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A Look Back at Myself Looking Back at 2008

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Posted on : 11:32 PM | By : Nic | In : ,

One of the best things about having a blog is that I can look back at what I was thinking any specific day from my past. It is 30 minutes until 2010, and I decided to look back and see what I wrote last New Year's Eve. I am going to reflect on what I wrote, and write something for the next 365 days.

Summary (3 sentence max)
Last year I said, "It was another crazy year for us but I think that this next year will be the year of sublime tranquility." Ha! Tranquility didn't happen but I can definitely say that when I prayed for wisdom I received it, and when I wanted to know why, the answer came in the form of life experiences that changed me as a person.

Fun
I don't think we played enough games but this year we have some fun stuff planned and a lot of it has to do with finding the time to be silly and play pretend.

Challenging
We did get Annie help, or at least got her started, and we made progress in her behavior. Much of this had to do with how I kept calm and carried on. My challenge this year is to be authentic...I usually am exactly what I am and how I feel is somewhat on my sleeve, but I'm tired of the demands of the mainstream lifestyle. Unfortunately in today's world, we all have to be mainstream on some level, but I want to minimize that level, lol.

Thoughtful
My goal was to mindful of my own emotions and reactions to situations, and I definitely think I made progress, thanks to John and our competitive reward system if one of us screwed up and lost it. This year I was also surprised how in tune I became to my intuition. I made a lot of gut decisions and my gut was never wrong, and it made me want to get in touch with my spiritual side in a more personal way.

An insight/thought
Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world. ~Arthur Schopenhauer

Website/blog Find
Thousands of websites have I seen, but Reddit took the cake.

Words (quote/reading/book recommendation/1 sentence review!/anything word-related)
I read Self-Made Man... I think that's what it's called. About the lady who acts like a guy? I am too tired to look it up. It was a good read.

Note to Self
I actually did some of my goals... I had a big garden, I got cook books and food preservation books, I did make sourdough, I built up my food storage. I used electricity to store the food, I didn't make any herbal remedies from the garden, although I did make some. I didn't teach piano... I started going to school instead. I actually finished my homeschool resource book but it wasn't something marketable by the time I was finished. It only helps myself, lol. This year...
...do a journal in the book John made for me somewhat like the Edwardian Lady's journal.
...finish building the Albatross (the bus).
...finish my sewing projects.
...finish another year of school.

Favourite Tip/Idea from web
I discovered how many how-to videos there were on YouTube. I learned math and felting kid's toys and other things. Awesome!

Now it is 2010... it took me about 30 minutes to write this. Happy New Year!!!!

Step 7: How the Bus Got Home

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Posted on : 8:05 AM | By : Nic | In :

I need to update the story about how we got the bus here. After all of our extra expenses and not finding the time off work, we finally got it all together and John took the ferry to Vancouver. His sister dropped him off at the border in Blaine and he just walked across. He had to wait in line for 3 hours, and he was the only person on foot. The rest of this incredibly long line were all 'randomly' pulled from their cars, but he was quite conspicuous because he was the only white guy. This completely random crowd was entirely Asian and black. They were interrogating these people quite rudely, but for John they asked why he was entering the States, he said, "I'm picking up my bus," and they said ok and let him in.

Then the very nice guy from C&G Sales picked him up and took him back to the storage place. We had been pre-warned that the brakes were seized again, so John had called a guy to meet him there as well. It turned out he needn't have... the brake pedal was just rusty and stuck, so the mechanic sprayed it with WD-40... which John had in the bus anyway. Then the bus started right up and he was on his way. At the border we had expected to pay in import fee, but they said he didn't need to because the bus is just over 15 years old. It turns out that was incorrect... in order for us to get insurance on it, we need to pay an import fee of $240 and fill out some paperwork before they will inspect it. It didn't mess anything up, it just means that the border people don't know anything about buses because that rule only applies to cars. All they charged us was the taxes of $300, and then he took the Tsawwassen ferry which cost $150. I met him at a parking lot when he got in and we took a spin with the girls because the temporary insurance expires when you get home, so we thought we better take the opportunity.

It shakes and rattles like an old ski bus, lol. We wonder if we will need to do some work to the suspension, but it may be that when we load it up inside it might not need it. Then we went home and John had to back it into the yard next to the RV. The next step is to get a manufacturer's recall letter and do the modifications to the gauges and running lights to make it legal for driving, at which point we can go to Canadian Tire to get it inspected, and then we can get insurance.

John got a grinder and he also started grinding off the bolts for the ski racks and the seats inside. There are 20 seats, and we're lucky because they go along the side instead of facing the front, so there's way less than in a school bus, but it will still take a lot of time. We also have to remove the heaters from the ceiling. If you look at the video you can see all of that stuff.

I've been doing drawings of the interior design and we're still trying to pin down the floor plan which is really tough. We are going to go to an RV place and take some measurements, and we're looking on Google for tons of ideas. It's exciting!

Our bus has a name...

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Posted on : 12:16 PM | By : Nic | In : ,

Behold... the Albatross!!!

We will be outfitting the Albatross in true Steampunk style, which I will have to post more about later. For now, a quick video tour of the monstrosity. Please subscribe to our channel while you are there. :)

Here's a good example of what steampunk is:

There's a bus in my yard....

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Posted on : 10:20 AM | By : Nic | In : ,


1000 miles, across one country's border, 4 months, and $7000 later... the big blue bus is here. I took this picture with my webcam because I don't have my iPhone anymore, but after Christmas I will be filming a video of it. Stay tuned!

Merry Christmas and I hope you had a happy Solstice. :)

Christmas Wish List in Pioneer Days

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Posted on : 9:32 AM | By : Nic | In : ,

If you are familiar with the Little House books, this will be old news, but I though it would be fun to show what Laura got for Christmas. Here are some of the things...

...a doll Ma made...


...a new penny...


...her own cup so she wouldn't have to share... (this one is available from a nifty store called Two Flags Sutlery)...


...one peppermint stick...


...a fur cape and muff...


...those were the total gift memories that Laura Ingalls Wiilder remembers as the highlights of the Christmas presents she received for her entire childhood. Amazing isn't it?

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season, no matter if you celebrate anything or not. I personally enjoy Christmas a great deal and I hope the same joy for you no matter what. :)

The Difference Between a Real and a Fake Tree

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Posted on : 8:37 AM | By : Nic | In : ,

Now we don out gay apparel... this means as much pink as possible. Then we drove to Gogo's, a local Christmas tree farm about 15 minutes from our house.


It took us about 15 minutes to find 'the one'. It only took a minute before it sacrificed its life for our holiday merriment.


To the van to be tied to the roof-rack...


The end result.


So which is better, real or fake? Here's the list of why real is better:

1.You can't really put a price on the fun of getting the tree even if you get it from a pre-cut place. Getting a new one every year adds to the family tradition.

2. Fake trees are almost all made in China by factory workers working in hazardous conditions.

3. Fake trees are made with plastic... the manufacturing process not only pollutes the air and water, the trees tend to be made of PVC which is offgassing in your home.

4. When your fake wears out, it goes to the dump to sit for 1000 years. A real tree gets chipped and recycled and eventually decomposes.

