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Friday, August 8, 2014

Deck Makeover

So after the chicken coop project got finished, next up was the deck.  It was a pretty big project with the power washing and painting, more than you might think.  I did help with some of the painting but who am I kidding, Hubby did most of it...he finished the work while the kids and I were away visiting family so it was nice to come home to a finished project!  Not to mention he cleared out a bunch of the ugly tree stumps in the yard and thoroughly cleaned out the mini van! thanks babe!

Anyways, I'm loving the new deck, it feels so much cleaner with the fresh paint and stain vs the weathered wood that was stained green from the spring pollen with curling boards...hubs got that all fixed up now.  At first we were going to just stain the deck all one color with either a clear stain or something subtle but then the deck had these copper caps on the posts and they weren't that noticeable against the weathered wood and if we did a brown stain all over I didn't think it would do much justice so I went hmmmmmm.....for about an hour as hubby tapped his foot waiting for me to decide so he could go to Home Depot to get supplies and decided to go ahead and paint the deck rails an off white and then do Thompson Waterseal stain in Acorn Brown I think it was the semi-transparent.

Here's the before and after.

at first we were thinkinf just doing a clear coat sealer to protect it but keep the natural wood look but I made a quick decision (not something I normally do!) and went with it...We both like how it turned out

Next phase? This last picture reminds me we should probably get around to adding some deck skirting so we aren't looking under at our crap we store underneath, but at the end of the's just one of those things that ain't the most important in the world so for now I'm just going to enjoy a finished project and having the chicken coop and deck getting protected off the Hubby's project list and just hang out!  Those were 2 projects that seemed unfinished for a long time, not because of him, just because they take a lot of time and he just does what he can when time permits.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Homeschool Begins Again

We officially started another homeschool year on Monday.  We spent the last 2.5 weeks in Washington State with family and it was kinda nice since after being gone that long we have to get readjusted to our own routine again to just start it off with our homeschool routine.  This year we are using My Father's World (MFW) Adventure in US History and will also be doing Classical Conversations (CC) again.  It's cool because the cycle of CC we are on is also US history so they will actually compliment each other.  Last year there was pretty much no correlation between MFW and CC.  I've also been in a wind down phase since the end of the school year...last spring I felt like we really got so ramped up with activities, field trips, and all kinds of commitments and while it was all fun and good was exhausting and really not who I am to be so busy and on the go everyday that we're rushing through our learning to get on to the other places we need to be....that's just not how I envisioned our homeschool.  Part of the benefit of homeschooling is NOT getting sucked into the crazy busy lifestyle and collapsing at the end of the day.  Being so busy I just started feeling disconnected and honestly it's not fair to my 2nd child who doesn't like being out all the time.  So we reevaluated, said no to some of the things we enjoyed last year and said yes to other things that are more simple, easy and more gymnastics for J, it's close to home vs other activities I was driving all over the place for and required more time and energy overall.

When I started this homeschool journey, I began by read The Thomas Jefferson Education which really inspired me, and then getting into Charlotte Mason, Montesorri, Waldorf and some Unschool literature and facebook pages like The Libertarian Homeschooler and Our Muddy Boots.  That's all the stuff that resonated with me.  For Kindergarten we didn't use curriculum and just had some guidelines about what kindergartners need to know and then was creative and pulled things together and had a lot of fun.  I loved it, it totally gave me freedom to cover the things we needed to cover and then some using my own interests and creativity as well as inspired by my daughter's interests.  And since I didn't have a checklist/curriculum I felt like life was just really inspiring and organic and exciting.  But I also would sometimes stress over gauging how I was doing as a teacher...not having a guideline is really freeing and fun and sometimes we covered way more than we would have sticking with a curriculum, other days were lighter, and it was definitely more work overall coming up with everything myself to make learning so fun that when my hubby would ask her "what did you and mommy do for school today?" she would say "We didn't do any school today!" and I would be so proud because those days I had met my goal, I taught her everything I had intended through various activities and moments but it felt so natural and fun to her she didn't even know I was "schooling" her so I would reassure my hubby that yes.....YES I was teaching her...with much effort at that to make her think she hadn't done any "school", but sometimes I would be up late crafting how those wonderful days would go and then still, sometimes struggled with not having anything to "show"...I worksheets in a folder mean so much right?

