Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Growing Up

Emma fell asleep tonight. On her own. In her own bed. For the first time since she was 5 months old. And she is completely, totally 100% weaned. Finally. Except for the 3 or so times that she was tired and assumed her nursing position, laying down in my arms playing with her hair. I was able to distract her and we moved on. She's growing up. And for the first time in 13 months I'm only nursing one baby.

Cooking Bacon

Not too long ago, I discovered a wonderful way to cook bacon. Set the oven to 400℉. Place your bacon in a single layer on a cookie sheet (or two - just make sure they fit in the oven). Then put it in the oven for 15 - 20 minutes depending on how crispy you want it. Be careful taking it out of the oven so you don't spill any of the grease.  Tada! Your bacon is cooked to the perfect crispness and your stovetop doesn't look like it's just been through a splatter war.

And just in case you don't know what to do with the bacon, you can crumble it up onto a bowlful of baby spinach, top with a couple of hard boiled eggs, add some balsamic vinaigrette dressing and mix gently. A super easy and really tasty salad.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Snowbirds are Here

“How often they may be seen thus flitting along in a straggling manner from bush to bush, so that the hedgerow will be all alive with them, each uttering a faint chip from time to time, as if to keep together, bewildering you so that you know not if the greater part are gone by or still to come.”

Henry David Thoreau

I heard the chip... chip... chip... this morning when I went out to feed our animals. I couldn't quite tell where it was coming from. Up in this tree. No. Up in that tree. Wait. Maybe it was that one.  Then, this afternoon I looked out my front window. And there in the yard were at least 50 snowbirds.  They're also called a dark-eyed Junco, but I like snowbird better.  I think winter is on it's way.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

By the Light of the Silvery Moon

The moon is full and I wanted a minute or five to try something fun, so my camera and I went outside into the cold. (Yes, I consider 36 degrees to be cold.) I tried taking a few shots, but my biggest problem is the lack of light to use for focusing on anything. I did get a couple of fun shots though. Here are some of my favorites. 
 I love the clouds in this one.

I lightened this one up a bit. I love the warm color!

The wind wasn't blowing, so this one is clearer.

I like the way the leaves look all silvery, but I don't like the composition of this one very much.

My home.

I think this is my favorite. The birch tree looks so pretty in the moonlight.

I know I won't win any photo contests with any of these, but it was fun trying something new, and I enjoyed being outside in the peaceful stillness of night. It was cold, but it was peaceful.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


My wonderful hubby thought it would be nice to soak in our tub tonight. So we put on a movie for our middles and our littles, and he told the middles to watch the littles and he'd pay them a dollar for their work. He filled the tub (no small feat, let me tell you), and we went for a nice, long, peaceful soak. In our tub. See our tub?

Wanna see a better picture? You know you do.

Jealous? I'm sorry. 

We actually bought the house because of this tub.  Okay, I'm kidding. Sort of. We bought the house because of the land around the house, and the tub. The house was a bonus. I think if only the land and the tub were for sale we would have bought it. 

Anyway, back to our story. So The Builder and I are relaxing in our tub. The window is open to let in a soft breeze. The trees are swaying outside. The moon is full, peeking in and out from behind the clouds and shining through the foggy windows. There's a faint scent of smoke from the wood stove (it's a good scent, let me tell you), the water is nice and warm and soothing. All is peaceful and quiet and still. Except for our littles, Emma and Sophie, who are just outside the bathroom door, yelling and singing with their little noses pressed up against the small little crack - "Mama-boom, Papa-boom, lalalalalala, hi, tum in?, Paaaapaaaaa, Maaaaaamaaaaa, where is?, lalalalalalalala, up? wady, in? Paaaaaaaapaaaaaaaaaa, Maaaaaaaaaaamaaaaaaaa."  

Ahhhh yes. All is right with the world. I think we'll still give our middles a dollar. They tried.

Friday, October 22, 2010


"If mothers could learn to do for themselves what they do for their children when these are overdone, we should have happier households. Let the mother go out to play! If she would have the courage to let everything go when life becomes too tense, and just take a day, or half a day, out in the fields, or with a favourite book, or in a picture gallery looking long and well at just two or three pictures, or in bed, without the children, life would go on far more happily for both children and parents. The mother would then be able to hold herself in "wise passiveness’ and would not fret her children by continual interference even of hand or eye - she would let them be."

Charlotte Mason

Oh, what a wise woman she was!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

So much to learn, so little time

There's a phrase that is not allowed to be used in our home. (Okay, there are quite a few of them - swearing is not allowed either). It's one of my pet peeves - I can't stand it when someone uses it:

"I'm bored."

You must be joking! There is an entire world waiting to be discovered. You obviously have free time. Go explore! Discover! Learn something new!  

I started thinking about all the things I'd love to be able to do in my "free" time. I thought about making a list, but it would be pretty long. Here's a start:

Learn to play the violin
Learn to play the piano
Learn to play the guitar
Read a book (I have about 500 that I know of that I'd like to read someday)
Make a quilt
Make clothes for my children
Design a pattern
Write a book
Make a difference for someone
Learn to draw (oh, how I wish I could draw, or paint, or sketch!)
Take better pictures
Sleep (seriously!)
Learn ballroom dancing
Start a business (or 8)
Learn about History
Learn about my ancestry
Be active in politics
Design a curriculum
Learn about herbs and herbal healing
Organize my house
Sell the extra stuff
Learn about the plants on our land
Have tea with my children
Learn to weave
Learn to make soap
Learn to make candles
Organize my recipes
Learn French
Learn Latin
Learn Greek
Learn Hebrew
Learn almost anything!

