Old Children’s Books Series Kids Today Should Read, Part 1

I cannot begin to tell you how much I love books. Some people love reading; I love reading AND books. Those are two different things. The second means that I prefer experiencing paper pages instead of the LED glow of an e-reader. I’m afraid it also means that I have a compulsion to hold on to my books. I just… don’t let go of my books! It might be a mental condition; I don’t know, but those who’ve been to my house bear witness to this particular trait of mine.

Being a book hoarder also means that my kids get to read the actual books that I read as a child. They can open a book and see my name written in my then-still childish handwriting. More often than not, the date or year when I got the book is included. That’s something I got from my mother. It was always thrilling to me to read her old books and note that they had been with her since the ’60s and ’70s. I came to love Emilie Loring because of the stash of old romances that she herself held onto. None of my friends knew who Emilie Loring was.

So that’s the other thing, hoarding books means that I have copies of older editions or of books that are no longer being printed at all, and I’m just the kind of person who would consider those treasures. 😀

I love children’s books, and I’ve started writing and publishing my own as you might know. However, nothing beats a tale of childhood adventure during a time when children had more freedom to explore, when they had to turn to the outdoors for fun, when they had to rely on their imagination and creativity to be entertained…

I like exposing my children to this kind of childhood. It was a great time. It had its problems, of course, but I think many of the old-timers have a hankering for the good old days for a reason. I would love to let my kids experience such an era, even if only in books and movies.

But we’re talking about old children’s book series. Many great ones have remained popular through the decades such as Nancy Drew, but I think there are also many excellent ones that have slipped through the cracks. From time to time, it’ll be my pleasure to write about the more obscure old series I love and want my children to read. Today, I’ll start with three.

The Mad Scientists’ Club (first published in 1965) by Bertrand R. Brinley

Each book in the series, except for the last one (The Big Chunk of Ice), which was published by Brinley’s son in 2005, is a collection of short stories narrating the wacky adventures of this group of friends comprising The Mad Scientists’ Club. The stories were first published in “Boys’ Life,” the official youth magazine of Boy Scouts of America.

What do I love about this series?

  1. It’s straight up adventure and shenanigan. It’s a fun read that’s meant to engage your imagination and tickle bone. There’s no coming-of-age drama. It’s just a bunch of boys pestering the rest of the town with their grand scientific schemes.
  2. The science is solid. The main characters are boys who strongly practice DIY and accomplish scientific feats in the name of wholesome mischief.
  3. It’s set in the idyllic (but, of course, fictitious) small town of Mammoth Falls, which provides hills, river islands, caverns, etc. for energetic and inquisitive children committed to staying out of the house.
  4. The characters are all entertaining, the townsfolk included. Even the main villain, the rival gang of a former Mad Scientists’ Club member, is funny and not at all menacing.
  5. It’s the kind of book that will have you frequently bursting out in laughter.

*There was a two-part episode in “The Wonderful World of Disney” based on “The Strange Sea Monster of Strawberry Lake.” If anybody could point me to a copy, I’d appreciate it. 🙂

Trixie Belden (first published in 1948) by Julie Campbell Tatham (Kathryn Kenny)

Trixie Belden is kind of like Nancy Drew, except written with more levity and a younger sleuth (13) who is decidedly less of a paragon, but definitely more fun than Nancy. My mom scored my first Trixie Belden books (1 “The Secret of the Mansion” and 2 “The Red Trailer Mystery”) from, of all places, the nearby supermarket. I loved them. I loved Nancy Drew, but I enjoyed Trixie’s stories more. Why?

  1. Trixie was more realistic than the perfect Nancy. She could be rude, short-tempered, and impulsive. She also had chores and was usually short of cash. She was forever struggling with math.
  2. Again, the stories are set in a small town (love small towns!), and it’s easier to picture Sleepyside-on-Hudson than River Heights, which seemed too much like your generic suburban neighborhood (to me anyway).  The modest but sweet Crabapple Farm, which was nestled in a valley between two mansions on a hill, is decidedly more enticing.
  3. Bess and George provide humorous banter for Nancy Drew, but the Bob Whites (what Trixie and her friends, including her brothers, call themselves) definitely engage in zanier exchanges.

The Melendy Family Series (first published in 1941) by Elizabeth Enright

Mona, Rush, Randy, and Oliver are the Melendy Quartet, siblings who had a myriad of adventures starting from their time in the Manhattan brownstone they lived in and all the way to their odd-looking home in the country. They eventually gained another sibling in the heart-warming “And Then There Were Five.” What’s so great about this series?

