Monday, December 08, 2008

Wood stove Wisdom

1. When you think you have enough wood chopped and stacked for winter - double it (at least!)

2. A 4 year old can carry and stack wood and will choose it over playing on the swing set every time.

3. A woman can chop wood too! (although her husband is much better)

4. A house temp of 62 degrees F isn't chilly. 55 degrees is another story.

5. The living room is the warmest place in the house. The bathroom is substantially colder.

6. It's smart to shower at night. (see #4 and #5 for reasons)

7. A cool house + shared blankets = an excuse to cozy up with your spouse.

8. Upstairs bedroom temperatures are best equated to those experienced by Arctic researchers.

9. But that's okay. Kids like to sleep in the living room. It's a lot like camping.

10. People are now compelled to wear the scarves, hats, and handwarmers I knit for them.

11. Kids know the stove is hot and do not touch it. Adults, however, must see for themselves.

12. When you heat with wood people either think you're crazy or they're jealous.

13. Bean soup will simmer all day and be perfect in time for dinner.

14. Humidifiers are necessary so everyone doesn't get sick.

15. On the upside of this - homemade soap cures in half the time.

16. My drying rack is my best friend. 2 loads a day will dry by the fire saving us both money and energy.

17. Long hair and an open flame are not a good combination. Ponytails are good when adding wood.

18. Burnt carpet stinks.

19. Saying, "The chimney is smoking." is not adequate.

20. One must add 'in the living room' to illicit the correct response from one's spouse.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sew much more...

I finally started the dress I wanted to make for Carlie for Christmas. (about time, I know) All that's left is to attach the binding on the collar and sleeves and maybe a few decorative buttons on the front. Sewing from a pattern was pretty painless this time around. If I keep working at it I'll have the shirt for Jack and the pants for both kids finished in time! (keep your fingers crossed for me) I've been wanting to make a skirt for myself, but it'll have to wait until after the holidays. (it's a really great pattern I found on burdastyle) Sooner or later I'll get around to posting some pictures of the clothes. I haven't been knitting much, but I did manage to sew a fleece hat and mitten set for Jack. I've been working hard on improving my skills. I"m just focusing on one skill set at a time.

In regards to the other challenge: the house has been between 62 and 66 degrees in the day and somewhere around 60 at night. Not too bad.

We're trying hard to use less energy. We invested in a set of heavy drapes for the bedroom and I might make some for the living room. Bruce noticed that a lot of cold air is coming up from the basement through the heater ducts. Right now we're just covering them with pillows or blankets until we come up with a better solution.

It's been cold and windy here in Michigan. We're trying hard to stay warm (but not too warm). Grab an extra sweater, make a cup of tea, and curl up under a blanket with a good book.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Fall Photos

The Family - Happy Autumn!!
How my son sees me. He must think I'm crazy...

Celebrating Halloween with Snow White and a Pirate.

Monday, November 10, 2008

New Challenges

Okay, I must be crazy. I've signed up for 2 challenges offered by other bloggers, 'Freeze yer Buns Off' (lowering your thermostat to 65 in the day and below 60 at night) by Crunchy Chicken and 'The Competence Project' (learning new skills) by Sharon. Will I be able to knit the fingerless mittens before I get cold enough to need them? Can I learn new skills or perfect old ones while I'm bundled in and a hat and mittens indoors??? I'll let you know in the months to come!!

Controlling the temperature in the house might prove to be a bit difficult. We're heating our home with wood and I'm not very good at keeping the fire even and the temp consistent. However, one of the commitments I made in Sharon's challenge was to learn how to better manage the woodstove.

The other commitments were:

  • Knitting mittens (I tried to make mittens for Jack. The first one I made was way too narrow but now my ipod has a nice cozy wool holder for when we go out...)
  • Sewing some clothes for the kids (I made a shirt for my mom's birthday but I'm not very confident in my skills)
  • Learning enough about chickens so ours will survive upon their arrival in the spring
  • Improving upon my knowledge about what's in season, growing, and using it accordingly
  • Learning Herbal remedies and actually using them.

In the past year I learned how to make bread from scratch, grow a garden, chop wood and make soap. I've had numerous opportunites to practice patience and being a better mom and wife.

So what new skills have you learned? something you're working on? been putting off? Take time this winter to learn and grow. I'll let you know how I'm doing...

