Category Archives: Good Pickins’

Good Pickins’ #30

This week, we are testing more goat-milking-in-peace theories, trying to finish up my husband’s school year, and wrapping up my voice students’ recitals. The garden is doing well and doesn’t need a lot of maintenance just yet. (And hopefully it won’t need as much this year thanks to some of the good practices shared in The Art of Gardening.)

gardenJune2015This week, I’ve been on a mission to try to make my mornings more effective. Since getting the goat, milking has added to my already frantic list of morning-to-dos. I was feeling tired of being groggy and rushing around before getting everyone out the door- which leads us to the first pick of the week. (This post contains affiliate links.)

Make Over Your Mornings– I got a free copy of Crystal Paine’s newest e-course for review. I saw it advertised on a morning I was feeling most desperate for a reset button for the first hour or two of my day. I’m not usually much of one for inspirational/self-help type courses, but let me tell you, this really has been effective so far in helping me to get ahead and have a good start to my day. My house is cleaner, I’m more productive, and I’m in a much better mindset by the time the rest of the house wakes up. Today is day 5 out of 14- I’ll be sure to share a full review once I complete the course.

10 Things to Do If You Wake Up Feeling Like a Grouch– I’ll admit it-I am often a morning grouch, particularly if I’m woken up by a child climbing on top of me. Maybe it will seem endearing in hindsight, but for now it just makes me want to hide under the covers. Crystal shares some great ideas here to help turn your morning around. (But thankfully, I find that I’m feeling a lot less grouchy now that I’m getting a better start to my mornings with Crystal’s course.)

When “Christian Parenting” Isn’t Christian– When J was a baby, I was overwhelmed by often-conflicting advice from my Christian friends in different crowds. I was always worried that I would somehow go astray by making the wrong parenting choices, and never felt secure that I was doing the right thing. I think I could have been spared a lot of agony if I had adopted this perspective earlier in my parenting career.

With that, I’ll leave you to enjoy the June sunshine and (perhaps?) end-of-school season for you families out there. Happy reading!

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Good Pickins’ #29

I’ve had a slight goat obsession recently. I can’t help it. I have a goat now. And she’s cute and she gives us milk and she bleats at us and walks on a leash when you need her to. I love it.

leslie leash

We’ve dealt with some milking challenges and hassles this week, but we are getting the hang of it a little at a time. Leslie is even letting me milk her by myself without someone else around to steady her. And she’s stopped sitting in the milk now. That’s always a plus.

milkingleslieBut more on the milking challenges for another post. On to the picks for this week.

Back to Eden Film– This documentary is available online for free through the link provided. Paul Gautschi shares his organic gardening methods that mimic the natural processes we see all around us in creation. His focuses? Keeping the garden covered and keeping it simple. Whether or not you agree with all of his religious premises, there is a lot to be learned from Paul’s methods.

Who is Teaching Whom– I appreciated this perspective from a mom who’s been homeschooling for seven years. We’re planning on beginning “officially” homeschooling my son next year, and I’ve been fretting about whether or not I’m going to do a good job. This post gave me a little encouragement that I don’t have to have it all together all the time.

To The Relative Who Thinks I’m a Glorified Pet Owner– April shares her heart in why she got into owning animals- because she wanted GOOD FOOD. And that’s exactly why we wanted to as well. If we wanted food that was fresh and not loaded with pesticides, additives, and sugars- we either had to spend our whole paycheck on groceries, or do it ourselves. We chose the latter.

That’s it for today, folks. Happy reading and have a beautiful Saturday. 🙂


Going Disconnected (Good Pickins’ #28)

Last Monday afternoon, I accidentally broke the cord on my phone charger when my phone was almost dead. Arrg, I thought, now I’m going to have to order another. So I went home that night, found a charger for my iPhone on Amazon prime, and saw that it wouldn’t arrive until Thursday.

It was a little frustrating, but I have gone without phone and/or internet for periods of time before, and it has always been a refreshing time. So I decided that I would make the most of it.

