Friday, September 30, 2011

The Great Clutter Elimination Week One

Don't forget to leave a comment on this post to win a $15 gift certificate to Lilla Rose!

I'm feeling pretty good about the progress that I have been able to make in just a couple of days.  I have mainly been working on the toys and school items this week.  My garbage man just took out a really big bag of trash from the school room.  I have to admit that I had gone through my desk, file cabinet and arts and crafts cabinets just a couple of months ago and eliminated tons of papers and other items there.

We moved all the construction toys out of the boys room.  That was a major source of clutter in there!  Legos, KNex, Erector Sets, Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys, FischerTechnic, and more....the accumulation of having boys in the house for almost 19 years!  The older boys don't use any of these construction sets anymore...except for the 15 year old who will occasionally build some with the huge KNEX set we have.  Every thing has a new my room.( they are all in shoeboxes and are sitting on a narrow shelf behind my bedroom door--they are still accessible, but much more controllable!).  The huge box of KNEX and the huge box of dress up clothes that are now in the top of the closet.  I still need to go through or have the older boys go through all the clothes and eliminate old t-shirts and such, boxing up what we want to save and getting rid of the rest.  I added clothes to the younger boys closet that are too big for them and will have to box them up to keep the confusion down.  I hope to take out a large cabinet in there after we go through all the clothes.  Jordan's clothes are in that cabinet, but I think we should be able to have all four boys clothes in a dresser and chest of drawers.  They also have a huge closet that they share.  We could put a couple of storage drawers under a bed or in the closet if needed.  I hope to get their room painted and get new bedding and curtains for them for part of their Christmas.

In the kitchen I elimated some plastic dishes and decorations that were on the countertops.  Countertop space is limited and we have lots going on in the kitchen.  My decorations will have to be elsewhere!

In the school room, I was able to collect almost two boxes of books that I feel we can part with and I also have two or three in the attic.  Lauren (ore married daughter with three little ones) took several items home with her from the school room including three Melissa and Doug Magnetic, chores and schedule, a big box of Little Tykes Waffle Blocks, a Fisher Price castle and farm along with a box of items that go with them....and a crock-pot cookbook!

In addition to mounds of laundry and other regular household duties, I hope today to finish de-cluttering the top of my desk.  Yesterday I managde to clear one stack that contained a collection of recipes cut from magazines and printed off from the internet.  All are now organized in a large notebook and tucked inside page protectors.  I weeded out several recipes from a recipe box and tossed the broken box away.  The recipe cards will be added to the notebook today and there are a handfull of frequently used recipes tucked inside a kitchen cabinet that will be typed up and put in the notebook.  I have a feeling I'll be sharing recipes with you for a while now!  We had a new-to-us recipe this morning that I will share with you soon.  It was delicious, but we think it will be even better with just a little bit of tweaking.

That's about all the progress I've made this week and I need to get going if I am going to get anything else done today.  How about you?  Are you tackling some de-cluttering projects?  Have you blogged about it?  Leave a comment with your blog ling or just let us all know how you are doing.

Linking up with Laurie over at Common Sense Homesteading.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Lilla Rose Review and Giveaway!

I know you've seen them on other blogs lately.  I have and have secretly wanted to try one out.  I recently recieved one in the mail and have worn it every day since!  When I am at home working I must have my hair up---off my neck and out of my face---I just can't work otherwise!  I have had several accessories through the years to keep my hair pulled back....bandanas, ponytail holders, head bands, claws, banana clips and much more.  Some look garish or as Jeff would say "something that Great-Aunt Edra" would wear.  Many hair clips have not held up to my thick hair and have quickly gone into the trash can.  Some just hurt me!  I can happily say that the Flexi-Clip definitely looks nice, has held up my hair in a ponytail for the last few days and hasn't caused me any pain.  So far, I am loving it!

I wish I could tell you that these lovely hair-dos were my own or those of my daughter's.  I think we definitely need to spice up our hair styles.  I think the Lilla Rose website has given me the encouragement to add a little flair to my hair.  I love these simple but elegant syles.

