Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Thank You, Deseret News!

A big Thank You to Wendy Leonard and Michelle Tessier of the Deseret News for the story you did on our soggy, but warm-and-fuzzy, free swap yesterday. (Truth be told, it brought me to tears.)

Here's the link: The Spirit of Helping: 'Take Whatever You Need'

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Occasional Depth of My Youngest

"My spirit is climbing trees."--my 5-year-old daughter said as she climbed a tree in a park. 

"Or mountains. My spirit is climbing trees and mountains. Any kind of climbing."

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Fall Free SWAP Coming Up! Spread the News and/or Come Volunteer

{flyer posted up at my youngest's school}

The next SWAP is coming up soon. Help us spread the word. Below are links to downloadable color/photo flyers like the one in the photo above. Print them out and post them up. Or pass them around electronically--email, Facebook, Twitter, you know the drill.

c o m m u n i t y   f r e e   s : w . a . p .

for everyone and anyone
Saturday, September 27, 2014
9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Orem City Center Park—Rotary Pavilion
North side of Center St. midway between State St. & 400 E.

It’s like a yard sale where everything is free.  Clear out clutter, pass along items you no longer need.   Item donations are welcome—from furniture to home d├ęcor to sporting equipment, with special consideration for seasonal items and cold weather gear.  Please limit donations to items that can be carried by one or two people; nothing that needs special moving equipment—i.e. dollies for refrigerators, etc.—unless you can assume responsibility for transport to its new home.  Simply bring items to the community free s:w.a.p. and then stay and browse the rest of the selection for anything that you could use. 

Note: NO DONATION REQUIRED; feel free to take what you can use.

There will also be a collection bin for any food bank items guests wish to bring which will later be delivered to the community Food Bank in Provo. 

Volunteers needed! 
Get together a group of friends and join us!  
Email desertgreengoddess(at)gmail(dot)com

Any other questions can be emailed to above address.

Facebook group: 
Community FREE S:W.A.P. (Sharing: We All Prosper) - Utah County

s h a r i n g  :  w e . a l l . p r o s p e r .

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Bidding Summer Farewell

{foot selfie in the river with the daughter of a friend}

We have just finished the third week of school and the weather has been a bit unseasonably cool. It would seem the summer holidays are, indeed, behind us. And so I indulgently remember and celebrate.

We were fortunate to meet up with some friends we met while living in Singapore. They are amazing, amazing people currently on assignment in West Africa, but this summer they had a whirlwind tour all around the U.S. We snagged them for a quick al fresco breakfast up the canyon. Lucky us!

{A and my son tending the fire. There is something about a fire; it speaks to a primal urge in all of us.}

{My daughters, G, and ME heading into the woods to play by the river. I love this image: the fairy woods, the sunshine, and the innocence of youth.}

It was during another outing, with some of my in-laws, that I discovered where our fantasy weekend cabin would be: Midway, Utah. Oh, that place is a dream.

{Had a delightful time exploring with Gramma, Grampa, and Uncle J.}

{the youngest and the oldest at the Wasatch Mountain State Park in Midway}

Here's our outing with long-time dear friend, K, and her kids. (They're pretty much family.) Considering we grew up in CA and went our separate ways, it's really quite something that we ended up separated only by a 25-minute drive, two states over in Utah!

{Picnic at South Fork Park in Provo Canyon. Green note: You might notice cloth napkins, reusable lidded containers, glass jars, washable cutlery and reusable water bottles.}

{Bridal Veil Falls, Provo Canyon--it's hard to see in this photo, but several of the older kids climbed up to the upper water fall. We've visited quite a few times before, but this was their first time climbing to the top. They loved it.}

Next up: Lovely, lovely family dinner up Santaquin Canyon with my in-law family, hosted by the generous K and J. My husband is 2nd of 7 children. And though my father-in-law's military service took the family all over the U.S., in turns out that the parents and five of the seven children now live within an hour-and-a-half's drive. How fortunate we are. And what a gorgeous location; loved it. 

