A budget busy book you can make in an afternoon


These things. They’re all over Pinterest and it seems that everyone has made one at some point but…have you ever actually SEEN one in action? Probably not. My theory is that the reason we never see them in action is because they’re too fussy, too boring, too time consuming, or require skills that no one has.

I haven’t had one yet because I find them tedious. I don’t want to spend three months sewing a busy book or cutting up tiny felt shapes. Ain’t nobody got time fo dat.

My other hindrance is that a lot of these are academically based, which is not in alignment with Waldorf homeschooling for my child’s age. However, at this point, I’ve got a 4yo who knows his entire alphabet and is sight reading, who can count to twenty and do basic math, and knows all his colors and shapes. So I’m caught between Waldorf and unschooling in that I believe in child-lead learning, just as I myself learned. Having a special needs Gifted and Talented child is about balance.

I made my son a busy book because I run a lot of errands by myself with my new baby. Because I have limited time and resources, I hit up the Dollar Store and was pleasantly surprised to find many of the items I need to make a great little busy book. The rest of the supplies I foraged at Target, my local craft store, and my own home.

Here’s what I found:

IMG_20150718_184105128_HDRYou’ll notice I’ve got a 2in binder here- trust me and get a 3″ if you can find it. I also made use of some AWESOME clear zippered pencil case pouches from the dollar store. The dollar store is where I found this foam alphabet puzzle, which I liked because the letters don’t slip around and it’s flat. I took the letters all out and put them in a pouch so they don’t get lost in transport. The other pouch is another dollar store find- there are bright colored shoe laces and some foam shapes. The foam shapes are traced cookie cutters on foam, that I used a hole punch to cut holes in so the shapes can be laced. Sheet foam is pretty easy to find at craft stores if your dollar store doesn’t have it, or you can trace shapes on card stock or cereal boxes.

Homemade foam lacing: http://www.powerfulmothering.com/how-to-make-foam-lacing-shapes/

IMG_20150718_184255525These pouches are a little more advanced. In the first pouch, you’ll see some graphic cards that I printed off from another website. You can use duplos or legos to stack the pattern. For good measure, I included plenty of knock-off legos that I found in the dollar bin at Target. The cards were printed off and covered in clear contact paper. The second pouch was a garage find, and includes a screw, some washers, a wing nut, a rubber band, paper clip, regular clip, a lock and key, and some metal shower curtain rings. This one is actually the favorite.

Duplo tower cards: http://allourdays.com/2012/10/duplo-blocks-counting-tower-matching-busy-bag.html

IMG_20150718_184358169The first pouch here is more for sensory fulfillment. There’s the ever popular Silly Putty, and some dinosaurs that I found at the dollar store that stretch and change colors from the heat of your hand. They’re kinda gooey. You could also include some other sensory items, depending on what your kiddo likes, but I will probably continue to keep this simple because the “less is more” tactic works best with my kid. The second pouch is another printable. The shapes have numbers 1-5 on them, and I covered them in clear contact paper. The clothes pins have the corresponding number and color to clip to the graphic.

Shapes counting printable: http://www.powerfulmothering.com/shapes-counting-and-colors-busy-bag-with-printable/

IMG_20150718_184440069This next pouch will require you to go to a craft store. I got these pre-colored large popsicle sticks and velcro circles there, and I stuck the velcro to the ends, making one side soft and one side sticky. They’re used for making shapes and building things. The second pouch is an Ispy bag made from brown rice and random objects I had in my craft supplies. I put the objects on my scanner and printed off a color page as a “find it” list, then put it in a page protector.

Velcro dot craft sticks: http://www.powerfulmothering.com/velcro-dot-craft-sticks/

IMG_20150718_184511287My last activity is aimed specifically at my son’s learning curve with cutting. He struggles with writing and cutting, so I put these printables in a sleeve because they’ll stay in better. The safety scissors are on a retractable pin, which I got at the dollar store, along with the clear sleeves.

