*Welcome, Welcome!*

Welcome to our little corner of the world! I’m Heidi, I’m married to Kit, we have six little ones keeping us busy ranging in ages from 15 down through 6. They’re adorable and amazing and wonderful!

In 2005 our third child decided to show up four months early at a whopping 22 ounces and give us a good scare. This blog was created to keep family and friends updated through our 4 months in the hospital. You can read a bit about his NICU story here. He started a wish list of places he would like to see and things he would like to do before his eyesight declines further, an anticipated complication due to his early arrival.

Over a couple year stretch of time we began working on that wish list and being blessed in countless ways by friends, family, our community, and complete strangers as Ben tackles this challenge with his typical passion. So thank you, whoever you may be! We’re glad you came by and we welcome your comments and messages. We can be reached at heidi@thadenpierce.org or by snail mail through Kit’s work:

Ben’s Wish List
c/o Hobby-Q
PO Box 2107
Lake Dallas, TX 75065-2107

Ben and all the kids LOVE postcards so if you want to send one from your hometown or your vacation spot then they would be thrilled. It’s the next best thing to him getting to see those places in person.

And thank you!! We are completely blown away by this outpouring of support. While Ben made his wish list one evening hoping to have one dream come true. You have made SO MANY MORE happen… beyond his very wildest dreams.

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LAGOM Update #3

How are we doing with our LAGOM journey?

* I love our little indoor garden. We’ve used the VÄXER line for greens and I’ve even transplanted some lettuce that we sprouted from grocery stems (cut off the bottom, place in a dish of water until leaves start growing again) into the kit. Tonight we had quiche and went and picked greens for a salad and it just makes me smile! It’s also inspired us to try sprouting a few other things like green onions (once you use them leave the white bit whole and like the lettuce, place it in water) and basil (I had a stem with no roots – into the cup of water and it grew roots!! It’s now thriving in a pot and we plucked some this week for tomato basil soup.) The children are also noticing all our plants indoors and out, and watering and naming and caring for them! It’s adorable.

* Our closet storage space got a makeover as we sorted out how to store the clothes the kids aren’t currently wearing because of size or season. In the states we had a large garage with huge plastic storage bins, but we needed a more compact solution for here. Here’s the HADJEBY line recommended to us and it’s been wonderful. I love that I can see easily what’s in each one, the kids think sealing them up is hysterically funny, and rather than clothes shopping we just shop in the closet! One of the kids needed a certain type of shirt for an activity and I could easily check the bags and find just what we needed, saving me a trip to the store and the hunt for a new shirt. Hooray!

* The VEMUND board has been a huge, huge help. The goal was to use less paper for drawing and school work with the kids, so we mounted this on the wall (at their level) in the dining room and it gets used all the time! For writing up menus or daily reminders, for practicing their cursive writing or math problems, or I’ll find sweet notes and funny drawings they leave for us. Very, very good investment.

* Something we’ve not mentioned before, we got some of the FESTMALTID lunch containers. Our eldest is at college two days a week and was eating at the campus cafe, but was often buying lunch. With these new boxes we’ll have something he loves for dinner (like curries) and then he’ll pack the leftovers to bring for his meal the next day. He says these boxes are sturdy and lock tight so nothing spills in his bag, and he was happy about how much of his spending money he was saving by not buying food but rather bringing it from home. I was excited to have the teenager getting on board with living LAGOM!

* Another item I’ve not written about before – we have a rug in our living room to go under the coffee table by the couch (onto the hardwood floors.) I hadn’t planned to get a rug but after the workshop and as we talked about making our home more hygge for the winter I reconsidered. Kit was concerned about how cold the house may be (as we’re Texans, after all, and this is a new climate!) and thought it would be good to help keep heating costs down. He was right – the coffee table is a gathering place for our family as it’s large enough for games and puzzles and visits with friends. Having the rug keeps little feet warm and has given us a spot that we can all kneel around the table – just today we had friends over and one of our daughters made a beautiful tea party spread that we served on the low table. We ended up all kneeling on the warm rug and chatting while we sipped and snacked and it was so lovely! We have one like this GASER. We also received a GURLI throw in our gift bag, and we loved it enough to buy another to cut down on tug-o-wars with the kids. We’ve spent many evenings snuggled on the couches with the throw blankets with kids and reading stories (and keeping warm) and I smile when I think of all those memories of cuddling evenings as a family.

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LAGOM Update #2

We’re about halfway through and we are loving the changes!

