Sunday, July 5, 2015

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sunday, November 4, 2012

My journey to perfect health began, quite naturally, with food. These articles then led me to the equally surprising and disturbing facts about cosmetics, which in turn illuminated the dangers of common household cleaners. One discovery systematically led to another, then another, then another. I never bit off more than I could chew, but once I became enlightened about something new it was (and still is) impossible for me to ignore. For example, when I discovered what was hidden in plain sight in those seemingly innocent bottles of shampoo and conditioners I didn't wait to finish up the bottle. I threw it out. Immediately. There’s no messing around when it comes to my health, or that of my girls. Is it worth it to save a few pennies? For me, never. So, when I began to see more and more info on the dangers of candles, air fresheners and fragrances I choose to say goodbye. Admittedly with a twinge of regret, after all, who doesn't love a sweet smelling home? But it was a firm farewell nonetheless.

As I've said before, when I began my journey I was filled with frustration and anger. We, as a society, are led to believe that ‘someone’ is out there, taking care of us, always with our safety and best interests in mind. Products that are known to be health hazards and dangers would never be given the okay for use, or worse  yet consumption, right? Right? Especially when it comes to our children, with their little, tiny, brand new bodies. Well, along the way I discovered the fallacy of that, and set about finding myself a new perspective. I realized that there was someone truly and wholly concerned with my health and well being, both physical and mental, above all else. Someone who wasn't concerned with wealth and power first, but abundant, beautiful health. That someone I discovered… was me. With a great sense of relief I gladly took back the power of my health and with reins firmly in hand I realized that if I wanted to feel my best, all the time, I needed to educate myself.  I could no longer rely on the fact that a facet of my life ‘ had always been so’ but continually hunted out the real facts. They are often much more obscure, but no less valid. Websites like, and books like Easy Green Living by Renee Louxwere indispensable to me. I say silent prayers of gratitude all the time for those who have chosen to educate us all on the consequence of the choices (both positive and negative) we make everyday.

So, back to candles. I always had one or two burning for that cozy atmosphere that they seem to create. Especially at this time of year as we skip into autumn to the tune of swirling, crunching leaves. There’s nothing better than air laced with cinnamon and apples to make you all warm and fuzzy inside. Warm and fuzzy until I fully realized what it was that I was actually doing to my lungs and the air inside of my home on a near daily basis. (Shudder)

As with all of my Eco-tips I like to start with a disclaimer of sorts. I offer the following info not as a scare tactic, but as quite possibly the first step towards your better health. While often changes are made with fear as the catalyst, I never find that fear does anything but harm in the long run. I’m not scared of the info that I uncover or even the world as it currently is. I take my time digesting what I find, I diligently research it some more, and than I take whatever action feels best to me given what I’d like to see manifest in my life. And with a silent thank you for all of the help that I receive on my journey, I move forward. Time and time again. Having said that… let me begin with some ‘fun facts’ for you to ponder. J

First, if you’re using a traditional candle it is most likely made of paraffin wax. What is paraffin wax? A waste product of petroleum refining quite likely laced with benzene (class A carcinogen, linked to reproductive and developmental issues, causes changes in the blood, damages the central nervous system and immune system, toxic to bone cells and bone marrow)

Air fresheners create the dirtiest most dangerous air you can breathe and can contain one or more of the following toxins ~

Formaldehyde (which is carcinogenic)

Phenol (which can cause major skin problems)

Petroleum distillates (can cause nausea, diarrhea, liver and kidney damage)

Phthalate compounds (neurortoxins that accumulate in the tissue of humans and wildlife, linked to endocrine disruption, developmental and reproductive disorders, cancer, and is toxic to the environment)

Air fresheners can and do cause sensitization, allergies, respiratory problems and cellular damage.

95% of chemicals  in fragrances are synthetic petrochemicals that have been linked to cancer, central nervous system damage, birth defects and allergic reactions

Candles and air fresheners emit dangerous VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that can be severely irritating to the eyes, lungs, nose and throat. They may also damage the liver, kidneys and central nervous system with repeated exposure.

