Monday, July 21, 2014

The Sinner's Guide to Natural Family Planning


Last summer Mark, knowing that I enjoy this sort of thing, suggested that I check out the blog of this woman living in Maine who had nine kids. He said that she was a good writer and that I would really like her blog. I was a bit skeptical, but I gave it a chance. And I was glad I did. The blogger's name is Simcha Fisher, and she is HILARIOUS. I do not agree with everything she writes, but when she is on, she is ON!

And now she has written a book: The Sinner's Guide to Natural Family Planning. I first heard about this last fall, and Mark and I pre-ordered a copy as our mutual Christmas present. However, we both got a bit backlogged in our reading, and we haven't read it....yet. So now I am thinking that I would read it and share my thoughts on it with you. Because even if you don't use NFP, or even agree with its principles, I am certain there will be some nugget of wisdom for you to take away. So, again, if you have the chance, check it out-- and maybe read it along with me. At the very least, click on the Amazon link below and see what it's all about!

http://www.amazon.com/Sinners-Guide-Natural-Family-Planning/dp/1612787878/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1405991177&sr=8-1&keywords=the+sinners+guide+to+natural+family+planning

Happy Reading!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Family Systems Part 1: In which I realize a problem and an overview

 
 
 

I read in a book on home management that all families have systems. Some are beneficial, such as a system for dealing with dirty dishes immediately. Some are not, such as a system that leaves the dishes for days on end until there are no more clean dishes and someone just does them all. But beneficial or not, they are both systems.

I came to the realization while back that our family systems were not working. We seemed to be perpetually existing in survival mode. We seemed to bob along, doing the minimum necessary to keep our heads above water. Don't get me wrong-- we never starved, we always had clean clothes when we needed them, and no health codes were ever violated. But we ate meals out far too often, the laundry never seemed to be caught up, and we spent far too many frustrating moments trying to find things (the remote, a needed book or papers, a pen). Between nursing school, an active three year old, and a feeling of general exhaustion once the weekends came around, our systems were most definitely no longer beneficial, or even working anymore (if they ever were).

So in the past few months I have been working reforming our family systems, on finding ways to make our systems run better, function more smoothly. I have read (and am still hunting for tips) what has worked for others through reading blogs and books on homemaking, pulling out ideas and suggestions that I think will work for us or that appeal to me. In my research, I tried to follow three simple rules.

1. It has to be simple. I have this tendency to try to make my systems, any system from organizing to budgeting, overly complicated. Very detailed, meticulous plans appeal to me, and I love to create them. The problem is that complicated plans/systems also require time and energy to put into practice, and time and especially energy are two things that I am frequently lacking, and so the systems are never followed. Therefor, I have tried to follow the KISS rule (Keep It Simple, Stupid).

2. It cannot require a huge investment of resources. Time, money, and space are all in short supply around here, and I simply cannot afford a system or an idea that requires a great deal of any of them. Of course I could have the perfect system if I had a huge house and unlimited time and money. But I don't, and our family systems have to work for where our family is right now. So any organizing scheme that started off with purchasing huge amounts of materials or rearranging my entire home I passed on by. Simple, inexpensive (even cheap), and easy to do.

3. It had to be three year old compatible. As of right now, I only have one child, and she is three. As such, she is of limited help in the running of our home. I have seen a lot of systems that have Mom delegate a large portion of the work to her children. These systems simply will not work for us, not right now. (Side Note: I did make notes of these ideas, as they might prove helpful later on down the road)

I won't pretend that I have all the answers now, for I certainly do not. I am still very much in research mode, trying to devise new systems and change old habits. It hasn't been easy, as old habits certainly die very hard.

 Perhaps hardest of all is that this whole process has forced me to take a hard look at myself, and face some personal habits and behaviors that were unhealthy, not beneficial, and just down right selfish. This has been uncomfortable, and even down right painful at times. But then, denying one's self and picking up one's cross is always painful. But that is a topic for a later post!

