A month in review - November


This month we:
  • Got to see a giant white tiger
  • Cyan and I walked 11 miles with our dogs
  • received a pair of snake skin in the mail (and I touched it!)
  • looked at sand under a microscope
  • took walks in the falling leaves
  • the first frost finally took out the last of our garden
  • but not before we got a last batch of peppers and 1/2 ripe tomatoes
  • bought 4 more hens (making 13 total)
  • Luke got very sick so we read most of Milne
  • Figured out we could live in blanket scarves
  • visited the fish hatchery

November is over and Advent is almost here!

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Glow-in-the-dark books and making a indoor campfire craft

This sweet and safe indoor campfire is a craft I used in my homeschool co-op for my preschoolers and kindergarteners this week and it was a huge hit!  We sat around a circle while I read books that glow-in-the-dark, told camp stories and drank cocoa that I smuggled in.  It was wonderful!

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This craft (which is incredibly simple) could be used for any number of winter studies…  to read books by on the winter solstice, to give some weight to a fun, nocturnal animal study, or like I did – to talk about the upcoming time change with little ones.  A fun and SAFE idea that they will remember for a long, long time.

Elderberry Licorice Cough Syrup

October is a hard month in our household.  It seems as soon as we start school we pass one thing or another through the house like wildfire.  I have been sick now for 3 weeks straight.  Nothing terribly serious…. just a cold, and then a mild flu, and then a cough and cold mix that has hung on like an angry wolverine….  I generally just wait these things out, but sleep is essential for healing bodies, and when our sleep is interrupted by a cough, I have to do something.  That is where this recipe came in.

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Elderberries are a perfect immune system booster.  Filled with tons of Vitamin C** these little purple-black beauties are an amazing.  Mixed with licorice root, which helps with sore throat and coughing, this is the super food syrup which is sure to speed up the recovery process and help you sleep… at least it did us!

Month in review – October

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This month we -
  • Picked pumpkins
  • carved pumpkins
  • dipped leaves in beeswax
  • ALL of our hens started laying!
  • Created an office
  • Participated I a fish seine – (drag net catch)
  • Made leaf roses
  • made and sent our nature pal exchange box
  • Took a couple amazing walks!
  • The rains came
  • whittling chip for Logan
  • Vet tech shadow for Cyan
  • First playdate without siblings for Luke
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It’s getting darker, but we have many wonderful things planned for Novemeber!

{this moment}

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{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo (two this week) - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

{Inspired by SouleMama}

{this moment}

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{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo (two this week) - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

{Inspired by SouleMama}

Handcrafted Holiday - how to make a beeswax leaf garland

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My favorite color is… October.  Seriously.  Every October, as the giant maple tree that shades my yard changes from deep green to yellow to orange and red and then tumbles to the ground, I just can’t help but think that I want to keep those colors forever.  So I started researching ways to preserve these incredible leaves from my maple tree and discovered that dipping them in beeswax allows them to stay beautiful for months, sometimes years!  The color doesn’t stay around with drying or pressing but it you can seal it in by removing the oxygen from the leaves, sealing in the beauty of fall. 

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{this moment}

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{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo (two this week) - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

{Inspired by SouleMama}

Month in review–September

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This month we -

  • Started Co-op
  • Watched the full moon eclipse
  • started getting eggs from our youngest hens
  • picked apples, pumpkins, chard, kale, tomatoes and more than I can list!
  • Had a family of Stellar’s Jays move into our yard
  • took amazing walks
  • reveled in beautiful fall days
  • built nesting boxes for the hens
  • made the chicken run much larger
  • Got a bunny! 
  • Built a bunny hutch

September was incredible!  Now looking forward to an amazing October!

Deep Thoughts on Growing Real People

This essay was a revision of another post that I wrote specifically for my group of homeschoolers.  It is a revision of the post "Bittersweet" from this summer.

In the seasons of ‘people growing’ there is often a time of release.   Sometimes gentle and sometimes not-so-gentle.  I remember so many of these release-driven moments.  The first day your 4-year-old doesn’t have to ride in the cart while walking through Target.  Days where you sit and ponder the choice to let the 9-year-old go to the movie theater bathroom by himself, and bite your nails until he is safely in the seat beside you again.  Days where you wonder if you truly did completely screw up that 14-year-olds life, as he just told you you did.  Days where you don’t want to let her leave the house because you finally read that ‘sex-offenders in your area’ notice that came in the mail… two months ago.  Days where you have been up all night long with a sick or crying child and two need lessons and the big one needs shoes again and you just wonder when it is all going to stop… 


Well folks.  It is only a season.  I won’t go into the ‘embrace the chaos, it doesn’t last’ speeches, which many do in their moment of realization that childhood is really a short phase in life.  But it really is a short and tender season where emotions are higher than they ever will be again with that child and so often you just want to get off that bus at the next available stop. 

