Category: Frugal

Tire edition #birdsoftheair

It has been a blessed week, though exhausting.

The car now has new tires, and a fixed right front lower control arm thing, and as soon as we have the cash, aligned. It was all confusing and convoluted because  my dad got wind of us needing tires thanks to totally bald ones that skidded in less than a half inch of snow.  He and my mother-in-law decided to pay for it for our Christmas present, but then there was something broken which needed fixed before it can be aligned, and so on.  So my dad ended up paying more than planned for our gift but is now happier because he isn’t worrying about us  getting in an accident.  The tires still need aligned but that will happen as soon as we get paid for a couple jobs. So God worked it all out and we now have good tires and a fied thing that we didn’t know was broken, and soon it will all be aligned so there will be no more concern in that department.

Several packages full of things from our grocery wishlist as well as from the kids wishlists.  This is awesome because we have no money for gifts this year and Hanukkah starts tomorrow night.  The kids thought they were getting nothing.  Instead we now have  the makings for several treats, so we can have a special treat a day, plus they have each gotten a gift – each something they really, really wanted. I also know that at least one other person has ordered gifts for the kids which I haven’t mentioned to them, so that will be exciting to see as well.  (I should take a video next time we get a package.  Everyone gets so excited because it is always a surprise, and often we don’t even know it is coming.)

We got a coupon in the mail for $10 off $40 in groceries, one for each of the next few weeks so I suspect that will be helping put food on the table.

We have the house decorated for Hanukkah, we are all warm and fed, and God, Lord Provider, is so very good to us.

Have a blessed Sabbath.

The Book

It is done. Well, the e-book edition is done.

What is it?

As my friend Dana, who helped edit it, said:

In this guide, Heather shows how decluttering the home is about far more than just ‘picking up stuff’, yet it is a simple as starting right where you’re standing. The steps in this book are tried and true, as Heather’s insight was gleaned from her own family’s journey in decluttering. There is no one-size-fits-all formula, but by providing you with practical baby steps, tips and tricks, Heather can help even the most reluctant folks see the way to decluttering their lives.  ~Dana

Another testimonial:
This is the most amazing book! Heather did an amazing job of putting her finger on the link between house clutter and heart clutter and helps you tackle both. She offers practical advice on decluttering every room, ways to help keep the clutter tamed, and build relationships while you do so. Her honesty and forthrightness talking about her own struggle with the clutter beast are a huge encouragement to the rest of us. I can’t recommend enough that everyone needs a copy of this book, even if you’re not a self-proclaimed packrat. ~ Mari
You can go to the book page on my site to buy it direct from us (we make more money sooner) or you can go to the Smashwords page and purchase it there (probably easier for those who are not sure how to get an e-book from their computer to their e-reader). Later it will be available on Amazon as well as in print format but for now you can get it here or on Smashwords only.  If you look to the right you will also see a link in the sidebar.

Please contact me at ElasahArt@gmail.com if you have any trouble with the payment process or downloading it.

 

 

Where We Are May 2012

It has been a long month full of paperwork (house related stuff) and illness. Shamus, Es, and Rachel still have whatever this sickness is and I just really got over it finally yesterday. This is probably more rambly than usual as I have been dealing with the remains of the illness (headache that won’t just go away) and have been spending much time pondering things in my head rather than out loud.

Issac built castles with the boxes for packing.

We are still working on selling the house. Finally have all paper in for possible short sale and now it is a waiting game. People keep looking at it but no offers yet. We have gotten a letter from one of those companies that buys houses offering to buy it but we feel we need to wait on God on this and not try to jump the gun and go with a quick solution.

Enjoying taco salad out with great-grandma.

We are also continuing to prayerfully consider an RV. We would really like to be able to travel to conventions (which would help sell Shamus book and get his name out) and the kids and I just want to travel and see the US in general (what better way to homeschool?) An RV would give us a cheap place to live, allow Shamus to travel while giving him a place to work and be comfortable and home, it would allow us the freedom to go where we want to go but be back home with family as needed. We need to wait for the Lord on this as well. We don’t want to get something that won’t run, doesn’t fit our family, or has had pets so we are prayerfully watching and waiting.

