Around The House

Around the house this week;

A thunderstorm made a small lake at the bottom of the driveway

Lake Driveway

Ronan figured out how to carry something while walking

Ronan Walking

The kids had a picnic in space

Space Picnic

We picked up our first CSA share of the season


The strawberries ripened en masse


And I mixed up a bottle of my “all purpose” cleaner. I don’t really use it for all purposes, but it’s really good for just about any hard surface. I use it in the bathroom for counters, sinks, mirrors, and the outside of the toilet. In the kitchen for pretty much everything. In the rest of the house for wiping tables, washing windows, mopping floors and spot cleaning as needed. I guess that is pretty darn all purpose. And it couldn’t be simpler.


All Purpose Cleaner

1 cup white vinegar

2 cups water

5-10 drops tea tree essential oil

Combine all ingredients in a container of your choice and mix well. I use a squirt bottle and mix it directly in there. (in all honesty, I don’t really measure anymore, I just eyeball it with the right ratio)


What’s happening around your house this week?

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Lesson Planning

As we head in to summer I am trying to get a jump on planning for next school year. We school year round, 9-10 week terms with 2-4 week breaks in between, so 4th grade will resume in a couple weeks. We likely won’t start 5th grade until the end of September.

I’d like to use this space to reflect weekly on what worked well for us this year, changes we need to make, and what we might try for next year. For instance, we are considering purchasing a curriculum for the first time. Up until now I have created our lesson plans and activities myself, with some input from my dad, based on the subjects Elena is interested in.

Each year we tackle a science and a historical period, in addition to writing, math, art, and handwork (sort of like crafty home-ec time). This year we also added French, and had planned on studying piano as well but that sort of fizzled out.

Elena chemistry 1

Elena’s 4th grade studies have been nothing like mine were (anyone else remember that Oregon Trail video game?) with the possible exception of times tables. Ugh. I still don’t like them, and I already know them. Fortunately for both of us, Elena picks up math more easily than I ever did. For our math studies we use worksheets from the same curriculum that the public schools here are using (they’re available for free online) combined with math games and “real life” math. The real life math involves any area of life where math is useful and/or necessary. Scaling recipes up or down. Budgeting for a toy or activity. Creating a quilt pattern.

So for us 4th grade has been these areas;

Math: multiplication, division, place values and decimals, geometry

Science: chemistry (not my strong suit, but she’s enjoying it)

History: Rennaissance Europe, we’ll be looking at Tudor England also

Writing: essays and reports, calligraphy

French: focusing on vocabulary and basic phrases

Handwork: mostly cooking and embroidery, but other stuff too

We made some changes part way through the year in how we structure our lessons/days. Elena asked for more control over her studies, so in many areas she is doing more independent work. Which fits nicely with having a new baby in the house, I’ve been pretty distracted. But I feel also runs the risk of schoolwork not getting done or mama getting out of touch with what she’s working on.

Elena will be completing her final project for chemistry over the summer. She’s working on it with her daddy. Their assignment is to build some sort of vehicle that is powered by a chemical reaction. They’ve started by testing how energetic different chemical reactions are, we may do some graphing with that data, and will be moving on to design when we finish our summer break.

One of my struggles as a teacher-parent has been how to teach a subject that I am not personally familiar with. It hasn’t been as much of an issue when she was little, I can cover the basics easily or pick them up quickly enough to pass them on. Now that she’s older though, and interested in all the details, it becomes more of a challenge. Which is one of the reasons I’m thinking of purchasing a curriculum for next year. On the other hand, she is intellectually able to understand quite advanced material (high school/college) so maybe I can let her teach herself from textbooks and such. Sort of point her in the right direction, and then try to keep up. It’s something I think will evolve as she grows and her interests change.


Are you a homeschooling parent? What works well for you?


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In January my sweet baby girl turned 10. Ten! How did that happen? We celebrated with a kind of over-the-top Harry Potter themed party. It was not at all pinterest worthy, but still quite fun.

casting incendio

This week Ronan will be one year old. Our celebration will be much more low key, but no less heartfelt.

Ronan's first present

Each one is a celebration of the milestones of the past year, the possibilities of the year ahead and the continued joy of their presence in our lives. I’m also celebrating myself a tiny bit – I made that! I got through another year of this heartwrenching awe-inspiring thing called parenting!

I’ve noticed that these celebrations have become the mileposts of my own history as much as theirs. I tell time by the years of their lives. BC – before children, AM – after motherhood. And more specifically – the house we had when Elena was 5, the job I started when she was 3, our wedding when she was 8.

It fascinates me to think of them doing the same someday. How will they mark the passage of time? What associations will endure? What birthday traditions will they cherish and carry forward?

I tell Elena the story of her birth every year on her birthday. This will be the first time I do so for Ronan, and I wonder what will be different? Elena and Matt were both there when he was born, and their memories of it are perhaps clearer than mine. Maybe it will be a family affair – we can each tell him of the night he came into the world and we first held him. I think I’d like that.

How do you celebrate birthdays in your family?

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This week I am grateful for;

The flexibility that homeschool offers. We’ve been able to sleep in, take naps and take whole days off as needed.


Elena’s helpful nature and curious mind. Even when we take the day off, she never stops learning. When others are sick or having a hard time, she loves to nurture and take responsibility.