Lilla Rose has many clips to choose from...from the very simple to the very ornate!  Choose which style suits you best.  Not only do they have the Flexi-clips, but also the cute U pins, headbands, earrings and eyeglass holders.  Kaelan and I have already made up our wish list for our next order and are eager to play around with some new styles.  Check out these videos for a look at some of the easy styles that can be accomplished using the Flexi-clips and watch the sizing video to see just what size you need for your needs.

Now for the giveaway.  You have two chances to recieve a $15 gift certificate for any Lilla Rose  from Paula Ramm.

1.. Visit Paula Ramm's Lilla Rose website here and then leave a comment letting me know which clip is your favorite.

2.  Watch the sizing and styling video and leave another comment letting me know which style you like the best!  You must watch the video to determine what size clip you need for your own hair.

That's it!!  You have two opportunities to win, so be sure to leave a comment letting me know your favorites.  One for the clips and one for the hair style.  Can't wait to see  your choices!

This giveaway is open to those in the US, Mexico and Canada.

Deadline for entering is Wednesday, October 5!!  I'll post a winner on Thursday, October 6!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Learning in the Kitchen

One of the many blessings of having daughters is teaching them their way around the kitchen.  I have three daughters:  our oldest is 27, married and is expecting a fourth child in a few months, our next daughter is 23, at home and teaching or tutoring outside the home two days a week and our youngest daughter is 12...still at home as well. ; )

All of my girls (and my boys to some extent) have been free to experiment in the kitchen from a pretty young age and for the most part we have really enjoyed the "experiments" they have shared with the family.  While there most certainly have been some failures from time to time, our girls have really become accomplished cooks.  However, this didn't happen magically.  From the time they are young my children help in the kitchen and are slowly given responsiblities as they become more adept.  Making toast (no toaster needed) and scrambling eggs soon turns into making homemade breads and entire meals and experimenting with developing their own style of cooking and their own recipes.  Little by little the children have been able to take over more and more responsibility in the kitchen and, I have to admit, there are some days that I don't step foot in there!

My youngest daughter has taken on a new task of providing an easy to eat dessert for our Sunday luncheons at church.  Each week she prepares a simple cookie, brownie or cinnamon roll bite to share with the other families.  This past week she made these wonderful sugar cookies and I thought I would share the recipe with you today.  Perhaps you have a young aspiring cook in your home who would love to get in the kitchen to make a special treat for dessert this week.

Kaelan's Sugar Cookies 

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 t. cream of tartar
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. vanilla
1/4 t. salt
1 egg
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup shortening

In a large mixing bowl (or use your Bosch with the cookie paddles) beat shortening, powdered sugar, egg and vanilla at low speed for about 30 seconds to blend well.  Mix at high speed for a minute until light and fluffy while scraping the sides of the bowl.  Add a little flour at a hime and mix at a low setting until well mixed.  Use a small cookie scoop or a teaspoon to drop the dough onto ungreased cookie sheets.  Leave 2 inches around each cookie.  Flatten the cookies with the bottom of a drinking glass that has been lightly greased on the bottom and then dipped in sugar.  Bake in a preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or slightly less if you desire a soft cookie.  Remove from cookie sheets and cool on racks.  Kaelan added fall colored sprinkles to her cookies before baking.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Overwhelmed by Stuff

In this country we are so blessed to have so many material things readily available to us.  Books, clothes, toys, electronic devices and more are easily attainable.  However, those blessings can easily turn into hindrances when we accumulate so much that our lives are spent in taking care of STUFF instead of living our lives in service to others.

So many days it seems that I am moving STUFF from one place to another so that I can work with other STUFF. I have STUFF in the kitchen that must be moved from the counter tops so that I can get out other STUFF to make bread.  I must clear the school table of all the STUFF in order to get out other STUFF to do school work with the children.  We must clear the beds of STUFF in order to sleep in them at night.  I must clear my desk of STUFF before I can work on anything there.  STUFF is ruling our lives!!  And for some reason, we constantly think we need more STUFF!!  Why do we get into this trap?

If you've been here long you know that we are producers around here.  Musicians must have their instruments, music stands and music.  Artists must have their canvases, paints, paintbrushes, pencils and so much more.   Cooking from scratch and food preservation means buckets of grains and beans, canning jars and canners, huge pots that don't fit into cabinets, and jars upon jars of preserved food.  Homesteading brings it's own stuff with pots for starting plants, chicken tractors, books on homesteading, tools and equipment...more and more stuff.  Add in the clothes needed for eight people, bedding, food storage, a home business with lots of equipment, twenty-three years of homeschooling and twenty-seven years of raising children and you have a house overflowing with STUFF!!

