Rag Basket

I recall Mom joking that by your 15th anniversary, you needed another wedding shower because all of the towels from your wedding had worn out. I recently picked up some new towels and washcloths at Walmart because ours were rather threadbare in spots. When I went through and removed all of the hole-y and badly stained towels to make room for the new ones, I pondered what to do with the old ones. Sure, they had some holes and were wearing thin in places, but it seemed a waste to simply throw them away.

I think almost everyone’s grandmother had a stash of rags for cleaning, and it occurred to me that my old towels would be perfect for that. I’ve been thinking about options that would help us cut back on the number of paper towels we use for a while. A rag basket under the sink is the perfect solution.

I considered cutting up the bath towels into smaller pieces since they are a little too big for cleaning tasks. In the end, I decided to leave them whole for now. With four kids and a very large German Shepherd in the house, there are some pretty big spills at times. Old bath towels are a much better option than half a roll of paper towels when it comes to soaking up a sizable spill on the kitchen floor. Since my collection included some hand towels and washcloths, I’ve got a pretty good selection of sizes to use for any task.

I grabbed an empty basket, rolled up the towels and stashed them under the kitchen sink. Now when I need a cloth for cleaning, or something to soak up a spilled glass of water, I can walk past the paper towels and right to my rag basket. Since they are old towels that are already partially worn out, I won’t bad if we use it to clean up something that ruins the towel.

A rag basket may be an old-fashioned idea, but it’s definitely one that’s stuck around this long for a reason! What’s one of your favorite “life hacks” from grandma’s day?

Thoughts for Tuesday, May 7th

Outside my windows… the sunny skies from yesterday have clouded over, and there may be rain on the horizon. The orange lilies that are beginning to sprout would appreciate the rain though.

Inside my house… Some things are sprouting, and others are not. There’s one thing about my gardening methods that I’m absolutely sure of: I have no idea what I’m doing.

Counting 1000 gifts… thankful for spring, and for the hard stuff.

Prayers of the heart… for wisdom navigating new seasons. I’m praying for wisdom a lot lately.

What the (not quite so) little ones are up to… Lunch Break + LEGOs + Tub of Water = I’m staying at my desk till the mess has been cleaned up!

From my playlist… “Wolf Totem” by The Hu. I’m fascinated by interesting style of the music, and now I want to study more about Mongolian culture and their forms of art.

From my reading list… I finished Tamara Leigh’s newest addition to the Age of Conquest series: Fearless. I’m glad that she’s exploring some of the roots of the family we met in her Age of Faith series, and it’s sparked an interest in that particular period of history as well.

From my needlework basket… a summer shawl from the current issue of Knit Simple. It’s the one featured on the cover for anyone who’s curious. I’ll have to post a photo once I get it finished and blocked.

In the learning room… I finally nailed down my curriculum list for the 2019-2020 year. I think… High school elective options are seemingly endless, and a plethora of choices is a double-edged sword!

Random ramblings… Listening to the Free to Focus audiobook has been thought-provoking. It’s one of those books that you need to take a chapter at a time. In thinking about what priorities I should focus on, I started thinking long-term. Right not, home educating is a big priority that does take a fair bit of my time. Ten years from now, I’ll be finished with that chapter of my life. Maybe things that I’ll be doing past this current season need a little bit of my focus too.

Profound ponderings…

“Then I made a path. And I succeeded.

And I’m here to tell other visionary authors that yes, you can follow your heart and take your brain with you. You can write that book, finish it, publish it, and reach your readers without burnout, and without marketing taking over your whole life.

Your book does have a valued place in your life and in the world. Don’t give up. Own those unique words.”

— Janeen Ippolito

Caught on film…

Weekend Teatime: My Favorite Tea Subscription

Note: The links in this post are affiliate links. I’ve been a Plum Deluxe subscriber for a year, and it’s truly the best tea subscription I’ve tried. As always, I do not share affiliate links for any product that I don’t use and love myself.

The ever-present tea on my desk!