Nov 10th: day - avg 62 degrees (although it did get up to 67 for awhile before bed)

night - low of 57 degrees

right on course so far.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Brown is what Green wishes it had been.

I love this article and it expresses my sentiments far better than I ever could. So, I stole it and posted it here with the proper credit due.

Green Fatigue - from

Go Green!

Think Green! Live Green! Be Green! Buy Green!Green Products! Green Living! Green! GREEN! GREEEEEEEEN!

Are you getting burned out on this yet? 'Cause I am.

Remember when organic meant that food was grown using minimal inputs and natural methods? Now we have Certified Organic. Government sanctioned and full of loopholes and tricks and regulations and fees, and thousand-mile supply lines.

Now the "green" movement has likewise been capitalized, comoditized, corporatized and co-opted. It's gone from a grass-roots philosophy to a marketing gimmick. Green is sleek and shiny! Green is stylish and new! Green is hip and wholesome and available near you!
Don't get me wrong, I'm kind of glad we've reached the point where some passing thought about impacts and pollutants and carbon footprints can compete with stainless steel finishes and towing capacity as selling points. But it's important to remember that buying too much crap is what got us into this mess in the first place. Now we're supposed to throw out all the old crap and buy newer, greener crap?

The Green Movement is gone. Lost to us. We have to say our goodbyes and start again. That's why I'm proposing a new movement - one that will be harder to hijack. One that won't lend itself to advertising slogans.

Okay, let me ask you something: What is one of the first things you learn when you get into small-o organic gardening? Or in reducing household waste?

Right. Composting.

And if you get into raising livestock on a small scale, what is one of most valuable byproducts?

Right. Manure.

Both are great for improving soil, and both take a waste product and turn it into a very valuable asset.

And both have something else in common: What color are they?

Right. Brown.

Just like the soil. Just like the eggs. Just like our gardens at the beginning and the end of the season. Like tree trunks and firewood. Like the mud on our boots and the dirt under our fingernails. The potatoes. The onions and garlic drying in the sun. The nuts and the leaves falling from the trees. The corn shocks and wheat berries. Brown is the color of work, and of harvest. Brown isn't a shortcut. It's the long way around. It's both the means and the end. Brown is not the new Green. Brown is what Green wishes it had been.

I'm not the first to cover this fertile ground. Mike Rowe had it right when he said: "Brown is the color of dirt, and dirt is the color of Earth. Under the blue ocean, the green forest, and yellow sun, there is always brown – a combination of all the primary colors. Steadfast. Fundamental. Unglamorous. Our food grows in the brown. Our bodies return to the brown. Without brown, there is no growth. There is no green."

I know, Brown is already starting to become a marketing gimmick in a certain sense - Big Brown! … What can Brown do for You? But they don't have the warmth, the heat, the life of an active compost pile. Or a fresh cow pie. And they never will.

So I ask you: Who wants to join me in creating a Big Steaming Brown Movement?

Maybe B.S. B.M. for short?


Now, go forth and make the world a browner place.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The last few months

The past few months have been a bit crazy.

The House
We bought our new home on the last day of April and moved in for Jack's first birthday. Our builder was a no-show for the first 10 weeks (!!!) and is finally finished. Our new home is an old farm house in a (very) small town. (population is less than 400) We planted a large but managable garden. Remodeled the kitchen, bath, living room, master bedroom. Updated plumbing and electrical. It's a perfect fit for us and feels like home. The problem is that we haven't been able to sell our previous home. It's been on the market for over a year and we finally have some serious interest.

The Family
Sick kids. Upcoming surgery. Jack's first birthday. The transition to a new home. Physical therapy. Unemployment and Well problems for my folks. High electric and grocery bills for everyone. Two broken lawn mowers. A leaky washing machine.

The Cars
It started with my mom's Ford. Before school got out for the summer it was making some serious noises in the back end. Come to find out it has been a time consuming job (and would have been very costly if taken to a mechanic). Parts and tools and time are scarce. It's slowly coming together.

Ah, the Festiva. Bruce loves the car and it's incredible gas mileage. (let's admit - 44 mgp is darn near miraculous). This past week it has had 2 flat tires and a broken windshield. Earlier in the summer it had some major brake problems.

