Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pictures, recipes and crafts...oh my!

We have been busy here by the mountain. With the Holidays on the horizon we have been trying to get everything ready and in order. I am typically a fairly organized person but...for some reason xmas always sneaks up on me! Cards have not been mailed, I am stil struggling with the xmas picture, gifts have not been mailed....oy! But, we have our tree up and decorated (a 10 foot tree, no less! Yay for high ceilings!) I am almost done with my shopping and I am actively getting cookies made and frozen :)
AND we have been a crafty bunch here :) Wanna see? We decided to make crayon cookes ;) Cool and fun way to use up your crayon *nubs* that end up sitting on the bottom of the crayon bin.
Step 1) Find all your nubs. Peel them if necessary and place them in piles according to color:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Then, put no more than 3 colors into a greased muffin pan. We happened to have holiday muffin pans. :)

Put pans into the oven for about 10 minutes. Then, turn the oven off and open the door. We left our crayons in the oven to cool so we didn't mix the colors while they were liquid. They need to sit in the pan until completely cool, then you get these:

Fun, no? :)

We enjoyed it. We are going to give some with homemade art journals to a few friends/cousins :) in a little bag.

I also did some baking this week. I made the brown bread again, but this time I added 2 eggs and it made it less dense. MUCH better, I think. Dense is good, but the addition of the eggs made it a more versatile bread. I also made some cookies...the oatmeal I made before, and...

Chocolate Mint Chip cookies ala Martha Stewart

I added a bag of mint chips to this recipe, though the original recipe did not call for them.

2c plus 2T flour

3/4c dutch cocoa powder

1t baking soda

1/2t salt

1 1/4c butter, room temp.

2c granulated sugar

2 arge eggs

2t vanilla extract

1 bag mint chips, optional

Sift together flour, cocoa, salt and soda into a bowl. In separate bowl, beat together butter and sugar on medium until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanila and beat until combined. Reduce speed, then slowly add flour mixture(and chips if you are using them) and beat to combine. Form dough into a flat disc, and cover with plastic. Refridgerate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Form dough into 1 1/4 inch balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake 10-12 mins. Let cool on sheet for about 5 mins then transfer to a baking rack to cool.

You could also add crushed candy canes to the recipe if you fancy...:)

Today, we are making PB Kiss cookies...but you will have to wait for that recipe!

We have had a dusting of snow here, which the kids are playing in. Lilly made snow angels on the deck ;) and JD has been snowboarding down our back hill. Silly kids. I can't wait until we get a REAL snowstorm!

The chickens are not minding the snow/cold so far...which is pretty encouraging. I have been taking out extra treats/food for them to give them something warm to eat once or twice a day on the colder days as well as having the kids go out and poke through the ice to make sure they can get water. We also have been keeping an eye on Domino the Rabbit who lives outside now...she seems pretty content out there, though I am thinking she misses having free run of the deck. Well, rabbit...when you not only eat the deck but also the HOUSE you get what you get. She has extra hay in her little cubby and Hubby built her a shelter to protect her from the wind/rain/snow. We have to switch her water out more oftn as it freezes quicker! We are only getting about 3-4 eggs a day, and I decided to not light the coop for the winter. I know it can increase egg production, but I figured I'd let Nature take its course and let the chickens do whatever works for them.

School is moving right along. JD is having a bit of a challenge with Math right now, so we are spending some extra time practicing multiplication /division. He is doing really well with his reading and phonics though! Lilly is doing wonderful in math AND reading/phonics and is writing ALL the time. She is making cards, lists, etc and loves to read books. Max is...well, Max. He does his thing!

We are still working on Habitats and most likely will throughout the rest of the month. We finished Danny Meadow Mouse in the Burgess series, and are now on to Jerry Muskrat. We have really been enjoying these books as they are SUPER for learning about animals and their habits in the wild...in story form. We have had numerous conversations about deer, mice, fox, etc based on things we have learned in these books so far. :) Poems are continuing, we are sticking to the 2 we started this month as they are proving a bit more difficult to memorize! I will post pics next time of our art 'class' as well as other xmas/holiday crafts...

We are hosting the co-op Holiday party which is celebrating all December Holidays...we are doing Solstice and will have a craft and snack. We will cover xmas, Channukah and ??? Should be a good time :) Also hoping to get in some skiing with our neighbor-friends which is nice as the moms are slow, and the kids are fast...at least we will know they are together as a group, lol. I need to get pics of that... :)

I am thinking of some winter canning, quilt-making and an adventure in all things bread for next month. That is...if I make it through this one!

Happy Winter!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Winter is here.

Woobaby! It is cold outside! Thank the gawds that Hubby was able to fix our pellet stove, which had decided to recently pitch a fit and stop working. Well, after a stern talking to (and some oil, so I've been told) it is back up and running! I decided that baking was in order since it was so cold outside...

I made 2 loaves of brown bread, 4 loves of cranberry awananda bread and A LOT of chocolate cupcakes! I figure its better to spread out my baking instead of baking 15 things in one day, like I usually do lol. I have MANY cookies to bake so I figured I would get started with something easy like bread.

Want some recipes? I know you do :)

One Bowl Chocolate Cake
This is a Martha Stewart recipe. It is super easy, and my go-to cake recipe. I cringe over the amount of sugar used but hey, its cake! I made cupcakes for a friend's b-day and ended up with LOTS! This recipe is supposed to make 2 9 inch rounds, and for us it made 36+ cupcakes.

1 1/2c unsweetened cocoa
3c flour
3c sugar
1T baking soda
1 1/2t. baking powder
1 1/2t. salt
1 1/2c water
3 eggs
1 1/2c. buttermilk (I used yogurt, which I watered down slightly)
3/4c oil
1 1/2t. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put everything into a bowl and mix until smooth. Pour into greased pans/cupcake pans and bake cake for 35-45 mins(test after 35 mns) and 25 mins for cupcakes.

Easiest Brown Bread Ever
I used to use a recipe from a dear friend of mine to make brown bread...until I found this one. OMG, it is SO simple and makes perfectly dense molasses-y bread.

2c flour(ww, white or half and half)
1c pastry flour(you must use this)
2t baking soda
1/2t salt
2c yogurt
1/2c molasses
1/2c raisins(optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Stir ingredients together in large mixing bowl. Add the yogurt, molasses and raisins. Stir batter until completely mixed. (I found it was easier to just use my hands)Dough will be stiff and somewhat sticky. Divide dough into 2 greased loaf pans and bake for 1 hour.

Cranberry Anadama Bread
This recipe is somewhat more involved, and it is helpful if you have some knowledge of baking bread from scratch. SO worth it though as it is a very hearty bread that is great as toast or as sandwhich bread.

2 1/2c water
2/3c stone ground corn meal (I use Bob's Red Mill)
1/2c molasses
4T butter(I used olive oil)
2 1/2t salt

2T dry yeast
1/2c warm water
1/4c plus 1/2t sugar
1 1/2c cranberries(fresh is better, but frozen is ok too)
7-8c flour(I always use King Arthur)

Bring water to a boil in saucepan. Lower heat to medium high and slowly add cornmeal, stirring constantly with a wire whisk. Cook until thickened, about 5 mins (should look like oatmeal in consistancy) Add molasses, butter and salt and set aside to cool down. (I put mine in the fridge, as I am not patient)

Disolve yeast in warm water and add 1/2t of sugar.

Process cranberries in FP with 1/4c sugar just until berries are chopped ans sugar is mixed in.

Once cornmeal mush has cooled, add it to the yeast mixture along with the cranberries. Mix well, then gradually start adding flour. Once the dough becomes difficult to stir, dump on to a floured counter and start kneading. You want to continue to add flour and knead until you get as close to 7-8c flour as possible, and the dough should not be sticky and should be somewhat elastic. If you press your finger into it, it should bounce back. This process should take somewhere around 10-15 mins, depending on how good a kneader you are :)

Place dough in an oiled bowl and cover with a towel. Place in a warm place for about an hour, or until the dough doubles in size. Then take dough out of bowl and knead it a few times to get the excess air out. At that point you can divide the dough into 2 sections(I actually did 4 and still got full sized loaves...just sayin'...) and shape into greased loaf pans. Cover pans with a towel and let them sit for another 45 mins or so, until the dough rises to the top edge of the pan.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake bread for 45 mins, or until the tops are nicely browned and the bread makes a hollowish thud when you flick them. Cool on a wire rack.

SO worth the effort!

School is continuing along, with our December 'agenda' :) We will be starting our Holiday readings next week in prep for our holiday co-op party which will be celebrating several December traditions. We always read T'was the Night Before Xmas as well as the History of Saint Nick(great read, btw...I recommend it!) We will also be doing some *extra* crafting 'round here for gifts and such...but that will be in the next post...

Now, we are off for our first ski of the season! School is postponed until this afternoon... :)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Heading into December...

OK, so far my once a week post is not once a week.... :)

We had a great time at our co-op Charlie Brown Thanksgiving! We watched the movie and recreated the meal, which the kids loved. Then it was outside to run and play. The kids get along SO well together and really include everyone. Even though we are new-ish to the group, the kids all act like they have been friends forever. Its so nice. One other family is part of the chicken world too, so we were able to talk chickens for quite some time, lol.

