Friday, May 30, 2008

BRINGING THE BEACH HOME: VACATION STATE OF MIND, AT HOMEAs I am writing this, I am listening to some great music and drinking a hot cup of tea with honey. Out of a beautiful cup and saucer. With a sugar cookie. And I realize, these simple pleasures bring the beach home for me. I feel as relaxed and happy and peaceful as if I were sitting on the beach with my toes in the sand.
Since we have come back home from the beach, I have been even more aware of what simple pleasures heighten the daily experiences of our lives. Here are a few simple ways that I try to elevate the ordinary to extraordinary in our home. I would love to hear yours.

-Play music throughout the day. In the morning, when we are cleaning house, or doing schoolwork, I play classical. Usually something methodical, like Bach. In the evening, while I am cooking, I play Jason Castro, Norah Jones, Indigo Girls, Rod Stewart, etc. At night, Chopin Nocturnes. I can't tell you how much this changes the mood.

-I keep clutter picked up and put away. Beds made first thing. Table cleared. I am so much happier to be at home when basic housecleaning is kept up with!

-Good linens. 100% cotton sheets, feather pillows, down comforter. Clean, fluffy towels.

-Bubble baths at night. It feels so decadent!

-A slower pace. I have been making more of an effort in recent weeks to be completely present. To stay home more. To read to the boys, several times a day. To snuggle and be still. I have picked up the piano again, for the first time in years. I am not putting off these small pleasures. When the boys ask to read, instead of saying "later", I say "Go get a book". In the evening after dinner, we will take a walk around the neighborhood as a family. These are things that I always have wanted to do regularly, but put off because of "busyness". That mindset is changing, since coming back from the beach.

-Good food. Fresh fruit. Wine. This is going to get it's own post.

-Extras: Candles lit at night, lights on dimmers. Creates an ambience and helps everyone relax. Wine with dinner. Dinner set with nice dishes, a centerpiece. Reading good books.

How do you relax at home?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

After a few days of second guessing myself, feeling vulnerable, and just generally being silly, I have decided to share my other blog, An Apple A Day. It documents my personal challenge to go 30 days on all raw and living foods. This is the first time in three years that I haven't been pregnant or nursing (knock on wood), and I am ready to be really proactive about losing this baby weight.
I guess I was hesitant to make it public because it feels a lot more personal than this blog does. I mean, this one is personal, but in a more abstract way. My food blog talks about my weight, my issues with food, and **gulp** "before" pictures of me in a bathing suit (consider yourself warned).
But, I have decided to share it now because there are several readers of this blog who's input I would really appreciate. Some of you eat raw, have eaten raw, are thinking about eating raw, etc. and I would really like to hear what you have to say. Plus, I did share my food blog with several friends a day or two ago, and have been so encouraged by the kind words I have received from them.
So, there you have it. It is what it is.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

BRINGING THE BEACH HOME: COMMUNAL LIVINGOne of the most enjoyable aspects of the beach (for me) was the communal living. All aspects of domestic life were heightened by shared responsibility and constant companionship. Cooking, cleaning, laundry, childcare, and leisure time were all spent in community. I think I would really love to live this way. It is so encouraging! Burdens are so much lighter, joys that much greater.

Most of the world lives in tribes, communities, large extended families, etc. I suppose some of that has been lost as our culture has become more global and living together has become the exception, rather than the rule, at least here in the US. My goal is to figure out how to translate the concepts of communal living into my life. Realistically, I am not going to sell my house and move into a commune. However, I do have the exceptional gift of living in the same town as much of my family. Outside of them, I have my larger church family and friends in the community.

How can I translate the concepts of tribe into my own life? I know it starts with me being more intentional in my relationships. My mom and I already practice several aspects of communal living, such as sharing childcare several times a week.
Also, we have lunch at church one Sunday a month with many other families. Our whole family LOVES this Sunday meal. The kids look forward to it, and so do we. Everyone brings food, the kids play, the adults talk, everyone cleans up. I wish we did it every Sunday.

Occasionally, my friend Charlotte, and I will spend the whole day together at one of our houses. The kids play, and she and I (usually with our babies on our backs) either move furniture around, make bread, hang laundry, sew, or just sit and talk and watch the children play. We both love it so much and are so encouraged. We never fail to have great conversations that make us think and the work is so much more pleasant when in the company of a friend.

When my friend, Stacy, was on maternity leave, we had dinner at our houses at least once a week. It was so much fun. The kids were so happy to play with their friends and it was great to have a break from the normal late-afternoon-crankies. I have missed those dinners now that she has gone back to work, but hope we can pick them back up at least once a week during the summer (she is a teacher).

I am not a person that needs constant company. I love my alone time. I cherish the time that I can spend in quiet and solitude. In fact, I am at this moment at a coffee shop, by myself, and am blissfully happy. I love my friends, but I am just as happy alone. That was the great thing about being at the beach. We all lived together (six adults and seven children) in one house, and shared all the common areas, but all had our own rooms to retreat to. Also, because we were sharing the workload, there were little pockets of time throughout the day that we could sneak off for a few moments of quiet.

I am still working through this topic in my mind, but here are a few ways that I have thought of to incorporate communal living concepts into our single-family-in-the-suburbs-mentality.

-Have an open door policy at our house: invite friends over several times a week. Don't make it formal. It is not about entertaining. It is simple hospitality. Fold the laundry while you talk. Start dinner.

-Work on projects with friends. Have a modern day barn raising: canning food together, bake bread, work on a hobby, etc. Cook several meals to split and stock the freezers.

