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My cousin is getting married this weekend. The wedding is in Chilliwack, British Columbia and I have arrived, a couple days early, to spend time with my aunts, cousins, and grandparents who live in the lower mainland.

I haven't been to a wedding, nor have I visited with my west coast family for ages. This trip has been months in the saving, planning and scheduling and I'm so happy to be here.

I don't dress up much, nor do I wear makeup very often so these are two things I'm a little anxious about in going to a wedding with all my stylish aunties and cousins. Most of my cousins are beautiful young women in their twenties. My aunties are older, obviously, but they are stylish and sassy, all six of them. They get it from my grandmother.

The first grandchild, the oldest niece, the oldest cousin, I've always felt most comfortable on the casual side of the spectrum.

But a wedding calls for something more than casual. I have the sparkly black dress, the open-toed, high-heeled black shoes, and jewelry on loan from my mom. I even have some makeup.

Regular readers know that Brienne is the big makeup wearer in our house. I don't share her creative interest in this area but I can appreciate her passion for beauty and self-expression. I have the same passions, I just express them in other ways.

Brienne LOVES makeup, she studies what is good for skin and hair, she researches products, and creates her own. It's just her thing. As for me, because I don't wear makeup very often I don't own any makeup, and because I don't own makeup, I don't wear makeup. But I've been wanting to re-route this loop, to actually own some makeup so when the need or desire arises, I have something to play with. (I've been borrowing from the girls for the last couple years.)

So when Simple Beauty Minerals contacted me to review their products I knew this would be the perfect project for Brienne and I to do together. I needed some makeup and Brienne "needs" more makeup.

Simple Beauty Minerals sent Brienne and me four products for review.

Brienne received a mineral foundation and mascara. I tested a lipstick and mascara.

Our first impressions upon receiving our makeup was that we liked the packaging. There was a certain "bling" to the presentation which really resonated with Brienne who loves all things sparkly and girly. From the purple gauze bags to the rhinestone adorned contact card, Simple Beauty Minerals makes you feel special and pretty before you even put the makeup on.

Simple Beauty Minerals asked us specifically to test their mineral foundation. I was most interested in the mascara and lipstick so we choose a foundation for Brienne to experiment with.

Simple Beauty Minerals offers many foundation choices for different skin types. So that was our first task, to figure out Brienne's skin type. Once you know your skin type you shouldn't have any problem finding a foundation from the many options at Simple Beauty Minerals.

Brienne tested the Warm 2 Perfect Cover Mineral Foundation. At first, she didn't think it was the best match for her skin tone but after a couple trial applications Brienne noticed that the color blended well with the skin tone under her eyes. Overall, Brienne likes the medium coverage this foundation provides.

I tried the foundation also. Brienne and I have very similar skin types and I wanted to see for myself what a foundation layer would look like on my skin. This is a mineral powder foundation and I like the matte effect on my skin but it looks too dry under my eyes. So Brienne, who loves to experiment with makeup, came up with a makeup hack to solve that problem.

The girls and I use straight Argan and/or Jojoba oil to moisturize our skin. Brienne mixed some of the foundation powder with a drop of jojoba oil to create a moisturizing foundation for under my eyes. Voila. The effect was much improved over the straight powder application.

I don't know that this is how the product is intended to be used but it works for us.

Both Brienne and I love the Simple Beauty Mineral mascaras we were sent to try. The Jet Black Ultimate Healthy Mascara is perfect for my needs. As I've mentioned, I rarely wear makeup but there are some occasions, like my cousin's wedding this weekend, that I want to add a little ummphf to my appearance.

"Buy a healthy mascara" has been on my to-list for at least two years now. It's been years since I've purchased mascara and the last time I bought one there were very few "healthy" options on the market.

Healthy is a subjective word so here's how I define it. I use the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetic Database to assess the skincare products our family uses. Because of Brienne's keen interest in cosmetics this has become a valuable research tool in our home.

Sometimes the product is in the database and a simple search for the product name will bring up a rating for the exact item. It's not a perfect assessment tool, many products are not in the database and you have to search by ingredient, and there is limited data available for many ingredients.

For a small company like Simple Beauty Minerals, whose products aren't yet in the database, I searched by individual ingredient to figure out what the rating was for the mascara.

According to my research, the Jet Black Ultimate Healthy Mascara gets a slightly better rating than the Black Magic Healthy Mascara, which is what Brienne is wearing, but both end up with a low hazard rating based on the concentration of ingredients in each.

This is my definition of a "healthy" product, if it gets a green low hazard rating from EWG.