So, the fact that indoor air is often 10 times more polluted than outdoor air no longer seems like much of a mystery now, does it? Especially when you consider how many of us use candles and air fresheners. About 16 years ago I started to notice that really strong scents made me feel kind of breathless, like I couldn't quite fill my lungs. I visited my doctor (back in the days when I believed that they truly had all the answers), and was told that there was absolutely nothing wrong with me. Hmmmm, nothing?? Then, more recently my body has begun to protest more loudly, strong scents have begun to give me headaches in addition to the slight breathlessness. Particularly painful for me are perfumes and colognes. (Another fun fact ~ perfumes are a lovely mixture of thousands of chemicals that have never been tested for safety) I've come to the conclusion that over time people must become desensitized to their own perfume/cologne scents. Gone are the days of light, subtle, tantalizing and sensual aromas. Now we’re bombarded everywhere we go. I often wonder if some people actually bathe in their perfumes, so strong are the scents. My body’s protestations only served to validate the info that I was reading. So, what to do for the gal who loves her light and homey scents??

For years a favorite of mine has been to simply simmer a pot of water, sprinkled with cinnamon on the stove-top.  The delicious aroma fills the house in a warm and soothing way without any of the harmful side effects. But could I improve on this already delicious aroma? I decided to experiment and see what else I could come up with. I played around with smells that compliment the season. Today I've got a lovely mixture of cinnamon, cloves and apple slices simmering in a pot of water, beautifying my home for my scent senses to enjoy. Mmmmmm, apple pie anyone? In addition, for any of those interested, men find the scent of cinnamon particularly sexy and appealing, or that's what the studies show anyway… ;)

Many rooms in my home also boast a bottle of all natural air freshener. I have a recipe for each season and I’d love to share those with you today ~

In a 4 oz glass bottle with spritzer add ½ cup vodka, ¼ cup hydrogen peroxide, ¼ cup distilled water

  3 drops organic cinnamon essential oil, 3 drops organic clove essential oil and 1 drop organic patchouli essential oil.

 6 drops organic peppermint essential oil, 3 drops organic rosemary essential oil, 1 drop organic eucalyptus essential oil

 ¼ teaspoon organic vanilla extract, 4 drops organic sweet orange oil, 4 drops organic lemon oil

 5 drops organic lavender essential oil, 1 drop organic ylang ylang essential oil

Of course you can feel free to mix and match  your own scents and if you find a keeper please be sure to come back and share! My most favorite place to purchase organic oils is You can also find some lovely glass bottles there if needed.

And since I'm on the subject of green living today, I'd like to give away another one of my green recipe pouches!! If you already receive my posts by email, simply leave a comment below saying hello and I'll throw your name in the hat. If  you don't already receive my posts to your inbox you can sign up on the top of this page, on the right hand side (don't forget to verify!) and leave a hello below. I'll announce the winner next week...

Wishing you all a fantabulous day!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Well, we've already lost power (before Sandy has even really struck), but I've got a small window while Taylor cleans the kitchen to the hum of the generator. Fingers crossed that it isn't out for a week again like last year after Hurricane Irene...

Today I'll keep it light and easy, I hope my pals can bring a smile to your face too

10 reasons why ferrets make me smile
 prepare yourself for an onslaught of cuteness

They love to snuggle. You won’t often find one of our buddies curled up sleeping alone. They lay in giant, tangled heaps ~ the more, the merrier. The same rules apply to your lap. If one is konked, snoozing happily and another walks by and spots them? Well, all of a sudden they discover that they’re just a wee bit drowsy too, and curl up around their best mate, slipping into dreamland with ease.

They are unbelievably soft and plush. Cricket's winter coat has recently grown in and he is so irresistibly soft I can't quite resist burying my face in it every chance I get. Thankfully he tolerates me because a quick ferret fix is guaranteed to bring a smile to my face, no matter what craziness is going on around me at the moment.

