Thursday, February 4, 2016

Serious Stash Bust

It's time. I've talked about it for a couple years, but I've never had the courage to really do it until now. I'm downsizing my stash to just the projects I will knit within the next year. Realistically this means it will take me two years to knit what I have saved, but that's not too awful.

The yarn that didn't make the project cut needs to go. First come, first served. I priced everything between 40-50% off retail prices. My home is smoke and pet free. The yarn was kept in plastic storage bins. The pictures are small, but click and they should enlarge. If you'd like a close-up shot, just let me know.

Question? Get in touch via Facebook, comments, twitter, or any other way you know how to reach me. ;-)

Chunky (left to right)
  • Araucaria Azapa: Discontinued. Color 804 [Reminds me of a light robin's egg blue] 2 full skeins @ $10 each, 1 partial skien @ $5
  • Misti Alpaca Chunky: Color 1590 @ $8
  • Noro Kogarashi: Discontinued. Color #4 @ $12 each 3 skeins

Worsted (left to right)
  • Dream in Color Classy @ $15 per skein
                   Melon Bomb- 1 skein + smidgen (free)
                   Peacock Shadow- 3 skeins 
                   Flamingo Pie- 2 skeins

  • Madelintosh DK $15 per full skein, $5 for partial*
             Butter- 1 skein
             Twig- 2 full skeins, 1 partial skein 
             Lolita- 2 full skeins, one partial skein
             Mica- 1 skein
             Hickory- 1 skein
             Fig- 1 skein wound
             Cosmic Wonder Dust- 2 skeins wound
             Worn Denim 2 full skeins with one wound, 1 partial wound
*Partials are at least 1/2 a skein if not more.

Sport (left to right)
  • Madelinetosh Pashmina $20 each- Malachite, Astrid Grey, Butter
    Madelinetosh Pashmina
  • Silky Wool $5.25 each- Colors 125/aqua (6 skeins), 123/lilac (4 skeins), 126/green (3 skeins). Will sell entire lot for $60. 
    Elspeth Lavold Silky Wool
  • Fibre Company Road to China Light $9 each- Sapphire (1 skein), Grey Pearl (2 skeins)
    Fibre Co. Road to China Light


Fibre Company Canopy Fingering $8 each- Macaw (6 skeins) 4 Skeins left!

CrabApple Swag Fingering $18 each- Champlain (1 skein), Candy Crisp (1 skein)


Fibre Company Meadow $16- color alfalfa (1 skein)
Fibre Co. Meadow

Friday, January 8, 2016

Reflections and Intentions

Christmas Eve 2015
2015 was a good year. We wrestled through diet changes and getting the help that Pickle needed. We learned flexibility as a family as I worked a more intense schedule in the fall. We adventured together and individually through travel, areas of study, and life lessons. We learned that Sweet Potato loves chicken wings from Chinese restaurants and eating meat off the bone. We discovered that Pickle has the sweetest personality when she isn't sick. David grew professionally and I dusted off my academic brain. We settled into a new church and are reaping the blessings of belonging to the family of God. We completed our 2015 in 2015 challenge, exceeding it by approximately 35 items. We shared ourselves, started serving the body, launched a few new friendships, renewed a few old friendships, and mourned the loss of a couple friendships. It was a year of stretching and unexpected newness and a solid unwavering reminder that He is our Good Shepherd.

2016 has started and with it our Family Intentions of pursuing learning, wellness and reducing our waste.

Learning: About the world, each other and God.
Pickle is using her imagination fully. She now refers consistently to David as "Luke Skywalker Jedi Knight". She is often Baby Princess Leia and occasionally R2-D2 or Jane Banks (from Mary Poppins). When she is "Jane", I am Mary Poppins and must respond to my new name and refer to her as "Jane". Sweet Potato has hinted she is moving out of the everything-must-be-Star-Wars phase and into a more faerie, princess, enchanted world phase. The Disney versions can stay away. We've got this covered with actual fairy tales and Sparkle Stories thank. you. very. much. [This Mama may have banished the names "Elsa" and "Anna" recently.] 

Princess Leia Butterfly with her blaster gun and
Jedi Panda with her lightsaber.
As we started back into school this week, it hit me full force that Sweet Potato will soon have completed K/1st grade. She's motoring through this school year and I'm doing my best to keep the curriculum coming at a pace that suits and challenges. She continues steady improvement in reading and math just comes naturally for her. She's expressed more interest in crafts and drawing, asks about taking dance again at least once a week [oy vey!], and really wants to sink her teeth into science and the natural world. Meanwhile, ideas are swirling in my head for next year as we double our class size from 1 to 2. :-) An elementary schooler and a preschooler. Hard to imagine.