5. Fake trees aren't really much less of a fire hazard if you keep them watered like you are supposed to.

6. The real Christmas trees you buy came from a farm and don't come from old growth forest. You are supporting small farmers, who are growing trees which benefitted the environment during their growth. If you can support a local farm even better. :)

Christmas Nix Pix Part 2: It's Not a Thing

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Posted on : 2:23 PM | By : Nic | In : ,

I have to admit that I am feeling a lack of energy. I am desperately working towards finals, my bread machine is baking for me as we speak, and it could snow. Could. Or just be cold. I have Christmas shopping done and I also have to admit that I did not purchase only handmade items. I also bought Operation! I have a serious weakness for board games.

This year, get your person a gift of knowledge or experience, instead of a thing. I'll start with magazines first because they are cheapest...

Countryside Magazine

This is probably one of my favorite homesteading magazines. They are really big, have great articles and seem to be laid back just the way I like it. :)

Backwoods Home

Backwoods Home tends to be more militant in its attitude and definitely has a strong Libertarian slant, which if you are into is great. It also has excellent do-it-yourself make-it-from scratch and survivaly type stuff.

In my opinion if you have to choose a homesteading magazine, these two are the best. How about an adventure?

Check out Great American Days, where you can purchase an experience for someone. They start out simple like a massage or a sushi-making class, all the way up to diving with sharks or rock and roll fantasy camp.

Alternatively you could send someone to farm school at Mary Jane's Farm... or just get them a subscription to her magazine.
I particularly recommend the Farmgirl Sisterhood membership for any country girl at heart.

Finding alternative gifts that people will actually like is really a challenge. I think with the recession being what it is, one really cool thing you could do is pay for someone to become a member of a local organic farm coop.

2009 Christmas Nix Pix: Part 1 - Etsy for under $30

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Posted on : 8:18 AM | By : Nic | In :

It's that time of year! It's time to find the best, earth-friendly, anti-consumerism interesting gifts out there. If you didn't see this last year, Nix Pix is a gross misspelling of Nic's Picks, lol. This post is focusing on my favourite stuff from Etsy $30 or less.

Leg Warmers from The Sitting Tree



Fight Club Soap from Serendipity 8



Egyptian Leather Journal from Wayfaring Arts



Wireless Plush Fairy Wings from 4eva designs



Wooden Soccer Players from Phoenix Rose Boutique

Cooking in Your Fireplace

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Posted on : 8:57 AM | By : Nic | In : , , ,



Hearth cooking sounds so romantic. The fire crackling, the smell of wood smoke, the cast iron pots bubbling over a real fire.... but look at that woman. She's bent over a fire, the smoke and flames are in her face and she has to hover over it to make sure that it's not scorching. Not so romantic - but still it looks better, doesn't it? Modern technology doesn't seem to have the same aesthetic value. The picture above, by the way, is from the Howard Hall Farm in Athens, New York which offers green and pioneer skill classes as well as historic restoration.

It's getting colder and as inconvenient as it might be to cook in your fireplace, its important to know how. Here's a quick run down of the basics:

First build a fire. This post would be really long if I told you how to do that. This is a post about cooking over a fire, not making the fire. Maybe another day.

You should let it burn for a while until it has some good hot coals. To find out how hot the fire is, hold you hand about 3 inches above the spot you want to cook over. Count the seconds until you have to move your hand away because it is too hot. If you can't even last one second, it is about 400-500 degrees. Two to three seconds and it is around 400-450 degrees. Six is too cold. If you're like me and your hands are tiny and wimpy, the fire may be slightly cooler than this estimate. Experience and burned food will educate you quickly.

You can support your pan or pot with three large stones around the fire, or hang it up above the fire, or you can use a Dutch Oven. Check out Lehman's for cast-iron griddles, cast iron kettles with legs, a fireplace cooking crane, and other fireplace cooking accessories.

Dutch ovens are probably the most versatile and easy way to start cooking over fire. You simply burn the fire down to hot coals, and put the coals evenly all around and on top of the oven. When your done, you don't wash it with soap - you scrape out the food and rinse it with hot water. For soup you would use it the same as a crock pot - it can take about 4-8 hours. Other things like eggs and toast and bacon and tea are all pretty simple - the fire is hot and you put things on there until they are cooked. The tricky part is how variable the heat is, but with experience it gets easier.

It's fun to do this with your kids every now and then, and it teaches an important skill. Letting your kids be around and safely use fire is much smarter than telling them to not play with matches.

23 Skidoo

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Posted on : 10:38 AM | By : Nic | In : ,

A bit of history:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/23_skidoo_%28phrase%29

I love that this is the oldest slang in America, and applicable to my life today. I will return to blogging in a bit, when I will post my Christmas picks for the year. Happy holidays, and I hope you bought nothing on Black Friday. ;)

A Few Who Remain Rat-Race Free

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Posted on : 9:27 AM | By : Nic | In : , ,

I am a Redditor, which is where I get my online news and conversation, and there is a category called IAMA, which means 'I am a....'insert interesting thing here'... ask me anything'. In the midst of offensive and boring, there are often unique gems of insight into other lives, like this one:

IAMA guy who dropped out from the rat race. Didn't have a job in about 5 years, and yet I keep a middle class facade. I am 90% self sufficient food-wise and energy-wise. Ask me anything.

My internet is incredibly glitchy today as our cable node is overtaxed, evidently. It means we get free internet that barely works. This post will be short because of it. The guy above reminds me very much of the Dervais family of Path to Freedom (Little Homestead in the City on the left - I would link it but then I would have to load the page and that would take forever).

As much as I complain about the Internet... it seems a bit ironic. 10 years ago I would have cried to have the internet speed I enjoy on a good day, lol. Not to mention how much MORE there is to see. Another wonderful person who is also free of the rat race is Linda Rose, and you can even ask her questions. It's hard to tell at first glance from her blog but she lives almost completely self-sufficiently in Nova Scotia and farms with horses.

Here's to not... being... a rat??

More About Food

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Posted on : 3:29 PM | By : Nic | In : , ,

"Noncooks think it's silly to invest two hours' work in two minutes' enjoyment; but if cooking is evanescent, so is the ballet."
Julia Child


Ok so I can cook. I rely on Betty Crocker to serve my family 3 square meals a day, almost all of them healthy. They taste like traditional American food except for the stir fry that in an emergency comes out of a bag. I hardly ever burn things and I can make wonderful pies and cookies. BUT, I am a noncook. I have always though it silly to put in 2 hours and rarely do even though the results are memorable.

My definition of a good meal centered around: 1. budget 2. health 3. how little time it took 4. taste. I think it all ended up tasting fairly good, but there's definitely something lacking. I avoided cookbooks because approaching the cookbook aisle was daunting - I want the recipes to be tested and taste awesome and there's just so many cookbooks in the world. I chose Julia Child's book because it has 180 five star ratings on Amazon, lol.

I never do things the easy way... when I learned to sew, I picked the most difficult sewing pattern I could find and completely destroyed a dress, but after failure comes success. That is my new goal with cooking. I don't want to just serve decent meals at a reasonable price. I want to want to eat at home because my food is better than a restaurant. Why is this important? Well... everything is food. Every major event in our lives, every get together, every normal work day revolves around food.

