Friday, January 19, 2018

No.73: Our Farmhouse Schoolhouse in Photos (Week 19)

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2018 is just zipping along - three weeks in already!  I've been having mixed levels of productivity: one day I am on fire, crossing off everything on my to-do list...and then the next day, I blow it all off to stay under a blanket and read.  This crazy weather we've been having in Virginia may have something to do with that...


+ We're still reading and loving Redwall.  The boys, especially J, has been inspired to draw the characters and act out the battle scenes.  So fun - and encouraging - to know that they're actually listening.

+ M is learning about World War I in history and the first half of Sergeant York was on his assignment list for the week.  He couldn't put it down!  He finished the entire book in two days.  Next up: watching the old 1940's movie this weekend with his dad.

+ In M's History of Science, he started learning about Isaac Newton.  A few facts I found fascinating:
- Did you know that some think Newton may have had Asperger's?
- Unconvinced with Descartes and his beliefs on light, Newton did some dangerous experiments, including poking a needle behind his eye to see what would happen and staring at the sun while reflected in a mirror. (!!)

+ We learned a new card game (100 Little Things #33) called SET: The Family Game of Visual Perception.  There's a little bit of a learning curve but we had fun working together to make the sets.  Speaking of games, we also bought Civilization for the computer and the boys are hooked!  They have to work together or the computer gets shut off - I love seeing their heads huddled together as they make their plans and strategies.  

Current 1000 Books Project Total: 92/1000
Poetry Teatime Treat: homemade granola


+ Health: I'm almost through Week 1 of the Mutu System, which is super easy: a handful of exercises and a daily walk.  My "walks" have just been to the mailbox, but I do have a really long driveway, so I guess it counts?  Still mostly sugar-free, but I did splurge with a little homemade granola.  So good.

+ Reading: Finished two books this week!  I'm still working on Anne of Avonlea and Water for Elephants before I start on our February book club book.

+ Spiritual: I'm reading one small section of Fulton Sheen's Guide to Contentment each day.  Also trying to make a game plan for Lent - I can't believe it's so close already!

+ Fun: Blogging and bread-making are at the top of the list this week. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

No.72: New Habits, Little by Little: Homesteading 101 - Make Your Daily Bread

I live in a farmhouse on five acres in the country.  It's time for this suburban girl to learn a few things!  
Welcome to my self-taught Homesteading 101.

I should probably start with this disclaimer: I'm still buying bread at the grocery store and this doesn't happen every day.  But steps in the right direction!

I've been fascinated by the art and skill of bread baking for awhile now...and honestly, more than a little intimidated.  But I've been telling my kids that to be better at something, we have to work hard at it and well, maybe Mama needs to listen to what she's preaching.

Below are the four recipes I've tried so far:
  • "Best Bread Machine Bread"
    • I started this on my bread machine's dough setting and then separated into two loaf pans.  After they rose again (about an hour or two, depending on the day), I baked for 40 minutes at 375 degrees.
    • Consensus: Delicious!  The kids ate the entire loaf in one sitting.  We've made the recipe four times since.
  • Ciabatta Bread
    • After getting a recommendation for ciabatta on Instagram (thank you Katherine!!), I googled and found this recipe.  Um... this definitely wasn't Ciabatta 101.  This required a two-day process and I even made my own starter/sponge!  
    • Consensus: I may have done something wrong here - I don't think it was as airy as it was supposed to be.  Still super delicious.  We ate it with soup.   
  • Ciabatta Bread
    • THIS is the recipe I think Katherine was talking about, hah!  The bread machine does most of the work for you, but the second half?  I was a hot mess.  The gooey, sticky dough is supposed to rest under a bowl for 15 minutes and I had the hardest time getting it underneath.  My kids kept yelling, "IT'S ALIVE!!"  Don't even get me started about transferring to a baking sheet to rise...  
    • Consensus: Yum.  My technique needs improvement, but definitely airier than the one I made above.
  • White Bread
    • Mark found this recipe and led the baking of this one.  It makes two massively tall loaves!  I'm thinking that we could separate it into four instead and it wouldn't make much of a difference.
    • Consensus: As far as sheer size, these are the clear winners, but I prefer the taste of the other breads above.
Still on my list: bread cooked in the Dutch oven, something that uses almond flour, pretzel bites, and maybe a cinnamon raisin loaf.  And probably a workout plan too.  Thank goodness there are 8 people in this house or I'd need a bigger pair of pants!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