I long for open spaces in my home.  For horizontal surfaces that are clear of clutter.  Shelves that have an empty space or two.   Open floor spaces.  Unfortunately, as my family has grown, my living spaces have not.  Now I have reached a point that I get so easily distracted by the STUFF that I cannot focus on the people as I should.  I have periodically purged our STUFF throughout the years, but I think we are facing a major purge soon if I am to regain some sanity.   Construction toys, homeschooling materials, furniture, books, games, knick-knacks and more need to leave my home.  And that's just the house!!  There is still the garage (once something goes in there it is never seen again!) and the unfinished barn that are all full of STUFF!!  Oh, and the attic as well!!  Oh, my!!

I have slowly been gathering items to get rid of, but think I will need to step up the pace as the walls seem to be closing in on me and when winter sets in it will only be worse.   I want to spend more time enjoying my family instead of shuffling STUFF from one spot to another.  And who knows!!  I may even start opening my home to guests more often if we aren't having to take an entire day or more to prepare for an evening of companty.  Every day for the next several months I hope to gather a bag of trash for the dump or burn pile or collect several items to sale or bless someone else.  Does anyone want to join me for the GREAT STUFF ELIMINATION?

I long to make my home a peaceful resort for my family and for myself.  I would love for us to have quiet spots to sit together, to enjoy a good book, a game or to simply listen to an encouraging CD.  The only way this will happen is to purge, purge, purge!  Please pray for me as I set out on this journey to reclaim my home from the STUFF.  I want my home to be filled with precious and pleasant riches....not with STUFF!

Through wisdom a house it built,
And by understanding it is established;
By knowledge the rooms are filled 
With all precious and pleasant riches.

Proverbs 24:  3-4


Growing Home

Monday, September 26, 2011

This Week and an Egg-citing Update!

Late-breaking news!!  After posting early this morning, we all got busy with breakfast and chores.  My chicken wrangler excitedly headed back into the house with the news that we have an egg!!  Unfortunately, the chicken wrangler is deathly allergic to eggs so another child gets egg wrangling duty.

I think Jackson is still a little sleepy!!

A small egg from an Americauna, but it's a start!

Now back to our regular post!

Hoping to get back to a more "normal" family schedule this week, I thought it would be helpful to type up all the projects that need to be started or completed for the week.  You know, those things that get put aside for the more urgent needs such as cooking, cleaning, laundry and school work.  Jeff and Jordan should have a few days off this week so I am really hoping some of these heavier projects can get completed.

-can applesauce--The applesauce is already made, I just need to heat it up and get it canned...this morning!

-finish clearing out the boys' room--Four boys whose upcoming birthdays will make them 3, 7, 15 and 19 all share a room.  We've pulled out all the toys and there is still much that needs to go.  I've got boxes of construction toys and train sets everywhere.  The grandsons will be getting some of them, some we will keep and some special sets will be stored away.

-yard and garden clean up--Much to do there....limbs and trash need to be burned, I need some beds built for herbs, an addition to the compost bin needs to be made and I want pine needles gathered from the woods to be used between the garden beds.

-chicken coop--Needs to be completed!  The layers need a permanent home before they actually start laying.

-laundry room  closet makeover--Everything will have to come out of the laundry closet including the hot water heater and the floor.  The hot water heater must be replaced, water damage repaired, new shelving installed, unused items gotten rid of and all will be painted.

--We did actually get some garden work done on Saturday now that my gardener and his dad have finished up the filming on their new project.  Cabbages, broccoli and brussel sprouts were added to the lettuces, turnips and spinach.  I want to have him make some coverings for the newer plants to protect them from the direct sun and to get started on making some miniature green houses to keep our harvest going longer.