{Trumboldt day use area--oh, it smelled good, too! All those pine and fir trees.}

{Yes, please! More of this. So beautiful. I tagged along while the youngest and her cousin climbed around up and down the banks of the frigid, but thankfully, shallow, river.}

Final stop: This year I've got the oldest starting jr. high school, the middle at our trusty neighborhood school, and the youngest trying out a charter school in the neighboring city. The day before school started, we attended the Back-to-School picnic for the youngest's school; it was up Provo Canyon at South Fork Park. (I'll share more about this school and my hopes for it in another post. The short version is that I've given it a nickname: hippie school.)

{Yes, the hippie school picnic saw potluck dishes like quinoa salad and heirloom tomatoes fresh from the garden. But hippies like Doritos and Cheetos plenty! As you can see by the bright orange on my children's plates. ;)}

Nature is my therapy. Visiting with friends and family is my therapy. So summer outings that combine the two...ahhh. Heavenly.

As great as summer can be, let's get real, people: it's the season that reminds me that school is the best. invention. ever!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Globetrotting: Japan, Part 5

Here we are near the end of our 5-day trip organized by Rural Japan Explorer (now called Satoyama Experience). This was the day we would tour the countryside via bicycle. We couldn't help it...the rice fields, the warm summer day in Japan, the biking, we just had to whistle the theme song from My Neighbor Totoro. Our guide was pleasantly surprised at our children's familiarity with Hayao Miyazaki's films (for those who are unfamiliar with him, he's kind of like Japan's incarnation of Walt Disney, with a twist).

Oh, this day was such a delight.

{local gentleman giving out bread for feeding the koi fish}


 {there is so much signature Japan in this photo}

{our guide--I believe his name was Pazu (I know it's a name from one of the Miyazaki films we have seen)--stopped us every now and then to teach us about the area; he did well, very amiable, with an adorable smile.}

{I love this photo by my husband}

{biking-while-photographing skills were tested on this ride}

{Pazu took us to a natural spring where we could fill up our water bottles. The small red shrine is a charming pop of color in all this luxurious green.}

{mini-picnic rest stop for the group--rice cookies with wheat tea}

{by the river--needed to test my biking-while-photographing-backwards skills}

Whew, what a ride! So, so lovely. What a great way to get out and see the countryside. (If you can go biking on your next getaway, do it!) When we returned to the bike shop our guide gave us a recommendation for a lunch spot that turned out to be a charming, artistic, East-meets-West joint. I tell you it was delightfully strange to hear American jazz music at a Japanese restaurant. After lunch it was time to take a van-ride to our final night's stay in the rural mountains of Japan.

Oh, man.


Tanekura is a mountain village with a population of . . . wait for it . . . 22 people. Talk about a sleepy mountain hamlet. Perfect. It is known regionally for its soba noodles and in the fall of the year hosts a festival in honor of its celebrated export.

Oh, but this place might just be heaven on earth. I wish I could capture the whole experience: the heat, the sweat, the quiet of the noisy cicadas, the fragrance, the falling water. 

The peace.

I just pleasantly sighed as I read that. 

{part of the village--photo by my husband}

We arrived at a kind of upscale-rustic lodge, where we were to be the sole guests for the night. The proprietors did not speak a lick of English--so it was a relief that we had our own translator (my husband speaks fluent Japanese)--but they thoroughly spoke the language of grace and hospitality.

{looking down into the entry from our rooms upstairs}

After unloading our luggage and settling in, we joined our host on a tour of the village. (My husband worked hard on this trip--constantly translating so his family could understand and be enriched by this Japanese experience.)

Oh, it was hot that day. Really hot. But the calm was invigorating.

{old grain house, specifically buckwheat--photo by my husband}

Upon returning, our host invited us to wait by the pond while he retrieved the fishing gear. The kids had a nervously-grand time being mentored by both our gracious host and by Daddy. And each kid caught at least one fish! (I'm going out on a limb here, I'm guessing the fish did not have as great a time as the kids did!)

{returning the fish back to their home}

After a group bath . . .

(wait . . . what?!)

More on that in another post. When in Rome, baby.

. . . the kids changed into jammies and my husband and I changed into the traditional Japanese robes provided to adult guests. It was time for dinner. 

We had the place to ourselves. Which was good considering the children were a little tired-wacky; it had been a long, physically-demanding day. We have some, ahem, Loud-American tendencies in our family (all except my husband who is more sensitive to the quiet Japanese culture--well, quiet when the booze isn't free-flowing, that is, because they can let loose when inhibitions are down). Another beautiful multi-course meal in an absolutely stunning setting. Ahhhh.