Headband from Japan-- gift from unschooled friends in Japan

We have also decided not to sell our stuff but rather to give it away where it is needed. We have prayed about this a lot and feel strongly that we need not attempt to sell everything but instead rely on God to provide. I am trying to decide how best to put my art for sale since we don’t want to store it. The paintings of the kids will mostly go to family as interested but I have the dragon and bunny paintings plus illustrations from the game and book that I would like to sell. Have considered ebay but looking at sales results I don’t think that is the best way. Considering just putting buy it now buttons directly on my art page (http://elasah.com) or just putting things up on Etsy. I don’t keep up with Etsy enough to really get sales that way so am not sure. I have however spent the last few days updating my art site (http://elasah.com) and Etsy (http://www.etsy.com/shop/ElasahArt) with more art so hopefully some things will sell.

Cool Japanese stuff from friends.

The Lord has been providing, mostly through sales of Shamus book. The initial sales were good though they have tapered off and it will be interesting to see how the Lord continues to provide. We have an added monthly expense for Him to provide for (in order to do short sale we have to pay a certain amount each month– nearly as much as the original mortgage which we didn’t pay because we didn’t have it. Thus far He is providing and we trust Him to continue.

We continue to rely on Him rather than the government and He has been faithful. Just the other day we had several checks we had been waiting for suddenly go through just in time to make the mortgage payment that had to be in that day or we would go straight to Sheriff sale. We have also had numerous small miracles– free vitamins, $10 off coupons for new stores accepted at the only store that carries the butter we use, things like that. God continues to provide and take care of us in wonderful ways.

Watching the raw milk coming directly through the pipes from the cows (who are being milked during sell times.)

The last few days it has rained while the sun was still shining. Usually we are in the perfect location for a rainbow (they appear just over the hill from us nearly every time it rains). I look forward to them as the Lord has used them many times in the past to remind me that He provides and will continue to take care of us. However the last few days there have been none. As I was driving home from getting milk in the pouring rain with the sun glaring directly in my eyes I had a revelation.
Sometimes we can’t see the rainbow because we are in the midst of it. I am sure those around us could see a rainbow and I am trusting that He will continue to use our current situation and how He takes care of us to give others around us hope.

Halving it All

A recent question on the CU Facebook group got me thinking about my experience with too much stuff and how God got a hold of me– which is why our house is no longer cluttered and it is actually easy to find what we need or want and keep it clean.

I have always collected things.  Old books, lots and lots of old books, vintage toys, rocks, vintage clothes, you name it.  When I was a kid my floor was completely covered with stuff and intermingled with toys and books and clothes were fossils, lots and lots of fossils collected from our limestone driveway. When I went to college, I packed up most of my stuff and moved into a teeny tiny dorm room.  It was covered in stuff all the time.  When I got a job as a nanny and moved out I took ALL my stuff with me– most of it never got unpacked– boxes and boxes and boxes of stuff.  And I still couldn’t keep my trailer clean because I had too much stuff.  Same happened when I got married.  And then proceeded to move multiple times, and I took everything with me.  When we finally settled down here 11 years ago  I had boxes stacked in every closet, more books than shelves, the kids toys and clothes overflowed every possible nook and cranny.  The floor was constantly overwhelmed with our stuff.  I couldn’t keep up with the basic chores because I was dealing with 3 little ones (Issac was born 10 months after we moved in) and we had too much stuff.

Shoes
Too many shoes? We figured out that they only wore about 3 pairs of these each. Most didn't even fit!

Probably around 2004, definitely in January, God clearly told me to get rid of half.  I don’t remember the verses I read at the time nor how exactly nor what (and the journals are packed up at my in-laws so can’t check.) However it was very, very clear that He wanted me to get rid of half of all of it.  Some of this stuff had never been unpacked since I first moved out to become a nanny 10 years earlier.  Most of it I had held onto out of fear– what if I need this at some point in the future.  That was how my family had always done it– when I had Rachel my mom handed me box after box of my own clothes and toys from when I was small.  My grandmother saved bread bags instead of buying ziplocks.  It was just how we did things.  How could I possibly give this stuff up?  It just wasn’t done.  But half of everything stayed in my mind and stuck with me.  I needed  get rid of half of everything and I needed to start now.  (And mind you Shamus had been wanting me to get rid of stuff for forever.)

