My solar oven…

…like most of my projects, did not turn out looking just like the photos.  I rushed a bit, didn’t quite read all the instructions to the very end, didn’t take the time to follow the instructions precisely, and didn’t quite have all the right materials.

So I’m really curious how my dinner rolls will turn out.  40 minutes and counting…I figured in south Texas, we had a bit of leeway.  We could probably just set the food out in the sun and it would cook.  We’ll see if I took too many liberties, because we already know that the technology is sound.  A friend of mine has brownies to prove it.

Sorry, no photos.  Can’t find the cable.  Don’t want to look harder.  Anyway, my solar oven is not as pretty as the two my friend made.  Furthermore, I smell my backup rolls in the electric oven, and I suddenly have something more important to do than hunt electronics accessories.

I need your input: sprouting

We’re getting crunchier by the moment.  I ground my own wheat today and made bread and English muffins.   We started building a solar oven this morning, though we need another box to make the lid.  Hubby expressed an interest in trying my baking soda/cornstarch/tea tree oil deodorant.  I’ve even been thinking about trying my hand at sourdough so I’m not entirely dependent upon store-bought yeast.  Well, OK.  I really just love sourdough bread.  The yeast thing was totally an excuse.

I’m ready now to revisit sprouting, but I desperately want your input before I spend too much money on sprouty gadgets that will make you all laugh and shake your collective head at me.

My mom has a Sprout Master which she absolutely loves.  She says she struggled with mold and slime when she used jars and cheesecloth, but her Sprout Master has been pure plastic perfection.  It’s not cheap, but perfection rarely is, even when it’s made of plastic.

Have you tried sprouting seeds?  What do you use?  What problems have you experienced, and did you find an easy solution?

Which sprouts do you eat raw, and which are better cooked?

Where do you buy your seeds?

I’m all ears.  Tell me everything you know.

No Shampoo week 6: the saga continues

I’m afraid I spoke a bit hastily last week.  Success was too strong a word.  My hair does seem to be improving, but it’s still very oily.

I had used the egg/lemon juice mixture on Wednesday morning, and when last Saturday rolled around my hair was still feeling pretty clean.  I forgot that it had only been 72 hours, and failed to give enough credit to the power of the egg shampoo.  Now, 7 days later, we’re still having some significant oiliness.  It doesn’t look like Week 2, but it also doesn’t look like success.   I didn’t use egg at all this week.  I’m going to hold off on the egg for a bit and see how things progress.

On the bright side, the fact that my hair still looked and felt clean 72 hours after an egg shampoo represents a tremendous change for the better!  I may not be done with the adjustment period, but I’m still very encouraged.

Photos?  I don’t know…my hair still stays up or braided.  You won’t see a difference unless I let it down, and I’m not ready to do that.

SKIN

On a related topic, I stopped using facial cleansers when I stopped using shampoo.  My oily-but-sensitive skin was always uncomfortably tight after cleaning, then shiny and oily again within an hour or two.  Moisturizers didn’t seem to help.

But when I started washing with just warm water and a cloth, the results were very different.  I’ve never had good skin – large pores and 10 years of adolescent acne – but I can honestly say it has never looked better.  I’ve had no acne, far less oil, and it’s softer and smoother than ever.  The change in my skin has actually encouraged me to persevere with my hair.

Frugal movies

I’m adding something new to our page of affiliate links (Stuff We Love tab at the top).  It’s Netflix.Try Netflix for Free!

We are careful about what we watch, and often have a hard time finding something suitable to rent.  I also have to say I feel vaguely guilty just standing in B’Buster looking at what’s available.  I’ve come out of the store feeling like I need to bleach my eyeballs!

I think online rentals help a lot with both issues.  I have to warn you: Netflix does have a category you’ll want to steer clear of entirely.  Ugh.  But on the bright side, you’re not accosted with the sight of the covers of all those videos while you search for safe, clean choices.

