jack is reading Frog and Toad All Year.  We move onto writing, both kids use Handwriting Without Tears, and both are almost done with their respective books, so I need to make sure I order the next ones.  Emma will be doing cursive next, I can’t believe it!  Then they move onto Math.  Jack just started Singapore 1A and is enjoying it, and Emma has about 5-6 weeks left of Singapore 2B.  Jack loves Math, Emma does not.  She doesn’t have trouble doing it, but doesn’t want to sit down and actually do it.

We use the book lists from Sonlight.  Jack is starting Core B and Emma is on Core D.

Jack is usually done with all of his school in about 30 minutes.  He then goes to play with Lucy, while I sit and work on anything Emma needs help with.  Some days they will take a break between reading and math to do Cosmic Kids Yoga and have a snack, but we didn’t take a break today because we were running behind.

During this morning time I try to get some chores done, laundry, dishes, general picking up.  Nothing too complicated so I can stop when the kids need help.

12:30pm – We are done with the bulk of our schooling now, and the kids are off playing.  Now is when I would typically put Lucy down for a nap upstairs, but the neighbor is re-siding his house, and the bedroom is on that side of the house, so instead I try to put her to sleep down on the couch – surprisingly it works!  Of course this means I have to keep an eye on her so that she doesn’t roll off.

The kids play on their kindles (playing Minecraft) while Lucy sleeps.  We started having “rest time” again while Lucy takes her afternoon nap.  I take this time to work on blog stuff as well as take time for myself to read and/or knit.  I realized taking this time was really good for me, and helps to recharge me for the rest of the day.  I am finishing up The Lifegiving Home by Sally Clarkson and Sarah Clarkson.  I really enjoyed it!

2:30pm – Lucy is awake, so we start having a late lunch and snack.  We also decide to make peanut butter blossom cookies.  The kids had a great time doing this.  My plan had been to make bread in the morning, but with our late start, we didn’t have time, instead cookies!

We sit down to do our read alouds.  I am currently reading The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I wanted to read it in the winter, because our Maine winters are usually long and cold, and I wanted to remember that they are never as long and cold as that winter was for Laura and her family!  Surprisingly this winter doesn’t seem like it has been long or cold…so maybe the positive thinking has worked!  I am reading The House on Pooh Corner for Jack, and he really enjoys it.

The rest of the afternoon we all play and hang out.  It is a nice relaxing afternoon.  The kids have been really well behaved all day, and that is nice.

5:45pm – Matt gets home, and the kids are very excited because he is going to let them play Legendof Zelda: Ocarina of Time.  It is one of our favorite games, and we downloaded it on our Wii.  The kids don’t usually play video games at our house (that is saved for Nana’s house), but Matt and I really love some of the old Nintendo games…and the kids are getting a little older…so we may be incorporating them a bit more!

6:15pm – Usually we are done with dinner by this point, but I am so behind on the entire day that I am just figuring out that the chicken spaghetti I had planned to make was not going to be done.  Instead we opt for bean burritos and green smoothies.  This is my fall back meal whenever I don’t get things together during the day.  I’m kind of disappointed I used my fall back meal on Monday…

7:30pm – We put the kids to bed.  Lucy takes a while to fall asleep tonight.  It might have been the cup of coffee I had in the afternoon.  Everyone is settled by 8pm though!

8pm – I come downstairs and start editing my DITL video.  Matt is watching a new show on Hulu called 11/22/63 by Stephen King.  He read the book a while ago and was really excited that they made it into a show.  We hang out a bit and chat and go over our days. 

10pmI am going to bed, although I am wired and not quite ready to sleep, so I look for new books on Kindle Unlimited that I can read.  Of course I don’t find one, and instead download a bunch of samples, but it wears me out enough to fall asleep.  My alarm is set for 5am, and I will start the day again!

What does your day-in-the-life look like?  I would love to read about it!  Please leave a link below.

*If you sign up through this Erin Condren link, they will e-mail you a code for $10 off your first order!

How to Make the Most of your Mornings by Creating a Plan

When I was in college, oh so many years ago, I became a master of scheduling my time.  I poured over the course catalog and class times in order to get the schedule that I wanted, I created a plan.  Either all morning Monday/Wednesday/Friday classes; or classes that only met on Tuesday and Thursday. 