Speaking of chickens...we seem to be out of the woods as far as chicken casualties are concerned. We thought we might lose our sweet little Buddy as well, but she has rallied and is laying the CUTEST little blue eggs every other day like clockwork. Our other girls are through their molt and laying again as well, so we are back to getting 4 or 5 eggs a day. Finny is now laying this gorgeous olive green egg, where before she molted they were more pastel green...interesting!

Our wild bird friends are here, as we have put out our feeders for the winter....we LOVE to watch all the birds that come. We also have an owl 'couple' that come nest in the yard during the winter and last night they were VERY vocal! Some nights they wake us up chattering to each other...the cats enjoy the birds as well, and will spend their days in the window seat watching the birds eat...I am sure plotting how they could get at them... :)

I am down to my last 2 jars of tomato sauce... note to self: plant MORE tomatoes next year! I knew we wouldn't get through the winter on our sauce, but it was great to have it as long as we did. All our fruits/preserves will get us through until spring, along with all the things I froze. I am learning how much I need to plant in order to have enough to eat AND save. I will definitely be expanding the gardens next year! I am hoping to put up a small greenhouse as well...I have been looking at some plans...I just need to talk to Hubby and see what he thinks would work for us.

On the school front...
We are starting our December poems, which will be When All the World is Full of Snow by NM Bodecker and Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost(one of my ALL time favorites!) I usually do T'was the Night Before Christmas too, and I may, but that one they don't remember...or they didn't last year. This year they actually might be able to remember the whole thing!

For Art, we are coming in to the Patterns and Mosaics section. Very cool. I am thinking of having the kids do some mosaic picture frames for the pics we will give to family this year. It would be a fun craft to do plus it will tie in to what they will have learned. I am so impressed with JD's participation in the art 'program' as it really isn't his *thing* however, I really think it will help with his dexterity and writing skills...which are not the best.

For Nature Study and Science, we will be working on animal habitats and what affects them. This comes at a perfect time for us in real life as they just completed a logging project out behind our woods that has impacted the local animals that live there...which we have seen the results of. The kids have a real-life situation to compare to what they will be learning. We will hopefully have a chance to get out and do some animal tracking before it snows to see what animals live near us, and I am planning to have the kids create some sort of 'display' of the local habitat we share with the animals around us.

Our Nature table will be transformed for winter, and we will decorate it accordingly. We have been collecting acorns and pinecones for a winter project, and may use the extras for our winter 'scene'...and, unbeknownst to the kids, I wanted to take an old dollhouse we have that is rarely used and add it to our Nature Table and have that become part of our display. Except....we will need a bigger nature table, lol...

History will be Egypt and associated civilizations, as that seems to still be on the table as an interest for the kids. We are also reading Native American Short Stories by Joseph Bruchac, which are great stories about Native American life with a built in lesson...like a NA version of Aesops Fables :)

I am also going to re-introduce some Spiritual pieces that have fallen by the wayside including some prayer/ceremony and meditation...I have some great kid's books on meditation for kids as young as 5 and well....I have at least 2 pretty intense kiddos who could certianly use it as a way to ground and get centered!

In household news...
I am bound and determined to get our last 2 rooms painted. I will hopefully pick up the paint this week and get 'er done. We usually have a holiday party in December and it would be nice to have it done by then. Can't say the curtains, and various other sewing projects will be done but if I could get the painting done...I also need to get the playroom/schoolroom floor done...seems the cats think it is an appropriate place to pee as they can smell the prior owner's cat smell....I need to get that floor sealed and painted as to eliminate that issue, thank you very much. Until then, the room has to be kept closed up, resulting in it being VERY cold in there! I think I can get it done :) Then its just curtians and a new couch cover and Phase One of our home remodel will be complete! Which isn't to say I won't STILL have eleventybillion projects left to do....

Well, that's the update from the mountain! (which has been making snow and now has 3 trails open! To say my kids are excited is an understatement...)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Blogs mde of WIN!

In an effort to be a better poster, I am trying to post once a week at least :)

I thought I would start off by sharing some of the cool blogs I follow:

This gal posts the BEST crafts, amongst other things :) http://themagiconions.blogspot.com/

I also love this blog http://ahandmadelife.blogspot.com/ I actually have a bunch of sweaters cut up into squares to make a patchwork wool blanket! Some great recipes here too :)

I simply enjoy everything this gal posts...it doesn't hurt that she has a bunch of cool chickens ;) http://chickensontheporch.blogspot.com/

LOVE these gluten free recipes. O.M.G. http://nourishingmeals.com/

You MUST follow this blog! You can follow them on FB too...tons of free give-aways, coupons, etc. Fabulous! http://tipsforgreen.blogspot.com/

Good things abound here! More freebies and give-aways, along with recipies and tips. A must! http://turning-the-clock-back.blogspot.com

InJoy!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Eeeek...

Seems I am a slacker when it comes to updating on all things home and homeschooling!

Well, Home and Garden first :)
We have made it through a good chunk of our remodeling projects. The living room/dining room/kitchen are pretty much done sans some finishing touches, the deck has been completed, pantry done and front entry tiled. There are a few more painting projects to be tackled over the winter, and possibly a bathroom tile job if I can persuade the Hubby...I am thrilled to be this far along and hope to get the few other things done over the winter as there are ALWAYS outdoor projects to be done!

The garden has been almost tucked in for the winter, as I am trying a new layering/mulching method that comes highly recommended from a dear friend for next year. Supposedly it is very efficient and low maintenance...which sounds great to me! I had my first go 'round with canning this fall and though I won't make it through the winter without buying tomato sauce, I will at least get to Jan 1 :) I have enough greens, jams and preserves to choke a horse, as well as LOTS of fruit frozen to make pies and muffins with throughout the winter.

Our chickens are doing pretty well despite the fact we lost 3 this fall. It was a hard lesson, but good for the kids to experience...the circle of life...They have all been very acive in the care of ALL the animals, which they have done on their own.(with only occasional prodding) I am grateful and appreciative of their help, as normally I do it all, lol, but they have really been stepping up and helping out. Its good for them :) All the other animals have been getting along fine, even our one-foot-in-the-grave kitty...we have decided she has more than 9 lives for sure.

Homeschool Front:
We have been very consistantly been working every morning on our schooling. This seems to work best, leaving the afternoons for adventures, outings, or gettin' stuff done ;) Max has been MUCH more interested in school this year and we have actually used up all his 'practice' workbooks and are now dabbling in a bit of 1st grade work. Not too much, as I still want him to enjoy that 'kindergarten' age, but I also don't want to hold him back if he wants to go on. He loves math so we do practice adding and subtracting, basic phonics, letters and numbers...he has the same knack JD has for math so he often answers the older kids' math questions... ;)

Lilly is LOVING phonics. She loves to read and sound out new words, loves to write and draw. She is NOT loving math, lol, but is excited we have finally come to the 'money chapter' lol. The kids have been playing bank quite a bit lately in the course of their adventures. I am glad she will practice during play, as she really does not enjoy actual math 'work'. Sigh, I remember that...I was not a fan of math either. I try to find fun ways to learn it but secretly I totally understand- if you don't like math, you don't like math! I try to plan it for her to get her math done first so its over with and then she can enjoy the rest of her subjects. She LOVES word searches and crossword puzzles, and is very good at reciting poems!

JD. He is officially READING! We had been *warned* it could take years for him to master phonics because of the way he would need to learn it but earlier this fall something just clicked and he is doing SO well! Granted, he is not at grade level, but he is so determined to read and catch up. I am so proud of him! We do a good deal of his work orally as his dexterity is not the best so we save writing practice for practice and that way he is not falling behind in his learning due to taking so long to write. He is doing language arts, vocab and spelling and phonics adjusted, and doing quite well. He still loves math and is crazy good at some math but will hit a wall with other things. He has no trouble with multiplication and division of up to 2 numbers but when we get to 3 numbers x 3 numbers...the wheels come off! So odd! We are spending some extra time with that. He is also doing some geometry and algebra (concepts...its a really cool book that breaks down algebra into different concept activities...he LOVES it!) I am also encouraging him to draw more to help with his dexterity issues which seems to be helping...he doesn't love it but he will do it during our art time.

As a group, we work on science and nature, poetry and literature, art and history. I have this VERY cool new art book that gives 200 some odd different art concept/lessons that the kids really have been enjoying. (Hooked on Art by Jenean Romberg)We do a different concept each week, then add to it with the new lesson the following week. I will throw some art history in as well, as later in the book they make some refrences to famous artists which I will expand on.

I have been having the kids learn to recite different poems, though not the ones suggested by the CM curriculum, I still liked the idea so I found A Treasury of Poems for Today's Child which has poems broken up in chapters by season, holiday, animal, people, etc. Some I have seen before, some I haven't (well, most actually) The kids really have enjoyed this and though this is somewhat of a lost art, I love that they enjoy reciting poems. I am hoping to broaden this into them writing poems, etc. Though that is not a part of the CM curriculum until later, I could see at least Lilly taking a liking to that sooner.