So I was thinking about this and I thought... why am I eating chili when I could be eating French food? Why am I not eating deliberately?! My new priorities are 1. taste 2. health 3. bring people together. I don't subscribe to the four food groups anyway because I lean towards the philosophy of eating seasonally and having plenty of healthy fats.

My meals usually look like this:


When they should look more like this:


I think in North America we too often hurry through the ritual or distract ourselves with movies and TV. My goal is to set my table like this....and sit there and eat good food. :)

I Will Cook!

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Posted on : 10:15 AM | By : Nic | In : ,



This weekend despite struggling with sickness, we headed off to Home Depot for a fun family outing. I am of the philosophy that if you aren't too sick and you don't come into direct contact with other humans, you should try to get out of the house. Sitting on the couch feeling icky is only good if you're really, really sick. We had fun looking and dreaming about what's going to happen in the bus, tools we will need, etc. We are delayed in bringing the bus home at the moment because John simply can't get the right days off work. The border crossing has to be done on a weekday before 4pm, and that's tricky for him to do. I could do it, except that I don't want to drive a 42' bus through Vancouver and onto a ferry. It struck me how many options there are for table saws. I've always been the non-electric sort of girl, but recently we acquired a Magic Bullet to make smoothies, and of course I still have my bread machine. For this bus project, we will definitely need a good table saw. We also stopped at a new outdoor store nearby that you could pick pretty much any activity and walk in and get anything you needed. They are the first store in Nanaimo that I've seen carrying guns, including handguns. It was interesting showing the girls the elk and bear mounted on the walls and explaining what a decoy is.

Then we came home and watched Julia & Julia, and I realized what a terrible cook I am. I am so good at survival foods, quick meals, and breakfast. But I am really bad at anything else. There are so many things that we don't eat that are so yummy, and I've been very limited by being lactose intolerant. I never realized how wrong I was about Julia Child, lol. I had mistakenly thought that she had written The Joy of Cooking... but only because I own very few cookbooks and rarely use them because my experiments often fail. I stick the the least complicated, shortest cooking time, and most well-known meals. But my motto is to do the thing I am afraid of, and so today I am going to go out and find the book she actually wrote, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. There was this one time I made roast beef in the crock pot with beer, and it was SO GOOD. But I made it up and didn't write it down, so it will never happen again. We might even pick up a bottle of wine and light candles when we eat. This is one aspect of living deliberately that I have avoided because I've been afraid, but the ritual of eating good food together is so important. Food is what brings people together.

This is a rambling post, because it is a lazy, blustery day and I should be doing things like cleaning up the debris from the garden and finishing my math assignment. It's much more fun to think about cooking a good meal and shopping for books.

Happy 5th Anniversary DL!

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Posted on : 8:06 AM | By : Nic

Here were all the blog headers for this year. Here's to another 375 posts! Thank you to all the people who follow me and fan me and post a comment - I appreciate it more than you know. :)







Update on the Bus and Life in General

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Posted on : 7:36 AM | By : Nic | In : ,

I want to apologize for the brief hiatus. I tend to take a month long break about twice a year, and I felt that since I just reached DL's 5th anniversary, I had earned a month off.

So much has happened in the last month. First an update on the bus... it is still in Blaine. Like all adventures, there's no way to plan ahead for everything, least of all extra bills and sickness and not being able to get days off work. The bus project has always been about doing something really big without getting into debt, and we paid some bills and bought an RV (for the bus) and a minivan, all of which totaled somewhere around $6000. So much effort went into paying for those things within a 2 month period that it seemed we had little energy for anything else. Incidentally, if you ever get a telephone rep from your bank or a credit card company offering you more credit, just say, "I don't believe in debt!" and they will apologize profusely for asking you. It is quite entertaining.


In the meantime, Rainn turned 6 months and Autumn turned 4. Annie learned how to read well, which was my number one goal for the year, and then.... I.... put her back in school. Actually, this was her choice. With me going to school full time, and her issues with whatever it is she has issues with (and which she will see a pediatrician next month for so we can get some answers - finally!), this has turned out very well. Homeschooling is a wonderful thing, and I loved being homeschooled. I was talking to my Mom about this recently, however, that homeschooling changes your relationship with your child from that of simply spending quality time, to having this attitude that we must always be learning. It's a more authoritative mode, a work mode. There seems to be less time to just... play. Not that that's a bad thing - but I think in Annie's case that situation was bothering her and hurting our relationship somehow, and in that respect, life has improved.

I started another semester of school and let me just say that learning feels good and it hurts at the same time. I am taking Human Resources, Microeconomics and Finite Mathematics. The economics class is by far the most difficult, but what is interesting to me is that I read a lot of things about the recession and why it happened and I blamed banks and economists and all kinds of government people, and what I'm finding out is that on paper, what they did makes sense. I read that one reason Canada did so well through this is because we have such a highly regulated market, but on paper a completely free market makes more sense. So to sum up, I suppose getting an education is in many ways helping me throw even more assumptions about things out the window, which is what I love to do. Don't assume anything! lol

It is rainy and cold, the garden is long done and I have a freezer full of tomatoes and beans and fruit. There's actually even more going on but it's all up in the air and I don't like to say stuff until things are for sure. Suffice it to say life is exciting as always. :)

I was going to post about femininity....

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Posted on : 9:12 AM | By : Nic | In : , ,

...but Jennie at the Sense and Sensibility blog wrote a post to end all posts on the subject. Go read that and then look at the nice collection of links I found for you, lol.

Baker Lane - lovely historical patterns
Sense & Sensibility Patterns - more lovely historical patterns
The Play Dress - fairly inexpensive play dresses
Garlands of Grace - some of the best hair wraps or coverings if you do that... even if you just need a headband these are awesome

I just finished making the Sensibility regency dress for Ana. After talking to a lot of people, her obsession with fashion and the tightness of her clothes just wasn't healthy, so we're sticking to girlish dresses and skirts.

Cranberry Farm Tour Movie

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Posted on : 9:00 AM | By : Nic | In : , ,

We got a video camera and so I shot this at Yellowpoint Cranberry Farm. Ana shot some of it as well which is why you just see legs sometimes... it was part of her project. We were with the homeschool group. I think as I go along I'll get better at editing - I used a lot of iMovie transitions just out of the can, so they are a bit overused. I hope you like it. Since this was Ana's project she wanted to make it more artsy with lots of music, but I have lots more informative footage on cranberry farming. Can someone tell me if there's a demand for that sort of thing... or are you watching to be entertained?

You Asked: How to Publish a Book

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Posted on : 9:12 AM | By : Nic | In :

I sometimes get questions from people, special requests if you will, on topics. Which is awesome because it's so difficult to think of new topics all the time, lol. Please ask me questions!

Anyway, I am a writer which is pretty obvious because I promote my book over there... the blog is sort of named after the book too. Here's a step-by-step guide to publishing and marketing your book.

