May 27, 2011

Random Fiber Friday

TWO DAY WEEKEND!! Ben gets Monday off! Woot woot! We were hoping for three days, but two is better than just one! I'm so excited I can hardly wait for Sunday.

Now, I have to tell you the story of my dill. I had gone to plant some in the back planter and when I went to put the seed packet back in my apron.... the whole thing tipped and spilled all over the ground. Well, I figured I had planted what I wanted, picked up what I could, and the birds would probably eat the rest.

The dill I had actually planted never did sprout. But I have random little dill sprouts now, some in the planter, some out, and none where I had planned them. Ben mowed the ones that were on the outside of the planter, and I am leaving the ones on the inside, just to let them grow.

I decided to start a rag rug and I'm using these instructions from Little House in the Suburbs. I'm using black and white T-Shirt material from some terribly large T-shirts that Ben acquired... Which is a whole 'nother story in itself. I figure I will just go until I run out of fabric.

I'm nearly done with Clue 2 of the Goddness Knits shawl. It's been slow going this week as I got a random hair to deep clean the living room, and the kids and I have been going for walks and just generally too busy to do much knitting. I've not touched the other shawls either.

This shot of my little imp was snatched as he was curiously looking at the lens, trying to figure out what it did. Every time I snapped a pic, he ran away.

Happy Knitting,

May 25, 2011

Back To Basics: Avoiding Food Waste

I really must make this pie again.

I hate throwing away food. Any food. Hate, hate, hate. Ask Ben, I'm sure he'll tell you how many times I say I hate to waste food (he hates it too). I think of it as poor management on my part, so I sort of feel like a failure if I have to toss something. It wastes what we've been given and the time spent on it, making me feel like I've squandered my husband's hard work. And it's darn good food, so why aren't we eating it?

So, I try very hard to make sure I avoid throwing things out. Now, this doesn't mean eating things that are... coming alive. It just means planning ahead a bit, or changing the plan to accommodate things in the fridge that need to be used.

I think it also goes along with the Back to Basics approach. If you are wasting less, you are buying less, and your life is simpler and easier both in saving money and time.

On one hand it's easy if I have a simple, bare ingredient. Oh, we need to eat the lettuce before it goes bad so we'll have a salad with dinner. Or, just changing the plan at the end of the week and instead of fixing a whole new meal we just have a leftover night. But generally, the big parts of a meal - even if leftover - get eaten up, leaving me with little bits of whatever. Meat, breads, potatoes, etc.

How do I avoid throwing away good food? Recycle!

Leftover Mashed Potatoes: They never get eaten around here for some reason and even though I try to make just enough for one night, we usually have at least a cup left. What to do? Make potato bread! Or use in potato soup. Or, if you have enough (or feel like mashing another potato to round it out) Shephard's pie is always a goodie. In fact, Shepard's pie works double time if you have leftover potatoes AND ground meat!

Along the same lines, leftover baked or greasy potatoes can be used as breakfast hash browns or in a scramble or burrito. In a casserole (Country Casserole, anyone?), or just mash them and use the above ideas!

Leftover Bread: I usually have extra biscuits, french bread, or corn bread from any given meal. Instead of making a new batch of bread product for the next dinner, a lot of times I'll just re-serve the ones from the night (or two) before so they get eaten. Easy! If a lot of bread is going stale, I'll either save it for bread crumbs or make a bread pudding.

Also along the same lines, leftover grains like oatmeal and such can be thrown into the bread dough for extra goodness.

Leftover Rice or Pasta: When I make rice I make a big batch. Either plain or with chicken bouillon for extra flavor.  Any leftovers usually just get served with the next meal (even if it doesn't really go) so it gets eaten. It's a really good filler. Same for pasta. And both can be thrown into a batch of soup.

Leftover Meat: Most of the time, I try to have leftover meat. For example, when we have a whole chicken for Sunday dinner I have already planned on the leftovers for a chicken casserole or some such for later in the week. But if you've not planned on extra bits of meat and now have them, you can put them in a casserole, on a pizza, in a soup, a salad, a pie, a sandwich, mix with beans to stretch it and use for tacos... Gosh the list goes on for using up extra meat. If it's a tiny bit, stick in the freezer and stockpile it until you have enough for whatever dish you'd like to make.

Leftover Whole Dishes: If it's something like a casserole, a pot of beans or soup, or a Chicken Pot Pie (things that are more complete, than just ingredients), those are easy to dish out into single serve sizes and pop in the freezer. Next time you need a quick lunch or fast dinner just pull them out a reheat! Putting things in the freezer for later use is my ultimate "Don't waste it" move.