Floyd & Irma
They love to be chased. When given the freedom to run, they do. With glee. Never with the intention of ‘escaping’, but more as an invitation. Catch me if you can. Their little feet pittering and scrambling across the floor is enough to make me laugh every time.

Cricket, Irma & Floyd
They love to chase ~ each other, balls, toys, us. Sometimes we’ll manage to get all five of them riled up at the same time. Five fuzzy little ferrets running, jumping, wrestling, rolling, leaping… it is enough to make even the sourest among us smile. It’s especially fun to gather up all of the balls and throw them rapid fire across the room. It's a madhouse, really it is. And so much fun.

They like to snorkel. Especially Roux. She goes ‘swimming’ in her water bowl daily, not happy until she is nice and thoroughly soaked. She adores to be plopped in a tub with an inch or two of warm water. Blowing bubbles from her nose and having a grand old time. Irma particularly loves her showers with Jordan.

 They like to steal and horde. Especially items they have no hope of hiding. Like slippers, twice as big as they are. Their toys are most often found piled in one corner, a stash of goodies.

They are mischievous. Our ferrets have their own room. Once upon a time it was my studio until I decided my furry friends would benefit from it more. It is thoroughly ferret-proofed because their curiosity knows no bounds. They have a particular affinity for potted plants and if given the chance will attempt to dig to China.

They each have a distinct and unique personality. Each one is so different from the next. Roux is the sweetest of the bunch, gentle and affectionate. Floyd is a slow, methodical boy who spends more time sleeping than anything else; he is always snuggled up in a lap, any one will do. Cricket is feisty and somewhat naughty. Irma is a spitfire, Jordan’s spoiled princess who loves to be the center of human attention. Felix is a playful bugger who loves to scamper and rough-house. 

They are affectionate. Oh so affectionate. Roux will often be overcome with a love she can’t express and so set about licking and cleaning your nose... or your cheeks...or your chin... or your hand for a solid five minutes. All five of them love to curl up on your lap and would sleep there quite happily for hours if they were allowed that privilege. Anytime you need a boost, or a reminder that you are indeed loved, a warm and snuggly ferret is the perfect remedy.

Interested in seeing some ferrets in action? The following video makes me laugh every time I watch it. Roux is busy at her favorite game while Cricket shows off his leaping skills. And yes, that is Jordan snapping at Riley Mae in the background... sorry. :P

{The following creatively inspired and crazy adorable ferret photo shoots were snapped by Jordan}

To all of you weathering Sandy, stay safe, stay warm and stay dry...

Have a happy day Friends

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunday, October 21, 2012

It's so easy to take the countless wonderful things in our lives for granted. We all have them, be they big or small, there’s beauty in every journey. Sometimes we fall into the trap of not seeing all that we have in favor of all that we don’t have. Just another one of those unhealthy conditions we humans seem determined to perpetuate. Yet another sneaky trap of ego. Keeping a gratitude journal is a wonderful way of slowing down for a moment and making the time to appreciate all that we hold in our hands. All the blessings of our day, of our lives. Often it’s those small things, available to us all, that can lighten the heart tremendously ~ the bright sunlight streaming though the window. The crisp and fragrant autumn air. The warm blanket on my lap. The smell of a freshly mown lawn. Silence. Dance. Laughter. Birdsong. Sometimes there are those larger moments ~ a new job. A new home. A new baby. But more often it's those small everyday things that we tend to overlook that can take a day from blah, to joyful. Often all is takes is a deliberate pause, a mindful breath and a silent, heartfelt thank you for all that we have, right here, right now. In this moment.

In no order of importance here is my gratitude list for today ~

I am thankful for… our firewood, cut, split and neatly stacked. When I think of those cold winter days heading my way, snow swirling beyond the windowpanes... ahh, I’m so grateful for the cozy, sustainable warmth that wood will provide. 

I am thankful for… Scott. It’s so easy to take people for granted. Especially those we see on a daily, constant basis. They become such a part of our lives that sometimes we stop seeing them. Stop appreciating them. I've learned that marriage is work, sometimes pretty demanding work, but the rewards are tremendous. When we take the time to see all that another brings to our day, all the ways that they make our world easier, lighter and brighter, it really is a most amazing thing.

