Friday, July 24, 2015

What's Inspiring Me Today

I woke up today feeling energized and peaceful. Coming out of my cancer treatment has left me feeling hopeful to the point of being elated at times. Don't get me wrong, I still have my moments just like anyone else, but overall I am feeling filled with optimism about the future. I have also been reading a lot of materials that I find inspiring and I wanted to share my current inspirations with you.

I just finished reading a wonderful new addition to my cookbook collection called "brown Eggs and Jam Jars. I love this book because the author focuses on simple, healthy foods with a focus on family. Her descriptions of the turning seasons and holidays celebrated with family and friends are warm and rich. There is a lot of basic info on homesteading included and I like her approach is really nice because it encourages you to start small and not get overwhelmed by making big changes all at once. Instead she asks readers to try making one thing from scratch instead of buying it at the store or to try growing some herbs in a simple container garden. There is so much about her life that I admire and would like to emulate!

I usually try to read one non fiction and one fiction book at a time and the non fiction book I am currently reading is The Artful Year. I have done a few projects out of this book with Echo already but I am now sitting down and reading it cover to cover. I read Jean Van't Hul's other book, The Artful Parent earlier this year and found it so inspiring! I am loving this seasonal celebration book by her as well. It's so full of timely projects and activities for every time of year. She focuses on little ways you can celebrate throughout the year as a family and as someone who looks for any excuse to celebrate it really speaks to me. It's a good mixture of recipes, art projects and games to enjoy with your kids.

Last but not least I highly recommend checking out this blog, Crafting Connections. It's full of information about living a creative life and how to encourage creativity in your family culture. I love the most recent post on meditation, something I really want to try to start doing regularly.

These are just some of the things that are brining me joy and inspiration at the moment. With so many depressing stories clogging my facebook feed it's nice to have some positivity from other sources. What are you inspired by at the moment?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Learning and Growing

As the kids are growing up we are really starting to get to the fun stuff! I love doing projects and activities with them, I feel like our homeschooling career is really starting to take off and it will only get better from here. Recently I bought some things from a teacher supply store and got a free lesson planning notebook. I'm not using it to plan lessons but I did start writing down what we do every day and categorizing it loosely. It's truly amazing how much we do each day, I really didn't realize until I wrote it down! 

A typical day looks something like this.

Art: Made pipe cleaner animal tails, painting with glitter glue

Science: water beads, magic growing sea animals, blowing bubbles

Language: Dictated a story, read Thumbelina, Beauty and the Beast and The Hat

Math: practiced counting with candy corns

Life Skills: Helped make lunch

Music: Listened to Disney Pandora Station

Physical Education: Dance party!

We don't plan our days very much but we sure manage to squeeze a lot in! It's exciting to watch the girls grow and learn all the time, they are so busy!

I've included a few photos of some of the activities we've been doing lately. It's impossible to document everything so this is just a little sample. Sorry for the poor quality, they were taken on my phone. 

The first two are the girls working on a collaborative painting together. Clover is doing really well in art making and is eating the art supplies less and less ;-). She seemed to really enjoy finger painting which is something Echo never really got in to. I was also happy that the girls worked so well together on this. The moments when they work on something together without fighting are brief but it is starting to happen more and more. In the top photo you can also see that they are enjoying some green beans picked fresh from my garden.

In the above photo you can see a letter Echo wrote to me. Her interest in writing has been steadily growing and her pretend letters are starting to look more like actual letters. She also dictated a story to me the other day, giving me a high hopes that she will be a writer just like her Uncle Logan some day. She told me this letter says "Dear Mommy, I love you".

 Last but not least, Aunt Jessie sent us an awesome stomp rocket! This thing is seriously fun and is great to shoot in our high ceilinged living room. Both the girls were fascinated with it. Jessie also sent us a book of science experiments from my Amazon wish list that looks really cool. We've only done one experiment so far but it was a lot of fun and the girls loved it!

We are doing so many fun and interesting things lately and planning so much more for the Fall. It's a very exciting time for us, watching the girls develop is such a joy!