How do you use up leftovers to avoid wasting food?

Happy Cooking,

P.S. - Our kitten total ended at 5! We have 2 grey kitties, 2 black & brown stripey kitties, and one black kitty. So... Who wants a kitten (or 4)? :)

May 24, 2011

Finished Knits: Babylove Blanket

Woohoo it's finished! This is the first big finished project since March. I feel like I'm seriously falling behind in the knitting department!

I am so glad it's done. Not only do I love all things baby and it just makes me happy that this is baby-related, but I'm pretty sure momma is due next month. (We can't get an actual date out of the daddy, he just gives us how far along she is.)

Now I remember what possessed me to knit a whole blanket in sport weight yarn - I love the feel and texture of small yarn! And this yarn is so wonderfully soft, especially after a good bath. Perfect for a new wee one.

I've named this blanket design Babylove for a few different reasons. The first is that I wanted to put a heart motif in it as a symbol of love and caring. And, Babylove was a song my mom used to sing to me when I was little so I thought it very fitting to go along with it.

Pattern: Babylove Blanket by Meg (pattern coming... eventually)

Yarn: Knit Picks Shine Sport (60% Pima cotton, 40% Modal) in "Butter" - 490 grams/10 balls

Needles: US 4/3.5mm Susan Bates Circular

Knitline: January 18th - May 23rd (Oh gosh. Take longer next time.)

YTD Mileage: Tiny yarn on tiny needles + big project meant 1,078 yards bringing me to 2.70 miles. Nearly 6 months in and I'm over 7 miles away from my goal for the year. Guess I better get crackin'!

May 23, 2011

Early Monday Morning

Have I mentioned how much I love our Sunday dinners? Yes, I think I have. They have been an especially nice thing since Ben is only home on Sundays right now. I am thinking I'll make it even more of a big deal and make some napkins, maybe find something to put on the table center-piece wise .... really gussy it up, but still keep it simple. The last few weeks, Ben has been BBQing our chicken since it's been warm. This week was some very delicious leg quarters.

This morning I went to take the kitchen towels out to the wash and what did I happen to see (after noticing some strange sounds)?

Stan had her babies!! We have three little ones: An all black, a black with stripey legs, and an all grey. They are really adorable. UPDATE 8:53AM: Make that four! She's had another black one since I posted, so I guess I'll be waiting for a final count!

It must have happened sometime after Ben left this morning (way too early), since everything was all cleaned up and they looked like they've had a bath. I gave her a bigger box and a fresh towel to allow for easier feeding.

She's doing great. She seems to be a little confused, but she rolls over and let's them nurse when they crawl up on her. And when I took them to put them in the new box she growled a bit. But she's been purring and is very happy to get pets. I think she's very proud of herself, which she should be.

I took the boys out there after breakfast was done, without saying anything. Jack sees them and says "What's this??" I tell him that Stan had her babies and he goes "Oh... babies!! They're so cuuuute!"

They started getting a little rowdy and Stan started getting a bit protective (good sign) so we went back inside and as we're leaving Jack says "Bye babies!!" It was very cute.

The Babylove blanket has just the bind off left! Hopefully I can get that done today and get it blocking by tomorrow, if not this afternoon. It only took me a bajillion years to finish it. ;)

Happy Kitten Monday!

May 20, 2011

Fiber Friday

Almost ready!

Yay it's Friday! Although it's more like Thursday since Ben will be working Saturday for the 8th week in a row. They are swamped. A blessing and a curse at the same time. We would like our weekends back, but it will allow us to reach our goal of paying off the car sooner. Although we were talking last night how even lots of money is not worth losing home time. But I will take it as a blessing and know that it will be over soon so to take it while we can get it.

Anyhoo. Friday means Fiber Friday! Here's what I've been working on:

The Around The World in 80 Days shawl. I am through clue 6, that's clue 7 sitting under it, and clue 8 will be out tomorrow I believe. Just a wee bit behind, but I should be able to catch up. If I stop reading books....

The Goddess Knits Anniversary Shawl #11! I just pulled out a random color of lace weight for this, and I think I rather like it. I've started on clue 2, and clue 3 should be out tomorrow. Again, a wee bit behind but I think it'll work out.

The Swan Lake mystery shawl's progress has not changed from this:

But if I get caught up on the other shawls it might get some love.

And of course, the Babylove blanket (no current picture) which is still not finished, although you'd think I could just hurry it up since I really only have about an inch left and the momma who it's intended for is due pretty soon now. Oy. My procrastination annoys me sometimes. (Yet I don't fix it.)