While I still had my computer at home, I found that I suddenly had a lot more time without that silly phone around to pick up at any given moment. I was less distracted and more observant, and- lo and behold- my kids were less cranky too. Probably because mama was more engaged.

How easy is it for us all to be wrapped up in our screens all day. How quickly we forget what it’s like to be unavailable for a day or two- even for an hour or two. How frustrated everyone is when they can’t get in touch with you quickly!

While I’m not ready to make any big drastic changes like dropping internet or ditching the cell phone, the week greatly encouraged me to leave my phone behind more often and to keep the computer off for more of the day.

I’ve got two links you should check out this week on this topic:

The Big Disconnect– Ironically, I began reading this book at a friend’s house the morning before I broke my phone. This startling book pictures what our constant relationship with technology does to our relationships within our family.  The author discusses how our affinity for gadgets and social media can be destructive and dangerous when given an improper place in the family’s life. Many scenarios were frighteningly familiar and unsettling- but most saddening was hearing what children and teens really think of their parents’ screen addictions. I cannot yet vouch for the entire book as I only read a couple of chapters, but it is on my library check-out list for next week.

The Value of Real Connections– This guest writer on Living Well Spending Less shares how she and her family go without internet or cable, and only limited smart phone usage. She challenges all of us to consider what we’re sacrificing in our day, and to re-prioritize accordingly. Inspiring- albeit intimidating- this non-connected mom is standing for that precious time with our families that we too easily let slip away.

I’m certainly far from perfect with this. I need to hear it and think about it just as much as everyone else. So, I’m going to get off this computer to think about how I can better schedule my blog/work time, so that I am ALL there for these sweet ones when they need me.

Going Disconnectedjv

Have a Saturday in which you are fully present in the here and now.

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Good Pickins’ #27

Last week was arguably one of the loveliest of the season. Everything was in bloom, it was gloriously warm outside, and I stopped doing indoor work just because we needed to enjoy all this while it lasted. I mean, just look at all the good stuff that was out!

The machines were working…

May 2015 020

The quince was blooming…

May 2015 026

The men were working on the chicken coop:

May 2015 030The violets were everywhere: May 2015 031

And dandelions too, of course:

May 2015 032

What’s springtime without some dirt play?

May 2015 035 May 2015 038

And then there’s this shrub on the side of the yard with these gorgeous white blooms. We haven’t figured out what it is yet:May 2015 048

The garden is all set to go, and we transplanted our seedlings this week:

May 2015 050

The daffodils were just at their end:

May 2015 055

And the forsythia too: May 2015 057Okay, okay, now that I’ve bombarded you with pictures from around our house… Here’s some good pickins’ for you this week.

Tinkergarten– Has anyone heard of this program? A friend of mine just referred me to it. It’s an outdoor classroom, creative-play based learning program for kids from 18 months- 8 years. No classes in your area? No problem- just check out the free activities posted on the website. Or start your own class!

25 Free or Low-Cost Ways to Keep Kids Busy This Summer– If you have children of almost any age, I thought this was a valuable list to get you brainstorming your summer fun. But my favorite? “Let them be bored.” Sometimes boredom spawns the best creative sessions!

Help for Mothers Who Want to Give Up: I cried my way through this post. I’ve mentioned before that sometimes I struggle greatly with mommyhood, and even on my best days, I certainly never feel perfect. But what perspective it was for me to read this mama’s experience! Ann Voskamp watched her four boys go from hectic little whirlwinds as children- who made her want to give up- to good young men helping each other through thick and thin- boys she is obviously very proud of. I needed this encouragement, and maybe you could benefit from it too.

Hope you don’t mind that all the reading is child-centered this week. 😉 Have a glorious Saturday.