I really like the mascara, it highlights my eyes and if I want more emphasis I can add another layer. Brienne concurs, in her words, "the mascara looks natural but makes eyelashes darker and longer, and it can be layered." We both agree this probably isn't the ideal mascara for you if you want a really dramatic look, but it's perfect if you want an enhanced natural look.

In addition to mascara I have been trying the Sweet Spiced Berry Mineral Lip Color. I'm out of the loop with makeup styles. I don't know if bold is in, or maybe the look is muted these days. In my opinion, if I'm wearing lipstick I want it to look like I'm wearing lipstick, so I went with a darker color.

I was disappointed that the "stick" broke at the base on its second use, perhaps natural lipsticks are more prone to that, or maybe I'm just a brute. It reattached well but I'm more gentle with it now.

I like the color and the lipstick goes on smooth but I think if I was to get really serious, i.e. more regular, about wearing lipstick I'd benefit from using a pencil or some other lip liner.

I'm much more comfortable wearing mascara than I am lipstick. I feel self-conscious wearing lipstick and I worry it's smudged on my teeth or is "bleeding" around the edges. I suppose a pencil would help that. And I think I look older wearing lipstick, not younger. Maybe I'm choosing the wrong color? Maybe muted is best?

Here's where I feel makeup is fraught with too much uncertainty for the very-casual wearer like myself. For someone like Brienne wearing makeup presents the opportunity to experiment, an artist's palette to play with. For me, it feels a bit like a minefield, not knowing if I'm making the right step, is this too bold? to understated?

I think the most important thing is to find the place, or the look, where you are comfortable in your own skin, that place where you feel good about yourself (as cliche as that sounds). For me that is an unadorned state, whereas Brienne prefers a look that is more embellished.

Even though I'm not personally confident with makeup in general, I'm confident about the quality and care of the products created by Simple Beauty Minerals. I love that when I do want to wear makeup, for a bit more color or so I don't looked washed out in family wedding photos, I have skin-healthy products I can use and safely recommend to my daughter.

I also appreciate Simple Beauty Mineral's unique stance against photo shopping images of women on their site. The photos in this post, as with all my published photos, are edited for white balance and color correction but I don't "touch-up" or otherwise change the photo to enhance features.

In addition, Simple Beauty Minerals is a small family business founded by a homeschool mom. What's not to love?

If you are interested in trying Simple Beauty Minerals sign up for their newsletter to get your 20% off coupon.

It's been a long time since I've written anything substantial about homeschooling and I'd like to do something about that.

Since I've been quiet on the subject it could be inferred I've lost some of my passion for homeschooling or that it's not going well. (My kids are teenagers after all.) Thankfully, neither is true.

These are some of our best homeschool years yet. I still LOVE homeschooling my kids. And our kids (mostly) still want to be schooled at home. The energy and tenacity of older students, when they are working toward their own goals is a real beauty to behold. (I just gave you a real big hint as to why homeschooling is still working in our home.)

A significant area of contention in our homeschool life is that we have limited community resources at our disposal to support our anglophone childrens' growth, development, and interests. (We live in rural Quebec.)

For two years we went without good library service. We finally solved that problem by joining the library system in New Brunswick, which is the province next to us. Thankfully, our nearest library is only one hour away.

The most difficult thing though, is that we've gone nearly four years without a homeschool support group or homeschool community. We have two teenagers and a social, extroverted twelve year old who want to connect with kids like them and so the situation has to change. And it will, very soon. (That's code-speak for "we're moving" but I'll get to that announcement soon enough.)

Although I haven't written much about homeschooling on the blog, homeschooling is as near and dear to my heart as ever it was. To be sure, my long term sights are on what comes after this first vocation of mine (what kind of career do I want after my kids aren't the center of my universe?) but finishing well is where my focus is right now and for the next three to five years.

I spend a lot more time now, than I did when the kids were little, investing my energies into the "homeschool" part of my job description. When the kids were young I invested a lot of energy into establishing our homemaking systems and teaching the kids likewise. I was banking on the belief that if I laid that foundation well I would have more physical and mental energy to help guide their studies in the intense middle to high school years. At that point I could only hope that my efforts would yield the fruit I see today. I have not been disappointed.

I have a lot to say about homeschooling in these years and I want to spend some time in March, all of March actually, writing about homeschooling, and I want to do it as openly as possible.

I've got a little side project going on called The Kitchen Table, many of you have joined me there. I am blown away but what's happening around the table. And I'm getting glimpses of the work I want to do post-homeschooling but mostly I am simply hanging out and sharing my heart, as you share yours.