Good Things
Living each day in our new home. Having helpful and caring family nearby. Sweet children. A husband I can laugh with. Buying a wood stove. Growing food in our garden. Baking. Weeding (yes, I really do enjoy this). Ceiling fans. Storytime. Reading a good book. Walking in town. Being thankful for what and who we have.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Volume and Variety

I've signed up for an online course dealing with food preservation and sustainability. I'm really excited about it because these are topics I've been wanting to dive right into for a while now but I didn't have a lot of prior guidance or resources.

Today is the first day and it's just after 9 am. It was suggested by the instructor that we keep track of what our family eats during the week by writing it all down. Everything. This way we can get an idea of the quanities it would take to store for 1 week or 1 month or 1 year. Like I said, it's still morning; and already I'm astounded by the variety of what we consume. Goodness! Bananas, plums, graham crackers, cheese, peanut butter, butter, frozen waffles, homemade bread... none of these are things I grow in my garden! I make the bread fresh each week, but I don't grind my own grain or keep my own colony of yeast! (is it really called a colony?!) I plan on getting plum trees soon but... Oh my...

Here's the thing. We've been trying to simplify, give away, not buy new, buy used when necessary, consume less. We've given away boxes and bags of things as we're preparing to move into our new home. I didn't realize that 'consume less' and 'simplify' hadn't been applied to our dietary habits.

I think this class will be eye-opening in ways I didn't expect. I can't wait.

p.s. - I expect to add thoughts/comments/lessons on the blog here as the course procedes.

Thursday, July 03, 2008


I'm a Wife. Mother. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Book lover. Baby Wearer. Christ-centered. Evironmentally aware. Recycling fanatic. List maker. Bread baker. Organic gardener. Lover of history and archaeology. Maker of things from yarn. I love Bruce, my husband of 6 years. And my life revovles around my children -Carlie (4) and Jack (1).

I like things made by hand. Whether it's soap, lip balm, sweaters, scarves, bread, shelves, music, or salsa. I like when you get a sense of the people and history behind something. I like when my hands are dirty and my feet are tired. I don't like plastic, gas lawn mowers, bottled water, expensive things, cleaners that make my hands sting.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

listing things...

Since list-making is one of my greatest, okay, one of my only skills - here it is:

1. We bought a house in town and are having lots of work done before we move in.

2. We planted a large garden - 30 ft x 55 ft.

3. It's hard to water and weed a garden when you don't actually live in the home where the garden has been planted.

4. I've been making bread, not buying it. It's the best smell in the world. Well, that and fresh basil.

5. I love freecycle. You get free stuff you need and get rid of the piles of stuff you don't. Just fabulous.

6. Jack is crawling. The first day he had enough confidence to leave the confines of the livingroom he found the compost bucket and tried to eat a banana peel. Now he looks for the bucket every day. (but i moved it...)

7. He tried to eat dog food today. ugh

8. My shoulder is better thanks to some physical therapy, so I'm back to working out. Maybe I'll finally get rid of the last bit of stubborn baby weight. Then I'll work on getting rid of the extra I gained since getting married. And then what I gained in college... ;)

9. We have a field of strawberries at our new house and I'm waiting for more to ripen so I can make jam.

10. We still have our little blue house for sale. Anyone interested!!??

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Windy May

Today Jack is 10 months old. We took some pictures, but it's very windy out today. Jack enjoyed himself, but was entirely too serious. Not a smile in the bunch. Carlie, on the other hand, was singing and dancing in the wind.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bit of Wisdom

Beware of activities that require new clothes.
– Henry David Thoreau

I've run across this quote a few times of the past months and I find more meaning and wisdom in it every time I read it. On the surface it makes you chuckle and maybe even think a little. But dig a little deeper and you find the wisdom. What activities require new clothes? A party? Reunion? Award/recognition ceremony? Why don't your 'old' clothes suffice? What makes us feel that we need to portray and cleaner, more polished appearance? Is it really necessary?

Consumerism (or Affluenza) is a disease running rampant in our American society. The 'need' or desire to work more to make more money to buy more stuff. When that 'stuff' doesn't fulfill us, we toss it to the side and buy more 'stuff'. Families are in debt, losing their homes, the environment all but destroyed. And, for what? All for more 'stuff'.