For first grade, last year, we had moved to a new area and having a new baby and preschooler, hubby was worried how I would be able to keep her up to speed.  So, as a way to make connections in our community with being new and as a safety net for her to be learning SOMETHING in case i was so sleep deprived I couldn't cover everything at home we needed to we signed up for Classical Conversations.  I really liked the whole idea of it even though I'm DEFINITELY not very Classical Education in my style.  I also decided to do My Father's World as it was an open and go out of the box curriculum that had a Charlotte Mason influence.  I did keep thinking though if it was weird to do MFW and CC at the same time, but figured it wasn't going to hurt anyone and they were both good programs.

I LOVED how easy MFW it was to implement.  It was so easy to implement that we started back up a week after baby came along even though I had thought I would take more time.  We had a super smooth year and the phonics workbook and bible reader were great, we really enjoyed that.  The math was fine as well.  I was a little dissapointed on the art side but at the same time I was an art major and used to teach art so that wasn't a big deal we just did our own thing.  Overall we were very happy with it and that's why we are continuing with it for this year.

Classical Conversations was great too.  I love that, at the Foundations levels at least, you can use it as much or as little as you want in your homeschool.  Some people base their curriculum around it, others like us used it as enrichment and sometimes tied it in or expanded on certain things at home but for the most part, just let the kids listen to the songs while they played or did art and that was about it as far as time I put into it outside of class.  Things I liked were my daughter getting to have a group of little friends she saw each week, doing weekly presentations, bringing lunch and eating on the playground with her friends after class, and the fact they covered science experiments, orchestra and art as well so even if we were light some weeks at home on those things, she got it there.

But, the year went by so fast, too fast, especially the 2nd half and it kinda makes me sad when I think about how fast it went by...because in less than a month my baby will turn 1 and it's just reminded me that we need to slow down, not say yes to everything even if we want to or feel bad about not participating in something.  I always wanted to be a mom ever since I was a little girl, I don't want to rush through this time so fast that my precious time of having little kids and a baby are just a blurry memory of stressing to hurry up and get to the next thing.  So, I'm not going all unschool, but I'm taking my My Father's World curriculum and doing it with my own waldorf/Charlotte Mason/Unschooly twist and try my best not to rush through our days, to relax, to let the kids relax.  To remember that when our days are commited to other activities, we aren't home to discover our chicken laying her first egg and the excitement and anticipation of waiting for her to do that and playing in the forest making art with pieces of nature while we wait, we aren't home to notice 2 small adorable baby deer and their mother playing in our yard, We aren't experimenting with J walking around the house with the baby in my baby wrap, or for the kids to remember that their first and forever best friends are eachother while playing Fireman Sam or making Rainbow Loom Bracelets, or just laying in the hammock all together in the shade after lunch on the deck doing finger plays about the 5 little ducks, or helping J type out stories she's inventing etc.  So I'm still happy at this point with our curriculum, we got the basic package so we could just do our own art which I got them each 2 spiral drawing books one will be for art lessons the other is a Nature Journal/Art book. The other fun thing that I'm doing that is more Waldorf inspired is daily chalkboard art.  We have one of those double sided easles so I create a fun chalkboard drawing that relates to that day and turn it around so when they come into the playroom they see the whiteboard and then when I'm ready to show them I turn it around for the big reveal.  So far that's really the only prep I've had to do and for me that is pretty fun.  But anyways, lately I just keep hearing a comment someone sweetly made to me on a field trip last spring as I was telling her about how our packed schedule, "You can't homeschool if you're never home."  It's so true, homeschool shouldn't be just checking off the requirements for that day and then heading out the door ASAP to do other stuff, even if it is good stuff.  But being home enough you can slow down and "smell the roses" where kids can get bored and be forced to use their imagination and cooperate, and not have everyone fee pressured to get certain things done because then later we have to be somewhere and then there's constantly more stuff so if they get behind mom stresses out because when will they have time to finish their work?  I don't want to do that...I think we'll still end up being somewhat busy this year anyways, but I'm definitely going in with a lot more intention on how and where we spend our time, and bowing out gracefully when we need to just be home and happy and have more time for hobbies and quiet time and remember the curriculum is there to help us and make things easier, not stress us out over checking every little thing off on the SUGGESTED weekly schedule, and adapting things to our learning style as needed.