1. First you need to have some quality writing. Just because you make a book doesn't mean you can sell it. By the same token, just because you've been rejected by traditional publishers doesn't mean you don't have something worth reading. Publishers pick books based on a broad appeal, but now the Internet can change that for you. I made sure that even though there's lots of homesteading and self-sufficiency books out there, mine is unique. It has different content and it's a good size (422 pages). It took 10 years to write it because it was all part-time, so don't think you can just throw a book out there - although you might be able to. Who knows. :)

2. Formatting is insanely important. I am fortunate in having the ability to use a word processor and graphics programs, and I'm an artist. I also had some people willing to proofread it (there's still lots of typos - every book has them but you just never see them until later, lol). The first thing in formatting is knowing the publishing guidelines of your printing house. I used Lulu.com, which had a 6x9 layout and has a helpful guide on what they need. You have to have a specific margin size, the page numbers need to be right, you need gutters and copyright pages. I used Microsoft Word for the Mac for this task. I made a book using Pages but the printer sent it back and didn't like the PDF. Word is excellent for this task. I could go into this more - a whole book could be written about it.

3. Illustrations and graphics are a big factor that takes lots of time. I drew hundreds of pen and ink illustrations, scanned them all into the computer, edited them with Photoshop and put them into the layout of my book. This probably took a year. I also designed the cover. It is possible to do a wrap-around cover which has a picture wrapping around to the back cover, but it is much easier to have a picture on the front and have a solid color on the rest. All of these images need to have a resolution of 300 dpi or they will come out grainy and blurry. Not good.

4. Once you've got the document in Word basically done, you need to create a PDF. Although a Mac will automatically make a PDF from almost any program, you have to use Acrobat Distiller. It creates a higher quality PDF with embedded text. The PDFs that you open in your browser often don't - they depend on your computer to display the correct font. It makes the PDF file smaller. But for publishing you need to have a high quality PDF.

5. Upload it to your respective publisher and set the price. I use Lulu so I don't have any experience with Amazon's print on demand, but it's a fairly straightforward process. They charge you based on the number of pages your book has, and then you set your price to whatever you want above that. My book has a high number of pages, so to balance the price and make it affordable and still make a little money, I made my font slightly smaller than is comfortable. Usually you should use an 11 or 12 point font, but I used 10. It would have about 600 pages instead of 422 if I had made the font bigger, and the base cost would have been much higher. For this kind of book the consumer needs to pay less than $30... unless you've made a hardback coffee table book most books are that price.

6. You probably really want to know how much you can make off a book. I paid an extra fee to get the book on Amazon, but Amazon takes their cut on top of your regular publishing cost, so you make less but sell more. I also don't do much to promote myself. I use social networking and blogging and over time I've made what any small-time author can expect to make on a book, without touring or doing anything in person. I do know that some of my sales are not only online - a few bookstores have purchased bulk amounts to sell in their stores. In the end, the royalty you get is still slightly higher than if you had been published by a traditional publisher. After talking with self-published authors, traditionally published authors, and print on demand authors - it seems as the the print on demand people have made more. Self-publishing is much different - that is when you front the cost of publishing a run of books - usually a thousand, and market them yourself. Every single one of the people I have talked to that have done this have boxes of unsold books in their basement. The traditionally published authors have had slightly more success - the publisher did a run of their book, they sent them to a few signings, they sold most and they got a royalty check until the run ran out. Print on demand has the beautiful benefit of selling forever and not costing anything up front. Once it's on Amazon it will just keep going.

That's basically all you do. I have to warn you though, unless you are Stephen King or can get featured on TV or in the newspaper, the money you get back will not equal the time you put in. It's a creative endeavor and like all art it just doesn't pay a good hourly wage unless you get lucky or work a loooong time. It's still worth it though. :)

Teaching What You Don't Know

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Posted on : 2:43 PM | By : Nic | In : , , ,


One area that homeschool parents (especially new ones) feel the most anxiety about is how to teach what we don't know. I am not a scientist - how do I teach science? I stink at math - how will I give them the college prep they need?

Have you read Cheaper By the Dozen yet? I feel like I keep mentioning it. Anyway, they have 12 kids, blah blah blah, read a really good summary over at this blog. The part that's relevant to what I'm talking about is when the Dad decides all of his kids need to learn typing. He has absolutely no idea how to type - he just gets the typewriters and a book, and as they practice he thumps them on the head with a pencil if they get a letter wrong. And they all learned typing.

lol, I'm definitely not recommending thumps on the head. My point is that if you provide the tools and get yourself reasonably educated on how something is done, it can be taught. For example, I really do stink at equations. I am much better at economics, word problems, codes and statistics and geometry. But put an equation in front of me and I will really struggle. I'm lucky right now because my girls are doing rudimentary addition and playing with tangrams, but I find myself still learning along with them. I am getting a review of every math principle from the kindergarten level... what's stopping me from learning algebra all over again?

My point is that parents shouldn't stress about what they don't know, because teaching is learning. You are simply a learning guide as you explore the world together. Today my six year old asked me why people on the bottom of the earth don't fall off...so we studied gravity and mass, and even learned what a black hole is. I'm not an astronomer, but I have lots of books and I know how to read, which is really all you need to have. We demonstrated density with a foam ball, and I'm reasonably sure my 3 year old can tell me the order of the planets because of a song we made up. Who had more fun, me or them? Hmmm...

Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand. - Chinese proverb

What I've Learned From The Amish

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Posted on : 3:47 PM | By : Nic | In : , ,


Everybody is fascinated with the Amish. I am particularly obsessed and I think since the time I was 12 I started reading about them and really wanted to join them when I was a teenager. I think a lot of people secretly do. At this point I know enough to understand the good and the bad... and I would still join them, lol.

The reason I brought this up is I was watching the Duggars again, who recently visited an Amish family who very graciously allowed not only their large family into their home but the camera crew as well (you can watch the full episode here).

It surprised me that they would allow the cameras since the Amish are so camera shy. I guess that these are New Order Amish, who have different rules. I don't think being Amish is the way to go, but I think there are many things to learn from. For a very nice interview with an Amish couple, take a look at this article for some explanation of some beliefs.

I think that most of my better ideas have come straight from reading about the Amish, who live very deliberately. Yes there's a lot of rules, some of them silly, but all reflecting a very deliberate decision about how to live. Here's some of what I've learned:

- Technology isn't all good. Now we have no TV and no video games, and I just mowed the lawn with a pushmower. Carefully evaluate everything that you use in your life. As the article above quotes the a New Order belief: "...the mobility and communication that is made available through modern technology encourages the break-down of family intimacy. Modern conveniences should not be utilized at the expense of a cohesive family structure."

- Traditional roles for men and women are a good thing. Women are made to be moms and men to be the labourers. It is the natural order of things.

- Keep your family close. Amish families spend a lot of time together and try to keep their work close to home.

