Thousands of Miles Fresher

I took my youth group this past Sunday to an Earth Day celebration in a nearby city.  There was world music, organic food, a dove release, and a lot of great booths chocked full of information about leaving a smaller footprint here on this lovely planet.

One of the booths was offering a bumper sticker that many of you have probably seen before…you know, this one:


I’ve seen this bumper sticker hundreds of times in my local area, and it always makes me want to honk in support.  Unfortunately, being a locavore doesn’t necessarily make you immune to misunderstanding, so it is likely that I might get some ugly looks or even a not-so-friendly hand signal or two if I were to try that, so instead I just give them a silent cheer or thumbs up.

Supporting local agriculture is something I am personally passionate about.  Our local area used to be dotted with gorgeous farmland.  These days, much of that land is being sold to developers because it is so difficult for local farmers to compete with the low-priced (and low taste) produce that can be shipped into the country at cents on the dollar. 

Seeing monstrous fabricated mansions go up where cows used to graze always makes my eyes mist over.  And watching the daily progression of meaningless tree clearing sets me into a tizzy. 

So I pulled my old soapbox out of storage, dusted it off, and am perched right on top today.  First, I want to share one of my all-time fave websites: Local Harvest.  This is a gem of a site where you can go and find out about where to buy local meat, produce, and other homemade goodies.  They have information on CSA’s (if you don’t know about CSA’s PLEASE do some research!), tailgate markets, and pick-your-own farms.  produce

Our region has its own version of a local sustainability site, and I’m  going to share a link to a section of it, too, because it includes some terrific lesson plans that homeschoolers can definitely find useful:  Growing Minds: Farm to School

If you randomly head to your grocer’s produce department without ever noticing where that food comes from, this consider this your friendly Topsy-Techie conscience reminding you to take the little bit of extra time it takes and research where to find local (and keep in mind that means fresher and tastier) options for what you are about to purchase. 

No one needs that extra summer vacation home…but we DESPERATELY need our wonderful farmers.


Friday’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints: Science Experiments

 fridays hardwired homeschool hints pic

I haven’t touched on a whole lot of science sites or programs in HHH so far, so today I’m being both scientifically minded AND lazy.

Yes, I said lazy, because I’m just sending you somewhere else for today’s homeschool techie goodness.  Why do all that work compiling sites when someone else has already done it for you, I always say?

So today, head over to the following post from (my all-time fave techie destination), and check out some fun sites about science experiments you can do right at home. 

Then come back here and congratulate me, because if I’m not mistaken, I’ve posted on this here blog EVERY SINGLE DAY THIS WEEK!!  What’s up with THAT?!  (Don’t get comfortable, folks)


Try Fun Science Experiments At Home With These 6 Websites |


A Thousand Words Thursday



I promise you that it wasn’t that long ago that I was smiling about this…


instead of worrying about this…

The times, they keep on a’changin’.  (sigh)

Less Anxiety in 30 Days Or Your Money Back

Time for sharing.

You still with me?  Ok. Good.  Cause those words often cause my husband to suddenly need to leave the room to pee or something.

Anyway, I joke on my blog from time to time about needing anti-anxiety meds in crisis, but the honest-to-God truth is that I need them to handle most everything.  I have GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder), which basically means that whether things are going badly or peachy, I still get anxious. 

In my case, it may have a genetic component because my dad had severe anxiety, and H-T struggles with it as well.  I’ve been on an SSNRI medication on and off for the last four years to combat my symptoms.  Most of my anxiety presents itself with physical symptoms – – muscle tension and pain, heart palpitations, twitching, etc. 

I bring it up now because I’m having an especially bad bout , and have recently had to go back on my medication after a nice “long” seven month break. 