Anyone who follows my Instagram account knows that I love tea. My collection of tea cups inherited from various relatives gets plenty of use! It’s not unusual to find a pot of tea sitting on my desk next to me while I’m working.

I tried out a couple of tea subscription boxes, but didn’t find one that I particularly liked. I’d pretty much decided that I wouldn’t bother trying another when I came across an ad for Plum Deluxe. Ten dollars a month was the most reasonable tea subscription I’d seen, and it appealed to me that the teas were fair trade, and all blended in Oregon by people who loved tea as much as I do. I decided to give a tea subscription one more try, and I am so glad that I did!

May’s club blend is turned around so as not to spoil the surprise! This shipment included a couple extra bags that were ordered separately.

Each month, I receive an exclusive club blend in the mail. The shipment arrives in a distinctive purple package, and includes both a sample of another Plum Deluxe tea and a card with an inspirational quote on one side, and information about this month’s blend on the other. Subscriptions are available in caffeine and non-caffeine options. If you have an allergy to a particular ingredient, or if there’s a particular tea ingredient that you dislike, you can simply e-mail the folks at Plum Deluxe, and they’ll substitute something different if a month’s club blend includes that ingredient.

Honestly, their customer service is fantastic. One monthly blend I received included black pepper. It was delicious, but I discovered that my stomach couldn’t tolerate black pepper in my tea. I e-mailed the company, and they’ve made a note so that if any future club blends contain black pepper, they’ll substitute a different tea in my shipment that month. I love the personal touch, and it absolutely sets Plum Deluxe apart from the other subscriptions I tried out.

Scones paired with the May club blend.

Plum Deluxe isn’t only a tea subscription company though. Anyone can shop their regular selection of teas via the website. Sweet Spot Black Tea and Chocolate Hazelnut Dessert Tea are two of my absolute favorites. Another nice club perk is the option to receive free shipping on additional purchases if you opt to have them shipped with your regular club shipment.

The folks at Plum Deluxe have been kind enough to offer a 10% off coupon for my readers! The coupon doesn’t apply to club subscriptions, but you can apply it to an order for some of the wonderful tea blends on their website. Just enter this in the VIP Code field when you place your order: teishknitsreaders

If you do try out some of the delicious teas by Plum Deluxe, do let me know which ones you tried, and what you thought!

Egg Carton Seed Starter

I’m a wannabe gardener with a black thumb. I love plants, and while I grew up helping tend the garden every summer, I can’t seem to make anything grow reliably. I try again each spring, always hoping that this is the year when I’ll have a garden that survives!

Since we can’t plant seeds outside until after Memorial Day at this latitude, I know that starting some of my plants indoors is a must. I got a special seed starter tray, and honestly, only some of the seed sprouts are doing well. I’m just hoping they make it to the end of May when they can go live outside in the garden. I picked up another packet of seeds later, but didn’t have any more room in my fancy seed starter tray. Never one to let minor details like this deter me, I improvised!

Materials Needed:
Paper Egg Carton
Pan or Tray
Potting Mix

Make sure your pan or tray is deep enough to hold a bit of water. Rip the lid of the egg carton and put the base in the pan. Fill the egg cups with potting mix and plant your seeds in the cups. Pour water into the pan and allow the egg carton to soak up the water. Find a sunny window to keep your seed starter in. Check it frequently to make sure the soil doesn’t dry out!

I started seeing sprouts of the Morning Glory seeds that I planted within a few days. Honestly, they’re doing better than the seeds in my fancy seed starting tray. We’ll see how well it works out over the next month, but I’m inclined to stick with the egg carton seed starters exclusively next year just based on how well it’s worked so far!

I’m hoping that I’ll have photos of a thriving garden to post on Instagram later this summer, but time will tell. Is anyone else starting seeds inside this spring? What’s you’re favorite trick for seed starting?

Thoughts for Tuesday, April 30th

Outside my windows… the snow in my yard is gone!

Inside my house… we’re enjoying the room to work on projects or just hang out with the great sewing room declutter, so we’re taking it to other rooms. The living room is first on the list.

Counting 1000 gifts… quilts on the couches and the kiddos who use them.