-Swap childcare. Give each other a break to run errands or get a pedicure!

-Share the bounty. Growing a garden? Share what you grow with friends. Making a pie? Make two and give one to a neighbor. Perhaps you could even share bigger things, like yard tools and such. We share a lawnmower with two of our neighbors. We don't own one, because we have a wooded lot with very little grass. So, once or twice a season, my hubby will borrow the neighbors lawnmower to clean things up a bit around the yard. He returns it with a pork loin, or some steaks.

What ways do you practice community?

(Next Bringing the Beach Home topic: Vacation state of mind, at Home)

*Image from Shelby Nycole on

Friday, May 23, 2008

FEW THINGS, BUT GOOD THINGSI truly believe that if the every day items you use in taking care of your home are beautiful and the best quality available, you will need very little artwork and other possessions whose sole purpose is to be beautiful. Not that there is anything wrong with "art for art's sake" but I prefer to have a home that is as simple and uncluttered as possible, and for me, that means few possessions that don't serve a purpose other than aesthetically. I have written about this topic before and how having good quality items makes even messes seem beautiful (think wooden blocks on the floor, versus legos). I enjoyed reading about how Alex lives the good life by choosing less, but choosing well.
In that vein, here are two sites that I am absolutely drooling over. There is nothing like simple, classic, beautiful household items to make my heart go pitter-patter!

Toast (thanks, Melissa, for turning me on to this site!).
Labour and Wait (they have a wood and aluminum toilet brush set that I would love to have!)

*Image from Posidriv on

Saturday, May 17, 2008

ORGANIC GARDENINGI don't typically buy organic produce. I mean, it seems a little ungrateful, my dad being a pesticide salesman and all. But, I did want my square foot garden to be pesticide free. So, I had to think outside the box when I discovered my broccoli plants had been taken over by an army of small green worms
My pest control of choice? Two eager boys, five and two, armed with mason jars and the anticipation of a penny per worm. An hour later, my broccoli is worm free (for today), and my boys are forty-three cents richer.
De-worming the garden has been added to their daily chore chart. With a payout like that, they can't wait for tomorrow!

*Image from Vox Sciurorum on

Friday, May 16, 2008

BRINGING THE BEACH HOMEI have been in deep contemplation since returning from the beach earlier this week. Pondering the wise words of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, trying to make application to my own life, processing the insights I gained while taking a break from the quotidian routines that make up who I (mostly) am at this stage of my life. Over the next few days, or weeks, if need be, I am going to do a series of posts on some of my take-aways. Many of them I am still thinking through, so hopefully writing them down will bring clarity.
I am looking forward to it.
See you soon.

"The solution for me, surely, is neither in total renunciation of the world, nor in total acceptance of it. I must find a balance somewhere, or an alternating rhythm between these two extremes; a swinging of the pendulum between solitude and communion, between retreat and return. In my periods of retreat, perhaps I can learn something to carry back into my worldly life". -Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

*Image from Shelby Nycole on

Saturday, May 10, 2008

GIFTS FROM THE SEA"The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach - waiting for a gift from the sea."
~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh

This book takes on a whole new dimension when read while on the beach, rows of collected sea shells on the edge of my blanket.

*This image from Gecko Hall on

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

BEACH BOOKSI am thrilled, elated, over-the-top-excited to be heading to Fripp Island, SC for an extended week-end with some friends and family. Would you believe that we live less than hour from the beach, yet my children have never even seen the ocean? Sad, no? We have rented a 5 bedroom beach house, divvied up the cooking (guys cook on Mother's Day!), and have big plans to soak up the sun, drink margaritas, play golf, swim, build sand castles, and read. I am taking several books that I hope to dive into while children nap. Some are books that I reread every summer, such as Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. In my humble opinion, this is one of the best books of all time and should be required reading for every woman on the planet.

I have definitely seen a shift in what I am interested in reading right now, as well as in my thinking. With my first year of homeschooling coming up, as well as continued efforts to simplify many areas of my life, and the possibility of expanding our family through adoption (and/or biologically)...I have been reading more and more on homeschooling, creating a home environment that is conducive to learning and creativity, setting a tone for the home, etc. (As an aside, I am LOVING this new blog, High Desert Home, which I found via The Flourishing Mother. She is doing a 10-part homeschooling series, which I am eating up. Check it out.) A lot of my summer reading will be focusing on these themes. My amazon wish list is updated all the time, as many of my friends and readers of this blog have made suggestions that sound wonderful (and can I just say again, how much I have appreciated everyone's generosity in sharing their books with me?! I have a stack 20 deep that I am reading/about to read and it is such a source of happiness for me. So thank you again!)!

And in a strange and exciting twist of happy providence (is that reformed, or what?! haha), not only are we spending a long week-end at Fripp Island this week-end, but several of my girlfriends (who's hubbies work with mine) and I are taking the kids and two babysitters back to Fripp for another week in June! And, I just found out that my hubby is on target to win a trip through work (and probably the same girlfriends and their hubbies will be going too!) to Jamaica in August! We haven't been to the beach at all in five years, and now I will have three weeks this summer to soak up the sun and sand. How very thrilling!

In my beach bag...
Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Mitten Strings for God by Katrina Kennison (another yearly must-read)

What is a Family by Edith Schaeffer (thank you, Melissa!)

A Circle of Quiet by Madeline L'Engle

Simple Foods for the Good Life by Helen Nearing (thank you, Teresa!)

*Image from Michaeljohn on