The pursuit of 'stuff' can be unending. What will make people feel fulfilled? Jesus. Seriously. All the searching and looking and wanting is us looking for God. He is the only one that can make us whole. The space people are trying to fill can only be filled by God. The time and energy wasted on working for material goods can be put to better use serving the Lord.

And another good thing, serving the Lord and coming to Him doesn't require new clothes.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hungry for something

If you've been keeping up with the news lately, you know food shortages and hunger around the world are increasing at an alarming rate. Shoot, if you've been to the grocery store lately you know things are changing. And not for the better. Locally, the cost of food is quickly rising. Eggs are nearly $3 a dozen. I don't even want to talk about cheese. I bought a jar of peanut butter a few weeks ago. The jar was 2/3 the size, but the same price. Ugh. We've been buying a lot more produce simply because it's the cheapest way to feed our family. (good thing it's the healthy way to go anyway)

I realize things are much worse on a global scale. UN food chief urges crisis action: "Josette Sheeran told the BBC that an additional 100 million people, who did not need assistance six months ago, could not now afford to purchase food." (I shouldn't be complaining about the price of peanut butter. I should be thankful my children can eat each day.) There are a lot of factors influencing these alarming changes and Greenpa has written eloquently about them on his blog. Here's the link

That said, I'm eager to start our garden this year and I'll be reading up on the best way to store the foods we produce. I know we're lucky to have the time and space to dedicate to a large garden - but with the way things are going, can you afford not to grow your own food??

Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day! From our Family to Yours. (what are you doing reading this?? shut off the computer and get outside!)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

National Hanging Out Day

I know Earth Day is coming up on the 22nd and there are a lot of great local events on Saturday to celebrate. But Saturday April 19th is also National Hanging Out Day. A day to celebrate the clothesline and bring attention to the energy savings of not using your dryer! Everyone talks about harnessing wind and solar power - line drying your clothes uses both of these. (for free!) And everything smells soooo good when it's dried outside!

So, on Saturday when you do the wash hang your socks, shirts, and undies out to dry.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Earth Hour

Earth Hour is tomorrow night from 8pm-9pm local time - and you're invited! Haven't heard of Earth Hour? It's a world wide event created by the World Wildlife Fund to make a statement regarding climate change and energy consumption. And best of all - it's free and easy to participate: All you have to do is turn off your lights for 1 hour. (if you want to participate - sign up with Earth Hour so they can keep track of how many people take part in the event. and they have lots of tips and ideas too!)

So light a few candles, grab your family and friends. Chat, play a game, go outside, think ways to make your life a little bit greener.

The great folks at Ideal Bite say "If 10,000 households turn off 10 lights tomorrow night for just one hour, we'll avert the CO2 created by an average apartment in a whole year." Imagine what could happen if people start turning off their lights one hour a month, or one hour a week, or even one hour a day...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

the color green

We have slowly been trying to simplify our family. Living simply for us means living greener. Not to be trendy or because it's the 'in' thing to do, but because it's the right thing to do for our family. (this is our decision and I realize it may not be yours... you may think I'm a bit crazy. I'm just trying to share. Not preach)

Bright Ideas
Last year we changed our incandescent bulbs to CFL. (okay, I admit, we kept the incandescent bulb in our bedroom and the bedside table lamp. ) We often use our oil lamps at night. It saves a bit on electricity, the kids tend to go to bed earlier, and we love the atmosphere oil lamps create. The warm glow of an oil lamp makes life feel simpler. We would love to invest in solar panels to offset some energy use and a wood stove for heating. Perhaps after we move...

Bruce drives to work since it's much to far to walk or ride a bike and we don't have mass transit systmes in the area. There isn't much he can change about his drving habits other than drive a more fuel effiecient vehicle. And we're working on that...

Since I'm a stay-at-home mom it isn't necessary for me to go out each day. I combine my shopping and library trips into a once a week expedition. (and any other errands are added to same day, like maybe a doctor's appointment)

You may question my use of the word 'expedition', but I assure it's accurate. Taking a 4 year old girl and a 7 month old boy, their required gear, my canvas shopping bags, lunch/snacks, and planning bathroom stops all in the Michigan winter requires intricate planning and expert execusion...