  1. It is set in the Second World War, and you can see how children in the States were able to support their troops in their own small ways.
  2. The books are pretty action-packed with a wide variety of adventures from building a dam to staging a show, from gathering metal scraps to nighttime hikes, etc.
  3. They are children who follow their aptitude and nurture their gifts.
  4. Their values are solid even if they are also prone to mischief and snarkiness like many children.
  5. There’s no shortage of lovably eccentric characters, including a smiling pet alligator kept in a bathtub.

All these fictional children are ones I’d love for my children to get to know and draw inspiration from.

There are more wonderful, lesser known old-time children’s book series I’d love to feature, but which ones would you recommend? Let me know. 🙂

Quarantine Nature Scavenger Hunt

Do you miss immersing yourself in the natural world? Now more than ever, I wish my family lived in our own homestead. This quarantine wouldn’t be as oppressive if there was a bigger space in which to move around. At least we do have some outdoor space and a garden to which we can venture out (sans mask) for some fresh air and greenery.

We like going out though, especially to drive down to the river or up to the mountains so the kids can get their nature fix. Another usual outdoor recreation haunt for us that we greatly miss is the UP Diliman (my alma mater) campus, which seems to have acquired squirrels in the absence of the typical university bustle! Also, there are said to be sheep grazing on the grounds or hanging out at the jeepney stands! All these, of course, just make the hankering to see the place that much stronger.

I have to say that I’m the worst kind of introvert, but even I’m feeling penned up. I miss our church. I miss our homeschool co-op. I miss bumping into friends and acquaintances as I’m out and about. I miss eating out (how my heart breaks over all those long-running dining establishments that have been forced to permanently close their doors, or those that just opened and never even got the chance, or just all the businesses out there that have suffered and continue to suffer because of the pandemic). I also miss buying stuff from brick-and-mortar stores and not having to worry about exorbitant shipping fees. I’m most definitely craving our family road trips.

But I disgust myself when I get this whiny, so I compensate by finding ways to make the situation work.

Like I said, I crave nature and doing nature-oriented activities, but even in our concrete (or cinder block and plaster) cocoons, we can still encounter bits of the natural world (all very “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”). As that cool Dr. Malcolm says, “Life finds a way.” If we bother to take our eyes away from the screens, we can find living nature, other than the humans, at home. If we take the time to register their presence and appreciate their existence, we’ll feel a connection with the fresh and living world out there and our minds are healthier for it.

We can consciously look out for these things in our confinement, and what better way to do that than with a Scavenger Hunt. This is always fun. At least, for me, it is.

I know we have different home situations, so I’m going to make a list each for those who are really pretty much limited to finding the items listed inside their homes, without even a window with a good view to look out of; for those who don’t have exterior space, but do have a nice view from a window; and for those who have a yard. I hope at least one of these can help you pass the time and the activity can help tide you over until you can venture out again.

 

It’s okay to include items in the fridge or pantry.

 

Repeat items ought to be different kinds, e.g. Bird 1 (sparrow), Bird 2 (pigeon), Bird 3 (crow).

 

Feel free to add interesting items you spotted to the list. 🙂

From Vicks to Katinko to Essential Oils (Plus Homemade Laundry Soap)

I recently saw a clip of Fil-Am comedian Jo Koy joking about Filipino moms’ tendency to cure everything at home. While I don’t resort to Vicks VapoRub for every malady like his did, it was definitely a staple at home when I was growing up. It was used a lot on me as I had a running cold (allergies it turned out) for most of my… oh, why limit it to childhood – for most of my life. That’s still the case up to now. I’m snotty in the morning, and my nose is sensitive to any disturbance – external (whatever’s in my environment) or internal (strong negative emotions). The urge to follow suit in the Vicks dependence is strong, except now, there’s Katinko. It took over Vicks VapoRub’s reign. I use it for pains, cough and cold, gas, etc.

As a true Katinko fan, of course, I got the ointment, the liniment, and the stick, but I’ve relegated them to the second line of defense. As much as I love Katinko, I know its ointment/balm is petroleum-based and it has synthetic ingredients in all its forms. In looking for a more natural alternative, I came across essential oils. This was about a decade ago, before the essential oil hype raged around the world.