Why would I try so hard to do this?

The reason was because I wanted to make the most of the time that I had.  Using my mornings effectively helped me to accomplish my goals.

If I knew that I had four classes that I needed to take, why wouldn’t I try to complete all of my classes by noon MWF?  My friends were always amazed at how much “free” time I seemed to have because I loaded all my classes into the mornings, instead of having an 8am class, a 2:30 class and a 4pm class.

The difference between my friends and I was that I had a plan that worked for me.

As I have gotten older, married, and now have three little ones, the desire to have a good plan in place never went away, but the variables changed quite a bit, obviously.

When I had my second child, I went through a period of time where I couldn’t get a handle on anything.  It was all so overwhelming; a toddler and a newborn can do that to a person!  I didn’t have a schedule, my kids refused to be put on one, so instead I started a rhythm, but it was still difficult for me to get anything done with all of life’s little emergencies.

Instead of making things happen, I was letting things happen to me.

That isn’t a great way to go about life, and you certainly won’t be able to accomplish anything if you are going that direction.  Of course, being in the new baby years, there is always a lot of room for change, and you have to go with what is given to you for a large portion of that time, and that is OK.

However, I realized that I needed to attack my days with the same precision that I exhibited when I was in college, albeit with a lot more variables.

I started waking up early.

I wasn’t always a morning person, far from it.  I remember growing up, my window faced the East and the sun would stream in every.single.morning.  Living in Maine, it was quite the early sunrise in the summer.  That, coupled with my mom, who never seemed to sleep, getting ready early, and I was always woken up, not by my choosing. 

I'm still very crabby if someone else wakes me up in the morning, which is why I made the decision to wake up earlier than everyone else.

If I have the determination to get up early, I feel like I can accomplish a lot during the day.

What helps me?  Having a plan.

My kids are extremely early risers.  When I see parents talking about dragging their kids out of bed for school, I envy them.  My oldest daughter, Emma, has always gotten up super early.  Most days she is up by 6am and ready for the day.  That means that if I am going to get up before her, I need to be up super early.

I start my days around 4:30 or 5am, knowing that if I don’t get up that early, one of my children will be the thing that wakes me up, and then I am not a happy camper.

I do not want my day to happen to me, I want to make my day happen.

I realized that having a plan was the key.  Knowing that when I wake up, I will go downstairs, start the coffee pot, brush my teeth and then sit down to read my Bible, journal, and plan out my day – that routine has made my mornings more effective, even if my kids are getting up early.

I don’t want you to think that this goes smoothly, far from it.  Take this morning for instance.  I got up at 5am, I came downstairs, made my coffee, brushed my teeth, and at 5:15 Lucy woke up.

It used to be incredibly frustrating to me.  How is it possible that I put so much work into having a great morning routine, actually get up early, and then right when I am ready to be productive, the baby wakes up, or one of the kids needs to use the bathroom and then wants breakfast? 

Having those interruptions was difficult for a long time, but I realized I needed to change my thinking.  I need to make my plan work, even when there are interruptions.  My life is not only my life, I have four other people every day that I am with, and who impact every part of it.

Changing my thinking was the key.

Lucy woke up, and I had done just about zero things on my morning to-do list.  But I, of course, went upstairs, nursed her, and got her settled again.  While I was doing that, I read my Bible on my phone.  Not exactly the way I like to read my Bible (I have an entire set up that includes multiple journals and pretty pens), but I was still able to get my Bible reading done, while I was settling Lucy back down.

Having a plan in place, and then having a back-up plan when the first plan doesn’t work is what has helped me.

I can’t get frustrated because I have three kids that need me in the morning, when all I want to do is drink hot coffee.  Instead, I need to joyfully greet the day (and my family).  It doesn’t always happen that way, but often it will, and those are the best days for me.

Creating a morning plan was hard.  I have so many things that I want to get done, it can be overwhelming, so I had to simplify.

On a good day I am able to get a lot done, but on most days I have to scale it back.

My morning plan goes something like this –

Wake up, start coffee, brush teeth, read Bible, drink coffee, create before I consume.

