I feel like I've been in information overload lately.  There are so many great blogs and web pages and lots of wonderful people.  I'll find one great link that leads me to a dozen more.  Here are some nifty things I've found lately:
  • I've always wanted to make petit fours, and I've bookmarked Bakerella's post, with its beautiful photos and a delicious-looking recipe for cream cheese pound cake.
  • Cooking During Stolen Moments has some great recipes (check out her top 10 chicken recipes).  I also love her cooking method: Use those little moments throughout the day to prepare dinner so there's no need to panic at 5:00.
  • Looking to create good habits or quit bad ones? My Bad Habits is an interesting blog by a psychology professor all about the science behind habits.
  • Check out Alyssa Avant's webpages: Beauty by Design Online, and Life From My Laptop.  She's a Christian writer and speaker, and I've really been enjoying her blog.  I've also been following her on Twitter (@alyssaavant), and she's always gracious, even when I ask her lots of questions. =)
  • Have you seen Homeschool Freebie of the Day?  Every weekday, they offer a new homeschool-related download for free.  If you sign up for their e-mail newsletter, you'll also get a subscribers-only freebie each week.
(This picture of our garden was taken a week or two ago.)

Isn't gardening amazing?

I've never really had a garden before, but Chickpea really wanted to become a farmer.  She may have been born in Jersey, but apparently she's a country girl at heart!  So we tore up a 50 square foot patch of grass and tried to squeeze in way too many plants.  So began Chickpea's "small-scale farm."

Yesterday, we had our first harvest: four beautiful, tasty-looking jalapenos!


I'm just as excited as Chickpea.  It's been so much fun watching the plants grow and produce fruit.  There are more peppers on the way and oodles of tomatoes.  We also planted watermelon and muskmelon plants.  We kind of ignored the spacing requirements for those, but apparently they really do need ten feet of space.  Those things are taking over!

I realized last night that I should be keeping a gardening journal of some kind, both as a scrapbook and as an idea file for future years.

I'd love to hear from those of you that garden!
  • What kinds of things do you plant?
  • What tips do you have for a newbie?
  • Do you keep a gardening journal?

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(This is not my library.  I'm so sad.)

I have five different library cards:
  • Smalltownville Library
  • The Town In Which We Used to Live library
  • Cute Historic Town Library
  • Town With the Grocery Store Library
  • Big City Library
Why?  Because libraries really, really Work for Me!  Here's why:

Free Books!  This is obvious, but I think we tend to take this for granted.  Think of it: An entire building filled with books that you are welcome to take home and read, for free!  It's the perfect opportunity to try something new without worrying about the cost.  I currently have about 50 books checked out of various libraries.  Assuming the average book cost is $12, that's $600 worth of books sitting in my living room.

No Clutter!  Sure, some books are worth owning.  You'll read them over and over again, or they're reference books.  Most books, however, are read once and then placed on a shelf to collect dust.  Why not let the librarians do the dusting instead?

Any Book!  If you can't find the book you're looking for, many libraries offer an Inter-Library Loan program.  They'll find a library that has the book you want and will have it shipped to your local branch.  Some libraries do this for free, while others charge a small fee.  (My library will do it for $1 per book.)

Just Pick 'Em Up!  I love this one!  If your library has an online catalog, you may be able to reserve the books you want.  The librarian will gather your books and have them waiting behind the circulation desk.  This is such a timesaver!  No more running all over the library with a scrap of paper filled with call numbers.  It's especially awesome at my Big City library.  It's actually a network of five or six libraries, and I can use the online system to reserve books from any of those branches.  They'll deliver all the books to the central branch without charging me ILL fees.

(Oh, and two final tips: Keep all of your library books in one spot and mark the due dates on your calendar in red ink.)

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(Library photo from Radioher's Flickr photostream.)


I love the idea of homeschooling.

As a kid, I went to public school, and really hadn't heard of homeschooling.  I had some great teachers and got a good education.  Plus, my mom's a teacher, and last year she became an elementary school principal.