Scissor cutting pages: http://www.kidslearningstation.com/fine-motor-skills/scissor-skills.asp

Thank you to Powerful Mothering and their Ultimate Guide to Busy Bags!

The family couch.


One year ago, I replaced my vintage sofa, who refused to keep her feet on, with a brand new set of furniture. It consisted of a lovely mod chair and a faux suede sofa. It really looked great in my livingroom. People liked it.

But I didn’t. I couldn’t place it. Was it the fact that I’m so little and my feet didn’t touch the floor? Was it because all three of us fit in the chair and it felt like I could never sink into it for a good snuggle? Was it because micro suede shows every hand print and drop of water, and I have two children? Was it the scotch guarding off-gassing into the room? Was it the fact that it was more suited to someone else’s taste? Was it the fact that every time I sat on it or laid on it, I had an allergy attack because it held so much of cat dander?

I have no idea. I didn’t LIKE it. And when I moved, it took two men.

Now, the pattern of grieving for an object you just spent $1200 on goes a little something like this:

“I’ll get used to it. It’s shocking now because I don’t do well with change.”

“It just looked different in the space I bought it in.”

“I’ll break it in.”

“I’m just worried I’ll damage it.”

“OTHER people really like it.”

“What would I do without it?”

“Can I keep hanging onto this?”

“How can I change this so I’ll like it?”

“How much can I sell this for?”

“How can I justify to others why I got this to begin with since now I’m getting rid of it?”

Do you know what the single answer to all of those questions are? It’s “This is just an X.”

The truth is, whether its a new purse or a new furniture set, it’s just a thing. You can’t take it with you when you’re gone- so if it doesn’t serve you in this life, LET IT GO.

I told you I was a Disney princess. You’re just suddenly realizing though that you’re probably racist cuz you thought I was that one with the belly shirt. HA. Kidding obviously. I’m totally princess Jasmine.

Well so, once I came to terms with all of that, I realized that it was ok to hate something I had made the mistake of wasting my money on because I am human. I tried to sell my furniture. No one wanted it. Worse yet, I had to figure out what I was going to do as an alternative. I have a pretty unconventional lifestyle, but we have service providers in our home often for my daughter. Could I convince other people to be wacky with me?

Ooooorr….do I care? :D

I didn’t want more dust/dander collecting furniture that I had to take care of so much, move, pay for, or arrange with two men.

I saw on one of the minimalist groups that a woman had just put her futon mattress on the floor in the living room. To me, this seemed genius- all FIVE of us could fit on it at once, I could nap on it, it could double as a guest bed, and best of all, it has a washable cover and I could put a dustmite cover underneath to block allergens and spills.

And my mom just happened to have a really nice one we could HAVE.

So did it hurt when Salvation Army pulled up and took my furniture? Just a little. But it totally didn’t hurt when my boyfriend and babies snuggled up to me to watch tv. ALL AT ONCE!

Granted, people don’t know where to sit when they visit, but I lead by example. I am bulging with baby, watch my butt twist into a pretzel on this futon mattress! Criss cross applesauce!

I DO however, now have two other pieces of furniture that I really enjoy. They are both rockers- the one my mother rocked me in, and a colorful vintage piece that was made for very small people.

That is the story of why I have no sofa.


Recommended Fall Reading for Waldorf Kids


Ahhh fall. The perfect time to snuggle up with some hot cider, a blanket, and a good story. Literacy and story telling are a huge part of our family life, and we both keep books in the home AND visit the library often. Having greatly minimized my son’s books, we’ve been slowly collecting prize-worthy titles, in the form of rewards and gifts.

I got a few of these title names from The Magic Onions, a blog on family Waldorf homeschooling, and I couldn’t recommend them more as a resource. I also did some independent research, but what I have found is that the library is going to be the best resource because few blogs actually discuss the content of the books in relation to age and comprehension.

