Sunday, September 26, 2010

Living A Simpler Life

As a child I always loved to look at pottery. I loved the way no two pieces were ever the same. I love the smooth feel of the glazed surface. And the roughness of the unglazed surface. I wanted to own some, but it was very expensive. As I grew, I continued to admire the look and feel of pottery. Whenever I went to a craft show or a festival, those were the first booths I would go to. I had to touch and admire it's beauty. I remember the first time I went to Clearwater. I wanted to stop and admire the beautiful work

I've often thought of taking classes so I could learn to make my own pieces. But even the classes were very expensive. Or very far away. So I would think about it. Wonder what the clay would feel like between my fingers. Dream of all the beautiful pieces I would one day own. Then the arthritus set in and I just didn't think my hands would tolerate the work any more. So I gave up even thinking about taking classes.

The last year has been extremely hard for me. Being diagnosed with uterine cancer. Then having surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation have taken a tole on my health. But it has also made me contemplate life. I realize how much I long for a simpler way of life. So I slowly started making changes. I bake my own bread now. I make candles to enjoy all through the long winter months. I don't know if they really add warmth to my house, but the make me think that they do. And I love the rich wonderful smells that fill my house. My husband comes home after a day that I have made candles and comments on all the wonderful smells that meet him before he even opens the door. I have stopped using paper products, using cloth instead of paper towels and washing dishes instead of using paper plates. I am slowly making changes to bring about a simpler way of life. I even make my own laundry detergent now. How wonderful my clothes smell now instead of smelling like commercial cleaners. I want to learn how to make soap next. But for now I purchase soap from Lolablue. Another truly great product.

As I have contemplated the state of my health and as I approached my 60th birthday, I have again been looking at the things that are really important to me. One of the things I knew I had to have, the top thing on my "bucket list" if you will, was the pottery I have admired for so very very long. I made up my mind that I was going to have it. I recently met two wonderful talented women, Dorothy and Angelica from Brookhouse Pottery. I have admired their beautiful work since the first time I saw their shop on I decided that this was the time for me to begin collecting the beautiful handthrown pottery pieces I have always wanted. I started with a plate. A simple dinner plate.

I am adding to my collection one or two pieces at a time. This year for my birthday my husband bought me two more pieces. My father-in-law sent me a check which I used to buy a few more things. And my daughter told me she is sending me a gift certificate to Brookhouse Pottery. Soon I hope to have a whole set of dinnerware, serving dishes, and many more things to decorate my home.

I have copied this from their website because they tell their story so much better than I can.

"Brookhouse Pottery came into existence about 10 years ago in Spring
Valley, NY. Our first studio was in a basement of a house next to a
beautiful little brook - hence the name Brookhouse Pottery. We started
out with an old manual electric kiln and a kick wheel (the electric wheel
followed close on its heels and soon the automatic kiln did as well). Our
glazes were commercial. There were many lost trials in those days and as
many exciting moments of achievement. Eventually we had a fair
collection of pots and were running out of space. We decided to try and
sell our wares and so, with an EIN#, a name, an account and a mission, a
partnership was born. We sold our pottery at fairs. In exchange for
lunches and dinners our husbands helped us carry the heavy boxes and
sometimes the boxes actually came home lighter. Selling that first pot was
so exciting. Today we are in Nyack, NY and have been for a few years. We
mix our own glazes and are always experimenting with different glazes
and clays to widen our horizons. To help us out we bought a pug mill
recently and to spice things up artistically up we aquiered a Raku kiln.
Just in the past recent months several local potters have joined in the fun.
We have a Raku party about every 6 weeks during the warm season. We
share materials, glazes, tips and tools and have a blast. These days we
don't sell at fairs anymore, but instead sell to a store, at a gallery and on
the internet ( or just click on our Purchase our Pottery link). We
are still excited to fill each and every order we receive. Thank you for
checking out our site. We hope you too enjoy our pottery.