There is a stopping point for me.  For the first time, I have a child that is moved out of my home and onto an army base in Georgia.  In some ways, this has been a very sweet reprise in the long, hard road of parenting.  This particular kid has been a struggle for a while, as many teens are.  And through this choice, which was all his own, I have seen some of that beautiful man I always hoped and prayed would be inside this boy.  It didn’t work out as he intended.  The Army wasn’t for him and he learned that the hard way, and as I write this, he is finishing up his last two weeks before he is released back into the world, for the first time, without my home to cushion his fall.  I want to say I am positive he will be fine, but I just don’t know.

 I spent a lot of my time right now, between a rant and a prayer, hoping that God hears both. 
There are so many moments of quite release where I sit and tearfully wonder if I could have done anything different.  Anything that would have made his path easier.  Should I have spent more time with him, should I have pushed him harder, been more strict, more inclusive, more understanding?  Can he balance a checkbook?  Do his taxes?  Make himself a meal that doesn’t include cup-o-noodles?  Does he understand anything of the ‘real world’ and what does that phrase include these days anyway? 

I remember a morning, not long ago, where I woke up to an 8-year-old laying on the floor near my bed and my 4-year-old laying with his arm across my neck like a very heavy, sweaty scarf.  The two older kids were already up, one making  his own breakfast while texting some other poor soul that was conscious at 6:40am.  And the other out in the frosty morning, tending to the animals she spent years begging me to get.  I was struck by how gently fleeting it all is.  Time marches on.  Ready to pounce each time you take a break to watch the newest season of Downton Abbey in a week long Netflix-binge.  

And after a couple more Netflix-binge weeks and passing seasons; it will be the snuggly newly 4-year-old, who currently gets mad if you peel his banana wrong…
and that child…


he will be the next one going off in to the wide blue yonder to get his own life and balance his own checkbook and I will be wondering if he will be able to make his own meals without me.  



A sweet and tiny nest fell out of our huge fir tree a couple of weeks ago. It had no eggs in it, so I'm assuming the birds were fledged and gone. It was so perfect I brought it inside and set it on my shelf near my favorite books, which are placed in a rainbow by the color of their worn and elderly covers. Every time I look at the nest, I am reminded of my one who just ‘left the nest’.  I wonder if the nest I have built for him is sturdy enough to survive after he is gone. Will he be able to carry it with him into his new life and continue all the lessons I have set, painstakingly string by string wrapped around his young life? Will each piece be able to hold him until he doesn't need them anymore, setting them aside when he's truly ready to be done with them?

All I can do is hope.


I am not really sad that my children are growing up.

That’s kind of a lie.  It is SO bittersweet!

But I have enjoyed each and every phase of their lives and I am so glad I chose to stay home with them and live my life deliberately alongside them. 

I do often wonder that with all these moments we are making, do they see them the same as I do?  Will the oldest look back in 2 or 3 or 10 years and wonder why in the world I took him out of public school and what was I thinking with that whole ‘organic food thing’?  Will they ever really *get it*? Can they see that I chose this life, slowly and intentionally?  Because I love it. Because spending time with them fills me up as much as it wears me out.  Because in the end, my children are my very favorite people.

I want to be fully embedded in each season I am in.  I want to feel, and love, and watch with awe all of the amazing moments around me.  I am in a season of my family. Learning and loving and enjoying each other.  This will only be for a little while.  The moments with each of them are ticking away by the second.  A month goes by in a flash.  The days are long, but the years are fleeting.  And I wouldn’t want to miss this life for the world.

My favorite quote for parenting has always been from Robert Fulghum’s It was on fire when I lay down on it:  It is included in an essay called “Family Man”.  It is advice for his son who is having his first baby.  

“Don’t worry that your children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”  

I read this book my first year in college when the oldest was around a year old.  I was 18.  This one quote has truly stuck by me all of these years in between.  What a powerful sentiment.  That it isn’t what you say, but what you do that shapes your children.  I guess I will just have to trust that the things they see are something that they can build a life on.

Beet Spice Cake – The Healthy Version of Spice Cake!

