Monday, November 29, 2010


it has come upon us again, the season of advent, whereby we ready our hearts for the God-Incarnate, Jesus Christ. i read two great posts (with glorious pictures!) about how advent can be shared with our precious children. for the last two years i have used the jesse tree to mark each day in advent. we also use an advent candle wreath! i have several books i go to for reading the children. and course i have put out our creches -- i have several from my childhood and several i am collecting as an adult. i want my children to have the joy of playing with the mary and joseph as i did! how do you celebrate advent?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

phoebe's sweater giveaway!

ginny over at small things has a wonderful contest going on until friday. check it out. i think this book is gorgeous and the knitting pattern that goes with the story is even more gorgeous!!!

Monday, September 6, 2010

miss ann

miss ann is our neighbor across the street. she is 93 years old and lives alone, as her husband passed away seven years ago. they were married for 62 years. when she comes over to visit with us, we often ask her questions about her life and ask for her wisdom on children, homekeeping, and mostly marriage. last night she told us stories of her life as an immigrant child in baltimore. she left sicily when she was five years old, on a boat bound for new york city. something that struck me as amazing last night was her proud declaration that she wasn't afraid to say they didn't eat meat everyday. she was one of ten children. her mother baked bread every morning of her life. meat was a luxury reserved for sunday meals. as i am putting together our meal plans for this fall and after making soulemama's delicious soup and lentil soup last week i have been considering using meat only a few days a week. meat is expensive and if we don't buy organic, grass fed beef it is very costly on the environment as well as our health. i'd like to have a pasta night, a soup night, roast chicken, homemade pizza night, mexican night (using beans or meat) and then two other options to round my week out. i know i want to cook with a lot more lentils, beans, and vegetables as the main dishes. since it is the new season of autumn, warm hearty soups and stews will be really wonderful on the chilly evenings. its good to learn from the older generations, who lived in leaner times, as we are now in a time of recession. it is good to value the old wisdom.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

a room with a view

our sunroom: its my favorite room in our home. we eat our meals here, knit, color, cut paper, draw, write letters and stories, have quiet times, visit with friends adn family, watercolor, read and do nearly all of our living in here. i don't know if it will be warm enough in here during the cold months but i aim to put some little heaters by our feet to prolong the sunroom-goodness. and according to my mama (the expert flora and fauna lady) we have lilacs, dogwoods, possibly a red maple, and more azaleas on the side of the house. [which means we'll have red buds in the winter and the gorgeous dogwood blooms in the spring.]

all of this talk of flowers, seasons and gardening inspired me to get out yesterday and weed my frontyard beds. i am half-way done. i will be putting in some lovely mums soon. fall is not quite here but i am looking forward to the changes that we will see through our sunroom views.

we also just spied a "sharpie" or a sharp-shinned hawk on our fence. what fun!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

radical homemaking via soulemama

i was just perusing amanda's site and found this fantastic review of the book radical homemaking - i want to go run out and buy it! while i believe that it is a God-given role for the woman to be in the home, i think that the reviewer has some excellent points. check it out. ps i am already planning out my garden for spring 2011! so excited!

Friday, August 6, 2010

leftover solutions

i had some leftover oatmeal from yesterday's breakfast and so we made delicious pancakes with the remainders! here is a terrific/easy recipe i found through keeper of the home. the kids ate theirs with real maple syrup and i had mine with homemade blackberry jam that my mama made a few days ago (from our berry picking at morris orchard in monroe, va!) needless to say everyone was satisfied. this will be a good go-to meal for the upcoming school year.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

make your place

last week i ordered make your place: affordable, sustainable nesting skills by raleigh briggs. i am loving this book.

words to describe the home i am creating:


so i am off to make the house in to our home ie. time to unpack the office!!

using everything

here is a few ways i have been trying to be more frugal in our home:

1. ate delicious green beans we picked the day before in my mama's garden + cooked them with some bacon = saved the boiling water and freezed it for future soup broths

2. chopped up almost all of the celery (including the the leaves) to use in a bahamian macaroni and cheese recipe i was making -- usually i would have cut all of that off -- but now we got all that good stuff right in the casserole. maybe it outweighed the cheese and butter?:)

3. bought a 10 lb. bag of freshly ground whole wheat flour from our mill back near my folks' farm + my own bread hook on the kitchen aide = fresh bread. my mama used to make four loaves every week when we were little b/c it was so cheap and they were living on a shoestring. she made some for us when we were visiting and used some of the leftover whey from making her artisan goat cheese. it was phenomenol. i am vowing to make my own bread (as soon as i can get some bulk ingredients). i think if i get a little station up and running and in to a routine, we are going to be so much happier with the finished product. plus it just makes sense for our family, as our four littles get bigger and require more food.

here are a few links to some great cooking from scratch posts:

from kitchen
via simplemom

scratch hacks from simple mom

leila's use for potato water in bread

Thursday, July 29, 2010

vinegar my new friend

wanting to bring more mindfulness to how we keep our home and our planet, i have begun in this move to choose more sustainable products to use in the house for cooking, cleaning, gardening and health. each day is a new step towards the switch over. little steps make this switch doable. so my new favorite household product is the humble vinegar. rather then listing everything for you here, please go here.

a few of my favorite that i am either trying or will try in the near future:


renew sponges and dishrags by placing them in just enough water to cover them. then add 1/4 cup white distilled vinegar. let them soak overnight.

kill germs all around the bathroom with a spray of full-strength white distilled vinegar. Wipe clean with a damp cloth.

to kill germs, spray full-strength white distilled vinegar on doorknobs and then wipe them dry.

to clean and disinfect baby toys add a good-sized splash of white distilled vinegar to soapy water.