First, the food – growing our own little plants this winter has been fun and educational. My favorite meal we made so far was naan bread brushed with olive oil, sprinkled garlic, and broiled with mozzarella then greens on top and balsamic vinaigrette. I’m getting hungry remembering it… And look how much it’s grown from our first update?? Here’s the VÄXER line we’re using…

Our LAGOM workshop was to make draft excluders. Emy was able to do one with scraps of fabric and tying it – no sewing needed! Though once at home she also sewed up one for our conservatory door which has really helped. Though I’ll admit we made one draft excluder that turned out to be jumbo sized (my fault entirely) and we ended up cutting it into two pieces – which the children then claimed for couch pillows, as you can see with the picture of J lounging happily in a pile-o-pillows. But I think that absolutely counts as LAGOM since it was recycled materials and making our room more cozy!

This year I started a bullet journal (which I love) and on it I have “*Inventory the closet” which is where the storage bags are… I’ve just not gotten around to it yet but rest assured if it’s in the bullet journal I will do it. 😀 Here’s the HADJEBY line. The kids are highly amused by the vacuum process itself, and seeing how tiny they can compress these huge bags. We’re getting to rotate our winter clothes into the bags, and we also discovered these bags are perfect for compressing your huge comforters when you are switching to lighter duvets. Previously (when using bins in the states) it took up SO much space and was a lengthy process to bring in the bins from storage and sort through them to find out what we needed for the next season. These clear bags have made it a much faster, smoother process. Kids outgrew clothes? Don’t go shopping, grab your easy to spot storage bag of clothes and they’ve got a whole new wardrobe of hand-me-downs!

The pantry we redid with FILUR containers and I think they are wonderful. Issues with those are that the lids can pop off easily which means when little ones grab them and they’re full of something like, oh… flour? It can get a bit messy. But apart from that little warning, they are so helpful for storage and I feel like we’ve stayed on top of our pantry much better. I can tell we’re wasting less and more aware of what we have to rotate and use up and that feels great! This photo is from last winter and is a work in progress but you can see what the bins look like and how much space they can free up for you. (I could claim the pantry looks even tidier now – but probably not. It is, however, much organized and that means less waste!)

So, that’s our mid-project update and we’re excited about our next workshop coming up to learn about Growing in Small Spaces!

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Weighted Lap Blanket Instructions

You’ll need:

* pillow case – I used standard size, you can use king size to get a better size for bigger kids.

* rice – I used about 5 kilo bags, about 10 lbs worth but you can gauge what weight you want. (Ours is heavy!) Use whatever rice is the least expensive, you just need this for weight.

* sewing machine – Unless you are very patient and want to hand sew this. Don’t worry, you’re just making five straight lines.

Fold the pillow case in half vertically and mark it with pins (or be lazy like me and I used a kids’ marker to put a tiny dot.) You could also just iron it in half so you can see the seam. Stitch down the length of the pillow so you have two long, narrow pockets, and lay it out flat.

Fold the pillow case in half horizontally, then again into quarters and mark these seams just like with above, then unfold it. (Or simpler, fold the pillow into eights like in the photo and then iron it to mark all the seams at once. I should have done it that way…)

Fill each of those two sides of the pillow case with whatever amount of rice you want to fill each of those bottom two pockets (I did about 3/4 of a kilo package per pocket, and you’re making 8 pockets.) Then, the tricky part – sew across that bottom horizontal seam, creating your first two pockets, without the rice getting in the way of the sewing foot. Repeat with the next three rows, filling two pockets at a time and then stitching them closed. The rice may spill a bit so if you’re more organized than me you can pin the seam closed before stitching it.

At the top and final pockets fill one side with rice, pin it shut then stitch across it and then continue across 3/4 of the second half of the top of the pillow case (the final pocket top seam.) Use that 1/4 opening remaining to pour in your final rice stash, then stitch it closed.

Make sure you are reverse stitching at the start and stop of each seam to avoid rice spillage.

And you’re done!

If you want to fill just 3 rows (six pockets total) and fold over the top part and leave it empty then this should fit into a standard couch throw pillow case to include the mermaid sequin pillows that are also fantastic for sensory kids.

Curious the point of weighted blankets? Here’s some info about them here and you can buy them there if you’re not feeling ambitious enough to make your own. (But it really is simple!)

You can add a few drops of essential oils like lavender to your rice before putting it into your pillow case, but make sure it’s a scent you/your child don’t mind smelling for a very long time!

Update: We tried again, this time I ironed the pillowcase into four vertical tubes and then stitched them up. This way I could fill each column (we did 1.5 cups of rice per column) and stitch across the row, then fill again, etc. It gave us the 12 blocks instead of 9 and we did less rice for a medium weight blanket instead of the red heavy one. (It also meant much neater seams, and it went faster since I was following the ironed line vs. eyeballing it.)