That small routine is able to start my morning right, and can be done even if there are a lot of interruptions.  Of course I have a lot that I need and want to accomplish in the morning, but being realistic about what I am able to do helped with the disappointment when I am unable to check those items off the to-do list first thing in the morning.

Do you attack your mornings with a plan?  Have you attempted a routine but outside factors throw you off?  Can you simplify?

National Engineers Week - Ask an Engineer #BetterMoments

This post is sponsored by U.S. Cellular and the #BetterMoments Blog Brigade.  All opinions are my own!

Did you know that this week is National Engineers Week?  I actually didn't even know they had a National Engineers Week.  But, this is the 65th anniversary!

If you need a conversation starter to talk to your kids about technology usage, download this Free Parent-Child Agreement.

I am really proud to be working with U.S. Cellular, which has a wonderful commitment to education.  One of their goals is to educate youth on careers in engineering.

To celebrate the 65th anniversary of National Engineers Week, U.S. Cellular is working to help increase understanding of and interest in engineering and technology careers by holding "Ask an Engineer" sessions at Boys and Girls Clubs across throughout the country.

Engineering is an incredible career choice for kids today.  There is so much exploration of ideas related to technology, and U.S. Cellular is committed to educating the youth of today about the different career paths that are available to them.

These "Ask and Engineer" sessions will allow children and teens to have a behind-the-scenes look at how a cellular network operates.  It will also be able to show kids how engineering and technology are present in all facets of the everyday.  Without engineers and the amazing technology they build, U.S. Cellular would not be able to provide the amazing national coverage and high-quality network that works wherever they go.

For youth or parents interested in learning more, you can visit the official National Engineers Week website.

Are your kids interested in an engineering career?  Or, are you an engineer?

knitting and reading

Here we are for another yarn along!  Last week I shared some yarn that I have that I really want to find a pattern for.  I have still been unable to find a pattern that I like.  I think part of the problem is that it is light worsted yarn, and most of my needles are for heavier weight yarn.  Well, of course I have small needles as well, but they are all DPNs and I don't really want to make socks with it.  I could perhaps do a hat though, maybe I will think about that.

knitting reading yarn along yarnalong

If you have links to pretty hat patterns, please leave them below!

I am also still working on the scarf that I started in January.  And I am still not finished...luckily there are a couple weeks left in February!  

knitting reading yarn along yarnalong

I did decide to pick up another scarf that I have been knitting off and on for Emma.  I love this yarn.  It is black and a bright purple with sparkly sequins.  I thought that I would knit it up faster than I have, but I think the yarn overs slow me down.  The yarn is so pretty though, and Emma has been asking me to finish so she can wear it.  That may end up being my finished knitting project for February.

We are currently reading The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I wanted to read this during our long winter, and it hasn't been a disappointment!  I have read it to the kids before, of course they were 3 and 1 at the time, and don't really remember me reading it.

Our weather has been all over the place, but this past weekend into Monday it was -10 degrees consistently, and that was before we added in the wind chill, yes that is a negative number.  Yesterday it turned out to be 48 degrees and was raining all day.  Our Maine weather is bizarre.  The kids have enjoyed listening to what it was like for Laura and her family, and it has instilled a lot of gratefulness for what we have today.

Some of my other reading has been The Perseid Collapse series by Steven Konkoly.  They are free on Kindle Unlimited.  These post apocalyptic books have sufficiently scared the crap out of me, and I think my next read will have to be Survival Mom by Lisa Bedford...if I could just remember where I put that book!

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

When you want cheese, but you gave it up for Lent

I really love cheese.  There I said it.  I know it isn’t the healthiest of foods, and I know that it gives me headaches, but for some reason I have a hard time giving it up.

I decided that I would do just that for Lent this year.

Vegan Nacho "Cheese" Sauce

I have wanted to participate in Lent for a few years now, it isn’t something that we have ever really talked about in my home church, but it is something that I am trying to learn more about.  I know that giving something up for a time is a good practice, and so I decided to try it this year.

If there is cheese in the house, I usually eat it.  We are pretty big on the Mexican food here, so our meals during the week often consist of bean burritos, chili, and tacos.  All of those seem so much better with cheese, don’t they?

