December 27, 2016

THM Menu... Getting back on track

A little nibble won't hurt.  I'm worth getting a treat every now and then.  I'm on vacation.  I'm stressed.  I'm tired.  I was really active today.  It's Christmas.

These are just a few of the things that I've either said or thought over the last 4-6 months, and have contributed to me sliding ever-so-quietly off THM, or Trim Healthy Mama.
Yes, I'm a die hard THM fan for life.  Yes, I'm still an admin in the groups and know the plan quite well.  Yes, I know what works for me and what my body needs.

BUT... as I've always said... sometimes losing and maintaining weight has more to do with what's in your head and the constant emotional pull that food has on us.  This time of year, it is so much easier to justify that bite because it is tradition or a memory that holds meaning for us, but bite after bite adds up.  The stress and busyness of the season change our hormones and it is all an endless cycle that leads to weight gain, bloat and generally feeling bad.

I've been on THM for 4 years and have never really had issues with this until this year.  I was a couple pounds up for my Trimaversary, pictured here, but it really spiralled in the last several weeks. Life has been busy and  I've allowed stress to rule and if I can go 1 day fully on THM, then it has been a miracle but also seems the reason to eat horribly the next day it seems.

So for confession.... I'm actually up about 10 pounds as of today.  Much of it is bloat and inflammation from eating poorly.  My photos don't look like I've gained much, but I can feel the bloat in my face and belly and can feel the spiral of gain growing.

I've taken time to evaluate why I'm making these choices and working on solutions.

I need a plan, and in addition to THM, I have also fallen off the consistent exercise wagon as well.  I've got that going, but I also realize that food is so much more important than exercise.  What we choose to fuel our lives is always the key.  So here's my menu for the week.
I tend to make family meals based off of what is in my freezer or on sale at the local grocery.  This week was chicken breast meat so it will have a heavy presence here.  I'd call this No Special Ingredients, but I find that is a very subjective term.
My family eats what I cook, but as I have 3 skinny, active kids who need to gain, I round their meals out with healthy crossover choices.

Links to recipes are either my recipes or will be from the THM books or membership site.   If you don't have the books or are wanting to try out some official recipes go HERE.
Not all meals will have non-starchies, but this is and should always be a goal.  I'm trying to keep it real here, and I find that eating at the cafeteria at work is limiting for veggies or berries for breakfast.
I will also add that there is no rhyme or reason as to the meal combinations.  I go with what I think will be a healthy daily menu based on what I have on hand.  Planning a menu in advance helps me to see if I'm having too many of one fuel type and helps me to know to switch it out and change my fuels.

I enjoy the GGMS (sipper) throughout the day with water.

B- Cheese eggs with Bacon (S)
L- Broccoli Chicken Casserole (S) Membership site recipe
S- Fat Stripping Frappa, Original book
D- Cabb and Saus (S)  Membership site recipe, Cookbook

B- Creamy Quinoa (S-helper) Original book
L-  Salad with poached salmon (S) Original book
S- DeToxifying Smoothie (FP)
D-  Chicken curry with brown rice (E)

B- Oatmeal (E) Original book
L- Avo Bacon Noodle Toss (S)
S- Cheesecake berry Crunch (S)
D- Pearl's Wicked White Chili (E) Cookbook

B-  Cheese Eggs and Bacon (S)
L-  Confetti Quinoa (E) Made with chicken breast meat, not turkey this week!
S- Pink Smoothie (E)
D-  Salmon patties with sauteed cabbage (S) Original book for crabby/salmon patties.  I use my old recipe from pre-thm and sub ground rolled oats for flour.

B-  All flax version of Muffin in a Mug (S)
L-  Loaded Fotato Soup (FP)
S-  Cottage Berry Whip (FP)
D- Pepperoni Spaghetti Squash (S)

B-  Trim Healthy Pancakes (E)
L-  Cheesy Burger Soup (S)
S-  Festive Pink Smoothie (FP)
D- Balsamic Chicken with quinoa (E) Cookbook

B-  Hash and Eggs (S)  Membership site recipe
L-  Pimento Cheese on ezekiel bread with side of broccoli salad (S-helper)
S-  Pineapple upside down cake  (E)
D-  Mediterranean Chicken Stew with a side spinach salad (S)

I'm all about making things simple.  This is my personal menu and plan for the week.  Sometimes there might be unanticipated left-overs that I will sub for another meal the next day, but I try to not plan on them so that there is a larger variety of food.
I've tried to include recipes, both official and my own, that are available for free.  THM is a very accessible plan and Pearl and Serene have offered so many recipes for free.  So just imagine how many gems are in their books as well as the membership site!
I get nothing monetary from sharing any of this.  I just believe in sharing a good thing, especially if it promotes health and well-being!

Fake Curry of Life

Sometimes I wonder how I get thru life.  I mainly blog because I can't keep up with things, especially recipes.
One of our favorites is a chicken curry that I thought was posted here.  Turns out I was wrong.

The anime show Naruto is a staple at our house and this recipe came about at the same time we were in the "Curry of Life" arc.  While this isn't one of the best story lines, we made the best of it by creating our own curry of life that is obviously a fake curry as I am neither a native or expert in my curry preparation.  This recipe is made from ground spices, not whole, traditionally roasted ones so it is easy for western kitchens.
I do know what we enjoy though, and this curry is one that is pretty easy to prepare and is absolutely delicious.
It is actually a FP on THM, but I add rice to make it E.  Also google and read up on how great turmeric and black pepper are for inflammation!  It's not just tasty, but so good for you!
And as always, feel free to alter and adjust the seasonings per your taste.  These are all simply suggestions and the general direction I tend to go.

Fake Curry of Life
Serves 6-8

2 tsp coconut oil
2 pounds chicken breast meat cut into cubes
5 cups, or 3-4 zucchini cut into small cubes
1 onion, diced
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 tsp turmeric, ground
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
14 oz crushed or diced tomatoes
1/3 cup fat free plain Greek yogurt (optional)

In a large frying pan, cook chicken in oil till cooked thru over med-high heat.  A little brown is good.
Add the dry spices and cook for a couple of minutes.
Add the tomatoes and stir to combine and make a fabulous sauce.  You may also add a little chicken stock if you like.  This bumps up the nutrition a little.
Add the onions and zucchini.  Stir well and simmer for 20-30 minutes till cooked.  You can leave it on low heat for a while and let the flavors develop.
Stir the yogurt in before serving.
Serve alone as a FP or over brown basmati rice or chana dal for an E.

August 26, 2016

Mediterranean Chicken Stew

I realized recently that I've been living on Trim, Healthy Mama for almost 4 years with 3 years at goal.  I have always said that this isn't a diet, but a lifestyle because I'm living and not going without.
After all, it's hard to feel deprived when you are eating rich, real foods.