And I leave you with this. My crazy boys, having a snack picnic, who get excited every time I bring out the camera and ask me to take their picture. Hams.

So, what are y'all workin on that's fiber related? Knitting? Sewing? 

Happy Knitting,

May 19, 2011

Book Review: Nourishing Traditions

Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon

This book has been popping up all over the place, so I decided to check it out.

I borrowed this book from the library and I feel like doing a review on it. I have to be honest and say I didn't completely read through every text, since I was in a time crunch because it's due Friday. But I read the main part in the front and skimmed through the intros to each section as well as looked over the recipes.

I really enjoyed this book. We have been talking a lot about how we eat - natural fats, lots of meats, use of butter and lard - and I found it very refreshing to have a book that backed up our feelings of food: The less processed the better and natural fats are best.

The beginning of the book goes through the main parts of our diets: Fats, Proteins, Carbs, Vitamins, Minerals and Beverages. It explains the difference between fats and which ones are best for you, the best proteins, the best carbs, etc. I like how the book explains, in fairly great detail, why you should or shouldn't eat a certain thing. And I was horrified how some of the commercial hydrogenated products are made (although I had kind of guessed already). It's packed with a lot of good information.

The rest of the book is recipes and most of them look quiet delicious. I was actually surprised to find that most of the recipes were... well, normal. I was expecting some pretty crazy stuff because everything I've heard about this book was about making your own fermentables. (Which it highly suggests.)

I don't think we can easily implement absolutely everything this book suggests, even if I agree with it. It would not only be too expensive for us at the moment to pursue raw milk (unless someone has a cow they want to loan me) and the suggested sweeteners, but I think I might be stripped of my title of "Good Cook" if I told Ben no more sodas and started feeding us the fermented beverages. And while I'd like to grind my own grains, not only are the ones I've found expensive in the whole state, but it would require purchasing a grain mill which, while not terribly expensive (about $150), is not an option right now.

However, it was a very easy read and gave me quite a bit of good information and, like I said, backed up what I was already feeling:

  • Animal fats are terribly good for you, and saturated fats are the best you can get. Butter is in fact the best fat you can use.
  • Stay away from highly proccessed oils & fats - stick with animals fats like lard, olive oil and other cold pressed oils. (Did you know you're not supposed to heat olive oil to high temperatures? It denatures the good properties and actually becomes harmful.)
  • Stay away from highly processed anything else for that matter. (Which we already do for the most part, thankfully.) 
  • The USDA food pyramid is very wrong. The focus on heavy amounts of grains, flours and carbs is quit dangerous, especially in addition to the focus on low amounts of meats and fats. 
  • Stay away from refined sugars and flours if you can. 
  • Soak any grains you are using in acidic liquid for at least 7 hours. This removes the bad phytic acid and pre-digests them, and also ups the vitamins and minerals. I might try doing this with some things when I can.
  • Buy organic everything (meats, veggies, dairy) whenever you can. (Which is difficult for our budget, but I'll be trying.)
  • Please stay away from soy. It is highly carcinogenic, causes a world of problems (like neural and thyroid disorders) and should only be consumed in it's fermented states, as the fermentation breaks down the dangerous parts.  (And beware! Soy products are in just about everything - check your labels.)

Would I read this book again? Oh yes, most definitely. Would I buy it? I think I will, yes, since I do want to try some of the recipes and I think it would make a great reference book.

Would I recommend it? Yes. All the way. At the very least borrow it from the library and give it a good shot, even if you don't agree with it. It might change your mind! Or, if you're like me, you'll be happy to know that the choices you are making are the good ones - even if they go against the flow.

And one last thing I would like to say about this book: The author is very forgiving and isn't the "you MUST do everything in this book if you want to survive" type. She explains everything, and obviously would like you follow the points, but says a few times that if you or your family are fighting it tooth and nail then there is no point. Change the parts of your diet you are comfortable changing, and leave the rest be. 

Happy Reading,

May 18, 2011

What's Cookin': Country Casserole

Have you felt there is something missing from your life? You've searched and searched and have not found fulfillment? You're floating through life, wondering what's next?

Well I'm here to make everything better! After eating this you can die happily, knowing your life is now complete.

I came up with this the other night when I had intended to make my sausage and potato casserole but then went in an almost completely different direction. After some suggestions from Ben, a little tweaking, and a second try for dinner tonight, I have deemed this ready for the masses. And oh, is it good. Ben grunting good.

I've named it Country Casserole from it's use of "country" style white gravy. (Or at least what I consider country gravy.) It's the part of the dish that really rounds it out and brings everything together. We've had it for dinner both times, but I have thoughts that it would also make a wonderful Sunday breakfast. And the leftovers are even better!