I am thankful for… ferrets. There are three things guaranteed to make me happy each and every day ~ ferret-time, meal-time and bed-time. Our ferrets have a way of melting my heart, erasing my troubles and inducing my laughter. They remind me that it’s all about the simple things, and I’m instantly joyful, peaceful and grounded with a snoozing ferret (or two!) on my lap.

I am thankful for… food. As I mentioned above, eating is one of the highlights of my day. Partly because I love to cook and create in the kitchen, but mostly… because I love to eat! Becoming a vegan opened up my world to foods that absolutely delight and satisfy me. It also fostered a deep and profound sense of peace, with each morsel that I eat, knowing no animal had to die or suffer terribly to nourish me, and I think that only serves to magnify my gratitude. Learning to eat mindfully was a great gift that I gave myself. Taking my attention off of my stomach and putting it directly on my mouth, chewing each bite most thoroughly creates an explosion of flavor. It is an intensely satisfying part of each day and I look forward with anticipation from one meal to the next.

I am thankful for… Jordan. While she is the one I am most likely to butt heads with, she also makes me laugh (hard) every single day. She is wildly creative and fiercely independent. Our home is full of handcrafted creations and she always has a project (or ten) that she’s working on. She’s a whiz with the glue gun, the sewing machine, the computer, the camera… in fact, what isn't she good at?

I am thankful for… the sunshine. It makes everything so much happier. The world looks so inviting when the sun is shining, especially against the backdrop of a clear blue sky. It’s a wonderful source of renewable energy, it makes my garden grow, my flowers flourish and my heart sing.

I am thankful for… bedtime. I love, love to crawl into bed each night. Several years ago I knew it was time to stop thinking about it, and finally ditch our voc-emitting, chemical laden traditional mattresses and invest in organic cotton/wool mattresses for all. Snuggling up to a warm husband under organic cotton sheets on an organic cotton mattress is my idea of bliss. I sleep deeply and soundly and dream in vivid detail. As I slide out each morning to greet the new day I say a silent farewell and am warmed by the thought that I shall return in another 17 hours. I can't imagine a better way to end (or begin) each day.

I am thankful for… Taylor. While life hasn't always been the easiest for her, she handles it all with grace and acceptance. Even when her spirits drop, it is always only a brief stay before she pulls herself back together and accepts that for now this is how things are, and moves on. She has an amazing talent for writing and I look forward to the day when I hold her published book in my hands. You’ll all want a copy. Be prepared to cry. A lot.

I am thankful for… wood-stoves  Growing up, our house was old and very, very drafty. It made for some long, cold and shivery winters. I vowed that someday, when I had my own house, I would be warm, all the time. The answer to that? A wood-stove. It heats the house through and through. The walls are warm, the floors are warm, the air is warm.  Placing it in the lowest level of the house means that while the basement is uncomfortably toasty, the living level is perfectly comfortable, and the bedrooms are refreshingly cool. There is no longer any reason to dread the long and cold winter.

I am thankful for… Christmas music. It just makes me happy. And yes, despite that fact that it is only October, I have begun listening, joyfully. In fact, along with Christmas movies it is probably my most favorite part of the holiday season. Along with white Christmas lights... and window candles... and gingerbread houses...

I am thankful for … Riley Mae. Just recently I realized that she is probably the most similar to me out of all my girls. There are traits of both Jordan and Taylor that remind me of myself, but collectively Riley is a mini me. Albiet a happier one than I was at her age! She takes care of the animals; she loves to read and she loves to write. She’s a homebody, through and through. Always quite happy to spend time alone, and needing no one to balance her out.  And yes, she loves Christmas music in October too.

I am thankful for... Rainbows. Need I say more?