{this woman was so sweet tending to the littlest}

{this was quite a culinary excursion--the kids ate traditional Japanese foods the entire 9-day trip}

{we even ate fish that looked like fish}

I would do this day again in a heartbeat.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Interested in Doing a Tech Fast?

So the kids and I just finished a week without TV, movies, internet (email was still okay), wii, and phone games. It's our 16th such week in the course of 3+ years, but my first time posting about it. My recent posts have featured various aspects of our tech fasts, from common boredom-busters, to personal enrichment, and to, ahem . . . some not awesome moments.

The idea of unplugging for a set amount of time can be simultaneously daunting and thrilling. Like cloth-diapering, it's not for everyone.

But, for those of you who might be interested in some kind of tech fast, here are a few observations/suggestions:

1. Do not start on a weekend. Unless, that is, you've specifically planned a weekend retreat at some fabulous location that is well-designed for going tech-free. When we do week-long tech fasts, we start on Monday and end on Sunday. The regular routine of the week (for us that would mean school) keeps our days busy and structured. We can practice in the weekday evening hours and then build up our skills for when the whole long weekend days loom before us.

2. Do not start your first one during summer holidays. (This is for those who have young children or teenagers at home.) Unless, that is, you are combining it with an epic travel adventure that will keep them plenty entertained. We have been doing occasional tech fasts for 3 years now. Up until this year, though, our summer tech fasts have corresponded with holiday travels (National Parks, Indonesia, Japan). After two at-home tech fasts this summer, I can assure you that everyone would have preferred to have gone somewhere outside the usual! It was more difficult and would have benefited from more complete planning on my part. Note taken, Self.

3. Do not worry about getting out of touch. I know news happens at the speed of light. After being plugged in, day-in and day-out, we become accustomed to always knowing everything, all the time. What I have learned, though, is that if the news is deep and meaningful, you'll either hear about it in your general communication with loved ones, or it will still be there when you get back. If the news is some flash-in-the-pan random viral video, it's not really a big deal that you missed in. Really, it's not. Besides, there's plenty more where that came from. So just wait a couple of minutes. Another one will show up.

4. Brainstorm a few ideas before you get started. Here is a list we made once (one day I will update it): 

Leaf rubbings
Hair salon
Read-aloud books
Cooking creations
Photo safari
Walk in a park/wild space
Re-arrange bedroom
End-of-week swim party
Trip to zoo, planetarium, etc.
Write music/lyrics of a song
Fashion show
Talent show
Card games/puzzles, etc.
Jump rope
Make an obstacle course
Set up an art museum
Dance party
Extra work project/home improvement
Campfire songs

These are things that might work for our family. Feel free to use this list as a jumping-off point; tailor it to suit you or your family.

What other questions or concerns come to mind? What other ideas do you have that we could add to our list?  

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Tech Fast Week: #16/Day 6

My normal evening routine involves watching a favorite show while eating chips, salsa, cookies, candy, donuts, brownies, pie, Wendy's frosty with fries, salted cashews, raw almonds, dried cranberries, chocolate chips, peanut butter, and/or pretzels.

I find that by replacing watching shows with reading a book, I eat significantly fewer treats and snacks. Holding a book somewhat precludes mindless snacking. I don't want to get grease or salt or chocolate on the pages of my book. So I simply don't eat them.

Occasionally changing up my routine like this highlights for me just how much garbage I eat out of habit and not out of hunger.

In the end, when I'm ready to climb into bed with my book, I tend to indulge ever so slightly with a wee bit of my good chocolate.* And that's it. One square. I lie in bed, savor it, finish it, then pick up my book and nestle into my propped-up pillows. And read.

I know, I know, tech isn't my problem when it comes to snacks; it's self-discipline. But the facts remain: tech fasts do affect my food choices.

And with that, I bid you goodnight. Sherlock Holmes awaits.

*My current bars: Endangered Species Natural Dark Chocolate with Forest Mint, 72% cacao content OR Millcreek Cacao Roasters, dark chocolate with chili pepper spice
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