So I started.  I started small.  I looked at the coat rack and my pile of coats– I still had winter coats that I had had in school, and ones that had been given to me by family members who were getting rid of (being the only married kids in the family with the only grand-kids- EVERYONE gave us stuff.) So I looked through my coats and got rid of half.  Those all went to the thrift shop.  I realized I could suddenly find the ones I wore with no problem, instead of knocking everything down every time I tried to grab one.  Then I went through my shirts.  I got rid of the ones that didn’t quite fit, the ones that weren’t flattering, the ones that I didn’t really like to wear.  By the time I was done I could close my drawer.  And it went on from there.  I got rid of half our dishes.  Half our books.  Even half our food (turns out we had a whole lot of stuff in the pantry that had been bought that we couldn’t or wouldn’t eat– that all went to the food pantry in town.)  I went through the old paperwork and got rid of the surplus (which was more than half and went to the burn pile.)  And so, in the matter of about 6 months, I had gone through the entire house and gotten rid of half of everything.

IMG_1403
This train only left the house this year as Issac decided it was time to share it with someone else. Much of the rest in this picture, taken in 2006, is long gone. By that time we had a lot less stuff though not near as little as we do now.

It ended up being a good thing (or you could consider it God blessing us) because in August a friend started dropping stuff off at our house that they didn’t want (she was cleaning out her house) and suddenly we had more stuff– some of which we really needed or had been wanting.  And then my parents, who  were divorced both remarried, combining multiple households and started dropping off stuff THEY didn’t need.  And a neighbor started dropping off things her grand-kids didn’t want.

Issac does Kung Fu with marker sticks in our fairly simple living room. The kids pitch-in and help get rid of because they like being able to find the things they enjoy.

Pretty soon I was in the habit of going through, only keeping what we would really use, and getting rid of the rest, recognizing that God clearly WAS and would continue to provide what we needed, when we needed it, and we didn’t need to hold onto all that stuff.  Because that was all it was.  Stuff.  Even the things with sentimental value were just things, things that were getting in the way of my peace, of our family’s peace, even in the way of my relationship with God because I wasn’t trusting Him, I was trusting stuff.

So now we keep the clutter down, regularly going through and getting rid of, and focusing our time on better things than maintaining stuff.  Less clothes=less laundry, less dishes= people will rewash instead of leaving the dishes to pile up, less toys means the kids can find what they really want to play with, less stuff we don’t use means we can focus on what we DO use.  All in all halving everything was the beginning of a much healthier lifestyle for all of us and God continues to bless us as we willingly pass on the things He gifts to us.

Not House Beautiful

A discussion on the Christian Unschooling Facebook group got me thinking about my kitchen and how, as unschoolers, it gets and stays relatively clean.  We still don’t do chores though we all pitch in once a week for Sabbath prep (we all take a room and clean up– not perfect just make it nice and put things away so we can have a Sabbath without concern for messes or things not put away.)  There are no battles about it, the kids all choose what they want to do and help since they know it makes things nice for Sabbath and they love showing off their work “Mom, I did the living room!  Come see how nice it looks!”

.  

One of the keys for me personally is trying to keep clutter low (I go through and get rid of when I notice things accumulating.  Sometimes a kid helps and sometimes no.)  Another trick has been having enough storage and it organized in a way that it is simple to put things away.  Part of that for me is NOT having cupboard doors.  When I have doors I hide things behind them which means mess lurking where I don’t want to deal with it.  My kids are the same way so we use the cupboards below the counter minimally  other wise they turn into insta-traps.

I have this whole out of site out of mind thing that is kind of irritating– if I can’t see it regularly and store it in my brain that that is where it is I forget and can’t find it.  And being the person that everyone looks to when they can’t find something I need to know where things are and remember where I last saw it.  Instead of trying to make things beautiful we aim for convenient and neat looking.  When I make changes I discuss them with the family (you wouldn’t believe the grief I got for MONTHS for changing the silverware drawer without discussion).


We don’t have a lot of spare change for organizing things so I use things I find on clearance (like the baskets in the other photos), at the thrift shop, or things that are free like the clementine boxes that are my spice racks.