I am thankful for… organic farmers. When I realized that MSG was helping to trigger my panic attacks it led me to the realization that organic was/is the only choice for us. I definitely have no interest in a chemical cocktail each time I eat a peach or a potato, but I was equally (if not more) concerned about avoiding the hidden MSG found in many chemical fertilizers. The only way to currently do that is to eat organic. I deeply appreciate the farmers that grow and provide me with abundant organic produce. I especially adore those that do it because it’s the only way that makes any sense, for the health of our bodies and for the health of our planet.


I am thankful for… comedies. We don’t watch much tv in our home, but one of the things that we do tune into each and every week without fail is a handful of sitcoms. Settling in on the couch for an hour of laughter~ Is there anything better than that? My newest favorite is Partners, we were smitten after the very first episode! The Big Bang Theory is also guaranteed to have me howling each week. That Sheldon, he is a riot.

Backyard Dreams is open once again
I am thankful for... Etsy. If I'm not careful I can get lost in the sheer awesomeness of it. I not only love it as an outlet for my own creativity, but as a place to find fabulous handcrafted gifts whenever they're needed. I support it 100% because it's something I want to see more of in this world ~ imagination, ingenuity, resourcefulness, inspiration and passion.

I am thankful for... awesome music videos that tell a story. They're like a four minute movie, and if well made, they have the power to make you laugh.. or cry. Like my two current favorites . Ed Sheeran became my one of my top two favorite artists (equally as fabulous as Jason Mraz) after I heard his new hit just one time. Once I watched the video I had a heartbreaking image that I couldn't shake for days and days. While I love a good pop song (mostly for dancing around the kitchen), they aren't the ones I buy and download onto my ipod. Songs and music that tells a story win a place in my heart for years and years. 

This is my other favorite video, it also made my heart hurt for days after I watched. Funny how that makes it a favorite, right???

Inspired to find the treasures scattered throughout your life? Grab a piece of paper, a pen and find a quiet, comfy spot to settle in for a bit. Look around  you, what do you see that lifts your spirits? What do you hear? What do you smell? Or feel? Who do you love? What do you cherish? What makes your heart sing? Gratitude has the magical power of shifting your perspective from lack... to abundance. It makes your whole world brighter. Simply by seeing what is already right in front of you, how awesome is that?

Have an inspired day Friends.

P.S. Ooops, almost forgot! The winner of my giveaway last week was Beth Beaver! Congrats Beth, and I'll be in touch soon... :)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The journey of another school year is upon us. Yes, we're later than the public school systems, but the girls and I unanimously agreed not to cut our summer short. Sticky heat makes for grumpy students (and teachers), whereas crisp, chilly fall mornings make for simply perfect school days. I settled on the first of October and the girls firmly held me to that despite my urge to start mid September! One of the things that I love most about homeschooling is the ability to shape it around, and blend it into our life, in the ways that suit us best. I love the exquisite flexibility of that. Lately I've heard several people complaining about the state of Ct and what a terrible place it is to live. I respectfully, yet strongly, disagree. There are many reasons why I love my state, but one of the most important is the freedom that Ct ‘allows’ to its homeschooling families. No one is checking up on me, making sure I meet a set number of school days or cover subjects deemed important by someone, anyone else. No one is testing the girls to make sure they're 'smart enough' or that I've done my job well enough. I've discovered that doing it my way is pretty much the only way that consistently works for us, and I’m quite relieved not to have anyone breathing down my neck as we continue along on our homeschooling journey.

I realized after a week spent pulling this post together that it was going to be a long one. Perhaps a very long one. So pull up a chair, wrap your hands around a warm mug of tea and settle in for a bit. Welcome to our classroom...

My day starts at 5:00. I enjoy getting up early and having the house to myself for a time. It’s quiet and peaceful and allows me to come to life slowly and gently. Despite rising before the sun it still takes me several hours to make my way through all of the morning chores, so our school day begins promptly at eight. As you can see we're all dressed and ready to greet the day. I find that sitting around in our pajamas with morning breath and uncombed hair makes everyone feel lazy and sickly. Neither of which is conducive to easy learning. Over the years the 'school room' has changed location. When the girls were younger they each had desks, cast-offs from a local public school. Now, our collective desk is the kitchen table. We've also had specific rooms dedicated solely to school, but presently all of our rooms serve other purposes. The kitchen really is ideal. Tons of light and all the heat from the wood-stove travels right up the basement stairs, keeping us warm and toasty. It's especially lovely when the rain is falling or the snow is dancing down beyond the window panes. A delightful distraction.

