2017-2018 School Year Curriculum

We are already a couple of weeks into our new school year and things are rolling! We have already made some changes (*shock*) to our choices. I know that for some of you this post is pretty boring, but I am typing it up more for myself so that I can look back next year and see what I had “planned” to do vs what I end up *actually* doing. LOL. Can anyone relate?

So, without any fluff here’s the line up for what we are trying to accomplish this year!

Lea-age 8- 3rd-ish grade

Elly-age- 5-K/1st-ish grade

Cai-age 3- preschool

Zach-age 1- tot school

Math Picks

The girls are both very brilliant in math, although Lea has a bit harder of a time applying herself. We have been using Life of Fred up to this point with her successfully. We have purchased the intermediate series, however she is already getting bored with those so we are more using them as supplemental instead of the full curriculum, like we did last year. She is trying out Teaching Textbooks as well as Math Lessons for a Living Education (level 3, not pictured). She right now is bouncing between TT and the MLFLE.

Elly is using Math Lessons for a Living Education (level 1) and is adoring it. I would not normally push such a young student to do this kind of “book work” however she LOVES writing and begs to “do math” so I can’t really fight it. She is almost 3/4 of the way through this book already (we did some over the summer), so I am not really sure what we are going to do next. We also use lots of hands-on manipulatives and real life math activities.

Language Arts

We are really excited this year about some of our language arts picks! Lea is not really doing any formal reading program as she is fluently reading. This year we are focusing on quality writing, spelling and gentle grammar. We are using All About Spelling Level 2, Grammar Galaxy Nebula (not pictured), and incorporating Brave Writer Lifestyle to the rest of her studies. We are also using the Good and the Beautiful by Jenny Phillips handwriting program. Lea is on Level 4 as she wanted to learn cursive this year. Handwriting is not Lea’s favorite so we set aside 5 minutes (hopefully building to 10) for her to do her best effort work and whatever she completes at “best effort” for 5 minutes is enough for the day.

For Elly, we are using All About Reading Level 1. Elly is using the Good and the Beautiful handwriting Level 2, when she wants to. At this age, I do not really force any school. However, she loves to have her “own books” for things and is constantly writing.

Brave Writer Lifestyle

This year we are really embracing the Brave Writer Lifestyle…and I could/need to write a whole blog post on that. For now, there’s LOTS of other great blogs that do a fantastic job explaining what that is. For us, this looks like poetry tea time, free-write Friday, lots of creative writing and storytelling. In a nutshell, we are fostering and developing a love of writing without drilling mechanics until later. We are learning how to get the ideas that are in our heads, down on paper without criticism of perfect grammar, spelling or punctuation. I believe that children begin storytelling at a vary young age (imagination!), but there is difficulty in actually translating that onto paper. It is a very different part of your brain that you use when you do the actual writing process. My goal is to alleviate as much pain as I can from the actual writing process so that the children can focus on how to get what they are thinking or feeling actually in spoken and written word.

For writing mechanics, right now we are using a Charlotte Mason approach, doing copywork and discussing books that we read (noting how the author uses punctuation, inflections, etc).

Read Aloud

We do lots of reading aloud! Sometimes this is a very difficult task as the toddlers are not always quiet…ok, scrap that, NEVER quiet. As much as I am working to teach them to play quietly, usually when I am reading every other sentence I have to stop and remind them “when mommy is reading no one is talking.” Children’s book authors should have just done me the favor of writing that in the books themselves. “SHHH” “STOP TALKING” “STOP HITTING YOUR BROTHER” and so on.

Nevertheless, we push through. In the mornings when the littles are with us all we read aloud picture books, nature books, and silly stuff. In the afternoons when the boys nap the girls and I will pick up the chapter book that we are reading. These are some of our picks for this year! The girls are excellent listeners, occasionally they will paint or color while I read but for the most part they sit and listen. 9 times out of 10 they will re-enact what we read later in the day. We just finished Nim’s Island and their outside playtime ever since has included abandoned islands, floating coconut boats and talking sea lions. That is a gem for me that I tuck away for the hard days.

