Finding Little Moments

To observe, enjoy and create in everyday life

Life School

Over the last number of years, our family has had a number of days we've labeled "Life School." These are times set aside with the intention of teaching our boys something that we want to ensure they know before leaving the home. Life School goes beyond doing simple household chores like vacuuming or putting dishes away. Many Life School times are simple, like teaching the boys how to properly iron or fold a shirt. And other nights are what I am not embarrassed to call a "guy" skill snaking the drain in the bathtub. (Yes, maybe I should attend that Life School session. But so far I have not been in attendance... and no one has called me on it.) For the most part, all Life Schools are meant to help the boys be more responsible and self-reliant when they are on their own.

Some Life School nights start with a small skill and build to bigger ones. Cooking would be a good example of this. When the boys were quite young, I taught them how to scramble an egg, cook a package of ramen, or throw together some other simple food item. Now, at sixteen and eighteen, they each plan for and cook a full meal one night a week. I love when they cook dinner for us. Our younger boy, Alex, is quite adventurous in his cooking. Recently he made some fantastic gyros, and around Christmas time he took the time to make a delicious dinner of pork-filled bao. This week Jackson baked a batch of sugar cookies because he thought we needed a tasty cookie to go with our tea. Both boys have discovered that cooking and baking are fun hobbies, and they will be able to feed themselves something beyond a bowl of Top Ramen when they are living on their own.

Teaching the boys how to use various power tools or work beside Brandon in building and remodeling projects over the years has been another set of Life School "classes." In working alongside Brandon, one boy has discovered that while he can use tools, these are not his favorite type of projects. Our other son has learned that he really enjoys working with his hands and seeing a project go from a drawing on paper to a real life, useable object. He is now preparing to study Project Management next year at college. Exposing Jackson and Alex to these types of life skills has opened their eyes to the possibilities (or not) of future careers.

Our most recent Life School sessions have been centered around personal finance. Years ago my husband found Dave Ramsey's radio show while traveling the highways of Montana and Idaho on work trips. Dave Ramsey teaches listeners how to pay down their debts, make a plan for their money, and save for emergencies all with the idea of making a positive change in their families. There are books of his you can purchase or local classes you can attend to learn more about all of this. (this is not a sales pitch...just telling you what we did).

As a young couple following Ramsey's program, it was life changing. Brandon and I adopted many of Ramey's methods and have been consistent with them for almost 20 years now. But where would we be if we had started out debt free? If we began adulthood with no student loans or credit card debt? What if we had an understanding of how money worked, how to budget it, created sinking funds for future purchases instead of charging them and had set up a fund for emergencies? Think of the stress and misunderstandings we could have skipped.

With all of this in mind, our family has been sitting down every Wednesday night for the last couple of months to tackle the lessons in Foundations in Personal Finance: High School Edition. Our goal with these Life School sessions is to help our boys make sound decisions about their money and how they manage it. These are lessons we began to learn in our late twenties, but our boys are learning and applying them as teens. It's exciting to me that they will have this foundation to begin their adult lives. The conversations these lessons have led to have been an added bonus.

The thing about Life School though is that it doesn't have to be limited to kids. Even adults can participate. Is there a life skill you've always wanted to learn, like how to fix a broken appliance, change a car tire, or roast a chicken? Whatever it is, I encourage you to set a goal, find a resource or mentor and do it! We are never too old to learn something new. Taking the time and dedication to learn various life skills may save you money, time, or stress. It will certainly build your confidence. And, who knows, it may be life changing.

So... what would it be for you? What is a Life School session that you would set up for yourself?


New Year, New Home

Have you ever had a dream that you held onto for decades and then at some point all the pieces fell into place for that dream to become a reality? That is exactly what happened for my husband and I this last year. In the months since I last posted, we sold our home in the suburbs and purchased a home on a small piece of property in a neighboring community. If you would have told me at the beginning of 2020 that we were going to make this move, I would have never believed you...but I probably wouldn't have believed anyone about a worldwide pandemic either. So, go figure. 

Brandon and I have always wanted to own a home on property. And we had been talking about and saving toward buying property in the near future. Our boys are both in high school now, and we thought that when they moved off to college he and I would look for property then. We didn't want to unnecessarily uproot them from their schools and friends and so we figured we would just wait a few more years. But 2020 threw us all a curveball, didn't it? 