What the (not quite so) little ones are up to… Munchkin is working on a reading assignment, Camo is cooking up a project, while Mr. Q and Little Guy are wandering around the backyard and looking so much like my great-uncles that I can’t help but smile.

From my playlist… no music playing right now, just the rustle of LEGOs, the hum of the coal stove, and the rattle of the gerbil running in his exercise wheel – the soundtrack of my life I suppose!

From my reading list… Free to Focus by Michael Hyatt. I’m actually listening to the audiobook, but the chapter assignments are giving me something to think about.

From my needlework basket… I’m hand-quilting another quilt even though I keep saying that I’m not doing another one by hand. I may be turning into a crazy quilt lady.

In the learning room… Animal Farm was recently on Munchkin’s reading list. It was interesting to see what she thought of it as the story developed. High School is challenging, but it’s also quite fun to have some of these interesting discussions!

Random ramblings… I peeked out the window while making dinner and saw two of my boys ambling around the backyard, and in that moment something about them reminded me so much of my great-uncles — Quinton and Way. I miss them quite a lot sometimes, but it warms my heart to see a bit of them reflected in my boys.

Profound ponderings… “Sometimes you have to let go of the picture of what you thought life would be like and learn to find the joy in the story you’re living.” – Unknown

Caught on film…

Book Review: Placemaker

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions expressed in this review are completely my own, and I was not paid to give a favorable review.

If you asked me to classify which book genre Placemaker fits into, I don’t think I could pick just one. A bit like a memoir, with tidbits about gardening and home projects, all interwoven with lessons about life, family, friends, and faith. The tagline on the front cover intrigued me: Cultivating places of comfort, beauty, and peace. I had no idea what to expect from this book, and it’s one of the more unique ones I’ve read this year.

I enjoyed reading about Christie’s memories on the various places she’d lived and how different they all were. Just as mesmerizing were the people she met along the way that she wrote about. I kept wanting to read just a bit more because it was a fascinating book. Placemaker seemed like a book that was randomly jumping around at first, but then I realized it was like a slow ambling down memory lane. Something about that appealed to me, and seemed refreshing. The lessons learned throughout the book gave me something to think about and ponder in between reading sessions.

I’ve always been particularly attached to this piece of dirt that I grew up on and now call home. Placemaker came at a time when being so attached to this small corner of the world was difficult. The reminders of what home really means, and how we can make our home anywhere that we find ourselves were things that I needed desperately to hear.

I still can’t quite classify what kind of book Christie Purifoy’s Placemaker is, but it’s been a lovely read that I fully intend to read through again! I think people who enjoy memoirs or personal stories will enjoy it as much as I did. Considering how close we are to Mother’s Day, it may be exactly the kind of book your mom would like to read! Include a bookmark and a bit of good tea or coffee and you’d have a lovely little gift set.

Storage Space

I just took 13 huge trash bags of stuff to the dump. One of the workers commented that that was a lot of bags since I’d been there with our regular trash just this past Saturday.

“I was storing a bunch of stuff for someone who’d passed away,” was the most concise explanation I could come up with on the spot.

It’s true. I was basically using one room and one closet in my house for storing things that belonged to people who had passed away. Since I enjoy sewing and knitting, I’ve been given a fair amount of crafting supplies over the years. Usually it’s because someone’s grandmother or aunt passed away, and the loved ones going through all of their stuff thought of me when they came to the craft stash. I honestly do appreciate the kind intentions behind it, but when it gets to the point that I have the knitting needle collections for 5 people, not including my own knitting needles… it’s just too much.

It was hard bringing myself to throw all that excess stuff away. Part of me felt guilty because a fair bit of it had belonged to people I knew and loved. Part of me thought that it was terribly wasteful to just discard it when it’s possible that someone else might be able to use it. In the meantime, I had a closet and a sewing room overflowing with boxes of stuff, to the point that I didn’t even know what was in most of the boxes anymore.