I’ve always been interested in botany and herbalism. I can attribute the interest to various factors. First and foremost, plants and fungi are just so fascinating (right? *uncertainly* :D). Second, I was exposed to plant-based home remedies growing up.  I drank juice or tea from ampalaya (bitter gourd) leaves for my asthma, lagundi (Chinese chastetree) for coughs, calamansi (calamondin) for colds, and coconut water for UTI. I used acapulco (candle bush) for my dog’s episode with mange (it was an airborne problem, not mites), and you can safely assume that I squatted over a steaming pot of guava leaves tea in the days after giving birth. Third, my great-grandfather was an herbolario (herbalist, although many herbolarios were also witch doctors), so you could say it’s in my blood. I’ve always flirted with the idea of running an apothecary myself. Yes, in this century/millennium. I like the idea of making healing salves, balms, ointments, poultices, tinctures, teas, and (my daughter’s preferred term) potions all from natural ingredients. I know I have to do formal studies to run an apothecary. I don’t think my degree in foreign languages will cut it, lol. When I finally learn how not to be distracted, maybe I will formally study herbalism. In the meantime, however, I’m building my own FARMacy and using items from my garden for immediate remedies.

In any case, I thought essential oils fell right in with this lifestyle choice. When my first son was diagnosed with autism, I got even more into it. I came across various articles extolling the benefits of essential oils for special needs individuals. I started using oils to influence mood, encourage sleep, and stimulate mental clarity. Still connected to our autism diagnosis, essential oils figured as well in my bid to detox the family. Apparently, the commercial hygiene and home products that we use are rife with toxins, so I endeavored to start making my own from scratch, using oils and other natural, wholesome ingredients.

Considering my interest in essential oils, you’d have thought I immediately signed up with one of the dominant brands. Unfortunately, I have a problem with the idea of multi-level marketing, so I didn’t for a long time. I used different brands for years until I detected the better efficacy and general superiority of a couple of brands. It came down to two options, but I eventually chose Young Living as my essential oil brand of choice. I really liked doTERRA too, but most of the people I know were signed up with Young Living, so I decided to bite the bullet and sign up too. I figured if I was going to be using YL oils for virtually everything, I might as well get them at member rates.

Now, I likely won’t flourish much in the business side of YL because, first, I suck at selling; second, I suck at recruiting; and third, I don’t really have the time to devote to building a business. That’s not going to stop me from making a half-pantsed effort now and again though. You’re obviously getting a sample of some such effort right now.

All I can do is write about my experience with oils, how delighted I am with the benefits, how thrilled I am to be able to make my own products and know with certainty what’s in the stuff we use, how excited I am to share the oils and the knowledge with my loved ones, etc.

For now, I’d like to show you some of the essential oil blends I recently made. These are mostly rollers, blends I use for helping boost the immune system, for soothing itches, for repelling mosquitoes, and for combating allergies. There is also the spray blend I use to discourage aphids or to freshen up the smell of the room, plus a jar of homemade laundry detergent.

For the roller blends, it’s just fractionated coconut oil (which I prefer to virgin coconut oil, because it is more easily absorbed by the skin, doesn’t clog pores, and stays liquid no matter the temperature) as carrier oil and drops of essential oils. The spray, on the other hand, consists of distilled water and essential oils. For the laundry detergent, here’s the recipe.

You can make this by the gallon, of course, but it doesn’t have preservatives or other stabilizing agents, so I only make what I’ll be using for a week or two and then make another batch.

It gives me such fun, not to mention a sense of accomplishment and self-sufficiency, to make things from scratch. Essential oils make the endeavor better for all the benefits they offer. You can count on me sharing more recipes for essential oil-based products here from time to time.

As wonderful as essential oils are, there’s a learning curve to using it. It’s important to know the basic safety protocols before you even start. For instance, use of certain oils is discouraged for certain ages. There are also important diffusing guidelines you should know before you start. What about pets? Are essential oils safe for them? Arm yourself with the fundamentals and you can reap the benefits of essential oils without courting risk.

If you’re interested in getting into essential oils, or you’re curious and want to know more about them, or you’re a fellow enthusiast and would like to chat about them, reach out to me here. Or we can chat in the comments section. Your call. 🙂

Unschooling and the Budding Artist

Today’s post is written by my daughter. She’s going to talk about her main interest, which is art.

I’m Marguerite, I go by Lumia online. I love art and spend a lot of my time drawing and painting. I am not very polished yet, but I am willing to work and train to become a professional artist someday. That’s what every beginner artist wants, right? To get better so that they can be like the artists they admire. Well, if you want to become an artist as well, you better practice everyday and look at tutorials online like I do. You also have to toughen yourself up because, if you want to improve, you also have to accept criticism.