Good Pickins’ #26

Sunshine, sweet sunshine. 60 degree weather, fresh greens, first fishing trips down at our stream, and lots of MUD. The first few really warm days we had, V would run outside with her arms high in the air, squealing and laughing. That’s exactly how I feel when I get to this time of year too.  April 2015 002This week, my friend Rachel shared what’s on her nightstand, and she inspired me to give you a “nightstand edition” of Good Pickins’. Here are the books I’ve got my nose in recently:

The Odyssey– I recently finished rereading Homer’s Odyssey as part of the classical education program for adults outlined in Susan Wise Bauer’s The Well-Educated Mind. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed reading this “Great Book” as a thirty-year old, compared to when I was a disinterested teenager. What’s better? My husband and his 7th & 8th graders were reading it at the same time, so we got to have nightly discussions on it!

The Resilient Farm and Homestead– My husband bought this book after hearing Ben Falk speak at an organic farming conference a couple of years ago. Pretty soon after, he was digging up the yard to put in swales and small ponds supplied by spring water, as well as burying rotting logs underground. Turns out he was inspired by Falk’s innovative permaculture- based agriculture at his research farm in Vermont, Whole Systems Design.

I’m finally getting around to reading the book myself. Falk shares principles for developing a sustainable, versatile, and resilient homestead on your own property. The book has the makings of a richly informing college textbook, with just the right amount of conversational tone to keep it interesting. I’m enjoying absorbing all the ingenious suggestions and gorgeous photographs throughout the book.

The Art of Gardening– Susan of Learning and Yearning graciously gave me a copy of her e-book for review. I am about a third of the way into it, and I have to say that it is a clear, well-written guide to soil-building, seed selection, gardening- and of course, eating the harvest too! This book, beautifully illustrated by Deb Hamby, is 25% off through May 31 with the code SPRING entered at checkout. Keep an eye out for a full review in a couple of weeks. 🙂

How Children Fail – by John Holt. I’ve been paging on-and-off through this educator and author’s book on what really can make or break a students’ grade. His views on how trust and mistrust, fear, and expectations can greatly color a student’s school experience are eye-opening- and convicting. Well worth the read for any educator- home or otherwise.

With that, I’m off to enjoy some fresh air and clucking chickens. Enjoy your Saturday!

This post contains affiliate links. If you make any purchase through an affiliate link, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you in advance for supporting my efforts with this little blog!




Good Pickins’ #25

Well, it’s late April- and it’s snowing here as I type this. Sigh. But I’m not complaining. No, I’m not. Because soon I’ll be a largely pregnant woman roasting glorying in the heat of the summer sun. 😉

This week, we finally have enough green in our yard that I’ve been able to really start foraging spring greens! I’ve been so excited that I find I’m looking for excuses to go out snipping dandelion greens, nettle, chives, and plantain. Delicious!

wild greensNow, onto this week’s pickins’:

Easiest Homemade Yogurt- A yogurt that cultures at room temperature with no extra steps? Now I have no excuse not to make my own yogurt, ever. Thanks, Make It Grow It, for this genius method!

Solar Cooking 101– How cool is this? Trayer Wilderness has a bunch of ideas and recipes for how to cook food in a solar oven. I’ve seen kids making mini-solar ovens out of pizza boxes for a science project- and guess what? Adults can too. Here’s instructions for making your own inexpensive backyard solar oven.

Gardening with Kids– I LOVED this post from Turner Farm Living. J has always enjoyed helping out in the garden, and he’s working on his own little plot this year. I really resonated with a lot of the principles in this post.

Ultimate Homemaking Bundle: I bought the Ultimate DIY Bundle last month, and it is great! This month, the folks at Ultimate Bundles have another fantastic, fast-moving deal: For only two more days, you can get a whopping 99 e-books, e-courses, and bonus offers for only $29.97. One of the courses, A Parent’s Guide to Natural Remedies, is worth $99 alone! I’m still working my way through all the awesome resources in the DIY Bundle, but if you are remotely interested in improving in homemaking areas like cleaning, DIY, faith, finances, cooking, homeschooling, marriage, organizing, mothering, working from home, self-care… you name it- this bundle has something in it for you. Snag yours before 11:59 on Monday, April 27th.