For our literature piece, we will be doing fairy tales, most likely Grimm. The kids LOVED the Sisters Grom Series and I think they will get a kick out of the refrences and make the connections once we read some of the poems. I'd like to add in some Aesop's Fables as well, to lighten things up a bit ;) I am starting this after the holidays. For now, we have been reading books of their choosing, in addition to any we are reading for 'school'. We are still working on the Thorton Burgess series (currently on Danny Meadow Mouse). I was hoping to start the Little House on the Prarie series this fall, but they are SO hooked on the Thorton Burgess books we are on a mission to find and read them all. Little House will have to wait.

Initially we were reading about the evolution of man and society, but we have taken a temporary break as we usually read about/study the Pilgrims journey and various Native American tribes during November. We have done various readings on the Pilgrims, and also read about the Trail of Tears, Squanto, Chief Joseph, Pocahontas(the real person not the Disney character) as well as Sacagawea. We are going to learn about various tribes next which will take us through the end of November, and will end with some sort of creation depicting all that was learned on the Nature Table. We did this last year and the kids really loved it- they made cabins and teepees and set up a village for the pilgrims...I am excited to see what they will come up with this year.

Once we head back to evolution we will detour a bit again as ancient Egypt really caught their interest so we will probably spend some extra time on that, since we have that option :)

In Nature and Science we have been using these great textbooks(?) that give an overview of all things, well, science and nature! They are great at introducing topics which we can then go into firther...or not. The kids loved astronomy last year and we ended up spending A LOT of time on that and weather, this year it seems to be animal kingdoms and their various habitats. I ordered some great cdroms on biospheres, animal habitats and animal kingdoms a couple years ago (good sale...couldn't pass it up!) and we will be able to use them now...they have also been watching many of the documentaries on Netflix from National Geographics...Beavers is Max's current favorite. They have also been VERY fascinated with the show Verminators and Bizzar Foods...I can't watch them but I will say what I have *heard* is QUITE educational! The Bizzar Foods show is more than I can stomach but it is very cool in that the kids are learning what different types of foods people eat in other cultures, which is VASTLY different than what we eat. I will leave it at that. :)

Beyond that...lots of time spent outside, down by the 'swamp', and inventing various contraptions in the driveway. Lilly and Max played soccer this fall and LOVED it, Lilly is quite good and hopes to be on the travel team next year! JD(and Hubby) spent most of the fall biking with a group through a local bike shop, along with continuing to run (he is doing 2 races with me in the next 2 weeks!) Hanging with a new co-op this year that the kids seem to like as the kids are all around their ages, which is a HUGE bonus. Also met some new friends during soccer season including a family that lives right around the corner who homeschools as well, with 3 kids same ages as our family. They are huge hikers, and skiiers and we are very much looking forward to many afternoons of skiing this winter! (the kids skiing, the moms trying to keep up, lol)

OK, I *think* I am caught up...and hopefully I will stay that way! Maybe I will even get some pictures up. Well, let's not get carried away...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Charlotte Mason.

Man, I just LOVE this woman! I have been reading, or re-reading as the case is, a book written by a mom who has studied her work intensely called "A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning" Now, it is for sure heavy on the religion, but asy enough to filter out if that isn't your thing. She was just amazing in the way she felt kids should learn, and bringing her into the present and realizing that CM is a way of life, not just an education system...sweet. I have always LOVED her idea of living books and we use living books almost exclusively for History, Literature even Science when appropriate. Through her, we found the wonderful author Thorton Burgess. He is long gone by now, but in my opinion his books are timeless. We first read the Peter Rabbit 'novel' last year as part of our Nature Study, where we learned at Mother Nature School all about different animals and what families they belonged to. I was lucky to *inherit* about 20 of Thorton Burgess' books from a friend of ours who read them as a child (these books have a copywrite date of 1921...not even sure if I could find these at the Library...) I have enough of each of the collections for us to read for some time. They are great stories with hidden moral lessons and teach kids about how different animals live in the wild. My kids are the perfect age for these books and I am enjoying reading them to them.

We are using The History of the World book for History right now, and have started at the begining, learning about evolution. The kids are fascinated. I taught about the Big Bang Theory last year, and I also told them the religious account of what evolution was believed to be. I told them they could choose which *theory* hey wanted to believe. Jeffrey AND Lilly picked the scientific explanation because you could 'prove it'. :) We learned about Darwin and the 'survival of the fittest' and could apply it to our little world in the backyard...the kids know if we did not 'save' Cookie our special needs chicken, she would have died/been killed as she is too weak to keep up in the *wild* ...this was a great real-life way to explain what we were learning about Darwin's theory.

Science and Nature involves learning about Habitats, protozoas, and different plant kingdoms. We will be taking a BUNCH of hikes and collecting 'samples' of different plants by way of rubbings and pictures or leaves that have already fallen from the plants. We have done the parts of plants and leaves as well as my annual talk about why leaves change color, which is accompanied by the book Why DO Leaves Change Color? which is part of the Let's-Read-And-Find-Out-Science Series. We usually do some sort of craft involving leaves and this year the kids want to press leaves for their nature journals.

We are reciting the poem The Woodpecker, by Elizabeth Madox Roberts which the kids have pretty much memorized inside a week. I am very impressed at how much quicker they are at memorizing the poems since last year! I should challenge them to recite some of the old ones ;)

Spending lots of time outside, exploring and just general runnin' around :) There has also been an increase in Lego creating going on in this house! All three kids, together, have created some amazing vehicles to use in their 'world'...this is amazing on many fronts- first, Jeffrey does not usually play well with Lilly and Max, and he is not one for imaginative play. He not only has 'tolerated' his siblings, but has not tried to micro-manage them...too much. He is also participating in their imaginative play as much as he is able...which isn't much in the grand scheme of things but more than he ever has in the past. I'll take it!

In other news...
I froze 18 eggs worth of beaten eggs in smaller containers, hard boiled at least a dozen and we still have a dozen in the fridge...some of which will be used tonite for peach waffles. We know why we haven't been getting eggs from everyone...as we found we have ANOTHER rooster! Pickle is not only NOT a Bantam Dominique, HE is not a she! I was suspicious when SHE sprouted a beautiful tail, as girls tend to be a little light on the tail feathers of beauty. Then I checked her neck and sadlde feathers...pointed. :( Sure sign of maleness. He has not crowed yet, and is still getting along with everyone so...we'll just have to wait and see how it goes. He is a mutt, and will be a BIG chicken. He looks like the kind of chickens my neighbor up the street has...maybe I will stop by and ask them what they have sometime...

Well, apparently waffles don't make themselves! I better get on it!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Happy Fall!

Fall is by far my favorite season of the year. The air is dry and cool, there is usually always a breeze blowing and the sky is crisp. Add some colorful, crunchy leaves on the ground and I am in heaven. I don't know if its the colors, or the cool air but I just LOVE it.

It has been getting cooler here at night which means the end of my gardening season is close. Hopefully next year I will have some sort of a greenhouse set-up(I found a how-to tutorial on making a greenhouse for $150!) but for now...I need to plan for the end. Potatoes had to come in due to some dadgum bug eating the plants, which leaves greens and tomatoes. I know the greens are fine for a while, but the tomatoes will have to come in. I will probably wait until this weekend to harvest as we are going to have great weather this week and I want the tomaotes to get as close to ripe and as big as possible before I gather. I am done making sauce, so these tomatoes will either be dried or simply cut/frozen for cooking...not sure which yet. A dear friend gave me a great tomato soup recipe so maybe I will just make up a big batch of that to freeze.

Its also time to clean out the other gardens one last time and get things ready for winter...I need to weed the herbs one more time, clean out the Medicine Wheel garden, and once the deck is done, I hope to t least prep the garden that will go in front of it.

Home Improvement 2010 is almost done...I have 2 more painting projects and general putting-of-things-back-together that needs to be done and then maybe I will do a virtual tour, lol :) I will say, Hubby's idea of a copper sink? Best. Idea. Ever. I absolutely LOVE how it looks, love the way its 'aging', and it looks fantastic with the counter.

Our chickens are finally starting to get back to laying...we are getting 5-6 eggs a day now...I am going to start freezing some for when they decide its too cold/hot/windy/sunny/insert chicken excuse here, so at least I have a back-up supply. I have plenty now to give away, and use/freeze. We don't eat eggs ALL that much though I do cook with them. Lilly and Max aren't huge fans of eggs as a meal-food, I don't eat eggs, so that leaves JD and Hubby...and they can't consume 3doz a week! (nor should they) Everyone is still getting along pretty good, though I have seen Sam and FancyPants get all up in each other's faces, it never amounts to much. My FancyPants is a pretty docile boy, and is nice to the girls, protective and generally just a perfect rooster. Sam is...well, Sam and Cookie are my *special* babies...Sam is doing well, and is pretty sweet. Angel Cookie is...such a sad case. We just love her so...Lilly would have her living in the house with us if I let her. Sigh...