That's a Cheddar Garlic Dill biscuit in the back there.

Country Casserole - feeds about 6-8 (with or without leftovers, depending on hunger)
4 potatoes with skin on, diced
8-10 oz breakfast sausage
1/2 large onion, diced
6 eggs, beaten
2 C country gravy
1 C shredded cheddar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a casserole dish.

In a large skillet scramble eggs in a bit of butter over medium heat. Set aside in a large bowl. Clean out the pan, add a bit of oil, then cook the sausage and onions together until sausage is cooked through. Add to eggs. Add in potatoes and stir to combine.

Pour into greased dish, cover with gravy and top with shredded cheese. Bake about 40 minutes, until potatoes are cooked through.

*You can use either gravy from a mix, or make from scratch: Make a roux with 4 Tbs butter and 4 Tbs flour and let cook but not brown. Whisk in 2 cups of milk and season with a pinch of salt, about a tsp of chicken bouillon (secret ingredient!) and copious amounts of ground pepper. Adjust salt to taste. (Or you can use Wondra gravy flour which is what I do because it's a wonderful, beautiful, non-lumping thing that requires no pre-cooking. Thanks Nancy!)

Happy Delicious Eating,

A Haiku

Mama-ing by Meg

Toys on floor always.
Dishes in sink constantly.
Baby kiss. Worth it.

May 17, 2011

Five Years

The 20th marks Ben and I's 5th wedding anniversary. I cannot believe that is has both been that long, and only that long. It seems to feel like more time or less time on any given day.

Now, 5 years is not very long in the grand scheme of things, so this list that I wanted to share with you is probably not a very good one. I certainly wouldn't call is sage advice, and those older and longer-married women reading this are probably laughing at my silliness at thinking I know very much after 5 years. Especially since I still have a hard time following my own advice sometimes. But, here it is anyways.

What I've learned - so far - about being married (and wanting to stay that way):

1. Respect first. Always, always show respect. For their thoughts, feelings, ideas, body, everything. If there is no respect then the rest of it is hard to follow. That means keeping your mouth shut when they are talking (hard for me), not laughing at their ideas, and realizing that their fears need something other than "oh, don't worry about it".

2. It's not about you. Do you know the true meaning of "love"? Most people think of love as that warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you look at/touch/are with someone. The dictionary defines love as "a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person". But true, pure love is the act of giving of one's self, one's desires, one's comfort, even one's life, for the good and happiness of the other. Focusing on what the other wants, and not what you want from the other, will give more peace and happiness than getting what you think you want. (Even if it's not easy.) I hear lots of people talk about how much they love their spouse. Then why are you so upset when you don't get your way? (I've been guilty of this myself!)

3. Play. Playing - in whatever fashion you choose - will mean the world to your marriage. Go out. Go do things. Have fun. Remember what brought you to be married in the first place. 

4. The children DO NOT come first. In fact, no earthly being should come before your spouse. I've tried very hard in the time we've been married to make sure that the kids do not come first. And while I've probably failed sometimes, I think I've done a pretty good job. That means when your spouse wants something, you drop what you're doing with little Johnny and do what they want. Your child will not suffer. In fact, they'll be blessed and happy knowing they have parents who love each other so much.

5. Be patient. Now, y'all know I'm not a very patient person. And goodness knows I've been given a lot in my life that tests that fact (three boys!). But it's important to practice patience in marriage. That means not getting angry (or trying not to). That means waiting, happily and quietly, for them to make a decision. That means knowing that yes, your husband (or wife) really does know what he's doing so just let him do it. Aaaand it also means that even if he doesn't know what he's doing (and you do), let him figure it out and don't jump in to spout off your opinion (another sin of mine).
And, if you are the female in the marriage:

6. You do not wear the pants. Being submissive and letting Ben be the head of our household is not terribly difficult for me (*cough* most of the time), because I have great trust in my husband and I know he is a good leader. But, sometimes it is hard to remember that our role as women is to be the secondary person. We are supposed to take direction, not give it. And when you get an answer that is your answer! Even if you don't agree with it. This one final thought sums up all the other thoughts. Being respectful, loving (remember the true meaning!), and patient I think are the key points to letting your husband run the house. I have heard of women complaining that their husbands never lead, never guide the family. Well...

Do you let them?

Now go! Be married!

Wishing you all a wonderful, love filled week,

May 14, 2011

Culling Of The Clothes

It's that time of year again. Spring cleaning. And over this winter I noticed something.

I washed way more clothing than I should have. And every time I open the boys' closet I see way more clothing than they actual wear.

