Tuesday, September 2, 2014

getting in the swing of things...

I spent the ENTIRE day in the kitchen yesterday. ENTIRE day. Cleaning, boiling, peeling, cutting, and canning tomatoes. By the time I finished up around 6:30 p.m., my hands were wrinkled, rough, and burning. But stepping back to admire the 22 quarts of garlic tomatoes and the 24 pints of salsa felt pretty darn good. I decided that this was going to be my last big preserving week. My focus this week is to get as much of the canning/freezing done as possible. I made dilly beans a few weeks back so I'm planning on making at least one more run of those. Good grief, were they yummy. And then I definitely have more herbs to dehydrate for the winter. I am so thankful for my dried organic herbs come winter-time.

We recently had the opportunity to visit the Creation Museum in Kentucky. We spent three days there two weekends ago. Children are free this entire year with each paying adult ticket. We've been interested in going, and the free tickets were certainly reason enough to make us squeeze this trip into our busy schedule.

We had an amazing time, and we all learned so much. I came away with a much better understanding of how dinosaurs, dragons, the Ice Age, and many other things fit into the young-earth equation. We listened to a most interesting and informational speaker who explained how the six days of creation are supported by the Hebrew language to be six literal 24-hour days. This was something I didn't have much knowledge about prior to this visit. We attended a workshop on the Ice Age with Buddy Davis, and the kids got to sculpt their own sabertooth tiger head.

We came home refreshed, educated, and with a bunch of resources, books, and DVD's that I plan on using to supplement our science curriculum this year.

And while upon the subject of homeschooling, we started our studies several weeks back. We've kept a loose, more relaxed summer schedule the whole summer through, but have been more intentional the last three weeks.  The photos above are of the kids doing a taxonomy project last week. I was admittedly dreading this activity because I thought it might overwhelm them (and me.) Lily was a bit overwhelmed, but Ian enjoyed it way more than I ever thought he would. He organized and classified his Legos, and I was very impressed with how he chose to organize them. His mind is very tidy in this aspect.

Over this past winter, I had joined Audible's monthly plan which means I get one credit per month to use towards audiobooks. Most of the audiobooks are worth a credit so I'm basically getting one audiobook a month. This has proven to be a treasure in our home. I found some old desktop speakers in the basement that I plugged into my Kindle. We've been listening to audiobooks while we do chores, while we relax, and while the kids play quietly. I just purchased a kit that will enable me to plug my Kindle into my car and play the audiobooks while we're driving. We recently finished up reading Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time . I was going to order the next book in the series but, instead, decided to download the audiobook. I just have to say that I really love audiobooks. And my Kindle. I listened to The Hobbit yesterday while knee-deep in tomatoes. It really feels like I'm multi-tasking! Haha!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

feeling nostalgic

I wonder if anyone else has fond memories of playing croquet at their grandparents' home?

While exploring a thrift store last week, I came upon this croquet set for $5.00. I was immediately taken back to the days of my childhood summers. Croquet with my sisters and sometimes my cousins during picnics and visits to my grandparents' home. When I think of croquet, I think of my grandparents.

It's funny how certain material objects, smells, and songs trigger fond memories.

Of course, I had to make this croquet set my own. My kids had never played croquet before that evening last week. It was wonderful and very nostalgic to see them enjoying a game that I played as a child. 

Making memories...

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Put 'em up

Yay for green beans! They are one of the plants that are doing the best this year in our garden. We have a row of bush beans as well as two rows of pole beans. This was our first year to grow pole beans, and I have found that I much rather prefer them. The beans stay cleaner than the bush beans since most of them are up off the ground hanging from the trellis. Clean beans translates into less work for me once I get them into the kitchen. And I rather like less work right now.

I usually freeze our green beans. Canning them pretty much cooks all the nutrition right out of them (which is why we eat our veggies) although I do like the taste of soft, salty canned beans. Also, freezing them takes less time than canning since canned green beans must be pressure canned.