This stew reminds me of a puttanesca but is without the capers or pasta.  You could add capers or use dreamfields or Not Naughty Noodles if you wanted a pasta option as well.  It is quick and delicious and can be made from things at your local store.  I enjoy this style of food year-round, but as with any stew, fall and winter are ideal times.
Serve as part of a meal or as a stand alone.  With THM an added salad is always great, but this dish contains non-starchies and can be stand-alone.  It's great fresh, but also tasty warmed up the next day.

Mediterranean Chicken Stew-S

Serves 4-6
1-1/2 pounds of chicken thighs, boneless and skinless, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 T coconut oil
1-2 T balsamic vinegar
1 red onion, sliced
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp Italian seasoning
14 oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 pound bag of frozen cauliflower, defrosted
3-4 oz Kalamata olives, pitted, sliced in half
Feta cheese

Brown the chicken in the olive oil for a few minutes till cooked through.
Add the balsamic vinegar and sliced onion; cook for 2-3 minutes.
Add garlic powder and Italian seasoning.
Add crushed tomatoes; stir for a few minutes to heat through.
Add cauliflower.  Allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Add kalamata olives and continue simmer for another 5 minutes.
When ready to serve, sprinkle, if desired, with Feta cheese

I like to add the Feta just before eating so that it stays cool.

This S meal goes great with a Greek salad topped with the Grand Greek Dressing (S) on page 475 from the Trim, Healthy Mama Cookbook.

July 27, 2016

Soothing Shea Lotion

I've never made a lotion or body butter before.  I tend to like proven products and certain scents, but this year has been tough on my aging skin.
I have been more active and in the sun so much this summer, more than in the past years.
When I got a jar of unrefined shea butter, I kept finding myself using it on my hands, but thought it would be fun to make something new.

This is my attempt at a body butter, but it is actually came out as more of a lotion.  It has a very rich and luscious feel that nourishes the skin.

First I made an infused oil.  I used an organic sunflower oil as my carrier and added dried calendula, chamomile and lavender to it.
Sunflower oil has hydrophilic properties and helps skin to stay hydrated.  It is rapidly absorbed on the skin and studies have found it to have anti-inflammatory and anti-aging characteristics.
Calendula has been used extensively for healing in skin trauma and wounds.  Chamomile is very soothing to the skin while lavender promotes healthy circulation.

I weigh my oils, so to make sure I had enough, I measured out a bit more of the sunflower oil than I needed and put it in a glass bowl.  Then I added some of the dried flowers.
I allowed it to steep over heat for a few hours and then strained out the herbs.
To see an example of an infused oil, check out my salve post (just don't add the beeswax).

After allowing the sunflower oil to cool a few hours, I added it to my unrefined shea butter.  Shea butter is great for rough skin and contains Vitamins A and E.
It does have a slightly nutty scent, but it isn't unpleasant.

I added some arrowroot powder and bentonite clay as well  along with a few drops of lavender essential oil.  The essential oil is part preservative while also have therapeutic values as well due to it being a plant based product and not just a scent.

Using a hand mixer, the oils and butter were carefully blended and whipped together until light and fluffy.  I tried to be careful not to overheat or overblend so I'd take breaks occasionally and check the texture.

This made about 1 cup of lotion.  I am choosing to store it in a glass container.
My skin is thanking me!

Soothing Shea Lotion
100g of unrefined Shea butter
25 g Sunflower oil infused with calendula, chamomile, and lavender
1.25 tsp arrowroot powder
1/4 tsp bentonite clay
10 drops of lavender essential oil

June 21, 2016

The Lady Skater Dress

I wrote a few weeks ago about my first experience sewing knits.  I had a great comment from the momma that pointed me in the direction of Kitschy Coo's Lady Skater Dress.
And that was when I realized I had found the perfect dress.

Hands down, this is a wonderfully written pattern that is so easy to follow, versatile and flattering while being so very comfortable.

I thought I would have a hard time using an online pattern, but the parts that needed to be printed were perfectly done, and the online directions were thorough and simple to understand.  There were also a ton of photos and visuals and that helped me so much.
The pattern gives you all kinds of tips and explanations that taught me about how to use and work with knits.

Making a muslin is recommended.  The thing, that in my ignorance, I didn't realize was that a muslin doesn't have to be muslin, but is a first draft of a dress.  Don't use actual muslin, especially when it is a knit pattern (please don't ask for photos or any other explanation).

Next I learned that all stitches are not equal... there are different knit stitches on my machines and some of them worked better than others.
The pattern discusses all of this, but I still found it helpful to see how the different stitches worked with each fabric.  Ironing also made a huge difference as well.
I found that my first thoughts weren't the best and I played around with the different stitches in different places.  I found that the 'triple' stitch worked well for most seams while a narrow zigzag was great for the hem (green dress).  The 'lightening bolt' stitch seemed to pucker more and didn't seem as strong (I used it in the purple dress)

I had a hard time finding knits I liked at the store, so I actually ordered some online from  I was wary of ordering online, but was pleased at the options.
The ones I chose are 95% cotton with 5% lycra for stretch.
I was concerned they were too thin when they initially arrived as they are like a good t-shirt fabric, but they worked perfectly.
The pattern specifies fabrics, and using the categories to select fabric type and content along with stretch was very helpful in figuring out what would work for this dress.

Also remember to not get overly excited by new fabric,and make sure to wash it before sewing. Yes.  fabric will shrink.  Especially cottons.  And when you cut a dress per the pattern and are taller than average at 5'8", chances are it could end up being a tad short.
I found this out when I excitedly completed the purple dress, tried it on and it fit well then I realized I had a deer in the headlights moment... I hadn't washed the fabric.  It's short, but my husband calls it cute, so I'm just going with it.
I will also add that since losing weight I still have issues with wanting to make things larger than I probably need.  I cut both dresses a size or 2 larger than what I measured, but the purple shrunk and is a better fit than the green for this reason.  The green does have some extra fabric and 'bunching' under the arms which would have been eliminated if I had made it the correct size to begin with.

I'm definitely still learning, but this dress is very quick and seems like it will be a good addition to my wardrobe.
My daughter has also requested a couple of these as they are just easy to wear.
I'm also looking at making some with the longer and 3/4 length sleeve variations included in the pattern as well.  It is just warm where I live and short sleeves are practical for a good 6-9 months, or so, of the year.

And since I realized I never seem to smile in photos, I tried to get some where I am more 'me'.  I'm not photogenic as I seem to always be moving, but that's just me on a windy summer day in Georgia, and yes, I keep my piano on my front porch.

June 20, 2016

Sewing: Legend of Zelda, but Subtle?