- Your clothes change your attitude and reflect who you are. It's hard to explain this concept...on one hand clothes don't matter and are not really something to focus on. On the other hand they very much affect your life. One one hand being modest is important. On the other hand the human body is a beautiful thing and not to be ashamed of. The Amish have become distinguished by the way they dress, and I'm not sure that's necessary. But being modest without being ashamed and at the same time not being obsessed with how we look is important. Having a uniform accomplishes this... which is why many schools require a uniform. People used to all dress alike, and maybe the competitive way we all dress differently is unhealthy. Just speculating. :)

Board-Game-Schooling

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Posted on : 8:53 AM | By : Nic | In : ,



When I was around junior-high age, my mom assigned me a project to create a board game about the history of Australia, which we were studying at the time. It became the only school project that ever made me cry - and not because I had a hard time making it. No... it was because it was just too realistic. You started out as a criminal from England, drawing a card randomly to find out what you did (stealing bread? insulting the Queen?), and you land in Australia as an indentured servant. You got stuck in a loop of manual labour trying to earn your way out of servanthood and hoping that you and your family wouldn't die of any number of things. Once you earned that, you then had to earn the money for tools and land to start your own place. Then you finally moved onto your farm where it turned into a subsistence farming game of hoping you didn't starve to death. We all played it together and at some point both my sister and I cried out of the sheer frustration of realizing that the game was impossible to win.

The Australia game (now in the safekeeping of my brother to protect it from me ripping into a thousand tiny little pieces) was probably the most memorable project I ever did and I remember SO MUCH about the life of early Australian settlers. So now, we do a lot of what I call board-game schooling. I am building a collection of good educational board games, which cover every subject you can think of. So far we have some really amazing games:

Snail's Pace Race - a noncompetitive game for preschoolers to learn colors and counting
Checkers
Dominoes
Monopoly
Junior Scrabble - even younger kids can get in on this since it starts out with letter matching
The Farming Game - build up a farm and learn money management, how debt works, etc.
Geography puzzles
Sounds of the Seashore - from the makers of Cranium, this is a memory game that also uses recognizing sounds
Lord of the Rings Risk - this is really almost the same as regular Risk except that it's only mission Risk.
Risk - strategy game to take over the world, lol.
Tide of Iron - this is a massive game we got the other day and so far we've set it up and that's as far as we got. It has a pretty big learning curve but you recreate specific, real battles from WW2 and there's a LOT of detail involved in the strategy.
Settlers of Catan - probably my favorite game, you build up villages and collect resources to become the most powerful tribe. I just taught Ana this yesterday and she won. Really. We've tried hard to be non-competitive but I think the competitive spirit is inborn, lol.

My Wish List of Games I've Played Before


Made for Trade - this game sort of recreates the economy of Colonial America - barter and trade and earning shillings.
Apples to Apples - a great creative thinking word game where you have to make up reasons that one word is associated with the other. Requires some convincing stage presence, lol.
Pick Two - crossword racing game where you have to build words with random letters faster than everyone else
By Jove - this doesn't seem to be out anymore, or at least on Amazon, but is a great game about classical myths. You start out as a mortal and go to war for Helen of Troy, speak to the Oracle, or hire Hercules for a quest.
Pyramids and Mummies - decipher rebus writing to build a pyramid or try to race to the mummy chamber
Set - ok, not technically a board game, but Set is a Mensa-designed card game that seems deceptively simple. You have to match cards that are either all the same, or all different. It's really very challenging.
Balderdash - bluff your way to winning by making up definitions to obscure real words, and try not to pee your pants laughing
The Amazing Labrynth - fit together maze pieces until you can get specific treasures

Comparing Compost Toilets and Other Things

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Posted on : 9:18 AM | By : Nic | In : , ,

I am a Reddit reader, and one of my favorite 'subreddits' is IAmA, in which you can post and read about interesting things people do or have done and ask them anything. The other day there was one that was particularly interesting: I haven't slept in a house in 3 months. I live and work fulltime in an RV with my wife and two small kids. AMA Reddit can be quite addictive.

Two topics were of interest to me... the first one was that the man wasn't going to homeschool his kids because he was homeschooled and felt that he had been socially disadvantaged. Let's not get me started on that, lol. I understand what he's saying as I think I had a similar experience, but there's no reason kids need to live in a vacuum. I went over my homeschool records for the past week and found that they spent no less than 12 hours away from home, and 10 of those hours directly interacting with other kids, only one of her own age. I think last week may have been outside a bit more than usual but not only did they spend time with others, they are becoming immune to age segregation, that terrible malady when a child can't or won't associate with anyone that is not the exact same age as themselves.

Anyway, there's not really any excuse for not getting out there besides shyness on my own part, and there's plenty of that. But since my motto is do the thing you are afraid of, being shy isn't an option for me. Anyway, I could go into all the physiological effects of being shy and how to conquer it but I won't today.

What I really wanted to talk about is toilets. I asked the guy above in the RV what kind of load (har har) they are putting on their toilet, and how it's working since a typical RV isn't made to handle someone there full time. Our personal goal is to make our bus have the capability to function off grid, and to this end we really would like to have a composting toilet. Unfortunately the composting toilets made for RVs (such as the Sun Mar) do not have the capacity we need. They wouldn't even handle us for a weekend.

So I've been looking at a very unique composting toilet called a Nature's Head. Unlike the others it separates solids from liquids, which allows the solids to compost faster, gives it more capacity and reduces smells (and flies which can be a problem if you overload a composting toilet). The thing to know about any of these toilets is that it takes more maintenance to keep your toilet happy than it does for a regular toilet. You can't just flush it away and forget. With this one it has a big jug for urine and you do have to dump that periodically. I am wondering if I will have the guts to carry around my jug of urine, lol.

Being more responsible for our personal waste is very important because honestly we shouldn't be able to just flush and forget. But with three kids it might be a careful balancing act between how many times they need to go and an impending stinky disaster.

Not Really a Ghost Fleet... But Still Peak Oil

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Posted on : 9:25 AM | By : Nic | In :



Did you see the picture above on the 'ghost fleet of the recession' in the Daily Fail...oops I mean Mail, or on Boing Boing? The article claims that 12% of container ships are anchored off the coast of Singapore because of the recession.

The trouble is that only 300 ships are anchored there, some of them container ships, some tankers and bulk carriers. Thanks to Michael Woods for doing the math and discovering that 12% just doesn't add up. If 12% of all container ships off the coast of Singapore, there would be 500. If 12% of all ships were not in use, 1 in 8 ships would be at anchor, or 1800 ships would be dangerously crowding the coast.

So this means that really only 2% of shipping vessels are anchored and completely unused, which is still quite a bit. Not a ghost fleet, but a worrying amount anyway. It's also not the only place in the world that ships are stored, so there are more out there sitting around.

A much more accurate sign of the times is the financial health of Maersk. According to the Wall Street Journal, which was hit very hard by the recession partly by low oil prices and a global drop in the need for shipping. They took 10% of their container ships out of circulation.

Is that because of peak oil? Technically yes because one big factor that contributed to the recession was the high price of oil a while back. Then when production slowed and demand dropped, crude oil's prices dropped by half. This in turn hurt Maersk's revenue.

It's a sign of a cycle that will get worse and worse over time. As demand increases again, especially with pressures put on oil supply by China with their new cheap cars and industrialization, the price will rise again to something ridiculously higher than anything we've ever seen. Think that $3 a gallon is bad? Think again. The economy will spiral down again as people stop paying for the oil or businesses can't afford it and go under, which will cause oil prices to drop again.