Netflix offers:

  • Over 100,000 titles on DVD – from classics to new releases to TV episodes.  OK, the banner says 65,000 but the website says 100,000.  You wanna count and get back to me on that?
  • Instant downloads - choose from over 12,000 movies (some new releases) & TV episodes (including current season) online on your PC or Mac or on your TV via an Internet connected Netflix ready device.  This is our favorite part!
  • No late fees – keep DVDs as long as you want
  • Free shipping – there is no cost except your monthly membership
  • Fast turn around – You can set up a list of what you want so that your next DVD is shipped as soon as your first one is received, and distribution centers throughout the country mean that there’s one near you.  If the first one on your list isn’t available, they’ll automatically move down the list so you’re not stuck waiting.
  • Various plans – several choices to fit your budget and needs.
  • Personalized recommendations – based on movies that you enjoyed in the past.  We have found that it’s pretty “smart.”  Many of our favorites show up on the list.
  • Free trial – enjoy full benefits for 2 weeks to see if Netflix is right for you.

Their website is very easy to use, making it very easy to get the movies you want, either on DVD or as instant downloads.  There are several plans available starting at $4.99, but we think the $8.99/month is the best deal for our family: 1 DVD out at a time (4-5/month if we watch and return them promptly, but we don’t), plus unlimited downloads.

So how does this save money?  $8.99/month is about the cost of 2 rentals from B’Buster, or less than the cost of one rental and a trip to town to return it.  If you rent from RedBox occasionally like we used to, you know that one or two movies can easily add up if you forget to take them back right away – or if you have make a special trip to return them, because they’re racking up daily charges.

Oh, and did I mention the affiliate program?  Sign up for a free trial, and we get $.   That’s another thing I like about Netflix.  Very cool.

Linkage

Stuff you should see.  Or at least, I think you should see it.

  • The Widow’s Might, which won the $101,000 prize at the SAI Film Festival, will be playing on the big screen April 13-18!  This is an extremely well-done movie, a musical that will appeal even to those who don’t normally care for musicals.  It’s got humor, snappy dialog, a great plot, good production quality…in short, this is the sort of film that Christians should be making.  See if it’s playing in your area.  If not, at least download the soundtrack from Behemoth.com.  You’ll love it!
  • The Genevan Psalter is available online.  Many of the songs have lyrics and music uploaded, usually more than one version, in both midi and mp3 formats, often with vocals.  In short, this website is a massive work and an important reference.  Bookmark it, and use it.
  • Not to toot my own horn, but Feelin’ Feminine recently posted an interview of li’l ole me.  It only seems right to link to it since they have been kindly sending traffic our way as well.  I enjoyed answering the thoughtful questions.  Read it if you like.  :)
  • My friend made a solar oven and actually cooked brownies in it! Now I’m interested.  Her design is like this, but I like the looks of this one too.  Maybe 1 or 2 of each for our family?

We eat cloth eggs

That statement might warrant some explanation.

Back at the beginning of February, we switched to cloth diapers.  It only made sense to switch to cloth wipes as well.  We have gradually begun to do other “crunchy” things as well: washing our hair with baking soda/vinegar, using baking soda/cornstarch/tea trea oil for homemade deoderant, making our own laundry soap, growing a garden, line drying all of our clothes.  But it all started with cloth diapers.

And hence a new definition of “cloth” was born in our house:

cloth – (adj.) 1. organic, natural or unprocessed; 2. old-fashioned; 3. re-usable or non-consumable; 4. homemade in origin

Some changes were met with a less-than-enthusiastic reception.  Children were heard to wail, “Next thing you know, we’ll be eating cloth food!”

And so, we now eat cloth eggs.  We noticed a neighbor’s sign for fresh eggs at the bargain price of $1.25/dozen, and jumped on the opportunity!  Unfortunately they only have 6 laying hens, so they can hardly provide for all of our egg needs, but we’re enjoying whatever they can spare while we make plans for a coop and flock to provide all the cloth eggs we can eat.  I suppose the coop will be cloth as well, since we’re building it ourselves.  And now that I think of it, we live in a cloth house.

We are also looking forward to cloth vegetables from our garden, though I’m suddenly rather excited about starting some bean & alfalfa sprouts, perhaps since our salad greens are languishing sadly in the heat already.  I think this qualifies as cloth food, though the children remember Grandma B’s sprouts fondly.  We’re making homemade bread rather frequently these days, though we’re sadly neglecting our whole grain wheat and grinder.  I think even white bread, when homemade, qualifies as cloth bread.  At the moment, I’m making my first batch of English muffins in nearly 20 years.

It’s not just food, though.   We have greatly reduced our use of paper plates, relying more heavily upon our cloth plates.  We also use cloth napkins – really!

And Kaitlyn has become quite adept at sewing, providing her younger sisters with cloth clothes.

What’s cloth in your house?