Nature Study

We have been doing nature studies for years now, but this is the first year that I bought an actual curriculum for it! We are really excited about using it. Exploring Nature with Children is a very gentle curriculum that covers the ENTIRE YEAR! It is seasonally appropriate and includes so much. It was also extremely affordable which made it an easy pick! Each week we study something different, and there are book suggestions, poetry to read, a famous piece of art to study as well as specific references to the famous Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Comstock. Usually about once a week we go on a nature walk, collecting items to look at and observing. Finally, at the end of the week the girls and I will do some watercolor painting in our nature journals to paint whatever it is we found or studied that week! We reference the Wild and Free Nature Journal for inspiration!

Morning Time

This year we are trying a dedicated “Morning Time” hour for the first thing that we do. As part of this morning time we kinda do a little bit of everything. Firstly we do our devotions and prayer time. We are using Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing in the first quarter. Not sure what we will use after that. Lea will sometimes read a passage out of The Jesus Storybook Bible. Both of these are fantastic resources. After that we usually do some memory work then some singing and dancing to get the wiggles out.

One of our favorite additions this year is doing composer studies on classic composers using a curriculum that I grew up with called Color the Classics. Basically, about once a week the kids will get a coloring page for a composer and we will listen to the music and read a small bit of information that goes along with the picture. We study each composer for about 6-7 weeks. Kids have enjoyed it so far, and even Cai is really dedicated to coloring. Don’t worry though, Zach is still wiggling and trying to eat the crayons so all is not peaceful. Don’t get any ideas that I somehow have mastered the art of getting kids to sit still and listen.

We utilize a Loop Schedule for morning time, meaning we don’t do the same thing everyday. I have a list of activities (like the composer study) that we rotate. Sometimes we play math games, reading games, simple crafts, or study something the kids are interested in at the moment.

Finally, we wrap up by doing a short lesson in our Grapevine Bible Studies. By this time Cai is bored to tears and ready to go play so the girls and I do the stick-figuring through the Bible curriculum together and then move on to our other studies.

History

For history this year we are sticking with our co-op buddies! We selected to use Homeschool in the Woods unit studies. We are starting with The New World Explorers, then Colonial Life and finally The American Revolution. We will be spending about 8-9 weeks on each subject and meeting together at co-op for activities and discussion. We’re really excited about it!

Routine

This is the first year that I am trying a more structured routine. We will see how long that lasts, LOL. For the most part we get 80% of our work done before lunch then the kids have a nice long lunch break. The boys go down for a nap and the girls and I finish up. I usually save intensively messy projects for the afternoon as it takes so much time for clean up. It’s honestly a tough season with the boys, Z being so little and wanting to get into everything. Cai does play nicely on his own now, but he is LOUD! He is always talking and making noise, so thats tough when we need some quiet focus time.

Things that are really helping this year…

Minimalism! We have gotten rid of so many toys and unneeded things around the house. For toys, we have 90% of the kids toys organized and put away in the closet. They can have 1-2 things out at a time, clean up and put away before they get another out. It’s working out great, I really never have to ask them to clean up more than once. This year the favorite toys are Legos, Calico Critters, Beanie Babies, Tegu blocks, and Playmobile.

Alex also got a new job this year that allows him to work from home. He is home all day, so that helps if I need to run a quick errand without the kids, go to a doctors appointment or whatever. He also takes his lunch break with us and helps get the boys down for a nap. We have had such a great time with him home and I am convinced that I am spoiled to the point that he can never ever have another office job again. We are incredibly blessed!

Oma days! Having my mom local is such a blessing as she helps out with the kids at least a couple of times a week. The kids enjoy an “Oma Day” where they go out and about and do things that I don’t always have the energy to take 4 kids to. Parks, zoo, libraries, swimming. Gives me a smidge of a break to catch up on housework, business stuff, or coffee with a friend. Weekly sanity check.