No.71: Into the Depths of Catholicism - Book #1 and A Reading Challenge

"...I try to project a joyful, confident presence.  To be honest, I think the smile goes a long way.  I hope they see a joyfulness in being Catholic, that there's more to it than the scandal we've been through - without for a second denying those scandals, and how terrible they were, but there's more to it than that.  I like to believe that gives people hope." (p.219) 
I think I first stumbled upon Bishop Robert Barron's work with Word on Fire last winter.  After hearing glowing reviews, I purchased his Catholicism DVD series for Mark's birthday and we have really enjoyed watching them.  Barron has a way of making challenging theological concepts approachable and understandable and in a non-threatening way.  His evangelization method is a bit unique, so I was excited to read more in his new book, To Light a Fire on the Earth: Proclaiming the Gospel in a Secular Age.

To Light a Fire on the Earth is the result of hours of conversations between Bishop Barron and journalist John L. Allen Jr.  The book reads like an interview, with commentary from Allen and long quoted passages from Barron.  It is a healthy mix of biography, reflection and down-to-earth advice.  I like Barron's strategic use of beauty as an invitation for individuals to learn more about Catholicism:
In Christian tradition, beauty, goodness, and truth are known as ‘transcendentals,’ linked to the three core human abilities to feel, to wish, and to think. Jesus refers to them in the Great Commandment when he talks about the mind, the soul, and the heart and inducements to take the wrong path with each of the transcendentals formed the core of his temptation scene in the Gospels. While Barron is convinced that Catholic Christianity represents the fullness of all three, he’s equally convinced that the right way to open up the Catholic world to someone is with its beauty…
"There’s something winsome and less threatening about the beautiful. ‘Just look,’ the evangelist might say,' at Chartres Cathedral or the Sainte Chapelle or the Sistine Chapel ceiling or the mosaics at Ravenna. ‘Just read,’ he might urge, ‘Dante’s Divine Comedy or one of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poems, or Chesterton’s Orthodoxy.’ ‘Just watch,’ he might suggest, ‘Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity at work among the poorest of the poor.’ The wager is that the encounter with the beautiful will naturally lead someone to ask ‘What made such a thing possible?’" (p.41)
I appreciated Barron's analysis on a wide range of topics concerning Catholics today, everything from prayer to science to social media.  Lots of food for thought.  This book is a great choice for someone interested in a new way of evangelizing faith to a skeptical and/or uninterested generation.

I received this book from Blogging for Books and all opinions are my own.


One of my 2018 goals is to "Dive deep into faith" and this book was just the inspiration I needed to get started.  This quote really stuck out to me: 
...Barron's stock advice to aspiring evangelists is to "read, read, read," meaning to immerse oneself in Catholic thought and teaching, and in the great works of Catholic literature.  Secular nones sometimes ask a lot of smart questions of believers, Barron says, and without a solid intellectual foundation, evangelists will find themselves flustered, frustrated, and ultimately, ineffective. (p.126)
Faith is like a muscle - I need to do the work to make it stretch and grow.  I need to ask - and be able to answer - "What do I believe and why do I believe it?"  So to make it fun (and keep me on track!), I created this handy little reading challenge.  Feel free to use it too!  While the challenge was made with Catholicism in mind, it certainly can be adapted to other denominations too.  I'd love to know your favorite books - help me fill in the blanks!

Monday, January 15, 2018

No.70: Wintertime ABCs

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ANNE OF GREEN GABLES - I'm slowly working my way through this series (as part of 100 Little Things) and it's such a refreshing change from the majority of books I read.  I tend to be a bit of a pessimist and Anne's wonder and positive imagination remind me to seek the good in everything. 

BREAD - The idea of baking my own bread has been really intimidating, but I decided 2018 is the year to jump in with both feet!  I've started experimenting with a few recipes and it is SO satisfying to pull the loaves out of the oven.  Cue the crazy texts to my husband saying, "I made this!  Check out that crust.  Look at the crumb!"

CONTENTMENT - My mom gave me a copy of Fulton Sheen's Guide to Contentment and I've been reading a section or two every day.  In the book, Sheen covers multiple aspects of the human experience ("love, anxiety, beauty, meditation, honesty, freedom, compulsion, self-pity, success, failure, health, joy, marriage, sex, faith, and adventure...") and how they can move you toward or further from contentment.  Lots of food for thought in one little book.