From 8:00 until 10:00 are now the focused school hours, our work together time. Any questions? Need help? This is the time to ask. All prep-work, or homework, is now done before the start of school. The girls choose when and where as long as it's completely complete before we sit down together. I felt the need to instill some accountability this year, and have left more of the work as their responsibly. Looking ahead, if they decide to go to college (which isn't that far ahead for Tay), there are certain skills that will be helpful to sharpen and hone. Being responsible for your own work (without any reminders from me) is one of those little things.

I had hoped that this year we could be free from unfavorable behavior, but after day one I realized we weren't quite there yet. I can't tolerate any sniping, bickering or disrespect, so the behavior bucks came back out. They are allotted two per day. At the end of the morning they still need one of those bucks left in order to get their computer time for the day. Since they've been wee little babes my punishments/consequences have always been very specific. The secret? Find what currently appeals to them most... and take it away. Don't just threaten. Take. It. Away. Right now they spend quite a bit of time online, perusing Pinterest for ideas, skype chatting with friends, responding to emails, blogging... the list goes on and on. It's effectively painful to confiscate it for a whole 24 hours. No yelling, no fuss, no muss. Perfect.

Math. I love math. Specifically algebra. This is usually how we start the day, but it can and does vary. Whatever I happen to grab first. Taylor, Jordan and I are doing a thorough review of Algebra 1 and 2 to make sure it’s all cemented in there. For right now I’m using to keep me on track. I buy a yearly subscription ($40.00) and have unlimited access to their website and all of its worksheets. It has been indispensable to me through the years, most especially when it comes to math. As for Riley Mae, she's in the last year of the Spectrum workbooks, which I've loved for their repetition. Sometimes things do become redundant, but we have the simple option of skipping right over it all. The beginning of each year is a review of many different things, today she happens to be covering fractions, some of which she remembers, some of which… not so much. It is her self proclaimed favorite subject this year. That's my girl.

I'm finding that we're ending up with too much homework for my taste. I'd rather Jordan and Riley Mae had the free time to create a new music video, or that Taylor has the space to work on her novel instead of having to spend the day hunched over textbooks and workbooks. Life should be full of the things that make your heart sing, and this week hasn't left much spare time. So, instead of trying to cover World History, Science and U.S. History all at once, I'm going to tackle one at a time. If we move through steadily we can still cover it all, but without the madness of overwhelming homework.

History. We’re still making our way through the Joy Hakim series, A History of US. I continue to love these books. I'm fascinated by how our country was shaped, and Hakim does a fair job of showing the good, the bad and the ugly. Although these books have great student guides that go along with each volume I chose a different route this year. I decided it was time to teach the girls to take notes. Once again, if they intend to move on to college, this will be another one of those "important things". Daily, they're each responsible for reading a chapter and taking pertinent notes. The following morning I give them a short quiz to see if they've done a thorough job and in this way I am able to gauge their (hopefully improving) skills. So far, so good. This process also includes my tips on test taking, which they have had the joy of avoiding for many a year. Ugh, test stress. That, we can all do without.

World History. We’re also still using the The Story of theWorld series. Although written for much younger children I find it covers the basics and is easier to understand. We’re finally approaching a time period we are familiar with, and so can soon tie our ancient world history to our current American history. Riley Mae loves this subject, whereas Jordan is ready to leave the ancient history where it belongs… far, far behind us. Admit it Jord, invading barbarians and gladiators were pretty cool.