Here I am. To do that for you! (just a little…)

Now, I’m aware that most Waldorf kids don’t learn how to read until a little bit later, but my son is 3.5 and reading 3 letter words. He also enjoys being read to. But…he’s 3. He doesn’t like to sit too long for involved stories. That is why I recommend Autumn by Gerad Muller, Pumpkin Pumpkin by Jeanne Titherington, and Every Autumn Comes the Bear by Jim Arnosky.




This first book, Autumn, is for the child and parent to narrate and storytell together. It shows a variety of children participating in numerous fall and outdoor activities.

The second and third books, Pumpkin Pumpkin and Every Autumn Comes the Bear have one line per page and the story line is not complex. Pumpkin Pumpkin is about a boy who grows, picks, and carves his pumpkin. Every Autumn Comes the Bear is about a bear’s journey to transition into fall and winter. It discusses in basic terms how the bear is in nature with other animals and the environment.

The next book is one my son really likes, but the story line is a little more complex and the wording is lengthy. I wouldn’t typically recommend it for a child who was younger than 5. I think 6-7 would be a more appropriate age for this reading content. The title is The Apple Cake by Nienke Van Hichtum and it’s about a woman who makes a series of barters to eventually get apples to make a cake. Each trade enhances the person’s life substantially, and upon return to her home, she’s rewarded by the happiness of the good she has done in her community and her apple cake.


The titles Wild Child by Lynn Plourde and Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert have amazing illustrations. Wild Child is a metaphorical story about mother nature putting her autumn child to sleep. The story is rhythmic and compelling, but because it is abstract, it would be too complex for a child under age 7-8. The same is true of Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf, which is about how a child grew his maple tree. The story seems simple enough, but it’s full of facts that are intangible to the intellect of a small child, such as how shoots are gathered by greenhouse workers, and the back is full of tree-harvesting and growing facts. IMG_20141003_155152733



Lastly, Christopher’s Harvest Time by Elsa Beskow is a beloved and favorite work and author, but the story line is very drawn out, complex, and wordy. The illustrations are also muted and detailed. This is definitely a title for children aged 8 or above, as are most of Beskow’s works. However, this is not to dismiss the story line or heirloom quality graphics.


Pumpkin Cheesecake Smoothie


Have you had enough pumpkin yet? Of course not, it’s only the end of September. I, for one, LOVE pumpkin, and when I was pregnant with my son, I couldn’t possibly put it in enough dishes. I’d often eat it straight from the can, or mixed with yogurt and agave.

Well, I wouldn’t say I’m THAT fanatical about it still, but I still love those big orange globes, so this year, I’m indulging in a sensible way.

Who doesn’t love a smoothie?

This is actually an adapted recipe, but feel free to tinker with it on your own as well!

Pumpkin Cheesecake Smoothie:

1 banana cut into medallions and frozen

4-6oz vegan yogurt (depending on how thick you like it, and I use homemade soy yogurt which is unsweetened and unflavored, but other plain yogurt would do)

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/8tsp ginger

1/4c pumpkin puree

splash of non-dairy milk (depending on how thick you like your smoothie, you can actually mix it first and THEN determine if you need milk)
Put all of this in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Add more milk if it is too thick. Enjoy!


Pst- In case you’re wondering where I got that sweet mason jar lid, you can buy it here or on Amazon. Their website also supplies glass and stainless steel smoothie straws!

Harvest Bread (gluten free, vegan, nut free)

harvest bread

I love fall. It is my FAVORITE season. But this year, it’s my favorite season because I am REALLY exhausted from preserving the harvest. In Maine, usually harvest season begins mid-summer with berries, and ends late fall with apples and pears. But this year, with the exception of the latter, everything came at once- in only 3wks time. We had a very late start to spring, and a very early end to summer. It’s already only 70 degrees here during the day, which are typically late September and early October temps.

In addition to that, we doubled our harvest this year because everything was much cheaper. Last year, green beans were going for around $3.50/lb and this year, they were $.39/lb. That’s an incredible price- so we not only did extra produce this year, but we did double.

