Sunday, September 20, 2009


I want to make and can some applesauce. I know of a few apple orchards (Apple Blossom, Curtis) around here, but their prices are little steep for me. I don't need beautiful apples, just ones that will work for applesauce. So locals, anybody know where I can get some cheaper apples around here? I'd be willing to drive a bit - but probably not longer than about 30-40 miles. And non-locals, any tips on where you get your apples???

Maybe it is because we are talking about apples this week in Preschool, or because we are going to an apple orchard for a field trip on Friday, but I'm just craving all things Apple. Apple crisp, apple pie (I make a mean apple pie using the pie crust recipe from The Little House Cookbook), applesauce (with chunks in it, of course. And a touch of cinnamon.), apple dumplings, apple cider, apple donuts (LOVE these!)

Or maybe it is the nursery rhyme we are studying in preschool - "An Apple A Day"

An apple a day keeps the doctor away,
Apple in the morning, doctor's warning.
Roast apple at night, starves the doctor outright.
Eat an apple going to bed, knocks the doctor on the head.
Three times a day, seven days a week - ruddy apple, ruddy cheek.

It wasn't until I started teaching preschool that I'd heard the rest of the rhyme beyond "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" part. I might have an apple two or three times a week, but not 21 times. I guess I need to work on that, at least through the rest of September! I want those ruddy cheeks!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Women Living Wisely - What is that again???

You may have heard me talk about this on this blog before. Women Living Wisely is an activity that held on the 3rd Friday of every month and we talk about ways to live simply and providently. We follow the topics from the LDS Provident Living site - Education, Health, Employment, Home Storage, Finances, Humanitarian Aid, and Social and Emotional Strength. My friend Joy and I put it together a couple years ago when I was really starting to get excited about the idea of trying to live simply. It is sponsored through our church, but anyone is welcome to come.

Last night, it was Women Living Wisely night (or as we often write it - WLW) and they talked about Employment. They talked about the balance between home and work as well as ideas for getting yourself going on accomplishing goals. And they talked a lot about how there is a season for everything in your life as well. From all reports, a nice night chatting with other women and getting ideas and support. I couldn't make it last night because we were have a slumber party for some child who will be turning 10 soon . . . .

But Women Living Wisely has become something Important to me. I've learned so much about these topics - some of my favorites have been stress management, what to do with wheat, discovering your potential, and being Fit for Life. Learning from other peoples experiences is truly invaluable. But the other thing that I have gained from Women Living Wisely is support. So often, I feel like there are so many things that I need and want to do - with living a simple life, but also in my life as a parent and as a woman. It is hard to juggle it all, and it doesn't help when you feel like you are doing it all alone. And when I meet with these women, I realize that I'm not. They are there to support me, I'm there to support them, we are there to support each other. And to laugh. A LOT. Because laughing helps you get through anything - a little bit easier.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Happy Birthday Lisa!

I have 3 siblings - one sister and two brothers. One of my brothers is 20 months older than I am. He and his family are currently living in Florida but will be moving to Texas soon. My sister is four years younger. She and her family currently live in the same town as I do. And I have a younger brother who is 10 years younger than I am. He lives with his wife in Ogden, Utah.

My older brother and I were close for most of the time that I was growing up. We were close in age, and there were few girls in the neighborhood, so I learned to love football, cars, legos, and Stratego. And then when I had just turned 4, here this other girl shows up. (I swear I don't remember my mom ever being pregnant. Just coming into my parents' room one day and there was a BABY laying on the bed.)

I was less than thrilled about her arrival. At one point when she was just a few months old, I picked her up out of the cradle, and then took her to my mom. By dragging her by one of her feet.

I embarrassed to say that my treatment of her didn't improve much over the next few years. My brother and I would play all sorts of pranks on her, and would do things that we knew would probably make her cry. (Sorry Lisa!)

Then, she had the audacity to be REALLY annoying too. She always wanted the hall light on and the door open, and I wanted it dark and the door shut. She was uh, not neat, and I wanted everything perfect. She liked Barbies. And Dolls. She was the typical "want to hang out with the older kids" younger sister, and it drove me crazy. We fought and fought and fought. We fought so much that my dad had to build a room in the basement so that he could separate us.