Dorothy Brady & Angelica Jablonski"

So here I am in New Jersey, homeschooling my son, living a simpler life. Doing what I've dreamed of. And collecting my beautiful handmade pottery.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Busy, Busy, Busy

I love homeschooling. I really do. But some days it just doesn't feel like I have a minute to myself. I'm busy from the time I get up until I go to bed. Often even after I'm in bed at night I lay there thinking about what I have to do the next week or the next day.

How I long for the days of long ago when my husband and I would go sit in the bookstore for hours. I have read entire books while sitting at Barnes and Noble sipping coffee and relaxing. Now when I go to the bookstore it's, "read me this book" or "I want to go play with the train." Mind you, he is much to old to be playing at the train station at the bookstore. Most of the others who are playing there are barely two. How nice it would be to go out with my friends and drink coffee and chat about the newest book or the latest magazine article. Well this week I have discovered something that will help meet that need, A Cyber Book Club. Imagine that. A book club where I don't have to leave home. I don't have to fight traffic to get to the bookstore. I don't even have to find a sitter. Just wait until the littles are in bed for the night. Then grab a nice mellow cup of tea. And log on to the Cyber Book Club. You don't have to fit into someone else's schedule or anything. Anyone can join and participate. You can log on any time, read the comments from others, leave some comments of your own. Relax and enjoy. What could be more easy?

Oh I know, a Cyber Support Group for Parents. Guess what? They have that as well. An online support group for parents. There are groups for every state as well as groups for different topics such as military families, or special needs families, even grade specific groups.

Wow! Support Groups. Book Club. I'm ready to join. How about you?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

One Lovely Blog Award

I just received One Lovely Blog Award.


Thank you so much for this award Tree.

The rules are to pass it on to 15 new blogs that i have enjoyed visiting.

Homeschooling on Hudson
The Magic Onions
My Faery Garden
Mountain Hearth Handcrafts
Prairieland Herbs
Journey of a WAHM
Ramble on Rose
Auroras Garden
Grinning Hippie
AmLo Farms
Christina's Kitchen
Homeschool Gardener
Hip Mountain Mama
Willow Avenue Pottery

Congratulations to all the winners of the Lovely Blog Award!

Instructions for winners:

1. Accept the award. Post it on your blog with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link.

2. Pay it forward to 15 other bloggers that you have newly discovered.

3. Contact those blog owners and let them know they’ve been chosen.

I hope you'll visit these blogs soon! They are awesome!! :)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cooper Grist Mill Candle Dipping

Yesterday we returned to Cooper Grist Mill to watch a demonstration on dipping candles. First they had to cut the cotton thread to use for the wicks on the candles. In the 1800's candle wicks were usually made out of cotton, hemp, or linen thread that was tightly braided. Then they laid the thread over the notches in the holding stick. After all the wicks were on the stick they made the first dip. A regular sized candle that would be used around the house was usually dipped between 35 and 50 times before it was big enough to use. You had to dip the candles very quickly so that the wax that was already on the wick did not melt off. With each dip into the pot of hot wax, the candle got a bit thicker. In between dippings the candles were hung on a rack to cool off. If they were too hot when you dipped them, the wax would just melt right off.

Candles were usually made in the fall as the days were growing shorter and people began to prepare for the long cold winter. This was also the time when the beehives were full of wax. The farmer either harvested the wax from their own beehives or they traded with another farmer to get the wax they needed to make candles. Most farmers used about 50 candles a week during the cold months of the year. So it was a long process to get all these candles made every year.

The farm wife had to start a good fire in the front yard or maybe in the fireplace. Then she put water in the copper pot. After this was hot, she put in the block of beeswax. Then the process of dipping began. It must have taken several days to get a big enough supply for the entire winter. After the candles were dipped the ends had to be cut off flat so they would stand in the candle holder. The nubs from the bottom of the candle were thrown back into the pot to be used again. We were there for about four hours and the candles were not big enough to use after all that time. They still needed about another 20 dippings before they would be big enough to use.