The Essential Oils Revolution– I’ve used essential oils on and off for years now, but I’ve recently developed renewed interest in learning how to best make use of what I have. This event, much like the Homegrown Food Summit, is a free online educational event discussing various aspects of essential oil safety, information, and health-care. Sign up to register and attend from May 11-18.


Good Pickins #24

We’ve been loving the spring weather here- how about you?

April 2015 (Easter) 033 April 2015 (Easter) 034

This week’s Good Pickins’ is going to be short and sweet, because it’s “death by concert” season for our family. Last night we played for a local pregnancy center’s fundraiser event, today is a (non-musical) fundraiser for my husband’s students, tomorrow is a classical concert with opera selections, and Monday morning is a local college ceremony in which I am singing a duet.

That being said, I must focus on practicing and sleeping- not typing. 🙂

So guess what you get to check out today? Videos of the pieces I’m going to sing tomorrow night! First, I’m playing Cherubino (a young boy played by a woman) in Le Nozze Di Figaro, an opera by Mozart. I’m singing the aria Voi che sapete, in which Cherubino asks the women in his company to examine his heart and tell him whether or not he’s really in love:

Next, I’m singing Alice’s small part in a famous sextet from the opera Lucia di Lammermoor, written by Donizetti:

That’s it for now, folks. Have a sing-songy Saturday!


Good Pickins #23

The ground is thawed! The ground is thawed! There’s chives and daffodils popping up! I see bugs in the house!  (I know that last one shouldn’t make me so excited, but it does, because it means we’re finally in spring.)

April 2015 055

The kids worked on their own little garden plot this week:

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And my hubby has our seedlings going strong indoors under the grow light:

April 2015 (Easter) 029On to the pickins’ for this week:

Foraging for Dandelions– Grow Forage Cook Ferment has a great round up of posts for gathering and using dandelions in a number of edible and health-related ways. Delicious!

Frugal and Free Landscape and Garden– Tim made a short retaining fence this week out of sawed branches, and I think it looks nice too. Check out The Coastal Homestead’s ideas for more free and cheap ideas for your yard and garden.

We Quit Our Fridge– Spring Mountain Living has a great post on going without refrigeration. Whether or not you think this is a necessary sacrifice, the alternate storage possibilities are eye-opening! While I don’t know that I’ll be giving up my fridge any time soon, I find the possibility fascinating.

Why I’m a Coupon Drop-Out– I loved this post from April Tells All. I tried couponing a couple of times, and always felt that I didn’t really need the things I was buying. April tells of a better way- finding well-raised, fresh, whole products through frugal sources or by making them yourself to save money and still eat well.

That’s it for today, folks. Have a sunshiney Saturday!



Good Pickins #22

It’s the last week of March, and I think we may finally be getting to that “out like a lamb” part of the month. We’ve had mild temps in the 40s & 50s this week, lots of rain, and maple sap out the wazoo. My husband just started our first seeds last weekend, and will likely do another batch this weekend. Is it safe to say that spring is really here?

All we’ve really been up to is boiling, boiling, boiling sap and practicing for a couple of spring folk music gigs- and enjoying getting some fresh air!

march 2015 maple syrup 011(Is it just me or did this kid grow up into a little boy way too fast?)

On to the pickins’ for this week!

The Ultimate DIY Bundle– This coming Monday-Wednesday (March 30- April 1st) only, the folks over at Ultimate Bundles are selling a collection of DIY e-books, covering topics from crafting and sewing to gardening and canning, from interior design to crafty business basics, and everything in between! The bundle also comes with some great bonuses- a free class from Crafty and a free art print, to name two. It costs $34.95 and only comes once a year- definitely worth it if you’re remotely interested in trying your hand at some creative action!

Homegrown Food Summit– From April 6-12, there will be a free online educational event on growing, preserving, and enjoying your own food. A great line up of top notch speakers will be giving sessions on numerous topics, like working with kids, getting started with fermentation, homesteading on just one acre, and more. I will definitely be trying to attend as many of these sessions as I can! Visit the link above for more info and registration.

A Health Revolution– I LOVED this post. Who needs the gym when you can be doing productive work towards growing food, caring for your local resources, and getting to work with your family and other like-minded people?