--And when all of this is done, I have finally picked out colors to paint the kitchen, dining room, hallway and back entrance.  I've been holding off getting our home decorated for fall/Thanksgiving because I want the painting done first, but I may just have to decorate anyway.  Reality is setting in and I can see that time and resources are being stretched so that this project just may not get done. It's a huge project as the walls and ceilings are bare tongue and groove wood, but I am so eager to see it done!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Menu Plan for September 26-October 2

Wow!! The time is really flying by lately, isn't it?  As I typed in the dates above I realized Caedmon's third birthday is just next week.  Time to make plans for a celebration; although, each day with Caedmon is a celebration of sorts!!  ; ) Today he sang "You Are My Sunshine" about 15 times on the way home from kidding!!

This week we'll be eating out of the freezer or home canned goods a good bit.   And to help cleanups go a little faster, we broke down and bought paper plates.  It's just taking so much time out of our day to get the kitchen cleaned up, so maybe the paper plates will help.  We'll see!  Here's what's on the menu for this next week:

-b-Maple Crunch Muffins, sliced apples and grapes
-d-grilled chicken, vegetable pilaf, green beans and spinach salad

-b-biscuits (from the freezer), bacon, eggs and grits
-l-whitebeans with ham (freezer), cornbread muffins, salad
-d-baked spaghetti (home-canned spaghetti sauce), salad, pesto (frozen) bread sticks

-b-baked oatmeal, apples and grapes, bagels with cream cheese
-l-bean(canned pinto beans) tostados
-d-baked potato bar with chili (freezer), chives, onions, cheese, sour cream

-b-applesauce (home canned) muffins, eggs, grits
-d-brisket (previously cooked and frozen), rice and gravy, sauteed squash, English peas, butter beans

-b-pancakes, sausage
-l-pasta salad with grilled chicken, olives, cheese, onions, peppers
-d-homemade pizzas and cobbler for dessert

-b-biscuits, bacon, grits, eggs
-d-spicy chicken casserole (freezer), corn on the cob, green beans

-b-cinnamon rolls (freezer) or granola
-l-finger foods at church
-d-tortilla chips, refried beans (freezer), salsa

Friday, September 23, 2011

Multi-Level Life Sciences or Biology

Caedmon takes a look at the mushrooms we found around our property.  We are still investigating, but I think the orange one is poisonous!

I have finally come to the conclusion that multi-level learning and teaching just works best for our family. It's what we do best!  It's what I love!  It's what I am more comfortable with and it keeps us learning a family!   I don't know why I ever thought that I could move some of my children into textbooks for different subjects and have different science studies going on at the same time.  Just throws my ADD brain crazy! I've been doing great with our history and geography studies--keeping them multi-level for the entire crew hasn't been difficult at all, but when my second son informed  us he felt led to the medical mission field after being inspired by the story of Dr. Ben Carson, it just put me on the Tilt-a-Whirl.   I thought "Oh, my!!  I must put him in a text book so he can be prepared for college!!"

I struggled finding the time in our busy household to check his work, to go over difficult concepts, to make sure he was getting it all done.  You see it is much easier for me to teach multi-level as everyone is around anyway!  I can print off coloring sheets for the little guys (7 and almost 3) and get picture books to read with them.  We can go on nature walks together, finding specimens to study together and then drawing them or taking photos.  My older students (15 and 12)  add higher level work making more detailed drawings with labels, conducting research, learning the vocabulary, reading biographies and writing reports which are all contained in a handy-dandy notebook with dividers labeled for each of the three resources we are using for our studies, a section for notes, drawings and vocabulary and a section for projects and reports.  All of these activities fit us much better and the children are producing their own work instead of filling in countless worksheets, although they will still have a few of those to do as well.

Notebook with dividers for our science studies

The following resources are being used this semester as we tackle the life sciences.   The first resource is part of a series which has now become a favorite for our family.  Short chapters that can easily be read to all within a 30-minute or less time span, wonderfully detailed illustrations that my artistic son is eager to copy for his own notebook and a few questions at the end to check retention.  Also included are some suggested activities and projects to take the learning up a notch for the older student.  Love, love, love this series by John Hudson Tiner!

515525: Exploring the World of Biology: From Mushrooms to   Complex Life FormsExploring the World of Biology: From Mushrooms to   Complex Life Forms

By John Hudson Tiner / Master Books

Explore biology-life-as God created it! From the smallest (and yet still incredibly complex) bacteria to the largest mammals, students will read about the life of insects, reptiles, birds, and mammals, as well as the science of biology itself. Classification, energy storage, digestion, early biologists, DNA, and other topics are all explored in easy to read chapters that always point the glory of creation back to God. Chapter highlights, illustrations, and questions are included for each chapter. 153 indexed pages, softcover. Line-listed answers included.