So while I have far, far to go in my re-education as a keeper of our home, I have learned some things, and in subsequent posts hope to share what I am learning with you. As always, I would love any advice you, my dear readers, might have. What systems have you found to be effective in this season of life, whatever it might be? What systems once worked for you but had to change as your circumstances changed? Any advice for one who truly is just starting on this road?

Source for image: http://vintageimagesfree.blogspot.com/

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Back from hiatus, a funny story, and one silly girl

I have returned! I did not intend to take a hiatus from the blog, but as it turned out, General Chemistry II in six weeks plus my home duties was about the most I could handle and stay sane. This blog got shuffled off to the side. However, my class is finished (with a very acceptable-to-me B+), I have had oh so many great ideas for posts, and am excited to be back!

************

A Funny Story:

WARNING: This story involved an exploding diaper, so skip if that sort of thing grosses you out!

 
Lorelai in her car seat at about the time this story takes place
 

 In July of 2011, when Lorelai was 10 months old, we drove out to North Carolina for a family get-together with my mom's family. We drove straight there, had a wonderful time, and when we left, we drove with my mom back to her home. This story takes place while we were in transit to my mom's.
 
Mark was driving, I was in the front passenger seat, and mom was in the back seat with Lorelai.
 
It was mid-afternoon, and we had been stuck in horrendous traffic practically from the moment we had crossed into Virginia, and the closer we crawled towards Washington, the worse it was getting. About an hour south of D.C., my mom suddenly said "Uh Oh!" I turned around and looked at her, fearing the worst. And it was so much worse than I could imagine. Lorelai had pooped, it had escaped her diaper, she was playing with it, and IT WAS EVERY WHERE!
 
Here we were, stuck in bumper to bumper traffic, who knows how far from a safe place to pull over, and my daughter was happily smearing poop all over herself, her car seat, and the back of the car, and my poor mother was desperately trying to keep it contained.
 
Blessedly, at that exact moment, Mark noticed a sign for a rest stop-- that was blessedly open. We pulled off, and Mom and I carried the poop covered girl into the ladies room as soon as the car came to a complete stop.
 
It wasn't the filthiest public restroom I have ever been in. But it was probably in the top 5, certainly in the top 10! It had a diaper changing table-- right in front of the narrow entrance. That way not only did everyone get a good eyeful, but anyone entering and exiting (and there were a LOT of people coming into and out of that restroom) had to squeeze past the two ladies desperately trying to clean off the 10 month old. Who screamed her head off the entire time and did her very best to NOT co-operate! And our reward for cleaning the kid off and into clean clothes? We then had to figure out how to clean off her car seat and the car enough so that she could ride in it for the next three hours of our trip!
 
(For those curious, poor Mark was waiting outside, listening to her scream and feeling terrible that he couldn't help!)
 
**************
 
One Silly Girl:
 
Tonight, as I was typing the story above in fact, I looked over to where Lorelai was sitting watching a DreamWorks animated movie about Joseph and his brothers (by the same people that made Prince of Egypt), and this is what I saw:
 
 
That is one silly girl!
 
 
This was shared as part of a Link-up at Splendor in the Home blog, Visit http://ourordinarylifeextraordinary.blogspot.com/ for other funny stories of diapers that got away, and possibly share your own!



Sunday, May 11, 2014

Homemade Pudding


Recently I have become very interested in increasing the amount of food cooked from scratch that we eat as a family. There are many reasons for this, reasons that I hope to explore with you in later posts, but two of the biggest are, of course, cost and health. Foods cooked at home from scratch are often cheaper than their store bought siblings, and since you can control the ingredients going in, and don't have to worry about shelf life and other such things, they are far better for you and your family. And they are so much tastier!

Part of learning to cook most of our meals from scratch has involved new thinking patterns, and yesterday was a great example.