My kids are Zelda fanatics.  I really don't get the whole video game appeal, but then, I'm old and my brain has never liked moving at the speed of nintendo.
My kids love wearing boxy, game t-shirts.  Personally, I never went through this phase in life and don't really get that either actually.

We were at the fabric store one day when we came upon a couple of gems.....  Legend of Zelda prints.

I immediately saw a cute fabric shell in my mind for the black, and thought a sundress would be great for the tan.  Both kind of unexpected, the subtle and grown-up versions of a game t-shirt.

The top is a Burda pattern 7051.  It was my first time sewing from this brand, but I was impressed at the bulletpoint presentation.  It was clearly written and was a very quick project.
There are a couple of neckline and fit options.

The dress is pattern S0742 from Simplicity from their Project Runway inspired superhero collection (???).
I'm not big on taking a ton of words to say something simple. There are a ton of directions and an 'inspiration' sheet included.  I think they just want you to feel like a designer for being able to pick which top option you wanted to go with the skirt.
The directions were actually really clear and the multiple drawings provided were great as I'm very visual (and I don't know that I've ever sewn a wearable dress for an adult before?) and the techniques were along the beginner level.  That said, I did change some things to make it work better for me.  I also thought the skirt darts were weird and too structured so I changed them as well.

I'm still working on solving fit issues and the hardest thing is understanding how our figures are all so diffferent and what works best for different builds.  This could have been tailored better, but I'm still learning how to get the best fit before I'm finished.

June 13, 2016

Reading: Gold, Silver and Mirth.

“It seemed funny to me that the sunset she saw from her patio and the one I saw from the back steps was the same one. Maybe the two different worlds we lived in weren't so different. We saw the same sunset.” 

I was in middle school when movie The Outsiders came out in theaters.  The teen-hype filled magazines and posters led me to the belief that this was a shallow story full of predictable angst.   It was many years later before I finally got over myself, and gave it a chance.

It has been decades since I saw the movie, but had always heard that the books by S.E. Hinton far surpassed the movies made..

“They grew up on the outside of society. They weren't looking for a fight. They were looking to belong.” 

This book is my pick for the book I "should've read in school" category of the MMD 2016 challenge.  This book is a simple and beautiful telling of growing up when it isn't easy.  It's about not fitting in and friendship. 

The Outsiders allows us to see a glimpse of a life that has layers.  It shows us the hopes and dreams that are in each of us.  This wonderfully written story makes us feel that pain that comes with not fitting in and feeling limited by nothing more than who we are.

I admit that I love YA reading.  I love the emotion and tone.  I love that there is usually one overwhelming issue.

This book reminded me of the 16 year old that is inside each of us.  It reminded me that I still need to remember who I am on the inside and remember to appreciate all that is in my life.  That I need to see the uniqueness and beauty in each day.
I picked up the audio download from the library site and listened while I sat and sewed one afternoon.  The audio was well done and really brought this story to life.  I also bought a copy for my kids to have for 'required reading' this summer as well.

“I've been thinking about it, and that poem, that guy that wrote it, he meant you're gold when you're a kid, like green. When you're a kid everything's new, dawn. It's just when you get used to everything that it's day. Like the way you dig sunsets, Pony. That's gold. Keep that way, it's a good way to be.” 

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton.

"She was realizing for the first time that a woman's dignity may cost more to keep up than her carriage; and that the maintenance of a moral attribute should be dependent on dollars and cents, made the world appear a more sordid place than she had conceived it."

I really, really wanted to like this book, but it turns out that it is in the running for "a book I hate" status.  I selected this book to read after hearing it as a favorite on the MMD podcast.  I was expecting a classic filled with social intrigue, witty writing and a commentary on the time.

What I found was sadly, pathetic characters with a writing style that I'd call uninteresting.  I did not find any of the beautiful prose I was expecting in this story.  There were details upon details, and just so many words that seemed to have no point.

"Miss Farish could see no hope for her friend but in a life completely reorganized and detached from its old associations; whereas all Lily's energies were centered in the determined effort to hold fast to those associations, to keep herself visibly identified with them, as long as the illusion could be maintained."

I thought about giving up, but kept hoping it would become better.  The writing and tone did seem to change in the last 10% of the book and the characters finally seemed to develop, but it was too late for me.
I do admit that I appreciate getting to the point, and maybe that's why I enjoyed the style of the ending a bit more.  It was more to the point and quit going on about all the meaningless details.

This story takes place in the 1890s in New York society.  It follows a poor, but well-born lady who continues to make foolish choices in life time after time.  She is abandoned by society and must start to work, but realizes she lacks any real skill or knowledge.  It goes down from there.

The flat, one-sided characters didn't lead me to empathizing with them as their shallowness was so overwhelming.

It has been years since I read Gone with the Wind, and this reminds me somewhat of House of Mirth.  GWTW is not one of my more favorite books actually, and they may strip me of my "Native Atlantan" banner for saying that, but the story is long, overly-detailed with an unsympathetic heroine.  I think the difference between the books is that Mirth gives you someone who feels defeated, while Scarlett never gives up.  The characters are in similar circumstances, but their temperments lead them to handle things differently, and the passivity in Mirth really bothered me.

I realize that I come from a different time and sensibility, but I think I just have a hard time with understanding this mindset and culture. The book didn't draw me in, but seemed to shut me out.

“I have tried hard - but life is difficult, and I am a very useless person. I can hardly be said to have an independent existence. I was just a screw or a cog in the great machine called life, and when I dropped out of it I found I was no use anywhere else. What can one do when one finds out that one only fits into one hole? One must go back to it or be thrown out into the rubbish heap - and you don't know what it's like in the rubbish heap!

After this book I needed something to get the taste out of my head.
I had The Silver Lining Playbook on my Kindle and decided to read it.  I had never seen the movie and had no idea what the plot involved.
I hate giving a book synopsis as you can find them everywhere, and I'm more interested in the why behind someone did, or did not, enjoy a book... and I'm also always worried I'll give more away than I should.
This book was a great read.  While it was as long as Mirth, it only took about 3 days to read compared to the 3 weeks of toiling away I spent with Edith Wharton.   

"If clouds are blocking the sun, there will always be a silver lining that reminds me to keep on trying, becase I know that while things might seem dark now, my wife is coming back to me soon."

It is a quick read about people working through the issues of life.  Yes, some of it was predictable, and what it says about living with mental illness is sometimes uncomfortable (at least it was for me, but not in an overt way?), but this was an uplifting story about people just trying to make it through life and be their version of happy.

The characters were real and well-written, ifnot always likeable. They made poor decisions, but there was a glimmer of hope for something better here.