Finally, I’d say the last thing thats really helping is that I am getting up earlier and trying to have some “me” time in the morning before the kids get up. Right now, that usually means I get up, go to the living room, put on some worship music, read a verse or two off my Bible App and fall back asleep. Just bein real. It’s peaceful resting in the Lord. I am trying to learn just to “show up” even if I end up drifting off. After that, I get up and make coffee and breakfast. From 7-8, I sneak off into Alex’s office to catch up on emails, make plans for the day or take care of business stuff. That has been a huge help as I don’t feel stressed in my school day to deal with business needs as I know I’ll get to them either that morning or the next day. It’s working good for now!

Final Note

Again, I wrote this post for my own reference so that I can look back from year to year. Lest you think that I have it all together, let me assure you there are still plenty of days of tears, me looking for the resignation office, days where we try to do school, fail and eat donuts instead. Yet, I have my best intentions of connecting with the kids and wanting to give them a quality education. So I am committed to sticking it out through the hard storms. All of the above only serves as a guide. It also gives me something at the end of the year to see what worked and what didn’t. So it’s all good. If you are connecting with your kids, you’re doing a great job regardless of school choices, curriculum choices or daily routines.

You got this. Leave me a note or connect with me on Instagram if you need some encouragement. I am here. 🙂

Peace and Love,

E

Just Let Them Be Kids

Just let them be kids…

That’s what my dear husband told me the other day…after I had a bit of an outrage…

I was standing in the kitchen window looking out at the children playing outside since it was a nice spring day. Lea runs by and I notice her shorts are covered in mud…shorts that we just bought new 3 days ago. I’ve been reading blogs and articles about minimizing kids clothes, doing this whole trendy “capsule” wardrobe thingy. We took off school this week so that we could focus on organizing, and getting our brains together (note to self: never make such lofty goals). I successfully purged all of the kids clothing…saving their favorites and ones that are not ripped and stained. We went shopping to fill in the gaps where they needed a couple of extra items. I was feeling good. Ahh so much control.

Back to mud scene. Oh I forgot to mention that we created a intentionally very specific “MUD CLOTHES” pile and put them in a specific spot they could access when playing. Today was also Alex’s birthday…so the girls decided they wanted to dress up for Daddy’s birthday. Deck out in their brand new clothes. Fine. Dandy. Hey, I’m so nice you can even play outside in them! Just don’t.get.in.the.mud.

Mmmmhmmm. My face when Lea runs past the window covered in mud. “Oh no she didn’t. Mmmm, girrrrrllll. Hallelujah.” Elly next, white leggings turned poop brown, giggling and running around. Cai with a saggy diaper from sitting in puddles. Mercy. Then began my tirade of “why’s”.

I don’t even understand my own emotion. I was so mad. Okay I was hot. Thank goodness there was dishes to take my anger out on (yes, I am an angry cleaner…) Why the devil couldn’t they have just put on their mud clothes. LIKE WE TALKED ABOUT. Yo.

Yo.

Sigh. Okay, so I’m like WHY does this make me so mad. Why does it matter so much. Probably because I see these pictures of these kids all dressed up in their cute little curated capsule wardrobe and I feel slighted. I just want to be able to take the kids places and not have them all looking like hoodlums. Brown butt hoodlums. Not that I look entirely much better with crusty boogies on my shirt, pants that are way too big, Ms Frizzle hair and some hot pink lipstick. Man, I gotta stop looking at those blogs.

Meanwhile, my husband is sitting at the table playing some computer game listening to this conversation I am having out-loud with myself. Finally, I sit down. I start my why tirades all over again, this time expecting him to answer. And he does. I have a list of 1, 000 reasons why rolling around in the mud in your-brand-new-clothes-that-mommy-just-bought-with-her-hard-earned-money is not a fantastic idea. Not to mention I single handedly braved the clothing store with all 4 children to buy said clothing. So I think it’s fair I have a say. He says:

Just let them be kids.

Excuse me while I pick my jaw up off the floor.