DUTCH OVEN - My dinnertime workhorse!  I've been using my dutch oven at least once a week this winter.  A few of our favorites: Simple Tomato Soup, Pot Roast, and Chicken Orzo Soup.

EGGS - After Sophie was born, I developed some sort of egg sensitivity and haven't been able to eat them without feeling nauseous since.  I can have them in things (like baked goods) but not on their own.  Eating a healthy breakfast is tricky when you can't have the #1 go-to protein source.  Right now, I'm surviving on baked oatmeal and peanut butter and banana toast.  I'll add in green smoothies when it's warmer.

FIREPLACE - We've had gas fireplaces in our previous houses, but just used them for aesthetic value and never for warmth.  We're finally using the one in this house and oh my gosh, I can't believe what I was missing!  There's something so cozy and peaceful about reading, playing or shoot, even scrolling Instagram by the fire.

GROCERY PICKUP - This deserves a blog post all its own, but we've started using Walmart's Grocery Pickup and it has  My routine: I make a menu and grocery list on Thursday evening and add the items to the app by Friday afternoon.  Mark takes our recycling to the dump on Saturday mornings (#thatcountrylife) and then swings by Walmart on the way home.  They literally come out and put the bags in the car for you!  The idea of grocery shopping with all of these kids sends me into a panic, so this discovery has been a God-send.  (P.S. If you want to try it out, you can use this link to get $10 off your first order.)

HANDIWORK - My grandmother was an accomplished seamstress.  She taught me how to thread a needle and piece a quilt.  I've been thinking about her often as I add stitches to an old cross-stitch project I hope to finish this winter.  There's something so calming and meditative about handiwork.

INFINITY SCARF - Last year, I bought a chunky knit scarf secondhand on Thredup, but never really had an opportunity to wear it.  (We had such a mild winter in 2017.)  Thank goodness for this year's frigid weather!  Totally kidding, but it has given me ample opportunity to wear it and it's my new favorite scarf.  So warm.

JOURNALING - I'm rusty at this.  I guess blogging is a form of journaling, but I want to revisit the method of old-fashioned pen to paper.  I'm starting small with my One Line a Day journal for now.

KINDNESS - As I was reflecting on my word for 2018, I found this quote on Pinterest: "A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees."

LITTLE ACTIONS EVERYDAY - This is my motto as I work toward my big 2018 goals.  Every morning, I jot down four or five small actions that I can accomplish that day.  Examples are: texting a relative to check in and say hello (my "roots" goal), measuring a wall to see how many frames I need (my "home projects" goal), or eating something green at every meal (my "health" goal).  While the little actions must be small enough to complete that day, they really do add up.  I'm only two weeks in and am already feeling the momentum.

 - With my body seemingly falling apart right now, I'm going back to the basics and revisiting the Mutu System.  Last year, I only got four or five weeks in before the craziness of home buying/selling consumed me, so I'm anxious to complete the entire program this time.  After six babies, I know my core and pelvic floor could really use some work.

NO SUGAR - Two weeks in and so far, so good.  I haven't been nearly as grouchy as I expected!  During the first week, I felt constantly hungry and I could tell I was eating because I was trying to fill that sugar void.  I tried to eat intentionally, but I'm sure the carb content was pretty high.  That "hunger" is slowly going away now, although I do desire it when I'm feeling overwhelmed - hello, stress eater!  New habits, little by little...

ORDINARY TIME - I loved Kallah's post about her word of the year and have thought about it often: "Ordinary Time for a Catholic is interrupted by the extraordinary. It isn’t supposed to stretch out in an uninterrupted linear distance. It is a time set aside, intentionally, where you are grounded, specifically FOR the exciting (Christmas! Easter! Pentecost!) or difficult (LENT!) times ahead. To me, a sense of Ordinary Time is actually an appreciation of Time itself; how precious it is, and how easy it is to waste it."

PAINT - This keeps getting pushed to the back burner, but I'm hoping to finally start painting the first floor soon.  I can't wait!  I find painting a room about as calming as I do handiwork - is that my introvert showing? #alonetimeinmyhead

QUIET HOUR - Speaking of "Introverted Sanity Savers", we've started our daily Quiet Hour again after lunch.  The big boys read while the little ones play quietly upstairs, the baby (hopefully) naps and I get to enjoy the silence.  My self-imposed rules are that I cannot do chores or scroll social media (although I sometimes cheat at this one...) and I should either read, blog or do something creative.  I desperately need that space in my day just for me.