"But I do know that sometimes people say and do what they think others want them to.  Maybe Tiffany really did not want to have sex with you, but only offered something she thought you would find valuable, so that you would value her."

On the surface, this story of Eagles football, a dance contest, and mental illness might not be one that draws you in, but the writing immerses you in this world, and you enjoy it.

I am already looking to find more books by the author, Matthew Quick, as I enjoyed his perspective here and his writing style was interesting. 
I'm hoping that my library gets his new YA book, Every Exquisite Thing, soon as it sounds like it would be a good read.

And just to put this out there... I googled the movie synopsis, and it would seem, that like the Outsiders, the story in the book is much different and deeper than the movie.

This post is linked with the Modern Mrs Darcy June Quick Lit post. You can find more great reads for the summer there.

June 10, 2016

A Homeschool Diploma

I figure that we didn't have a traditional school, so why have a traditional diploma.
Yes, I did take the wording from samples, but I wanted to create something meaningful that my daughter would be proud to hang on her wall.
The background is a painting that my mother did from a photo I took back many years ago.  This avoids any copyright issues, I hope.  I used PicMonkey to add the wording as I'm fairly technically illiterate.
This place was very special to us and this was taken the first week we started homeschooling (because isn't going on vacation the first thing you think of when you start homeschool?).  I hope that Shawn will find it meaningful as well as she remembers her time in school and how much we love her!

June 9, 2016

Sheep Balls, Because just saying it is fun

Seriously.  Sheep Balls.  Sheep Balls!!!
This isn't necessarily a new, mommy version of profanity (though it could work, I'd guess), but a cool way of doing laundry naturally.

There are so many options for natural laundry soap available with most becoming more and more affordable.  You can make your own or buy some great brands at most stores.
But drying.  
Dryer sheets are a nice thing, but contain so many chemicals and nasties.  The natural ones seem to be very high in price, or at least more than I care to spend.

So I started researching options.  I'm not going to hang my laundry outside because I really don't have time for that, and I have set laundry days and don't care to deal with rain or cold.
Then I found  Smart Sheep Wool Dryer Balls on Amazon.  **this is not an affiliate link, and I'm only saying Sheep Balls because I enjoy it**

They are balls of wool that help to shorten dryer time and naturally soften clothes.  They make your clothes soft without any smells or perfumes.
I have to admit that I love these things.  I don't know that I've seen a significant change with dryer times, maybe a few minutes per load, but the clothes are much softer and static is also decreased over using no softener at all.  Even nylon-y workout clothes come out pretty much static free.
I do tend to have a sensitivity, not allergy, to wool, and I've been able to use these for about 4 months without any issues.

It has also been a great help in teaching my little guy to do the laundry.  He gets to help search the clothes to find the balls, and then runs, screaming "sheep balls" as he goes to put them into the dryer for the next load.

Here's a link to the company's site.  I'd encourage you, if you google, to search for "smart sheep dryer balls".  Sheep balls might take you somewhere you don't want to be online.

Sheep Balls!!!

June 8, 2016

Honey, wheat germ soap with oats

I spent yesterday at the water park watching my toddler slide down the same slide about 1000 times.  Last week I got some great time kayaking on the river.
The thing is... I'm a very white, white girl.  My skin fights the urge to tan each year despite all efforts.
Right now my skin needs some love.

Despite being a product junkie for all things lotion-y and soap-y, I still end up making my own.
But sometimes you realize that simple is best.

I wasn't sure this soap was going to turn out as it is a much softer bar than I've made in the past.  I thought I went overboard with the wheat germ oil at trace, but turns out, this is a lovely, nourishing soap.
My stressed skin is thanking me right now....

Please consult a site like MMS for checking your lye amounts and be safe!

Honey-Wheat germ Soap with Oats
8 oz coconut oil
20 oz olive oil
2 oz castor oil
2 oz wheat germ

9 oz water
4.35 oz lye

1/2 T ground oats
1/2 T honey
1-2 tsp wheat germ oil

May 31, 2016

Intimidating Reading... Till We Have Faces

A book that intimidates me.
Of all the categories on the MMD 2016 reading challenge, this is the one that puzzled me the most.

I actually looked it up the word "intimidates", and the first definition I got was to "frighten or overawe".

It made me wonder what really frightens me?
I enjoy some horror and even true crime but I don't think that's what this really means.
Then I wondered if it meant that I should pick a subject matter that I normally would avoid?  Should it involve me pushing myself to a place I don't want to go?  There are certain subjects that I don't care to be exposed to.
Then I wondered if maybe it just meant that I should pick a really long book as I do appreciate short and to the point.  But the thing is, I can usually get past a book being long if the story is good.  Longer books just mean they will take more time invested in getting through them.
So should I pick a book that I'd call boring?  Is that what is really intimidating to me?
I'm not sure that boring me to death is intimidating either.

All of these questions only left me asking more, and I still had no real answers.

"But I think what really kept him cheerful was his inquisitiveness.  I never knew such a man for questions.  He wanted to know everything about our country and language and ancestors and gods, and even our plants and flowers."

Then I thought of the one book I'd been shuffling around for the last few years, Till We Have Faces by CS Lewis.  I'd considered it for 'started but never finished' and also for 'published before you were born'.

Part of what made this book so intimidating is that so many good friends consider it their favorite, and it was recommended by someone I love and respect.  I didn't want to let them down by not understanding it or get what they did from it.

I guess what I find intimidating is feeling stupid.  I won't even pick up a "Dummies" book as I am afraid of that label.  This might be the real insecurity here.
I am a big believer in asking for help when you need it and always learning and growing, but it is scary when you really don't understand or things don't come easily to you.  It's work sometimes, and it is intimidating when you know it won't come to you easily.

"You don't think-not possibly-- not as a mere hundredth chance-- there might be things that are real though we can't see them?"
"Certainly I do. Such things as Justice, Equality, the Soul, or musical notes."

I find that the language of CS Lewis is simple yet beautiful and filled with complex thoughts.  He makes me think.  He makes me work to comprehend each word.  Each word carries its own meaning, and he requires me to do equal work in discovering what he is saying.
I am also somewhat shallow and I'm often afraid that his books will be boring or slow... that they won't keep my interest.

To prepare for successfully getting through this book, I purchased the Kindle version so that I can highlight and look up words easily, and I 'splurged' and added the Audible option as well (it was $2.99 extra) so that I wouldn't be bogged down by trying to figure out how to say some of the names and words.  Often it is this kind of thing that leaves me feeling clueless and doesn't allow me to get into the actual story.

I often feel the need check books off my reading list.  I realize that as I'm getting deeper into reading, how much I need to get over this.  I'm finding that though I do read quickly, there is a time and place to slow down and really savor the words.
I also wonder if sometimes I think that certain books have a deeper meaning, and I'm trying to figure out the 'mystery' of the allegory from page one.  I'm letting this go and just taking the story for what it is.