Homeschooling has begun. The kids had a week of review, to see where they were at and get them back into the swing of things and then we jumped back in. They are enjoying being back at work learning, and did not forget nearly as much as I thought they might, lol :) Actually, they are doing really well. JD has been AMAZING me with his reading! It has always been a struggle, and we knew to expect this and the woman who was helping me from the Autism Center told me it could be YEARS before he could read a simple book. Well, he not only remembered his sight words from last year, he is easily learning new ones! It still takes him a bit to remember them, and he REALLY has to focus, but he has completely taken to reading! I can see the 'light bulb' has gone on and he is getting the concept. I am SO proud. He has been working on Frog and Toad books, and he is able to read AND understand what he has read. Narration is a big part of Charlotte Mason and I am a huge fan of her style. I have always used narration wih the kids as we do quite a bit of reading (I read, they listen) on various subjects. Since I do not test, nor do we do much written work (yet) the only gage I have for if they are learning/absorbing what I have read is by what they can tell me. Sometimes I will ask them to talk to me about what we just read, other times I will tell them to 'catch me up' on what we last read. For JD, this ability to narrate is a HUGE improvement over last year as it was such a struggle for him to red anything that by the time he got through it, he could not remember the subject matter, and he was spending so much energy on figuring out each word that the meaning fell by the wayside. Not so, anymore! AND he is excited about reading as he has made the connection that reading opens up his world to all sorts of information. :)

Lilly is doing well with her reading as well, but she always has been more at ease with reading. She loves to sound out words, write and talk about books. She is getting more confident with Math, as we are sticking with basics and repitition. Max is working on letters, sounds and basic sight words as he is desperate to read as well ;) He is taking after his big brother with his interest and skill in math, he likes to work in a first grade math book...and I let him. He can do it, so I am certianly not going to hold him back!

This week we added History and Nature Study into our routine and next week we will add Art and handicrafts. I found an awesome art book that will go along with our unit studies of different artists and I am hoping that after soccer is over we can hit the museum some saturday mornings as it is free :) I am also hoping to get to some of the art classes they offer at another local museum. Its a neat program for homeschoolers, once a month. Its a bit of a hike, but I think it will be worth it. Lilly and Max love all things art and crafts, and though JD could care less, I would like him to at least be exposed to it. He does like handicrafts though...he started to learn to knit and he likes to sew, but I think he will continue with his model building that he tried out last year.

I have yogurt brewing, and plans to make my favorite 'Breakfast Cake' shortly. Want the recipe? Its super easy, and you can put whatever you want in it...versatility...gotta love it :)

Breakfast Cake

1c brown sugar
1/2c melted butter or oil of choice
2 eggs
2/3c yogurt
1/2t vanilla extract
1c unbleached white flour
1c whole wheat flour
1t baking soda
1t baking powder
1/2t salt
1/2t cinnamon
1/2t allspice
1/4t nutmeg
1/4t ground ginger
1 1/2c rolled oats
1/2c OJ or milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Beat brown sugar and melted butter together in a large bowl.
Beat in eggs one at a time.
Add yogurt and vanilla until well blended.
In separate bowl, whisk together flours, soda, powder, salt and spices until well blended.
Add oats to flour mix and blend well.
Slowly mix dry ingredients into wet.
Mix in OJ/Milk and any optional ingredients you have chosen.
Put batter into a well oiled 9x13 pan and add topping option if you like.
Bake for 25 mins or until a knife comes out clean when inserted in the middle of the cake.
Enjoy! Freezes well, and can also be baked in muffin pans, try 15 mins then start checking for done-ness.

*optional...1/2c raisins OR 1/2c cranberries OR 1/2c chocochips OR 1c chopped fresh fruit or berries, really you can add anything you want to this cake.
**optional topping...once cake is ready for the oven, top with sliced apples on top of which you drizzle 1/2c melted butter mixed with 1/2c brown sugar...mmmm...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Busy Bee...

I have been trying to 'get it all done' but sometimes I fall short...well, that and I love to create impossible to-do lists that are hard to get done, lol. Ah, well. Lessons, my friends...it all about the lessons. Right now I am being handed lessons on patience, moderation, and manifesting. They are old lessons, but ones that like to come along and kick me in the behind every once in a while...so I have to take a step back and 're-learn'...such is life
I have been a busy bee in the kitchen as of late...I have canned, to date:
7qt tomato sauce

12pt blueberry preserves, 7pt peach preserves, and 5pt peach chutney
6pt tomato-apple chutney and 5pt mango chutney

8pt apple butter
...and I baked 3 apple pies with my new secret recipe pie crust. This is alot of canning for a gal who has never canned before this year! And let me tell ya...there is no better sound than the POP of the jars sealing :) I am hoping to get about 6pt of salsa canned and another 6-8qt of tomato sauce. I figure we use about a qt. a week and 14 qt.s would get me through the winter. Pretty cool! I still have a half a bushel of apples that I will probably need to freeze...I will bake with some but most will be cooked down to applesauce and frozen for winter baking. I also have POUNDS of zuichinni frozen for that purpose, along with lots of greens. Not bad!
Secret recipe pie crust? PIZZA DOUGH. For real. I am a sad excuse for a baker, and me and pie crusts share no love. I know many people who make fantastic pie crusts but me....not so much. I was about to go back to the store bought rollout crusts when a friend of mine said to me "why don't you use pizza dough? Just don't let it have the second rise." Now, I LOVE to make bread, and I have a tried and true recipe that I use for all things bread product, including pizza dough. I had my doubts but ANYTHING had to be better than the wretched pie crust I made for last week's peach pie...which ended up in the compost pile. I put the bottom crust in the pan, pricked it and baked it for about 15 mins at 425. Then I added my filling, popped it back in the oven for an hour at 350. When it was done...I gasped. They were gorgeous! They looked like pie shaped turnovers!!! Beautiful. That will be my new crust for future pies. Plus, since I make a quadruple batch, I had enough for 3 pies with tops, a batch of biscuits this morning and I can probably get 2 loaves of bread or a batch of bagles if I am feeling really motivated :) Wanna see?

We have started school, and I am very much planning on following the Charlotte Mason curriculum this year...minus the religion piece. In reviewing the website and reading over the book it is just such a good fit for us. Everything CM says it is a way of life, not just a curriculum, involving lots of time spent in nature, and pursuing personal interests. This is not to say she is not promoting kids learning *school stuff* it is simply stating she likes balance...as do I :) So, we spend 2-3(usually closer to 3) hours on actual sit-down-and-work school stuff, and the rest of the day is more experiential things...I have a couple GREAT books I am going to implement this year, a fantastic art book, and 2 great science books. History will start off with us reading out of the American History book and see where that takes us. I like to start with that, and if something catches their interest we can read biographies, etc. CM is HUGE into 'living books' which are books about real things and real people, along with a heavy dose of classical literature. We do several poems a month which we will continue, and I am thinking of doing some fables this year as well. We did finish the Peter Rabbit book aka Adventures with Animals by Thorton Burgess and the kids loved it. I have the actual individual novels as well, so we may read some of those this year too. I am planning on the Little House on the Prarie series, along with My Side of the Mountain and its sequels...I read it last year and LOVED it and it would go along superbly with our Nature Studies.
We also get to start the most ginormous Nature Study book this year. It is an amazing book I was able to download off the CM site, and I absolutely love it. We will be spending at least one day a week on the mountain until it snows, so I expect the book will come in handy. I will most likely plan our lessons around chapters that apply to us geographically and seasonally. Fun times ahead! As far as the rest of the curriculum...we will be skipping the Bible pieces, though I may substitute that with something of a spiritual bend...we'll see. The math they use is a little lacking in my opinion, especially for JD, so we are following a different math path :) Everything else is a go, and the kids are super excited. As is their mom :)
Want some links? These are my favorite CM sites...
Speaking of school....the kiddos are waiting! :)
InJoy...










'

Sunday, September 5, 2010

My Nephew is here.

Therefor, all things life in general are on hold so that I can simply smell his head. For realz. He is so dagum cute I cannot be bothered with anything else. I get to hold him, sing to him, snuggle him...and though I have had a few moments of ovary ache, I have been ok. I would have continued to procreate until I could rival the Duggar's (minus the tater-tot cassarole...that's just not right)but Hubby saw to it that we would not go there :). So, 3 kiddos it is. And, I must say that though I do love giving birth and all things baby, I am pretty happy to be where I am wrt to kid rearing.

So now, I patiently wait while other's in my family get to doing their own birthing of babies so I can get my baby-squee on. Note to nephews...get on it. Time's a wastin'...

Just look at how cute my Ben is!



Yeah, those other kids are cute too. ;) There are no pis of Lilly and Ben as I keep missing the fabulous opportunities of cuteness. I will get some though, as Lilly simply cannot get enough of her cousin. Takes after her mother when it comes to babies...

In other goings-ons...and there are some...Fall is decending upon us which means my garden is starting to fall apart. Eh, that's ok. I m bound and determined to get my fall greens planted this weekend, as well as cover the part of the garden that will not be in use anymore. Most of my tomato plants are on their last legs, with the exception of the plants growing out of my compost pile...they look GORGEOUS and I really hope the tomatoes have a chance to turn red as they look wondeful. I have a good 30+ pounds of tomatoes to make sauce with today, and I also have at least 40lbs of peaches to make preserves thanks to my neighbor, who let us pick all her peaches fo' free. I am going to give her some blueberry preserves, and eggs for now and maybe take her some peach preserves later. I also need to get Hubby to make some modifications on the chicken coop before winter. Seems early to be thinking of this but we had snow in October last year so...we need to winterize and figure out how we are going to light the coop. I am thinking solar as it would be tough to get electricity out to the coop without a lot of hassle and expense. Its on the Honey-do list...
I am so happy with my new-to-me kitchen. There are still some things to come but yay, the counters, sink, and dishwasher are done. I am going to do the 'big room' and the office over the next week or so and then, for the most part, the downstairs projects I can do will be done. Well, except for the floors, curtains, etc.... :)
Well, I must be off for my run...Hubby is going on an all-day motorcycle ride so I need to get my run on before he leaves. Yep, I am running again. Nothing too crazy, but the antiviral is starting to make a dent in my symptoms and I am feeling remnants of me filtering back in. This is a good thing :)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Home Remodel 2010 in the final stretch!