I also use a lot of hooks and jars (I don’t store in plastic).  I keep things I use regularly out where I see them  so I can easily access them because then I am more likely to use them (for instance baking and cooking happen more often when I can see my favorite pans and bowls without having to search the trap which is the pan cupboard down below.)  Also keeping things near where they are regularly used makes it easier for everyone.  Utensils for cooking and knives are readily available near the stove.  There are plastic cutting boards everywhere that people tend to cut (which eliminates cutting marks on my counter since they will automatically cut there whether there is  cutting board or not.)

The teas we drink regularly as well as the coffee are by our water heating tool (aka microwave).  We use fancy canning jars as drinking glasses since they are cheap, easy to hold, and have lids for quick storage when someone realizes they don’t want what they poured.  Also cool is the ridges at the top are perfect for a colored pigtail holder  to keep track of who’s cup is who’s.)
I keep my dish washing stuff close at hand since then I and the kids) am more likely to remember to do dishes and use the dish drainer and brushes (the brushes are in the pitcher on the window sill.)

Another view of our dish and tea cupboard.  We have a shelf on the counter as it is easier for the kids to put dishes away if they can reach.  Our dishes are all mismatched sets  and most of them are ones Rachel bought me for my birthday or ones given to us by a friend.  I have a thing for square plates and rice bowls so we have an eclectic mix of those.  Also we each have favorite types of coffee/tea cups so those all hang  even though we don’t need so many (no one is willing to give up their favorites.: ))  The jar set on the second shelf was made by my grandfather and is kind of tricky since some of the lids don’t fit perfectly and fall off at random– this would be why they are sitting straight up instead of at an angle.  Nothing like nearly being clonked on the head with a large wooden and porcelain lid.

The front pantry is an old metal medicine cupboard that was my grandparents.  The basket on top is full of our daily supplements, the little cups to the right are tomorrows vitamins  for the family, the red overnight suitcase is our medicine cabinet of various herbal remedies and the brown basket below is full of herbal cough drops for the cold that has been circulating our family.  This cabinet has whatever is in use daily– nuts, dried fruit, homemade grain free granola, and chocolate.

Our homemade back pantry.  Growing up my grandparents and my parents both had an awesome walk in pantry and I have been wanting one for forever.  I finally took the metal shelves from the girls room and made a red-neck version so I have a place to store all our teas,orders from Amazon, my milk run cooler, empty jars, kombucha, and other ferments.

The baskets on top of the fridge have Shamus’ pretzels and other foods that are just his so the kids are tempted to eat his stuff (still on the GAPS diet and they requested that things like that be out of site.  The two fridges hold our beef, raw milk, and ferments.  The one on the left is the regular fridge where left overs etc go, the one of the right is overflow and storage.

And if you are wondering…yes, I cleaned up and did the dishes before taking photos though no deep cleaning.  Sorry, you, dear reader, don’t warrant a deep cleaning.  I needed to clean anyway since tomorrow is Sabbath Prep so now I have one less thing to do.

Provision

Green Energy Snap Circuits
Issac saved up his birthday/Christmas money to get these. Just ordered them and got them right before our derf we ar a lmost out of money moment..

We have been, for several months, gratefully living off the money we got back from the government (via paying our taxes) for which we have been very, very grateful.  The problem is we knew it wouldn’t last.  We didn’t go crazy and buy all sorts of things– except for stocking up on the things we had been out of for some time, getting a few things to replace broken other things (though not replacing all the broken appliances– well attempting to, but when the replacements also broke we just waited).  So we are at that place.  The place where we are back relying on Jehovah Jireh daily.  The oldest isn’t too thrilled as she doesn’t like being uncomfortable at all but here we are.  SO I thought I should share what all He has been doing (though I have been sharing daily on Facebook and on the CU group.)

 

Moraine State Park
Impromptu trip to Moraine on a very hot sunny day.

When we realized how low we were getting we did the same thing we always do– avoided paying the bills.  We are awful that way.  Then we went to pay the bills and realized, wow, we really are low– too low to buy groceries.  Okay, now what God?  (I hate that we do that, but we both do, especially as it almost always happens when Shamus is sleeping during the day and we aren’t seeing each other except when one of us is falling asleep.