I love purging things. I always feel so much better when I've gotten rid of extra clutter. But I have a hard time with clothes. Especially those stinkin' cute baby clothes (even though we have 5 jillion articles of baby clothing). Always thinking "Oh, they'll wear it someday" or "That shirt is cute (even though it cuts off the circulation to my arms)" or "Hey, it's good to have extras". But I read this post about laundry on Like Mother, Like Daughter and now I know what I must do.

Get rid of the clothes.

Well, not all of them, since nudity is frowned upon in modern society. But a lot of them. Even I, who has purged our closet a few times since we moved here (and that was only 2 years ago!), still have more clothes than I wear. And since I aim for a simpler, less-stuff lifestyle, they've gotta go!

Since I leave Ben's clothing alone because he's a big boy and can make his own choices, this will be for the kids and I. Mostly the kids. I'll try to make it happen over the next few weeks.

My goal for each person is
- 1 week's worth of shirts (maybe a week each of short and long sleeve)
- 2 long pants, 2-3 shorts
- 2-3 skirts (for me, obviously)
- 2 weeks worth of underwear
- 2 weeks worth of socks (less for me, since I don't wear them as much)
- 1 to 2 nice "Sunday" outfits for going out
- 1 light jacket
- 1 heavy jacket
- For me: 3-5 dresses, because I'm finding I love them greatly
- 1 to 2 sets of pajamas

Clothes that are clean do not need to be washed. Meaning my children tend to wear shirts and shorts for 3-4 days, unless they're outside a lot in the dirt. Or Duder, who likes to use his shirt as a serving dish. When they're dirty they go in the basket. You can avoid doing copious amounts of laundry by just putting away things that aren't heavily soiled. This will also make them last longer, as constant machine washing and drying will wear clothes out.

Now! How to purge one's closet (or at least how I do it):

1. Make four piles - Keep, Donate, Storage, Trash. Fairly self explanatory.
Keep is things that will go back in the dresser/closet.
Donate will go to Goodwill/Salvation Army/etc. If you can be especially picky, you can save things for use as fabric. I'll save shirts and jeans to use for repairing other items sometimes.
Storage is for those items that you know will be used later (like children's clothes for hand-me downs, sizes not needed yet or out-of-season things). Not ones you hope you might fit into again. There will always be a chance to buy new clothes if needed in the future.
Trash is for those things that are not good enough for donations and can't be salvaged for material. Like stretched out underwear.

2. We're going to work in waves here. The first wave is to go through and just separate out the things that you'd like to keep (don't worry about size or anything yet) and things you want to get rid of. Place the things you're getting rid of in the appropriate pile (donate or trash).

3. Wave two is going through the Keep pile of the first wave and see what fits or is in season. Keep the appropriate things, store the others, and donate or trash the rest accordingly. You can do it quickly, as we'll be going through things one more time.

4. Now we have wave three, which is the hardest. Really, honestly, look at what you've kept (this means the storage pile too!).
Have you worn it in the past year? No? Get rid of it. Even if you feel it holds sentimental value, just get rid of it!
Can you (or your child) honestly fit into that?
Do you have work clothes, but are a stay-at-home-momma? You can get new clothes if you return to the work force. Someone who needs them can use them if you donate it to a thrift store.
Is it grotesquely out of style? I'm not one for following trends, but nobody wears shoulder pads or leather pants anymore. 
Are you keeping those jeans that now have a big hole on the left butt cheek just because your now-husband told you at 17 they looked good on you? Throw them away.
Be honest, be brutal. Take no prisoners!

5. Now, quickly, and without looking at it too closely, bag or box up the storage pile, label it if you can, and put it away. Place the donation pile in a bag or box and go put it in your car. Take the trash pile to the trash. Don't take things out of those piles to put back in the closet! Stick with your first instinct!

Aaaah, doesn't that feel better?

We've gone through things 3 different times to hopefully make it less painful. First, the quick and dirty, easy decisions. Then, the more careful, but still easy decisions. And lastly, the honest decisions that deal with a smaller pile.

Now you can go about your merry way, doing less laundry and not suffocating every time you walk into the closet. Your children will be easier to dress when you/they have less options to deal with, and your storage areas will feel less crazy when you don't have boxes and boxes of clothing that won't be worn.

The question of getting new clothes arises: The kids get new things for Christmas/Birthdays, or you buy a new sweater. Swap them for something you already have. Take something out before you put something else in. Donate it, or if it's kid clothes that can be worn by younger ones, go put it in storage. Just try not to let the accumulation of mountains of clothing happen again!