I am also fond of video games and anime, so I usually draw video game and anime characters. I got the name “Lumia” from a video game series named The Touhou Project. (She’s actually called “Rumia,” a mistranslation of Lumia.) Let me tell you more about my journey as a young artist.

I first learned that I wanted to become a professional artist back in 2016. I saw lots of process videos of art. They looked very fascinating and I got inspired to get into drawing more seriously.

Before that, I just knew that I enjoyed drawing and did a lot of it. The earliest art creation of mine I can remember is drawing ovals with faces and sticks for arms and legs on one of the walls outside my grandma’s house when I was about 2-3 years old. (Hahaha. Don’t worry, I used chalk.)

Since then, I’ve gone through several art phases. For a time, I liked drawing digitally, and then with colored pencils and watercolor markers. I also did a lot of painting with watercolor and acrylic. I didn’t like using oil that much.

Right now, I enjoy both digital and traditional art forms. I like to draw or paint on paper first, and then scan the picture to digitize it. That’s what I did with the cover of “Encounters with Strange Creatures,” the first book in Mom’s series about the XQ Girls. For that one, I used Ibis Paint. The medium I prefer for drawing is colored pencils, but I’m eager to use other media more in the future.

To improve, I’ve taken courses and workshops, including basic drawing and painting classes, landscape watercolor painting, sumi-e style watercolor, and other techniques applied to watercolor. I’m interested in learning how to do semi-realistic art. My drawings are more cartoony than realistic.

When it comes to influences, mine include Pluvias, Chaesu, Orange0925, Alphes, and Moe Harukawa. These are artists I found on YouTube and Instagram. When it comes to the classics, I like many of Edvard Munch’s works.

I’ve been thinking of opening commissions for a few months already, but I still have to get around to doing it. Mom said I should create a gallery of my artworks and build my resume. I’ll get on that soon. Right now, I’m working on a couple of paid art projects – a few illustrations for my mother’s books and three acrylic paintings for my uncle. I recently finished the cover for “Return of the ’80s White Lady,” the second book in the XQ Sisters series. I used watercolor to make it and didn’t digitize it beyond scanning it and using a filter.

That’s all for now. Here is a picture I drew and then digitized using PaintTool SAI 2 for the pandemic frontliners.

Homeschooling Methods and Jigsaw Puzzles

As you probably already know, we’re a homeschooling family. Many of you who have been forced by the pandemic to consider homeschooling are probably learning that there are vastly different ways to homeschool. If I were to label our homeschooling style, I’d say it was independent eclectic with strong leanings toward unschooling.

My eldest child is 13 years old, so, since we believe that learning starts at infancy, we often say that we’ve been homeschooling for 13 years. In those 13 years, we’ve tried a number of homeschooling methods. In the beginning, I fell in love with Waldorf. I had some concern about the spiritual aspect of it, but found a Christian Waldorf resource. We tried it out, but it involved an entire lifestyle that wasn’t always easy to keep up, so we took the bits that we liked and tried out other things that we thought might suit us better. It was early days, so we did a lot of sampling. At preschool age, my daughter ended up doing a lot of lapbooks and project-based homeschooling. 

In between then and a couple of years ago, we sort of fell into unschooling. I was busy with work, autism revelations, new babies, homemaking, etc. and it was just easier to let Marguerite follow her interests since I didn’t have the energy to be consistent with any structured curriculum. In those years, she got very good at different forms of art, amassed an impressive vocabulary, turned herself into a grammar Nazi, and cultivated a hodgepodge of really cool interests. She was definitely behind in Math. Her grasp of Science was splotchy but okay, probably not any worse than what I’ve retained after 15 years or so of traditional schooling. Her historical and trivial knowledge, however, was impressive. 

It was mostly going okay, except that I felt a lot of guilt and disquiet about the total absence of “schooling,” and I experienced a lot of anxiety about the future. I obviously didn’t go through proper deschooling like I should have to properly embrace the concept of unschooling. So, about two years ago, I decided to try another homeschooling approach that had interested me in the beginning. Charlotte Mason appealed to me because it prioritized a lot of the subjects and skills I valued. I like the idea of copywork, nature studies, narration, living books, classical art studies, practical crafting, etc. We tried following Ambleside Online’s curriculum, but we tended to deviate from it to read and do whatever the kids preferred, so, as with Waldorf, we took the bits that suited us and moved on.

I want to say that we switched back to unschooling, but it wouldn’t be true. I feel that there are skills and knowledge that my kids would benefit from and should acquire whether they’re interested in them or not, so I include them in their to-do lists.