See? Sickness *can* be fun & games

Let’s play a game.  A friend of mine played the same game on her blog yesterday.  Wait!  Don’t click yet, because her readers already guessed.

Can you name the disease?  Symptoms can vary, but here’s what our primary sufferer was displaying over the weekend:

  • headache
  • achiness & general malaise
  • mild fever?

Those symptoms passed after a day or two, and we thought she was better.  But – alas! – today she woke up with:

  • puffy face and hands
  • itch all over
  • upon closer inspection, we think she has a very mild mottled rash over much of her body – like the mottling you see when somebody is cold.

Clue: this disease has 2 common names.  One name describes a symptom usually displayed by young children, but not present in our sufferer.

Quite honestly, I thought all of our children had already had this disease when they were younger, but since typically it’s a one-and-out I must be wrong.  Now I’m wondering: how many other times am I wrong?  Will it sweep through the household?  Is it already?

14′s for Kaitlyn

Today is Kaitlyn’s birthday, so as usual we’re going to do a post for her.  On a slightly less usual note, we came up with a new sort of birthday post.  We’re going to work together on several lists for her, each with 14 items.kait1

Things Kaitlyn Likes

  1. drawing
  2. holding her tarantula
  3. sewing
  4. stress
  5. reading Boxcar Children to little ones
  6. fluffy pillows
  7. the color green
  8. silky stuff
  9. chocolate
  10. bottled water
  11. anything sweet
  12. brain-bending computer games
  13. Tim Hawkins
  14. puzzleskbday

Nicknames/Alter Egos for Kaitlyn

  1. Kittykait
  2. Mary Poppins
  3. Kaily-shaley
  4. Tay-tay
  5. Kay-kay
  6. Katie-kate
  7. Tatelyn
  8. Stress Monkey
  9. Charles
  10. Zorro
  11. Control freak
  12. Were-N___ (inside joke.  Don’t ask , and if you know don’t tell. That means you, yeah, you. You know who you are.)
  13. Electra
  14. Neatnik

Things We Love About Kaitlynkbday5

  1. She’s a hard worker
  2. She helps without being asked
  3. She likes to read to little ones
  4. She’s a nice babysitter
  5. Her cakes
  6. She’s nice to Rachael
  7. Her taste in clothes
  8. She’s thin & beautiful (inside joke, again.  but she is!)
  9. She’s our sister
  10. her sense of humorkbday2
  11. when she dresses up as a Jedi, or as Queen Amidala
  12. when she lets us post silly pictures of her to facebook
  13. when she consents to be in silly movies and plays
  14. she looks just like Mom

Things Kaitlyn is good at

  1. cooking
  2. puzzles
  3. sewing
  4. graphic design
  5. manipulating redirecting Lindsey  :) kbday6
  6. drawing
  7. multi-tasking – her sisters say she can yell and clean at the same time
  8. photography
  9. Facebook
  10. singing
  11. decorating cakes
  12. flips on the trampoline
  13. borrowing clothes
  14. math

Things that Kaitlyn Hates

  1. tomatoes
  2. dirty dishes
  3. dirty rooms
  4. people who won’t do what she says
  5. people who hate praying mantids
  6. tangled hair
  7. a drawing without green in it somewhere
  8. ugly blog layouts
  9. ugly blog headers
  10. being called Charles
  11. when people throw things on her bed
  12. being tickled
  13. when Deanna posts silly pictures of her to the internet
  14. games she can’t figure out

In which we interview one of our favorite fanatsy authors.

Posted by: Deanna

Kaitlyn and I met Mr. Schiller at a homeschool conference in Plano and he kindly agreed to do a blog interview with us about the series of Christian fantasy books he’s book1writing. I own and love the first three books in his series (The fourth was recently released) and I have read them all several times.

Some Christians object to all fantasy, because they think that things like talking animals are magical and that any magic is bad. In these books, a talking animal would have to be possessed by a demon or something. One thing I really love about these books is that they really are christian books. They aren’t like Harry Potter where some people like to say that J.K Rowling used “Christian Ideals” and try to say that Harry Potter himself represents Christ. The biggest difference between these two series is that in one, witchcraft is glorified and encouraged, and in the other it is shown to be the vile and disgusting thing that God says it is.

When Kaitlyn and I sent Mr. Schiller this interview, I didn’t expect the deeply thoughtful response we got. So please take the time to read this interview, I think you’ll really enjoy it.