Reducing: What comes in and how we curate our lives.
At this moment, the upcoming year looks pretty quiet in comparison to last year. I know it'll fill up with wonderful life giving memories soon enough. Our family goal this year is to watch how much we bring into the house. We have a system for moving things out, but we want to be intentional about what comes inside in the first place. For the third year running, I am vowing to knit from my stash. Thanks to friends and their babies, I'm making headway... sorta. I need a snow week to really motor through some projects. Also, I have a lot of yarn -- even after giving a trash bag full to a friend! This is also the year I will tackle all those photos!

We are also working hard to avoid food waste. At this stage of parenting and within our culture, it seems a given that kids won't eat everything. This is also a challenge for me, the primary cook and food purveyor, to use up all we have in the refrigerator, freezers and pantries. And yes, one of my goals is to consolidate as much of my pantries together. It's working just going to take some time and diligence on my part!

Wellness: Eating, being, and becoming.
We will continue with our primarily gluten and dairy free diet regardless of what the doctor says at Pickle's appointment in February. We feel so much better as a family and I think have found a way to make it work realistically for us. Travel remains tricky, but I'm finally enjoying meal planning again. We're also currently supplementing with Iodine but that [and maybe the meal plans too] deserve their own post.

Tree climbing in the dark. Loads of fun!
I'm excited with what I'm learning about our bodies and nutrition. I also fully accept that we are living a food lifestyle far, far outside the norm. Despite the work and lack of instant gratification, the improvement in all of us physically has been amazing. It has also been a lesson for me in confronting my pride and letting go of our grocery budget. Our budget has doubled but gone are the tummy aches and intestinal issues for me, the fevers and inflammation for Pickle, the crazy unpredictable emotional mood swings for Sweet Potato, and significant extra weight for David. We have a lot of learning to do and it is a journey, but one we are deeply grateful to be experiencing.

As C. S. Lewis so aptly penned, "There are far better things ahead than what we leave behind." I'm looking forward to what's ahead!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Lavish Living

It's been a busy, full, fast-paced few weeks. Despite our constant go, I am grateful. Grateful because right now we have this-- a quiet morning. No rushing, or primping, or shoveling breakfast into tummies not ready to eat. No frosty cars to bundle into, and no racing into our day tired and slumpy.

This is lavish living I know. Our choice to keep me at home with the kids and the kids at home with me means we say "no" to a lot of what culture deems is necessary. Remaining resolved in our choice can be hard. But in these moments of a snuffly girl being told she can sleep longer and watching her drift back into dreams; checking on the smallest one and giving her a lovely and books and listening to her read; meanwhile, I brew a cuppa and write. The clock ticks on, the neighborhood settles into the calm of after morning rush hour, our little island is still in pjs, blankets warm, lights dim. The day quietly taking shape in the most pleasant of ways. My heart is glad for He is good.

Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; 
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! 
Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; 
his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. 
Psalm 100:3-5

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Fall Fun with Friends!

This autumn was the first time we truly took advantage of fall themed fun. On the suggestion of my brother and sister-in-law, who grew up in Manheim, we visited the Manheim Farmers Fair in September. We went with some homeschooling friends and loved how accessible, free, fun and educational it was! The girls, all 5 of them, had a lovely time seeing farm animals up close and collecting stamps at each pavilion for a prize packet. As moms, we loved the fall weather without the need to bundle, the ability to move around without huge crowds!

A month later, we met up with some of David's childhood friends while they were visiting Philadelphia from the midwest. We had a blast! We visited the U. S. Mint, Independence Hall, peered at Ben Franklin's grave, and strolled through Elfreth's Alley which claims to the oldest continually inhabited street in the US. It almost felt like Harry Potter could materialize at any moment. To keep the history theme going, we ate dinner at an 18th century tavern. We ate delicious food and enjoyed the late afternoon sun as it provided the only light in our dining room. While not as historically interesting, we did do something that I have longed to do since a student studying in Philly. We ate s'more's at Cosi! After a long day of walking we ordered s'mores at Cosi, a coffee/cafe, and enjoyed a sweet treat with the kids.

