Monday, November 30, 2009

Mint Chocolate Covered (Anythings)

We haven't made these yet this year, but I'm getting ready to. It's so simple you can't even really call it a recipe, really. Still, I didn't discover this until last year and we made bunches and bunches of all sorts of chocolate covered goodies, so I thought I'd share the method here.

You can use andes mints, or they also sell little peppermint chocolate bits for baking. You could also probably just use chocolate and add a few drops of peppermint oil.

Last year our favorite was mint chocolate covered Ritz. Tastes just like Girl Scout Thin Mints!

This is a terrible, terrible picture from last year, but it's all I have on file right now. New ones to come!

1 bag mint chocolate bits or morsels
crackers or pretzels or chips (or almost anything!)
I'm pretty sure I added a teaspoon of shortening to this too

Melt chocolate and shortening over double boiler (I just do the two pot method)
Dip crackers or pretzels in melted chocolate
Lay on waxed paper on a cookie sheet.
Freeze about 20 minutes to firm
Ta-Da! Yummy, easy chocolaty goodness!

I tried it with white chocolate last year too, but didn't get good results at all. I have white chocolate baking squares though and am going to try it again this year.

mmmmmm chocolate . . .

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Weeks Review

We had a pretty busy week. We didn't host Thanksgiving this year, though I would have loved to - we went to my parents for dinner, then to the in-laws for dessert. It was nice, but I was exhausted by the time we got home. Probably all the food, and nothing to do with all the wine.

We went to Phish in Syracuse (first Syracuse show in 15 years, and a hometown one for us!) on the 22nd and to first night Albany on the 28th. We didn't have tickets to second night, which was fine, even though the set list looked amazing. I work loooong days on Sundays and I'm getting a little to old to pull in those long nights now :)



We also drove home on the 28th, getting in at about 3am. I like my bed. My husband is a good man for driving us home at midnight. It was nice to be able to wake up at home and still hit up the market on Saturday.

Kitty is adjusting well, we all love her. Except for one huge problem. She refuses to use her litterbox.

* caution, potty talk ahead*

She goes on the tile by the woodstove, the corner of the bathroom, on the tile behind our wine rack and once in our bedroom on the hardwoods behind the bike.

She’s staying to tile as far as I can tell - but it’s getting seriously old.

A few days ago there were two pee spots on the tile by the woodstove, so I cleaned it up and then seconds later she went to both those spots, whined and then slid between the wood holder and the basket of newspapers, I pulled the papers out and she was pooping.

So I took the poop and her and put her in the litterbox in the bathroom. Shut the door and went upstairs to take a shower, I came to let her out a half hour later - she had peed in the shower. Her litterbox was right.there. !!

On Thursday we were gone for about 10 hours. I put her in the mudroom with her box and food a blanket and some toys. I really, really hate confining her to the bathroom or mudroom, but I'm not sure what else to do. We got home and there was no poop or pee anywhere. Not in her box and not on the floor. Less than 5 minutes later she had pooped in the corner of the bathroom by the shower. She’s gone there probably 5 times now.

She’s also going behind our wine rack in the corner of the kitchen. I’ve found she doesn’t usually go back after I wipe down a spot with clorox. So last night I got more clorox wipes and cleaned those corners.

I even went and got her a second box 2 days ago. I was using tidy cat and it was scented and the granules were kinda big, but it's what the previous owners used so that's what I had started with too. You know, so I'd avoid litter problems. So I got arm and hammer unscented and it’s a finer texture. I have an open small sided box in the downstairs bathroom and I also got her a box with deeper sides and a dome lid and have moved the wine rack and put that in the corner of the kitchen. She has TWO litterboxes in different locations that she frequently goes in.

This morning there was poop in the downstairs shower.

I don’t know what else to do. I’ve changed her litter. I’ve gotten her a new box. We put her in there with the poop every time we clean it up. I’ve only found pee twice which worries me. I’ve tried keeping her in a room so she can’t just go anywhere in the house and she freaking held it. For HOURS.

Today, The Husband found piles of poop behind our computer.

I'm lost. I don't know what else to do, what else to try. We love the kitty, even The Husband, who hates (says he) cats, really likes her. But we can't keep doing this. It's been two weeks and I'm out of ideas.

So. That's been our adventures in kitty raising so far.

We're making progress on Christmas gifts, I've got a bunch of stuff to share, hopefully later this week. I did get the kids pajama pants and pillowcases done. They are so, so easy to make, but I hope to post a quick little tutorial later this week anyway.