I have been given so much already in the short time I've been facilitating that group, but what strikes me the most is seeing FIMBY readers, who I've always considered friends, for who they are: real people.

You are a real person and it's likely you're a real homeschooler. You have real kids in a real home. Real-ness means we are beautiful but at times feel wretched. It means we love our kids to death (and we would die for them) but God help us if they don't drive us to drinking some days. Real-ness means we have our spectacular homeschooling days but also days, months, seasons where we wonder if we're not failing our children, crippling them for life.

I want to write about homeschooling in our home with all this in mind. I try to be honest in my writing but when I don't hear the voices of who I'm writing to it's hard to be open. Not because I don't want to, but because without knowing who you are (dear reader and friend) I'm writing into a void. And in that emptiness I wonder, who the heck cares about these particular details, this triumph or this struggle.

As it turns out, you care and you want to know. You may not contribute to comments, nor do I expect you to, but you're reading and you want to know what it really looks like to homeschool older kids. And I want to share that with you.

I started this blog eleven years ago. Brienne, our youngest, was a toddler. You can read my first homeschooling-related post here. It's about hiking, what else?

You might also like this blast from the past post about our early school days, published ten years ago, almost to the day.

I didn't start to post regularly to this blog, which wasn't even called FIMBY at the time, till Brienne was five.

Our kids are now 12, 14 and 15. What does it look like to homeschool kids these ages? Does it look how I thought it would as a starry-eyed, interest-led, newbie homeschooler?

Do our kids still want to be homeschooled? Are they still eager to learn (like they were as adorable eight year olds)?

Will they go to highschool? (If you've been reading my blog for a long time you'll already have a clue to the answer.)

What are we doing to prepare for university? Will our kids go to university?

How do we (attempt to) meet the needs of three diverse kids? Are our kids weird homeschooled teenagers? (My oldest daughter and her friends like to be weird so this is a tricky question to answer.)

I've got a good chunk of these posts already written. I've been plugging away on a "homeschooling through high school" series since last fall. That should answer all the high school related questions. But I'm guessing you may have other questions. (Or maybe you have a very specific high school question you'd like to see answered in the high school series.)

I'd love to hear your homeschooling questions. Feel free to post them in comments below or email them to me.

I can't promise to get to each one, but as much as possible I want to try to work my answers into the posts I have planned for the month of March.

I'm not a homeschool guru but after ten years at this vocation I'm still happily doing it and the kids haven't mutinied yet. In truth, we all really enjoy each other, there's a flow of learning through our days and excited plans for the future, so I probably have something of value to add to the conversation.

A civil discourse disclaimer and why I write our story, in spite of the risk.

A dear blogging friend of mine was recently attacked on a blog post she wrote about her daughter's homeschooled high school experience. The comment was offensive and mean-spirited (I didn't read it) and my friend felt compelled to un-publish the post as well as change her plans to publish follow-up posts related to high school, record keeping, transcripts and the like.

In all my years of blogging I have received one spiteful comment on a homeschool post. I deleted it and I updated my comments policy, which I'm certain no one reads. I've had less than a handful of mean comments at FIMBY and only one that was about my kids.

I have a zero tolerance policy for attacks on my kids on the blog, or mean stuff in general, regardless of who it's directed at. I don't mind honest discourse, thoughtful questions and questioning, but kindness is the rule, just as it is in our home.

(We've had very few "rules" for our kids. I'm sometimes inconsistent with the ones we do have. All those parenting books that stress consistency make me feel like a failure, so I don't read them. And the kids, Brienne especially, know they can negotiate their way around most "rules". But kindness is non-negotiable, it is the rule we enforce.)

All of this to say, homeschoolers and people who blog about parenting and family life in general go out on a limb sometimes in sharing their experiences. And so you might wonder why I share publicly at all?

In my case I do it because it's what I want to read.

I want to read about healthy, vibrant, loving, and real family life. I want to know how to homeschool my kids through high school. I want to know how to have close relationship with them through their growing years and into adulthood.

I want to read about families who live with hope and kindness, joy and vitality. I want to know how to raise amazing kids who will bring the light of Christ into the world and affect positive change in their own circles of influence.

talk about breaking the rules, or in this case the law: there is a great (scary at the time) story behind this not-so-stealth campsite in Harriman State Park, NY

I want to know how to hold on and then let go. I want to know how I can build community with my children so we might live communally as adults and experience third, and fourth (with my parents) generation family life. I want all of this in a culture and society that seems to tear families apart and isolate us from one another.