Happy Purging,

May 13, 2011

Finished Knit: Little Bracelets

With all the Blogger craziness yesterday, I'm glad I didn't post this already and lose it.

This is just a few bracelets I made for my niece's birthday. She's such a girly little thing, and I thought she needed some bracelets and a pretty bag to put them in. She's turned two, with a new little sister, so I stayed away from beading even though I wanted to put it on. Just in case. Just some simple i-cord, only about 5 inches around.

Pattern: I-cord bracelets by Meg

Yarn: Assorted yarns - tiny bits

Needles: US 1/2.25mm Susan Bates Quicksilver DPNs

Knitline: May 10th - May 11th

YTD Mileage: These were such tiny bits of yarn they only weighed about 2 grams total for all of them, so I won't count them for the mileage.

Happy Knitting,

May 11, 2011

Yarn Along

One of the shawls I'm working on at the moment is the Around The World in 80 Days mystery shawl. I've had to frog and reknit it after Duder... "helped". I'm really in love with this color though. It's more of a reddish purple in person than this almost black purple (the color way is "Raisin"  and it's spectacular.

I think I should probably post a picture of what I'm not reading right now, since it would have been easier to pick a book. But the one I'm reading the most at the moment is the More-With-Less cookbook. I've not made it past the beginning yet, and I don't really agree with the "meat bad! saturated fat evil! eat less meat!" vibe I'm getting, but I'm excited to get into the recipes and find out other ways for cheaper eating.

Joining Ginny's Yarn Along today.

Happy knitting (and reading),

May 9, 2011

Monday, Monday, Monday

Good morning, my friends!

I hope you all had a lovely Mother's day!

We had a nice, lazy day doing not much but watching movies. It was a very nice day. We don't usually lay around like that on Sundays, but it was much needed this week since Ben is still working 10 hour days, 6 days a week.

We had waffles for breakfast and Sunday chicken for dinner. I spent the day just doing normal things - tidying up, washing dishes, etc (plus the movies). I think the best way (for me, at least) to spend Mother's day is just by being a mother. And that includes the usual daily activities.

Today is cleaning and laundry day. It's too cold today for clothes on the line. Well, ok, I could probably get away with it, but today I feel like getting the laundry done quickly.

I have to tell you all the story of our cat, since I haven't done that yet. It's a good one too.

Photograph by my sister.

This is our cat, Stan, a few months ago. We got Stan from some family last August, since they were trying to get rid of the kittens and Ben loves grey cats.

Well, about three months ago I see some neighborhood cats doing... well, some "unsavory" things to Stan. I was horribly disgusted about it. I thought our cat was... confused. Ben told me, after talking to someone at work about it, that sometimes these happen in order to establish dominance. That didn't make me feel better at all. We talked about getting rid of the cat.

During this time, we notice that our cat is eating more. And getting fatter. I mean, really fat. And staying home.

And we start thinking... Maybe Stan's not a Stan. Maybe Stan is a girl. A few searches on the internet and a trip to the vet tells us that:

Baby belly.

Stan is indeed a girl, and we're pretty sure she's preggo. I laughed so hard. All this time, we thought Stan was a boy, but things didn't make sense. We kept waiting for "him" to spray things (since we hadn't gotten around to getting him fixed, obviously). He was not manly at all. And the yowling... Oh gosh the yowling should have been a big sign. Well, now we know for sure.

So now we're on kitten watch, waiting for her to pop. I figure this will prepare me for birthing larger animals later, if we ever get any. And no, we're not changing her name! She knows her name to be Stan, we're all used to calling her Stan. So Stan she shall stay, but now it's short for "Stanalina". ;)

The Garden groweth! I'm putting up wide shots today so you can really see how things are growing. In this bed we have beans on the left (green and pinto), corn in the middle and squash on the right (zucchini, spaghetti, and yellow). Canteloupe is in the bottom right corner, and there's spinach sprinkled in the bottom left. I need to do another batch of corn and replace some spinach and didn't sprout.

This bed has our tomatoes, which are surrounded by crushed eggshells to prevent blossom rot. I'll be getting some more for the rest of the squares in the front. You can see the onions going crazy in the back too. My basil isn't coming up (I think it's too cold still) and cilantro is the in back two corners, but it hasn't sprouted either.

And our lettuce bed! It will be our lettuce and potato bed eventually, but right now it's just lettuce. It's going crazy too! I'm very excited about lettuce, since I love salads almost as much as I love butter (I know, extremely different foods). I've reseeded any bare spots, so hopefully we'll be swimming in lettuce soon!