Green Energy Snap Circuits
Intent on his new kit.
  • Right around that time I got a spur of the moment, last minute, please help us get this done in time book cover job (thanks Grace!) which paid for a bill that needed paid NOW.  The book is here: http://www.amazon.com/Winter-Keven-Newsome/dp/tags-on-product/0987653105, the cover was nearly done, just needed to place some text and clean it up for print.  Holly Heisey did the cover and it is lovely.
  • I helped a friend transfer her blog for fun and she sent us gift cards for a local restaurant– which is awesome and will provide a much needed date with Mr. Hubbypants (if our sleep EVER lines up again!)
  • The first thing that happened, immediately following paying bills is I started really analyzing the cost of GAPS foods and deciding what was most important.  We then realized that trips to Broadrun farms were VERY important as raw milk, meat, and eggs are the cheapest nutrition for us.  So, knowing we didn’t have the money we prayed that God would provide.  And around the time that we HAD to leave I got money via paypal through the same friend who sent us the gift cards!  Enough for everything we needed at the farm!  YAH!  (And thanks to my grandma I had enough gas to go!)
  • If you follow my husband at all you will know that he was finishing up his book, Libreoffice hiccuped and LOST 3 days of work– which was HUGE and he was devastated.  Then a reader sent him a free gift of  Word (the “good  version–can’t remember which year).  He was grateful but felt it wasn’t time to get back into it– which is fine because he works in his head like I do, THEN put sit on paper.
  • Because of that he suddenly got back into programming and started working on a game engine again– and is going at warp speed doing what he calls the best programming he has ever done.  Which is awesome and I am excited to see where God takes that.
  • I have multiple jobs right now, all of which will help pay the bills in the coming month (some things due soon so that is awesome.)
  • Right after I had a huge panic attack about where the money would come from, God started putting everything into place.   A friend sent us not only enough to renew our Science Center Membership (which he says we should do) but also added enough to pay some bills and keep us in food until these jobs pay.  Praise the Lord–some stress relieved.
  • Another friend was doing a rummage sale at her church and told me to let her know what appliances we had that had died so she could watch for them.  Then she offered to pick them up at the pre-sale (just for helpers) so I would get them.  THEN when I tried to pay her she said no!  So now we have all new small appliances to replace all our broken ones!
Moraine State Park
Moraine State Park, Pa

GAPS Diet: 2 1/2 months-ish

I have lost track as we have reached the “just do it” stage and are through the worst of the die-off and are into the regular diet completely.  So far:

  • Rach is now able to eat melon, potatoes (was allergic and should n’t have even tried them yet but was out and chose to with no reaction), turkey, strawberries, a small amount of lemon juice and tomato, citric acid/pectin (which come from citrus or apple usually–both of which she has been severely allergic to–couldn’t have them in the air without a severe reaction), regular frozen yogurt, coffee, and chocolate.  All of those things were things she had a reaction to before, to varying degrees.  Most of them she could eat with enzymes (except the turkey, melon, lemon and tomato) but now she can get away with them in various quantities.  So that is really awesome and she is enjoying her newfound food freedoms.
  • Essie has discovered that her allergy to peanuts has become a bit worse, but then she is choosing to avoid most ferments and broth and so is not “really” doing the diet.  I am hoping that she will realize the correlation and choose to drink the broth anyway (though if I keep ghee on hand she will eat that and will drink smoothies made with kefir sometimes.  I need to buy more coconut oil and make sure there is plenty on hand because she will eat that and butter by the spoonful and thus get her good fats that way.  The real problem is getting her to remember to eat– she forgets and then is ravenous.
  • Issac is doing much better– most of his food allergies are gone though his aversions aren’t really and he is still very picky about foods.  Occasionally he will go nuts for something that he previously avoided, especially if I make sure to make plenty of butter or ghee and add that.
  • I am doing much better in general though I still can’t get near peanut butter.  I actually hit a point where I was tired of almonds which never happens so we are out of almond butter and I haven’t bothered to buy more even though I use it in baking and Essie will eat that (which tells me I need to get some.)  I haven’t been very hungry lately which is funny after being ravenous while on intro and have actually started to loose some weight (not unusual for me in summer anyway so not sure if it is just it being hot out so I don’t want to eat or has something to do with the diet.    It may also have to do with not having a lot on hand that I WANT to eat.  Other than some meat with cheese melted over and maybe a smoothie or some coffee with cream (we have added raw milk back in because Essie will drink that when hungry and has no trouble with it plus it is a cheap food for us at $4 a gallon) all I really want is salad with some cheese, cranberries, and almonds (haven’t tested any other nuts as I have had a lot of trouble there in the past) and a bit of lactofermented sauerkraut on the side.
  • I need to find a new source for ready made lacto-fermented pickles as everyone loves them but are not crazy about the ones I make (too soft.)