What kind of world view would you say is shown in your books?

I’ve never given much thought to my “World View”. I guess I didn’t even consciously know what a World View was until you asked the question. Writing Christian Fantasy one might think that the World View presented in my books would be different than the World View I hold for the real world. This is not the case. I view the world through a few simple parameters that color all my opinions, beliefs, and ideals.

First, I believe that without God as our guiding force, the world will tear itself to bits. Historically, one can observe that once a country loses its focus on God, that country goes into decline. I try to show this in my books and make it clear that it is not enough for individuals to commit to Christ; communities and Nations must do the same. Without that commitment man will fall by the way of familiar sins and weaknesses with a resultant decline in the community or nation.

Second, I believe that man must stand against evil. This is a common theme in fantasy literature and holds true in my personal views of the world. I have been a United States Marine and a Dallas Police Officer. I was drawn to those professions because of my desire to “stand in the breach” and make a difference by confronting the enemies of our nation and community. The old saying “Freedom isn’t free” is very dear to me. This not only applies to physical liberty, but to spiritual liberty as well. We must be bold in identifying those things that, though accepted by society, stand in opposition to our Faith. Tolerance, the mantra of many who wish to embrace every decadent whim of man, cannot be our defining philosophy. Unless we stand against the darkness, the darkness will overwhelm us.

Finally, I believe that through the efforts of individuals, sweeping changes occur. We can change lives with simple acts of kindness and changing the life of one person changes the world. Standing in the breach doesn’t always entail physical battle and sacrifice. Sometimes the most insignificant things cause the greatest changes, both for good and evil.book2

Some people might say that all fantasy is alike. How would you say that the fantasy you write differs from series like Harry Potter?

The basic theme of much fantasy centers on a group of good characters drawn together to battle a great evil. This is present in my books as well. But what is missing in most secular fantasy is a greater good, or, more to the point, God. So I have included the requisite good characters, the great evil they must fight, and I have attached the greater good that focuses and defines the efforts of the protagonists. You generally don’t see this in the fantasy genre. Additionally, my references to God and Iosa Christus (the Gaelic/Latin words for Jesus Christ) are literal, not allegorical or implied. I do not get preachy but there is no doubt that the main characters are trying, in their own flawed fashion, to follow God in their daily lives.

The heroes in my books will never use magic of any kind. The antagonists will use anything and everything they believe will give them an advantage, but for those who follow Iosa Christus, magic is not an option. Like the heroes in The Lord of the Rings who choose not to use the ring of power, so my characters choose to depend on the miracles/magic of God to help them in their efforts.

I do not use miracles as a convenient literary device. Miracles abound, but most often, as in the real world, they only appear miraculous to the individual who needed the miracle at the time. The reader is left to determine what is a miracle and what is not, just as the characters themselves decide within the context of the story.

What inspired you to write the Warrior of the Son books?

I have always been a writer. Since I was a young boy I have penned stories. But even when I wrote something that I felt was good in a literary sense, it always lacked a meaning beyond the words of the story. This series of books is my attempt to imbue the fantasy genre with a deeper meaning: the Glory and Love of Jesus Christ.

How do you think readers will benefit from your books?

First of all, the books are fun. They are filled with adventure, desperate battle, romance, fantastic creatures, and all the things that make fantasy books such an enjoyable read. Additionally, the characters are flawed, imperfect people, just like you and me. I present my characters as real people, not as idealized cut-outs. I think this lets the reader identify with the heroes as opposed to presenting an impossible ideal. Additionally, I attempt to make the villains (not the goblins of course!) sympathetic in some ways. I want the reader to at least understand what makes this character tick, even if in the end you don’t like what they do.

What kind of lessons do you try to teach in your stories?

The themes of redemption, mercy, and obedience run through much of my work. These are the anchors to the main characters. I also try to show the reality and consequences of standing against evil. There is always an element of glory in fighting for what is right and just, but there is a cost as well. To show only one side of this issue is a disservice to the reader.

Are any of the characters in your books based on real people? Would you say that your stories have any autobiographical elements?

Some of the things that my characters go through are based on personal experience. This is generally in an abstract way, since I have never fought a goblin or engaged in a real sword fight. However, some of the struggles experienced by the heroes and even the villains, are built up from a mixture of things I have observed, experienced, or shared with real life people.