The Lyrical Life Science has been a favorite of mine for years as we have used it to reinforce many of the facts from our KONOS units.  Each "chapter" starts with the facts and vocabulary presenting in songs using catchy folk tunes.  Kind of corny to some, but I have learned through our 23 years of homeschooling that we never forget what we sing!!  There are also several pages of information presented in a easy to digest length along with three pages of worksheets:  one is fill in the blanks to the song which reinforces the vocabulary, another pages covers the topics presented (this week we covered the steps to the scientific method) using matching and fill in the blank questions and the last page is full of essay questions.  You see each page gets more difficult and makes the student think at a higher level.

59775: Lyrical Life Science #1 With CDLyrical Life Science #1 With CD
By Lyrical Learning

Topics volume 1 addresses include scientific method, living things, invertebrates, coldblooded vertebrates, birds, classification, algae/fungi/nonvascular plants, vascular plants, protozoa, genetics, viruses, and bacteria. Along with each CD comes a textbook which expands upon the information summarized in the songs. The textbooks, about 100 pages each, are generously illustrated with line drawings and touches of humor. They include song lyrics and simple music. The corresponding workbook lessons offer matching, fill-in-the-blank, essay, and labeling exercises.
Answer keys are at the back. Although originally wirtten for sixth graders, the content reflects some of what we find in typical high school life science texts. Whatever level you choose to use these for, they remain supplements rather than comprehensive courses. While this approach is not for all students, it does offer a rare alternative for auditory learners.

Biology 101 is a DVD curriculum that introduces us to biology through the days of Creation.  It is designed for the high school student, but the DVD content is engaging enough for the younger crowd.  There is also some information to read for each section and a quiz as well.

430310: Biology 101: Biology According to the Days of  Creation--DVDsBiology 101: Biology According to the Days of  Creation--DVDs
By Westfield Studios

Follow the creation story as you delve into the world of biology. Visually rich and designed for students 15 and up and their families, this biblically oriented overview presents biology following the actual creation days. Nine segments are covered on 4 DVDs; a 114 page guidebook on CD-ROM/DVD includes quizzes for the material in each segment. 4 DVDs.

I have used Science Scope for several years .  This book really is a scope and sequence for each of the sciences at all levels.  I simply open it up to the section needed and I make a list of all the activities that we should do and all the topics we should cover.  It is like a checklist for those of us who tend to teach "out of the box"!

41476: Science ScopeScience Scope
By Kathryn Stout / Design A Study

From Design-A-Study, Science Scope provides a list of skills, topics for discussion, and interesting topics that are part of most science curricula. Use as a checklist to make sure you cover all appropriate concepts; as an overview from simple to complicated science subjects; or as a guide to ensure you're on track for your child's age. Divided into subjects such as "energy" or "Technology" each chapter has sections for each age range with vocabulary, things students should know, and activities. 119 pages, softcover.

We will also be using lots of Dover Coloring books for plants and animals, field guides for trees, wildflowers, birds and more.  We'll incorporate leaf, widlflower and insect collections with lots of opportunities for artwork and reading of biographies of some of the great biologists throughout history.

This week we covered the first lessons from each of the resources shown above.   We learned about mushrooms, read about Louis Pasteur and germs, and have learned all the steps to the scientific method.  We've also done some drawings of mushrooms, added lots of vocabulary words to our notebooks, filled in a few worksheets, and Kaelan and Aaron each are reading separate biographies of Louis Pasteur and including quotes in their notebooks.  I've seen some excitement come back into my students as we tackle science together again and it has been a blessing!  Today, Kaelan and Aaron will tackle the essay questions, finish up the biographies and write a short biographical sketch on Louis Pasteur.  I'll print off some coloring pages for Jackson and Caedmon and tonight we may have some mushrooms on our pizzas!  Here are some pictures of our scientific endeavors this week.

Jackson takes a close look at a mushroom (puffball?) out by the garden.
What a collection...we found all of these in about 10 minutes!!

the orangey-red mushroom sliced in half....doesn't look very appetizing

I think this one, above, is a puffball.  If it were dried out more I think it would have puffed out all those spores when I cut it open.