We started pulling out the decorations and I've been listening to tons of Christmas music already.

My six year old was insisting the other day that there is no Santa. His "whole school" told him last year. I'm so not ready to give this up yet :(

Hope your holiday week was wonderful!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

30 things before I turn 30

Taking another (brilliant) post idea from my friend Sara over at Handy Hooker -

I turn 30 in 8 1/2 months. I'm not really feeling too excited about that. Maybe if I had a countdown? ;D

I already did the green goals in the last post, so I won't repeat any of those here. 

30 things to do before I turn 30

1. Have another baby (haha) ok, how about get pregnant? I doubt my husband reads this, but if he does he's probably rolling on the floor laughing right now. I don't care, it's still on my list. :)

2. Make progress with knitting. I finally (after YEARS!) learned to knit. But just knit. Next step purl! And by the time I turn 30 - how about a hat? (We'll save socks for 31)

3. Go skiing. I've never been, and now we live about 2.5 seconds from a skiing hill and the kids get reduced passes for Friday nights through school. Time to learn.

4. Sew a quilt. A real one, with quilting and everything. I've done the tied quilts, but I want to actually hand stitch the quilting on one. It may take a while, I should start that right about now.

5. Fill my freezer with home-made convenience foods. I always start, but never follow through. I may have a lasagna floating around, or some cookies - but I want a nice supply of ready and homemade things to pull out in a hurry.

6. Decide what I want to do with my life. I mean, what I really want is to just stay home and have babies and cook and sew. Really. But, I don't think that's in the cards. I don't love what I do now, and I want to. By the time I'm 30 I want at least a plan on how I want to spend the rest of my life earning a living. I don't need to worry about the practicalities now, but I want to get the gears going. Update: 4/6 - I've been looking into holistic nutrition degrees, we'll see where that leads me.

7. Stop my tooth/dental obsession. It's stupid and I'm not going to go into a ton of detail here, but it's really awful and affecting my daily life. I need to find a way to end this. Update: 4/6 - not completely gone, but probably 50% better. I got a night bite guard which has been helping tremendously with pain.

8. Lose more of the "baby" weight (unless of course, goal #1 happens!) It's been six years - six years - since my youngest was born. I gained 80 lbs with him and have only lost half. For most of my 20's I have been overweight, out of shape, and unhappy about it. I accept I will never be a size 0 again. I don't want to be a size 0 again, I just want to love, or at least be happy with, what I see in the mirror. I can love my stretchmarks. I can love that little bulge below my belly where the skin stretched and will probably never be flat again. I can not keep accepting and will not love a body that I'm not proud of. I need to get moving and stay with it. I need to stop making excuses. I need to make some changes and get back to loving this body of mine.

9. Stay smoke free. It's been a year, but I've had a couple here and there and sadly, it's still an ongoing battle to stay cigarette free. This needs to be a yearly (daily?!) goal for me still. Update 4/6 - having a very occasional cigarette, when around people who smoke and I'm having a few drinks. Tried to have one the other night at a bar - and tossed it a couple drags in. Gross!

10. Take more risks. I'm going generic on this one. I don't have anything specific in mind. Maybe it'll be my hair again. Maybe I'll skydive. Maybe I'll simply say yes when I want to say no. I just want to stop playing it so safe all the time (within reason of course ;D).

11. Take a class. I don't know what kind yet, and I don't care. I've been out of school for too long, and working at a mundane job. I need to get out and learn again. Maybe I'll continue my accounting classes, maybe I'll take a nutrition class, maybe I'll take a knitting class. I don't know yet, but I'm going to do something.

12.Get a massage. The Husband and I promised ourselves when we quit smoking, we would treat ourselves to a massage every 2-3 months. It's been a year and we haven't had one. What am I waiting for?

13. Get a manicure and pedicure. My first one ever was before my wedding 2 years ago. I haven't had one since. Why not? Sometimes it's ok to splurge a little and get pampered. I'm not a very girly girl - but I walked out of there feeling like a million bucks. Why wait for another special occasion. It being a Thursday is just as good a reason as anything else.  Treated to one my my MIL over Christmas!

14. Wear a bathing suit, in public. Even when I was a size 0 I would wear a t-shirt and shorts over my suit. Why? Why? I had no idea how fleeting that body and that youth was. I haven't worn a suit (shorts or not) since my youngest was born. I don't want to be sitting here in another 10 years wishing I had only loved my body then. I mean, who cares? I haven't gone swimming in years - and why? ugh.