It turned out that I read this book more quickly than others I've been working on lately.  This was due to it being a wonderfully told tale of love, pride and how we look at life in our own small ways.  It is about how we give hurt and pain power over us to change who we are.

"I could have loved him if I had let myself.... but I would never give my heart again to any young creature."

This story is a re-telling of the myth of Psyche and Cupid from the point of view of a a sister, accused of jealousy, who blames and resents the gods.  She allows this to build until she is no longer the same person.  Transformation occurs and we realize that things are not all that they seem.

"The change which the writing wrought in me was only a beginning--only to prepare me for the gods' surgery.  They used my own pen to probe my wound."

This is one of those stories that will haunt me for the rest of my life.  I believe that there is much that I missed and I'm quite sure that time will add more perspective to this book as well.
I already have it on my list to reread again in the future, or maybe listen to it a bit more.

"I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer.  Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean?  How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?"

All quotations from Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis.

This post is linked with the Modern Mrs Darcy June Quick Lit post. You can find more great reads for the summer there.

May 24, 2016

Faux-carb Alfredo Sauce

I used to make a killer alfredo sauce years ago.... flour and butter to make a roux with garlic infused milk and cream added and cooked till thick.  Lastly, some fresh Parmesan cheese added.
It was delicious and took some time to make just perfectly.

But those carbs.  They are not so friendly to me and my health, so I look to alternatives.

This is where I like to think out of the box and consider ways to add more nutrition.
I want creamy and delicious, but healthy is a must
This is where a puree comes in.
I use a cauliflower puree in my Cheesy Burger Soup and a beet one in my Trim Healthy Pancakes Made With Love, but I often use them in other foods.  I started adding an okra puree to my Lighter Side of Chili.

Purees are great because you can add nutrition and depth to the dish with little mess or fuss in a fairly inexpensive way.  A cup or 2 of frozen veggies might cost 50 cents, and stretched out over the whole recipe adds more than a dime of benefit..

The key is to make sure you season any puree well.  Remember it isn't the star of the show, but a supporting player.  Cauliflower won't bring what flour and butter will so you must compensate to make it work.

I make my puree in my Blendtec using the Wildside jar.   It is great at getting foods very smooth and blended.  It's hard to fake people out when there are pieces of cauliflower in a sauce, you know?

Faux-carb Alfredo Sauce-S
makes about 2 cups/1 'jar'

1 cup of half and half
4 cloves of garlic
8 oz frozen cauliflower
1 oz parmesan cheese
2 oz low fat cream cheese
Salt to taste

Infuse the garlic into the half and half by putting them in a saucepan over low heat for about 10-15 minutes.  I do this so that the garlic doesn't have an overwhelming, raw taste.
Add the cauliflower, parmesan cheese, and cream cheese to the blender jar.  Slowly pour the half and half over the top, secure the lid and process till very smooth.
Return the sauce to the pan, add the salt to taste, and heat on low till warmed.

Use or refrigerate for up to a week.

I served it over Dreamfield's pasta with poached salmon and a side salad.

May 23, 2016

Sewing.... Skirts

Sometimes you realize to really learn and progress at something you're going to have to go against your basic nature.  I like to be quick and take short cuts, but sewing isn't something that fosters this attitude.  I have decided to start studying and really taking my time with sewing and it seems to be paying off.

This whole sewing deal started when I wanted to get my 18 year old a skirt off of ModCloth.  I have the habit of stopping people on the street when they are wearing something interesting or in something I like, and I ask if I may take their photo.  Most people actually agree and then tell me about their outfit.  I've found many cool girls wearing things from ModCloth and decided to get Shawn a few things.
Most 18 year old girls would probably like this, but mine... not so much.  She is cheaper than I'll ever be.  I then realized that I could sew up a skirt fairly easily, but I wanted fun, funky material.  Turns out that local stores had better inventory than I realized so I stocked up and let her go wild at picking out fabric.
I also love that everyone blogs today.  I found so many great tips and tutorials online.
I decided to make my first skirt patterns on my own.  This was a tribute to not following directions completely, but still having a guide, as I am prone to do.  I altered Gertie's directions since I don't have an invisible zip foot (as of today) and was so happy with the results.
Shawn's panda skirt and pink steampunk skirt and my bird skirt are Gertie's designs.  She has great directions and they are easy to follow.  I altered the seam and  side zipper installation by adding a regular zip with hook and eye to close, but otherwise stayed on plan.  The skirt is easy to alter to fit how you need.  All you need is a waist measurement and length.  The panda fabric was limited so I went shorter than the directions.  Shawn is 5'9".
These are both basic cotton fabrics that can be casual and comfy with a tank or dressed up with a nicer shirt and cardigan.

I am not one to wear skirts or to wear what I sew.  Usually what I make looks horrible and isn't something I could wear out.  I realized that mentally, I needed to commit and make something that I'd feel good wearing.
I'm not thrilled with the pattern style I picked for this skirt, but I loved the batik fabric.  While it does kind of scream for a long boho style, I wanted something short.  I admit that I've always been a bit intimidated by shorter skirts, but since losing weight, I find longer skirts tend to make me look heavier.
The batik skirt is a bit too structured with the pleats, and I don't think it was the best choice for the fabric, but it is still pretty and comfy and I've actually worn it out a few times.  It comes from McCalls pattern M7253.

I do tend to be practical and I don't care to dress in novelty clothing.  But I saw this fabric and immediately became obsessed with it.  Maybe it is because I just lost my Grandmother a few months back and when I think of her, I think of her love of birds.
I went thru several pattern ideas before deciding Gertie's dirndl skirt.  I needed something that would maintain the pattern while respecting the lightness of the light, cotton fabric.
The main thing I'd have done differently, and with more experience, would have been to line the skirt. I did add a ribbon on the inside hem, please don't look too closely, it's as crooked as can be.

May 17, 2016

Violet Green Tea Soap along with my notes on soaping

Violet Green Tea Soap

8-12 oz of violet leaf and green tea water (I used 9.4 oz)
Lye 4.5 oz
The oils:
17 oz violet infused olive oil
8 oz coconut oil
4 oz sunflower oil
2 oz castor oil
2 oz wheat germ oil
At trace:
1 tsp green tea powder

I love the idea of alchemy.
The thought of one thing magically, or not, turning into something else always seems to amaze me.

Maybe it's because I'd like to think that one thing can completely change and morph into another.  Maybe it is the hope that I have for myself and humanity.

If nothing else, it's just really cool.
Just like bread.  You take flour, a yeast, some water and it changes.