This one looks more like the mushrooms we eat... you can  see the gills very well.

Caedmon takes another cute!

Now Jackson gets a close up view.  The older two studied them as well....I just didn't get a picture!
Aaron's drawing of a mushroom.  He is also drawing a picture of Louis Pasteur.  He is our artsy child. 

Kaelan's musroom with labels

A page of Kaelan's vocabulary for this week

A page of Aaron vocabulary for this week

Crew Blog Hop

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Best Ever Brownies from Bells Best cookbook

This is Kaelan, just so you don't get confused! :) This is a "chocolate post". 

Okay, I made a batch of B.E. brownies today, and Mom decided to let me blog about them. I've probably been making these brownies for about two to three years. Apparently, I make very good brownies. : ) Oh, there are no pictures because the camera was plugged into the computer, sorry! I'll tell you what the recipe says and then my substitutes. Okay, let's get started with the recipe:

                                           Best Ever Brownies 

            1 c. sugar
            1\2 c. butter
            2 eggs
            2 sq. chocolate, melted
           1\2 c. sifted flour 
            1\2 tsp. salt
           1 tsp. vanilla
           1\2 c. broken nuts

       Combine sugar and butter and beat well. Add eggs and beat again. Stir in chocolate, flour, and salt.  Mix until smooth. Add vanilla and nuts.  Pour into a greased 8x8x2 inch pan and bake in 350* oven for 25-30 minutes. (the secret is not to over-cook them).  

Okay, here are my substitutes: instead of hard chocolates, use (for a double batch) 1\4 c. cocoa powder and for the nuts, just skip them and add chocolate chips! : ) 

For a family of six, a double batch is perfect for each person to have two brownies, just use a 9x13 pan. My brownies are in the oven and the aroma is over-powering! When you add the chocolate chips, don't mix them in the batter, wait until you have your greased pan and pour your batter in, you can sprinkle the chips on your brownies, and I usually get a spoon and kinda mix them gently into the pan. 

I hope you make these brownies soon, and when you do, go all out with the chocolate!!! 

This post has been published by Kaelan Elizabeth Chamblee, age twelve, 4 months, and 3 days. Adios amigos! (and enjoy your brownies!) :) 

If You Give a Girl a Camera

She just might take a cheesy picture of herself.

And a picture of a sad looking tomato plant that should have already been pulled up.

And a pair of bare feet!

Drops of dew on blades of grass,

a spider web,  

and so much more. 

 I actually sent her out to take pictures of mushrooms which we are studying this week in biology.  She did take a couple of mushrooms, but took 78 pictures in all.  Some are quite good, but Blogger is loading too slowly for me this morning to share more.

I'll share more tomorrow about getting back into our multi-level learning/teaching!  Back to what is most comfortable to me as a homeschooling mom and is bringing back some creativity and productivity to our academics!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I Want To Be a Yarb Woman

I really do!  Yarbs (herbs) have so many uses in the kitchen and in the medicine cabinet.  I've bought a book or two about growing and using herbs and have planted a few in our own garden.  We've made lots of peppermint tea, some lemon balm tea and even some sage tea, but I really want to learn more and more about the medicinal side of herbs.  Currently we have oregano, lemon balm, sage, thyme, rosemary, lavender and various mints, but I think I need much more!

Some of the sage and thyme from last year's harvest!

Several years ago we visited with a family in the area that we lived in who had a wonderful garden that was set up with walking paths and points of interest.  As you walked through you could stop, taste and smell so many wonderful herbs and garden vegetables and it was just amazing.  I have always wanted to do something similar on our own little homestead, but there have always been other projects that have been more important.  Maybe this fall and winter will be a good time to get some more herb beds built....maybe.