And then when she got to be a teenager, she got me back. We won't go into details, o.k.?? But needless to say, we weren't exactly friends. She was my sister, and I knew I was supposed to love her, but UGH.

Around this point, my parents moved to Illinois and my younger brother came with them because he was still living at home. After about 6 months, I decided to move back home so that I could finish my undergraduate degree. A year later, my sister moved back.

Somewhere during that time that we were apart, we both became normal people. I could now see what a wonderful person that my sister was. I LIKED being around her. She made me laugh. I could talk to her when I knew that no one else would understand.

After a couple more years, I got married and moved to Chicago and then Springfield. Then my sister got married. I decided to move back to this town and through some strange twist of fate, we both ended up buying a condo at the same complex, in the same building, and she lived right above me. She had just had her first, and I was 6 months pregnant with Flower. It was so wonderful to be able to have someone SO close, both physically and family-wise, who was going through the same sort of thing. We lived close enough that one couple could run out and just leave the baby monitor with the other couple and you wouldn't have to leave your own place unless the baby woke up. We lived in this upstairs/downstairs arrangement until we had/were pregnant with our 2nd babies. And then she moved, first to Peoria, then to Utah, and then to Ohio. And then she said she was moving back. By this point, we had moved into our home. And when they moved back here, they rented a house that was a block away! They've since moved across town, but it is still only a 10 minute drive away. Plus with us co-homeschooling, I see her and most of her children every day!

Now, when I was 13 years, did I ever envision that 30 years later, I would CHOOSE to spend every day with my sister??? That I would actually have a good time on a regular basis with my sister??? That I would come to want to emulate many of her qualities??? Uh, that would be NO.

But thankfully, gratefully, we have had the opportunity to become friends as adults. I have wondered on more than one occasion what our relationship would be like if she hadn't moved back as a young adult. We may have been cordial. I probably would have realized that she was not the annoying sister that would steal my clothes, but I wouldn't have realized what a good person she is - so caring, such a good listener, and such a great capacity to love her family. Including me.

Happy Birthday Lisa! I hope that this is a GREAT year.

Love always,

Your Favorite Sister :)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

If You Think You Can, You Can!

My sister and I decided that we wanted to can most of what we grew in our garden. Both of us had watched our mom can, but had never really canned ourselves. (Well, that's not exactly true. My sister did a little water bath canning last year, but neither of us had pressure canned before.) So when our mom was out here last May, we asked our mom to buy us canning supplies for early birthday presents. (My birthday is in August, and my sister's is in September.) So she did.

Here is our lovely new pressure canner.

And then we grew stuff - tomatoes and green beans mostly. We had decided to plant roma tomatoes so that we could do tomato sauce. Well, as you might recall, our tomato situation was mixed. We planted one row of 12 plants in May, but we didn't have many cages, so we lost quite a bit to rot from being on the ground. But we still harvested about 500 tomatoes. In late June, we planted another 10 tomato plants. And then we proceeded to have the coolest summer ever. So we have only harvested a few tomatoes off the second batch, and who knows how many we will get before the frost. We used this squeeze/de-seed/de-skin contraption (It is a Back To Basics Food Strainer. It is AWESOME!) and put them in gallon bags, and then we stored them in our awesome friends' freezer. (Thanks Joy!)

We ended up with about 16 bags of tomato stuff, but it wasn't sauce yet. Because you have to boil the tomatoes and reduce them by 1/2 before canning it. It was a little disheartening to see half of our hard work just evaporating away . . . .

After boiling it down, we put it in quart jars and then put it in the pressure canner. We thought it would be complicated, but it really was easy to use. Each of us ended up with 6 jars. We may end up with a few more if the second batch of tomatoes ever turns red.

Some of our tomato sauce before we put it in the pressure canner

Then the green beans. We planted the beans early on, like back in the middle/end of May. Along with Peas. And they never really grew. So we tilled again, and tried the beans again. The second batch of green beans grew much better. I don't know how many green beans we've picked. We did a hot pack of the green beans, and then pressure canned them for 25 minutes. We have canned 14 jars (7 jars each) green and should have at least 6 more. So each of us will end up with 10 quarts.

Our green beans

It doesn't sound like we harvested much, and part of that is the boiling down that you have to do for tomato sauce, and part of it is that we are dividing the jars between our two families.