With months of lockdowns in Washington state, our boys were both attending school remotely. My husband's work schedule and travel changed drastically. Add to that both boys were now able to drive themselves to where they needed to go (granted that has not been many places this year). And there was the added bonus that interest rates were at record lows and homes in our area were selling quite quickly. Brandon and I realized that we no longer had to wait for "the right time" to make the move. 2020 was the right time. 

In late July we decided we would begin the process of getting our current home ready for market and start looking to see what was out there. We had a wish list of things we wanted in a home and property and thought that it would take awhile to find what we were looking for in our future home. We didn't even tell many of our friends and family what we were up to because we thought this process would take months. Honestly, we loved our current home so much that everything in a new place would have to be pretty spot on for us to take the leap.

I guess I should not have been surprised then when we found our new home in a month. I happened to see the listing pop up on Zillow one morning in August and took my learning-to-drive-son out for a drive by that afternoon. As soon as we came up to the house, I knew it was "the one." I sent a link of the listing to Brandon and called our realtor to set up a viewing appointment. The next day we were scheduled to see it. When Brandon pulled up the driveway, he said, "We can just write up an offer right now. I don't even need to see it" (of course we did go inside). 

How could he say that? A little over twenty years ago, Brandon and I owned 2.5 acres in the greater Seattle area, and we had plans to build a home on the property. An across state move and a baby on the way prompted the sale of that property. The home we were standing in front that sunny afternoon in August also sat on 2.5 acres and happened to be almost identical to the home we were looking to build all those years ago. Our many years of dreaming, saving, planning had come full circle.

We submitted an offer that evening and worked even harder to get our home on the market. By the tail end of September, we were moved into our new home and our old home had an offer on it. All the pieces had fallen into place. 

There have been many moments over the last few months where I find myself still in a state of unbelief that we have found this home, this property...that we are finally living in the country. It doesn't seem real that our daydream is happening now and not in the future. I feel so blessed to have this space. I look forward to the new dreams we can build here. The things we can grow. The animals we can raise. The family gatherings we can host. I look forward to spending the next decades here with Brandon as we enter a new phase of our life together.  

So, I hope you will join me as we build our next phase of life on this land. We've been spending the winter watching the land. Seeing how the sun moves across the property and determining best where to place our garden. Discovering the deer, rabbits and birds that cross through and scheming how to enjoy them but also keep them from eating our future food. Walking around the property and envisioning a future shop/barn area, an area for an orchard, a pasture for some animals. It's all quite exciting!

Happy New Year!

~ Family photo taken by Katie Roskam

The Beginning of Summer & Book Club

It may not look like most summers, but summer is here. The boys are out of school, the weather is warming up and the days are filled with caring for the garden and going on close-to-home adventures. Had summer gone as planned, our family would have been traveling through Utah this past week exploring some of our nation's beautiful parks. We decided to postpone this bucket list trip and wait until next year. Instead these last few weeks have found us out in the back garden picking bowlfuls of strawberries, cherries and blueberries. We turned them into pancakes and pies and still had plenty to freeze for later use. We've hopped in the car to explore favorite trails that are less than an hour away. We've read books and played games and watched movies. We've celebrated an amazing dad and barbecued in the backyard and watched a pair of chickadees fly to and from their little nest on our back deck. For not going "as planned", summer is treating us all perfectly fine!

I found some time this last month to make and finish one of two quilted throw pillows for the side chairs in our family room. I'm really happy with the scrappiness of the grays and whites. The squares are cut for the second pillow, so I just need to find a couple of free afternoons to make up the second pillow.
And I have been plugging away on my Emoryi Shawl. Today (June 30th) is the last official day of the Crochet Along. I am about four rows from finishing, so I won't quite make the deadline. I did receive the new color to add to the shawl instead of the blue I had shown at the beginning of the month. I'm happy with how this color works. I think it gives the project the pop of color I was looking for. I'll make sure to post when the shawl is finished!

Last week we ventured a little further from home to visit my mom in Central Oregon. It was her birthday, so I think that warranted a trip to see her! She and I took the boys to the Painted Hills for a day trip while my husband had some work appointments. This is the second time we had been to the Painted Hills. You feel a bit like you've driven onto the set of a Western movie. It's beautiful...and in the middle of nowhere! The first time we went, it was so hot that we didn't explore far. This time around, the weather was perfect for exploring some of the trails. We finished off our day trip with lunch in Mitchell, OR. It was a great day!