Our second day, we spent mostly at Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ. What a place! Having recently been to the National Aquarium in Baltimore, I wasn't sure how the girls would respond to another aquarium. We definitely got our moneys worth! Not only were the exhibits more child friendly with several see-and-touch stations, a shark tank tunnel, and a younger kids fish themed indoor play spot, but the entire place was brighter and lighter. We all were mesmerized by the hippos and were thrilled when they waded into the pool allowing us to view them underwater too! The girls were definitely taken by the weekend mermaid exhibit. It was definitely the highlight for them. That evening we met up with another childhood friend of David's. Together we had 6 adults and 10 children ages 9 yrs to 7 months out for dinner at Sonny's Famous Cheesesteaks on Market Street in Center City. It was wonderful to be together, although I think if there is a next time (and we do hope there is!), we'll host at our house so the kids can really play together and the adults can truly chat without fear of little ones running out into the street.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Pickle Update

It's been nearly four months since we started Pickle on her host of supplements and diet. We recently had more blood work and a follow-up appointment with the doctor. Part of the need for a strict diet was to reduce the inflammation in her system so subsequent blood work would reveal what was really happening. Praise the Lord her recent check did come back with some clues!

First, her inflammation is down considerably. We haven't had a true fever episode in 15 weeks and she has responded very well to treatment. Based on Pickle's response to the various medications the doctor feels she has/had Lyme's disease with a co-infection. This entire time we've been treating Pickle as though she had Lyme's and will continue with the two tinctures we have remaining. We are also continuing to support her immune system through supplements and diet. Yup, the diet continues.

One of the blood work results indicated that Pickle also has a "leaky" gut. Essentially her small intestinal lining has broken down, allowing larger food particles to pass through the lining and into her immune system. The immune system has seen these food particles as it would a virus or bacteria and attacked. It's hard to know if she had Lyme's first and then the leaky gut or vice versa, but we're working to repair, strengthen and restore her small intestinal lining.

We are feeling encouraged despite the work ahead and reminded how fortunate we are to have caught this early and to be with a doctor who treats the whole body not just a particular system or disease. As we move into the colder months and produce is less available, I'm hitting yet another learning curve with our diet. Still, I'm picking up tips and tricks and finding that my family is more flexible than I thought. Lately we've been having some rather unconventional breakfasts. Anyone want bacon wrapped chicken leftovers to start their day? How about 3 meat chili? Potato leek soup with bone broth? Yeah, it's different but satisfying. Two challenges I have yet to conquer is keeping enough food in the house and making a predictable budget. I've come to realize it might just take a while until we discover what is available and viable for our family.

The last remaining hurdle for me as home keeper is traveling with our supplements and diet. On a recent adventure, we ate on the go and paid for it in diaper rashes, bloated bellies, exhaustion, moodiness and elevated temperatures. Yes, we can definitely say there is a major difference in all of us when we eat what we're supposed. We're determined to keep traveling, but finding ways for us to source food on the go is a problem needing a solution. Still, we are thankful for the improvement and healing we've seen so far in Pickle and eagerly anticipate God's full restoration of her sweet body.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Our Good Shepherd

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of sharing with a handful of women a story about our Good Shepherd, Jehovah Rohi. Initially, I was asked to share my testimony or a lesson the Lord had taught me. As I prepared, the Lord completely changed my focus. I took Psalm 23 and fleshed it out in a story. It's not strictly allegorical but much like King David's poetry, it is an illustration of how the shepherd tends for his flock. I know there are several people who missed the breakfast and others have asked to read what a wrote. For ease, I'm posting the story here. I'm not a shepherd. Creative license was used. However, I tried to take what I have learned about shepherding (ancient and modern) to weave a story that would leave the reader with a sense of calm and peace that their Shepherd is caring for them. I hope you enjoy.

High in the hills, where the clouds kiss the thin grass and the scrub brushes the sky, lives a flock of Herdwick sheep. These white-faced, grey-wooled sheep are hefted to their land. The practice of hefting is unique to this place. Year after year, generation after generation, these Herdwicks graze on the land of their mothers and grandmothers. Each new lamb is taught by the older ewes about the rich, rugged, and varied terrain on the mountain. Through bleats and baas the sheep instruct the lambs where to hide from the wind and which pastures belong to their shepherd. In this way, the sheep are rooted and grounded in their surroundings. Today the leader of this flock, a shepherdess, is a girl on the brink of womanhood. Her name Solace. 

Solace is as hefted to this land as her sheep. Her family has grazed sheep on this mountaintop for nearly 300 years. As a toddler she learned to roam the high fields following after her grandfather or chasing the newly born lambs. Now as she tends the sheep her trusty four-legged companions, the sheepdogs Goodness and Mercy, assist her by charging hard after the flock, nipping at the heels of those ewes who’d like to stray, and creating boundaries on this boundless land for the protection of the flock. Solace is always mindful of where her flock is even with the sheep’s preference for a small portion of moorland. As their shepherdess, it is her role to move the sheep continually to fresh pasture and have a thorough knowledge of where to find clean water. 

