5 Things I Learned in February

posted in: journal 2

Well, long time no blog post. I’ll spare the excuses (some of them you can infer from the rest of this post) and tell you what I’m always telling myself, “Now I’ll be back on track and not miss a planned publish date.” Ha!

Brandy gives a top 5 every week. Anne Bogel shares 7 things she’s learned every month. I, however, only have 5 to share on a monthly basis. In no particular order, here are 5 things I learned in February.

1: I discovered my pie crust recipe.

I’ve been experimenting with pie crust recipes off and on for years now. I even tried to source real lard (not hydrogenated) and, when that didn’t work, render my own (tasted off). For the last year I settled on half butter (for the taste) and half Crisco (for the flaky texture), hydrogenation be ignored.

This year I’ve been on an America’s Test Kitchen kick, though, sparked by my husband’s gifting me a subscription to Cook’s Illustrated. So I pulled out the Cooking School cookbook we gifted our 15yo for his birthday and tried their pie crust – actually following the recipe, which included the note: don’t mix by hand; use a food processor. I split the difference and used my stand mixer. The butter was in smaller pieces this way, and then they also use half vodka for the liquid…yada, yada steam and flakiness science explanation.

coconut cream pie for my husband’s birthday ?

Bottom line: Their pie crust is worth following a recipe. It’s tasty and flaky, and only uses 1/4 Crisco. ;) So you can still hate on me if you want. I’ll keep Crisco in my cupboards after all, because pie crust is worth it.

2: It can be cold in March.

Our area in Southeastern Washington State has been colder and snowier in February than it has been in over 100 years. We’ve had more snow and ice than a typical year by a long shot and it has stuck around for nearly a month, which is unheard of.

After such a mild and pleasant December and January, it was a bit of a shocker.

I, for one, was not using my happy light, taking vitamin D or B, or keeping up with getting steps – all things that help me keep my mental clarity when it gets gray. Even with the snow, we haven’t had our typical long stretches of gray, so I was negligent in these things. And by the end of February, my mistake dawned on me, as I wondered why I felt so brain dead.

Even now we have a new coating of snow, at a time where typically the daffodils and forsythia are starting to bloom. But next week, next week it should all melt. In the meantime, I’m reading in front of my light every day.

3: Speech & Debate tournaments eat life with a spoon.

Maybe I can’t blame only the cold and snow for the brain dead nature of February this year.

We ended January with our local tournament, then went to another tournament in Spokane in February. The kids have a blast, but they only perform for 10 minutes 6-9 times the whole 3-4 day event, while as a parent I judged and gave written feedback on 20-30 speeches a day. Between that and living from 7:30am-9pm in a crowded facility with the constant hum of voices, I return to real life bushwhacked.

It’s been a very good experience for our kids, and I’m glad overall that we have done it. However, tournament season takes its toll on home and homeschool – not just because of the time it takes, but because I am depleted for a week afterwards. And of course, after a break in consistency, it’s always tough to reel kids back into the routine.

a room with 100-200 teens in suits is not all bad

So the jury is still out on the cost-benefit analysis – I think I had better run the analysis a bit farther removed from the experience (not to mention that most analysis done in February is flawed).

4: Robot vacuums actually do work.

Ok, but this is my big happy for the month. I have been asking around about information on robot vacuums this year, thinking I might take the plunge. The versions Costco carries run $500-$600, so I was hesitant but still curious. Then I got a tip, passed to me through Brandy from her sister-in-law: The Deebot N79S is 1) not too noisy 2) does a good job 3) is way less expensive. I looked at it on Target.com and not only was it 1/3 of Costco’s Roomba model, on top of that it was 40% off! I still thought on it over a weekend and of course when I came back ready to take the plunge it was no longer on sale. But Amazon’s price still reflected the same deal: 40% off! So I jumped on it there and got it more than two days later (see above: too much snow).