The trouble is that our economy isn't really based on the value of the dollar. It is at the mercy of oil prices. When the oil prices drop, then the shipping and oil companies suffer which in turn hurts the economy in its own way as well. This is why bailouts don't work in the long term, no matter what political party implements them. Bailing out a bank is a very applicable term... it's exactly like bailing out a sinking ship when you really just need to patch the hole. The hole is our dependence on oil. As it gets more and more difficult to get enough oil, the crazier these economic cycles of prosperity and being on the brink of depression will get.

Help the Amazing Trips Fight Cancer

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Posted on : 8:57 AM | By : Nic | In :

... and get the chance to win an Amazing wooden block set. If you make a donation to The Amazing Trips' Walkers for Knockers breast cancer team, not only will you receive a Be Amazing bracelet, you could win an amazing Montessori block set from Community Playthings (an amazing Bruderhof company). Please go to her site by clicking your little mouse pointer on these words and spare $5 for an amazing cause. Yes it makes my chances of winning slimmer, but what is that compared to fighting breast cancer. Have you read how amazing they are? Click this! Click here now!!! Do it! Are you still reading this? Get over there! I even made a new tag just for this post and that's tough for me because do you see how many tags I already have? Go!

Keish burgers and pain management

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Posted on : 1:59 PM | By : Nic | In : , ,


I apologize for my slightly off-topic post the other day. It got me to thinking about how people deal with pain. When you go to the hospital, one of the number one responsibilities of traditional health care is what they call 'pain management'. There is a scale of 1-10 to help you describe your pain, and it is the first thing they will ask you, and pain meds are the first thing you'll receive, usually.

The reason for this is that traditional medicine (it is funny to me we call it 'traditional' and 'alternative' when really according to tradition the alternative methods are much older), is based on symptoms. Treat the symptoms first, diagnose last. This doesn't make any sense to me because once you've gotten rid of the symptoms, how do you diagnose accurately?

Anyway I'm not against traditional medicine at all. But I do think there are many great things to learn from alternative medicine. For example, it seems very clear that men and women feel pain differently, and handle it differently. Men never have an event in their lives that should cause them pain unless they are sick or injured, but women do. Women have planned episodes of pain that they have to deal with, whether from their monthly cycle or from childbirth. It makes sense then that women should be built to handle pain differently.

Women shouldn't be afraid of pain, because we are built to handle it. In fact, the more you fear it, the more pain you feel. The more relaxed you are, the less pain you feel and the more efficiently your body works. The reality of it is that it is all in your head, which is the same as anything else. Sure labour hurts so bad... but how you react is entirely up to you.

Also I lied the other day. We don't always eat scrambled egg burritos. I made keish burgers! Everyone was thinking, 'Oh come on mom, what crazy thing is this???' But they tasted amazing. I have all this frozen spinach from our garden so I made scrambled eggs with a bit of rice milk and chopped spinach. It was about 50/50 eggs/spinach. I toasted hamburger buns and spread them with butter, and then mixed the eggs with a little mayo. Then I piled it on the buns and served it with fruit on the side. It tasted like keish on a bun, lol.

A Backwards Perspective on Homeschooling

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Posted on : 6:30 PM | By : Nic | In : ,


Women are highly competitive. I don't know if this is true or not, but it seems to me that women aren't friends the same way that guys are friends with each other. Don't get me wrong - women get together, and often women are best friends, but in general it seems as though women are motivated by the sense that if another woman does something better than they do, it makes them feel inadequate.

This is definitely true in the homeschooling world...mothers compare notes and remark about the educational milestones of their children, which would be fine if there wasn't the sense that at some level there is judgment and comparison. For women, I believe this is a perfectly natural and instinctive way that nature improves the species. But, it can make it difficult for women to just feel relaxed around each other.

I realized the other day that homeschool graduates have a unique perspective on homeschooling (duh? right? lol). Unlike the mothers who are throwing their children into it, looking to the future and hoping that they come out of it unscathed, I am looking backwards. Homeschool mothers discuss methods, philosophies and curriculum trying to figure out by trial and error what will educate their kids, or they carefully avoid the topic if there are unschoolers and homeschoolers in the same group.

I, on the other hand, don't really care what other people are doing and I am really only interested in a good book recommendation. I judge all curriculum and methods based on how much fun it is, and how much I remember from it. Why the apparent apathy from someone who's motto is to kill apathy for the fun of it?

Because in the end, all homeschoolers and unschoolers turn out the same. ALL of them have something in common with the picture above, lol. Yes some go on to Harvard, and yes, some go on to be a clerk at a gas station. But there is no predictability to it. Unschoolers may go to Ivy League schools or may not be able to write an essay. Homeschoolers may become Senators or may end up in jail. It all averages out, and all children who are taught at home will simply gain one unique trait: they all think differently from the mainstream. They may be social butterflies or they may be really shy, but even the very socially able will appear unique and a little bit on the geek side.

So, from my backwards perspective, homeschooling (and unschooling) isn't about the academics. It's about helping the child foster independent thinking, a love of learning, and an awareness of the people and places of the world. A child with deep empathy and a love of learning will be successful without being able to diagram a sentence.

Which is Worse, Getting Sacked or Childbirth

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Posted on : 8:09 PM | By : Nic | In : , , ,

We started a game accidentally the other night. I'm not sure who's aware of this but we like to live in a small community of familiar people, a sort of extended family. To this end we have John's sort-of-brother and his fiancé living in the suite in our house. It's a wonderful arrangement that allows us to feel like we're following the principles of the Continuum Concept in a really relaxed and natural way.

Besides, we just like having them around. The game began when we started talking about which was worse, the pain of childbirth or the pain of getting kicked in the family jewels. After throwing around euphemisms we settled on the phrase 'getting sacked'. The guys described the instinctive actions that men go through when they get sacked, curling up in the fetal position and their whole body going into shock, and they argued that it had to be much worse. I felt like having a baby hurts more, especially if you tack on the 9 months of pregnancy. Three natural deliveries taught me how that feels, but then again, I've never been sacked.

I'm not sure that a consensus was reached but they did decide that if something was crushed rather than sacked it would be worse than pregnancy, but possibly pregnancy could hurt as much as a sacking. We pondered... is it worse to be sacked than to break your arm? Is it worse to be sacked than to have a period with cramps every month for most of your life?

The way it all started was a discussion about natural birth control methods. The more I read about these methods on the Internet (thanks to the advice of a much-loved person, you know who you are), the more glad I was that I didn't rely on them completely. Natural birth control is a nightmare of uncertainty. I have read with fascination about the Quiverfull movement, and I respect it from a distance but I don't think I could ever join their ranks because I know how fertile I may be. I have no desire to be Mrs. Duggar (the more power to her). I am not going to get into those things in this post, but it is an issue that comes up for us because I can't even go on the pill. At one time I did for three months, it made me incredibly sick and gave me a hemangioma on my liver. Basically a lump of blood that gave me incredible stomach pains but fortunately isn't doing that anymore and won't screw up my life.