Someday they will grow up and have nice clothes. Someday they will grow up and think that rolling in the mud is gross. But for now, this is their joy. They are not thinking about how mad mom will be. Let them play. Just let them be kids. Let this be their memory. 

And so, I let go. I grabbed the camera and decided that, well, at least it will make a decent blog post. A real life story of a superbly control freak mama, who let her kids roll in the mud in their brand new clothes. Hallelujah. There’s still a part of me that doesn’t particularly like this situation. I’m gonna have to keep practicing deep breathing and letting go. In the meantime, we might have another conversation about our mud clothes pile and our nice clothes pile. And I’m buying the Costco sized Oxyclean.

So next time you see my kids, with stained and dingy clothes. Please remind me to let them be kids and that its not about me.

Oh, and remind my husband to install an outdoor shower for me.

Mud On Friends. But really, I prefer flower picking days.

 

What’s New on the Homestead

Since it has been so long since we have seen any updates on this here bloggy, I thought we’d do a little mini tour of some new additions!

Square Foot Gardens!

After the past three years of struggling with gardens (read: WEEDS), we finally made the decision to scale it way back and do some raised bed gardening. The hope is that the weeds won’t be AS aggressive…between the crabgrass and dandelions were over our head for organic gardening. So here we are. We have started with 4 garden beds that are 4ft by 8ft. We plan to add a good bit more and fence them in…potager style. My pinterest boards might be loaded with ideas and some drool on the keyboard.

So far I have transplanted our 3 year old strawberry plants into the first garden. Alex kept mowing over them, so I decided they needed a safe and better home. Maybe the bunnies will stay out of them now too. :/ We have a spring garden, summer garden and sweet potato garden planned for the other three. If this darn weather would make up its mind about what season it would like to be, I’d get planting…

Furry Updates

In animal news…since we were just mentioning bunnies (yes we still have Polly Puff Puff the indoor bunny)…we added a big homestead pooch to the chaos. Snowflake Bentley joined our family in January…all couple pounds of his Goldendoodle sweetness. He’s learning the ropes well. He’s a pro at trash picking, Kleenex chewing and voracious licks. We’re also hoping and planning to start raising ducks next year. It’s been on the desire list for a few years but we just haven’t had the time to build the coop!

Fruit Trees

The orchard is coming along nicely. We have a nice set of apple trees, plum & apricot trees. They are blooming right now and that is my favorite time of year. Love the little blossoms that smell so divine.  They are not fruiting yet…hopefully next year! The blueberry patch is limping along. Haven’t harvested much from those as the birds seem to find them before us…or maybe its a certain 2 year old boy. Problem has not been confirmed, but we are going to try bird netting this year. Unfortunately, that won’t keep out the sneaky snacky kids. We have a blackberry vine and grape vine taking over the back fence. I love it! Someday we will actually get fruit off of those…oh the waiting process is brutal.

Miscellaneous Randomness (aka Erica’s Typical Thoughts)

We finally broke down and bought a zero turn mower. The angels are singing. Previously it took us a good 3-4 hours AT LEAST to mow the yard. With the new beast we are down to under an hour for all of it. Hello Saturdays again. We have been so overwhelmed with mowing these past few summers we really haven’t had the time to devote to the gardens and other projects. So our hope is that with this new addition we will see more productivity on the ol homestead. Or maybe you’ll actually see us at the beach this year!

Oh did I fail to mention the newest homestead hands? Zach was born in April of 2016!! Already coming up on a year old already! Oh how time flies when you’re on a monkey farm.

I’m sure by now you’re wondering about Sowie the infamous sourdough…if you have read the blog at all you know the trials and tests we have been through together. Sowie had a long, very long, vacation frozen away in the freezer. He has recently been brought back from his cryogenic state, however, he has yet to preform any monumental tasks such as bread baking. Hopefully in the next few weeks he will make a much better come back and recover from being neglected in the freezer for over a year. I know this may come as a shock to some. It’s gonna be OK. I promise…

Alright friends. Until next time…

-E

Welcome Back

Hey wow, it’s been a looong time. I’m still here! Added another baby since the last time I posted. So naturally, this baby has been neglected. However, I do want to pop in and out occasionally with some new stuff, so I gave the whole site a nice makeover and got all the links back up and working. Cuz broken links are most certainly annoying.