An argument can certainly be made that I could have tried to re-home all of the stuff I just tossed. The problem with that is the sheer amount of stuff. Who wants to haul 13+ trash bags of craft stuff to their house? Trying to find a new home for each individual item would take far more time than I have to spend at it. (I suspect that’s why I’ve been the recipient of bags and boxes of random craft stuff over the years!) The stuff that I wasn’t actually going to use myself just had to go all at once.

What about that guilt over tossing my great-aunts’ knitting needles, or that yarn that my Mom had that I’ll never use because I don’t like knitting with it? I had to realize something very important: People are not their things. Throwing away those knitting needles doesn’t mean that I didn’t love my great-aunts. Discarding yarn that belonged to Mom doesn’t mean that I didn’t value her. I don’t have to love and value the belongings of someone who has passed away to prove that I loved and valued them.

Oh, part of me still feels a prick of guilt over throwing away “perfectly good stuff”, but a bigger part of me feels relieved and somehow lighter. In throwing away stuff, I didn’t lose any of the things that were really important to me. I still have the memories of the people I cared about, and what is left are the things I will actually use and enjoy, and the room to do that!

I’ve been thinking a lot over the past week about the future as I worked through all of that stuff. Someday, my grandkids will be going through my stuff. I can’t think of anyone that I know and love who I’d want to burden with things that they don’t like or need, just because it belonged to me. I hope that my friends and family would all feel comfortable saying, “I loved Teish, but I don’t love her stuff. I’m happy with just the memories that I have of her.”

I don’t think I’ll ever truly be a minimalist. I love my books too much! I am learning to be more selective about the things I keep though. Sure, some of the things that I keep are strange, like the faded NY mug that Mom brought back from a trip. I’m sure the grandkids will look at it and wonder, “Why on earth was Gram keeping this old thing?” It reminds me of Mom every time I use it, and so it’s worth something to me because of that. I don’t expect it to be worth anything to anyone else though, and I’m OK with that! I don’t want my family to end up storing stuff for someone who has passed away and isn’t going to be needing it anymore. I’ve done too much of that myself, and it’s not worth it.

It’s an interesting shift to look at it from that perspective. Am I just storing this for someone who has passed away? It does sound pretty silly when we frame it like that. If you’re using part of your home as a storage space for someone who won’t be coming back for their things, then it’s OK to bag it up and take it to the thrift store, or even throw it away! If it’s like the NY mug of mine and you keep and use it because it honestly means something to you, then don’t feel bad about keeping that item instead of one of the “newer” or “nicer” ones.

So, what’s the weirdest thing that you keep and value? I’ve shared about my faded NY mug, now I want to know what item your grandkids will chuckle over! Let me know in the comments!

Book Review: Encircled – An Ever Afters Anthology

I received an ARC of Encircled from the publisher. All opinions expressed are completely my own. I received no monetary compensation in exchange for posting a review on my blog. I just like promoting good speculative fiction books! 🙂

I’ve got something of a soft spot for a good fairy tale retelling, particularly if there’s a sci fi twist! The Encircled anthology includes short stories by six talented authors. The two stories with a sci fi spin were what grabbed my attention, but I enjoyed reading all six, and could hardly put the book down!

The Songbird’s Citadel and Beyond the Stars, Past the Moons were both a delightful blend of familiar fairy tale and science fiction fun. Honestly, if either story were continued in a series of novels, I’d be on the pre-order list!

A Heart’s Desire was another favorite. A unique take on Beauty and the Beast, I fell in love with the ending. (It’s a prequel, so in this case, I can read more of the story!) The Last Mrs. Bluebeard was just chilling enough to keep me turning pages without becoming too creepy.

To be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of Snow White. I am, however, a fan of Edged in Silver! The contemporary fantasy twist was fun, and I’m intrigued by the worldbuilding in such a short tale! The Nutcracker is another story that I was never particularly fond of, but A Spell’s End was wonderful and even though it was late, I had to stay up and finish it to find out how the story ended.

Short stories are a hard format to write in many ways, but all six of the Encircled authors did a lovely job fitting in character development and world building that made their stories shine. The lovely thing about anthologies like this is that you have a chance to try out new genres and authors, and add some more books to your reading list as a result! (Can you ever have too many books in your TBR stack? I don’t think so.)