Being so far removed from village life, her knowledge and care of her sheep is paramount when a physician is needed. A sick sheep is often a dead sheep. Solace is well versed in keeping her flock fed on high quality grass and uncontaminated water and is ever watchful for early signs of illness. Sheep are finicky animals. Their stubbornness often quickly carries them from strong-willed selfishness to self-endangerment. Susceptibility to illness stems from not just physical injury or poor judgement but often includes emotional attitudes. In the Spring, Solace was faced with a heart-broken ewe who had delivered a stillborn lamb. The ewe kept trying to make other lambs her own and Solace, as shepherdess, set out to mend her heart. Without a young one to tend, Solace knew it was possible for the ewe to slip into deep melancholy. When a set of twins were born, with one weaker than its sibling, Solace quickly placed the hide of the dead lamb on it and rested it next to the heart-sick ewe. To her great pleasure, Solace delighted as the ewe sniffed the lamb and then nudged it to suckle.

Being the leader is a responsibility in which Solace takes deep joy. Despite their extreme stubbornness and absent minded ways, she delights in the dependence of the flock on her. If the early spring snow has too much ice, it is Solace’s job to chip it away so the animals can find nourishment; otherwise they’ll starve. Due to their body composition and heavy wool coat, Solace also must be wary that her sheep remain upright. Should a sheep get stuck in the swift current while crossing a stream, it can hastily be thrown off balance and drown. If they get too comfortable while ruminating the weight of their wool can roll the sheep on its back, casting it down, and rendering it utterly helpless, hooves pointed to the clouds. This ever present danger requires Solace to count her sheep daily. She has bred, even designed, her sheep to have fleeces which reflect the qualities specific to her breed. Keeping the health, character traits, safety and provision of her flock at its best all the time is long-suffering work. However, her ever present understanding of the terrain and available resources is what makes her family’s livelihood come market time.

When the fall gatherings take place and portions of the flock are sold for meat or breeding, Solace knows her reputation and that of her family’s will be as much a part of the price as the sheep. The care put into the sheep, and the sheep’s submission to that care, are not for the sheep’s glory but the shepherd’s. In order to groom sheep worthy of a shepherd’s namesake, Solace knows they need to be well-disciplined. A sheep’s job is relatively simple: it needs to eat of the pasture provided, remain close to the flock by knowing and obeying the shepherd’s voice and rest in the cool shade which Solace sustains. When shearing time comes, a well-disciplined sheep will trust the shepherdess’ skilled hands and be content with the process of clipping away the old weight of wool without injury to themselves or Solace. Their life is not their own and Solace diligently works to show them devotion so they understand and faithfully submit to her.

With the approach of winter and the icy air already licking the land, Solace, Goodness, and Mercy are ready to bring the sheep off the mountain and into the valley. The descent is steep and the sheep are always timid to go over the crest of the mountain, for despite walking this path twice a year they do not remember what lies on the other side. Last year, as Solace led and the sheepdogs corralled behind, the flock panicked. racing for a severe and craggy cleft when a dark cloud’s shadow moved over the mountain. It wasn’t the first time Solace found herself grateful to her grandfather for carving her the birch and sheep horn handled staff. She deftly pulled the most wayward sheep back into the fold and Goodness and Mercy instantly closed in on the panicked sheep to restore calm. While the danger was just a cloud, in the half mist, half sky of the fells greater danger can lurk just beyond one’s sight. Foxes take particular delight in preying on the defenseless animals. They skulk into the pasture and nothing but force will prevent them from striking several dozen sheep within moments. What makes Solace burn with anger is that the foxes generally don’t kill for food. No, they kill for the taste of blood on their jowls. Once they have killed, the sheep are left to die alone while the foxes, red tongues lolling, race off into the thicket wild with amusement.

Banishing these thoughts of dark and menacing enemies, Solace knows that, once safely off the mountain, a great homecoming awaits her flock. They will spend the worst of the winter months on lower, greener land. Some shepherds allow their sheep to graze on the scrub of the mountain but these animals never fare well in such harsh conditions. Well-loved and cared for sheep are the pleasure of a good shepherd. Oh, and what joy Solace takes in her sweet, innocent eyed friends! When they return to the small dry rock pastures of farmland, Solace will dote on her sheep. Each one will have the mud and detritus clipped, washed and groomed from their coats. Comfy pens of straw laid thick await the sheep’s bandy legs. Salt cakes, turnip buns, hay smelling of summer sun, and abundant water, crisp and refreshing, will be placed in the barn’s troughs within easy reach of all. Every ewe will have her portion counted out just for her. 