Things that also need to planted, which I'll buy plants for, are peppers and we're thinking we'll make the little bed a purely berry bed and get more blueberries and boysenberries. They seem to be quite happy there. I'm even getting more blooms on the boysenberries!

I have shawls, shawls, and more shawls that I'm working on. But that will be a different post!

Happy Monday,

May 7, 2011

Canning :: Water Bath Vs. Pressure Canner

I made chicken stock yesterday, and was wondering if I could can it, rather than putting it in the freezer like I normally do. A quick look in my Ball Home Preserving book showed that yes, indeed, I could can chicken stock. (Which I'll share later.)

But it had to be done in the pressure canner, rather than just a water bath.

I never really knew why you had to do some things in the pressure canner while others could just be boiled until I started getting interested in canning things myself.

So here is what I've learned, just in case anyone else is curious.

Naturally high-acidity foods - like tomatoes and fruits (or recipes with tons of vinegar) -  can be water bathed because the acid will kill the botulism spore that would otherwise invade your body like a S.W.A.T team can swarm the house of an arms dealer on a coke bender. A water bath will heat up sufficiently for the rest of the germs the acid doesn't get.

Low-acidity foods - like vegetables and meats - need to be pressure canned because they don't have the added germ killing power of the acid, so they need the extra heat. Regular water-in-a-pot canning can't get hot enough to kill the beasties just by itself, since these foods need to be heated to 240 degrees to kill the botulism spore, and water only boils at 212 degrees (if you're at sea level. Lower if you're elevated higher than that). But by adding the extra pressure the water can super boil (basically), ensuring that your home made goodies are fine and safe to eat.

From the Ball Book of Home Preserving:
To safely preserve low-acid foods, a device called a pressure canner must be used. This equipment has a lid that is locked in place. As a result, when water in the canner is heated to the boiling point, it produces steam faster than the steam can escape from the vent and thus pressurizes the canner. The pressurized steam creates hotter temperatures, which surround the jars and cause the temperature of the food within to rise to 240 degrees.

So, be sure to check your recipes and follow whichever method they tell you to use. And if you're unsure of how to can your goodies, just remember that High acid = low temp, and low acid = high temp.

Because Botulism is never in fashion.

Happy Canning,

May 5, 2011

A Little Surprise

A little bit ago Staci at Life At Cobble Hill Farm was holding a giveaway. Just leave a comment and if you won, you got all the lovely things in the picture above - which are all handcrafted items from her corner of the world.

Well, I entered and then promptly forgot about it. Come last Saturday though, I see on her blog that I am the winner! One of her lovely hens did the honors and picked my name from the bowl.

I'm sharing this with you because not only was it a wonderful surprise to get this in the mail today, but I wish - oh how I wish - I could convey to you the heavenly smell that came from the box upon opening it. The mint scented and lemon verbena soaps together are to die for. In fact, I wish I could invite you all over just to wash your hands. It's all so wonderful. I'll be enjoying these gifts greatly.

A very cute touch

Thank you so much Staci (and Kessa the hen)!


Things I've Learned About Gardening


- The promise of fresh, home grown produce requires patience. I do not possess patience.


- Weeding must be done, lest the plants be suffocated.

- Always wear a hat. Always. You'll prevent sunburn, and look adorable!


- Weeding by hand is easier done when the ground is damp.


- It's better to lay drip line before the plants are in, lest you squash the poor, unsuspecting lettuce.


- Gardening is like raising children. Feed and water. Pray over it continuously. Hope they grow big and strong and produce plentiful offspring. Prevent the bad weeds from taking root. Do all you can, and wait to see how it turns out.

Happy Planting,

May 4, 2011

Thoughts on Work (and Education) - A Sort of Rant

One of the things I've been amazed to find out in my adult life is how it's become almost a taboo to work hard. People who use their back to get things done are looked down upon. When did hard work become such a shameful thing?

I come from a very long line of women who work(ed) hard on a regular basis. Every day. My father and his father and those before him busted their backs to get where they are. And my husband is one of the hardest working people I know, never stopping for anything and never complaining. And we have a great sense of pride in the fact that the things we have, we have worked hard for.

I think we have gotten to an age where we worship at the Altar of Education (and money). The best thing you can do with your life is graduate college with some fancy degree so you can earn billions of dollars. But you know what I've noticed? Those people that have those pieces of paper get out into the world and don't know how to work. (I have to be completely honest here and tell you I've only completed some college - but I sure do know how to work.)

As a mother raising children I've found it to be especially sad, or disturbing, that a lot of parents (from what I've witnessed) aren't concerned with teaching their children how to actually live. Laundry? Umm, how? Cook? That's what the microwave is for! Be happy to sweep floors just to earn a living? Not on your life.