Yesterday afternoon I was struck by a craving for something cool and creamy and sweet. Mother's Day brunch had already eaten up (no pun intended) our weekly Restaurant allowance, and I had already done the week's shopping, so ice cream (my first choice) was off the list. Then I thought of pudding, chocolate pudding in particular. Having no pudding or pudding mix in the cupboards, I was tempted to dismiss it too as a possibility. But then it occurred to me that I should try to make pudding from scratch. A quick internet search found a recipe that looked promising, using ingredients I already had, and I gave it a whirl. And the result? Well, let me just say that I am never, ever going back to pudding from a box again! Try the recipe below and see if you agree!

Homemade Chocolate Pudding
 
Servings: 3-4 (depending on bowl size)
 
2 tablespoon corn starch (or a bit less)
4 tablespoons sugar
4 cups milk
2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla
 
Stirring the Milk, Cornstarch, and Sugar Until Boiling
 
1. Mix cornstarch and sugar in sauce pan, blending well. Slowly add milk, stirring well as you go. Heat on medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is at a boil. Heat and stir 1-2 minutes more, or until thickened.  (Note: I actually only went 20-30 sec more after it started to boil)
 

Mixing in the Chocolate Chips until melted

2.Add chocolate chips, stirring until completely melted. Remove from heat. Add vanilla, stir. Pour into serving bowls. Serve warm or cool.
 
Yummy Pudding!
 

Note: It is best to add the milk a little bit at a time, and to stir really well, to prevent the cornstarch from clumping. This recipe is actually double the original, and it doubled nicely. It does take a while for the mixture to heat to boiling, so bring a book, music, or a partner to help.
 
And that's all there is to it. It was a huge hit for dessert with the big people and the little person alike. Enjoy!
 



Monday, May 5, 2014

Vintage Goodies

 
 
 A few years ago I was introduced to the joy that is the vintage educational film. Thanks to YouTube and the Prelinger Archives many of these little gems are available for our viewing enjoyment. Most of these are from the post-war era of the late 1940's through the 1950's, and generally they were made for junior and senior high school home Ec. classes. And they are lovely. The vintage clothes and d├ęcor alone make them worth watching, but I have actually found a fair amount of wisdom in the earnest, old-fashioned advice given in these films. And so I thought I would occasionally share one or two of the best that I've found with you. Enjoy!
 
Today I thought I'd share three of my absolute favorites:
 
This first just might be my very most favorite of them all. It is a short video from the late 1940's on good grooming habits, full of great advice from a far more fastidious age.
(Click title if video won't play)


 
 
The second is a nice overview of some basic cooking terms-- some of them so "basic" that I didn't know what they meant exactly until a few years ago!
(Click title if video won't play)

 
 
The third film is a preview of sorts of the topic of my next post, so stay tuned.... (and check out the patronizing narrator!)
 (Click the title if video won't play) 
 


Monday, April 28, 2014

The Summer of Unfinished Projects



I am the worst type of crafter. I never finish projects. Never.

Oh, I begin with grand ideas and good plans, but somehow I never seem to finish. My projects usually begin in much the same way:

Step 1: I am inspired. Whether from a fellow blogger's beautiful project, or from something I spy at a craft store, or from my own imagination, I become inspired by an idea.

Step 2: Plan the project. I then spend countless hours working out in my mind just how I am going to do the project, what I want it to look like when it is done, and what materials I'll need to finish it. This might take a little thought, as with a stamped embroidery piece, or a lot, as with an embroidered piece begun from scratch. Regardless of the complexity of the project, I will spend hours obsessing over the details.

Step 3: Purchase the materials. And try to minimize the inevitable guilt at the bigger-than-I-expected final cost with the thought that this project I WILL finish, and it will look SO BEAUTIFUL when it's done.

Step 4: Dive right in. Spend all my waking hours working on this, to the exclusion of my house, my schoolwork, my kiddo (as much as she lets me), my husband. And when I am not working on the project, then I am thinking about the project.

Step 5: Something gets in the way. I might become frustrated because it isn't turning out as nice as I wanted (this is especially true in the case of a gift I am trying to make for someone else-- my standards are ridiculously close to perfectionist). Or I get bored. Or life gets in the way. For what ever reason, I "temporarily" stop working on the project. And somehow never get around to it again.

