4

The Glories of Butter and Sugar

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This morning my 8 year old woke up before everyone else and whispered enthusiastically: ” Mummy, let’s make muffins while it’s still quiet!” I was so happy she woke up eager to start the day together, and that I didn’t have to go commando mode and rush her off to school. I’m loving the freedom of summer, and the fact that it won’t be taken away in a few weeks, because we have decided she is going to be homeschooling with her younger sister, instead of returning to school. I get the best parts of her again…her eagerness, helpfulness and joy, instead of her exhausted moodiness after a long day away.

We had wanted to bake the day before but were out of too many things, and would have had to substitute almost everything but flour and lemon in the recipe. I’m all for ground flax egg replacer, almond milk instead of cow’s milk, apple sauce instead of oil, brown sugar instead of white, etc, but we were missing even our replacements.

So while my two oldest girls went on an outing to a horse ranch with friends, the three little ones and I went shopping. For once we bought all the stuff actually in the recipe…lovely butter, creamy milk, nice brown eggs. We even used white sugar instead of granulated because friends had given us a big bag of it. Almost a sin in my hippie herbal veggie family… ;)

The result, lovely fluffy muffins that were proclaimed: “The best ever! Just like ones from a restaurant!” And this even with sneaking in a little less sugar and half whole grain with bran and ground flax flour with the white…can’t totally deny my background! We also squeezed in half the lemon juice of the lemon we grated for the peel, and left out the lemon preserve filling. It would likely be super yummy, but would risk being perceived as an actual fruit by my two picky food purists…

Here’s my quick and easy way to share the recipe with you:

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We made a double batch with some plain lemon mini-muffins for my girls who say, “Mmmm, that so plain!” and mean it as a compliment, and some mini-lemon blueberry loaves for the rest of us.

So here’s three cheers to our glorious friends butter and white sugar…and while they might not visit us that often, it’s pretty fun when they do!

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5

Corn Pops Are Good For Your Brain

“What!?” exclaim health-conscious parents everywhere. “Sugary cereal good for your brain?!” Well, they’re good for counting anyway, and therefore perfect for homeschool math lessons, on the days when workbooks won’t cut it and your kids need something tangible to help them compute.

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It happened to us the other day, that after getting stuck on a math problem in her book, my eight year old wouldn’t budge. “I’m not doing it! I hate math!” I remember feeling the same way in school myself. So I had a few options. Give up, force the issue and make a fight, or find a more fun way to teach the same concepts.

A great homeschooling mom blogger called Bonnie Landry quoted Plato on this dilemma:

“Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.”

“Honey, want to grab some corn pops and one of those kid’s divider plates? We can do some math that way.”
Her eyes brightened. “Ok, Mummy!” Off she scuttled.

So using our handy three part plate (good for more than preventing food groups from touching, apparently), we used corn pops to add, subtract, multiply, divide, count by twos and fives, and do word problems. With a smile! And this for the supposed math-hater!

Her little brother, who is just over one, loved corn pop math, too. Especially subtraction…his expertise!

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Later that day we baked peanut butter cookies, and practised reading fractions and measuring (1/2 tsp this, 1/4 cup that, etc). Who knew math could be so yummy?!

Bonnie has a great little book called Chocolate Chip Math which gives more examples and the theory behind this fun, relationship-oriented approach to learning. Check it out:

Chocolate Chip Math

Or read more on her blog:

oh, that’s simple

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0

Katie to the Rescue!

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Have you ever had one of those months where you get a mouse in your kitchen, your stove breaks, you’re pregnant during what feels like a heat wave (and wearing charming compression stockings that make you look and feel about 80), the leftovers get burned and set off smoke alarms late at night, and on top of it all, your back goes out?

Times like this, it’s amazing to have a mind-reading friend, a really good old friend from university, one of the people who is like family to you, email you out of the blue and offer to stop by and bring you dinner. The friend you wanted to call for help but didn’t want to disturb, who heard your silent prayer and took time out of writing her thesis to help you. This is what happened to me.

My friend Katie brought a green salad, Thai chicken soup, cherries and her sweet company. Simply wonderful. We dove into a great conversation about homeschool, writing and being contemplative in the midst of busy daily life. How being prayerful helps us to focus and be inspired when we write. Nothing like a really good talk to feed the soul.

Here are some pictures of the dinner we were lucky enough to receive!

Thai Chicken Soup with red peppers:

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Don’t forget fresh lime…

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“Yum!” says baby.

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My 8 year old said: “It tastes Thai-tastic!” and “The cucumbers are cucumber-licious!”

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She’s my big helper.

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“Aaah, that’s cool!” My 6 year old had seconds of chicken and salad and said “It tastes good.”