This cake is the most light and fluffy cake I have ever made with beets.  I was trying to get a good recipe together for a ‘red velvet’ cake that included no dye and this was the result.  It wasn’t NEAR as red and I thought it was going to be!  It was so NOT red, that my family all thought it was a pumpkin spice cake until I told them what was in it.  Even the beet-hating husband enjoyed this one!
 
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It must have been the fact that this was the last of the beets?  Or the fact that I threw away quite a bit of the boiling water because I dripped peach jam (that I was making at the same time) into it and had to refill the pot to finish cooking the beets….  But for whatever reason, this cake doesn’t look like beet cake.  It doesn’t taste like beet cake.  But trust me, there are 3 cups of beets in this cake! 

Kitchen Reveal–DIY Light and Bright Kitchen Remodel

I love my new kitchen!!  This kitchen has magically transformed (over the past two years) into something that I look at from the doorway and I sigh.  My kitchen has always been overwhelming wood tones.  The walls were mustard yellow, the cabinets were deep oak, and the floor was wooden parquet flooring, and the appliances were dark chocolate brown of the 1960’s.   It was dark dark dark!
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So now lets show some before and afters… because I know everybody loves those.

After an oven fire one day, I pulled this stove (below) out to find charred wood and a space that no oven after 1970 would fit.  So instead of trying to fit a newer model into this same tiny space, I took a circular saw to the cabinets.  Definitely the ‘road less taken’ but in the end, the payoff was huge!  It did start a game of ‘If You Give a Mouse a Cookie’ proportions and lasted a full two years, but just check out the difference:

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{this moment}

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{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo (two this week) - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

{Inspired by SouleMama}

Preserving Food– 2015 so far….

Starting with the most recent and going back to July 12th, here are the preservation pictures for 2015

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Our larder as of August 28th, 2015.  (With links to recipes and tutorials as needed.)

First day of school interviews

Our first day of school interviews have quickly become one of my very favorite traditions.  Welcome to our table… have some tea and join in.

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Chocolate Chunk Beet Cake

This cake is dense like a brownie and it’s light sweetness and chocolaty flavor masks the beets and blends them in with no iron-ish aftertaste (my issue with eating beets).  It has become the only way my family will eat beets, so I have decided to embrace it.  Enjoy!

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{This moment}

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{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo (two this week) - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

{Inspired by SouleMama}

Roasted Tomato Sauce with a kick

This year was so hot….  Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but seriously…  this summer was SO hot!  And hot summers mean TOMATOES. 


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For the glory of determined people

I am one of those people.  I will find a way to do just about anything and I have no issue with doing some things twice or even three times before I get it right.  But dog-on-it, I will do anything I set my mind to.  So when I want to spend my time writing again now that life has calmed down, I am going to do it.  With my trusty sidekicks beside me.  Who are just as determined as I am.  Watch out world…  I spawned 4 of me. 

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See you soon, blogland.  I’ll be back.

Making of a pantry – DIY Kitchen Remodel phase 3

I really love food.  And in this love, I have always had a pantry.  Even when I had to build it myself.  This is the third phase of our DIY remodel and perhaps the most impressive…. because I built a room in my house!  It has been in for over a year now and we used it many times a day.  It is the best investment I have put into my kitchen so far. 

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Within weeks of moving in, I had built my pantry on the empty wall.  I actually do not have a true ‘before’ picture of this corner.  So this is the before:

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4 years later, I decided to turn this wall into some much needed storage space.  I took down the shelves I made and turned this corner into a pantry:

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It was a big adventure which took a weeks of planning and about 6 days of construction.  We got a puppy the day before I started building so I was pretty much on my own during this build as everyone else was in honeymoon ‘puppy’ and the puppy was sure this corner was just for him.  (He really was super cute…. )

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But 6 days later, we had this!
 
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In Dec of 2013, I paid a neighbor and friend with a woodshop to make me cabinets for the empty spaces.  This one, next to the pantry, has a garbage drawer beneath and a full sized cabinet above.

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We painted them white the next month and they blended right into the kitchen as if they had always been there!

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We asked a friend to help us cut and put in the butcherblock countertops.  It took him two whole days and I am SO grateful that he was willing to put that time in because I had NO idea what I was doing with that!

With the countertops and tile in, this whole space looks like it was always here, which, of course, the goal of any good remodel.  But to the DIY remodeler, having this type of success is a goal worthy of a whole post.  

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Man, does this little boy look like his sister…

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Now tell me, couldn’t these be the same kid?  Except that the second picture is a boy and it’s 10 years later.  lol!  But yep.  My little boy looks just like his sister!