But I still wanted to homeschool.  Even before Chickpea was born, I dreamed of homeschooling her.  When she started showing an interest in reading, we bought Hooked on Phonics and I taught her to read.  It was so much fun for both of us!  I always assumed we'd homeschool full-time when she got old enough.

Now here we are.  She's about to enter first grade, and for the past few months, the issue has been on the front burner.  As much as I wanted to teach her at home, as much as I was looking forward to it and had my heart set on it, it doesn't seem to be God's plan for us right now.

It broke my heart.

DangerBear tried to comfort me by reminding me that I could still do homeschool-type things at home, and that in reality, EVERY parent is a homeschooling parent.  That's totally true, by the way, and besides, academics is only one part of a well-rounded Christian education.

It still broke my heart.

On thinking and praying, though, I'm able to see how God has orchestrated this.  Even though we're in a pretty rural area, there's an excellent Christian school nearby.  I've set up a meeting with the principal and the first grade teacher, and the principal is incredibly nice and enthusiastic.

We haven't made a final decision yet.  The meeting is tomorrow, so it depends on the answers to the questions we have.  If you have a moment, I'd like to ask for your prayer.  I know God has a plan for Chickpea's education, and we want to follow it!  I'd also love to hear about your experiences, whether your children attend public or private school or are homeschooled.

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Schoolhouse Photo Source: AriCee's Flickr photostream.

Future Christian Homemakers- Their handbook, subtitled, "Teaching Girls to Become Successful Homemakers," can be downloaded for free.  Maybe it can teach me to become a successful homemaker!

Real Simple Magazine- Did you know you could get a 1-year subscription to Real Simple for only $5?  I don't know if this is Amazon's regular price or some sort of promotion, but it's a fantastic deal!

When is a Cookie Not a Cookie- This thought-provoking article from It's Not About Nutrition gives a different take on "healthy" sweets.

The Healthy and Fit Algorithm- Leo at Zen Habits gets right to the point with some basic tips on eating right and exercising.

Three Paths to Fitness- Can you do 100 pushups?  How about 200 sit-ups and squats?  No?  Me neither.  But Get Fit Slowly has links to three programs that can help you get there.  I'm working on the pushups, though I freely admit having to do girly pushups on my knees.

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I tend to have some sleep problems from time to time, whether it’s taking too long to fall asleep or repeatedly waking up at night.  Lately, though, I’ve had a much harder time, so I decided to do some research into getting a better night’s sleep.  I found some great information and wanted to share what I learned, because a good night’s sleep Works for Me!

Getting a Good Night’s Sleep



  • How much sleep do you need?  Obviously, if your body needs 8 hours of sleep and you’re only getting 6, you need to make some changes.  However, the opposite is also true: Trying to sleep 8 or more hours when you only need 6-7 will not only be difficult, but can make you groggy during the day.
  • Have a regular sleep schedule.  This means going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning, including weekends.  I’m sorry.
  • The bedroom is for sleeping.  (And, ahem, other things…)  Using the bedroom for working, paying bills, watching TV, etc. can make it difficult to fall asleep later.  You want your mind to associate the bedroom with sleeping.
  • In what condition is your mattress?  If it’s sagging in the middle, or just plain old, you might need to save up for a new one.  Also, take into account whether you prefer a softer or harder mattress.  While you’re at it, make sure you’re sleeping on a comfy pillow that provides enough support.


During the Day:

  • Get enough sunshine.  Your body uses the daily cycles of light and dark to figure out when it should be asleep.  (I know, that’s a very technical explanation!)  I’ve found that if I don’t get much sunlight during the day, I don’t sleep as well.
  • Be active!  I can see this very clearly with Chickpea, and I have no doubt it works for us adults, too: Getting plenty of movement during the day helps you sleep better at night.
  • Clean your room, young lady!  Make your bed in the morning, and keep your bedroom neat and clean.  Visual clutter can be stress-inducing, and climbing into an unmade bed surrounded by mess can certainly make it hard to relax.
  • Don’t nap during the day.  I’ve been guilty of this lately, and it’s easy to fall into a vicious cycle.  Sleep poorly one night, then take a nap the next afternoon, and then you can’t fall asleep again that night!  Unless you’re a newborn, daytime is not for sleeping.