Science. Not thrilled with the science. I'm using Natural Science Mysteries and I guess it will do... for now. It’s covering what I’d like it to cover and the book isn't as dry and tedious as last year’s installment which is a very good thing. When my eyes glaze over? Yeah, I'm pretty sure I'm not learning much. Or retaining anything. So far we've dug into sound and light, both super interesting. I love learning about the things you wouldn't want to do without, yet are taken for granted every single day. We have an awesome sound experiment to try out if only I can find a large stereo speaker somewhere…

Spanish. I bought a computer program this year, Berlitz. It’s hundreds of dollars cheaper than Rosetta stone, so I thought I’d give it a try. We've just scratched the surface, but so far we’re all enjoying it. We haven’t done enough to know if it will really improve our language skills or not, time will tell, but we’re having fun so that’s a good start. Here we are repeating phrases which the program records and then rates our pronunciation. Most days we share a good laugh. This is Jordan’s favorite subject this year.

Geography. This is one subject that was sorely lacking in my education. Until I started teaching the girls I couldn't even tell you where most of the states were, it really was pathetic. And then I discovered an awesome (and free) website that turned it all around for me ~ It has games for a ton of subjects, but I mainly use it for geography. In escalating degrees of difficulty you must identify each state named, some maps have outlines, others don’t. Sometimes the girls and I will race each other which is always great fun. Wanna give it a try? This link will bring you to our current challenge. Jordan is the uncontested winner, she got 50 out of 50 correct in 64 seconds. Can you beat that? I sure can't, my top score is a sad 109. Right now we’re still refreshing ourselves on the Unites States, but next we move on to world geography. By the end of our school year I hope to feel much more competent in identifying the countries in the world around me. Wish me luck, I'll need it.

Writing. Inspire! Motivation Lessons for Teen Writers. I initially bought this book for Taylor, as I try and tailor bits and pieces of our day to each girl's interests and strengths. Once the book arrived I discovered to my joy that it's really well written and have decided to include everyone in the exercises. Last week I chose a specific audience for their assignment, their 3 year old cousin Ellamae. They have been given the challenge of writing a short children’s book with her in mind. What decides their ‘grade’? Whether or not they can fully entertain  and engage their young cousin, keeping her attention throughout the story. Jordan and Riley Mae have run wild with it, and all three have created small works of art, as they tend to do. I don't often meet with resistance when I assign a creative project although they aren't always Taylor's "thing". I did have her begging me the other day to "let" her write a report, yeah... to each her own. 

Riley Mae's creation ~ The Golden Peach

  Jordan's creation ~ Waldo's New Home

 Taylor's creation ~ The Princess's New Friends

Poetry. Oh my. My love of the  year. I found a great little book, 101 Great American Poems. I thought it would broaden our minds a bit to read some timeless poetry, little did I know how much I would be enjoying myself! I’m embarrassed to admit that often when I’m confronted by a poem I give it a quick skim. A really quick skim. If it’s challenging at all to my picky (lazy?) little neurons I kick it to the curb and move on. I mean, really, who has time to decipher cryptic words and metaphors? I have enough trouble translating my own thoughts, let alone the ramblings of a long dead poet from another time. However, as with most other subjects I've come to realize that once I give it my full attention it becomes a triumphant joy instead of a tedious chore. Given the proper consideration and time most poems spring to life like magic, and I’m not satisfied to give them a single run through. Oh no, most demand a third or a fourth read, simply because they’re so astoundingly, breathtakingly beautiful and each time around reveals more and more of the mystery. And it isn't only me; all three of the girls agree that poetry is one of our favorite subjects this year. I have come to believe that poems will mean something different to most everyone who takes the time to savor and digest them. They seem to reflect back to us the current and meaningful aspects of our lives. They feed my spirit in a most unexpected and wonderful way.  This year Taylor claims poetry as her most favorite subject and I may be inclined to second that. {Interested in our favorite poetry picks so far? Taylor, Jordan, Riley Mae, Melinda}

Extras. I've added in a lot of fun extras this year, reminiscent of our beginning school days. Some are more scholarly, for example analogies, but still fun. Origami, kirigami, drawing, logic puzzles, mysteries… last week we worked on a logic puzzle for quite some time... and failed miserably. I spent another hour or more on it that night and still had no success. Sad, but true, I couldn't solve a children's puzzle. Sigh. I’m still deciding whether or not to go back and try it again. The girls also want to make a terrarium this year, that's always a fun project. We're stepping back into a bimonthly newspaper which we did on and off when the girls were younger. It's a project that they have always enjoyed and I think that their readers enjoy it also. It will now be an online newsletter with contributions from all: recipes, photos and some of those random facts that we all love. Our first issue has yet to be released, those children's books took longer much than anticipated!

