Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Over And Gone

The Crickets sang in the grasses. They sang the song of summer's ending, a sad, monotonous song. "Summer is over and gone," they sang. "Over and gone, over and gone. Summer is dying, dying."
The crickets felt it was their duty to warn everybody that summertime cannot last forever. Even on the most beautiful days in the whole year--the days when summer is changing into fall-- the crickets spread the rumor of sadness and change.
 --E. B. White
from Charlotte's Web

The days are so lovely now with sunshine and warmth, but the garden is winding down. This evening at my son's soccer game, it was cool enough that I'd wished I'd brought jackets. 

When I read this part of Charlotte's Web aloud today, I felt the truth of it. Summer is over and gone.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

10 Things To Do Instead of Blogging

1.  Take care of these ugly/highly entertaining creatures:

The guineas are finally outside. We successfully moved them to the new coop, and just this week we are transitioning them to being outside of the coop during the day so they can eat lots of ticks.

2.  Enjoy lots of company.

3.  Finally get to the eye doctor for the first time in a couple of years.

My oldest was squinting, so that motivated me to call for appointments. I'll be getting new pink glasses, and my son picked out a nice steel blue frame for his first pair of glasses. He plans on using his own $5.30 to buy a fancier case to keep his in.

4.  Get ready for and celebrate our fall birthdays. We have three in a row.

5.  Forget to play tooth-fairy when your son loses his very first baby tooth. When you wake up and remember, sneak in and do the switcheroo and then ask your son if he's sure he looked everywhere. When he says that his tooth was still there, suggest that he look again just in case the tooth fairy was running late.

I don't know about your experiences with Ms. Tooth Fairy, but that little thief has been late three times this year at our house!

6.  Go to the dermatologist to have a mole removed from your hand. Once you're home, make sure to accidentally rip the stitch out. Muffle your scream of agony so the children aren't quite as worried.

7. Enjoy watching your son play soccer in a league for the first time. Enjoy even more watching his siblings cheer him on.

8.  Pick lots of tomatoes and green beans. Can them. Like about a hundred quarts. Just because you can, buy a bushel of Concord grapes and can juice and jelly. Lots of it.

Because I was just not totally honest with you, allow me to disclose the full truth. I was helped in the harvesting by my children and husband. Because I am busy frequently with little ones, my husband and I work on the canning together. Really, he does most of the work. And the grapes weren't my idea. My husband ordered them, and I'm glad he did. The kitchen smelled so good, and now we have lots of pretty little jars.

9.  Go to one of your best friend's wedding. It was simple and beautiful. People should do weddings like hers more often.

10. Start back in on homeschooling, this year with 4 students instead of 3. Stay up late at night (after all children are in bed) to grade and plan. Then, during the day, fill every spare minute with trying to help your beloved students cram in each nugget of knowledge you want them to learn.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

_The Hancock News_ Column- August 27, 2014

One of the mysterious truths of life is that less is more. I’ve been trying to remind myself of that this busy, busy summer. Why is summer vacation so full of work and activities?

By the end of July each square of my calendar held activities or appointments. Dishes and green beans from the garden were piling up on the counter. Soccer practices and the arrival of guests began filling up August’s days, while more green beans began vying with tomatoes and zucchini for prime counter space. 

Before I knew it, it was time to prepare for school. Since we homeschool, that doesn’t mean buying new clothes and book bags for the kids. While we do need to buy paper, crayons, and such, I also needed to plan and to compile a list of textbooks and other resources to order. Then this year, since my daughter is starting kindergarten, I needed to rearrange our dining room/ school room to make space for more books. 

Then there are the guineas. The whole summer we’ve been learning about, building for, and taking care of 14 guineas we bought as babies (or keets). They are loud and messy and stupid, but in a few weeks, we’ll release them during the day for their intended purpose-- free-ranging on ticks. We didn’t want to spend more money and time on extra responsibilities, but after several cases of Lyme Disease in our family and a spring filled with picking ticks off of even the refrigerator, we were ready to do about anything to prevent the sickness. 

With all of the “more”-- activities, visitors, garden, animals, and work-- I started feeling like I was running on empty. I wasn’t the only one in my family overwhelmed by all the extras. We needed less.

That’s why my husband and I decided to deploy the secret weapon we reserve for times like this. It’s a simple and cheap tool, but a highly effective one. Everybody should know how to wield this mighty protector of sanity. It is the word “no.” 

It sounds easy, but saying “no” sometimes hurts. This summer we ended up using it for a couple of family get-togethers  and library programs we really didn’t want to miss. We were disappointed, but I can say without a doubt that it was the best decision for our family. 

There’s just no sense in having so much and doing so much that you can enjoy nothing. Less is definitely more.


While I’m on the topic of saying the tiny word that works like magic, I should probably learn how to say it to these sweet Magic Bars. Unfortunately I’m weak-willed, so I try to make them only when I can take most of them to somebody else or to a covered-dish dinner. But if you’re feeling brave, go ahead and make a pan of them; it’s a great opportunity for you to practice saying “no.” 

Note that one time I didn’t layer the ingredients in order, and it ended up a mess. Luckily it was a tasty mess that worked really well as an ice cream topping, but I just wanted to warn you that the order does matter. Also, feel free to substitute butterscotch chips or M&M’s for the chocolate chips.

Magic Bars

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk 
2 cups chocolate chips
1 1/3 cups flaked coconut
1 cup chopped nuts

1.  Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 13 x 9-inch pan (or use cooking spray).
2. Combine graham cracker crumbs and butter in a small bowl. Press into the bottom of the pan. 
3.  Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over crumb mixture. Layer evenly with chocolate chips, coconut and nuts. Press down firmly with a fork.
4. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Loosen from sides of pan while still warm; cool on a wire rack. Cut into bars.

This post was shared at Strangers & Pilgrims on Earth for The Art of Home-Making Monday.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

I Can't Believe This Is Meant For Human Consumption

We normally nix the sugary beverages in our house, but this summer our children enjoyed Kool-Aid a couple of times as a treat. Once it looked like this.

Green Apple Kool-Aid

All mixed up, it resembled Flubber or what I imagine nuclear waste to look like or You Can't Do That On Television's green slime. It had a strange glow and an alluring smell. 

And I let the children drink it anyway.