SO anyhoo, I was intending on just posting some pictures of our first 2 days of school but somehow this turned into a huge post!

 Muffin Monday! No rush to be anywhere so let him do as much as he wanted, it's slower and messier but those muffins are now extra special ;)

 First day of school with our Waldorf chalkboard art...hoping to get more creative with it as the year goes on! Kids are excited about this.

Each wanted to say a prayer after pledge of allegiance.  His prayers always crack me up!

Building his name with the laminated straight and curved lines taken from Writing Without Tears.

taking baby brother for a hands!

After giving up digging for treasure/dinosaur bones they created a babbling brook.

I didn't take pictures of the actual book work stuff...but so far J likes the new material!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

First Egg

Well those chickens are starting to earn their keep as we got our first egg this past weekend!  Although that's not a fair statement really, they've already been earning their keep with all their bug eating!  They are like vacuums all day long! The bug population on our property is way down compared to last year!  Last year you would walk across the lawn and every step you'd take it seemed like 20 crickets and grasshoppers would pop up, scorpion sightings are down as well.  Anyways, the spider population is a lot less too.  Last year we had big spider webs on every window of our house and every morning when I would walk outside I would always get some thick sticky spider web on me, even though we kept cleaning and yes, killing spiders.  So far there has only been one big spider on a window which was super gross but I got that taken care of with a vacuum.  Anyways, now our biggest chicken, a barred rock has started laying eggs! 

B is watching her work on laying her egg

She took a little break to come say hello

It was on saturday and we were outside and letting the girls free range and heard loud weird chicken sounds coming from the coop, my husband looked at me like what the?  Then I remembered when I took the kids to Farmer Sue's on a field trip and we watched a chicken lay and egg and all the noise she made and told the kids we better go check...sure enough she was in the coop pacing around, squatting and making loud noise then pacing around again....the kids were fascinated!  After a while we decided to give her some privacy so we followed the other chickens down our path in the woods my hubby made and started making some art with nature while we waited.  First the kids made a nature lady and then B and I made a "long neck" dinosaur.

After a while we checked back on the chicken and the other chickens had all come back and were on the ramp to the coop very curious as to what the heck was going on in there with all that racket.  They were standing on the tippy toes with necks stretched out towards the door, creeping closer but very hesitant.  Finally she laid her egg, ate a bunch of feed and then went about the rest of her day as normal.  J was so excited she called her uncle right away who also has chickens close in age to ours and then called her papa and told him the exciting news as well as informing him "...the egg was warm and smelled like a chicken butt!" lol it didn't really stink, just had a bit of a farmy smell but I wouldn't say it smelled like a chicken butt FYI.

I went to peek in the window on the hen and my hubby casually says "watch out for that spider right by your head" I didn't think much, then saw THIS THING!!! Can you say ARACHNOPHOBIA!  And look at that weird zipper like thing it made!  Anyways, last year we had spiders like this on all our bushes...havent seen any since the hens are out eating all the time.  This is the first one and it's way away from the house. But still....EEEEEEWWWWWW!

So we haven't tried them yet, they are kinda small at this point so we were going to wait to get a couple of them and then give them a try :)

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Rich Creamy Dairy Free Chocolate Ice Cream

Dairy Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Gelato

It's so nice that there is now a selection of dairy free ice cream other than fruit sorbet, even TCBY carries SILK chocolate ice cream made with almond milk....but honestly, it's still somewhat disappointing.  The SILK dairy free ice cream is not thick and creamy like regular ice cream and it leaves something to be desired.  So here is a recipe for dairy free chocolate ice cream or dairy free chocolate gelato, made with almond milk but much richer and creamier than the story version.  I don't add a ton of peanut butter so the peanut butter flavor is pretty subtle, I just add it to give the ice cream a little extra thickness.

1 cup sugar
4 cups chocolate almond milk
1/4 cup cocoa powder
 6 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla
2-4 TBsp peanut butter

In a saucepan, add sugar, milk, cocoa powder and egg yolks.  Stir over medium heat until it starts to thicken.  Remove from heat and add peanut butter and vanilla.  

Cover and chill in fridge for a few hours until completely chilled.