...at least for now, lol :)

We have been flying along at a frightening pace! Well, not really...but its getting done! The kitchen is so close to being done I can taste it. And it is....GORGEOUS! The counter and the sink with the backsplash...I am giddy :) The entry way is wonderful, the new paint colors are so earthy and warm...we have FINALLY made this house our home! Even more exciting to me? Hubby likes the idea of RED for our greatroom! Anyone who knows me knows how much I LOVE rooms that are red! I had a red kitchen in our old house and though my hubby and brother wanted to string me up by my feet for picking such a color, it was amazing when it was done. I am SO excited to get that color! We also decided on a warm brown for the downstairs office, which I also love. Then I will be DONE with all the major projects for this year. There are still some smaller projects like the playroom/schoolroom floor, bathroom floor upstairs and down and replacing the office carpet and Lilly's carpet with something...not carpet but those things need to be budgeted in so it will have to wait. Actually we have the flooring for the bathrooms thanks to my friend Char who gave us her leftover tile and laminate! :)

Oh, did I say the major projects were done? Yeah...the INSIDE projects are done. This week the wood comes for the deck, we have numerous HUGE trees that need to come down and be split before the snow flies, plus other yard clearing...sigh. :)

I ended up shampooing all the rugs in the house yesterday (have I ever mentioned how much love capet and I do NOT share?) and they were nasty! I am embarassed! Even with my Dyson, the rugs were bad. Part of it is we heat with wood and pellets and soot is bound to get everywhere. Guess this should be a once a year thing until the rugs are gone. Haven't done it in 3 years so I shouldn't be surprised. But, they look great now! I just wish there was a less chemically way to clean them...the chemical smell KILLZ me. Oh, the headache, the nausea...even today, despite leaving fans running, I can still smell it. Blech. But, they are clean and look great.

Today is a major cleaning day, as my SIL will be here Wednesday! I need to set up her room, as well as put away some of our remodeling things we no longer need. Hubby is going to finish up the kitchen tonite, as he still needs to grout the tile. It should be cured and ready to use by the time she gets here. I promise I will post a virtual tour once things are put back together :)

If cleaning goes well, I am going out to get my fall planting in the garden. Saturday I mowed the lawn and did all my major weeding that was overdue, so now I can get the last round of seeds in. I have a ton of laundry to do so I will have plenty of water to tend to them for their first week or so. I have some tomatoes that need to be picked and I ended up having to pull up about half of my potatoes as the plants got attacked by those damn orange little beetles. Potato Kugul on the menu tonite and mashed potatos later in the week, some of which I will probably freeze. Unfortunately, I have no way to store the spuds long term, as we have a moisture problem in the basement, so my cold storage plan is out...for now.

Later this week I am hoping to take my SIL apple picking with the kids then it will be all about apple preservation! I need to head to Agway to get a canner, as I picked up some more pint jars for a steal to make apple and peach preserves, apple and pumpkin butter and I have some quart jars for sauce, though I will need to get more toms than I have to do that. Need to hit the Farmer's MArket this week!

In chicken news...the chicken *goddesses* say that 2 roos are not a problem! If they are fine now, they will be fine. Yay! I did not want to part with beautiful Mr MM aka fancypants. They are all coexisting beautifully and I am thrilled. Plus, they are darn quiet roosters! Mr MM is SUCH a good roo also, he takes wonderful care of his posse, something mean ol' Mr Roo never did. Sam is great with his little posse as well, and really looks out for sweet, (slow) Angel Cookie.

We start school this week...my plan is to do a month of reviewing, and gradually increase our work load. We took the summer off for camp, so they hae been out of practice. The kids are excited to start, and my plan is to do 2 hours or so a day then go up to our normal 4. That's 4 hours of structured time...school happens all the time 'round here :) Sent my LOI's in this morning...oops. Way to drop the ball on that one! They are still young enough that not much changes year to year except their activities. What we study is pretty much the same, just different variations thereof.

Well, once again my to-do list is a mile long so off I go to tackle it!
InJoy...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Zuichinni bread in the oven with a HUGE spaghetti squash that noone but me will eat :) I had grandiose plans for baking this morning until I realized I was out of sugar, baking powder and a few other necessities. Ah, well. I pureed some tomatoes to freeze until I can get to sauce making, and also stocked the freezer with rediculous amounts of zuichinni! After a short stuff-my-face-fest (with...wait for it...zuichinni, lol) I am off to paint the hall upstairs.

But first a few things to share...

We made a window seat space by the HUGE windows in our living room and I LOVE IT! It is my new space.

Its cold out and I have eleventy billion candles lit. I also love this.

Home Depot, which is the bane of my existance, carries these GREAT mop thingies. They are those mop-plus-cleaner-in-one deals...without the cleaner! I have always loved those mop/cleaner in one things, but don't like the cleaner. With a housefull of chemical sensitives, store cleaner is NOT made of win. So, I used to bust those old ones and put my own cleaner in. Well, now I don't have to, it COMES EMPTY!!! WooHoo! It also has velcro, perfect for using my own pads as to not have to purchase more. I use old rags, which work both for dust AND cleaning! Yay :)

ok, my spaghetti squash is done...maybe I need to eat a little to test it before I paint... ;)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Home improvements...

Want to see what we've been doing? :)
This was my project today. I ran out of tiles, but I got the area done that I needed to in order to move the second fridge into the pantry...sorry its so blurry. I have decided that I don't love to tile. Its frustrating and sticky, but it does look better than the 70's linoleum that was there! Ignore the mess...

Here is the foyer/staircase. I absolutely LOVE this green! It looks good with the brick floor too. The basebords are not put up yet so you'll have to just visualize...

Here is the livingroom...this color is *spiced gingerbread* and I love this too. The room isn't totally put back together yet, but you can get the feel...


Here is JD helping line up the tile for the front entry. Hubby has wanted to tile this since we moved in 3 years ago. Today, he is a happy man :)


Another view of the brick...I am pretty much loving this as I absolutely abhor carpet and this got rid of a big area of carpet. Again, ignore the mess...(who lives here and why don't they clean?)

I also gave a little shelf thing and our old kitchen table a facelift by repainting them. I am going to sand the tabletop and restain it this week. I am also going to recover the cushions for the 'bistro' table chairs I have so I can put the set outside. We will need more seating for out there once the deck is finished and the corner it is in now inside is going to house a small couch :)
My happy chickens gave me 5 eggs today, which is great. Considering that we have 7 hens and 1 is broody, plus the 3 that are too young to lay...I will take 5 eggs! Picked a bunch of tomatoes, and may head back out to get some greens. Now, laundry is calling...


Rainy Day Alert

I don't remember rain in the forcast for today but rain we've got. Makes for a good indoor project day :) Glad it didn't rain yesterday as some friends of ours throw this HUGE bash on their farm and though it has rained in the past, its alot more fun if it doesn't. Got to see some friends and talk (and talk, and talk...lol, it was AWESOME!) and the kids got to run themselves into the ground. Good food, good music and a good time :) I also learned some amazing things about gardening that I can't WAIT to try! Watch out next year's garden...

With the floor and walls being done in the LR, we have mostly put things back together. I am moving on to the pantry, and Hubby is moving into the entryway. He is tiling the entry, and I am pseudo tiling the pantry :) The kitchen is an all weekend project and since we didn't have all weekend, it will have to wait until NEXT weekend. I am getting anxious, to say the least. It is going to be so gorgeous I just can't wait!

So, I will have pantry tiling duty, followed by finish-painting-the-pantry duty. Some time this evening, I have 4 zuichinni's the size of my CALF to process and freeze for later useage. Then I am going to rewire an old lamp (hopefully) move a couch or 2 and be MOSTLY done with the downstairs...at least until after the deck project is done. :)

This week my plans are to paint the upstairs hall, and shampoo the carpets. I am VERY hopefull I will get out into the garden for a bit as well, to get my fall greens in. I can also see TONS of tomatoes that need picking and freezing until I can get ot canning them. I may do the same with the peaches I am getting and maybe can while my SIL is here with her baby :) SQUEEE! I am going to get me some baby-head-sniffing love that week! Sewing shoudl occur at some point as well...or maybe I will wait until my Grandma's machine gets here...a Bernina...oh yeah, you know it! Its an older model but who cares! It will be so much better than anything I have used thus far. It will surely get put to good use.

Hopefully I will squeeze in a run this afternoon too...I love to run in the rain...and it is certianly raining right now!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Fall is in the air...

I love it. Fall is my favorite season and I look forward to it every year. Cool, crisp air...amazing colors, the rustling of the leaves...Squeee!!!

But for now, there are other things on the agenda. :)

The brick floor project is juuuuust about done. LR and DR have been painted. Hopefully Hubby can start on the kitchen tomorrow...counter, sink and range hood plus moving up our old but new dishwasher. I need to do some major cleaning up this morning and touch ups in the paint dept.