IMG_1894FullSizeRender-5

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Some Observations, Six Months In

* I don’t miss ice in my drinks. We really thought we would, as coming from Texas we put ice in our water all year long. Drinks from restaurants or drive throughs – half ice. (I hated that, I asked for no ice in the already cold liquid.) But at home we had an ice maker and used it constantly, and I wondered how we would handle living in a place without an ice maker and a tiny freezer. We moved in August – and even that month the water was cold from our taps! In winter the water is SO cold. No need for ice.

* I don’t miss drive through restaurants, which I’ve often heard mentioned by Americans (where basically every restaurant ever has a drive through, or a spot to park and do pick up.) Here there are places that offer “take away” but the only places with a drive through are American – McDonalds, Burger King (if they’re not in the city centre), KFC. People don’t eat in their cars here, definitely not while driving. 🙂 Which I think is great, and we didn’t often eat out in Texas anyway. (Being vegetarian in Texas meant not that many food options unless you’re cooking at home – which we did.) Though interesting, we do seem to eat out more here than in the states – there are so many incredible vegetarian foods available at places! For less money than eating drive through in the US we can sit down with curry and delicious sides for our whole family. (There are very nice, pricey restaurants here – we just don’t go there. And why, when there’s countless wonderful options to try for less? Next on my list is the Pakistani community centre, we’re already fans of the Indian community centre, both serving big vegetarian meals for under £4 ($5) Mon-Fri.

* Sometimes I miss corn tortilla, but I’ve been too lazy to try making my own. We’ve tried all their local options – nope, not the same. Maybe Chipotle down in London call tell us their supplier. They do have tortilla chips so I can make taco salad, just not enchiladas the same or soft tacos unless you use flour “wraps” as they call them.

* And I randomly missed sweet vidalia onion salad dressing this week. I need to explore their salad options more. They also don’t have ranch, but I can make my own.

* Still madly in love with their inexpensive groceries in general, but especially their produce and cheese (brie for £.99 a wedge??) They have normal sized baguettes then half size ones you finish baking at home so they’re crispy and warm – J and I each ate a half sized one today, half with butter and the other half we melted chocolate over. It was amazing. (We don’t eat them together – butter first, chocolate one for dessert.) J and I have unhealthy relationships to baguettes.

* I no longer do conversions in my head, I’m just thinking in pounds these days unless it’s debating using the American vs. UK credit card and which has the better exchange rate online.

* Amazon Prime UK. You just have to be careful to NOT order from a US seller lest you deal with the VAT/import/customs fee issue, ditto with any US website. But Amazon UK has a ton of private sellers in addition to their distribution centers here. But things like the new Snapchat books I wanted to check out – shipping overseas is inexpensive, but VAT/customs fees are NOT and you have to pay those before delivery and they can almost double the price of what you are paying.

* More to come, I’m just rambling…

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LAGOM Update #1

IMG_0897One of our LAGOM goals was that our kids use a lot of paper for school work and art – they love to draw, which we love! But I hated how much paper we were recycling because of it. This VEMUND board lets me have a larger surface to write out things for the kids when we’re doing lessons. When not doing that, the kids can use it as an art board with the colored dry erase markers (and I can write boring stuff like chores.)

Next up – our little sproutlings! We just got them started amidst the holiday madness and they’re ready to be transferred into their larger pots already. We’re so excited about having this growing source – the kids picked several herbs and rocket… Gardening indoors has been a great science & nutrition lessons, and should help with grocery bills as well. Here’s the VÄXER line we’re using..

FullSizeRender-1One of our other LAGOM projects has been redoing our pantry with new FILUR containers so we can better inventory and see what we have, what we need to restock, and what should be used up sooner than later. That’s been a huge help!

Another LAGOM investment, we purchased vacuum seal storage bags – because we’ve many little ones we want to save and reuse clothes as much as possible. We’ve been fortunate to have many friends also pass on clothes their kids have outgrown, but storing those clothes when they’re between kids is an issue. The storage bags let us shrink down clothes and keep them in the closet until we need to rotate them for the season. Plus the kids think it’s hysterically fun to pack the bags and see how small they compress with the vacuum. It’s a weird entertainment. Here’s the HADJEBY line.

We are also reading up on composting this spring and have a STRAPATS container for it. In our old city we were part of a pilot composting program but they brought us bins, we filled them and they came back to pick them up. The compost was used for city gardens that helped the food bank, but here we would be composting for our own garden so we need to learn more about how to implement that!

As we get further into our growing project we’ll post more photos, and I’ll get some pictures of our lovely and reorganized pantry and clothing storage. (It’s not really lovely, but I’m happy about order being found amidst the chaos!)

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Tea Time from an Outsider’s Perspective

Whatever I write here about tea and tea time in England is going to be heavily disputed by any number of people if they read it, as tea opinions vary widely from one person to the next. It’s very, very amusing – you want to get people animated, ask them if there’s a correct way to make tea. Ha!