Everyday Miracles

I used to have a website named that where I would post all the little miracles (if you can call God things little) and it is funny because lately that is mostly what I am posting here. Because that is where we are and what God is doing.

This morning is the perfect example. Per usual I got up before the family. When I was preparing my oatmeal I looked around the kitchen and realized the shelves were really bare. I had realized this yesterday and pushed it to the back of my mind because it always leads to panic. I like to keep a well stocked pantry and have been stocking up, knowing we would be entering hard times. I keep telling myself we have plenty–which we do. Lots of noodles, a freezer full of meat, veggies in the deep freeze, and lots of teas on the shelf plus some bulk ingredients in the stairwell overflow including coconut milk, dried coconut, and peanut butter from the Van Slykes. However, we are out of raw milk and eggs and fresh veggies which means the fridge is nearly empty. The kitchen pantry is looking just as bare– all the nuts are gone, as is all the tuna and canned green beans (Shamus’ favorite). We only have 4 cans of that wonderful blessing of coconut milk left and I have to remember to go ahead and use it since God provided it for this time and not for a later time. So, I cleaned up the shelves a bit while my oatmeal cooked, forced myself to recognize the shelf above the stove full of jars of chai seeds, noodles, dried beans, and oatmeal and all the other foods that are hidden away (the stuff in the overflow, the deep freeze (including lots of flour) and prepared chickpeas–which reminds me, today I should make hummus.

I took my time eating and praying, spending time in God’s word (He has me in Isaiah) while I ate my oatmeal and drank my tea. I was lamenting that I have all this wonderful dried coconut and no ingredients make anything with it (other than to eat it straight or with a peanut butter spoon, which will happen anyway) and how quickly we have gone through all the coconut milk.

Then I moved all the food from the overflow pantry to the shelves where we keep foods for immediate consumption. I do better when I can see what we have and see we have plenty. Later I plan to make up some foods so that there are prepared foods for the family to eat (I am thinking some crackers and tortillas on which to eat the hummus and peanut butter would be good and alleviate some of the complaining that I heard yesterday.) Now the kitchen feels fuller and I can see that we have plenty. I know some people like all their stuff hidden away but I like mine where I can see it–because then I can remember that we have it and know exactly where it is. I am definitely an out of sight out of mind sort of person. 🙂

coconutAnd on to the everyday miracle. I was still trying to figure out what God wanted me to do with all this dried coconut since He obviously provided it. I figured maybe if I put in a search for tahini and coconut I would come up with something. Then I sat down at my computer, opened Facebook and Mandy was talking about the expense of coconut milk yogurt. I decided to check to see if there was a recipe out there–which I was sure there was. I was not thinking of my dried coconut at this point, just looking for a recipe for myself–figuring that would be a good use of one of the cans of coconut as well as for her since homemade is so much cheaper than bought. It was at that point that I found this recipe for coconut milk yogurt which linked to this recipe for making coconut milk from dried shredded coconut! And I was amazed again by what God had done because, in case you didn’t remember, I mentioned that we were out of raw milk. It was the perfect weather to go get it yesterday but I didn’t and couldn’t because we didn’t have the money for the drive or for the milk when I got there. I was so disappointed because I was sure God would provide it somehow. So here is the coconut He provided through the Van Slykes coming to the rescue again. I am really overwhelmed with His provision and how He manages to do it differently every time. What an amazing God.

While I was writing this the UPS guy brought another package from the Van Slykes– The First Hebrew Primer Third Edition, which is pretty cool and not only should help me with a potential art project I am working on but should make things interesting around here. 🙂

Now I am off to make coconut milk and hummus and put some dough to soak for tortillas and crackers then I will check out this book.

