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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.

Operating Instructions

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Posted on : 8:43 PM | By : Nic | In :

This World is Equipped with
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Do not attempt genocide. Simply rectify ethnic and sex discrimination.
~
This Declaration is not harmful to national sovereignty, nor does it affect the soundness of your economy.



Saw this today... I wish I could credit the author.