This is our harvest this year, with the exception of applesauce. We’ve decided not to do carrots this year because I’ve been ill. We have green beans, tomatoes, pickles, peaches, kale, strawberry jam, blueberry preserve, blackberry jam, beets, piccalilli, squash, zucchini, frozen blueberries, and rhubarb.


And so, to celebrate, I recreated this old time favorite of mine. It’s traditionally called Harvest Loaf Cake, and contains a myriad of sins, including WALNUTS (*shudder*- my son is TERRIBLY allergic), but I’ve adapted it here to be healthy and allergy/Celiac friendly. Enjoy!


Harvest Bread:

1 3/4c all purpose gluten free flour (My pre-mixed blend is made of 1c brown rice flour, 1/2c tapioca flour, 1/2c potato flour, and 1tsp xanthan gum, but 1c brown rice and 3/4c garbanzo flour would work fine if you don’t have an all purpose on hand)

1t baking soda

1t cinnamon

1/2tsp salt

1/2tsp nutmeg

1/4tsp ginger

1/4tsp cloves

1/2c unsweetened applesauce

1c raw sugar or succanat

2 flax eggs (mix 2T flax meal with 6T boiling water and let set 5min.)

3/4c cooked puree pumpkin (canned is ideal)

3/4c dairy free chocolate chips (Rice Dream, Enjoy Life, or Ghiradelli semi-sweet is fine)

3/4c raw pepitas (they are the raw, shelled, green pumpkin seeds, unsalted, but alternatively walnuts can be used)


Grease a loaf pan and preheat your oven to 350.

In a large bowl, mix all of your dry ingredients, including spices and sugar. Then add your wet ingredients, including your flax eggs, applesauce, and pumpkin. Then mix in the chips and seeds. Pour into a loaf pan and smooth the top with a spoon. Bake approximately one hour. Cool outside of the loaf  pan to allow the edges to breathe.

This toasts up great in a toaster oven for breakfast!

Soothing Molokhia and Spiced Rice


My significant other is um. Not really open to broaden his horizons in the matter of food. And let’s be real- I eat some pretty different things. In other parts of the world, bean burgers are felafels, and almost everything is meat based. An example of this would be his home country of Egypt.

Don’t get me wrong- he gets an A for effort when it comes to eating gluten free vegan noms. But the man can only take so much. So every so often, he cooks.

He’s actually a really skilled cook, and it’s obvious that someone along the line, probably his mother, taught him well. He even is pretty creative when it comes to accommodating our eating habits. The hardest milestone has been involving oil. I don’t consume oil as a rule because it’s bad for your heart. The middle east is known for it’s fried food and olive oil.

One day, I was not feeling well. I don’t usually feel well. So he told me to go take a nap and he would make dinner. I’m not going to lie- this sounded like one helluva deal, especially since he cleans up after.

When I woke up, he made this. Molokhia is a very popular Egyptian vegetable which is otherwise known as jute in the US. It’s a green leafy vegetable that you can find in the freezer section of your middle eastern or halal market. He paired it with rice, but he tells me that the broth is traditionally made by boiling chicken, and then you add the chicken as a side to the rice.

To make this dish, first begin by chopping up an onion and sauteing it until it’s slightly brown.


Then add 3 cardamom pods that have been cracked open.




Add a couple teaspoons of cumin,  liberal salt and pepper, and about 1/8c dried parsley. Then add 4c water and bring it to a boil. When the water is boiling, add your 2 cups basmati rice and bring it to a boil. Turn down your heat to low and put a lid on it. Leave it alone.

Sometimes a chopped tomato is added to this.


See this? Add 3 teaspoons of it to 8c water in a large pot. If you’re using Edward and Son’s boullion, add 2-3 cubes. You want 6c broth and 2c water. Bring it to a boil.


In a separate small skillet, saute an ENTIRE HEAD OF GARLIC that has been grated.


It should be this color. Scoop some of the broth you’ve made in the 8c water, into this skillet to get the oil and garlic from the pan. Make sure it all goes into the broth.


When the water is boiling, add the molokhia. Stir until completely thawed and evenly in the broth.