Fans of fairy tales and speculative fiction alike won’t want to miss the Encircled anthology. The stories are short enough that you can enjoy one on your lunch break. Or, you can spend an evening reading through the whole collection because you can’t put it down! Either way, it’s a lovely collection and is releasing on April 16th!

When the Muse is Awake at 4AM…

Robert Frost is credited with the following quote: “Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.”

I had thought my poetry writing days were firmly behind me. I found myself still awake at 4AM one morning this week, and writing poetry of all things! Initially, I wasn’t going to share it with anyone. There are times when I wish I could compose music because words alone don’t seem to say enough. I’ll never be a musician, so the closest I can get is poetry…

When the things your heart most needs,
Are turned against you —
Love weaponized —
Your heart breaks and finally bleeds.

When you crave the gentle brush of fingertips,
But hands caused hurts —
Love weaponized —
You cringe from the caress of loving lips.

When you desire words that fall like healing rain,
But they became a raging storm —
Love weaponized —
You can’t trust words that don’t inflict pain.

When the ones you should place trust in,
Betrayed in the worst way —
Love weaponized —
It’s harder than you’d think to ever trust again.

When the dearest things turned against you,
Have left you shattered —
Love weaponized —
The shards may cut the one who dares love true.

When all the broken glass is fused together,
And the pieces illuminated —
Love redeemed —
The world’s awash in brilliant color.

Thoughts for Tuesday, March 5th

Outside my windows… the giant pile of snow continues to grow. It has now covered nearly 3/4 of the window by my desk. Considering that the wind blew out one of the windows in this room last week, I’m hoping that no one finds me buried in an avalanche of snow while sitting at my desk.

Inside my house… The closed plastic container we are sprouting sunflower seeds in appears to have mold growing on the top of the soil. Opinions on what to do about it are divided. One thing is certain: our luck with plants has not improved.

Counting 1000 gifts… blue skies despite the cold temps and towering snowbanks.

Prayers of the heart… for loved ones traveling.

What the (not quite so) little ones are up to… some are studying, and others are playing a slightly modified game of Catan. LEGOs have come out and what looks like some kind of LEGO robot is standing on the board. I don’t know what the explanation is, but I’m sure it’s creative!

From my playlist… Faithfully by Journey because I’m on an 80s kick at the moment.

From my reading list… Clean Mama’s Guide to a Healthy Home by Becky Rapinchuk. My pre-order copy arrived today!

From my needlework basket… dishcloths using up the collected mountain of leftover cotton yarn from my Mom’s basket and mine. I probably can’t gift these ones since they use more than one color per dishcloth, but I don’t mind if the ones I use are colorful.

In the learning room… a few challenges last week, but I’ve yet to have a school year that didn’t include a few bumps along the way.

Random ramblings… So, while reading my new book about having a healthy home, I’ve discovered that the cleaners and personal care products that I thought were safe include ingredients that are not. I tried looking up safer alternatives, which is not as easy as you’d think, and then the price tag! Of course, I do realize that natural does not always mean safe. Arsenic, radium, and asbestos are natural, but that doesn’t mean I care to keep them around my house! It’s really, really hard to figure out what is “safe” to eat, clean with, wash your hands with, etc. I think my plan at this point is that when I run out of something, I’m going to see if I can find a better alternative that’s still affordable. (Sorry, I can’t spend $20 on an 8 oz. bottle of shampoo!) It gets a little trickier since I have to deal with skin sensitivity issues in our house, and I very quickly discovered that natural, organic, and all of those other labels doesn’t mean that someone can’t have a dramatic skin reaction after using the product. Anyone else find it exhausting trying to keep up with what’s safe and healthy?

Profound ponderings… “This world will have you believe so many lies about yourself. But the truth of who you are has already been spoken about you by your creator — you are beautiful, you are valuable, and you are loved.” — Sally Clarkson

Caught on film…

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My kids know me well! 😉

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