I do still subscribe to a lot of Waldorf and Charlotte Mason resources and I remain a member in the FB groups oriented to these learning methods because there are just some things about them that I really love. Of course, I also affiliate our family with unschoolers because we just identify with them so much.

At any rate, in a local Charlotte Mason group, I recently came across a post advertising jigsaw puzzles depicting famous paintings. I was instantly interested. I love art, I love puzzles, and I loved that these ones were very reasonably priced. I would have liked to order every design available, but I convinced myself to calm down and just start with four. I let Marguerite choose two and I chose the other two. She chose Starry Night (Van Gogh) and Mona Lisa (Da Vinci) because “we should have those,” and I ended up going with Spoliarium (Luna) and Open Window (Matisse).

The seller (The Art of Homemaking) was very accommodating and the transaction went smoothly. I had the puzzles (and all my other shipments) delivered to my parents’ house because there’s always somebody there to receive parcels. I didn’t get to check them out until the day after when we visited my folks. While still there, I decided to try working on one and chose Starry Night. My sister worked with me for a short while, but I did it by myself for the most part. It’s pretty challenging for a small puzzle set (A4-sized, I believe). Of course, I was a bit distracted because I was also chatting with other people and watching TV the entire time (never say that I can’t multitask, lol). It took me two NCIS episodes and one NCIS New Orleans to finish it. We don’t have a TV at home – and obviously for good reason- so I binge watch when I’m at my folks’.

The kids and I worked on Starry Night again at home. It wasn’t in one sitting, so I’m not sure if it took longer or not. When we were done, we debated on whether to hang it on the wall in our homeschool room or not, but decided to break it up again so we could have it as an activity option when we have people over (after the pandemic ends, of course) or whenever we feel like challenging ourselves again. I think it will eventually go up on the wall though. Anyway, I think we’re doing the Mona Lisa next. It’s probably going to be easier than Starry Night, but we’ll see.

There’s only Marguerite in the picture because the boys liked to flit around. That orange on the table is actually Cameron’s. Usually when they’re doing mental work, I diffuse a blend of Peppermint and Lemon essential oils for clarity and focus. 

In any case, these puzzles are a great tool for teaching kids about the masters. They’re definitely more engaging than simple prints. If you’re interested, you can go to The Art of Homemaking Facebook page to check out the different available designs. This is not a sponsored post, btw, in case you’re wondering.

Anyway, puzzles hold happy associations that brim with ‘80s nostalgia for me. Since I do like exposing the kids to old school childhood elements, this activity is a win in multiple ways.

What about you? How do you feel about jigsaw puzzles? Are you homeschooling? What method are you using? Do you have a TV at home? How do you feel about the ‘80s? Let me know!

Foraging the Garden – Unlikely Edibles, Part 2

You’re stuck at home with nothing fresh and healthy in your fridge or cupboards. First, resolve to modify your grocery list (jk!), and then, look out to your yard for inspiration. When I go to my garden, I see quite a few things that I can use to add nutritional value to our meals. It’s not quite the “grocery garden” that I intend for it to be, but it’s getting there.

I enjoy gardening. I like to cultivate plants from seeds and cuttings. I get such a thrill from seeing green sprouts burgeoning out of the soil or green buds developing on stem nodes. Flowers have me doing a happy little wiggle, not only because they’re lovely, but they usually also mean that fruiting is at hand.

As much as I love plants that I grew myself, the excitement that a volunteer brings is something else. I will ruthlessly yank crabgrass from the soil, but with any other weed, I manifest a strange fascination. I’m always willing to let a volunteer grow more sturdy and then replant it in a separate pot, waiting to see what kind of plant it would turn out to be. More often than not, these weeds are medicinal, usually offering what could count as leafy greens as well. There have also been instances when volunteers turned out to be plants I would have grown willingly myself. For example, a papaya seedling suddenly showed up in a pot beside my dragon fruit plant. In another instance, a purple periwinkle (vinca) grew in a crack on the garden wall.

There is a popular volunteer, however, that tends to get overlooked since it’s common to see it as ground cover. I’m referring to the pansit-pansitan (pepper elder/ shining bush/ man to man). It’s characterized by shiny heart-shaped leaves and spikes with dotted tips, which are supposed to be their flowers. Surprisingly (to me, anyway), it also bears tiny round or oblong fruits, ridged, first green and later black. I’ve never seen a pansit-pansitan with fruit, or maybe I just haven’t been paying attention. Its presence is so ubiquitous that I tend to ignore it.