I want nothing short of an amazing family life and it's sometimes hard to find models for this, in the context of our current culture. I don't identify as much with books written by parents who's kids are grown and gone, raised before the internet and iPads.

Also, most of the current books available (and a lot of healthy family life blogs) seem to be about farming, homesteading families, and we are definitely not that.

We are a technology family who's members love gaming, sci-fi movies, design, fashion, and computer programming, as well as having fun in the outdoors together (and we can be pretty hard core about that.) I am the natural-living inspired mom and spouse to this tech savvy crew. I figure my earthiness keeps us grounded whereas Damien's geeky engineering bent keeps us technologically "in-the-game". Something I especially appreciate with teenagers in the house. I may be clueless about the latest and greatest, but their dad isn't!

I love to read blogs about families (homeschooling families since that's what I identify with) finding their way into into healthy, fulfilling, and vibrant lives.

Our family is not the model. But we're doing stuff that works for us (and sometimes trying stuff that doesn't), and I want my voice, our story, to be part of the collective "this is how families do it" narrative that is being written on the web. Not because we're perfect parents, perfect spouses, or perfect kids. But because we love each other, and we love life, and we love Jesus, and we love our neighbors and the world needs love, period.

It's a love story, and you may question and ask "what about...?" but hurtful comments directed to our family, or each other will not be tolerated. It's a house rule.

(A note about the photos in this post. I don't take many photos of us "doing school" so I don't have a lot "visuals to illustrate" this post, or the posts coming this month. This seems like a perfect opportunity to start publishing trail photos. Already, the kids have grown so much since these were taken last spring and summer on the Appalachian Trail.)

This year it is my intention, to once again, nurture creativity in my life.

Three years ago I wrote a little ebook about this very subject. I wrote it for my blog readers. I didn't give much thought to offering it to the wide world, but as these things go, it's out there and has been circulating now for almost three years.

I wrote that ebook straight from my heart about something very dear to me, mothers nurturing their creativity.

aprons made by Celine and gifted to Brienne and I

My own heart has been speaking to me, encouraging me that the creative process - play, imagination, and making - are part of my healing, part of me.

And so this is something I will do this year. I will create things. I will make beautiful things with my heart, head, and hands.

I have a couple winter projects in mind, an idea for summer, and a fairly substantial fall project planned.

Are you wanting to nurture creativity in your life this year also?

Here's something you might be interested in.

Right now the Ultimate DIY Bundle is on sale and I thought I'd give you a mini-review to help you determine if it's the right fit for you.

Last week I downloaded my own bundle and went through, picking and choosing, looking for two things:

  1. Resources that will support the creativity in our home.
  2. Resources that will inspire, encourage and nurture the creativity of FIMBY readers.

Here's my favorites from the bundle that fit the bill.

For a household with younger children

  • Handmade Gifts for Every Occasion - Lots of ideas, with complete instructions of course, for nice gifts, that even children can make. The kind of resource I would have used when my kids were younger and I did crafts with them.

  • Make Believe - Props, cut-outs, templates, simple sewing dress-up ideas to support your children's imagination. Such a sweet book if you have little ones. I personally love the fashion designer dolls, the superhero dolls, and the fabric store scavenger hunt (give those kids something to do while you're shopping!), brilliant.

  • How to Sculpt Miniature Breakfast Foods - This is not a book for young children but I wasn't sure where else to put it. My children have made hundreds of miniatures over the years with polymer clay, sculpting food and dollhouse props. This is a book about just that! Brings back good memories for me.

Are you a homeschooler?

  • Getting Started in Chalk Pastel Art & Chalk Pastels Through The Seasons - These books step you through making art with chalk pastels. We've had pastels around the house for ages and the kids use them, now and again, but we've never had any tutorials or teaching on how to use them. Chalk pastels are a very "accessible" art medium for even the "un-artistic". These books would be all you need, plus supplies of course, to teach and play with pastels as part of your homeschool art curriculum.

  • A Summer of Stories - Teaching kids how to write stories, in Tsh's clear, easy to follow and apply style. I would use this as a guide to do with my students, writing stories together, (my kids wouldn't do something like this on their own).

  • Family Writer’s Club - This is an ecourse from Playful Learning, "Participants will learn a variety of strategies and techniques for generating ideas and producing meaningful writing."

If you're new to photography...

  • Say No to Auto - This is a great get-you-started guide for understanding how to use your DSLR camera. It's short and easy to understand. In no time you'll be feeling confident fiddling with ISO, aperture and shutter speed.