But as great as medicine is for those of us with anxiety, we are always aware that things we do that exacerbate it as well.  Things like…

  • Not exercising enough
  • Not getting outside enough – – or getting enough fresh air
  • Hyper-focusing
  • Holding in your feelings
  • Consuming caffeine or other stimulants
  • Not getting enough sleep

This is in no way an exhaustive list, but these are my biggest problem areas.  There are things you can control in life, and things you can’t.  Just as the serenity prayer says, I’m trying to figure out the difference.  But the abovementioned items are definitely things I have at least some semblance of command over.

So this week I discovered a cool FREE tool that I am hoping to use to help me track how I am doing in these areas.  It is called Joe’s Goals, and it lets you track practically ANYTHING in your life.  Bad habits you want to nix?  Track ‘em.  Short term goals you want to achieve?  Track ‘em.  Or in my case…tracking how well I’m keeping the anxiety-producers at bay.  You can even make yourself accountable to your buddies by publishing your daily outcomes on Facebook, MySpace, your blog sidebar, etc. 

Here is how the results look:


    Kerry's Personal Score Badge

    Maybe it will help me.  Maybe it won’t.  Doesn’t cost anything to find out!!

    So if you have a goal you’ve been wanting to reach, or a habit you’ve been wanting to nix, Joe’s Goals is an easy and fun techie way to keep yourself on task.  I’d love to hear about what you would track if you used a tool like “Joe’s Goals”…sound off below!


    Food + HTML = Economic Upturn

    Now that is the new economic recession

    Now that is the new economic recession

    Yard-Saleous Maximus

    Do you yard sale?  yard-sale

    I know that isn’t technically a verb…but in my world it is not only a verb, but a DOUBLE verb.

    1. Yard Saleverb – to sell used or unwanted household goods, personal items, bric-a-brac, etc., typically held in one’s garage or yard. See also: tag sale, garage sale

    Using that definition, I don’t “yard sale” that often, but Friday I “yard saled” my butt off.  Got rid of tons of stuff the boys had outgrown or outlived, and stuff I was determined that if I hadn’t used in at least two years, was someone else’s problem now.  By the time I nickeled, dimed, and quartered my way through several hours, I’ll admit I didn’t have THAT much to show for my effort, but the house is significantly less cluttered, and I would have PAID the same amount I made just for that relief.

    2. Yard Saleverb –to get up entirely too early on a Friday or Saturday morning, search all over the newspaper classifieds, or simply drive around randomly looking for yard sale signs to follow, and then spend the better part of a morning rifling through other people’s belongings in search of that item that is going to fill that void in your soul that you know is there but don’t like to admit.  See also: cheapskate, packrat, clutterbug

    Using this definition, I’m afraid I “yard sale” enough to rival ANYONE who happens to live in a home supported in any way by cement blocks.  (That’s no insult either…our house is so old it only WISHES it had cement blocks…we’ve got old pieces of boulder holding us up!!!)

    Anyway, imagine my glee when I discovered this wonderful little dilly to help this techie mom in her quest to find cheap jeans for boys who grow a quarter of an inch a week.  Introducing: Yard Sale Treasure Map, the coolest tool this side of the Mason Dixon for finding local yard sales.  It uses Craig’s List local yard sale listings and maps them for you by location and date of sale.  A white trash techie’s dream come true!

    So no matter which Latin definition you technically prefer…to “yard sale” is divine!

    I’m Not Wired Well For Sad

    When my blog gets quiet, you can know I’m either busy, on vacation, or very, very sad.  Unfortunately this week, it is the latter. 

    On Tuesday, a high school classmate of mine died during childbirth with her fifth child.  She was 39.  A devoted homeschooling mom.  That leaves her husband with four children and a brand new infant.  The word “grief”  just doesn’t cover circumstances like that. 

    If you’re the praying type, I hope you wouldn’t mind lifting up this family.  If you aren’t the praying type, I hope you’ll hug your own family close and remind them how much you love them tonight. 

    As for me, I hope my blog will be on fire next week.  I’m not wired well for sad.

    Tech on the Cheap

    The Topsies have been doing everything we possibly can to one-up the nation’s best economists by balancing our own budget.  We’ve just recently paid off every last credit card (thanks to some unexpected cash that came our way), we’re eating out less, using Freecycle when possible, and even having a yard sale this week. 