Carry all
I've been consistently using reusable shopping bags for the past few months rather than allowing the impertinent cashiers to thrust my goods into as many plastic bags as possible. (I think I've actually come home with more bags than items! Milk doesn't need to be double bagged. It has a handle so it doesn't need a bag at all!!! Apples come in their own bags... why would I need another one?!!???)

I've learned to be more emphatic about the fact that I don't want to bring any plastic bags home. Now I demand them to 'Please, cram it all it! Get everything in the bags I brought.' If it doesn't fit in the bags I brought, I probably don't need it.

I started doing this after Jack was born. It's simple and easy. Honestly, the most difficult thing about recycling isn't rinsing out containers or peeling labels, it's remembering to take it down to the road on pick-up day.

Carlie is learning fast. She's a fantastic helper and always asks 'is this recyclable?' before throwing something away.

I must admit something else. I have a terrible habit of taking things like water bottles out of the trash (my mom's, ours, at church...) because it should be recycled. My mom recycles now. Mostly so I'll stop going through the garbage when we come to visit...

I'm certain I have more to say about living simply and making greener decisions and I'll try to get back on here soon. But between the kids, the torn rotator cuff, and making dinner... I've gotta go.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


I can't believe my sweet little girl is 4. My spunky blonde daughter is growing up fast. (when she grows up she wants to be a doctor, princess, ballerina, and be able to lift a car...) She had a party to celebrate on Sunday (a princess party, of course). Tonight we eat chinese food in honor of her special day...




Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Bruce's birthday was a few weeks ago and Carlie and I made cupcakes with chocolate frosting. They were a big hit! Our two little monkeys gobbled them up. (and Bruce had a good birthday too.)

My two chocolate-faced monkeys. How I love them...

Jack, after enjoying Papa's birthday cupcake.

Carlie looking sweet.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


I like to read and I read often. When I hear certain words I see pictures, hear sounds, and feel emotions related to that word. Words make impressions beyond their inherent definitions. I realize the words 'whimsy' and 'grace' are not often used in everyday conversations and I thought I might clarify what the title of my blog means.


I love the word 'whimsy'. It conjures up images of little girls in long dresses running through fields of wildflowers, boys in dusty jeans and tousled hair catching frogs and fireflies. Enduring images of everyday magic, mystery, and innocence run like an old film reel through my mind.

whim·sy also whim·sey ( hwĭm'zē, wĭm'-) n., pl. -sies also -seys.
An odd or fanciful idea; a whim.
A quaint or fanciful quality: stories full of whimsy. (from

a whimsical photo of Carlie


I did not realize that grace could mean so many things! There were 15 definitions on The grace I intended when titling my blog was the grace given by God out of his love to those of us whom do not deserve it. Which, of course, is everybody.

grace: the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God.

There is a passage from a book I love that descibes this grace much more eloquently than I.
From "The Secret of the Swamp King - The Wilderking Trilogy" by Jonathan Rogers.

"Does a tall man deserve to be tall? ... A bird might think he deserves to swim as well as a fish, but if he sits moping on the riverbank instead of using the wings God gave him, the fox is going to eat him. ...Your brother would rather have his own way than be happy. He's thrown away the grace he was given because it's not the grace he had in mind.' The Truthspeaker paused to reflect on that. ...There's not much hope for a person who won't live in the grace he's given."


I hope my life (like my blog) is defined by these words. Full of laughter, adventure, mystery, faith, and contentment. Pleased with what the Lord has given me, thankful for his gifts, and aware of the magic present in everyday as witnessed through the lives of my children.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Today is the Michigan primary. Please please please get out and vote for your candidate. (you don't have to be registered with a specific party to vote in the primary - just registered to vote) Your vote really is important, especially in a primary where only a small percentage of voters head to the polls.

Oh, and you get that really cool 'I voted' sticker!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

A Few New Things

1. I sell Avon. I have been for a few months. Please shop my web store. :)
2. - love this website about sustainable living
3. I'm hoping to change to cloth diapers soon. Wish me luck! ;)
4. Still trying to lose some weight. Only lost 3 lbs so far. At least I didn't gain 3.
5. The annual youth retreat is coming up. Pray that nobody gets hurt this year - the first year I ended up with a concussion and the second year Bruce broke his wrist. Last year we all came home healthy.
6. Still no luck selling our house and our listing is up in few days. Bummer.

7. Jack got his first tooth!!!!