With soap you take oil, water and lye.  Combine them and give them time then they become soap.
I've made soap for several years, but still consider myself a novice and new observer to the process.
I've never blogged about soaping because I feel that there is a danger there that is not present with herbs and I wish to be respectful of it.

I'm not giving a tutorial, but more a recipe I created and liked.  There are many people way more experienced who have guides to teach the process.  I learned from my friend, Lynne, who is a great and patient teacher.  I also learn best by example so finding a teacher was important to me.
Just educate yourself on the process and be safe.

Make sure you and those at home with you are safe.  Soaping isn't a nice and easy family craft in the kitchen for a rainy day.
I mix my lye and water outside so that my house isn't filled with fumes.  I make sure to keep this away from kids and animals.
Wear gloves and consider glasses/goggles and a mask.

This soap has an infused oil of violet flowers and leaves as a base and, instead of water, I made a tea of violet leaf and green tea to mix with the lye.  Violet leaf is very toning and moisturizing to the skin with green tea having antioxidant properties.

Use a reliable Lye Calculator.  I personally run the recipes of others as well as my own through one as I don't want to rely on what someone else says.
Use a scale.  It is too difficult to make  soap otherwise.

Experiment with oils.  Remember they all have different characteristics and can lead to different outcomes.  I added wheat germ oil as part of the oil base as I've really fallen in love with it lately.  It has a high vitamin E content and is very nourishing to the skin.  I also add castor oil to all of my batches as it makes the bar a bit harder.
Monitor the temperature of your oils.  I like my oils to be about the same temperature as the lye.  If the lye feels warm, not hot, to the touch through the container, then I look for the oils to be around 110-120 degrees F.
I like to incorporate healing into soap.  The day before, take time to infuse the oil with the energy of the plant.

Have everything out and ready to go.  Some days you'll be waiting forever for the lye to cool, and some times you'll reach trace right away.  There are many variables so being prepared is very important.

Always start with the oils in your bucket and slowly pour the lye water/tea into it.  Every time I make soap I hear my high school Chemistry teacher, Mrs Roderick, saying "Do as you ought to, pour acid into water"  (It rhymes when said Southern and also works for a strong base such as lye).
My oil is green due to the infusion of the violet leaves and flowers.

Matcha green tea is added at trace.  You could probably powder another green tea, but I had this available and used it instead.

I like to use the pringles potato chip cylinders as my soap mold.  I like having a smaller, round bar, and can just rip the container to remove the soap. Feel free to make your own mold.  Just oil it well before use and make sure it is appropriate to hold the soap.
This particular recipe filled one whole can and part of a second.  I probably would've done better to have used the small sizes, but it all turns out the same.

May 16, 2016


Some days I wonder if I'm more excited for my daughter to graduate from high school, or for me as I come to the end of homeschooling my oldest child?

We started homeschooling when she was 6 and in 1st grade.  She had attended nursery school and public kindergarten, but we found that it wasn't a good fit for us for several reasons.
I was fairly anti-homeschool at the time, and thought it was just odd to keep your kids at home and that it would make them weird.
While my kids are all quite weird, I doubt homeschooling them made them that way.
I realized that education doesn't have to look the same for everyone, and that I needed to make the best choice for my kids and my family.

I want to celebrate our last 12 years, and share some of the thoughts I've had over this time.

Thought #1... What works for one student might not work for another
Be flexible and look at the needs of the learner.  Sometimes you have to look at how you are presenting the information as well.  This will take your time, energy, focus and possibly money.
I will not even say how many algebra programs I have right now, mainly because it would be depressing and I'd have to go count them all.
I do appreciate books like The Well-Trained Mind that give a synopsis of different curriculum choices so that you know the strengths and weaknesses of different programs and can help determine what might be best for your learner.  Just because a program isn't the best for your family, doesn't mean it isn't great for another.  Don't allow yourself to be a slave to a certain program just because.  I like to think of the program as I would an employee.  It is there to serve its purpose, if it doesn't, then I need to replace it.  It is a bigger waste to keep trying to make something work, when it doesn't, than to move to something else.

Thought #2... Know your goals
I established my main goals when we started homeschooling.  I wanted to put my children the position to do and be whatever they wanted in life, to equip and prepare them.  I didn't want their education to hold them back or limit their choices.  My purpose was and is to teach my children how to think and learn on their own so that they will be able to achieve their dreams on their own.

Thought #3... Sometimes doing laundry is school, but sometimes it isn't
The whole "school is doing laundry" was a big catch phrase when I started homeschooling, and honestly, it always bugged me.  I never considered laundry to be school.  As much as I have 'hippie herbalists' tendencies per my oldest and love what some styles represent, I just can't wrap myself around immersion in nature and home so completely.
I personally want my kids to know how to run a household and to do their own laundry, but school, to me, is more than learning to sort and discuss observations.  I'd also take responsibility for not being one who functions well at making everyday things into school.
I do believe that there are seasons, and school doesn't always look the same from year to year.  Families have illness and birth and life changes.  Sometimes school and learning does involve just making it through the day.  This is actually what I consider one of the strengths of homeschooling.  It gives you time to bond as a family in difficult times.  It teaches life lessons.  There have been many days, weeks, where we just forgot books and got through life together and called it learning.
Just don't forget that your kids do need to have other skills as well to function in the educational world of today.

Thought #4... Methods don't matter, but you need to have a plan
I have always used the framework of Classical education models for my homeschool.  I find that it offers the structure I need while offering flexibility in choices.  It gives a framework that fits my overall goal, but allows me to fit it into my lifestyle.
If you are an unschooler, great!  Just be an immersed unschooler.
I feel that what ever you decide to do, don't do it halfway.  Commit and know how you're going to make it happen.  Wishing for things to turn out isn't realistic.  And don't worry about the label.  Most of us are more than one thing.  We have layers and that is what makes us who we are.  You don't need an educational style to define who you are.

Thought #5... Know when to back off
I'd be lying if I said school never ended in screaming  or tears.  The hard thing when you homeschool is that you know these kids so well. You know how to get to them and hurt them.
This is also the good thing about homeschooling.  You know your kids so well that you know what hurts and can back off before you do.
Parenting makes you tired.  I also have always worked outside the home and that has often left me exhausted.  Give your kids your best, apologize when you need to, and remember that words hurt and aren't easily forgotten.
Remember that they need to hear words of praise.  It's easy to forget when you are together so much.