Step 6: Repeat.

But not this summer. This summer I am bound and determined that I will finish at least five unfinished projects, and start and finish a project I planned years ago but never got around to beginning. This summer will be different.

Here are the selected projects, as modeled by our kitty, Ricky (forgive the poor lighting, it was evening when I took these):


Here Ricky is helping to show the first UFP I will complete, which is also the one I am the most ashamed of having never finished. It was intended to be a gift for my mother, and I started it in Summer 2001-- 13 years ago!
 
 The project itself is a bread cover w/ a Delft Blue Heart pattern worked in cross-stitch in each corner. The corner showing is the only corner I've completed. My goal is to have this done by my mom's birthday in July.

This next project is second because it is my second oldest UFP. It is a pair of embroidered pillowcases w/ pink and yellow flowers. I started this as an engaged woman in Spring 2009.

 
 This is also the project that I am the closest to completing. All I have left, as you can see below, are three small flowers and the stem and leaf work on half of one pillowcase. An afternoon's worth of work. There is so little left to be done that I might finish this one first, just for the confidence booster of successfully completing a project. I'd like to have this done by my birthday next month.

 
The third project on my list is another pair of pillowcases. These are ones that I drafted did from scratch, using purchased pillowcases and an iron on embroidery pattern. The pattern is of flowers in vases repeated three times, with the flowers in deep red and the leaves in green.  This one is a bit more work than the first two. I have to finish the flowers and stems on one pillowcase, and then do the vases and ribbons underneath the vases on each. Originally intended as a wedding present for my cousin, my goal is to finish it in time to be a present for their second wedding anniversary in August.


 
 Some what seen at the top of the above photo, and in better detail below is my fourth unfinished project. Although my most recently begun, I started this a month ago, it requires the least amount of work of the three least finished projects. It is a pre-stamped pair of monogramed pillowcases with cross-stitch letter and flowers. I have the "O" and half of the flowers completed on the first pillowcase, and everything to do on the second. I have no real time goal for this one beyond the general goal of finishing everything by September 1.


The next two projects are low on my priority list simply based on the sheer amount of work I have left to accomplish. Below is a dresser scarf I started as an intended compliment piece to the first set of pillowcases. This is the only project thus far that I have done completely from scratch-- I measure, cut, and sewed the fabric, and then traced the pattern from a book. It is meant to have lattice work with a flower border at each corner and a single flower on each side in the middle. Thus far I have traced the pattern on one corner, and done the lattice work on that corner. I still have to trace the pattern on the other three and the middle flowers, and then embroider everything. On top of that, I'd like to add ribbon and lace to the edge, but that's a decision I can save for later.


Finally, here is my yet to be begun project. It is meant to be a pair of pillowcases with blue and yellow daisies embroidered on it. 

 
 
My goal is that by the end of the summer all of these projects will be completed.
For those who craft, what are your tricks for completing projects? I need all the help I can get!



Sunday, April 13, 2014

Renewing my blog....

I was gone a long time.....

When I wrote my last post, my daughter looked like this:


 
 And now she looks more like this:

(Actually, this is from last summer-- she's even bigger now)
 
 
Then, I was at stay at home, brand new mom wondering what the future was going to be. Now I am a nursing student (although I am on semi-hiatus at the moment), the (somewhat) more experienced mom of an active three year old, and still wondering what the future will hold. So, I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same....
 
 
My plans for this renewed attempt at blogging are many and diverse. I have some bubbling thoughts on future posts (maybe even series) on society, crafting, home and all the wonderful bits in between. My goal is to, at first, attempt to post once a week, twice at the most, but that is likely to vary greatly (especially with a six week General Chemistry II course staring me in the face at the beginning of the summer-- gulp!), so we'll see.
 
 
So, for now, it is great to be back, great to have you stop by, and please, do so again soon!