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    Extra, Extra, Read all about it!

    Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

    Modern Day Martha is starting a book club. We’re no Oprah, but reading is one of the best ways to recharge your battery, refill your well, and a number of other apt analogies.  The trick is finding time to balance reading and the rest of life;  you know, making sure everyone in the house doesn’t starve while you finish those last couple pages. So often the level of difficulty of the books we read goes down with the level of busy-ness in our lives, and while YA novels are great, sometimes a challenge is good.

    So our first book is a doozy, a true “I will if you will” selection.


    Ulysses by James Joyce.

    You know you want to. You may be terrified, but you know you want to at least try it.

    Because we’re all busy, there’s no time limit on this. Read a bit, and come comment on the discussion over at The Book Club.

    PS. We have it on good authority that James Joyce’s Ulysses: A Study by Stuart Gilbert is very helpful in wending your way through the book.

    Edited to add, James Joyce’s Ulysses: Critical Essays is actually the book that’s supposed the be really helpful. The other one looks good too, though.

    The Art of Homemaking

    Friday, September 10th, 2010

    I often feel like a boat set adrift without a compass when it comes to homemaking.  So many times I have not had any idea what to do next or how to manage the tasks that arise in my daily life.  My mother in law has been singing the praises of a book she read as a young mother.  I was recently as my sister in law’s house and saw the book on her shelf.  I borrowed it and can see why it made such an impact in their lives.

    The Art of Homemaking by Daryl V. Hoole is a wonderful book that inspires me as a homemaker and as a mother.  It was written in 1967 by a lady who really knew her stuff!


    “By systematically keeping your home clean through daily and weekly work, coupled with extra deep cleaning periodically, you will be able to rejoice in your sparkling home all year round…”

    I can see the value of that.  Makes perfect sense…

    Here are her eight points for an orderly home:
    1.  Let each room fulfill its function.
    2.  Streamline each room.
    3.  Keep neat closets and drawers.
    4.  Have the courage to throw away.
    5.  Label all stored items.
    6.  Store some food.
    7.  Learn the fun of filing.
    8.  Take care of the children’s toys.

    The next paragraph offers hope.  She says, “It’s never too late or too early.  Form the orderly habit now.  You know, if you make the things you have to do a habit you won’t have to force yourself any longer.  Then you will enjoy a neat home, peace of mind, and you’ll be able to find things – even in the dark!”

    She has so many great suggestions and thoughts on the entire process of making a home from organizing, daily schedules and cleaning that reading this book actually makes me excited to get up and take care of my home.

    I think many of the things she says are very logical and I probably could figure it all out after maybe 50 years, but I don’t have that long.  Or what I really mean is that I don’t want to spend that much time trying to figure it all out.  I want to know it all now and get on with my life.

    The first best thing that I have learned from this book, is her schedule of cleaning; there are daily items, weekly items, quarterly and yearly items.  The second best thing is really a complete mindset change about my tasks.  I have to decide to take pleasure and joy from my job and not be bogged down by the fact that I am doing the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over…  I have a problem with this one.  Big time!

    One of the things I love about this book is that it was written in 1967.  You can really see that by the adorable illustrations.  Also by some of the things she says.  It’s too cute.  But instead of being too old fashioned to be useful, I am finding it to be exactly the opposite.  There are some old fashioned comments but I just laugh and keep reading.


    One of the ways I have been implementing her teachings into my life is to make use of the ample garden bounty that my family and neighbors have shared with me.  I recently canned a really basic tomato sauce and tomato juice.

    To make the tomato sauce, I sauteed onions and garlic in olive oil.  Then I washed, cut off the yucky parts of the tomatoes and quartered them.  Next I put them in the blender and pureed the heck out of them; seeds, skin and all.  Then I dumped them in the pot with the onions and garlic.  I boiled the sauce until it reduced a bit and got thicker, probably a good hour.  Then I put into clean pint jars, put the lids on and turned upside down for the lids to seal.

    The juice was also very simple.  I washed the tomatoes, cut off the yuckies and put into my juicer.  The collected juice was then put in a pot on my stove and brought to a boil.  I boiled it for nearly half an hour to make sure that any little bacteria or other beasties were properly disposed of and then I ladled the hot juice into clean quart jars, put the lids on and turned upside down to seal.


    The day before I was able to process a bunch of corn to be used in the future.  I shucked it and then boiled the cobs and all for 5 minutes.  I pulled them out of the water and set aside to cool.  After cool, I cut off all the kernels.  Then laid them out on two jelly roll sheets and put in my freezer over night.  When frozen, I measured 3 cups worth into vacuum pack bags, sealed them up, labeled them and put back in the freezer.

    The only special equipment I needed for these three projects were a vacuum packer and a juicer.  All the rest were things that I think most people would readily have on hand.