But the important thing about this year is not how much we are canning. It is that we are learning how to can.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A blogging slump, sort of . . .

This Picture doesn't have anything to do with my post. It is just a picture of the Simple Kids from this summer when we went up to Shedd Aquarium and Millenium Park. We had a Great Day.

There have been a few reasons why I haven't been posting lately -

1. Started homeschooling on August 31st. My sister is working with me at Montgomery Academy, and her two oldest children (boy, age 10, and boy, age 8) come with her. In addition to homeschooling Flower, Jelly Bean is being homeschooled this year. So we are homeschooling 4 kids - and they are in 2nd grade, 3rd grade, 4th grade and 5th grade. Lisa teaches in the morning. She does Literature, History, and Language Arts (Writing, Spelling, Grammar). I teach in the afternoon. I do Math, Science, Geography, and "Specials." (I do a different Special each day. We are doing Art, Music, Instruments - Recorder for the youngers and Keyboard for the olders, Poetry, and Shakespeare.) It's taken a couple weeks to get into the swing of things.

2. I went to my grandma's funeral and so I was gone Friday, September 4th through Sunday, September 6th. And then it was Labor Day, but Mr. Simple had taken the kids out of town for the weekend, so I wasn't there, taking pictures or doing any of the fun Labor Day stuff.

3. Preschool started the day after Labor Day, on Tuesday, September 8th, so I just finished the first week of preschool.

4. Spent the last two nights canning some of our garden's harvest - tomato sauce and green beans. My sister and I used a pressure canner for the first time. I had been a little nervous about it, but I shouldn't have been. It was easy. It took us awhile, but it was easy.

5. I've just sort of been in a funk. Haven't felt like "talking" and wasn't really feeling inspired to write anything.

But as soon as I get my camera back (I left it at my sister's house), at the very least, I'll do a picture post about canning.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Quotable Sundays - Overcoming Difficulty

(From Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Family Collection)

After all, what is a difficulty but a direct challenge? "Here I am in your way," it says, "you cannot get around me nor overcome me! I have blocked your path!" Anyone of spirit will accept the challenge and find some way to get around or over, or through that obstacle.

(Overcoming Our Difficulties)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Quotable Sundays - Growing Older

(From Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Family Collection)

There is nothing in the passing of the years by itself, to cause one to become melancholy. If they have been good years, then the more of them the better. If they have been bad years, be glad they are passed and expect the coming ones to be more to your liking.

(Keep Journeying On)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

My grandma died yesterday (m)

She was 91 years old. I had a long, lovely relationship with her. When I was growing up living in Nebraska, every year, we would camp for two weeks in Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, etc., and then spend a week at my grandparents in Utah. I remember having water fights with my grandpa in the back yard, and my grandma bringing us out vanilla ice cream in plastic cups afterwards. I remember my grandma being able to fall asleep anywhere and her snoring, and then her always saying that she wasn't asleep. I remember her giving me the complete set of Trixie Belden books one summer.

One year, when I was 13, my parents let me fly out by myself and stay for a month before they came out. My grandma took me to lots of plays, including As You Like It in a local Shakespeare In The Park show. She loved acting, and did acting in the area up until she was in her 70s

When I was older, and living in Utah, my sister and I spent one summer living with my grandparents. I remember going down to the basement at night to watch the news and cool off and crochet. Lots of crocheting.

My grandpa died shortly after Mr. Simple and I got engaged. But my grandma flew out to be with me when we got married. One of my favorite pictures from that day is one of her and I standing together. Here it is:

August 1995 - Me and my Grandma

We went out to visit a few times over the years. She got to meet all of the children. Our most recent visit was in 2006. I remember going to her house and it seeming so different. But it really wasn't. I'd just grown up.

I have a picture somewhere from that day of all the Beth's - my grandma's first name is Beth, and my mom's first name is Beth (but she goes by her middle name) and Jelly Bean's middle name is Beth.

My grandparents had 7 children, and my mom is the oldest child. I am the oldest female grandchild. Grandma Beth was my only living grandparent. I was so lucky to have so many experiences with her.

She took a turn for the worst suddenly this afternoon. My dad left a message at 7:05 pm saying that she had gotten ill, and that they didn't expect her to live more than 24 hours. By the time my dad called my sister at 7:10 pm, she had died.

I love you Grandma. Rest In Peace.