Anywhoo. Just thought I’d pop in and say hello again. “Hi Blog!” I’ll find more interesting things to say soon!

TTFN.

 

The Cantaloupe Treasure

Hello!! I am still here! I have neglected this blog for a while now! Time is tight right now. I know many of us are all too familiar with tight budgets. Sometimes, it just doesn’t seem like there is enough to go around. Or we sit around scratching our heads trying to figure out how to make it work. That’s how life has been the past couple of months for us. Since the beginning of summer we have been slammed busy with coffee business work, yard work, broken tractors, waist high weeds…you name it! Some days it feels like there is barely time to breath. Our time is literally budgeted to the max!

The other day, Alex and I were sweating our brains out weeding the garden, which is currently growing cantaloupes and winter squash. Our tractor had a broken part, which took forrrevver to fix, and the weeds got totally out of control. After spending HOURS weeding, cursing crabgrass, and nearly fainting with heat exhaustion we got the garden bed under control. All for some cantaloupes. Sweet, sweet cantaloupes. About midway through I had this crazy thought to myself of “why the heck am I doing this?! This is so much WORK. All this for some cantaloupes?!” Then I yelled some more at the crabgrass. Devil plant. Then I had the realization that this “work” is actually just life. You see, this is the life we have chosen. It’s not to say that this life is for everyone. When I made the realization that this work was really just life, it made doing it not as meaningless. It was more than just weeding a bed of cantaloupes.

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Some things that I treasure as a result of our hard work life:

  • Our children see things grow from seed to fruit. Lea planted the cantaloupe seeds, and is so proud of the end result. I love that she gets excitement eating things that “came from OUR garden”. Daggone crabgrass weeding is worth it for the kids.
  • Life is sweeter. Hard work makes the sweetest things even sweeter. One of my favorite and most enjoyable things to do at the end of a really tough day is to get in the shower and scrub the layers of dirt off of my feet. I know…kinda weird. Most days I do work in my flip flops…so my feet are downright scary. I love using my super scrubby coconut fiber loofa to turn black dirt caked feet into normal feet again. It feels so good.
  • I am learning survival skills. I mean, come on…girlfriend needs to know how to grow stuff in the case the world comes to an end. You might thank me someday.
  • Our views are a thing of beauty. 5 acres is a lot of land to care for. Most of the time I’m pretty sure we’re crazy. But then the sunsets, the storms, the lightening bugs in the wheat fields…The country life views are so breathtaking and worth the backbreaking it takes to maintain.
  • We work together. I don’t often leave Alex home to do the yard work while I take the kids places on the weekend. We work together as a family. Kids get involved, Alex and I trade off. Sometimes we all fight, sometimes we complain together, sometimes we laugh, sometimes at the end of the day we go eat Mexican food and drink margaritas. On days when we do have something planned, we try to get our work done earlier in the week so we don’t have to be apart. It’s just how we roll. Often we have family here too, to help with the kids.
  • Kids eat more vegetables when they pick it fresh. I have noticed that my kids will eat green things out of the garden when they wouldn’t otherwise touch it on their plates. Even Elly & Cai, who won’t touch green things with a 10 foot pole, eat cukes and snap peas from the garden. It’s their thing. They just love to go and forage for a cuke. Cai even eats the green tomatoes. Weeding the garden so that they can do this safely (read: make sure theres no places for snakes to live) is a high priority for me. Remind me to plant more cucumber plants next year since the kids eat them all…barely any make it in the house!

So while the rind of life is tough, the inside is sweet and worth every drop of sweat poured. Someday I will write more on the blog about less challenging times, but this is where we are right now.

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Happy Earth Day!