Pansit-pansitan is incredibly medicinal. It helps with various ailments from skin problems to diarrhea to gout, et cetera. And, as I’ve learned from various gardening groups I belong to, it makes for good eating too. So, I decided to try it out. I went to the garden and snipped the bigger leaves, washed them, and then included them in a salad. It wasn’t anything fancy, just a chopped up onion, tomato slices, and lettuce, plus the pansit-pansitan. I then drizzled it with a dressing concoction of olive oil, apple cider vinegar, lemon essential oil, ground black pepper, and sea salt.

Now, as mentioned, I harvested the pansit-pansitan from my own garden. I know it’s clean since I garden organically. My main fungicides are baking soda and ground cinnamon, and my pesticide is a garlic-chili spray I made myself. I nourish the soil with natural fertilizers like vermicast, epsom salt, fermented fruit juice, et cetera. Don’t get your pansit-pansitan from the side of the road and other questionable spots.

Another word of caution involves use of essential oils. Not all of them may be ingested orally. Make sure you’re familiar with the list of edible oils before putting any in your food.

I’m interested to learn more about wild edibles. I would really love to suddenly find pako (fiddlehead fern) in my garden, but that’s probably not going to happen since I don’t live in a rainforest (I used to!).

Anyway, I’d love to hear about your own foraging stories. Please share if you have any. Hasta luego.

Our Journey to Pet Ownership (Scam and Benefits)

I’ve always wanted the kids to grow up with a pet or two. Knowing, however, that the responsibility of housebreaking and other necessary pet training would fall on my shoulders, I thought it would be best to wait until all my own kids were already potty-trained before we got one. I hadn’t figured on autism, however. I should know better than to make conditional clauses that tempt fate. 

My daughter Marguerite has wanted a cat for the longest time. Her lovey as a toddler was a stuffed toy cat she very originally called “Kee Cat” (her way of saying “kitty cat”). When she outgrew her dependence on Kee Cat, she naturally nurtured an interest for the real thing.

Through the years, she has expressed her desire to have a pet cat, and I could definitely relate. I had also distinctly identified myself as a cat person early on. However, she had two brothers who were still in diapers. Based on my own condition, it wasn’t the right time, so I had no choice but to simply  assure her that we would eventually get one for her. Fortunately, she reacted very well to the idea of waiting.

A couple of years ago, however, after reading about the benefits of a dog companion for autistic kids, my husband and I were convinced that the sacrifices and inconveniences of pet ownership would be worth it if our boys were to have significant gains from the experience. We thus visited a pet shop to see how our sons would interact with a Yorkie (our chosen breed at the time). While there, Marguerite got to hold and pet a super cute Persian cat. A few minutes later, she had hives on her arms and red, watery eyes. 

Oh, right. I forgot that I was allergic to cats as well when I was little. I developed a rash on my arms and neck, prompting my parents to rehome the kitten they’d gotten me. My allergies seemed to have eventually gone away as I had cats again when I was in college, also bunnies, and a dog. 

I started reading up on cat allergies and whether there were breeds that were hypoallergenic. There are none despite what some people may claim. There are less allergenic breeds, however, and I became partial to two breeds, the SIberian and the Russian Blue.

I first contacted a Siberian kitten seller I found through an online ad site. It turned out to be a scam. Basically, they would tell you that they’re giving the kitten away for free, complete with a questionnaire to ensure that you would give the kitten a good, loving home, and then when you’re about to close the deal, they say, alas, I’m abroad right now, about to have surgery and the kitten is with me. If you’d send me 15k, I’ll arrange for an international pet shipping service to deliver the kitten to you. I played along with this fishy arrangement until I got their Gcash number, and then told them that I’d just wait for them to get back to the Philippines. Now, I have the Gcash number, but I don’t know how to go about reporting it or if that would even help stop these people from trying to scam others. And they have been successful in some instances. I’ve read in a local FB cat group a woman’s post about how she was still pet-less after paying for several deliveries that didn’t pan out. She said that after she’d sent the money, she never heard from the seller again. Unfortunately, some members were not very kind in pointing out her gullibility.

Anyway, long story short, I tried again, this time on Facebook. The deal went through and we got ourselves two Russian Blue x Scottish Straight kittens. Scottish Straights aren’t known to be low-allergenic, but the former owner assured me that she herself had asthma and skin sensitivities, but the kittens or their parents had never triggered an allergic reaction from her. It has been a week since we got the kittens and no flaring allergies so far. 

It’s early days yet, but I’ve made up my mind not to regret doing this. I’m not a fan of scooping up their waste and cleaning the litter box, but it has been really wonderful having the kittens around. In any case, studies have shown that having a pet offers multiple benefits for the family.