Pour mixture into prepared Ice Cream Maker and proceed using your ice cream makers instructions.  Ours comes with a bowl that you freeze for 24 hours ahead of time then just pop it in the ice cream maker, add your ice cream mixture and turn on for about 25-30 minutes.  When Ice cream is done, and you've had enough, store in an airtight container, we also line the top of the ice cream with pastic wrap before putting the lid on the container, it prevents freezer burn.  

We like the Silk and Almond Breeze Chocolate milk both so either one would be yummy.  You could also make this with Original Almond Milk or Coconut Milk and leave out the Cocoa powder for vanilla ice cream and then add your own additions, I'm thinking some Glutino Oreo Cookies for some dairy free gluten free Cookies and Cream Ice Cream! Our last batch we made the Chocolate Gelato version and added in chopped up Glutino Sandwich cookies and we LOVED it...Chocolate Cookies N' Cream!  We went to TCBY a few days later and had the SILK chocolate ice cream and it was just so watery and bland compared to our ice cream.  The secret is making it like Gelato with the egg yolks.  

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Baby and Chicks Photo - Sony DSC-RX100/B 20.2 MP

OK I just had to share a couple pictures I took of my little guy with the chicks a couple weeks ago!  He was 7 months old here and the chicks were between 1-2 weeks old.

I guess if I'll add anything else, I will say that I love our new camera!  We had to replace our old one right when he was born because it stopped working, I think it got sand in it at the Oregon Coast last summer.  We got a deal on this because it was last years model and we found it through Amazon Warehouse Deals.  Once you know what you are looking for, check regularly till a really good deal comes up.  This was hundreds of dollars less than the original because it was the previous years model and it was also discounted because it has a small scratch on the LDC screen.  

Sony DSC-RX100/B 20.2 MP 

Exmor CMOS Sensor Digital Camera with 3.6x Zoom

We wanted a nice camera that could take high quality photos with manual and automatic settings, but we didn't want to have to carry a big heavy camera with a giant lense everywhere either...we love that this can slip in your pocket or the cell phone pocket of a purse and takes great photos.  it currently isn't as deeply discounted as when we got it but like I said, with the warehouse deals, if you are patient and keep checking, you can get save hundreds off the regular price due to minor "damage".  We also got our TV from Amazon Warehouse deals, same thing, my hubby checked frequently for a couple months and then when the price got really low on one he wanted, he ordered it.  It had a small scratch on the back of the can't even see it! (we had to replace our old TV after the move because the movers didn't wrap it or anything for that matter-they damaged a LOT of stuff , some of the boxes looked like they had flown off the truck while it was driving down the freeway!-the screen was so badly damaged it wasn't usable.  Thank goodness for insurance!)  

Anyways, I love this camera, I am getting better at figuring out the settings, I wish it had a little better of a zoom because our old camera had a really great zoom lens, but it was bulky.  I can do without the extra zoom for the quality and convenience of this one.  And if you can get a good deal on this or something similar, it might even cost less than a professional photography session for your baby or kids and with this you can take professional quality photos yourself, whenever you want!  So anyways, there are great camera options outside of the big Canons and Nikons if you aren't trying to start a career in photography or concerned with having the ability to change out lenses.  I LOVE that I can slip this Sony into the pocket on my ERGO when I'm on field trips with the kids or hikes as a family. (Another deal! I found my performance ERGO for like 60% off the regular price on Zulily). With baby number 3 it was really the only new thing I got.  

Oh and one particular feature I love is that there is a dial on the front to quickly change the aperture or shutter depending on what settings I am using so I can be holding the baby in one arm and with only one hand free, be taking a picture and quickly adjusting the settings with ease.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Chasing Chickens and Beginning Gardening

Chasing Chickens

So the other day a storm was coming in and the chickens were out free ranging so we wanted to get them all back in the coop before we got dumped on.  So far it's been relatively easy to get the chickens back in the coop when we are ready to do so, half the time they are already waiting inside when we go down there and then just shut the door otherwise it's been pretty easy to just pick them all up and put them in.  Well, this time the big ones were already ready to go in, I think they sensed the weather was changing and getting more skiddish.  We got all of the in fairly easily except for Buffy, she was an elusive pain in the leg! Seriously, look what happened to my leg during one of my attempts to catch her....I didn't see a small tree stump and smashed my leg on it.  