But I still want to space out my children so we do what must be done and we don't rely on natural methods. We don't mind having more kids, but I need to time them for my health and sanity. At some point we will be done having children and John will have to take some permanent measures... at which point in the discussion the men said, "Do you know how bad sticking a needle there will hurt?!"

And I said, "You have the balls to compare that with childbirth?!"

What We've Been Eating

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Posted on : 9:31 AM | By : Nic | In : ,



We've become the most boring healthy food people ever. Here's what we eat, almost every day.

Oatmeal with brown sugar and rice milk (sometimes we have toast but that's more of a Dad thing)

Scrambled egg burritos with salsa, or peanut butter and jam on bread, with a side of fresh veggies like cucumber, carrots, or sweet peas

Apples, kiwi or bananas for snacks

Our dinner options:
Salmon baked with olive oil and lemon juice and sometimes basil, served with rice and peas or spinach
Veggie burgers on buns with tomato and onion and pickles
Vegetarian pasta with homemade sauce and broccoli
Fruit and peanut butter and jam on tortillas
Wraps with chicken and mayo and a vegetable

That's it! Often we eat leftovers too. But this is the cheapest and healthiest menu I can make. Sometimes we buy a couple of snacks... chips usually and rarely pop or a box of juice. About 50 percent is organic, and we don't buy any meat product that's not free range. There's still plenty of room for more organic but with prices so high it's not doable. Eating this way makes it possible for us to do half.

The Freecycle Economy

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Posted on : 4:01 PM | By : Nic | In : ,



I have had a busy day, and I will have an even busier weekend with two field trips, but I wanted to expound on the merits of Freecycle. It's not barter... it's not even trade. It's gifting. I've been using Freecycle for a while but Burning Man just ended which brought it to my mind again. During the event no money is allowed and therefore everything inside the festival perimeter is free, and there's quite a lot. They call it a gift economy.

Freecycle is the same thing, but in real life and with your old junk. You simply find your local group, which is usually hosted on Yahoo! groups or some other kind of email list, and people post what they offer and other people can post what they want. In the end, most people get what they need. I recently got a very nice double stroller, and I give away a bunch of stuff. I could garage sale it... or take it to the thrift store... or sell it on eBay.

But I have chosen to give away books and kitchen items and children's stuff and all kinds of lovely things. Why? Because it's just stuff. Getting a $1 at a garage sale isn't worth the effort, and thrift stores are pretty cool - I usually give old clothes to them because that is where I shop for clothes so I like to support that system. But for other items gifting them to people who come to my house and take it is a much easier way to recycle. I am a paranoid person so I hardly even see the people - I leave the thing on my front porch and never open my door, lol.

There is another reason these things were on my mind. Allow me to quote a history: "All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need." This describes a group that was considered a cult during its time, a radical bunch of communists selling their stuff and sharing everything? It's surprising to me that they grew to become the Christian believers of today, so hell-bent on capitalism. I am not even saying I am for or against either system - it just boggles my mind to see such an opposite. I suppose that's why I don't even try to get involved in the health care debate, especially when the group decrying the evils of Socialism used to be so darn... socialist. And that's all I'm going to say about that.

Also have you experienced the thrill of scoring something for free on Freecycle? If not, you should try it.

Don't Wash Your Face

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Posted on : 9:29 AM | By : Nic | In :



I don't know what my obsession this week is with personal hygiene. If it's getting old, I apologize. Maybe it's because I barely have time for it - I take my showers at 10:30 at night.

So, I was pregnant with Rainn and my skin was starting to show it - the term 'pregnant glow' is really a euphemism for acne. I had just recently stopped using regular shampoo, because it made my scalp itchy. I had natural shampoo, and what I discovered is that I needed to wash my hair less. When I washed it maybe every 3-4 days it was less oily and I didn't get itchy. I have very long thick hair so this seemed opposite of logic - if I don't wash my hair... it stays cleaner?

So I decided to extend the theory. For some reason my skin stayed in puberty and I still get acne. I had tried natural washes, only-seen-on-TV solutions, Mary Kay and Avon, and finally settled on toxic Oxy face wash which was the only one that I wasn't allergic to. So... I just stopped washing my face with anything. I just splashed it with lukewarm water first thing in the morning.

You know what happened? My skin cleared up! I still don't have perfect skin but I don't look like I'm at the mercy of teenage hormones. The only thing that clears it up completely is to take lots of Vitamin C.

My advice to you: stop bathing! lol no just kidding. Stop using products - ever. No cleaning products, no beauty products. It's ALL marketing and they don't work.

Using KONOS for Child-Led Learning

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Posted on : 11:56 AM | By : Nic | In : , ,



I was homeschooled using KONOS for a while... I'm not sure how long, but at some point in the elementary years and possibly until I started high school. Now I am currently using KONOS with my kids, but I am using it differently. If you are not familiar with KONOS, it is a curriculum designed by and for homeschoolers using the unit study approach. A unit study is when you used a topic to explore a myriad of subjects and learning methods until you've exhausted the topic. KONOS was designed to be used with a schedule, the library books they list out, and has a very ordered layout. At the same time it is very flexible and can be used with all ages at once, and there are three huge volumes of units and projects

I have the old KONOS Vol. 1 (the one above has the new cover), and I use it for child-led learning. For example, I asked the girls what their first project of the year would be, and of course they picked princesses. So we are doing the Kings and Queens unit in a very relaxed way. KONOS is actually centered on character traits (obedience is the one the Kings unit falls under) but we are being very project-based. I also don't try to find the specific library books they recommend.

So for example, we've dressed up and pretended to be the queen and her lady-in-waiting, even practicing tasting the queen's food for poison. We've built two cardboard castles, one with a working drawbridge, and decorated them with drawings of knights on horses. We've discussed the defensive aspects of castles, what a portcullis is, a moat, the keep, a turret, etc. We looked at famous paintings of royalty, and we watched Queen Elizabeth's coronation. Ana wrote a small essay on what a queen is and drew an illustration, and we made shields and swords. Yesterday we studied some of the symbolism and purpose of heraldry and decorated or shields with our own personal crests.

Anyway, they have told me that they are interested in this or that, then I find a project in KONOS, and from that project they ask another question and the next day we explore that.

There are two reasons I am being so relaxed. The first is that they have math and phonics workbooks that they are obsessed with doing and would never do anything else, so I'm fairly confident that they are getting their three R's (am I the only one who picture the three R's as three pirates?). If only everyone could be so lucky eh?

Secondly I don't think I plan to be so unstructured as they get older. I think at the beginning of each year I will have them write out what they want to learn and we will stick to that plan using curriculum if necessary. But for now, it's ok for them to play to learn and it seems to add up very quickly.

The Smell of Human

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Posted on : 9:45 AM | By : Nic | In : ,


What is our aversion to the smell of humanity? Ok, I admit that I don't like when someone's body odor is overwhelming. But do we need to smell like some kind of perfumed, fake flower?

If you look around, most stores sell the deodorant crystal, which I have used for years. The key to it is to put it on right after a shower, and every morning so you can prevent any smells. It makes you smell like nothing, and I have noticed that I've become extremely sensitive to manufactured smells. It's almost like now my nose has grown accustomed to the natural human smell (which doesn't stink) and the fake smells make me sick. So why do we do this?