A Few Hours Before Bed:

  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol.  This will be different for everyone.  Maybe you can tolerate a cup of coffee an hour before bed, while someone else needs to steer clear of coffee for at least five hours.
  • Eat a light dinner.  Or at least, don’t eat an exceptionally heavy meal.  It’s no fun trying to sleep when dinner is heavy like lead in your stomach.
  • Don’t snack right before bed.  Same reason as above.
  • Or, have a snack!  Sometimes having a little something (key word: little) can keep you from being too hungry to sleep.


30 Minutes Before Bed:

  • Avoid the screen.  This means TV, movies, and (gulp) the Internet.  It’s way too easy to get caught up in it until it’s suddenly way past your bedtime.  Plus, the bright light of the computer screen isn’t exactly conducive to sleep.
  • Dim the lights.  The idea is to get your body to realize that it’s almost bedtime.  Try turning off the overhead lights and just using a bedside lamp.
  • Get the temperature right.  In general, people sleep better in a slightly cool room.  If possible, turn the air conditioning down a couple degrees at night.  Try using ceiling or floor fans to keep the air circulating.  Use lightweight sheets and pajamas.  (In the winter, of course, you’ll want to use quilts and blankets.)  Take a cool shower if you need to.
  • Have a relaxing before-bed routine.  This will be different for each person, but the key is to start winding down in preparation for sleep.  Here are some ideas:
    • Turn on some soft music or hymns.
    • Take a shower or bath to relax.
    • Read a magazine or book (nothing intense, though).
    • Have a cup of (decaffeinated) tea or a glass of warm milk.
    • Work on a relaxing hobby, like knitting or crocheting.
    • Write in a journal.
    • Read the Psalms.
    • Perform some relaxation exercises (for example, yoga).
    • Use aromatherapy: lavender and chamomile are very relaxing.
  • Avoid arguments.  Tense discussions should be saved for another time.
  • Pray! Ask God for help, and pray for a good night’s rest.  Also be sure to thank Him for the blessings He’s given you!


At Bedtime:

  • Turn out the lights.  Remember, you want your body to know it’s time for sleep.  If necessary, use a sleep mask to block out light.
  • Don’t look at the clock.  Face it away from you if necessary.  You don’t need to be constantly reminded of the time.
  • Make it quiet.  Get rid of ticking clocks and other noise-makers.  If this isn’t possible, try using a “white noise” machine.
  • Get comfy and relax.  Keep your eyes closed and focus on relaxing all of your muscles.  Try tensing and then relaxing your muscles, starting at your feet and working your way up.
  • Breathe.  Focus on your breathing, and make sure you’re breathing from your stomach and not just your chest.
  • Don’t force it.  Don’t think things like, “If I don’t fall asleep right now, I won’t be able to get up in the morning!”  Trust me: That doesn’t help.  Instead, focus your thoughts on how comfortable you are and how sleepy you feel.  Relaxing, empty sorts of thoughts.  Try pretending you’re somewhere relaxing, like alone on a beach.
  • Find out what’s bugging you.  If thoughts or worries tend to keep you awake, then keep a notepad and pen next to the bed.  Jot down any tasks you want to remember.  If you’re stressed about something, try making a list: “Things That Are Bothering Me.”  Write down everything that comes to mind.  It sounds silly, but it often helps to simply identify what’s on your mind.