Earlier this year we became acquainted with a BBC series entitled Lark Rise to Candleford which was inspired by a trilogy of the same title.  It is somewhat of an autobiography written by  Flora Thompson and depicts life in a small English hamlet in the late 1800s.   Here's some more information on the book from

923636: Lark Rise to Candleford: A TrilogyLark Rise to Candleford: A Trilogy

By Flora Thompson / David R. Godine Publisher, Inc

Flora Thompson (1876-1947) wrote what may be the quintessential distillation of English country life at the turn of the twentieth century. In 1945, the three books Lark Rise (1939), Over to Candleford (1941), and Candleford Green (1943) were published together in one elegant volume, and this new omnibus Nonpareil edition, complete with charming wood engravings, should be a cause for real rejoicing.
In his introduction, H. J. Massingham observes that Thompson "possesses the attributes both of sympathetic presentation and literary power to such a degree of quality and beauty that her claims upon posterity can hardly be questioned." He calls the books themselves "a triune achievement: a triumph of evocation in the resurrecting of an age that, being transitional, was the most difficult to catch as it flew; another in diversity of rural portraiture engagingly blended with autobiography; and the last in the overtones and implications of a set of values which is the author's 'message'."
This is the story of three closely-related Oxfordshire communities - a hamlet, a village, and a town - and the memorable cast of characters who people them. Based on her own experiences as a child and young woman, it is keenly observed and beautifully narrated, quiet and evocative.

I recently picked up the book and was intrigued with the following paragraph describing the hamlet wives' use of the many herbs available to them.

As well as their flower garden, the women cultivated a herb corner, stocked with thyme and parsley and sage for cooking, rosemary to flavour the home-made lard, lavender to scent the best clothes, and peppermint, pennyroyal, horehound, camomile, tansy, balm, and rue for physic.  They made a good deal of camomile tea, which they drank freely to ward off colds, to soothe the nerves, and as a general tonic.  A large jug of this was always prepared and stood ready for heating up after confinements.  The horehound was used with honey in a preparation to be taken for sore throats and colds on the chest.  Peppermint tea was made rather as a luxury than a medicine;  it was brought out on special occasions and drunk from wine-glasses...

As well as the garden herbs, still in general use, some of the older women used wild ones, which they gathered in their seasons and dried.  But the knowledge and use of these was dying out;  most people depended upon their garden stock.  Yarrow, or milleflower, was an exception;  everybody still gathered that in large quantities to make 'yarb beer'.  Gallons of this were brewed and taken to work in their tea cans by the men and stood aside in the pantry for the mother and children to drink whenever thirsty.  The finest yarrow grew beside the turnpike, and in dry weather the whole plant became so saturated with white dust that the beer, when brewed, had a milky tinge.  If the children remarked on this they were told, "Us've all got to eat a peck o' dust before we dies, an' it'll slip down easy in the good yarb beer.'

Yes, much of our knowledge in using herbs has been lost, but I hope to learn more and more every year and in my learning, I hope to teach my children as well.  Some of them are already interested and it is exciting to learn together with my children.  Do you have an herb garden?  Is this something you are interested in?  Please share some tips with me!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Looking Ahead to the Holy Days

This morning I had a question from a young friend on Facebook regarding our family's Advent traditions and I thought I would also share with you.  For many years we have celebrated Advent--the season immediately after Thanksgiving that precedes Christmas.  Advent is a looking ahead to the coming of Christ.  We study many of the prophecies from the Old Testament that tell of the coming Christ.  This is a precious time of study with our children that keeps our hearts in tune with the true meaning of Christmas with much less focus on the busyness that commercialism has added to the season.  It's a time where we stop each evening, sitting around our table with the Advent wreath and candles in the center of us, sing hymns, read Scripture and listen to Daddy read the devotional.  The younger ones eagerly look forward to adding the Jesse Tree ornament to the small table top tree that sits lit-up nearby.  It is a very precious time for us and one that I hope my children will take with them into their own homes when they leave here.

The following is the resource our family has used for several years.  I actually found it in our library's used bookstore at a time when we were studying Christmas traditions in our homeschool.  I thought we would use it that one year, but we have used it for at least ten years now.  It is still available at Amazon and appears to have gone through several printings as I see it in at least two different colors.  I printed off Jesse Tree ornaments from another site (I have no idea where) and they work with this book pretty well.

Ann Voskamp is a new Christian author and a homeschooling blogging mom and has a Jesse Tree Advent Devotional Book with  printouts for ornaments available at the link below.  You can look at each of these links to read pages of the actual books to find what would suit your family best.

I really think that our Christmases are so much more meaningful since we added in our nightly Advent devotionals and worship time.  I hope this little post encourages you to look at these products and consider adding them to your family worship during the upcoming holiday season.

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