IMG_7383Add a teaspoon or so coriander.

Bring to a simmer, stirring often. Stir before ladeling out to serve.

And by now your rice should be done. You’ll know it’s done because it will be moist but not sticky. Stir it to evenly distribute the spice and onion, then serve alongside the molokhia.

Alternatively, you can mix the two dishes.


Understanding the basics of minimalism


Minimalism is a new buzz word, isn’t it? It used to be about architecture and design, but recently it’s become a new fad in which privileged bachelors denounce their worldly goods- and in some cases, even their high paying jobs- and hit the road to do as they please.

I’ve come across quite a few camps of thinking on minimalism and what it means. There are those who count their possessions- 100 or less, and there are those who are not happy unless they live in a pristine white environment. But if one thing were constantly true about minimalism, it’s that it is personal.

I think we get hung up on the wrong values in minimalism. For example, instead of counting how many objects we own, shouldn’t we be counting how many hours we spend on Facebook instead of with our family? I always feel really sad when I happen across an ex-minimalist, professing their love of possessions and “freedom to relax”, but I’m also equally saddened when I read about someone ejecting a pen from their apartment to justify buying a new dress that they really loved.

dining room

Do you know what *I* think minimalism is?

Minimalism- love it or use it.

Minimalism is anti-consumerist. That is, minimalists are anti-consumers. They think objectively about what they purchase and why. Most also think about sourcing- the production of what they buy. This applies to their hard goods for the household, their food, and even their services. Some try to support small businesses, and some are locovores. But at the end of the day, minimalists are not impulse or leisure shoppers. They do not care about labels or brand names, or keeping up appearances. They don’t pay homage to commercials. They are not brand-loyal. Minimalists look The Man in the face, tell him to go F himself, and laugh at the threat of poverty. We say, “We don’t need your useless crap. I am good enough. I can be happy.”

Minimalism is a form of higher thinking. It is realizing that material gain is not what makes us happy- experience does. It is realizing that our attachment to this world is limited to this existence. It is having a higher consciousness of our carbon footprint. It is also about realizing and acting against global inequality. It is refusing to bow down to marketing that tells us we cannot live without something. It is excepting our unique selves and imperfections.

Minimalism is a form of freedom. Without excessive services or belongings, we no longer have to account for so much, spend weekends cleaning or decluttering, constantly clean our home, or worry about storage. Minimalists don’t pay for storage bins. They do not concern themselves with holiday shopping. Minimalists are self-assured- they make choices in the face of adversity that suit their needs. Minimalism is always being ready for company. Minimalism is release from a society that tells you that you are perpetually dissatisfied with what you have.

Minimalism is a world reality and first world privilege. People in other countries do not have the privilege of practicing minimalism- they are forced to practice it. It is practiced intentionally by people who have escaped consumerist culture. Minimalism can also mean buying higher quality goods because money is being funneled in a single direction instead of multiple directions. Minimalism often leads to emergency savings funds and leisure trips or vacations.

I do not know how many of each item I possess, but I have only been to the mall twice in five years. I do not buy new clothing unless it’s underwear or socks. I do not know what brand my shoes are. But I know they are vegan.

In short, my lifestyle is in line with my values. Instead of cleaning constantly, I can garden to make flowers for our dwindling bee populations and grow safe organic food. Instead of stockpiling supplies in my home, I think about where packaging goes once I’ve used a product. I make super meaningful and useful gifts. I frequent the library. I don’t overload my schedule because it means I would be compromising my personal care and happiness. I make choices that make me happy instead of what people say or think I should do.

Minimalizing simplifies your life in every area, not just material possessions.


Some hard questions that you might ask yourself while purging your crap that is ruining your happiness are these:

  • Are these books that I like my identity, or are my own thoughts and reflections of their material my identity?

Your books are not your identity. I’m a total Potter Head. I am not the Potter series. No one cares if I own the series. I am not less of a Potter head.

abes mess

Have some books.

  • Do I love this thing or do I feel afraid to live without it?