Thought #6... Structure
I found that my time became more limited as my kids got older.  I worked, and while homeschool groups are fun, I had to limit them around middle school usually.  I live in a more rural area and to be involved takes a large chunk of our day.
I would give my kids a schedule so that they know their expectations and what they should be accomplishing weekly and daily.  It doesn't have to be written, unless they are the type who likes to see things crossed off a list.
Because I'm used to getting up for work, I like to have a set time to get up and get going.  No, it doesn't have to be rigid, but I think that it has helped my kids realize that we all have things to do each day and work needs to be done before play.
I also find that different kids need more parental involvement, but with homeschooling you will always be a part of the team.  I keep hoping I've relearned geometry for the last time, but the fact is, as long as I'm the homeschooling parent, I still work through the problems with my kids.  They need to know that I'm not expecting anything from them that I'm not willing to do.

Thought #7... Homeschooling isn't a moral decision, or you won't go to hell for sending your kids to school and they might just be okay as well
There has been a trend for parents to pull their kids out of school because of their religious views only to discover that homeschooling is often not for you or your child.  Don't let others' views of families determine what yours looks like.

Thought #8... Enjoy the flexibility, travel and see the world
You have to start real life usually at some point.  I found this out the hard way when our Graduate started a joint enrollment program at a local college this last year.  You can't vacation during off season anymore when there are college deadlines and classes to attend.  Enjoy it and do as much as you can while life is flexible.

Thought #9... Remember why you homeschool, remember your inspiration
I found that for many years, I'd become frustrated and beg my kids to go to 'regular' school at intervals throughout the year.  Yes, I was really committed to homeschool until graduation, but some days are challenging.  I would want them to 'get' concepts I taught and some days it was harder than others.
Then I would get out a curriculum catalog or one of my favorite homeschool books and would be instantly inspired.  The first few years that I homeschooled, I'd re-read The Well-Trained Mind and Teaching the Trivium several times each year just to stay focused and to remember why I was doing this.  This helped, and still helps, me to remember my goals.  It helps to keep me mentally motivated.
Let your kids inspire you with their awesomeness.  I realize that my graduate would probably laugh at me for this sentence as you know you can't let them think that they are too awesome regularly as kids, I do find that spending time together with my kids or reading a paper or story they wrote makes me excited for who they are and who they will potentially be.

Thought #10...Don't quit learning yourself!
There is too much in the world to discover for anyone to quit learning.  Show your kids that you are interested in growing and continued education.  It really is the best way to inspire them and create an atmosphere where learning is a part of life.  Growth and education provide an opportunity to show that you aren't afraid of making mistakes and that everyone has to start somewhere with learning.

I have 2 other kids who are 13 and 4.... one about to start high school and another who won't even be kindergarten for another year.
Chances are all these thoughts will be thrown out the window with my youngest child as he is pretty well determined to make me rethink and relearn everything I thought I knew about life.
If nothing else, I have 12 years down, only 14 more to go!

May 15, 2016

What I've been reading lately

Last year I rediscovered my love for reading.
When you homeschool, run a house, and work at a job as well, it is often hard to find time for yourself.  Over the last few years, I'd splurge once or twice a year and sit down with a book and do nothing but read for a few days.  These marathon sessions were my only reading other than Go Dog Go for my toddler or a 'required' book for an older kid who needed reading aloud.
It wasn't satisfying overall though.  It would be like gorging at a buffet for a few days followed by weeks of starvation.

Last year I discovered a Summer Reading Guide and it intrigued me.  I don't have a ton of time to devote to books and part of my struggle was not wasting that time.  This guide was helpful as it gave me a glimpse of why I might enjoy a particular book and also expanded my reading life with titles I'd probably never have tried otherwise.
This helped me to see how important and necessary reading was to me personally.  I wanted to be a reader.  I wanted the focus reading brought me along with the perspective it gives as well.

When I took my break from the internet, I used the time to start reading more and regularly.  I studied how to make the most of my time in general.
I felt that reading wasn't like other media.  Holding a book doesn't distance me from my household.  It isn't a mindless activity, but one that engages me.  It has value.

The books I've been reading lately are kind of an eclectic mix.  I've slowed down a bit with the addition of other activities to my life, but I do have set reading goals for this year.
I'm doing the Modern Mrs Darcy Challenge for this year and have other personal goals as well.  This list hits a few of the Challenge goals along with my own.
Remember, I'm not a writer and don't aspire to be one.  Check out the Goodreads links (and feel free to friend me there) for a real synopsis.

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim was a choice for the reading challenge as a book published before I was born.  This book written in 1922 was a look at how we can get bogged down by our lives and circumstances.  It was pleasant and engaging with interesting characters that is full of "wisteria and sunshine".  It helped to remind me that life doesn't have to be cynical and dark.

The Upside of Irrationality:  The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home  drew me in with the title.  This is a great non-fiction book by Dan Ariely that looks at how we make decisions and why.  He has studies that he has performed, and don't think this is a dry abstract... he makes science interesting and cool, and you learn that negatives are really often opportunities if you allow them to be.

After You by JoJo Moyes.  This is the follow-up to Me After You which was my MMD Reading Challenge choice of "book I've been meaning to read".  After all, everyone says this is a great book, be prepared to cry the last third, blah, blah, blah.  Now there is even going to be a movie.
That alone should have told me to run from it, but I read it anyhow.  Me After You was predictable and I pretty much knew what would happen from page 10.  My take home point was that if you were a selfish jerk to begin with, circumstances wouldn't change you.  What kept me engaged was that while the story was overall stale, the characters and writing was so good.  I also appreciated that some of the deeper issues this book addressed were presented so well.  Maybe it is my background as a nurse, but there were few places to go with this story and I found it predictable.
After You was a continuation of the story and again, it was well written.  Again, it was not hard to see how the story would end, but it was still told well with great characters.

The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny.... August 30, the release date for the next book in this series, cannot come soon enough.  I have been spacing  out these books so that I wouldn't go into Gamache withdrawal, but I couldn't wait.  If there is a series that I love and recommend over and over, then this is it.  Mrs Penny has created a wonderful community where you love the people and the places despite their humanity.  I have learned more about myself and who I want to be through this series.
This is the 11th book about Inspector Gamache with each book taking a different theme.  There is no retelling of the same story.  You learn and see new things within yourself with each of these books.

Vogue Sewing: Revised and Updated and The Complete Book of Sewing are additions to my library as I have returned to sewing.  I've never been great at it, but I feel that this, in part, is due to not practicing or studying the subject.  I've always been a 'lazy' sewer and taken the easy way or stuck to simple things.  I'm at a point to where I want to push myself.  I want to learn the 'right way' and theory behind it.
This is part of the reason I've slowed down on my reading in the last few weeks.  I have been investing time in sewing.  These books are very complementary to each other with the Vogue book building on The Complete Book.  I've been getting lots of use from both of them as I practice and study this skill.

What's on your reading list?

This post is linked with the MMD Quick Lit post for May.