What is the alternative when cheese is no longer an option?

Several years ago I took a 30 Day Vegan course, which introduced me to this wonderful food called Nutritional Yeast.

Nutritional yeast is deactivated yeast that is washed and dried and sold as flakes or a powder.  It is popular among vegans and vegetarians because of its nutty and somewhat cheesy flavor.  I had no idea what it was, bought it, and fell in love with it.  Now I put it in my salads, on soup, on pasta, pretty much anything that I would normally top with cheese, I use nutritional yeast.

But, you can’t just sprinkle a powder on nachos, no you need a cheesy dip for nachos.

Vegan Nacho “Cheese” Sauce

3 roasted red pepper pieces
1 small or ½ a medium sweet onion, chopped
½ cup nutritional yeast flakes
2 garlic gloves or ½ tsp. garlic powder
2 Tbsp. coconut oil
¼ tsp. salt
1-2 Tbsp. veggie stock or water
pickled jalapeño slices

  • Sauté onion in coconut oil until browned and soft – 4-5 minutes.
  • Once onion is cooked, put all ingredients except veggie stock in a food processor or blender and pulse until blended.
  • Add veggie stock if needed to help blend.
  • Top with pickled jalapeños and nacho chips.

This is definitely addictive, and I can sit down and eat an entire bowl if I am not careful (I am rarely careful).  Nutritional yeast is a great cheese alternative, however it can be an acquired taste.  My husband wasn’t a fan of it several years ago, but now he really enjoys it.

Are you as addicted to cheese as I am?  Do you have any alternatives to your favorite foods to help you stay a little healthier without sacrificing taste?

What Does It Mean To Be An Entrepreneur? Book Review

I received a copy of this book for free in return for my review.  I was not required to give a positive review.  All opinions are my own!

If your kids are anything like mine, they are constantly being creative.  My kids absolutely love to come up with new ideas, whether it is a new recipe, or a new way of doing something.

This past summer Emma heard the word "entrepreneur" and wanted to know what it meant.  Matt and I described it to her as coming up with her own business.  She was immediately on board.  Of course I knew there was more to it than that, but I wasn't exactly sure how to explain it to her.

When I had the opportunity to read What Does it Mean to be an Entrepreneur? I knew that it would be the perfect book to explain to my 7 and 5 year old children what an entrepreneur is.

They really enjoyed the story of Rae figuring out a solution to an ice-cream and doggie mishap!

I loved that the book showed how creative thinking can find a solution to a problem, and it got my kids thinking about other ways they may be able to help.

About the book:

When Rae witnesses an ice cream-and-doggie mishap, she’s inspired to create a big-scale solution to help get dogs clean. Rae draws on her determination, resilience, and courage until she—and everyone else in her community—learns just what it means to be an entrepreneur. Book six in the award-winning What Does It Mean To Be …?® series, What Does It Mean To Be An Entrepreneur?

Overall, this was a great, colorful book, which definitely appealed to my children.  I think that any child would enjoy learning more about what it means to be an entrepreneur.  It certainly got my kids thinking about what problems they can find solutions to!

Author Bio:

Rana DiOrio has written her way through life–as a student, a lawyer, an investment banker, a private equity investor, and now as an author and publisher of children’s media. Her interests include practicing yoga, reading non-fiction and children’s literature, dreaming, effecting positive change, and, of course, being global, green, present, and safe. She lives in San Francisco, California with her three Little Pickles.

Emma D. Dryden lives in the home in which she grew up in New York City, where she was raised by entrepreneurs. Her father was a self-employed actor and her mother a self-employed writer/researcher. A longtime children’s book editor and publisher, Emma spent over twenty years working at a large publishing company before starting her own children’s book editorial and publishing consultancy firm, drydenbks LLC, in 2010. Books Emma has edited have won numerous awards, she’s an Advisory Board member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, and she speaks extensively on the art and craft of writing for children. Her blog, “Our Stories, Ourselves”, explores the connections between the human experience and the writing experience, and What Does It Mean To Be An Entrepreneur? is her debut picture book.

Visit Emma at www.drydenbks.com

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!