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So Katie, thanks for being so lovely! My world is a more beautiful place because of you, and dinner was delicious, as was the break from cooking! ;) Getting to chat with you over iced coffee (life-saver!) reaffirmed the goodness of the world, and put little struggles in perspective. Life can’t help but be wonderful when you are loved.

Also recently my Dad brought me flowers, my mom called to say how much she loves me, my brother found and cleaned up the icky dead mouse (heroic!), my landlords bought us a brand new oven, my friend Ida brought us bread from Cobbs and Milton brought us treats from Starbucks, and my friend Sara took my big girls swimming with her daughter twice to give them an outing and me a break. There is so much to be grateful for! For every challenge, I bet we could all count three blessings. One of them is that challenges help us to be humble enough to reach out and ask for help, which gives people a chance to be heroes and show us how much they love us.

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May you all be blessed with friends and family like mine!

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Playing Urban Farmer

For the last few weeks I’ve been busy playing urban farmer, taking care of my landlord’s gorgeous garden while their family is on holiday. It’s kept me a bit busy for writing much, but here are some pictures of the lush green plants and vibrant flowers, and some of my summer garden elves, too!

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Healthy Vegetables

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Beautiful Berries

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Fun Flowers

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Fragrant Herbs

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Water Babies

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Busy Bees
They sure love artichoke flowers!

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Perky Chickens

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Evening Sunshine

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I hope you are all enjoying a lovely summer, and after busy hot days, relaxing in the sweet evening sunshine!

4

Summer Evening Sunshine

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Wow, it’s been a year since I registered with WordPress, and my blogging journey began. To celebrate this, I’m going to publish the first post I composed on my blog, which never made it out of the draft box until today.

Blogging has been so good for me, because it’s helped me to write so much more regularly, and to feel more confident. Writing is now easier and more fun, especially because of being connected to a great community of fellow readers and writers online. Thank you all for each word of encouragement.

I actually feel comfortable calling myself a writer now, which is new, and have even had a few short articles published in a paper. Hurrah! :) It seems the more I write, the more opportunities to write come, and I’m very happy and grateful for this. Here’s a little snippet with my name in print!

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I encourage anyone who has some crazy artistic idea they are afraid to try to give it a shot, because amazing things are possible. You’d never imagine what you’re capable of and what great opportunities may come unless you try.

So here’s that first post my then trembling fingers never hit publish on. All the best to my fellow writers, and cheers to all of my wonderful readers! I’m so glad you’re sharing this adventure with me!

Summer Evening Sunshine

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After a long day of meals and snacks and diapers and messes, stories and games and breaking up squabbles, it is the most beautiful thing to sit in the evening summer sunlight in the garden, surrounded by bees and flowers, just drinking it all in.

My big girls are jumping on the trampoline–getting along for the moment–and the baby is sleeping. One toddler is snuggling on my lap and the other is wandering about naked, eating raspberries like a chubby, curly haired garden gnome.

Moments like this, worries of the world seem far away and irrelevant, having faded in the mellow warmth and simplicity of the summer evening.

Pausing from the endless seeming cycle of distracted multitasking, I am finally quiet enough to be aware of this divine beauty that has escaped me until now, and in this moment, feel connected to eternity.

4

A Small Step

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A small step
in the midst of great difficulties
can be a miracle

The heroic efforts of a bumble bee
more impressive
than a charging rhino kicking up dust
all show

It’s not perfection
but struggle that matters
not impressive credentials
but the straining of the heart
towards something truly beautiful

living a life of love
full of little sacrifices
getting up again and again

Keep trying
keep smiling
remember the ideal
that sets fire to your heart

Never let discouragement
drown the flames altogether

Blow on that ember of hope
Remember who you are

Forget trying to please others
modifying yourself to be more palatable to them

You can never please anyone
by pretending

It’s better to go down in flames
like a shooting star
completely crazy
but lighting up the world
with your own form of madness

You will inspire
or you will be despised
but at least you will be you

There are worse things
than being rejected

11

Birthday Blessings

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Today is my mother-in-law Janet’s birthday. She is funny, sweet, generous and strong, and defies all stereotypes of evil in-laws. She is one of my best friends.

I remember taking the ferry to meet her the first time. I was so nervous I thought I’d throw up overboard. But from the first warm hug in the ferry terminal parking lot, I knew I had been wrong to worry.

I am amazingly blessed by my relationship with her. She knows me better than almost anyone, and can make me laugh over the phone when things are rough…for example during the pre-bedtime circus with small children or when I wake up after a rough night looking like a porcupine and ready to cry because I can’t even remember to make the coffee. She knows how to put it all in perspective, and loves me despite knowing my worst faults.

So to an amazing person, a super-grandma who is so loved, and one of the most loyal, supportive friends I’ve ever had, happy birthday, and thank you for everything.

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