A Mother’s Day blessing

A few months ago I was approached by a representative from Novica.com who emailed me, asking if I would be interested in choosing $150 worth of items from the Novica corporate gifts section of their site in order to review said items here on my site. This email came during serious chaos and financial concerns and we didn’t even know what Novica.com was.  It turns out that  Novica is an associate of National Geographic, selling fair trade unique gifts created by artists and artisans around the world. I seldom, if ever, review items or take part in giveaways but after some prayer and discussion we decided to accept. My biggest fear about accepting was actually writing a review if we didn’t like what we got (because I am honest and in the past have hated some things I have been sent to review), but not only where the items stunning but it also turned out to be a God send. My mother passed away last July 31, the day before her birthday.  During that same week we bought a used vehicle (thus depleting our cushion), and a few days later my husband was put on part time at work leading to some serious financial issues through the rest of the year, getting especially bad in the months preceding Mother’s Day. By the mid April, the very thought of Mother’s Day without my mom, combined with our financial woes was enough to drag me into full blown depression.  And then we received the gift certificate for Novica.  Issac and I looked through the site and chose the absolute perfect Mother’s Day gifts for my  very hard to buy for grandmother and marvelous mother-in-law (whom I have always wanted to get THE perfect gift for for Mother’s Day and have never had the resources to do.)  We also found something small for the kids and the perfect pair of earrings for me (a wonderful blessing as I had lost my favorite pair a few years back.)  As soon as we ordered  the weight lifted and I was suddenly looking forward to Mother’s Day, knowing that I had absolute perfect and totally unique gifts coming and I couldn’t wait to see the results. I placed my order on April 22 and received the three packages (one from Indonesia, one from Thailand, and one from India) on April 30, May 3, and May 4.  Because they were gifts I requested gift wrap on my order and was amazed at the results. Novica from Indonesia

Above is the first package we received.  It came from Java and Bali.  The bottom left photo shows what was inside the box. The kids loved the little information card about Bali with its hand written thank you on the other side.  They though the gift wrapping was very cool.  We went ahead and carefully opened the packages so I could photograph them (then closed them carefully back up).  The above right photo is a closeup of the box and paper flower  ribbon my earrings were packaged in.  The above left are the sterling silver pearl drop earrings I got for myself.   They are much more beautiful in person, as light as a feather, and the workmanship is amazing.  I have worn them daily since I got them (and I love them even more than the earrings I had lost.). The package on the right revealed the scarf and box at the bottom right. The gift box itself is a work of art, and the scarf was amazing.  I was so excited to give it to my mother-in-law and her reaction upon opening it was absolutely perfect.  I really wish I had taken the camera with me and captured her look when she opened it and the earrings (shown below). Novica from Thailand The above packages were from Thailand.  you cannot tell from the pictures but the wrapping was very delicate handmade paper and the boxes were made from similar handmade paper with a dried leaf pressed on top.  The boxes came with an explanatory card explaining how the boxes were made of saa paper, a handmade mulberry bark paper that has been made in Thailand for over 700 years and is sustainable because the trees are not cut down (for those of you who are concerned about green gifts) .  The boxes themselves were beautiful and would make a great gift on their own. The bottom left photo is of the orchid stick pin Issac picked out for my very hard to buy for and has everything under the sun grandmother.   I was amazed when I opened the box–it is a real orchid set in 22 k gold and is absolutely stunning.  Grandma was tickled with it  and Issac was excited to have found something so absolutely perfect for her. The bottom right photo is of these Moon in the Forest sterling silver hoop earrings.  They were my mother-in-laws gift along with the scarf above.  She wears half hoop earrings all the time and was so excited about these ones.  The details in these were amazing and the quality was wonderful compared to what I usually find here in the States.  As a former metal/jewelry smith I was thrilled with the quality.  My mother-in-law was so happy with both her gifts that she made it a point to tell me several times that I must explain how much both she and my father-in-law loved these gifts and how flabbergasted she was at the incredible craftsmanship. Novica from India And finally the package from India, which Issac impatiently waited for from the day he helped me place the order.  The top left photo shows the beautiful gift wrap.  The kids kept both the packaging and the ribbon– which I plan to use to tie back my curtains.  The chess set was wrapped in many layers of paper and tissue paper to avoid damage during shipment (shown second photo down to the left).  The kids found this very impressive.  The bottom left photo is what the whole set and everything that came with it looked like when we finally unwrapped everything.  The boy was so excited he couldn’t contain himself, he immediately set it up so I could show that the pieces were magnetic and wouldn’t fall off even when the board was sideways.    The workmanship of this beautiful tiny chess set is wonderful.  The quality combined with the little drawer to hold all the pieces has inspired the kids to keep it all together and take good care of it.  It has gone everywhere Issac has gone since we received it, and if he can’t find anyone else to play it with him (we all have at least once) then he plays it alone with his bear. All in all, I still can’t get over what a blessing the opportunity to do this review brought myself and us as a family.  I have so much more peace about Mother’s Day, even now, days after– and the day went fine, no depression just joy in being able to give good gifts.  The kids were so excited about giving these wonderful gifts and I have a feeling, when we have a bit of money to spend, they will want to order more from the site in the future, and since the prices were excellent for the quality of the work I have no problem with that. I am also thrilled to see a big company helping out artists and artisans around the world.  As an artist myself I know how hard it is to find a buyer for your work and to see a site like this, with so many amazing artists gathered together from all over the world and knowing that by buying a gift for someone else you are also making a big difference to that person and their family, is awe-inspiring.  The quality and workmanship, the great service, fast shipping, and also the little cards telling all about the artist and their work, all were the best I have seen from any site.