Ronan’s little potty. If I was changing and washing diapers full time I don’t think I could keep up when I get sick or just overwhelmed. As it is, he uses his potty most of the time and I am so glad. It makes any extra effort in the earlier days totally worth it.


This cheerful little face. Even when he’s feeling awful Ronan is such a happy little dude. He brightens up my every day.


What are you grateful for this week?

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Baby giggles

We’re all sick today. Kinda’ cranky, moving slow. I’m sure you know what it’s like. In between mopping brows and mopping floors, smoothing blankets and soothing tempers, there has been a little ray of sunshine.
In spite of, or perhaps because of, being sickest of all Ronan has been super ticklish today. He loves tickles but most of the time he would rather give them than get them. Today he is delighting in being tickled. And delighting me with the resultant giggles.
Sometimes I think that baby giggles must be what pure joy sounds like. Today, they make it easier to cope with the less joyful things occupying my time.

What is brightening your day today?

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Around The House

Around the house this week;

The plants are blooming

Tomato blooming

Pink blooms

And setting fruit

Baby blueberries

Unripe strawberries

The kids are reading together

kiddos reading

And I made a batch of laundry soap. Hardly picturesque I know. I make laundry soap once or twice a month, it only takes a few minutes. It is so cheap and easy I thought I would share. This is a recipe for a liquid laundry soap, which I prefer over the powder. I found a version of this online somewhere, but I don’t remember where. You can find many similar recipes all over the internet.

Laundry soap setup

Liquid Laundry Soap

3 Tbs washing soda or baking soda

3 Tbs Borax

3 Tbs liquid castile soap (I use Dr. Bronners)

1 gallon water

Optional: a few drops essential oil

In the microwave or a kettle heat 2 cups of water, you want it hot but not boiling. Add the Borax and the washing soda to a small heatsafe bowl (I actually use a 2c pyrex measuring cup). In your chosen laundry soap container (I use half gallon mason jars, but just about anything will do as long as it’s big enough) pour the liquid castile soap.

Laundry soap mixing

When the water is hot, pour it over the Borax and soda, then stir until completely dissolved. The water will be cloudy to start, then will clear when all the powder dissolves. (see second photo) Next, pour the hot water/soda/Borax mixture into your laundry soap container and stir gently to mix with the soap. Fill container the rest of the way with water and give it a final stir. That’s it, you’re done!

Laundry soap done

In the photos I am making a half batch, which I often do because it exactly fills one jar. A half batch of soap lasts me about 2 weeks, and I am a cloth diapering mama doing laundry every day. It would likely last you even longer. We use 1/4 cup of soap per load of laundry.

What about you? Do you make any household products yourself? What’s happening around your house this week?


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The Sweet Spot

Our regular breakfast routine is mostly oatmeal when it’s cold and granola when it’s hot. (I’ll be sharing my granola recipe soon) Sometimes I like to mix it up and make something special. A special breakfast often means I am in the kitchen for over an hour cooking while everyone sits around listening to their bellies growl. It can be worth it, and I do enjoy the more elaborate meal.

Lately though, I’ve found a breakfast that hits the sweet spot. Breaks up the monotony of oats-every-morning, only takes about half an hour to cook, looks (and tastes) fancy enough to be fun. Best of all, it’s easily adapted to be gluten and sugar free! (so Elena can eat it)

German Pancake

This wonder food is a german pancake, and it’s so simple it feels like cheating. Lately we’ve been eating as pictured, served with a dollop of plain yogurt, some fresh sliced strawberries and hearty splash of maple syrup. We also like it with spiced apples. I believe it’s traditionally served with powdered sugar and lemon, but really just about anything works as a topping.

German Pancake

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk *

1/2 cup all purpose flour **

1 Tbs sugar or honey

1 Tbs bacon grease


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and scoop the bacon grease into a tall 10 inch round cake pan. (A 9 inch pan should work fine as well, provided it’s at least 2 inches tall. The shorter ones will overflow.)

For mixing this I use a 2 cup pyrex measuring cup and a fork, it really minimizes the dishwashing. In your pyrex cup (or a mixing bowl if you prefer) break and beat the eggs, then mix in milk, flour and sugar. Let the batter rest at least 10 minutes (it’s ok, the oven is still warming up and you haven’t started the coffee yet) or up to 30 minutes. You can mix this the night before and let it stand in the fridge, but it’s so fast to whip up I never bother.

When the oven is up to temp put the pan with the glob of bacon grease in, just for a couple minutes. You want the grease to melt and the pan to get hot, but that’s it. After a couple minutes give your batter a final stir and, using an oven mitt, carefully swirl the melted grease around the bottom of your hot pan. Then pour the batter into the hot pan and close it back up in the oven.

Let it cook for about 20 minutes – until the edges are puffed up, the center is fully set and the top is just starting to get golden brown. Then it’s done! Remove the pan from the oven and flip upside down over a plate, your pancake should come right out. If it sticks, loosen it a little with a silicone spatula and try again. Cover with desired toppings and serve immediately. Serves one, or two if you feel like sharing.

* Coconut milk works well here as a non-dairy alternative, just add a Tbs of water as well.

** To make gluten free I use Gluten Free All Purpose Flour from Bobs Red Mill, and I add an extra Tbs of sweetener as I find it has a bitter aftertaste. Other gluten free flours may work, but the ones I have tried don’t rise properly.

What is your favorite breakfast food right now? 

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