My aunt (who was a teacher) used to tell her students and her children "You're boring" whenever they would dare complain of boredom to her. I think she's right. If someone is "bored" they either think they've accomplished all there is to accomplish in this life (I can't even imagine that), or they have no ambition whatsoever to learn something new.  I think it's the same as watching television. If you have time to sit in front of a box for hours a week (or hours a day! How can you do that?), then you must have LOTS of free time and no ambition to DO something. Don't get me wrong, I love a great movie as much as anyone, but sitting for hours on end being entertained seems like a huge waste of time, not to mention the personality drain that occurs.

So I'm curious, what's on your list of things to do when you have so much free time that you might even consider saying "I'm bored"? Or is it okay to be bored?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Menu Planning Cheats

I have a new best friend. It saves me time, it saves me money, it saves me frustration. What is it? Menu planning.

We all know that planning your meals ahead of time is better for your budget. It makes it easier when you're shopping and helps eliminate those last minute runs to the store for items you don't have and it gets rid of those last minute (very expensive) phone calls for delivery because you just don't know what to cook and everyone's hungry. (Of course, living 30 minutes away from the nearest delivery restaurant has solved that problem for us.)  But menu planning takes time, and there are days when I just don't have any to spare. That's where my new best friend comes in. E-Mealz. I subscribed to it just to see if it would work for us, and so far, so good. It's only $15 for 3 months of weekly dinner menus. That works out to only $1.25 a week. You probably spend more on coffee. They have lots of menu options: Family menus, menus for 2, low-fat menus, low-carb menus, point system menus, even some store specific menus that help you save based on where you shop. It's almost a no-brainer. They even give you the shopping list!! Can it get any easier? (Well, maybe if they came and cooked for me.)

So give it a shot. There are samples on the website that you can try to see if you like it. My only complaint is that the sample menus don't give directions for all the meals on the menu, but they have the ingredients on the shopping list, so you can either shop for everything and figure out how to make the meal based on the ingredients, or just shop for the meals you have directions for.  Oh, and if you sign up by clicking on the link here on my blog on the right hand side (you see it, it's right over there. No. Over there.), I get credit for referring you. So that would be really nice. =) 

Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Peek a boo

One of the reasons why I'm canning so much is so my family can eat healthier. I've been finding all sorts of problems in the foods I buy at the store. Even when I try to stay away from "processed" foods and cook only with "whole" foods, there is a problem. For example, we eat a lot of tomato products. We use them in sauces, dressings, as an added vegetable in soups and stews, etc. I looked at my can of plain old ordinary store bought Hunt's 100% Natural Tomato Sauce and guess what I found in the ingredient list - "natural flavoring". 

Sounds harmless enough. But what IS natural flavoring? According to the Code of Federal Regulations, it is:
"the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional."
Natural flavor is made by scientists in conditions that are far from natural. They start with one thing, process it, break it down into smaller pieces, combine those pieces in another way, and call it "natural flavorings".

Further research shows that "natural flavoring" often means MSG, or monosodium glutamate.  According to the FDA's definitions, the food ingredient "monosodium glutamate" is "natural", although manufacturers are required to list MSG on the label if they add it to a product.

According to the USDA:
The chemical breakdown of proteins may result in the formation of free glutamate that joins with free sodium to form MSG. In this case, the presence of MSG does not need to be disclosed on labeling. Labeling is required when MSG is added as a direct ingredient.
 Did you see that? "Labeling is required when MSG is added as a direct ingredient."  So if it is "created" through the chemical breakdown of proteins, it is still MSG, but doesn't need to be labeled MSG.

So my search for the true meaning behind "natural flavoring" reveals that it is far from natural, and is often an indicator of MSG. Peek a boo. I see you. And I don't want to play anymore.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Busy, busy, busy

I've been a little busy lately. Between schooling, homekeeping, soccer games, little ones, and canning, I don't seem to have two minutes to put together. I'd like to say that life should be back to normal soon, but this IS my normal. Wakeup, consume coffee, feed children, feed animals, shower, school, first nap, feed children, second nap, make dinner, more school, wash dishes, do laundry, start to can something, eat, run to soccer game, feed animals, finish canning, bed.  Phew! We're stretched to our limits, but I don't necessarily see that as a bad thing. It's exhausting maybe, but I'd much rather be busy than to be sitting on the sofa for hours every night watching something useless on TV.  Here's where we are:
  •  So far, both teams my children play on are undefeated.  (Woohoo!!!)
  • We're pretty much on target with school work, although I don't love some of the curriculum we're using. 
  • The animals are doing well, but our chickens are lazy. We have 13 hens and all we're getting is 3-5 eggs a day. Slackers. 
  • I've canned 6 quarts of tomato sauce, 7 pints of ketchup, 2 quarts and 1 pint of dilly beans, barbecue sauce is cooked and ready to be canned, several bags of green beans are in the freezer, the last of my zucchini is shredded and frozen just waiting to become bread. I still have more to do, but seeing those frozen bags, and the beautiful jars filled with nourishment that we grew, harvested and preserved makes me inexplicably happy. 
That's all I have time for right now. I have recipes I want to share, posts I've started (some of them just in my head), projects to work on and share, but that will all have to happen another time. Maybe when I'm not so busy. (Yeah, right.)


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