But here are some sweeping generalizations gleaned from the various times I did ask that question, and the conversations that followed with people from Wales, Scotland, Ireland, England, and Americans living here who have their own take on it…

* Real tea is black tea. (Not green, and not “herbal” teas.)

* Tea is served with milk, and you can offer honey or sugar (most people seem to take sugar, not honey.) It’s not served with lemon, unless it’s ice tea and in the american south and also a sweet tea. Which freaks out some brits, this super sweet american ice tea thing. 🙂

* Most everyplace does offer black tea and an herbal option. Many also offer green tea. I’ve not seen an iced tea anywhere, even in August. It’s always hot, year round. Continue reading

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Random Food Post (This Got Long)

One of the questions we get most is about how our diet may have changed since we moved. Here’s some thoughts in no particular order:

* The ONE and only item we’ve not found locally is corn tortillas. The shops have multiple “corn” tortillas but they’re flour tortillas with cornmeal added. I’m honestly shocked that we’ve found every other possible food here, even ones we heard may be harder to track down. (Many people heard peanut butter is hard to find here – nope, they’ve got loads of it including bulk American types at Costco, and so many seed butters as well.)

* Produce here is so inexpensive, shops have weekly sales where at least 5 produce items are ___ price (usually £.29 to £.59) which is great to try new things, but apart from that even the stuff we eat all the time is always a good price. Berries are slightly more expensive in winter, but nothing like the huge mark ups we see in the US when stuff is out of season. I love, love, love the produce. Giant avocados, like Texas sized but less expensive! I’ve not found anything missing – oh, wait, I’ve not found fresh artichokes, but I’ve also not been looking hard.

* There are two grocers within .4 miles of our house, and 3 superstore type groceries within a mile or so. Costco is 12 miles away, it’s in the next city over. So the kids can walk to the shop to buy something, or we can drive if we’re doing a BIG stock up trip. Continue reading

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Happy Holidays!!

2016card

Denton courthouse & Nottingham Castle, our two homes!

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LAGOM Intro!

14195318_1069959986391761_4651300028016236771_oLast fall we moved from Texas to England. As we settled into our new home we were receiving IKEA emails & one caught my eye about the idea of LAGOM – Swedish for the idea of “the right amount is best.” You can read more about it here. It felt like a perfect way to help us with this major life reboot as we start from the basics and decide what our home and lives need, what we want to change, and ways we can be more aware of “the right amount” in what we use.

We were accepted into the program & attended an in store orientation, then two of the IKEA team came out to our home for a visit and to talk over our New Year goals to make our lives and home more LAGOM. The idea appeals to us on many levels, though we didn’t have a word to describe it until now. In the home we own in Texas we had been doing many of the suggested practices already. As a family it was something we weren’t always perfect at, but we try to install this value in our children to be mindful of our consumption, and a responsible member of the community and planet. (Yes, even in high school I was an officer in the environmental club. I think that means I’m officially a tree hugger.)

But part of what LAGOM wants to promote is that you don’t have to be a tree hugger to make small steps in your life that can be better for you, your finances, and your community. It doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming or boring – it can be rewarding, and fun! We’ve incorporated it into our home educating lessons as well, and had the kids write up their lists of ways we could be more mindful as a family. Our goals were:

* herb gardening and composting
* cooking more from scratch, and better organizing our pantry
* cutting back on the amount of paper we use for homeschooling
* finding storage solutions to reuse kids’ clothes

A few of the suggestions that our home visit team mentioned are relatively inexpensive and can make a big difference in older homes – here are some we’re working on already that you can try, too:

* switch out your light bulbs for LED
* line your drapes OR add blinds to the window to conserve heat
* change out faucets to get similar flow but with less water
* use a shower timer to be mindful of how long you’re in there (I am so bad at this.)
* write a menu so you are more careful about shopping, baking, and planning leftovers for future meals
* rugs, fuzzy socks, slippers, and soft throw blankets can make the winter more bearable
* invest in rechargeable batteries
* windowsill gardening can be simple, inexpensive, and healthy for you no matter how small your space

After our store visit we’ll share with you what we are getting, and how it’s helping us towards our LAGOM goals!

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Guess What??

webOne year ago when we had the chance to visit England for Ben’s wish trip we did not in our wildest dreams imagine what would come next…

We’ve moved to England!!

Kit’s working in the city of Nottingham (for his same company in Denton) and we’ve got a great house. We’re connecting with some neat home educator groups and making friends and we are so unbelievably excited to share this adventure as a family – and to share it with you! We’ll be posting photos and videos here to keep in touch with friends and family as we’re exploring our new home.

Though we will miss Denton and our loved ones here SO MUCH, and it does feel like our hearts are being stretched between two places. Hopefully they’ll be able to come visit (hint, hint, y’all!)

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