Are you afraid that living with a microwave will be too inconvenient? Have you TRIED to live without certain objects? One method to minimalism is to box up everything you own, and gradually pull it out as you need it over a set period of time. This obviously doesn’t apply to seasonal items.

  • Do I use this, or am I afraid I will need it?

How many sewing machines do you own in case one breaks? Cell phones? If you’re afraid you’ll need a replacement of something, consider putting money in a savings account.

  • How many hobbies do I think I need?

Go through your hobby supplies and make a list of the projects that each supply demands. You might be surprised to see yourself pulled in so many directions that you couldn’t possibly choose one. Choose a few, and let the rest go. Be realistic about your time restraints.

art supplies

  • Is it realistic that I’m going to sell this, and will the money be worth my time?

The other name for Ebay is “Pain In The Ass”. The other name for Freecycle is “I left this on my doorstep for you.”

  • Is this object something I appreciate it, or am I equating it with the person who gave it to me?

Your great aunt’s china is not your great aunt. If you hate it, get rid of it or offer it back.

  • Will someone else use or love this? Need it?

Are you seriously going to wear those maternity clothes again, or will a teen mother’s shelter use them with gratitude? Who is going without shoes so you can have 12 pair?

  • Who can I benefit by passing this into the community?

Animal shelters need a surprising variety of weird things. They recently got all of my mascara stained washcloths.

abe's clothes

  • If I suddenly need one of these, how much will it cost to replace it, or who can I borrow/trade from?

My mom got rid of all her drills. Then I needed one. It didn’t cost much to replace. Yet all of those drills took up an entire box in her storage space.

  • When was the last time I needed this?

Also known as, “Why do I still own a breast pump and art supplies from a class I took in 2004?”

  • If I get rid of these baby items or art work, will I retain their memories?

Yes. Especially if you take pictures of them and/or get a digital picture frame. Unless your child has passed on, consider appreciating them at their current life stage instead of living for the days that you had no sleep and they kept pooping. Oh ya, those memories, right?

  • Do I even like to use this item?

Do you like those generic candle holders? Probably not. Most decorations have zero meaning. So get rid of them and either do without (re: no dusting) or replace them with something meaningful that inspires you.

  • Can I replace this item I use everyday with a quality item that better suits my needs?

I assure you that it is probably time to replace your socks and towels. And maybe even your sheets. And teflon cookware. You get the idea.

  • Am I going to actually fix this?

That answer usually depends on how long it’s been broken. If it’s been awhile, you probably don’t even need it.

  • Is this organized in a way that is functional?

Is your kitchen organized in a way that makes it easy to cook? Is your family area designed for people to gather together?

abe's clothes 2

  • Does this furniture work for my body?

Also known as, “Why am I sleeping on a bed frame when I’m 4’10”?”

  • Do I have this because society tells me I should?

Like holiday decorations, curtains, picture frames, coffee tables, etc.

  • What will people think if I….”

“…..only get my kids 2 presents for the holidays, stop shaving my armpits, get rid of the sofa, and trade in my car for a bike?” Who cares? Do they pay your bills? No. When they pay your bills, you can care what they think. Or not.

  • Will I wear this again?

Does it fit? Is it flattering? Does it need mending? Is it in style? Is it functional? Take out the items from your closet that you can remember wearing recently OR that you absolutely LOVE. If you hesitate, you don’t love it. Then put things with them that are mix and match or that compliment them. If you don’t have anything, put it back or get something that will compliment it and other outfits. Then get rid of the rest of that stuff in your closet. It’s mocking you. If you lose weight, you’ll want new clothes. If you gain weight, you’ll need something more flattering. Don’t let it stare you in the face every morning, telling you that you’re imperfect and dissatisfied. Love your body TODAY.

So now that you’ve got all this crap out of your house, what are you going to do, right? You’re going to sit down and write down real life goals that have nothing to do with acquiring “things” and you’re going to find a way to go after them. You’re going to go do things that make you happy instead of getting “things” to fill that void. That’s how it works.