    We have two upcoming trips we want to take as a family, and our goal is to have as much of that money in hand before we go, so we don’t have to lean on the mercies of Mr. Mastercard or Mrs. Visa.

    freeI know from reading your blogs that many of you are in the same financial fight against debt, especially those of you whose families have had to endure pay cuts, layoffs, and moves.  So I’m  channeling my inner techno-cheap geek to share with you some of my all time favorite free software or online programs – – and I don’t mean the useless sites that are basically just excuses for popup spam ads – – I mean the two-thumbs-up programs that I personally vouch for as worth double their money. (Hee)

    Audacity – I fully understand that not everyone is an audio geek, but you never know when it might come in handy to be able to convert that old cassette of your first recital into a digital file, and Audacity has the capacity to do that.

    Screamer Radio – Does internet radio always seem kinda complicated to you?  Like something only “those people” can enjoy?  Then you might just fall in love with the simplicity of Screamer Radio (and I swear, I’ve never heard so much as a single yelp from it!) [Windows only]

    Windows Live Writer – I’ll admit I have no clue how people actually blog without Live Writer.  Maybe it is because I have five different blogs to keep up with, but this program literally saves my ever-loving blogging butt.  On a five-star scale, I give this one 83.

    Doomi – World’s most simple and unobtrusive to-do list.  Period.

    GMail – Yes, I’m secretly on the Google payroll, and make scads of money touting their programs.  Even if I weren’t though, I would still have a bumper sticker that said “If you aren’t using Gmail you might be supporting terrorists.”  It’s that awesome.

    Skype – You are probably already versed on the upsides of Skype.  With this program, over-the-net free phone calls are as easy as pie, and sound great.  Long distance buddies?  Children away at college?  Or want to catch your kids on their PSP’s or other portable device?  Skype is a multi-use tool for communication. 

    Filezilla – Free, reliable FTP solution.  Some of you know what I mean.  Some of you think I’m talking about car oil.  It’s ok.  Really.

    Quick Media Converter – Your finally making and editing that home video about your family beach vacation, and the clip you shot quickly with your digital camera of mom rubbing sunscreen on her backside is in a format you just can’t get to work with your editing software.  Luckily, Topsy told you about QMC – – and mom’s rear end is now on display as it should be.

    Paypal Plug-In – I’ve bought and sold online since it SO wasn’t cool, and Paypal has been there with me for much of the journey.  It’s safe.  It’s easy.  And now you can use it for every single online transaction, whether they officially accept Paypal or not, with the Paypal Plug-In.  LOVE this tool!

    Know Your Stuff – Because you simply never know when disaster is going to strike, and this makes it ever-so-easy to protect your investments and belongings. 

    FlauntR – Many, many of the insanely crazy graphics you see on my blog were created by this fun application.  Only downside: if I start playing, I can get sucked in for hours.  Bad Topsy!

    Picasa – My all-time fave photo editor/organizer/creator.  Everyone has a favorite photo program, this just happens to be mine.

    Meebo – Instant Messaging across all the major networks without having to install a single piece of software.  Now that’s the ticket!

    There’s a ton more, but I better save that for another post when I’m at a loss for what to write.  (Uh-oh.  Did I just type that out loud?)

    Enjoy your cheap frugal linky-loos, folks!

    CSI…Here I Come!

    I don’t normally delve too deeply into what we are doing on a daily basis in our homeschool…partly because a lot of what the boys use for curriculum is online, and partly because when other homeschool moms start rattling off the details of their studies, I find myself quickly hitting the “back” button, and praying they don’t check their Feedburner status to discover that I actually only spent 1.7 seconds at their blog that day.