I learned today that body odor doesn't have a smell. It's the bacteria from the warm, moist environment that does it. To combat this, the first deodorant came out in 1888, called Mum. It was mostly alcohol, which actually makes you sweat more but also kills bacteria. Later antiperspirants were developed which stop you from sweating, and are classified as a drug. Unfortunately, the aluminum that stops you from sweating is also a neurotoxin.

So, we would rather slather a neurotoxin on our armpits, than smell a little bit like a human. How does this happen? Probably because of sexist ads like this one...



Isn't that special? If you want to smell better naturally, I highly recommend deodorant crystals, but there are some common sense tips as well:
1. Shower every day.
2. Wear looser clothes of natural materials.
3. You can avoid strong foods like garlic but they are so good for you I don't think it's worth it.
4. Have a sauna now and then to sweat toxins out of your body.
5. Take a zinc supplement, which can only boost your immune system too. Or eat pumpkin seeds, beans and other legumes.

The Garden Isn't the Same Anymore...

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Posted on : 9:48 AM | By : Nic | In :

The garden has gone from this....



To this....



...in only about a month and a half. I've let the tomatoes take over, in an effort to salvage what I can get. I actually ended up with at least 4 big bagfuls of frozen pasta sauce, which I count as a success. This particular section of garden, however, I've given up for loss. The beefsteak variety all got blossom end rot. The other little Italian ones did not.

Once I've gotten what I can, this will all be composted and I'll start planting my winter garden with kale, lettuce and other things that like the chill and wet.

The Picture Schedule

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Posted on : 9:22 AM | By : Nic | In : ,




After writing this post, I got a tremendously helpful comment from Granola Girl of End of Ordinary. Because of her, I made the item pictured above.

I had made schedules for Ana before, but never picture schedules, and never ones that could change the way this one does. For example, we had a school schedule, but what about errand days? Weekends? Park days? I made this out of construction paper and poster board and some packing tape, with about 10 cards of the major things in her life: breakfast, getting dressed, quiet time, cleanups, going out, etc. The pocket on the side stores the cards that aren't in use.

I had a difficult time deciding how many events to allow her to see at once. Should she see the whole day? Half the day? I decided eight items was enough for a 6 year old to cope with, and we do the schedule twice a day. First thing in the morning I help her do her own schedule, and then after lunch we do it again, taking out the things she's done. So far, it has really helped her deal with all kinds of issues.

For example, getting dressed is usually a 2-3 hour process that involves lots of crying. Today she only changed her clothes 3 times, cried once and got dressed in something reasonably presentable, lol. Then she had breakfast. Amazing!

Thanks so much for the great idea Granola Girl! :)

A Few of My Favourite Things

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Posted on : 9:20 AM | By : Nic | In : , ,



I've been trying to practice gratitude throughout the day, and here's a few of my favourite things in life. The simpler, the better!

Putting my face into a soft towel after getting out of the shower.

The smell of Play-Dough.

When you fall deeply asleep for 10 minutes and wake up refreshed.

Winning Monopoly against someone who always wins.

Finding a toonie in your pocket.

The feel of cool, dewy grass on your bare feet.

The smell of bacon.

Bringing the comforter off your bed and staying in it all morning.

A box of new crayons.

Warm summer thunderstorms.

Going to the ER and never getting asked who my insurance provider is.

Homemade bread fresh from the oven.

Dried flowers pressed between the pages of an old book.

Getting a package in the mail.

Playing tag in the rain.



The ordinary arts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest. - Thomas More

My First Homeschool Meeting as a Grownup

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Posted on : 9:14 AM | By : Nic | In :

Today, I feel like an adult. Not because I have three children or because I am approaching 30, or because I am an author or because I work hard and help make a living, or because I have the guts to pull the gunk out of the kitchen sink trap every day.

Today, I go to my first homeschool meeting as an adult. I realized I've gone to homeschool groups with my kids and hiked, or played. But, I've never paid for membership or actively participated. Today, I go to a group as a paid member. I've only ever been to these really as a child, lol.

To celebrate the first thing that's ever made me feel like I've arrived at adulthood, I did this homeschool meme, lol.

1) ONE HOMESCHOOLING BOOK YOU HAVE ENJOYED

The Well-Trained Mind

2) ONE RESOURCE YOU COULDN’T BE WITHOUT

The Internet, but for a book I love Konos and Timetables of History.

3) ONE RESOURCE YOU WISH YOU HAD NEVER BOUGHT

I don't really buy many 'resources' but instead use lots of real books like Usborne and DK so I don't regret anything.

4) ONE RESOURCE YOU ENJOYED LAST YEAR

Usborne Nature

5) ONE RESOURCE YOU WILL BE USING NEXT YEAR

Rosetta Stone French

6) ONE RESOURCE YOU WOULD LIKE TO BUY

I have a wishlist of $400 worth of more Usborne books, lol.

7) ONE RESOURCE YOU WISH EXISTED

Free unlimited books for homeschoolers.

8) ONE HOMESCHOOLING CATALOGUE YOU ENJOY READING

I like Rainbow Resource and The Sycamore Tree

9) ONE HOMESCHOOLING WEBSITE YOU USE REGULARLY

Wikipedia ha ha

10) TAG FIVE OTHER HOMESCHOOLERS

Tag yourself and comment below if you did this too. :)

Mobile Homes and Other Cheap Housing

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Posted on : 10:30 AM | By : Nic | In : ,



I got a question from Jessica of Weaving Rainbow (she has a blog as well) about the positives and negatives of mobile homes and manufactured housing. I have had the pleasure of living in three mobile homes. One of these was actually half-house - someone had ripped off the side and built half a house off of it haphazardly. Putting mobile homes onto houses seems like a popular thing to do in Montana.

Anyway, I've also looked into manufactured homes. We were looking at purchasing some land one time and looked into those prefab houses that they truck onto your property. They are basically a mobile home with drywall and are stacked on top of each other or fit together to make a bigger house.

Mobile homes today are amazing and don't resemble the tin can above. However, they are still mobile homes. Their construction is light, and they wear out. They burn down faster than a regular house, which can be a hazard. I have very sensitive ears and in two of the mobiles I lived in I heard a very quiet buzzing which turned out to be bad wiring getting too hot and burning a hole slowly through the wall. Admittedly they were old and a newer one won't be prone to that, but it is a downfall of cheapness.

Mobile homes are inexpensive, and easy to put down anywhere. If you plan to keep it for a while they need a concrete slab, but that's pretty much it. They are also much more insulated than they used to be, and so you save energy compared to the old metal ones.

If I had to choose any option for putting down on a piece of land, I would buy a bus (oh I'm not biased, lol) until I could build a house, or I would go straight to the prefab house. OR I would build a cob house instead of getting a prefab if I had the bus to live in for longer. Some areas have bylaws on how long you can stay in an RV while you build, but if you can do that then a bus is better than an RV because it is cheaper and also better for winter. The reason I say this is that although mobiles are nice, in the end a house, even one of those modular prefab ones, lasts longer, feels better, and is warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.

If you've never looked at cob as a cheap and sustainable housing option, check Wikipedia for a quick introduction.