I love that the homestead is buzzing with new life! I love to see the new blossoms on the trees, seedling plants springing up out of the black dirt, and dandelions by the millions scattered across the yard. I was so excited to find that the strawberry plants I planted last year came back this year! We were weeding the garden a few weeks ago and noticed that the dead pile of brown strawberry plants had sprung back to life! They are proliferating big time and already have little berries on them! Man…that brings joy. This truly is the best time of the year.

We have been working super hard on getting some trees transplanted. We have about 50 sunset maple trees in a small “holding garden.” They are getting big enough to transplant through the property. Planting trees is really hard work. Like REALLY hard. I am not even kidding.

We are also super excited that we got 6 new fruit trees to add to the orchard- 3 apricot and 3 plum. They have already started new growth and have leaves! Ah! Such a miracle to watch. Literally. CAN.NOT.WAIT. for the day our fruit trees start producing.

Anyways. Just wanted to share a homestead update and a fun video we made today of what a breezy day in the country looks like!! Enjoy. (Ps-Sorry the video is so small…I was just playing around with a new app and couldn’t make it bigger).

News on the Coffee Front

Wanted to share some exciting news on the coffee business! This is taken from our coffee page blog, but I wanted to share it here as well!!

We are super excited to be finally sharing this with you! This has been in the works for some months now, and we are finally to the reveal!! Over the past few months we have felt the desire and calling to more strongly integrate missions into our business structure. Up to this point we had not really defined what that looks like on paper. So through a series of discussions, prayers and guidance we have established the following guiding principals that our business will now run on.

In addition to these new business values, we are also undergoing a name change! MonroePost Coffee will become SignPost Coffee. You will see this new name change start rolling out on our new packaging and website over the next few weeks!

As part of rebranding, we also are launching a Kickstarter page to help us roll out this Mission. This Kickstarter has some super awesome incentives for backers and we would be totally honored to have you be a part of making this mission a reality. Check out our Kickstarter page for more info!

SignPost Coffee MISSION Purposes

Jeremiah 31:21

Set up road markers for yourself; establish signposts! Keep the highway in mind, the way you have traveled. Return, Virgin Israel! Return to these cities of yours.

M- Missions

We believe that every person deserves to hear about the love of Jesus Christ. Many times this message is shared through missionaries who have dedicated their lives to service. At SignPost Coffee, we believe in missions happening in our backyards and missions happening in unreached places. Our partnership with various missionaries and ministries allows us to form connections and financially support their efforts. Through the avenue of coffee, we are able to express our belief that every life matters. 15% of our proceeds are given to these missions and to support short-term mission trips.

I- Integrity

We believe that it is of utmost importance to deal with integrity in all areas of our business. From the choices that we make about where to source coffee, to doing the best we can to ensure that farmers are paid fairly, to our desire to value our customers and treat each as we would want to be treated. Ultimately, we want our coffee to reflect who we are and bring glory to God!

S- Sustainability

We believe in the importance of tending and caring for the earth we have been given. We believe that sustainable farming honors the land and improves quality. While many of our coffees come from farms that are organically certified, we also consider coffees from farms that are using sustainable growing practices that strive to minimize the use of chemical fertilizer or pesticides. Paying farmers a fair wage provides for their families, their communities, and allows for investment in more efficient and sustainable growing, harvesting, and milling practices.

S- Specialty Coffee

We believe in coffee with character! Coffee without character is like a canvas without paint. We love to explore the complex, unique characteristics, that come with each harvest of coffee. We identify with the specialty coffee industry, its community, and its passion to produce excellent coffee. Our priority is to instill this passion into each bag of coffee provided to our customers.

I- Inspire

We believe everyone has a calling. We want to inspire people to pursue that calling. We strive to encourage others to join the mission movement and we accomplish this by financially supporting short-term mission trips. Additionally, we support entrepreneurship and partner with like-minded businesses to form connection and shared business exposure.

O- Outreach

We believe in reaching out through various events to share our love of coffee and community. We partner with our local church to bring awareness to missions by providing and serving coffee from regions where our missions serve. All donations are given back to the church mission fund. These are some of the ways that we accomplish our outreach goal!