This year in addition to freezing, I thought I would try some dilly beans. Yesterday, I made eight pints of garlicky dilly beans. From the smell of the brine, I think I'm going to love them. Very garlicky, very dilly, very vinegary. Yum. We love dill pickles, and I haven't been able to make any of those since our cucumbers flopped, so dill green beans will have to fill in that culinary gap for us. Oh, and dilly beans do not require pressure canning. They just require the regular ole' boiling water bath since they have such a high acidic content from the vinegar. I like that.

I used this recipe on this website. It's very easy to follow. If you've never canned anything before, you should go read this general article on canning first. The process of canning is pretty much the same from one type of food to the next so once you do it a few times, I imagine that you will probably feel pretty comfortable and confident. I started with this book (an older edition) way back twelve years ago when I started canning and found it to be simple yet informative enough to begin to feel confident when canning.

Right now, the dilly beans are waiting out their 24 hour "don't-touch-me" time period. Then they will be labeled and moved to the shelves of our can cellar. That's my favorite part. Lining the cellar shelves.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

busyness, depression, suicide - my thoughts

I've been a bit short on words lately. Busyness tends to do that to me. It pushes my mute button. I go into a sort of robotic routine, and it becomes difficult to piece together any sort of meaningful words. Oh, they're there, in my mind, and they mostly come to me in the shower when I don't have paper, pen, or keyboard to record them. (Why do my greatest thoughts come to me while in the midst of a shower? I have realized that it is probably because that is the only time I am by myself and in relative quiet. I may need to invest in some of those bath markers for children so I can jot down notes.)

Our garden has been a bit of a flop this year. Perhaps it's from the extreme amount of rain and the chilly fall-like days we've had all summer. We lost all of our squash and eggplant. The zucchini and cucumber harvest was pitiful. In fact, I find myself planning a trip to the farmer's market just so I can have produce to make pickles and jam. I am very thankful for the green beans and the tomatoes which should be ready in another week or so. That's how it is with raising your own food. There are good years that produce more than enough. And then there are years when the harvest is smaller and not sufficient. But we do what we can, and fill in the gaps with what we can find from other local farmers.

I can't help but just speak a few words regarding the apparent suicide of Robin Williams. Yesterday, I found myself angered after reading this blog post on the Matt Walsh blog. I'm admittedly not a devoted Matt Walsh reader, but I have read some of his articles in the past and found myself agreeing with him. But it both saddened and angered me to read his post regarding depression and suicide. I found his article to be extremely insensitive and misinformed. I know the dark depths of depression. I know what it feels like to feel like there is absolutely no hope.

When I am experiencing a depressed episode, I can't think straight. I'm not myself at all. I'm totally disconnected from all that is around me. And it's not because I want to be. Goodness, how I cry with all of my mental energy for deliverance! It's an uncontrollable mental prison that shackles my mind and renders it helpless. It's not a choice. It's not situational. It's unpredictable and vicious.

And that was why I found Matt Walsh's article so incredibly insulting. I won't deny that there is a spiritual component to depression. There is a spiritual component to everything. But I would never choose depression. I would never choose suicidal thoughts. I would never choose darkness and oppression.

So that's where I found him to be wrong and insensitive. When I heard about Robin William's suicide, I felt empathy. And I felt a heart ache that only those who have suffered with clinical depression could have.

And, yes, I am soooo thankful that I have Jesus. And, yes, without Him and His hand on me, it's hard to tell where I would be right now. Would I even be here?

So, I beg the church... Don't discriminate. Don't speak harsh words. Don't pass your judgments. Don't act in a haughty manner, thinking you know everything about everything because you have a degree or read the Bible everyday.

Because that only pushes those of us that suffer with depression into a deeper anguish.

I'm open about my dealings with mental illness because I decided several years ago that it is a vehicle that God has given me to reach out to others. I didn't choose the illness, but I do choose to surrender it and my life to my Father and let Him use it for His glory.