How to Eat Seasonally– One thing the $25 challenge made us do this month is either eat our preserved food or eat what was on sale and in season. The Frugal Chicken has some great ideas to encourage seasonal munching.

And, for your entertainment purposes only, a rough recording of a song my husband wrote from a collection of spring-themed haiku. 🙂 (Lyrics are on the YouTube page.)

Have a springy Saturday!

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Simple & Frugal Real-Food Recipes (Good Pickins’ #20)

Simple and Frugal Real Food Recipes

I’m happy to say that this week’s Good Pickins’ is a mouth-watering round up of real-food recipes from a bunch of stellar bloggers. I’m hoping that some of these recipes will give me little steam to help me finish out my $25 grocery challenge month. In order to make the list, the recipes had to be:

  • Mostly whole-food based
  • Good pantry/freezer cleaners
  • Frugal
  • Healthy- obviously a relative term, depending on the category and your preferences. Do with this qualification what you will. 😉

I didn’t put any particular diet restrictions on which recipes would make the list (dairy-free, gluten-free, etc.), but I included some of these recipes to accommodate those of you who may be following such diets. Hopefully this list will be a great starting point for those of us who are looking to cut back on our budgets a bit while still eating well.


banana pb cup muffins growing up mommaBanana Peanut Butter Cup Muffins (Growing Up Momma)
Or maybe these should be dessert? 😉

Soaked Oatmeal Breakfast (Oh Lardy)

Maple-Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal (Milo & Oats)

Our favorite frugal breakfast? Eggs + veggies. Whatever we have on hand goes in, and the possibilities are endless. And it’s (just about) always delicious!

Main Meals

Freezer Cooking Gyspy Road SchoolSweet Potato Mac & Cheese (Gypsy Road School)

Freezer Meal Round-Up (Gypsy Road School)

Twice-Baked-Mex-Pot feeding bigTex Mex Twice-Baked Potatoes (Feeding Big)

stovetop-potato-casserole-sliderStovetop Cheesy Potato Casserole (Little Blog on the Homestead)

Quick Potato Chowder (Little Blog on the Homestead)

Eat More Kale (Sodbusters)

Creamy Pumpkin Soup (They’re Not Our Goats)

simple-siwss-chard-and-white-bean-pasta-1024x682Simple Swiss Chard & White Bean Pasta (They’re Not Our Goats)

Black Bean Quesadillas (Miss Dixie)

Grandma’s Cheddar Cheese Spaghetti (

Comforting Carrot-Onion Soup (Syncopated Mama)


Italian-Bread-feedingbigItalian Bread for Pennies (Feeding Big)

100% Whole Wheat Bread (Blossoms and Posies)

Zucchini Blueberry SourdoughZucchini-Blueberry Sourdough Quick Bread (They’re Not Our Goats)

Fresh Flour Tortillas (The Farmer’s Lamp)

Lazy Overnight Cheese Bread (Log Cabin Cooking)

Oh, breads. I would include the entirety of my baking books if I could.

Desserts & Snacks

 Apple Ginger snaps gyspsy roadApple-Ginger Snaps (Gypsy Road School)

Oatmeal Molasses Cookies (Gypsy Road School)

sproutedpeanutbutterballsSprouted Peanut Butter Balls (They’re Not Our Goats)

Sprouted Flour Cheddar Crackers (Mommypotamus)

The Extra Stuff (Condiments, Seasoning, Etc.)

best salad dressing sunshineFive-Ingredient Salad Dressing (The Sunshine is In)

 Easy Homemade Taco Seasoning (Modern Colors Two)

Or my favorite homemade salad dressing… A splash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. (Salt optional!)

Growing Up Momma also gave me a great tip: the Free Healthy Meal Database. Check out the site she uses to help find frugal and healthy meals for her family!

There were so many meals I could have added to this list… but one can only do so much in one post! 🙂 Thank you again to all the wonderful bloggers who volunteered their recipes for this round-up. I’m looking forward to eating my way through the list!