Thank you Ms. Betty, and Ms. Sharon, and the other wonderful teacher (I'm sorry I forgot your name) who lead the class. We really enjoyed it.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


I haven't met a homeschooler yet that doesn't like to read. Or a homeschooler child who doesn't like to be read to. Dakota's bookcase so full long before he was born. We have since purchased another bookcase. And it is now full. One thing I really dislike is to purchase a book only to find out that it is not at all what I was expecting. I have given away a few books that just didn't meet my family values. I have also returned books to the store that I just couldn't keep in my homes. I came across a site the other day that will help eliminate this problem. It is a site which reviews homeschool literature. You can look books up by title, or you can look up books by the author, books by grade, even books by homeschoolers. Yes, even books written by homeschoolers.

One of my favorite books by a homeschooler is written by the teen son of a friend of mine. " Terror of Porridge" was written by 14 year old Jack Wooldridge.

This is Jack's description of the story-

Terror of Porridge is a children's story, written when I was eight, that takes the tale of Goldilocks and brings it into the 21st century, turning almost everything on its head. In New York City, something is wreaking havoc in downtown Manhattan, and as in any monster movie, the police are running around in circles trying to stop it. All is chaos, and the city needs a hero. It finds one in the form of a small boy named Harold, who has a plan to stop the rampaging monster. If he doesn't get stomped on first!

Jack says this book is best for children 6 to 10 years old.

As I said, reading is such an important part of our lives, not just as a homeschooling family but as a family who craves knowledge. We love reading books about homeschoolers. Now I know where I can find a good list of them.

What an exciting resource to have.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Back To School

So where we live yesterday was the official Back To School Day. A lot of my friends and relatives posted pictures on Facebook of their children smiling as they started off to the first day of school with their new backpacks and their shiny new lunch boxes. My son did school yesterday in his underwear. He got cold about halfway through and put on a shirt. No fancy new clothes or backpacks here. Especially no new shoes. He hates shoes.

While my friends' children brought home notes of what is expected of them for the school year and what things they needed to buy "as soon as possible", all I had to do was turn on my computer and look at the scope and sequence pages of Time4Learning. I didn't have to make a quick trip to Target to fill the teacher's "immediate needs" list. I didn't have to worry about what would be added to his class work later in the year. The only expectations he has to fill is to finish third grade in a semi reasonable time. And that is my expectation, not the program's. What could be easier than this?

I also have a lot of friends who are homeschoolers. Many of them are struggling to figure out their lesson plans. They are frantic to find printables to go along with their lessons. Or still trying to decide which curriculum program to use. For us, there is nothing to think about. Our lesson plans are all laid out for us. We can access online video games. We have free printables that go along with the individual lessons. And we work on math and reading skills lessons over and over if we need to. We made the decision to use as our curriculum three years ago. It's a decision that I am so glad we made. For my son, this is the best choice. Maybe it is for yours as well.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Mama's Herbal Soaps Giveaway

I just found out about a great Giveaway over at Mama's Herbal Soaps. She has a wonderful selection of soaps, soap dishes, incense, soy candles, and so much more. Pop on over there and check her out. When you're done stop at The Organic Sister's blog and sign up for the giveaway. The giveaway prize is Mama’s Rescue Set, which includes Dead Sea Bath Therapy, organic rosemary mint soap, Rescue Mist, and an eco-soya rescue blend candle with hemp wick!

I want to win. So please do not go check out her shop and I really hope you don't register for the giveaway.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Cooper's Grist Mill

Yesterday was our first official Field Trip of this school year. We went to Cooper's Grist Mill near Chester, New Jersey to learn about life in a Milltown in the 1800's. When we first got there the guy showed us a map of the area. They had cute little wooden buildings sitting on the map to show where certain things were in the area like the mill, the school house, and the general store. Then we went down to the Grist Mill. The children went through a tunnel that went under the highway. The place was surrounded with Queen Anne's Lace and Yarrow plants. I told everyone how the soldiers used to pack their wounds with yarrow to stop the bleeding.