One last note before I send you off, Kristin from Chicken Librarian will be having an online book discussion in July. We would love to have you join us! This go around we are reading The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson. I had read this book a couple months ago and asked Kristin if she had read it yet. She had not, but it was on her to-be-read-list. So naturally it became the next book selection for Chicken Librarian Reads. I hope you will snag a copy of the book, read it (seriously it should only take you a few days) and join us online for a discussion. The online book chat will happen on Thursday, July 16th at 4pm (PST). You can find a link to the Zoho meeting room here in Kristin's post about the book chat: Chicken Librarian Reads. If you can't find a copy at your local library, the link for the book above takes you to Amazon where you can find a free Kindle version of the book. Chat with you soon!

Until next time,

~ Linking with Ginny's Yarn Along

A Little Bit of Everything

A few projects have been keeping my hands busy this month. I joined Cerulean Orchid's Emoryi Shawl Crochet Along and have been enjoying this simple, yet striking pattern as it builds. I have come to a bit of a stand still in the project though as I am not happy with my third color choice. I think the blue I chose, while it goes overall with the other two colors, is not the best choice for this pattern. I feel like it needs a lighter color or a brighter color. Otherwise the whole thing will end up looking a little flat. I ordered another skein in a lighter shade of purple, so I will see how that goes when it arrives next week.

I also finished up a baby quilt to be given to a couple at church who are expecting their first little one next month. I love the scrappiness of this quilt. Looking at these pieces of fabrics, I see some that were given to me by a friend, others that have been used in past baby quilts, and even a few squares of leftover fabric from a dress I made for my niece eight years ago. Quilts like these are always the most enjoyable to work on because they bring back memories of other projects.

While my hands have been crocheting or stitching, I have been listening to some great books! I am following along with CraftLit's current season: Anne Bronte's Tenant of Wildfell Hall. This is a Bronte book that I have not read, and I am really enjoying listening to the story. I appreciate how Heather Ordover (podcast host) walks you through different aspects of the time period, author's life, important plot developments, and character traits to pay attention to as you listen. Another great listen was Quilt Fiction's reading of Aunt Jane of Kentucky by Eliza Calvert Hall. As for paper books, I read and enjoyed Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance and A Land of Sheltered Promise by Jane Kirkpatrick.

My boys and I have been spending a lot of time in the kitchen over the last few months.  We've made pies and cookies and brownies, and yummy dinners, and bread! I have been tending a sourdough starter that has been producing some delicious loaves of bread for us. I swore I would not get another pet, but I feel like the keeping and feeding of a sourdough starter (which is very much like keeping a pet) has been worth it!

Our garden is doing well this spring. We pulled some of our first veggies and berries from the garden this week and have been cutting bouquets of peonies for a couple weeks now. Next to bloom will be the jasmine and hydrangeas. And next to pick should be the blackberries and blueberries. The strawberries we have picked so far (our season is just starting this week) have been delicious! I think we'll be making another strawberry pie tomorrow with some of the berries.

After many weeks of not seeing any of my friends in person, I broke the rules and got together for some one-on-one walks with close friends. I am very blessed to have the amazing family I have. My guys are great complaints here! But, I have missed getting together with a girlfriend and just chatting. Sometimes about current projects, books we are reading, new plants for the garden, or nothing really at all. So getting out a handful of times for a walk with a girlfriend has been a real treasure for me these last few weeks.

I hope this finds you well. That your days have been filled with both productive time and creative time. That you have found ways to connect with family and friends either in person, over the phone or through online platforms like Zoom. And, I hope that you have had some beautiful spring weather to soak up. Fresh air and sunshine is such a game changer!

Goodbye for now,

~ Linking up with Ginny's Yarn Along

Vegetable Jail

There are slugs, aphids, squirrels, birds, cabbage moths and a dozen other pests that we try to keep out of our gardens. And then there are the pests that aren't really pests. They are your pets...and yet they can become pests. 
This spring as I have been trying to outsmart the slugs and aphids at their game, I have also been waging a battle with my own pets as pests. They can look so cute and unassuming while they sleep in the sun or pose for a picture. But then when you catch them a couple hours staring at you from the middle of your vegetable bed, they are not such cute little furballs. 

Because of our pets' naughty behavior, this has become my gardening reality. Fencing whipped up out of odds and ends found around our yard. It's not pretty. I want to look out at my veggie beds and see all of the seedlings cropping up. I do not want to see a mini vegetable jail. Because I refused to spend money on fencing to keep the cats out, I ended up utilizing the three different types of fencing that I had stashed in my shed. This will never be a cover photo of Sunset magazine, but it has worked.