clean vinyl baby books or board books by wiping with white distilled vinegar. wipe clean with a damp sponge or cloth.

clean and deodorize urine on a mattress with a white distilled vinegar and water solution. then sprinkle the area with baking soda and let dry. brush or vacuum the residue after it is dry to the touch.

clean and deodorize a drain by pouring in 1 cup baking soda, then one cup hot white distilled vinegar. let this sit for 5 minutes or so, then run hot water down the drain.

deodorize the garbage disposal by pouring in 1/2 cup baking soda and 1/2 cup hot white distilled vinegar. let sit for 5 minutes then run hot water down the disposal.


get stained white socks and dingy dishcloths white again. add 1 cup white distilled vinegar to a large pot of water, bring it to a rolling boil and drop in the articles. let soak overnight.

some stains on clothing and linens can be soaked out using equal parts milk and white distilled vinegar.

before washing a mustard stain, dab with white distilled vinegar.

attack spaghetti, barbecue, or ketchup stains with a white distilled vinegar and water solution.

remove perspiration odor and stains on clothing, as well as those left by deodorants, by spraying full-strength white distilled vinegar on underarm and collar areas before tossing them into the washing machine.

forgot that you left wet laundry in the machine and it now smells moldy? pour a few cups of white distilled vinegar in the machine and wash the clothes in hot water. then run a normal cycle with detergent.

get cleaner laundry! add about 1/4 cup white distilled vinegar to the last rinse. the acid in white distilled vinegar is too mild to harm fabrics, yet strong enough to dissolve the alkalies in soaps and detergents. besides removing soap, white distilled vinegar prevents yellowing, acts as a fabric softener and static cling reducer, and attacks mold and mildew.


kill weeds and grass growing in unwanted places by pouring full-strength white distilled vinegar on them. this works especially well in crevices and cracks of walkways and driveways.

give acid-loving plants like azaleas, rhododendrons, hydrangeas and gardenias a little help by watering them with a white distilled vinegar solution now and again. a cup of white distilled vinegar to a gallon of tap water is a good mixture.

stop ants from congregating by pouring white distilled vinegar on the area.


stop insect stings and bites from itching by dabbing them with a cotton ball saturated with undiluted white distilled vinegar.

soothe sunburn with a spray of white distilled vinegar, repeating as often as you like. ice-cold white distilled vinegar will feel even better, and may prevent blistering and peeling.

for cuts and scrapes, use white distilled vinegar as an antiseptic.


remove the leftover odor after a rider has been carsick by leaving a bowl of white distilled vinegar overnight on the floor.

loosen chewing gum stuck to carpeting or upholstery by soaking it in white distilled vinegar.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

doing the math

keeper of the home has a post over here on price comparisons for making your own household cleaning products v. store bought. good to note!


borax is great for:

pots & pans (aluminum and porcelain)
cleaning refrigerators
cleaning ovens
cleaning microwaves
stainless steel
fine china
garbage/diaper pails
mattress odors
outdoor furniture (plastic and metal)

*safe for all machines and high efficient compatible

diy non-toxic cleaners

before we moved in, i intentionally chose to make my own cleaning products rather then buy all the store-bought versions. i wanted not only to save money (which i am certain is significant, although i don't have the actual numbers) but also clean with elements that will NOT harm my family or the environment. i came across a spray bottle at target that had a list of house cleaning product recipes printed on the side. i came over by myself and cleaned for 2 days before our stuff arrived. it felt so good to wipe every surface! here are the recipes i used:

general cleaner: add 2 tbls. baking soda to 16 oz. warm water

window cleaner: add 1 tsp. distilled white vinegar to 16 oz. warm water

disinfecting cleaner: add 10-20 drops of tea tree oil to 16 oz. warm water

floor cleaner: to 16 oz. warm water add:

1/2 tsp. liquid soap (i used 7th generation dish soap)
1/2 tsp. borax
squeeze of lemon or splash of vinegar. spray floor with solution and mop as usual.

it seems that you can do a million things with borax, white vinegar and baking soda!! this might be my favorite past time: collecting useful house-hold recipes!

setting up home

we have been in our rental for a few weeks now. sunday we got our small shipment of storage + the piano!! we are so excited about the piano. the rest of the stuff i could leave it. when we had to move last fall from rhode island to california for g's language school, we were expecting to have to squeeze in to 1200 sq. feet. so we purged big time and then put all the rest of it in storage. i realized, as i knew i would, that i really didn't need any of the storage things. i mean -- of course my grandmother's china and crystal -- and now that i have my craig'slist farm hutch -- i have a place for it! sooo there is this area in our finished basement where the toys are going to be, that is now about 1/3 full of boxes. for the most part all the other boxes (from the california move) have been either stored or unpacked. the garage is still a wreck. BUT the kitchen, bedrooms, bathroom, living room, sunroom and laundry room are all unpacked and relatively put together. no pictures up yet -- but we do have curtains up -- so it is beginning to feel more like home. i have even planted a few pots with some herbs, petunias and impatients. yesterday afternoon, my neighbor, pointed out that i have several large azaleas in our front yard - i was so pleasantly surprised by this news. i had thought they were boxwoods - which i love, but now we shall have bright red flowers in the early summer! it was a tad bit cooler yesterday, so i actually was able to weed a bit of the crab grass out of the flower beds by my front door. this past friday night (and then again unexpectantly on sunday evening) we had a lovely dinner party - the first in our new home! it was a group of graham's siblings and cousins - everyone all grown up now. it was magical. we moved the dining table and chairs in to the sunroom and lit candles too! i really didn't want the evening to end. cheeries and chocolates were served for dessert.