We push "higher" education, spending thousands of dollars or, worse yet, plummeting ourselves and our children into debt to serve what purpose? Most people who get their degrees either get to the end and realize they don't want to do what they were taught, or they can't find the work in that field so they must go somewhere else to get a paycheck, usually something "below" them because it requires one to work hard.

And that's wrong! Horrible! Ugh, I have this fancy piece of paper that should allow me to sit on my butt and command people to do things, but I'm stuck here using my back to earn a living. Greed. That's the motivation.

Whatever happened to parents who trained their children in the way they work? What happened to apprentices? What happened to just being proud of the fact that you've worked hard for the little bit you have and not worrying about spending the next 4-10 years of your life in more school without actually living your life.

I think I heard it put best on a podcast I enjoy called Homemakers by Choice. Are we teaching our children to go to college to seek knowledge (as we should) or teaching them to go to college to seek money?

I'm all for learning as much as you possibly can about anything. Push yourself, become more knowledgeable. Ben and I have both thought about going back to school. And I'll of course be encouraging my children to go to college once we get to that point. But if they decide not to? I won't force them, and I won't be upset if they don't. Because we'll have taught them how to work. Honest to goodness work. How to live and enjoy life, no matter their education level. And we'll have taught them that in the end, that's all that matters.

Not that pretty piece of paper on the wall.

Workin' hard,

P.S. - I in no way mean this as an attack on people who do seek higher education. I applaud those who have expanded their brains and lives! I've just become frustrated that college is now the meaning of life and we look down upon just living simply and quietly and working hard.

May 1, 2011

Back To Basics :: Canning

Not my picture.

When I was a little girl (she says like it was a terribly long time ago), I remember canning fruits and "vegebles" - as my kiddos call them - with my mom and grandmother. It was just a part of my younger life.

We would buy boxes and boxes and boxes of corn from a distribution center (I think) somewhere out of town. We would get green beans either from the garden or somewhere else, and we would spend hours snapping them. We would get boxes of apples as well and I loved making the little piles of apple skin "spaghetti" - even though it took forever to get them all peeled. We had peaches, and would go to a "Pick Your Own" cherry orchard to get the wonderfully red fruit. Then we would spend all day cooking and canning.

I think the biggest memory I have is of my baby brother sitting in the open door of the dishwasher eating a cob of fresh corn. We have a picture of him there, grinning back at the camera with corn milk dribbling down his chin.

I wish now that I had paid better attention back then. We stopped canning sometime in my early teens. I'm not sure why. Maybe it just wasn't worth it when you could just go down to the store for "fresh" (I question the validity of that sometimes) anything now. Or maybe it was because our house was always under construction in some fashion or another, and the work took up too much time. Or something else took up too much time. I don't know. I'll have to ask my Mimi.

Anyways, I think because it was instilled in me in such a young age, this is why I can now and I have no fear of it, really. I read people talking about being scared of canning, and that's just something I grew up with! Granted, I haven't done nearly as much as I've wanted to in the last years. And I haven't wanted to in the last years as much as I do now. The extent of my canning as a young adult and homemaker so far has mostly been jams and jellies, with a batch of my paternal great grandmother's chili sauce thrown in.

For my birthday a few years ago Mimi gave me the best present she has ever given me. And probably the best one she ever will. A gift that was not just a thing, but a memory, and an addition that would be most helpful in the way I want to live my life taking care of my family and being self-sufficient.

She gifted me with a pressure canner and The Ball Book of Home Preserving.

Now, the year she gave it to me I was so busy having little babies, and we were in a small apartment that didn't really allow for a garden. Thus no immense amount of produce to preserve. So I put the book away, and only pulled out the canner a few times to make the aforementioned jams and jellies - and that wonderful sweet chili sauce.

However, this year we've planted our garden and I'm very, very excited to can things this year. I have plans for not only jams and chili sauce, but tomato sauce, relish, hot sauce, maybe some pie filings - whatever I can get my little paws on. I'd like to supplement with the Farmer's market and stock our pantry with so much canned food I have to give it away just so it gets eaten.

I'll be posting a few recipes here and there as I preserve my way through this year's harvest (my own and other's). And I want to encourage everyone reading this to either give canning a shot if you never have before, or pick it back up if it's been forgotten.

Try a new recipe. Can something you've never canned before. Set a goal of preserving one month's worth of food - or more! Or just try a small batch of jelly.

Believe me, it's so worth it. And there's nothing better than running out of something and all you have to do is walk to the pantry and get another jar.

Happy Preserving,
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...