Here are some of them:

  • Health-wise, findings indicate that pet owners are less inclined toward depression and hypertension (Pet fish owners count!). They also tend to have stronger resistance against pathogens. In many cases, the presence of pets is downright therapeutic.
  • Pets give comfort and unconditional love alongside the companionship they provide. They embody a ready confidant free of judgment.
  • Animal care sparks the instinct to nurture, planting the seeds of good parenting. It teaches selflessness, sympathy, sacrifice, and service. 
  • Owning a pet reinforces both responsibility and confidence. Pet owners are helping another living thing remain happy and thriving. It gives them a sense of control and boosts their self-esteem.
  • Growing up with pets provides cognitive support and helps learning in many other ways. Animals can provide lessons in socializing, behavior, emotional management, empathetic insight, and natural progressions.

Anyway, I’m very happy to be the person (one of them) of these kittens, and I’ll probably bore some of you by going on and on about them. If you do want to see more pictures, head on over to my Instagram. Hasta luego. 🙂

Foraging the Garden – Unlikely Edibles, Part 1

When word of a lockdown started buzzing across the nation, my brain went on prepper mode. If we couldn’t go out for weeks, would we have everything we needed at home? While I can’t say that I came face to face with my inner hoarder, I can say that the impulse to panic buy bucked and reared, ready to gallop straight to the nearest warehouse store.

Unfortunately, all this went down right before we were to do our weekly grocery shopping. Taking stock of our fridge, I could tell our supplies were running low. And while our cupboards boasted enough packaged and canned goods to last us a week (mainly items I tended to ignore since they weren’t favorites), the fruit bowl was beginning to collect dust and a desolate wind was whistling through the barren vegetable crisper.

Obviously, there was really no need to panic buy since the stores remained accessible. For a few minutes though, I had to rack my brain for ideas on how to make our then-meager supplies stretch. With the absence of fresh produce, I also had to think about other ways to source fruits and veggies.

Thankfully, we have a small garden, and it can provide us with some healthy edibles if the scenario we were anticipating had been realized. With my exaggerated perception of the situation’s urgency, I was googling “edible weeds” and “edible mushrooms” (not that we’ve ever come across an edible kind in our garden). Thankfully, pansit-pansitan (in English aka pepper elder, shining bush plant, man to man), which we often get, is always featured in the list of wild edibles. 

However, a really exciting discovery for me (because I’m a plant nerd; also, I’m lame) is that we can eat mulberry leaves. I know you can feed them to livestock (I wish I had goats. 🙁 ) and you can brew them for tea, but I didn’t realize we could eat them as leafy greens. According to several posts I came across in my local gardening Facebook group, you can pluck young leaves and fritter them as you would making crispy kangkong (Chinese water spinach), make laing (he’e lu’au in Hawaiian – we don’t need to make this with octopus in the Philippines) with them instead of taro leaves (you won’t have to worry about your tongue possibly itching either), and stuff them as you would grape leaves.

Since I tend to like most fritters, that’s the first option I tried. You basically make crispy mulberry leaves the same way you cook crispy kangkong. It mainly involves egg, cornstarch, flour, cold water, and seasoning. I tried frittering talinum (fameflower) leaves as well, which I have a lot of, but I think they’re too soft. I’ll stick to just mulberry leaves next time. Or throw in some actual kangkong as well. Since the last frittering attempt, I’ve grown both lowland and upland kangkong.

I didn’t know I’d be blogging about it, so the pictures aren’t very appetizing. I just sent them to my family to show them, hey, you can do this! 

In the same eating-off-the-land/foraging-my-garden vein, I will also post about making pansit-pansitan salad and sprouting chia seeds for microgreens.

If you also forage your yard for food, please share your finds and what you do with them. 🙂

Giving This Another Whirl – Third Time’s the Charm!

And we’re back. Again. Hopefully, I can keep this going this time around. 

So, what’s new? My last post was in 2017. Since then, we’ve moved houses. My daughter became a teenager. I now have two sons on the autism spectrum. I’ve written and published books under a pseudonym. I’ve started pushing (not just using) essential oils. I started teaching Spanish and French again.

I’m sure that many more changes transpired in the three or four years that I failed to update this blog, but that should give you an idea how different of a place I am in now. My ideals remain more or less the same. I’m still a Christian who wishes to glorify God with her life. I’m still hankering after a healthy, natural, and sustainable lifestyle. I’m still leaning on God’s grace to help me through everyday challenges. 