Seasonal Focus – successful blog writing through the seasons

I sit here, this morning and I have lots of thoughts of success and passions running through my head.  There are 11 years worth of consistent blog posts on this blog address.  I have been posting here for most of my adult-ish life.  I have posts from when my, now teenage, children were babies! 

{October 2004 – a year after I started this blog}

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{June 2015}

So how do I turn this blog into something successful for my life?  Because it is a wealth of memories and tutorials and little tidbits of things that I want to share.  In my heart of hearts, I am a teacher.  It is who I am.  I teach about everything.  I used to post tutorials about things I had just done once before, because teaching is part of how I learn. 

What I do not want to do is sit at my computer until my eyeballs bleed.  I am not interested in spending hours here, nor do I want to ignore my children  to get my blogging done (which used to be done more than I wanted to admit).  There have been huge breaks in my consistent blogging in the past couple years because I found myself obsessed with getting the memories down on the blog instead of being IN THEM with my children.  So now I take pictures in the moment, and I blog later. And ‘later’ has more recently turned into ‘never’. 

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{Yes.  Those are carrots in my purse.  My kids are hilarious.} 

So how can I be successful and still be present and accounted for in my actual life?  The life off the page?  The one I am quickly learning goes by so very fast with fleeting years that stomp on me when I look at how much of my time I have dedicated to tasks that DON’T MATTER?

I have read, over and over, successful blogs where writers just up and quit one day because they are burnt out and realized that they were not spending time with their children as much as grasping at every good moment and then running to the computer to make sure it was documented on the blog.  I do not want to do that.  So I have been studying long term bloggers to see what they do.  Here are a few things I have learned:

They repost.  They will take a recipe, or craft, or whatever, and they will repost it in an appropriate season so that they have ‘new’ material on the blog but only took 15 minutes to write up.

They roundup.  They will gather 5 or 6 posts that are relevant to a season of blogging and have that post be their newest material.

They post pictures and very little words.  A picture says a thousand words…. but only takes a moment to take a picture and to write a thousand words would take SO MANY MORE MOMENTS.  So they are smart, and take pictures.  They write a paragraph and then post that paragraph with 7 pictures. 

When they have time, they do new posts, new recipes, new tutorials…  but those other posts are what is usually on the first page of their blogs.  I am not sure if that is the best way to go or if it is the best way to save your sanity.  But at some point, the blog has to work for you and your family as much as you are working for the blog.  I don’t have the following I did 4 years ago before the magnitude of this life hit me and I took so many breaks from recording every craft we ever did, and I am not sure I will get that type of following back, now that I am on page 3 of the Google search.  But I am going to try to buff and polish this blog and get her running again.  Because I did enjoy it and I do miss it.  It’s a part of me I am not willing to lose, but ‘collecting the moments’ has to come after ‘living the moments’ in my life and I am getting ready to make that happen.

Super Simple Cherry Pie Filling

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Another year, another cherry season!  Cherries are almost done now, so it is time to put up cherry pie filling!  This is the recipe I used last year and it was delicious! 

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Nature Notebook for Summer Time

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Here are a few samples from my Nature Notebook from our summer trips.  This summer has been full of travel so far.  Lots of car rides, sleeping in strange beds, hikes on the beach, hikes in the woods, a little bit of camping, a few food factory tours, lots of amazing animals to watch, and lots of wonderful family time.

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We came home to a flourishing garden each time.  This very hot and dry weather has been pushing the timeline of the garden up by at least 3 weeks.  My peas and strawberries are done, my beans, zucchini, cucumbers, and tomatoes are starting.  And it isn’t even the 4th of July.  I have been trying to capture the bounty in my pantry and in my notebook:

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I am excited that my skills are improving from my first nature notebook.  I do use better supplies now because I have learned that they are really helpful… but most of all, I just didn’t stop drawing when I felt like I wasn’t getting it right.  Even if I have to cut out and paste (as I did on this last picture with my cauliflower because cauliflower is HARD to draw!).  I have many people talk about how I am ‘talented’ and I always appriciate the compliment, but in truth, I started no more talented than anyone else.  I just didn’t allow my lack of natural talent to stop me. I kept drawing.  I am proud of my drawing improvements as I would be of toned arm muscles after working out for a year.  I worked for them! 

I really hope that this will inspire other, equally talent-lacking folks, to tackle the art of drawing nature.  Nature is too beautiful not to study and capture!

© Collecting the Moments

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