Mostly. Now the pup has discovered that she can gently pull the snap peas from the trellis and nip them off one by one. Does your dog like to eat snap peas as well? I think I have lost my entire crop to her. Pests are part of any garden. We just don't like to look out and see our pets playing the role of pest. But it is the reality at times. Isn't it?
How do you deal with your lovable pets wrecking havoc on your vegetable garden? Have you found a foolproof way to grow your veggies and keep all of the furry critters out?

Happy Gardening (with your pets),

Suburban Foraging

While out on a walk with a friend a couple of weeks ago, we noticed some Miner's Lettuce growing rampantly along the parking strip. We both remarked, "Oh, it's an edible!" and quickly snapped up a few leaves. It was only after we each swallowed those little green mouthfuls that I asked, "I wonder how many neighborhood dogs have peed here?" Yuck!

In the early spring there are many, many wild edibles that most of us view as weeds. You will find them growing alongside neighborhood sidewalks, front lawns, flower beds, and pretty much anywhere. There are so many wild edibles growing throughout your neighborhood that you could build a salad for your dinner. 

However, before you put any of these wild edibles in your mouth (this is one of those 'do as I say, not as I do' kind of scenarios) you would want to make sure to only harvest what you can correctly identify, know has not had any chemicals applied, or been peed on by neighborhood dogs. Essentially, I would stick to collecting wild edibles from places that are not in high traffic areas. 

Or, you can cultivate some of them in your own garden. These little violets, which look quite pretty on a salad, are growing all throughout my front garden. I used to despise these violets because they were everywhere. I also have history with this plant that added to my dislike. In college I had a summer job for a retired professor. I kept house for him and worked in his garden. I spent weeks pulling violets from his gardens and swore I never wanted to see another violet again. And here they now grow in my own garden. I did NOT plant them mind you. This year I am trying to view them as the pretty little edible flower that they are and not as a plant to hate. They are slowly winning their way back into my heart. 

Dandelions are another spring edible that are easy to find and identify. Their leaves can be eaten raw or cooked, and their flowers make a fun little fritter. And of course there is dandelion wine (I have never tried it. I've only had my mom tell me about it). I have found that our pet rabbits love dandelions, and our chickens do too. Apparently they are the perfect spring green for everyone. If you are not into eating dandelions, consider leaving them for the bees. Or your neighborhood kids who are looking to make a wish. 

One last addition to your Suburban Salad...Bittercress, also known as Shotweed. Beginning in the winter and leaning into the spring, you can find bittercress just about anywhere in my garden. This is a weed that can be eaten raw in salads or on sandwiches. Pick it early in the season before the flowers go to seed. If not, you will quickly discover why it also goes by the name Shotweed (you might consider wearing protective eye wear!). Again, this is a weed that our chickens gobble up.

Two books that I recommend to help you identify what is edible and know how to prepare it would be The Front Yard Forager by Melany Vorass Herrera and Foraging Washington by Christopher Nyerges. Each of these books have great pictures, written descriptions as well as look alikes to watch out for. As the year moves into summer, you will be able to forage wild berries and dozens of other delicious plants.

Happy Foraging,

Building One Another Up

In January I shared with you about a trip my husband and I would be taking through our church denomination to see first hand a ministry project in Monrovia, Liberia. This was the first time (and hopefully not the last) I have taken any trip like this, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to have met the women behind the Liberia Women's Empowerment Project. We had heard about this project a few years ago when they were in need of sewing machines to start a project center, and we had wanted to know more about what they were doing. I am sharing with you today specifically because the project is celebrating its first graduation ceremony. Today, on March 29th, 2020,  in the capital city of Liberia, 174 women will be recognized for their successful completion of one of the project's four training courses! 

The Liberia Women's Empowerment Project offers four different training courses for women in the area at three different Nazarene churches. The program began a few years ago when a small group of women gathered at an area church to discuss how to help the women in their community. Many of the women had received very little education as young girls, had no marketable skills and were attempting to raise children on their own. They felt they had no hope. No dignity.
And so, the Project was born out of a desire to equip women with a skill that would allow them to operate a small business or be hired by a local employer. But more importantly, by learning a trade and gathering in community, the women of Monrovia were gaining self worth. They could begin to see that they each had value.