N- Nourishing

We believe our hearts are meant for connection. Coffee has a rich history of drawing people together and many times we have found ourselves sharing our lives with another person over a simple cup of coffee. We desire that our coffee will draw people together in community and we pray that our coffee nourishes your soul.

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Acceptance of "The Way it Is"

Life has been a bit crazy lately. But then again, as I write that…I think that every blog post I have written over the past two years has basically started the same way. I had this realization the other day when I was pondering if I was ever going to feel “on top of it.” My kids are swirling around, screaching, playing in dirt, bumping heads, crying…oh the endless crying. The mere thought of having to empty the dishwasher for the 2nd time in one day seems overwhelming. I keep thinking to myself…if I can just get past this hard stage then I’ll be ok…just make it out alive. Then I had this slightly unhappy thought of “what if this is just the way it is.”

We have made a lot of choices over the past few years that have really set us up quite nicely for a life lived on the edge…of insanity. When I am evaluating all of these choices, I honestly can’t really think of any that I am wanting to  let go of in order to save brain space. So, I have really had to sit myself down this week and talk to God about how in the world I am supposed to function in this way. For me, just coming to this acceptance has helped me. So on days when I feel like all my to-do list my swallow me up alive, I think about how this is just how it is right now and move along. I can personally waste a lot of time living in the “what if’s” and in the frustration that things aren’t the way I want them.

I specifically feel very challenged in the realm of child rearing and homeschooling. I have pretty much come to the determination that this was not intended to be done as a solo parent. Alex works outside of the home for 11 hours a day. That’s a REALLY long time to be alone with 3 children, manage a house and a business. It is for this reason that I feel I am putting every spare minute I have into building businesses that can help us achieve our ultimate goal of sustainability and for Alex to not have to work outside the house. It really is such a big dream.

It honestly brings me to humble tears thinking about how blessed we have been over these past few years. I cannot give God enough glory for what he has accomplished in our lives. I cannot thank our friends and family enough for the love, support and help they have been to us in all of our crazy endeavors.

So through it all, I fight hard and cry hard. Most days I don’t think I am going to get through it. Other days, I feel completely renewed and motivated. Accepting that this life that we have chosen is indeed a lot of work has helped me push past the regret, the envy, the pity and helped me put the pedal to the metal and make it happen. Fueled by passion, letting stress go.

work hard

Snow Day Pretzels

Well…we are snowed in today…rather iced in. A big storm hit last night and dropped some snow followed by freezing rain. Our backyard is literally a big sheet of ice. In other words- we ain’t going no where.

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Cold days call for cozy food and hot coffee. Am I right or what? We had these soft fluffy pretzels at a friends house the other day and erhmehgersh were they good. Thanks Sarah for your delicious confections! So today, I decided we would make them again…it was a toss up between these or cinnamon rolls. Since of course we could dip these in cinnamon sugar topping…it was kinda the same thing right? Except that these pretzels are a cinch to make. Regardless, you should make some on your snow day…errr, ice day. They may not be the healthiest thing on the planet…but good for a nice treat. After eating them, you can do some house work…like scrub your kitchen floors. (Well…at least that is what I did…)

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Snow Day Pretzels

Slightly adapted from Food Network

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup organic milk
  • 2 1/4 tsp yeast
  • 3 Tablespoons coconut sugar, or brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Kerrygold salted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2-2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup baking soda (for later)
  • 3 cups hot water (for later)
  • Melted butter (4 Tbsp)
  • Pretzel salt, Cinnamon sugar and/or other various toppings or dipping sauces.