    Next on the homemaking agenda is to really figure out my schedule and figure out the best way to put it in a place that I will use it.  I’m really wishing for an awesome homemaking iPhone app about now!

    I’ll get back to you with the schedule and maybe you’ll find it useful too.

    A few of my favorite things

    Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

    Fresh produce. We recently discovered a tiny farm with a produce stand close to our home, and I love stopping by for fresh, yummy goodness. Today we got squash, plums, tomatoes, strawberries… it doesn’t get better than that.

    Fun blogs about doing art with kids. These two are my current favorites- SO inspiring!  Filth Wizardry (best name EVER!)  and The Artful Parent.

    Books about butterflies. We’re obsessed with them around here recently. A World Of Butterflies is stunningly gorgeous- an art book more than an identification guide. We found Butterflies & Moths (Smithsonian Handbooks) to be much more helpful in that regard.

    Pruning back our flowers. I don’t even know if pruning is the right word- basically just taking all the dead brown yucky bits off. (We had some casualties around here during the couple day heat wave.) There’s just something wonderful about pulling off all of the deadness to reveal the green beneath… I think there’s a potential post in that, so I’ll leave it for now. :)

    Finding a fun new recipe. I discovered what looks to be a delicious one for curry chicken salad. If it turns out as wonderful as it looks, I’ll share tomorrow!

    What’s one of your favorite things today? Do share!

    Look in a book

    Saturday, April 17th, 2010

    Some of the books inspiring us around here recently:

    Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Life

    Calm and Compassionate Children: A Handbook

    My Heart’s at Home: Becoming the Intentional Mom Your Family Needs

    Writing Motherhood

    and some great, inspiring websites:

    Mom Shots

    5 Orange Potatoes

    Rhythm of the Home

    Childhood Magic

    What’s inspiring you?

    Gathering nuts for the winter

    Sunday, February 7th, 2010

    I feel like I’ve been in a season of gathering lately. Ideas and inspiration are being found and stored away, to be put to use after pondering and thought. These are some “nuts” I’ve picked up recently:

    Steady Days

    The Art of Simple Food


    Simplicity Parenting

    I haven’t really put any of these ideas to use yet; I’m kind of letting them simmer for a while to see what ends up bubbling up to the surface as important.

    What’s inspiring you these days?

    Reflections on Time

    Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

    I’m currently reading Amish Peace: Simple Wisdom for a Complicated World by Suzanne Woods Fisher, a fantastic book I HIGHLY recommend.  It’s a great glimpse into the Amish way of life, and Fisher (who is not Amish) does an insightful  job of asking thought provoking questions that help the reader consider what can be learned from Amish beliefs.

    I read this yesterday and it was like a kick in the head, so I thought I’d share.

    “One Amish man joked that if her were meant to plow at night, God would have put a headlight on a horse. The Amish respect natural limitations: sunlight and seasons, hunger and fatigue. Do you accept those limitations, or do you try to override them? Do you ever feel as if you are expecting too much from yourself?

    How many times in a day do you feel rushed? How many times in a day do you feel frustrated? Are those moments always related to each other? Building a margin of error into your schedule – for unexpected things like traffic jams – can be a simple and effective way to add peace to your life.”  p 86 of Amish Peace

    Share your thoughts in the comments if you like, and if you need something to read, check out this book. The chapters are really short, so it’s easy to pick up and put down, and I’m really learning a lot from it — about the Amish, and about myself.

    The Year of Magical Thinking

    Saturday, September 26th, 2009

    Later after I married and had a child, I learned to find equal meaning in the repeated rituals of domestic life.  Setting the table.  Lighting the candles.  Building the fire.  Cooking.  All those souffles, all that creme caramel, all those daubes and albondigas and gumbos.  Clean sheets, stacks of clean towels, hurricane lamps for storms, enough water and food to see us through whatever geological event came our way.  These fragments I have shared against my ruins were the words that came to mind then.  These fragments mattered to me.  I believed in them.

    What rituals of domestic life do you find meaning in?

    Key words

    Friday, September 25th, 2009





    These are the themes that keep popping up in the books I’m reading, the shows we’re watching. I’m trying to take the lessons to heart.

    What are your key words this week/month/year?

    May I recommend

    Saturday, September 19th, 2009

    a book? I’m only partway through it, but it’s fascinating so far.


    You can get it here for $6.  (Woo hoo, bargain books!) It’s all about why we feel the need for speed (historically and sociologically speaking), and the movement to take back control over our own time. It may have just given me the inspiration I needed to tackle more hands on cooking – what will it inspire you to do?

    I’ll post a more comprehensive review once I’ve finished it, but for now, if it sounds interesting to you, go take a look!