We went inside the mill. It was very cool in there considering the 95 degree day we were having. The man told us how the grain was carried up the front of the mill with a bag hoist that was operated by the Water Wheel. Then the sack of grain was opened in to the cleaner where it was brushed clean. Large fans on the ceiling helped by blowing away the dust. The grain is then ground between two large millstones. One stone stays stationary and the other one turns at about 90 to 120 turns per minute. The flour then goes through a hole in the wooden hopper and down a chute to the main floor and into bins.

After the grain was processed we went back up to the house where the children were able to try their hand at lots of old time tools. They used two big wash buckets and a scrub board to wash a towel. Then they put the towel through the hand cranked ringer. Later they hung the towel on the clothes line to dry. The next thing they did was go outside and use a hand saw to saw a log. Each child was able to take a turn at cutting through the log. They saw how much work it was when they realized that every person in the group had given it a try but the cut in the log was only an inch or so deep. After cutting wood, they went back in to sew on an old singer treadle sewing machine. I told them that I learned to sew when I was a little girl on a machine just like that. It didn't take long before the kids were able to get that machine humming. Dakota seems to have a real knack for sewing. Maybe because he has seen me sew so much.

They used a hand crank coffee mill to grind coffee. Dakota decided to taste the coffee beans to see what they tasted like. He promptly ran outside to spit out the coffee bean. I guess he just doesn't like coffee as much as his mama does. The next thing they did was card wool. This was a lot more work than the kids thought it would be. Most of them put the two cards together too hard. That made it very difficult to pull the cards apart. After they got a small pile of wool, they used a drop spindle to spin some of it into yarn. There was an old mailbox that had been in the general store. Everyone took a turn at trying to open the combination boxes to get the mail out. The letters were folded but not in envelopes. The address was written on the back of the letter.

At the end of the day, the kids were convinced that life was a lot harder in the 1800's than it is today. They are glad we have so many of the modern appliances. The grandmas that were there had fun reminiscing about using many of the tools the kids played with.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Social Studies

Now what exactly is social studies? I know what history is. I know what geography is. I even know what language and math are. But what the heck is social studies. I know Dakota had some social studies last year. But it wasn't very much and he was finished with it by December. Now that we are back to school full time, one of the classes he has is social studies. According to our curriculum, social studies includes history and geography. Okay so we will study history and we will study geography. But why can't they just call it that. According to Wikapedia, "Social studies is the "integrated study of the social sciences and humanities to promote civic competence," as defined by the National Council for the Social Studies". So it's includes sociology, geography, history, anthropology, and a few other subjects.

I'm still not really sure what social studies is supposed to be. But right now Dakota is learning about the Vikings. He has certainly learned a lot of new vocabulary words like pillage and plunder. He has learned where the Vikings come from and where they traveled. Ah Geography. He has learned about the period of time in which they lived and plundered. So we have history. He has learned why they left their homelands. Wow, a bit of sociology and economics. I guess he is learning an "integrated study of the social sciences and humanities." I think he just likes the Vikings and their cool clothes and the boats the traveled in.

We are also doing a bit of history of the United States. Dakota got a set of flashcards about the Presidents for his birthday. (Check out the $1.00 section at Target.) He has been asking lots of questions about the presidents. He knows a few of them, but he wants to learn more. We have been playing online games to help him learn more about the presidents, when they lived, and what they were like. There is even a game about nicknames for the presidents. And no, President PoopyHead and Bubba are not on the list. Do you know who "His Obstinacy" is? I guess you'll have to play the President Nicknames game to find out.

Every day I'm learning more on this homeschool journey. I never realized when we started how much I would learn from it.