"Sometimes Less is More" - Over on Liberating Working Moms

By today's standards our children would be considered "under-scheduled" when it comes to extracurricular activities. Read more about our journey and how we landed where we are on my latest post over on Liberating Working Moms! I signed on to be a monthly contributor as the site has relaunched. Come share your thoughts on activities and balance and what works for your family. 

Also, if there are any topics you'd like to hear more about, let me know! I can share them with the group and we can make sure those topics are on the calendar.


This Garden Life - Late August

The harvest season has begun in earnest and our counters are overflowing with vegetables. Some plants are fading back into the dirt and others have found a second life. I'm looking forward to more green beans, sweet peppers, and greens! I'm sad that the color is starting to fade from green to brown. There are empty beds on that side of our house that I can't wait to fill with flowers. Once we install gutters there, that is. For now they are thistle beds.
 Most of the work has moved from the garden to the kitchen. Baking, freezing, canning. I have yet to make any baby food, but it's definitely on my to-do list. Every year we have more tomatoes than the last and our potato harvest this year was awesome! I'm behind on baking, but so grateful that we now have a freezer in the basement to fill. I have to convince Brent to start making some of his amazing soups. Since he doesn't use a recipe I wouldn't know where to start! I bought a soup mug last year so I can reheat soups at work too.
I am sad to see this garden season winding down, but already excited to plan for next year. Mulching from day one for weed control. Planting more densely to yield even more. Trying new herbs and drying them for future use. Trying new veggies and tweaking old methods. MORE compost! Seeding indoors early (though I have to think this one through logistically). It's been a good year so far.
[Ezra with the biggest Yukon Gold we've ever seen!]
I post tons more photos of our goings on in the garden on Instagram if you want to follow along!


What I Read - July Edition

I first read Louise Erdrich in an American Lit course in college. While I hated the course and most of the reading material, I loved her book Tracks. This is the fourth book of hers I've read and it did not disappoint. The story begins when Faye Travers, and estate appraiser, discovers a painted drum. Recognizing its significance she makes a rash decision to steal the drum and return it to its rightful owner. The book tells the tale of the drum from before its inception to present day.

Erdrich has a wonderful ability to create rich, deep characters that find their ways throughout many of her books. Their lives are intertwined through family and heritage, their stories varied and complex. She is able to make you both love and despise a single character in the same chapter, by capturing their total humanity. She earnestly writes about both their best and worst qualities. I love stumbling on the life of a character I've read about before and learning how they are also tied to the new characters I've just met. I highly recommend picking up any book by Louise Erdrich.

This book is all about football and Texas, two things I cannot relate to in the slightest, so this shaped my opinion dramatically. Shea Rigsby is a lifelong football fan, so much so that she works for the sports department of her alma mater where her best friend's father is the head football coach. Throughout the book her life revolves around the sport: her job, her free time, her dating life. She makes some choices that turn her life upside down and has to figure out how to put it all back together again.

I struggled to get through the book, not connecting with any of the characters and not buying how they related to each other either. I did want to know how it ended but once I found out it was almost too perfect that it was just plain boring. One of those "the whole mess magically fell into place and everyone lived happily ever after" endings. While I love most of Giffin's earlier novels for beach reads, I would recommend letting this one pass you by. Even if you are a football fan, the character development is so poor it's still not worth your time.

A few months ago Stephen Chbosky, author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, sent me [and everyone on GoodReads who read his book] a personal message urging me to read this book. Who was I to argue with the recommendation of such a close, personal friend? Fifteen year old Laurel is given an English assignment to write a letter to a dead person. She starts with Kurt Cobain and continues on with Amelia Earhart, Amy Winehouse, e.e. cummings, and more. It is through these letters that she deals with the death of her older sister May that had happened the year before. She shares her first love, family problems, and fears with these dead icons who she finds inspiring in some way.

While the format of the story was very similar to Chbosky's novel, it was still a very sweet coming of age novel of a girl in crisis. Her sister gone, her family fallen apart, she did her best to find her voice and her place in the world. I fell in love with Laurel and through her her older sister May as well. This Young Adult novel is definitely worth checking out.  

[Disclaimer: If you click on the above Amazon links and purchase anything I receive a small commission from Amazon. Like a few cents, which I appreciate greatly. Buying from Amazon is awesome, but your local library or independent book stores are pretty cool too.]


This Garden Life - Early August

Somehow it is August and I realize that I wrote ONCE in July. And I haven't written a garden update since June. We've been living in a sea of change the past few months and it takes all of my energy and then some just to keep my head on straight. I find myself retreating to the garden any chance I get, no matter how short, and it never fails to center me. I can walk out there pulling out my hair and when I walk back into the house I feel renewed, ready to tackle whatever is next. Even with rampant perfectionism gnawing at me gardening really is my sweet spot.

We continue to learn more each year and I love it. And hate it. But mostly love it. We've battled deer for the first time this year, but no Japanese beetles. Our tomato plants are growing so heavy with fruit (yay!) that they are falling over even with cages and breaking (boo!). Next year we're going to forgo cages and plant them along some fencing and tie them up there instead. We're planting a second crop of many things just to see what happens. I'm actually writing down the dates I planted things now so we have better reference points in the future. I've been meaning to all summer, but those good intentions were buried somewhere in my sleep deprived brain.

We've canned 7 pints of cucumbers using a new dill pickle recipe this year. I've made carrot zucchini muffins and zucchini bread. I'm so glad we have a deep freeze we can utilize this season so we have more space for everything. We haven't been composting all summer and it's breaking my heart a bit. We didn't have a sustainable set up so I've got my eye on a few compost barrels that may become ours before too long here. [If you don't have a Fleet Farm or similar outfit near you you are missing out. Seriously.]

So there you have it. The garden is growing. We have a potato/tomato patch that is growing like mad. The jury is out on the onions, but I learned I planted them poorly. Oops. I will be planting garlic this fall for next year. We have no basil yet, so our pesto may be farmer's market supplemented. The sugar snap peas are the best I've ever had. The crabgrass is still a pain in the ass, but the newspaper/hay combo has been a huge help. I'm loving the whole mess of this thing called gardening. 
These ladies benefited from our mistake in planting WAY too many greens all at once.

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