...or, if you're a visual, watch-a-video learner, and want more comprehensive instruction you'll love this ecourse (valued at $67!)

  • Photography 101 - "We wanted to create training classes that were laid back, and very easy to understand. All of our videos are shot in high definition, and the overall goal is to teach you to understand how your camera works so that you can have total control, and take better and brighter photographs."

There are also two photography courses available with the Craftsy bonus (or 16 other courses you can choose from).

Do you want to learn how to make your own body care products?

I am such a sucker for these books. I always cruise over them, looking for inspiration for making my own. (If you're new here you may not know I make our own soaps, lotions, etc.)

  • A Beginner’s Guide to Homemade Personal Care Products - Basic and simple guide.

  • Natural Beauty Guide - This is a very comprehensive ebook from Wellness Mama. Her site often comes up in my searches for "homemade shampoo", "natural toothpaste" etc. A lot of recipes and lots of instruction about what to use and what not to use are in this book.

  • DIY Organic Beauty Recipes - Lots of recipes in this book also. I'm learning all the time. In reading Heather's ebook I learned the importance of pH in shampoo and why just using soap leaves hair dull and gummy. (I've been on the quest for homemade shampoo for the girls for years. I can use my homemade soap just fine.) This book also teaches you how to make soap in your crockpot, and has a few soap recipes. I'm going to come back to this one.

Do you sew? Or want to learn?

I hem pants and sew square things - decorative pillows, curtains and such. And truthfully I haven't used the sewing machine in over one year. If you like to explore sewing beyond hemming and square objects you'll like:

  • Sewing School 101 - I finally understand what fat quarters are. Seriously, I never knew before.

There are a bunch of patterns available through this sale, in the ebooks, ecourses, and bonus materials. Here's what I've found in my brief look through: cute kiddo clothes, aprons, tops, skirts, bags/totes, quilts, bras (yes, really), curtains and drapes, and roman shades (hey, they're rectangular, I might manage those!)

I was a little disappointed there wasn't a pattern for the project I want to do this winter: re-fashioning sweaters into new clothes.

Are you interested in journaling and writing?

  • A Year of Art Journaling: A Beginner Course in Artful Discovery - One of my creative projects this winter is to create a collage, or two, around the themes of Project Home & Healing. I'll be referring back to this book.

  • On Becoming a Writer - For writers and bloggers who aren't English majors (like me, not an English major that is). About the craft of writing, with optional writing assignments to help bloggers/writers put into practice what they've learned.

That's just 15 of the ebooks and resources included in this bundle, curated by me, for our household interests and what FIMBY readers might also enjoy (since you come here to read about our household).

There are 60+ more resources in this bundle.

Christmas and party themed tutorials, cake decorating, seasonal decorating, canning, staging your home for selling, thrift store transformations, interior design and painting, scrapbooking and printables, sewing, embroidery, and quilting, selling your diy at craft shows and farmers markets, writing and journal prompts.

Obviously you're not going to read them all, or need them all. But if you like and use just five or six, and access a Craftsy course or one of the other bonus'- you've scored a deal.

Visit The Ultimate DIY Bundle to get the whole scoop. You can scroll through and see every ebook, ecourse, and bonus included.

The price for the whole kit n' caboodle is $34.95. There's a 30 day money back guarantee. Which means you have a full 30 days to enjoy all the eBooks and eCourses in the bundle, and if you don’t think they provided enough value, you’ll get a full refund.

Sale ends Monday, January 26th.

Bundle Housekeeping

A quick note about bundles, if you are not familiar with them: A bundle is a "bundle" of ebooks and ecourses for a fraction of the cost if you were to purchase them individually. In addition, you get bonus materials from companies who are wanting to get the word out about their products and services. And like any sale, the offer is only valid for a limited time window. Bundles are not for everyone but if have an interest in the specific theme of the sale you're almost certain to end up with a really good deal.

If you have any questions, before you buy, about the resources themselves just shoot me an email. I've downloaded them all and have access to the bonus materials and can answer any "what's in this product?" question you might have.

Once you've purchased the bundle you can find a comprehensive FAQ section on the bundle site, including how to download the books to your Kindle, iPad, Nook, etc.

This bundle also allows you download individual ebooks, one by one, as you need them. Yay! I always download the whole thing, cull the ones I don't need (yes, I delete them), and then re-sort and file them in a way that's useful for me.

Disclosure: I earn money from every bundle sold through my blog and there are affiliate links in this post.

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