As the project wraps up it's first class, they have been able to offer four different training tracts. Women who come to be a student at one of the three centers are able to learn catering, tailoring, soap making or fabric dying. The catering and tailoring courses are currently 18 month classes that meet twice a week. The soap making and fabric dying are 6 month courses that meet twice weekly. Not only are the women taught a marketable skill while taking a course, but they are also encouraged to be part of a savings group. These savings groups are ones where women can safely save some of the money they earn so that they have the start up costs to begin a business or to purchase needed items for their families. The women are also led through different life skills classes. Other women in the community will mentor the students in homemaking, hygiene and parenting. Through all of this, the women are creating a deeper community with one another. One that is built on learning skills together and having trust in one another.

The final piece to this program is teaching the women small business skills. At the end of training, it is the hope that the women would either be able to have an individual market business or to create a small group business in  their neighborhood. They would be taught about how to make a profit, supply and inventory needs, and other necessary skills to operating a very simple business. Building a business component that is suited to the students is part of the next phase of the project. Brandon and I are hoping to be a help in this area.

Here is a group shot of some of the women at one of the centers outside of Monrovia. It was amazing to spend the day with them and hear their stories. Some of the women there hoping to be able to support their older kids through college and others have young families at home they would like to send to one of the local schools. The local grade schools charge a tuition, and uniforms need to be purchased as well as supplies. It is a costly expense for these families to receive a basic education, but it is one that many of these women hope to give to their children.
The day we were there, many students had come to the center to show us the catering skills they had learned as well as their soap making and fabric dying trade. We were served a delicious lunch of rice and fish with a large slice of cake on the side. During the training, the women can take some of the items made at the school back to their neighborhoods to be sold (soap, fabric, baked goods). The students get to keep a portion of the money made and the remainder is given back to the school to purchase more supplies. So from early on, the women get to practice their business skills.

During our visit, I was able to meet some of the children too. If any of you know me personally, you know that I always gravitate toward kids. It's typically where I feel most comfortable. The two little girls pictured above are daughters of two center students. While their moms were in class, I hung out with these little girls and a few of their friends. After a little bit shyness, we got to chatting. At one point I asked if the girls' moms were students at the school, their responses of how their mamas were learning to cook were so full of pride. This women's empowerment project is not only bringing dignity to the women in the courses but to their children as well.
This second photo was taken on our last day in Monrovia. We came to the center while school was still in session for the day. Many of the centers are multi-purpose. They are churches which offer grade school classes on some days and then the training centers other days. The day we visited was a Friday, so it was 'free dress' day for students. During their recess break, I visited with many of the students. They showed me their homework for the weekend, talked about their favorite classes and then shared with me what they hope to be when they grow up. There were many kids who want to be nurses, a few who wanted to be doctors, CDC workers, teachers, military and two who wanted to be president. Aspirations not really much different from kids in the United States. 

These are the ladies behind each of the centers. They are an amazing, giving group of teachers. Each of these women desire to see their students succeed. They work tirelessly as wives, mothers, business owners, as well as teachers at the centers. And, I am sure there are a dozen other things they are responsible for in their lives. But, they always had a smile on their faces. They are excited about the work being done in their communities. They have plans to improve, expand, and offer more to more women. All of the effort is worth it to them.

Thanks for letting me share a little bit about our trip. It was a quick trip! Not counting travel time, we were only able to be in Monrovia for three full days. Our trip was cut a bit short due to a snow storm, so we missed a visit to the tailoring center. But as you can see above, the tailoring students still found time to sew us custom made tops! The trip, though quick, was a life changing one for me. I was able to see a part of the world that I had never been to before. I was exposed to a community of women and men who have seen multiple civil wars in just a few short decades, who was devastatingly hit with the Ebola virus just a few years ago, who live in a country that ranks 150 out of 159 on the gender inequality index, and who daily experience a life in which I cannot begin to imagine the difficulties. I was allowed to witness a small group of people who are working hard to change the future. And, I was able to see how God works through all circumstances and all people. He uses each of us, if only we are open to it.

If you feel at all compelled to contribute to this project, you can do so here: Liberia Women's Empowerment Project. The project's ultimate goal is to have each center be self sustaining. The women who attend will pay a small tuition, and the items sold will also help support the cost of the centers. But there are start up costs to each of the centers, and hopes to open additional centers. Your financial contributions will help this project get on its feet.
Thank you.