Spent a little time in the garden yesterday...weeded, and admired our compost tomatoes :) I love that I have several glorious looking tomato plants growing out of our piles! More tomaotes to can! I also stopped and met one of our neighbors up the street on my run yesterday. A nice man with awesome fruit trees in his yard. We are bartering...a dozen eggs for a bucket of peaches :) I will get more peaches from my next-door neighbor, but I am happy to get some more before then as hers won't be due to pick until Sept. Now, if I could just get my girls to lay some eggs! Really, 11 hens and 3-5 eggs a day ain't workin' for me. Granted, 3 of those hens are too young to lay, but the other 8 aren't! For a while it was the heat, and now...I don't know. They aren't laying anywhere else as we check the yard so...eh, I don't know. They sure make a heck of alot of racket out there ACTING like they are laying eggs...I guess I am going to have to have a chat with the girls when I am out there today... :)

Speaking of chickens...we are still living with 2 roosters. Not sure what to do. Mr MM doesn't crow much, is quite timid and the girls chase him! Sam is more *manly* and he is a peanut, lol. I will have to check with those in the know and see if its possible to keep them together. I hate to let him go...

Well...time to get at it. We have a party to go to this afternoon so I need to get my *work* done this morning. :)

CHeck back for the agenda for the week tomorrow!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Fabulous World of Canning

I am IN. IT.
I have finally canned and I am wanting to now can everything in sight! What a blast, and how awesome to know that I have made food for my family to enjoy for months to come! I made 3qts of tomato sauce which I could not can per se, as I do not have a deep enough pot. It was a bit strong, as I misjudged the amount of spices I would need not having a good recipe. It does, however make FANTASTIC pizza sauce! I have it in the fridge for now, and I may just freeze the extra. I do want to can some sauce though. I also made 16 pints of blueberry preserves which I did can and they came out awesome! I even got the kid and husband seal of approval. I am hoping to go pick more blueberries and various other fruits for preserves and pie fillings. I am planning on making apple butter, peach preserves, as well as peach and apple pie fillings for pies during the winter. I may make some pumpkin butter come fall as well, and I am DEFINITELY making a bunch of chutneys as I LOVE chutney! I intend on deticating one whole day this weekend to yard work as my gardens need some TLC and I want to get my greens seeds in for the fall. The Wheel needs another weeding before fall too, and I should really harvest some of the herbs that are growing in my various herb gardens and take stock so I can decide what I want for next year.

Home Remodel 2010 is coming along....the floor in the dining room will be finished today and the foyer/LR has its first coat of paint. It is an awesome earthy green and I LOVE IT! I expect that whole area will be complete by the weekend and I will be able to put it back together and begin the decorating process. I have a bunch of frames to be painted for the family picture wall, then I can print out the pics, a couch cover to sew, and my stick-staircase project which I am SUPER excited about :) that will have to be seen as I have no way to describe it. I am getting down to the wire here as I need to be *done* by 9/1! I think I can do it...I just have to pace myself...

The Lyme is sort of kicking my butt...or actually, the treatment of it. I am on a pretty heavy duty herbal protocol and it is just wiping me out. I am pushing forward as I know I have to keep working but oy...I am heading into the Herx, which for those of you not familiar with Lyme et al this is when you are on a treatment and you actually get WORSE. You get worse because you are having bacteria die-off, which releases toxins into your system which then increases your symptoms, or the perception thereof. Yeah, its not fun but it means the treatment is working and that is a good thing. I am doing plenty of detox protocols and drinking lots of green smoothies and green drinks to 'sop' up the toxins and flush them out.

Our chicken family is reaching a crossroad...with 2 Roo's we have to make a decision soon. We have not had any issues thus far and both Roo's are so sweet I hesitate to do anything until I see an issue...I hate to part with Mr. Mary-Margaret as he is simply beautiful and so friendly ( he lets JD hold him...yeah, he is THAT sweet) We are getting 5 eggs a day now, which is an improvement. 13 chickens and 5 eggs a day though...I need to have a chat with them! I was hoping to have them laying well again before it gets cold. We haven't figured out how we are going to heat/light the coop for the winter yet. I am thinking of putting in a window and then using a solar light as it would be silly to run a cord for a light WAY out to the coop. Well, I think we have some time....:)

Well, the walls aren't painting themselves! I better get to it. Pics to come, I promise!

Monday, August 16, 2010

On the To-Do list for today...

Rain. That pretty much eliminates my painting for today. Can't open the windows to let the fumes out and with 2 asthmatics in the house...yeah, no. :)

Instead, I am going to do some cooking and canning. Oh, and henna my hair. Being frugal does not equal being frumpy, lol...plus I had some left under the sink ;)

My plan for today is to make some pear muffins (for now and to freeze) and freeze the rest of the pears for future use. I am also going to make my first batch of tomato sauce, and possibly some blueberry jam. Oh, and start some yogurt cheese and make some nut butters. I have wanted to make yogurt cheese forever and I FINALLY found my cheesecloth. Also, I do not usually use nuts but I have some nuts left in the fridge that need a use so I figure I will make some pecan/almond/pumpkin seed butter. The kids can use it on crackers and such.

Also on the agenda is making dog food and laundry detergent. Want recipes? I started making dog food in an effortto save money and feed Becky better quality food. Making her food not only saves me about $20 a month (from the $45 I was spending on the really good quality food I was giving her) but now I *know* that she is getting really good food. Basically, I make a 4 day mix that includes: brown rice or barley, oatmeal, sweet potaotes and/or squash, greens, broccoli or green beans or some other veggies. I cook the grain, roast the veggies in the oven and mix everything all together in a big tupperware and add: nutritional yeast, salmon (in a can, bones and all) olive oil, and a few squirts of fish oil from some caps I pierce. She LOVES it. Once we are getting more eggs, I will give her some of those as well. She can also get a dollop of yogurt on occasion, as well as other goodies, plus we feed her table scraps (healthy stuff) so her diet is pretty varied and healthy! She gets fruit as a treat, according to what she likes, and once her store bought dog cookies are gone I will be making some cookies for her as well. I tried doing something similar for the cats, but they were NOT having it. I am going to try and add some stuff to their diet as they ONLY eat the cheap, crappy cat food. That is what they like and while its great for my wallet, I can't think it is good for them. I'll have to make them some sort of special treat or something. I have seen a few recipes that I may try in the future.

I am also making another batch of laundry detergent today. Here is the recipe I use:
2c grated hard soap(Fels Naptha-sp- or Ivory work, I use my own homemade soap)
1c washing soda
1c Borax
1c baking soda(optional)
Few drops essential oils(optional, I don't as I have kids with *smell* issues)
1/4c of OxyClean

I basically make a HUGE 3 gallon containers worth and that lasts me MONTHS. I am down to about 1/2 gal. worth so I am making more. For about $18 I make probably 4-5mo worth of laundry detergent. That is $3/mo! Pretty darn good. My laundry is clean, and since we divert our grey water for watering, I don't have to worry about 'chemicals' going into the yard. I use about 1/8 to 1/4 cup per large load. This cleans and de-stinks even my running clothes, which says alot! :)

I will make a separate recipe post later, so I can file it under Good Eats :)

For anyone who is in the market for becoming more frugal and self sufficient (and, I highly recommend you at least think about it...if you watch the news at all you know that things are going to get worse 'round here before they get better...*if* they get better...) I would HIGHLY recommend 2 books- The Backyard Homesteader and The Encyclopedia of Country Living. Book 1 tells you how to be self sufficient on a small plot of land which I think it fantastic. We used their plan to map out our orchard, and I will be using their 'map' for my next gardens (herb) next year. Book 2 is everything you want to know about being a farm gal, lol. The language in the book is humerous and it is a bit heavy on the religious mentionings for me but it will walk you through just about anything you need to know as far as doing things 'old school'. I am canning old school as I cannot afford a pressure canner and they walk you through everything you need to know. Awesome refrence books and well worth their cost. Don't know if they have them at the libraries, but worth checking out.

Also, check out some of the blogs I follow...these people are doing some pretty cool things a la living the simple life. :)

Recipes and pics to come!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Living Green

What does 'Living Green' mean to you?



To me, it is far more than simply bringing your own bags ot the grocery store and recycling. It is truly a way of life. It is being concious of what you use, how you use it...what you buy and where you buy it. Sadly, on my green path I have noticed that Living Green can be expensive at times. To me, it shouldn't be...Living Green is synonymous with being frugal. Spending less, buying less, using less.



We recycle everything we can. We reuse everything we can also. Its not that hard to do, really :) if its still good, don't toss it! We are a big fan of hand-me-downs, and pretty much always shop at thrift stores. The only thing I buy new is socks and underwear and occasionally shoes. I find more quality clothing in thrift stores in super condition that if I went and bought at the store, I couldn't afford! Plus, why not reuse clothes that are in good condition? We recycle clothes through the kids, and when they are no longer wearable they get donated(if they are still useable) or as of late they go in the rag pile. I am also saving shirts to make cloth napkins out of...but that is another post! :) Even the Hubby gets hand-me-downs from a woman he works with! Her hubby is a bit of a clothes freak and gives Hubby his *old* (barely even WORN) clothes from major name brand stores. Hubby looks like a million bucks! ;)



We do the usual bringing of our own bags to stores, and I used to not take plastic bags for produce(I have cloth produce bags that I forget to bring...) but my grocery store started using compostable bags so I take them now. I save them and use them for bread bags when I make bread. We have chickens for eggs, grow what we can, and if we can get local, or as local as possible...we do. We try to be conciencious shoppers...you do the best you can with what you have :)

We are also as green as possible around our house. All our lights are CFL, all major appliances are Energy Star, and things like computers, TV's, etc are on power strips that are shut off when not in use. Anything not used regularly is unplugged, we don't use air conditioners, space heaters, etc. We are in the process of removing old (nasty) carpet and linoleum and replacing it with greener options, wool or cotton area rugs, etc.