Sunday Dinner

I absolutely love Sundays in my house. Eric usually gives me the morning off to do whatever I like while he watches the kids. I come back refreshed and ready to snuggle up and read books, do art projects or whatever else the the day brings. I also have the leisure to make a more ambitious dinner than I would attempt on a weeknight. Eric is around to help watch the kids and Echo is usually excited to help me cook anyway. A few Sundays ago Echo helped me make fresh, homemade pasta (my first time ever to make it!). We topped it with our favorite sauce, puttanesca, and even had time to make a home made dessert! Then we got to enjoy a leisurely family meal (I even broke out a bottle of wine), catching up and and talking as a group (it's so much fun now that Echo is getting more chatty). Sundays are the most relaxing and luxurious days in our house, they are a such a great time to connect as a family.

The homemade pasta was fun to make but probably more work than I would normally want to do. It is a fun activity to do with an older toddler though, provided you can keep your cool and not stress out! Echo really enjoyed seeing how the pasta was made though since we eat pasta all the time. For dessert we made a truly decadent chocolate cherry crisp, soooo amazing with vanilla ice cream!

Now, so that this isn't just a post with pretty food pictures, I am going to share the recipe for our puttanesca sauce which has quickly replaced jarred sauce in our house, the whole family just loves it!

Three large ripe tomatoes, chopped
one large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, diced
2 tbs olive oil
1 tbs cappers, chopped (my family doesn't like the intensity of whole capers so I chop them up a bit)
20 calamata olives, roughly chopped
crushed red pepper to taste
4 tbs chopped fresh parsley

Saute the onions and garlic in olive oil until the onions are translucent. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook until they soften and some of the juices start to come out. Next add the capers, olives and crushed red pepper. Cook a few minutes more, until everything is heated through. If the sauce seems a little dry I like to add a bit of the starchy pasta water to it. Add the chopped parsley last and toss with warm cooked pasta.

This is an especially great recipe to make in the summer because of the gorgeous fresh tomatoes that are available. If you want to make it in the winter you can used caned diced tomatoes too, I've made it that way it it's still yummy :-)

Hope you all are getting to enjoy your own lovely Sunday dinners with family!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Water and Ice Play

The Georgia heat this Summer has been pretty intense and to be honest it makes everyone in our family pretty grouchy. By late afternoon the kids are at each others throats and I am snapping at everyone. The heat just wipes us out and keeping our cool (literally and metaphorically) can be pretty difficult.

Basically the only way to survive is to get wet! My parents got Clover a water table as an early Birthday gift and it has been such a life saver! The girls play with it every day and it really seems to sooth frazzled nerves. My other recent discovery is the simplest thing in the world but is definitely a big hit with both girls and is something they can do together without fighting (mostly). Just giving them bowls of cold water with ice cubes has been a revelation! Clover loves to chase the ice around the bowl and eat it and Echo loves scooping and pouring in the ice cold water.

What a great hot weather play idea for those rough afternoons!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Upper Kitchen Cabinets

I finished redoing our upper kitchen cabinets just before having surgery last month. Our kitchen renovation is still slowly, slowly coming together! I was excited about this because it's the first home improvement project I have been able to participate in in a while and I did it almost completely on my own! It really made the kitchen much brighter, there's nothing like a fresh coat of paint to spruce things up. It's really hard to get good pictures in the kitchen because the light is so low in there but this will at least give you an idea.

So the only things left to do in the kitchen now are the backsplash, edging on the flooring and touching up the paint on the bottom cabinets. I'm starting to think we might actually get this done one day!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

June Photos

Wow what a busy month June was! We did a ton of fun stuff to take my mind off my surgery which was June 16th. After the surgery I felt totally stir crazy and wanted to get out so we have been doing fun stuff since my surgery too! Thankfully everything went really well and I am recovering nicely, mostly I am so relieved that the surgery is behind me! Anyway, I will write more about my experience later but for now here are some of the fun activities we have been doing this past month.

Toddler Thursdays at the High Museum

Echo eating a carrot she grew in her garden!

Fiber optic light show at the Botanical Gardens

And a visit from Aunt Jessie!

Taking the kids to the Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville

And last but not least a visit to the Aquarium 

We have lots more fun stuff planned for July so stay tuned for more pictures soon. Finding time to post is hard but I do what I can :-)