If You’re Still Having Trouble:

  • Don’t just lie there.  If you can’t fall asleep, get up and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy.  Keep the lights low and stay off the computer.  Even sitting in a comfortable chair with the lights off may help.
  • Write it all down.  Sometimes it’s just hard to turn your mind off!  If you just can’t clear your mind, try stream of consciousness writing.  Grab a cheap notebook or some paper and start writing.  Forget grammar, spelling, and even complete sentences.  Write down your thoughts as you have them.  Don’t worry if it’s sloppy or doesn’t make any sense.  The point is to get it all out of your head so you can relax.
  • See a doctor.  If you’re having consistent trouble falling or staying asleep, it might be best to see your doctor.  Sometimes insomnia can be a symptom of an underlying condition.


If you have some advice for getting a good night’s sleep, I hope you’ll share it in the comments!  A lot of people have trouble sleeping from time to time, and it’s really helpful to have a “plan of action” to help get your sleep back on track.


It was a weekend morning, and the house was gloriously quiet.  DangerBear was still asleep.  Chickpea had eaten her breakfast and was reading in her bedroom.  I was downstairs, in the living room, absorbing the peacefulness.  I rearranged the couch pillows and lay down.  At this point, I probably sighed in contentment.  All was right with the world.

Then something buzzed by my ear.


A fly.  A fly that apparently found me irresistible, as it repeatedly dive-bombed me and buzzed around my head.  I grabbed a nearby magazine and swatted, but to no avail: The beast was too fast.  I decided to ignore it, and returned to the couch.  The fly followed.  I swatted, in vain.  The game continued until Chickpea finished her book and came downstairs to ceaselessly ask me random questions.


My ill-fated nap was made even more frustrating by the fact that it was my own fault.  I had spotted the fly earlier that morning: It had landed, lethargically, on the table next to my chair.  I could have caught it at that moment, but Alas!  In a ridiculous act of procrastination, I decided to do it later.


In between aggravating fly-catching attempts, I pondered the parallels between my current endeavor and the consequences of procrastination.


The ramifications of putting something off are annoying and inconvenient.  Procrastinating on something that needs to be done, even a small task, has consequences.  Sure, losing the chance for a nap isn’t a big deal; it’s just kind of annoying.  Putting something off might not lead to catastrophe, but not having it done right away will have some kind of fallout.


Procrastination is stressful.  How can you enjoy yourself if That Thing You Should Be Doing But Aren’t keeps invading your thoughts?  Like the fly that kept buzzing past my ear, That Thing makes it impossible for you to relax.  You feel guilty for putting it off, so it keeps “bugging” you.  (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!)


Procrastinating usually ends up requiring more effort than necessary.  If I had caught the fly while it was relaxing contentedly on the table, I would have saved myself some time and effort.  Here’s a more normal example: If I put off spot-treating a stained shirt, the stain will set.  I’ll then have to repeatedly treat and wash it, hoping the stain will eventually come out.  If I treat the stain right away, the shirt will come clean in the wash and everybody’s happy.  Doing it now saves time later.


I would like to thank that little fly (may it rest in peace) for teaching me these valuable lessons, and for providing me with an appropriate, though bizarre, analogy.  Does this mean I’ll never procrastinate again?  Sadly, no.  It’s a deeply ingrained habit for me, but it’s one I’m working on.  Actually, it’s probably a good thing my nap was interrupted.  I should have been doing laundry.

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Photo of sleeping cat from End of Level Boss on Flickr.


There is a LOT of great information on the Internet, and one of these days I'll actually organize my bookmarks.  For now, here are some things that have caught my eye lately:

In the Kitchen

  • These chocolate yogurt snack cakes at Smitten Kitchen look so good I almost licked my computer screen.  Plus, they have yogurt in them, so they must be healthy, right?

Craft Time

  • Okay, I don't know how to knit anything that isn't rectangular, but Alana at Never Not Knitting makes the most adorable projects!

On Homekeeping

One of My Favorites

  • A young Israeli housewife shares her thoughts on marriage, mothering, and homemaking at Domestic Felicity.  I always look forward to what she has to say.

Our Relationship with Christ

  • What is the difference between living for God and living for anything else?  An interesting book review got me thinking.

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