Being self sufficient has become more important to me over the last few years. After the *Ice Storm* which left us without power for a week, I took a good look at how we managed. We did ok, though we did need to rely on a generator for some things. It was an interesting experience and showed me that though we are pretty basic here, we still rely on many modern conveniences. It also drove home my desire to live even more simply and frugally. There is so much wasted in our society and it KILLS me to see it.

Being frugal...this is a tough one. Though I would love to always support local businesses and avoid warehouse stores et al, how sad is it that you must have money to live green and local! Not always, but sometimes. We support local businesses as much as possible, even if it costs a little more, when we can. But there are times we can't and we head to warehouse hell. I am working on trying to make it so I do not have to do that (oh the day when I never have to enter a warehouse/walmart store again...sigh.) but sometimes what needs to be done for the good of my family will outweigh avoiding hell-stores. But, at least it is on my mind and I teach my children about it. In these times when money is pretty much an issue for most people I know, being frugal is becoming much more popular. Even if it is simply giving pause before you make a purchase and see if you are purchasing out of need or want...this has been a big lesson for me. I only purchase out of need at this point. There are no want-purchases. I will say, it has been incredbly freeing! Not only am I not supporting BigBusiness by buying unnecessary crap, but I have less of that *crap* around my house! :) Plus, a penny saved is a penny earned... :)

Bartering is a lost art that really should make a comeback. I think bartering is the best and will do so whenever I can. I have one neighbor that trades me cereal for the kids for some of our eggs. My other neighbor gets eggs and extra veggies from our garden, and she is going to give us all the peaches we can pick off her tree come Sept. I have another neighbor up the strees who has apples that I am going to ask to pick as I know they let alot go to compost. A friend of ours with huge gardens always sends me greens, and he gave us 20+lbs of blueberries and 25lbs of pears, in return for us helping him pick veggies, work in the yard, etc. I LOVE THIS!!!

I am going to try my hand at canning this year. I have always frozen, but after the ice storm I realize that I need to do both as canning will keep, ice or no ice. My plan is to make some tomato sauce as we are inundated with tomatoes, as well as apple butter and blueberry jam. I am going to can peaches, pears and apples for pies and muffins, etc and possily make some salsas and chutneys. Doing it the old fashioned way as I do not own a pressure cooker. I have about 30lbs of tomatoes to make sauce with (this, after freezing about 5qts already) I am also considering canning some stews and chowders if this goes well. Again, I normally freeze but...I am trying new things this year! To be able to open up a jar of stew and heat it up on the wood stove...mmmm...

Speaking of which....I am DEFINITELY going to start cooking on the wood stove again. I love it and found you can make all sorts of things inside the stove as well as on top. :) Saves electricity and feels very rustic. My dream stove is one of those big Vermont Castings wood cook stoves...I can't seem to convince Hubby that is the way to go though... :)

Well, this post has taken me DAYS to write so now its time to post it, lol :)

Monday, August 9, 2010

What's on the Horizon...

Home Improvements:
So, the latest project on the to-do list involves killing many brain cells in a rapid fashion. :) Oil based Killz is made of evil...but dayum, it works. Spray paint is equally brain-cell-reducing so I figure when the floor is done I will have an IQ of 14. Ah, well. The floor will look great! I am pretty happy with the brick stencil process so far, it looks great and will do us well for some time until we have the funds to lay a floor. In the mean time, the subfloor is sealed nicely, removing the possibility of any water/kid-spillage/cat piss damage. I am liking this. I am taking a break from frying my brain as my stencil is quite gummy and I tend to forget to eat when I am heavily involved in projects. So, breathing fresh air and drinking a HUGE pineapple, blueberry, banana, mango smoothie...and eatin' some dates.

I am going to go right into painting the walls in the dining/living room/foyer area since we have everything moved out of there already...it will just make it easier. The pantry has moved up the list since we are going to put the second fridge in there we decided to do the floor first, then I will paint the walls. We are just going to continue the tile from the kitchen into the pantry/laundry. We also have enough laminate flooring (free score from a friend!) to do the bathroom floor! That will be painted as well. Right now it is a neon baby-puke green. Eh, I don't love it. Since it is the *guest bath* I am thinking something more neutral, actually. There will be plenty of color throughout the house so I am thinging of an off-white with some sort of border/stencil/ wallies type thing.

Creative Endeavors:
I seriously get giddy every time I pass my *office* knowing that all my crafty stuff is in there just WAITING for me to come in and get my groove on. I will be making Spirit Jewelry, Woodland Creatures and their Homes, doing some Energy Painting, maybe some glass work...I am percolating for sure. I am formulating a plan for a website, and I have looked into Etsy but Etsy is so HUGE that I feel I will get lost there. I did not find ANYONE doing Woodland Creatures, or the paintings I do so that is a plus! I am going to most likely do the RootsFest at the health food store in September, as I am still hoping to pursue my health/raw food passion as well...

Kiddos:
Good golly, I love my kiddos :) As much as some days they make me batty, they are SO amazing. I am so proud of them and thrilled at the way they take care of each other at Camp. Even the counselors have told me they will get together at 'critical' times of changing activities, etc. Yay :). JD has done REALLY well, he has told me he has made friends, tells me about his friends and seems really happy. Happy! He still has his moments, but I love to see him excited and HAPPY. He has been very passionate about his bike riding, and so far has done several rides with Hubby and the Bike Shop group. He is loving it, and I am so proud of him for hanging in there and doing the training!

Lilly did Karate at camp, and it has renewed her desire to do Karate. We are going to check into the local place. I was all set to be done with Karate, btu she is SO good at it and she loves it so...Karate it is :). She is also playing soccer this fall which she is SUPER excited about! She is just such an amazing little girl. She has empathy beyond her years. She seems to be getting less and less dramatic, and more and more insightful. She can be a stinker for sure, but she melts my heart with her love and empathy for other people and animals...and Max...omg, she is SO motherly and protective of him! If he is upset, she will start crying too and hug him and get all his 'comfort items'...She is something special...I can feel that *something* in her that I had as a child. Course, I had to hide it...she does not :)

Max is still my monkey boy. He is freaking unbelievably smart. Its scarey sometimes! He wants to do soccer as well, and is all excited too. He is amazingly in touch with his emotions. It blows me away as a)he is 5 and b) he is a boy. Not tht boys can't be emo, but for a 5yo boy to be able to say EXACTLY what he feels and if he doesn't know what he is feeling be able to articulate that as well...pretty darn cool. Beyond that, he is All.Boy. He is really coming into who he is. I love it. I also love that he is still my snuggle buddy...:)

Also on the kid front...we have found not one, but TWO babysitters! 2 high school kids who are currently camp counselors where the kids go to camp. GREAT kids from a big family that live 5 minutes from our house. JOY! Even better? They are brother and sister :) We have tried them both out and they are both super. I can't wait to use them once in a while to, oh, I don't know...go out with my Hubby! :) Not often, but it would be really nice to take a motorcycle ride, or go out on his/my B-day or something...Just to have someone I could call if I need to go to Miss R's and Hubby is going to be late, or to go see some music that may run later than we would want to bring the kids...Mostly we LIKE to bring the kids with us, we rather enjoy our kiddos. But, once in a while...it would be nice to go somewhere alone and know they are having fun and the kids LOVE both of these teens. They have 5 kids in their family and are very active which is good as my kids do.not.stop. :) Sweet.


School starts for us next week as this is the last week of camp. We are going to hit the new coop we joined (finally) which I have very high hopes for. I have had numerous personal emails from moms in the group, plus they seem very normal and drama free on their site which is FANFREAKINGTASTIC!!! There are lots of kids my kiddos ages and slightly older which is perfect, and there seems to be a good mix of boys AND girls. Plus we already know one family that may be there so its not as if we are newbies knowing no one :) I will post my Letters of Intent over on the Homeschool page once I get them revised and map out what I want to do this year.

Well...I think that about covers it. I will get more sorted out here in this ol' blog as things settle in for the fall so stay tuned for all the goodies to come!!!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Update from the Mountain

Tomatoes are starting to ripen, much to my glee :) I have been waiting very patiently to have my own tomatoes and they are finally coming along. We are getting a few cukes here and there still, zuichinnis, and multiple squash-family plants with lots of flowers and not much else. The potatoes are amazing, and I am still getting plenty of greens, and will be planting a fall crop as well, possibly this week. Blackberries and wild blueberries are still around, and if we get them before the chickens... :)

Speaking of chickens...
I think everyone should own chickens. A thought shared by most of my neighbors as I am noticing more and more people in my 'neighborhood' are getting them. 2 more neighbors now have some chickens roaming around their yard. I love it. Many people have gardens, and now the chickens...I am happy to see it knowing people are doing what they can to support themselves...regardless on how small a scale. Makes me rethink goats for milk, thinking I could sell the extra in the neighborhood... :) Not this year, lol...