The struggle for faith in the main character is an example. Much of what Evan MacKeth goes through as he runs from God mirrors my own foolish attempts to escape God’s Grace.

Do you have a favorite character in your Warrior of the Son series?

I suppose that I like the tragic, brooding, Anwend Halfdane the best, though he is by no means the central character. I am also rather fond of Martin Reamon. I have big things planned for both of those characters.

It is interesting to note that many of the characters I originally developed as nothing more than literary mechanisms have become fully fleshed out characters in their own right. Young Martin Reamon was never intended to play such an important role in books two and three and in the fourth book, “Fire from the Earth”, Bronwyn Villich, another intended mechanism, becomes in many ways, the central character in the book.

I like it when characters unexpectedly come to life. I treasure these developments like little jewels that I stumbled across within the words of the story.

Do you have a plan for the rest of the series?

I have an idea of where all this is going. That isn’t to say that it will get there. I have come to realize that often the story goes where it wants to go. I am nominally in charge of the direction, but I am often surprised where I end up.

How long do you think it will take to finish the series?

I plan on ten to twelve books in the series. It is difficult to estimate the time necessary for such an endeavor, but hopefully I will not make my supporters wait too long on the remaining volumes.

And finally, do you have plans or another series after this one?

I am considering a prequel to the current series covering the adventures of Julian Antony Vorenius before he meets Evan MacKeth.

——————————

Kaitlyn and I are excited that Mr. Schiller is thinking about writing a series about Julian. He is one of my favorite characters in the  books, and it will be fun to find out more about him.

No shampoo, week 5: Success!

I can’t believe it’s been 5 weeks since I quit using shampoo!  To recap, I used to shampoo religiously every 23.5 hours.  My hair was so oily that even after 24 hours it was looking bad.  I also had dandruff that was only barely kept at bay by ever more frequent shampoo.

The first 2 weeks without shampoo were definitely the worst.  I used baking soda and vinegar every 2 or 3 days at first, then every day.  By the middle of the second week my dandruff was gone but my hair was so oily it looked damp all the way to the ends.  After 3 weeks it began to seem not quite so incredibly oily, and last week I was pretty sure it was getting better.

Now, amazingly, my hair feels very nearly normal.  I don’t quite understand how this can be, but it’s true.  I spent the day grocery shopping, yard saling and at a party – all with my hair down, not hidden in a clip.  I flipped it, swirled it, ran my fingers through it.  I wasn’t trying to show off.  It was more like running your tongue over your teeth after a cleaning at the dentist, when your teeth suddenly feel so smooth.   After 5 long weeks,  I have my hair back almost overnight, but I’m no longer tied to daily shampoo.

In the shower, my hair feels different.  If I try to use conditioner, I can feel the natural oils “blocking” it from my hair.  It doesn’t penetrate, and it rinses right off.  When my hair is damp, it feels a little “off.”  But ince it’s dry, it’s sleek and shiny, not a bit greasy, with lots of body and movement.  The only difference I notice is that it has more body than usual and is a little more…obedient?  The short little bits of new growth seem much easier to train.  They don’t stubbornly stand straight up if I try to smooth them down.

I’m pleasantly surprised that this only took 5 weeks.  I really didn’t expect to see such a change, and certainly not so soon after the way the first 2 weeks went!  At this point, I plan to keep using baking soda and vinegar every 2 or 3 days and an egg/lemon juice mixture every 7-10 days, unless my hair continues to change.

Among my daughters who have followed me in this experiment, we have several hair types:

The one with fine, straight hair says her hair feels very silky and smooth, not a bit greasy after a short minor adjustment period.  She loves her hair this way.

The one with very thick straight hair says her hair still feels a bit oily, though not extremely so.  It did look rather oily for the first 2 weeks or so, but not nearly so much as mine – only a couple of inches near her scalp.  Now hers, like mine, feels more trainable but otherwise very much like it did before she gave up shampoo.

The  2 curly girls are alternating between baking & vinegar, and occasionally washing with conditioner only.  Their hair used to be very dry and prone to tangle, but is now extremely soft and luscious.  I see the greatest difference in appearance with those two.  They had no oily adjustment period since their hair was so dry by nature.

Thanks for all your encouragement along the way!  For those of you who have watched and wondered how it would turn out, are you ready to take the plunge yet?

What other new thing did you try in the month of March?  Did it work for you?  What will you try in April?