    But I’m going to make an exception today and tell you about this cool kit that H-T and I found at Barnes and Noble a couple months ago, and how it has enriched my days. ( Ok, so actually I bought it for H-T, but that’s beside the point.)Great Forensic Challenge

    The kit is called “The Great Forensic Challenge” and it includes a  book of suspects with their pictures, fingerprints, and DNA codes and any other info known about them.  Then there is a newspaper filled with twenty crimes, which you read, one by one, and try to figure out what kind of evidence would be left at the scene…fabric samples, DNA, fingerprints, footprints, tire tracks, etc. 

    Also, there are all these cool little boxes that include fingerprint slides, DNA code bars, tweezers, magnifiers, and lots of other cool stuff to either help you solve the crimes in the newspaper, or practice your own crime collection skills.  And to top it all off, each box has its own little book breaking down all the science involved in cracking cases like these.

    So H-T and I have been using this kit for science a couple times a week now.  What I haven’t told him is that I am having so much fun solving the crimes that I have been sneaking into his room when he is busy elsewhere and looking ahead in the newspaper and getting out all of the cool forensic tools and playing detective.  In fact, I’ve already got the next four crimes solved! 

    I’m actually pretty ticked off that this hidden talent of mine never came up in those high school career evaluations the guidance counselor assured me would help me find my true path.  My tests inevitably always came out with something akin to “accounting” or “social worker.”  Those don’t give you nearly the same thrill that holding bloodied fingernails under a magnifying glass do.

    Anyway.  I’ll always wonder now if I missed my true calling. 

    So that’s what’s going on in homeschool these days.  And yes, I will be checking Feedburner to see just how long YOU lasted today. 


    Warmed Over Wednesday

    Ok – so the height of business + laziness = a repost…but that is what it has come to.  So I present to you one of my early faves from when poor Uber had some seriously hard luck.  Enjoy!

    The Southpaw Shuffle:

    Imagine the worst possible scenario for your family.  Your house floods, your dog dies, or perhaps your next door neighbor starts up a zydeco band.  For our family, true tragedy struck just a week ago in the form of my 13-yr-old son, Uber-Techie, breaking his arm. 

    Now if Uber-Techie had just stayed put in his butt-worn computer chair, none of this would have come to pass, but you could make a case that the whole incident was my fault.  I made the foolish suggestion that Uber-Techie and his 11-yr-old brother, Hyper-Techie, go outside for their weekly supply of fresh air and enjoy the newly fallen snow. 

    The story gets a little fuzzy at that point, because they hadn’t been outside long when H-T came dashing back inside saying something about them trying to build a snowman (how 20th century and quaint), and U-T had somehow slipped, and could I come quick.  I’ll admit, I was picturing U-T hidden behind the deck post ready to ping me with a rock-hard ball of ice, but mothering instincts kicked in, and I thought I’d better check just in case.  Sticking my head just outside the door enough to watch for incoming frost pellets, I saw U-T. On the ground.  Moaning and holding his arm.  What kind of mother was I, anyway?

    Well, three hours, two Xanax, and $1,700 later, poor Uber was stuck on the couch, his arm in a cast, and his spirit crushed. You see, life was now essentially over for U-T.  The arm that he had broken was his right one – – his mouse-scrolling arm, his Wii-remote-controlling arm, his texting arm, and….God help us…his wiping arm.

    “If you had just let me finish my level on Final Fantasy, none of this would have happened,” U-T lamented.  My head drooped. What kind of mother did this kind of thing to her thirteen-yr-old son?  Sent him outside in the god-forsaken cold, unsupervised, to build a man out of freakin’ frozen precipitation when he could have been safely tucked in his room chatting with strange 37-yr-old men on the net and drinking cocoa.  I pray no one calls social services….

    I know what to do! Passing the buck always makes me feel better.  It could have toilet-paper2been those stupid tennis shoes uber picked out last month.  I told him he should have gone with the cute blue and white high-tops with TREAD on the bottom, but did he listen?  Of course not.  And now look where it got him…..whew.  Guilt relieved.  I’m feeling totally better now.  Oh God, I just heard him call me from the bathroom. 

    WHY did it have to be his right arm??!!  This is going to be a long six weeks.