(ok it's not that bad but my skin is so light and scars easily and it's hot here and now I have this ugly thing to show off!)
Oh and yes, our grass in the back yard is actually a mix of grasses and weeds and clovers...but right after we (as in he) mows the lawn, it looks like it might be grass if you don't get too close! lol

She kept hiding under the coop, then running all over the place, darting between trees...I was impressed really, I heard Buff Orpingtons were the most docile and likely to get eaten by an animal or picked on by the other chickens but she's insanely quick and elusive, I think she'll be OK.  I finally had enough of us running after her like idiots...I'm sure we made a hilarious sight, but after bashing my leg I realized "This is stupid!  The chicken is too scared to stay out here by itself, the other chickens aren't trying to come out...I'm done!  I bet if we leave and come back in 2 minutes she'll go in by herself"...and that's what happened.  

Yesterday we had them out again , when Tyler asked me if I would go start rounding them up and getting them in the coop.  I went and checked on them...they weren't done foraging.  It was getting closer to dusk and I was just like, "nope, I'm not doing THAT again...They'll probably go in in the next 20 minutes. I'm not dodging through trees trying to catch them."  And they did.  So....lesson learned...don't kill yourself trying to catch a chicken to put it in the I'll probably have a scar on my leg. They will go in on their own if we just be patient.  And if you MUST get them put away for some reason and they aren't ready to go back in, go for the easy ones first and once they are in, if you leave the more elusive ones alone, the will go hop in by themselves to be with the others.  Don't break a leg over it!

Here is the recent progress on the coop....Tyler's working on the run out the back...he got the frame up and a trench dug out, now he just needs to get the wire in place and make a door...I helped a little ;) But really, he's the main man on the job!  GO BABE!

 We are excited to see we have lots of blueberries coming in!  We had one pretty unfruitful blueberry plant that produced 3 berries last year, but I guess blueberries do better if you have at least 3 plants for cross pollination.  A couple weeks back we stopped at some small nursery on the side of the road on our way back from a hike.  We picked up a couple more blueberry plants and some tomato plants.  It was WAY cheaper than getting them at a place like Home Depot, these plants were already a good size and only a couple dollars each!

 Here's hubby checking out the little tomato on one of the plants.  We alternated blueberry plants and tomato plants...We aren't that experienced in gardening, so there was not any reason for this...just did it that way.  My mom is a gardening superwoman and my mother in law is also a big gardener so hopefully we can follow in their footsteps. :)  We want to get more tomato plants, we want tons of tomatos, plenty to eat fresh but also we want to roast and can a WHOLE bunch for making homemade pasta sauce.  So, our beginning garden consists of blueberries and tomatoes so far...But I hope to add more over time and make a real vegetable and herb garden and I also REALLY want to plant lots of hydrangeas, peonies and lavender!  I even got curious today about having a bee colony on the property, I looked it up and 1 beehive can produce 50 pounds of honey a year!  WOW!  BUT for now I'm good with 6 chickens and a beta fish!

Looking at these little blueberries is getting me thinking about making my 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookie Bars

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Oatmeal

 Cookie Bars

Gluten Free & Dairy Free

So My aunt posted a healthy paleo recipe for chocolate chip cookie squares on facebook the other day and I really wanted to make them, but when I went to the recipe I didn't have the right ingredients, but at that point I was already craving cookie bars so badly so I made up my own version, they aren't a healthy recipe but they ARE gluten and dairy free :)

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookie Bars
1/2 cup gluten free oats
1/2-1 cup gluten free flour (add more til you are happy with consistency)
(I used a premixed gluten free flour blend that contains xanthan gum, add 1 tsp xanthan gum if your flour blend doesn't have it)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup shortening or palm oil (or butter if you aren't dairy free)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup chocolate chips (I use Ghiradelli, the ones I buy don't have milk in them)

In mixer blend peanut butter,shortening, sugar, egg and vanilla.  Add gluten free oats, gluten free flour blend, baking powder, baking soda, salt and chocolate chips.  Press into a 8x8 inch baking dish and bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes. (baking time may vary as I used the convection setting)

So no these aren't paleo or sugar free or anything awesome like that, but I did add the peanut butter and oatmeal to make them a little more hearty and satisfying :)