And I love it! It’s not so noisy that we can’t do Morning Time when it’s working in the next room or tutor math while it’s humming along. It’s not quiet, but it’s not disruptively loud. And it works. It takes it longer to clean the floor than it would a person, but it does do the job. I even set it going on Sunday just before we left for church and came home not only with unanticipated guests, but to a clean floor. Score.

I’m sold. I’m glad I didn’t go with a pricier model. I feel much more comfortable in this price range for this sort of tool, and with this cost-benefit analysis, I am happy.

5: I need to simplify more, but simplifying is work.

The other big part of my February was preparing and opening Simply Convivial Membership.

After opening, closing, and starting the 6-month Community Coaching program in December and January, I realized the way my courses and programs had unfolded over time was too complicated and difficult to explain to someone trying to decide what to buy or not buy. I also hated that I was always sending sales emails, but sales emails are primarily informational – and there were too many things to try to explain and inform, and too hard to keep track of who wanted to know about what. Not only that, but the “upgrades” in software I was starting to unroll turned out to be clunky and not do what I had hoped they would do. Sigh.

When I considered ways to simplify, I landed upon a solution to all these (and other) issues: Membership. One product. Everything in one place. A low enough price that people could pop in, be motivated to work through what they want to work through, and manage their own coming and going as they like. No double-checking who bought what or who can do what – you’re a member? it’s yours. Need home routine help? Here’s Sweep and Smile, anytime. Not sure if you need Simplified Organization or Work the Plan? Here’s both, integrated and non-contradictory or repetitive. The week’s troubleshooting session link is sent to…everyone.

working on moving the courses over to a better platform

You’ll be hearing more about it in the next few weeks, of course, but we already had a beta opening to a select group and over 100 women are already inside membership (so the technical kinks are being worked out). Now we’re ready to throw wide the door.

You can come check it out here. Some of the pieces are open to explore after you set up a free account, and soon I plan to get all my freebies into a “free preview course” just so they’re easy to find in one place for everyone.

Membership includes not just access to all the courses and materials I sell (which won’t be available any other way now), but also Convivial Circle, our private chat community that’s way better than Facebook.

2 Responses

  1. Sue
    | Reply

    We did Speech and Debate. I love the articulate young people, the professional attire and decorum, and the thrill of the tournaments. But, yes, it requires a huge parent(read FAMILY) commitment. We loved it, but the cost is very high. Don’t get me wrong, we did love it!

    If you are interested here is some “hindsight” input just to keep in mind.
    One of mine worked so hard for four years and could not succeed in debate. She went to nationals in speech, but poured so much more into debate. She now, four years later, wishes she had played soccer her senior year, instead of continuing to debate. *She does admit that she would not have been willing at the time to do that. :)*

    Because at the time, we were in a house church and not connected to a large co-op either, my son had no significant local friends. His debate friends were his friends. This meant his friends were scattered over several states. The result is that now when he is home, he doesn’t really have local friends to visit. *This one is also the only one of my six graduates who wants to distance himself from anything that looks “homeschool.”*

    So now I have a 13yos and a 15yos I am still teaching at home. Our 15yo will do Teen Pact for his second time in April, but I don’t know if we will go the Speech and Debate route again… If we do, it would likely only be for one season. This decision has a lot more to do with who these two boys are and my own limitations and commitments than the above thoughts.

    Speech and Debate was a tremendous experience and I am glad we did it. I do wish we had been more attentive and done more evaluation along the way.

    God bless you. Thank you for all you do!
    Sue Lewis

  2. Just wanted to say I love the membership idea, so I’m so glad it makes life easier on you also! I recently joined the Sistership membership, so I’m holding off on signing up for anything else for a while, but Simply Convivial Membership is definitely on my wishlist.

    Also, I adore the robot vacuum my husband splurged on as a “family gift” for Christmas. I sat on that fence for so long, but it has made such an impact. It can’t fully replace a human, but it’s so much better to have that progress in between the far-too-rare “perfection” of personally doing it.

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