May 12, 2016

Elder and Violets

As much as I hate to admit it, I tend to get stuck in ruts and confined to the comforts of the known.
Then I see something new.  It intrigues me and makes me wonder, "Why didn't I know that?"
It makes me question how much I don't know and haven't learned about yet.

Take plants.  I've studied for so many years, decades, and still feel I know barely the tip of the iceberg.

I've used elder flowers and berries for years, but never thought to use the leaves.  I had a learned that the leaves and stems/woody parts were not to be used internally years ago, and never thought of using them topically.
That hasn't changed.  Don't use elder leaves/stems internally or near the mouth, but are perfectly fine to be used on the skin.
Violets... I love the flowers, but didn't recognize that the leaves that are literally everywhere had value as well.
Often it isn't just the flowers that have benenfit, but the aerial parts that may be used.

This salve was inspired by this view in my yard.  I'm not a photographer and it definitely looked better in person.

There is elder with a rose and vervain that volunteered. (Ignore the poison ivy).  I had been looking at using the elder leaf since hearing about their ability to soothe and heal bruises, and it just seemed like something was telling me these plants all belonged together.

Elder and Violet Salve

Elder leaf
Violet leaf
Olive Oil
Wheat Germ Oil
Lavender essential oil

This formula is meant to be healing, soothing and nourshing.
If you need help figuring out what to do, I have a tutorial for making salves.

Please educate yourself on the use of herbs as there can be some contraindications and caveats.
Some great places to start online would be Jim's Violet monograph, Kiva's Elder article.  Both of these herbalists are great teachers with many articles for the herbalist to delve into.
My go to book for herbs is usually Medical Herbalism by David Hoffman, Henriette's blog, and Guido Mase' is also a favorite.

For those who don't know me, please realize that I am a homeschooling mother with a job outside the home as well.  I blog to keep track of thoughts and recipes while sharing what I've learned.  Any links are just links with affiliates expired years ago as I don't have time to deal with it.

May 5, 2016

Sharing Day, or What I've Learned This Last Year

I am a part of a wonderful Bible study that meets during the school year.   This week was Sharing Day, a time when we can reflect and share.  Despite missing this day, I still found that the reflection is a powerful thing and is important for me in making change and evaluating where I'm at and where I'm going.
 Last year we studied the books of Daniel and Revelation while moving on to Matthew for this year.
Daniel and Revelation were so powerful, and I learned how important and vital prayer is.

You see, last year was a hard one for me.  I was in a state of transition and uncertainty in many areas of my life.
I've posted before about my youngest who I had when I was a bit later in life.  When he turned 3 last year, he had no words.  No 'Mama', no 'yes', or 'no'.  Nothing.
He could verbalize sounds and comprehend complex instructions, but there was a block with language.
I also was working more and more at a stressful job with hours that were physically taxing and often unsure.  I had spent 25 years working in ICU as a RN, but I was wondering if it wasn't time for a change.

I am not one to share overly personal things, I want to share this: reading Daniel and Revelation seemed to make it plain that prayer is important.  Knowing that the God I believe in wants to know me and hear me, and that He has put others in my life to support and love me, is an amazing thing.
I also find it an honor that I can support others by praying for them.
These two books show how vital and important the power of prayer and a regular prayer life is.

Knowing that I had others praying for me and had the ear of God was powerful.  It made making changes smooth and helped with accepting delays and situations for what they were** while helping me to find peace.

This year was the study of Matthew.  Initially, I thought this wasn't one of the 'cool' books.  It's just a history, and while I do enjoy history and the Gospel, I wondered what would I really get from it.

Reading Matthew initially left me feeling bitter.  I felt that my life had little in common with Jesus' or anyone from that time.  Here they were just fishing and praying (obviously, they were up to a bit more), but I was having to be a wife, homeschooling mother, with a house and a part-time job.  I was always on the go and over-extended.  What was there really to relate to?

Then I had to check myself.
When I can start saying my life is tougher than the Son of God, there is an issue.
I had to ask myself some hard questions about who I was and where my life was going.
Why was I so busy?  Is the life I'm making well-organized?  Am I wasting time?  Does it always have to be about me and how I'm feeling?
Am I really doing what I'm meant to be doing?

This was the point that really got to me.  Was I really living the life I should be?  Wasn't I the one who did the over-scheduling.  After all, I wasn't being forced into activities; they were all my choice.
Yes, we need to eat and we need to do school, but often the details are left to me, and I saw that I might not have my priorities in order.
But then, the book of Matthew was also one of overwhelming love.   I saw myself going through the motions of 'work' and 'busyness' everyday.  I could see the joy in them, but I wondered if there was an undercurrent of love in my actions and wasn't necessarily acting joyfully.

Sometimes I feel like I should be doing the 'big' things in life, and when I find that they aren't really a part of my life, I take it as an excuse to just do nothing.
I allow being tired or mentally stressed to control what I am actually doing.  They provide an excuse for sitting and spending time on the computer or just wasting time.

Matthew convicted me.  The book taught me that we each have our own goal.  I'm not supposed to fulfill your mission, and mine is really all mine.

And often, we know what our roles are, or at least I knew what mine was.  Sometimes it is as simple as looking around your own home at the people who are there.  It is about looking at what you have been gifted with in life.

I love to garden.  I can put a seed in the ground and allow it grow on its own and fight its way up and find its own way, or I can cultivate it and guide it.  I can remove the weeds from its path and help it to start strong in life.

I had to question if I was doing this in my own family.  Was I cultivating my children, because even teens and tweens need guidance and time?

I realized what my real goal was in life.  I realized that I needed to be committed to the family and job I have been given.
I'm not talking about becoming a slave to the whims of my family, but I needed to learn to tune in to them more consciously and directly.
My kids didn't deserve answers and conversation from behind a computer screen.  They didn't need to be told to 'hang on' while I talk to others, or 'help' others on facebook.

I left much of social media and turned off the electronics in my house and reconnected with what was real.
I worked on becoming more organized (the book 168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam is a great read) and more focused.

I realized that time is short.  Some things are put in our lives for just a season.  I personally need to make sure I connect with the people who are with me now.
I need to play more with a toddler, discuss life with my older kids, and have adult conversation and time with my husband. I need to show kindness and love to those I meet at work and make sure they feel valued.

So while the study of Daniel and Revelation challenged me in my understanding of prayer, Matthew really showed me what love looks like in action.  It challenged me to not compare my own journey to others, but to look to God for what my mission should be.
So thank you God for showing me and guiding me towards where you want me.  Thank you for providing Godly women and friends to encourage and convict me.

**Following an evaluation with a wonderful Speech Pathologist in Nashville, my youngest was diagnosed as a Late Talker with OCD issues.  He started speaking at 3 years, 3 months and has progressed to being almost on target for his age.