Piano. Taylor and Jordan have been taking lessons since they were young, but the piano has sat mournfully quiet for the last couple of years now. In fact I tried to sell it this summer… before I decided not to. I had to actually hire a moving company to get it back into the house, but for the past couple of weeks it has been singing again. Taylor, Riley and I practice each day, but Jordan decided to try her hand at the guitar instead. Calluses are forming and today she proudly announced that she can manage Kumbaya. Yay.

Review. In my last homeschool posts I let you in on one of my main secrets of success… review. Review, review, review!!! Go over it once and it’ll most likely be gone forever. But go over it again and again? Then it has time to grow deep roots, and we find we're able to access those facts and that info with ease. I especially love random and little known facts. Each day the girls have a crossword puzzle that I pulled together which reviews a past subject. It’s a fun and easy way to refresh yourself. EclipseCrossword is a downloadable program that I've been using for many years now. It’s free and very simple to us. I've got crosswords in every subject imaginable ~ honeybees, dinosaurs, early American explorers, Jamestown, Lewis and Clark, arthropods, Abe Lincoln, Knights, Space, The Nervous System… almost 100 in all. I'm determined to get through them all this year ... but I say that every year and rarely succeed.

Clubs. The girls belong to two clubs this year, both of which they're thoroughly enjoying. Over the summer Taylor was lamenting the lack of a book club in her life, so I suggested she start her own. It has been one of the highlights of their month. They meet at a cute and eclectic little coffee shop in town, all fellow homeschoolers except for their cousin (Hi Maddie! :). They've made a new friend, as have I {Beauty that Moves}, and once their book is delightfully discussed and dissected they spend another hour chatting, laughing and sipping on a hot mug of organic tea. Also, at the suggestion of a friend, Jordan and Taylor also recently joined Interact, a younger version of the Rotary Club. Its focus seems to be mainly on community service and they're already signed up to help out at a local town event next weekend. They're also both looking forward to ringing the Salvation Army bell near Christmastime. ;)

And so, there you have it. A typical day in our classroom. Not so very strange and unusual after all. I know that our year has just begun but so far I feel pretty great about it. We're learning a lot and we're laughing a lot, a perfect recipe for success. We'll probably be burnt out right around April, when the warm weather returns and calls us away. But until then you'll find us scribbling, scribbling away.

And now, much as I reward the girls for sticking with it, I'd like to do the same for you. You definitely deserve a pat on the back if you have made it to the end of this long and jam-packed post! I recently realized that it has been quite some time since I have hosted a giveaway and that really is a shame because they make me feel so darn good. It's simple really, all I ask is that if you're not already signed up to receive my posts directly to your inbox please do so at the top of this page (please don't forget to verify!). Then, leave me a comment telling me what your favorite school subject is/was. What's in it for you? I'll be giving away one of my favorite things, a handcrafted pouch chock full of my green cleaning and beauty recipes! It includes most all of the tried and true recipes that I use on a daily basis, all in a handy little purse. I had recently contemplated selling these again in Backyard Dreams, but for now the mere thought of it completely overwhelms me. Instead, I'm just going to give them away! For anyone who already owns one, this is a new and updated version, with many, many new concoctions! I'll name the winner in next week's post. Good luck! (Pouch fabric will vary)

And so, I'm off to enjoy my Sunday. It's rainy and cozy, perfect for an afternoon spent curled up reading. :)

Happy, happy day Friends.