Directions:

  1. Warm your milk in a pan to 110 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, this is just hot enough that it doesn’t burn your finger. Any hotter and you’ll kill the yeast…so don’t do that. After your milk is warmed, add yeast to the milk and let it sit for a few minutes while you prep the other ingredients.
  2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  3. Add the sugar and butter to the milk/yeast mixture and stir. Now dump this into a stand mixer. Add one cup of flour and begin stirring. If you don’t have a mixer, you can just add the flour to a bowl with milk and mix with a spoon.
  4. Add the salt and another cup of flour and continue kneading either in the mixer or by hand. Continue adding flour until the dough is no longer sticky. You may need to add more than the 2 cups. Knead for 5-6 mins in the mixer or 10 minutes by hand (come on…you can do it!)
  5. Let the dough rest and rise for 1 hour.
  6. Near the end of the rise, mix the baking soda with the hot water in a dish.
  7. After rising, divide the dough into 12 parts. This will make 12 smallish pretzels. If you want huge pretzels (aka “mall size”) then divide into 6 parts. Roll the dough into long logs and shape as desired. Feel free to use your play dough snake making skills for this 😉
  8. Dip the pretzel shapes into the bowl of hot baking soda water and lay on a greased baking pan or parchment paper lined pan.
  9. If you want salted pretzels, sprinkle the salt on now.
  10. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes.
  11. After removing pretzels from oven, proceed to dip pretzels in melted butter and then cinnamon sugar mixture if desired. You could also make a cheese dip…or chocolate dip…or mustard dip…or just eat them plain!
  12. Serve with a cup of hot MonroePost Coffee …unless you are serving to kids, in which case hot cocoa might make a nice pair.

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Even buddy liked them! (Well…that’s not a surprise)…

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2015 Homestead Life Goals

2014 was a crazy busy year. We had babies (ok, just one but it feels like 5…), renovated structures, opened businesses, & ate way too many zucchinis. Come the end of the year we were tired. December was a rough month with water problems (2 pipe bursts) and mouse issues out the wazoo. Yeah…those little dickens are so determined. They chewed through our pest block foam spray from last year. Just so they could laugh at us while they ate all our tasty crumbs…Sorry, not to gross you out. The house has been officially sanitized. It was like spring cleaning in the dead of winter. Fun!

Annnyways. 2015 is going to be different. It is going to be full of so much opportunity. So here’s a few things on the checklist.

Homestead Goals

  • Expand garden and spread out the woodchips that were delivered last year
  • Make a better garden plan
  • Plant 3 new fruit trees & 3 new fruit bushes
  • Transplant all trees that have been in the “spare” garden for a year
  • Prune apple trees
  • Build duck coop and enclosure
  • Gutters on the house (not accomplished in 2014)
  • Build insulated house for the well pump (not accomplished in 2014)
  • Landscape front of house near porch
  • Paint one room of the house (living room or our bedroom)

Personal Goals

  • Last year I had pledged to buy better meat. I was pretty successful in that endeavor, I am happy with where we are in our eating habits right now. However, I would still really like to make it a priority to grow the bulk of our vegetables and can/preserve them for winter.
  • Finish the two courses I am enrolled in at Vintage Remedies. Enroll in two additional classes by the end of the year.
  • Finish the book Aromatherapy for Health Professionals 
  • Finish the book The World Atlas of Coffee
  • Do more educating on this blog

Coffee Business Goals

  • Integrate more missions-minded aspects into the site
  • Integrate an artists shop on the site
  • Partner with local businesses
  • Attend a local vendor event
  • Set up coffee shop at community events, such as concerts
  • Plan business expansion, including larger roaster

We are intentionally trying to keep all of our projects reasonable this year…and not trying to do any major renovating, building or projects that take more than a couple of weekends to complete. The past two summers have been crazy and we would like to actually enjoy a few days of summer without back breaking, sweat-to-death kinda work. I am sure you are all nodding your head in approval. Who is ready for a 2nd annual Camden County’s Largest Slip-and-Slide party!? Don’t ask me why I am already dreaming about summer…maybe its because we had the “first snow” of the season. I call it “snow” because of course all schools were closed and my kids had to get dressed in head to to winter gear to go play in the snow dust. Alas, I am not a cold weathered gal. Except that I have an excuse to drink more coffee. In fact, I think I’ll go brew another pot now…

What’s on your agenda for 2015? Comment and let me know!