Life as We Know It

Yes, we still unschool.  Yes, it is still working.  Yes, we still both work from home though it has shifted even more from me working to Shamus working while I hang with the kids and keep the household running smooth so he can focus and be productive.  Yes, I still love our life and wouldn’t change it for the world.

Ice Skating

Shamus is working, a lot.  Things are financially stressful but that is another post (and one I have been pondering for a while but which may or may not actually get shared.  All I can say right now is that God is amazing and much more reliable than any paycheck.)  On that point I want to mention mint.com– if you are having a hard time seeing the big picture of your finances, suck at budgeting, or just like seeing everything in one place then it is well worth a look.  It is working great for this financially challenged family and being free helps.  We had recently discussed the possibility of me taking on  a part time job to fill in the current gaps, but various factors nipped that in the bud.  Mostly the fact that me being here facilitating the children’s learning is key (they would learn anyway but Shamus cannot field their constant questions AND write 3 comics a week, 3 articles a week, and do 30 hrs a week programming not to mention keep up on his blog and several side projects.)

Ice Skating

The kids are happily occupied talking to fellow unschooling friends on Skype and text chat, interacting on FamilyRUN, playing Build-a-Bear (their favorite game to play?  School–“except we know most of the answers already, but we get to learn new things too”.)  They are also occupied playing  Plants vs. Zombies, a lot.  Talk about an educational game that  you don’t realize is educational.  Essentially you could think of it as a fun way to learn financial planning and organizing your resources— of course you could say the same thing about Star Craft and other strategy games. At the pondDue to the snow, snow, and more snow they have been avoiding going outside (especially now that there is no ice to skate on).  The kids are also very involved in a new Lego Quest weekly challenge run  by a friend on Twitter.  Lego Quest carRachel is thrilled to have made friends who can talk when she can, Essie is reading her way through multiple series of books (having read all the Gregor the Underlander books in a week and moving on to several other series I can’t remember) , Issac is building all sorts of things and intent on beating Mario Galaxy on his own.  We are spending a lot of time listening to audio books together, playing games together, talking together.

At the pond
Picnic at the pond

Me?  Aside from all the cleaning and rearranging going on (lots of re-purposing and getting rid of which I find a quick way to beat the urge to go buy something new. )  Now that the website issues have been dealt with I have been free to work on painting (trying acrylics still.  It is interesting but maybe I am getting somewhere?)  I am doing less reading and spending time on the computer  (due to eyesight issues) and more listening to audio books which means I am being more productive– I feel like I need to be doing something if I am listening to audio books.  And since the cd player is in the kitchen and we are being VERY frugal in our meals I am spending a lot of time in the kitchen cleaning, rearranging, and baking.  Yesterday it was no-bake cookies (naturally sweetened, carob, peanut butter, coconut, and oatmeal), homemade granola bars (naturally sweetened with oatmeal, cranberries, peanut butter, cocoa nibs, coconut, flax seed), and lots and lots of bread dough.  The day before I chopped all the raw veggies in the house, making a nice salad mix and freezing the rest.  Oh, and I finished a painting–a commission by my sister-in-law for her employers. Watercolor