READING ON THE KINDLE - After years of fighting it, I finally broke down and asked for a Kindle for Christmas.  I have the super basic one and like it so far.  I really like that I can borrow and read books from the library.  It will never replace the feel and smell of a hardback novel, but it's close.  (I treated myself to this reading light and this cover and love both.  It's the little things.)

SNOW - After that magical weekend in December, we've been teased with bits of flurries, but nothing sticks.  The kids are dying for another round!  We'll see if we get lucky.

TWINKLE LIGHTS - The Christmas decorations have all been put away, but I kept the star lights up in the kitchen for January.  I love tidying up in there after dinner and then shutting off all the lights except for the stars.     

UNIFORM - Even though it's freezing outside, I've started thinking about my "mom uniform" for spring.  Like my fall/winter wardrobe, I'll be pretty much starting from scratch and want to make smart choices.  Right now, I've got casual dresses and simple tops with not-too-short-but-not-old-lady shorts on the list.  Clearly, I have some work to do in the next few months.

VALUABLE - You know how sometimes a Bible verse (many times one that you've read before) pops out at you in a new way?  This line from Mass on Sunday did that for me: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?  For you have been purchased at a price."  I must have needed the reminder that in the eyes of God, I have value.

WEANING - Can I just admit that I am SO ready to be done nursing?  The plan is to continue through cold season and then start making the switch.  I.can't.wait.

and X, Y...

Zzz'S - I know many people hate winter's short days, but I've been getting the best sleep because of it.  Because it gets dark so early, I'm drowsy and ready for bed by 9:00, and since it's pitch black outside, why not?!  It's like hibernation for humans.  Now if my fussy teething baby will get the hint, hah!

Like with my Summertime ABCs post back in July, I took a walk around our property.  So hard to find beauty when everything is bare and brown, but the sky sure was a gorgeous blue that day.

Friday, January 12, 2018

No.69: Our Farmhouse Schoolhouse in Photos (Week 18)

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And just like that, we're halfway through our school year!  I'm wearing that sentence as a badge of honor today.  Some weeks have been wonderfully easy and some weeks have been insanely hard.  But couldn't that be said for motherhood in general?  I'm trying to stop frantically worrying that I'm screwing up my kids and making wrong decisions and have peace that I'm doing what is best for them right this minute.  For now, the future can wait.


+ Our new read-aloud for the rest of January is Redwall.   I remember my brother reading and enjoying these as a kid and now I understand why!  When I shared the book on Instagram, there were so many positive comments about the series, so it definitely is a favorite among many.  As an addition, my little ones have been following along to the story using the graphic novel version.

+ M finished up his unit on Galileo.  Our last "project" is to finally put together the new-to-us telescope we were gifted a few months ago!  Two interesting links we found this week:
- This article about the Catholic perspective on the Galileo controversy
- A weird fact: Did you know that Galileo's middle finger is on display in the Florence History of Science Museum?

+ After getting back to normal, the last piece of the school day puzzle was including activities for Sophie and TJ from A Year of Playing Skillfully.   She loves having "special" school subjects just for her - I really need to be better about scheduling the time.  This week, we made cinnamon sugar tortilla snowflakes (a huge hit with everybody) and got the wiggles out with ABC exercise cards.  She and TJ also watched Leapfrog's Phonics Farm and Letter Factory on repeat.

Current 1000 Books Project Total: 91/1000
Poetry Teatime Treat: nothing this week - oops!


+ Health: My right leg/hip/groin feels all out of whack and I've been out of commission all week.  Maybe I should see a chiropractor?  I don't know what I managed to do to myself, but I need to be an adult about it and really let myself heal.  I think my May half marathon is out for 2018. Super frustrating and discouraging right out the gate for sure.  

+ Reading: I finished Such Good Girls.  I'm still making my way through Bishop Barron's new book, Jackson Pollock, Anne of Avonlea and I started Water for Elephants too.  Hoping to finish at least two of these this weekend.

+ Spiritual: I'm reading one small section of Fulton Sheen's Guide to Contentment each day.

+ Fun: I added a few stitches to my cross-stitch.  I've been keeping up with my photography project and have started making plans for a mini album.  My new kitchen table arrived (we've been without one for seven months) and I've been dreaming about ways to spruce up the room.  Creativity can manifest itself in so many unique ways in my everyday life - I just have to seek it.
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