So, back to the chickens...We had a little scare with Angel Cookie yesterday. She is...hmmm...sort of slow. Developmentally delayed, if you will. Fragile. So, yesterday morning she was acting less than herself. She wouldn't come out of the coop, and when she did she would take a few steps and sit down. Not normal chicken behavior, but even for her this was odd. Of course, she is my favorite (its all about the saving for me...sigh) and Lilly's as well, so this was NOT good. I searched the chicken forums and found nothing to speak of. Luckily for me, she did perk up as the day went on, and today she is back to her normal, albeit slow, self. I have been spending a lot of time watching the chickens and I must say...they are hilarious. Now that they are all living in the same house, they run in a chicken posse...except for the 'babies', who aren't ACTUALLY babies, lol. Sam the Roo is crowing...if you'd call it that. He isn't loud(thankfully) and he doesn't crow like an insane chicken the way Mr. Roo did. He and Angel Cookie are SO sweet together...if she doesn't see him she calls for him and he comes. They are incredibly cute together. Now that they are a posse, when I come outside into the yard and call I have 13 chickens running at me and following me around until they determine whether or not I have some treats. :) They are a funny bunch. I always thought the people who said they would sit and watch their birds were a little tapped, but now...it really is very soothing and really almost meditative. :)

Hubby and JD are off on a bike ride this morning and then Hubby is off to do some yard work at the old house. My plan is to get some painting done today and then tomorrow afternoon I will be doing some woods clearing. My to-do list is dwindling which is good as the super-sekrit-squirrel projects are percolating somethin' fierce and every time I pass my almost-set-up office I get giddy! There will be creative endeavors, spiritual projects, writing projects and a website...I can't wait! :)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Dentists.

Y'all know how I feel about them. There is NO love shared. I spent an ungodly amount of money on root canals earlier this year. After which, I was supposed to go have 'post build-ups' done, which I told them would not happen as I was completely out of dollars, and insurance. My original dentist refused to work with me on a procedure by procedure basis, as he wanted me to agree to a treatment 'plan' to the tune of 14K which I had to start paying upon agreeing to it. Uh, yeah. So, nothing has been done. Well, one of my temporary fillings wore out...the ones that are only good for 6 weeks...I was told by my root canal peep that I needed to get these dealt with or I was risking not only the teeth, but all the money I spent. I explained my tale of woe and se refered me to a new dentist.

Let me tell you...this guy and his gals are AWESOME. Not only is he about 5 minutes from my house, he was totally willing to work with me, not over treat, works FAST so my nervous insanity does not get me in a twist(they don't do nitrous, though they will do oral sedation). So, I go in and he tells me the root canals are not going to hold up as my teeth are so bad...he said he would just do the worst teeth, I could pay what I could(excuse me???) and work out something to pay the rest when I could(insert faint here) Not only than, but since he is a preferred dentist through my insurance, I get a reduced rate! So, I was able to get 3 teeth done yesterday, and I will get the other 2 done on tuesday. He said I did NOT need to get crowns right away and to not worry about it. When my inurance comes up again in January, he said we could figure out what was the most important to do and go from there as the 'build-up' was what was crucial, not the crowns, etc. Did I mention I LOVE this guy? (and he isn't too hard on the eyes, either) Absolutely awesome. He even gave me novicaine before he started, despite the fact there are NO nerves in my teeth anyways, lol, just so I would feel ok about it. So, now I will actually be able to CHEW with my back teeth. Nice.

In other news...
We are in the final stretch of camp. The kids have LOVED it and I am so glad we sent them. They have had some great social experiences, made some friends and had some positive away-from-mommy time. AND, we found a local babysitter! One of the camp councelors is now our new teen babysitter. The kids really like her, and LILLY likes her, which is really what its all about. Lilly is very fussy about who stays with her when Hubby and I are not here. She really loves M, and I am quite happy with her as well. Her first time here was yesterday while I went to the dentist and it went well. She is going to watch the kids on Sunday as well, while Hubby and I go work for Miss R. Though, Hubby and I typically do not go on dates, I suggested that maybe we should now that we have a sitter ;) Its not that we don't like each other, lol, its just that we do like our kids and typically do things as a family or individually. I said even to go for a motorcycle ride would be pretty nice... :)

Blueberry Hill is DONE! Oy, what an ordeal that is. There is still plenty of yard to deal with, trees that need to come down, etc but at least the hill is done and the blueberries are MUCH easier to get to :)

I am in the process of prepping Max's room to paint. Poor kid has had a half done room forever now, and I decided to finish it before my downstairs projects get underway. I am hoping to finish painting today. Then I move on to the foyer and LR. Then...the floors. Oh, the floors. We ripped up our fun shag carpet(barf) and were left with subfloor. We had thought of doing some sort of laminate flooring but...$$$...so we started thinking of options. I said lets paint the floor. So, Hubby is sealing the wood, then painting a coat of grey deck paint(I think) Then, I am going to stencil the floor. Originally, I was going to faux paint it to look like marble, and on a whim I stenciled a patch of brick and Hubby was totally in love with it. So, brick it is! I think it will look amazing and am SO excited to see it finished. So instead of thousands of dollars for a floor, we will spend $150 tops. NICE. We are going to do a faux finish in the school room, and continue the tile from the kitchen into the pantry. We will possibly do a laminate floor in Lilly's room and the office if we see a good sale, and hopefully that will carry us through for a while. Originally, our plan was to do flooring next year, but since we are painting we may hold off for a few years and do all the electrical stuff next year(lighting, also stuck in the 70's...sigh) We still have to deal with the roof...and Hubby has started getting ready to attack the deck. By fall, I am hoping I will have a *new* kitchen, pantry, floors and walls :) Should look pretty darn good!

My sewing room and office are plans in my mind for now, lol, but oh the plans I have. I am excited to get started, but know I need to wait until I get these other projects done. I have quite the list for fall though...should be a very interesting time!

Well, kiddos have eaten and are ready for camp so off I go.... :)

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Gettin' it done...

Phew. I have been working on my to-do list like a woman possessed! I have a 2 page list, all of which I want to have done by September 1st. Why you ask? Well, because there are changes afoot and I plan to implement these things by then! Plus, once camp is done in 2 weeks we are back to school...we will do a couple weeks of review and then it is on to our year plan. On my list was to organize the school/playroom. I finished that yesterday. The computer station has been set up, lego area organized, art/craft area established and bookshelves full of school books, reference materials, and games...done. There is a BIG walk-in closet in this room which has been turned into my sewing room. All things sewing are now stored in this closet, with a space for me to sew as well. It is perfect as I can leave a project half-way, and not worry about having to clean it up because it is in the kids space. :) I set up my 'office' with all of my crafty things I will need to pursue my *crafty endeavors*. Again, this way I can work on projects and leave them(and shut the door) if I need to.



Carpets were ripped up, things were deep cleaned, and much sneezing occured :) I have cleared out the living room so we can paint the floor, and I can also do the school room floor. This week will be all about painting as I plan on getting the foyer and LR done, possibly the upstairs hall and *maybe* start on the floors. We will most likely be going to get the rest of our kitchen 'stuff' so we can finish that remodel project as well.



This weekend, the plan is to finish up the outdoor projects I started. I need to finish up Blueberry Hill which will take all day, I am sure. I also need to give Angel Cookie and Sam a bath, and make some alterations in the henhouse so I can move the new chickens in. I need the birthing suite for the stubborn broody girls...then I have a few plants to move, some touch up weeding and outside will be set for a while...which will allow me to do the indoor stuff. I don't want to have a bunch of indoor projects pending come fall, as I want to be outside all the time! I love fall and don't want to spend it inside :) That may be when I clear out the woods and trails, as well as the BIG project of digging a trench for the piping to divert our greywater. We have a natural seasonal creek that I am going to divert our greywater to. We do not use any chemical soaps/cleaning products so the water is basically just not potable. It will inititally just be the washing machine water, with the hopes of tying in the upstairs bathtub water. We can(and do) use this water to water the gardens but it also puts less stress on out septic system which means less pumping which saves money! Its a win/win :)



New menu on the horizon...lots coming from the garden...and fun times ahead. You would think I would learn from years past what I can grow and what I can't but...I still try :) I am a lazy gardener. I like to plant, weed, water and eat. I do not want high maintenance, I don't want to worry about fertilizing, bugs, etc. So, I usually get a good batch of tomatoes, potatoes, green and yellow squash, maybe a couple random other squashes, a few cukes and greens. Period. I will not waste the space on other things next year, that's for sure! I have all my containers at the ready to freeze tomaotes for winter, as well as some zuichinni for baking. My greens I have been picking and freezing for smoothies and will plant 2 more rows of greens for a late summer/fall crop. I was able to freeze enough greens last year to make it until May of this year! Awesome.



Well, I am off to update other areas of my site! Watch for recipes, tips on green living and sneak peeks of some future craftiness...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Until I can figure out how to move it here, you can catch up on my running adventures here... http://www.rawveganrunner.blogspot.com/