These days, I’m just older, more susceptible to exhaustion and aches. Thankfully, my children are also older and not as demanding of my time and attention or as dependent on my presence as they used to be. That means I can take a minute to look after myself, which I’m finally doing with some consistency after a series of fits and starts.

As you can appreciate, I’ve also dusted off the old blog and posted. Did it take a global pandemic and a nation-wide quarantine order to get me to resume blogging? Nah. I’ve been meaning to take it up again for some time now. I didn’t get any extra free time being forced to stay home. Except for the not going out part, my activities and daily schedule stayed pretty much the same. I think, after posting on my author blog, I remembered to post here as well. It’s as simple as that.

…Except that I had to pause and continue on another day.

What can you expect from me going forward? More of the same, I suppose. I’ll be posting about topics that are relevant to the lifestyle I’m pursuing. It would be a combination of hacks, tips, observations, and ideas about homeschooling, parenting, homemaking, autism, creativity, naturalist activities, spirituality, frugal living, etc.

For the time being, I leave you with this picture.

No, we haven’t moved into our VW Kombi. We’re not living the van life, although Mark and I occasionally talk about doing a bus conversion. This picture is from a camping trip we took in January when 2020 was brand spanking new and we were all so hopeful of what’s to come. As we enter the next half of the year, let’s pray for things to turn around. As we pray, let’s also be grateful for the blessings that persist in spite and because of this immensely trying time. 

On that positive note, I bid you au revoir and hasta la próxima.

Having an Herbarium (an Emily Dickinson Inspiration)

Emily Dickinson is my people. I first came across her poetry when I was about 12 or 13, reading the height of ‘80s teen romantic literature, a series called “Sweet Dreams”. Anybody else remember those books? Did you read them with New Kids on the Block muzak coming from your cassette player? Anyhow, I’ve lost my copies of those along with many other books from my youth, which really makes me sad and explains why I don’t lend books anymore.

The Sweet Dreams stories I distinctly remember as the ones that sparked my fascination in Emily Dickinson are called “The Right Combination” and “Love Lines”. I remember the titles and the story lines like I read them yesterday. I would give anything to own traditional copies of these books again… okay, maybe just a hundred pesos each, so if you have them, please consider selling them to me.

This post isn’t about Sweet Dreams, but about Emily Dickinson and how, decades after she grabbed me with lines like “I’m Nobody! Who are you?” (fodder for my reclusive, angst-ridden, popularity-loathing teen self), she’s still finding ways to remind me that she’s a kindred soul.

Consistent with my fangirl leanings, I already know a lot about Emily Dickinson. I did my high school senior year research paper on her (my teacher actually groaned at the breadth of the folder I’d turned in), as I did my Comm 2 research paper in my first year of college, with focus on Emily’s love life (the professor was amused and delighted with my enthusiasm, saying that I’d actually already created a mini-thesis and I could just develop and expound on what I had for my actual thesis – yeah, that was three years away and I couldn’t connect the topic with my actual major, which was Spanish).

So, the recent pleasurable fellow feeling I’ve had in relation to Emily stemmed from an article about her herbaria. I knew she studied botany and was an avid gardener, but I failed to home in on that information as something of significance when I was young. I’m very much interested in botany, but have never actively pursued the study, except casually in gardening and reading for the purpose of gardening and homeopathy. I figured it was time to put some system and structure into the interest.

With the feature on her herbaria, I found another way to not-so-subtly re-introduce her to my homeschooler (of course, my daughter is already familiar with some of Emily’s poems, thanks to her obsessed mother). With the poet as inspiration, we started working on our own herbarium.

We basically took a scrapbook, onion paper, and white label stickers (all of which were already in our supplies and miscellaneous drawers), and then we started clipping from our own garden. Let me tell you, our herbarium smells lovely. It’s not limited to our own garden plants, of course. When we see something pretty or interesting in our nature walks, we clip a sample and put it in a baggie to be researched and added to the herbarium later. Don’t worry; in our foraging and wildcrafting jaunts, we’re always careful not to overharvest.

What information do we usually jot down in our herbarium to accompany the cuttings?

  • Common name, location where it was found
  • Scientific name
  • Description
  • Practical function

Doing this reminds me of the 100 Species Challenge I participated in on my other blog, which was kind of like working on an online herbarium, using pictures instead of actual clippings. Virtual or actual, I find creating an herbarium fascinating and really fun. Now, I understand how this interest can leave others cold, but if you like botany and find pursuits like this incredibly satisfying, make your presence known in the comments section. Do the same if you love Emily Dickinson. 🙂

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