The sheep do not deserve these sweet treats or extra care, but their happiness, their contentedness at having everything laid before them makes her heart smile. Goodness and Mercy, having pursued their charges down the mountain, will lay quietly at the barn’s doors ever observant and faithful to their mistress. Solace too will stay near her flock. The farm house holds her bed, but it rarely contains her. She prefers to bed with her sheep. This closeness affords her to rise with the flock before dawn to ensure they feed on the moist, tender pasture. Despite her early rising, Solace’s shadow will extend long against the barn walls as glowing lanterns enable her to tend the ever present needs of her flock. Neighboring farmers will witness her devotion. Some will shake their heads in misunderstanding, floating rumors that her beloved animals are weak from over indulgence. Other neighbors will come knocking, seeking Solace and eager to understand her ways. Generously she shares her time with those who genuinely desire to know her. For Solace, there are no secrets, no proprietary information. She is a simple shepherdess and hostess to this unlikely party. Yet here, in the presence of her flock, who yearn to show devotion to their good shepherdess, she will dwell.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Sabbath Rest

After a recent Facebook post, several of you asked about our celebration of Sabbath. I've been personally studying and reading about Sabbath for the past 2 years. It grew out of my minimalism/simplistic reading. While two years seems like a long time, I haven't been solely devoted to this topic. Rather, I pick it up, enact what I read, and then learn more. It's a slow digestion of a very large and moving command.

While browsing the shelves at our local homeschool curriculum exchange store, I found a book by Martha Zimmerman entitled Celebrating Biblical Feasts in Your Home and Church. For a girl who has been mingling with Jewish traditions since a babe, there was no question of it returning home with me.

I love that the book presents the Jewish feasts from a Messianic perspective. Celebrating Passover becomes so much richer when the story of the exodus is combined with Jesus' redemption of our lives! Zimmerman also gives recipes and an outline of what to do, what to say, and how to prepare for each feast. You get the meaning and understanding behind the feast and then the steps to do it.

For our family, I took the weekly sabbath ritual and modified it slightly to our family's needs. My goal was to keep the meaning while making it practical for our stage of life. What this translates as is that sometimes we follow a traditionally Jewish meal, other times we have pizza; sometimes we celebrate on Friday, other weeks we celebrate Saturday and sometimes we skip a week. However, we strive to finish all cleaning and chores before we sit down to table. We always set the table fancy, usually with a table cloth, cloth napkins, china, and a table arrangement from nature. Our service goes as follows:

  • Mother prays and lights candles
  • Father blesses children and mother
  • Singing of "Bless Our Home"
  • Blessing of the Cup, Washing of Hands, and Blessing of Bread
  • EAT!
  • Prayer of grace to end the meal

After the meal, we clean up-- together. Then we spend the remainder of the evening playing a game, reading aloud as a family and enjoying each other's company. For the day or days (if we celebrate on Friday we extend until Sunday evening), we fill our time with family, service to others, worship and strive to keep God at the forefront of our thoughts.  As our children grow older, we hope to spend more concentrated time individually and corporately studying God's word. We try very hard to not clutter our Sabbath with errands or other routine tasks. When we do need to drop by the grocery or stop at the bank, we give ourselves grace and keep going. We're not interested in making this a legalistic thing.

What I can't show you via blog or have you experience by reading is the effect of this ritual. Literally, as I open our time with prayer I can feel the stress, the crazy, the yuck from the week dissolving-- almost trickling off my back. My children sit and anticipate with glee helping and participating in the service. My husband speaks words of encouragement to our children and to me. It is such a renewing experience. God intended it to be restorative yet I am always surprised when He fulfills His promise. There is something mysterious about how my soul yearns for Sabbath. And by the number of times I am asked during the week "is tonight Sabbath?" my children are rejuvenated by it too.

I've stopped praying for rest and started to live it. 

It seems silly to say, but I hear so often from others that they wish they could find time to rest, relax, enjoy family time. God has already provided rest, we have forgotten to obey and therefore, miss out on a blessing deep and rich and full of spiritual significance. All we need to do is go and keep the Sabbath holy. 

Other readings on Sabbath:
  • Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner
  • Keeping the Sabbath Wholly by Marva Dawn
  • Rest: Living in Sabbath Simplicity by Keri Wyatt Kent