15. Don't use the computer or TV for a week. I'd have to use it for typing orders at work, but I don't need to go on myspace, facebook, tumblr, blogger. I don't need to look up recipes, check the news online (or on TV). It's too easy to get sucked in. No excuses. Aside from typing orders - no computer and no TV for at least one week. Radio is ok. Update: I have done a computer free 2 weeks, over Christmas, with limited TV but haven't yet completed a week without using either!

16. Go see a play, even just at Syracuse Stage. Every year we give tickets as gifts, and yet we never go.

17. Watch football just once with The Husband. And I mean really watch it. Don't read or knit or sew. He likes it, and it wouldn't kill me to show a real interest in it just once in my life. Update: Oops. Football season is over!

18. Visit my nanny and poppy and grandma. I haven't seen any of them in two years.

19. Make another wine.      Mixed berry wine currently fermenting!

20. Find a new favorite restaurant locally. We moved away from our tried and true favorite place. We need to find a new one here.

21. Go bowling. I haven't in ages, and I really like it.

22. Read a book a month. I used to read several books a week, and the older I get - the less I read.   Update 4/6 -I've been reading a book a week at least, with no signs of slowing down.

23. Pay off my credit card  ---  Update 4/6 - Paid off 2/3's of the balance - almost there!!

24. Paint the wall length bookshelf in the living room

25. Replace kitchen lights

26. Wine Tour. We've talked about doing this for a few years, a girls weekend wine tour. And we haven't. And won't. I want to plan this one for my birthday weekend.

27. Get up at 6 instead of 6:30, so we have more than an hour to get ready in the morning, so I can actually make a real breakfast for the kids instead of having them grab cereal (again).

28. Join a CSA

29. Order a half a cow for the freezer

30. Go hiking at at least 3 new places.

And because I thought of one more

31. Increase my running time.

It looks like now (following these links) that everyone has done a ____ before I'm ____ using one less number than their age. But I'm, like, so original I'll do one more than my age. ha!

What about you?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"green goals" 2010

We've been making our way towards a more sustainable, "green" lifestyle for about 6 years now. It started as a way to trim costs and stay on budget, as very young parents of two children. That still is one of our driving motivators, but over the last year or two it's also become about sustainable and clean living. I find that most areas of sustainable living lend themselves to being naturally cheaper, but not all. I've also found that I am willing to spend more in those areas for things that I feel good about buying. Like locally and humanely raised meats.

Inspired by Sara's post on green living goals for 2010 over at Handy Hooker  I thought I'd jot out my own here as well. It's something I've been thinking about a bit anyway, with the new house and all . . .

Sustainable/Green Living 2010 Goals

1. Get a freaking clothesline already. Or have The Husband build me one. We finally have a yard, and I would love, love, love to sundry our clothing.  As of 4/3 we have the supplies, should be in the ground in the next week or so!

2. Continue learning about/adding/working on our compost. The Husband built me a compost area - we're about 2 months into adding to it. I'd like to spend the winter reading up on 'proper' composting some more and really get this one working for us for the summer.

3. Start our garden. Up until this last year, I've grown our food in containers, I'm anxious to dig in the dirt. I need to step back and take it slow. Spend some time in the winter planning the garden. Keep it small and simple this year, I have many more years to expand on it.     Well, I don't know how small it is (not as big as I wanted!) But as of 4/4 seeds have been started and the garden walls are 90% built!

4. Get back into chemical free cleaning. I have to admit to a guilty pleasure I picked up this past year. Clorox and Lysol wipes - oh how I love them. I keep them under the bathroom sinks for all the tooth paste mess. I keep them in the pantry to grab for a clean up when we have surprise visitors. I love how they make a quick clean up so quick and so simple. I hate the waste and the packaging and the chemicals though. I need to come up with a simple alternative, that isn't generating more and more laundry too. I know, the sensible answer is a spray bottle and a cloth (which I do use for most cleaning), I've tried it - it just doesn't seem to work as well. Then my sinks are all gooey from the kids toothpaste (I think they get more in the sink than on their teeth)     
Haven't used the wipes in several weeks, still using some chemicals (lysol in the shower where kitty poops - ew!) but have decreased dramatically.

5.Get back into a meal planning/grocery shopping routine. I've been out of sync since we've moved. I just haven't gotten back into a good groove. I'm wasting gas on multiple store trips (and we don't live 5 minutes from one anymore!!) My meal planning and dinners have suffered for it too.

6. Reduce our trash. Our actual trash output is really pretty low for a family of 4. We're still producing a lot of recyclables though. I'd like to get us down to a bag a week of trash (sometimes we're at that now) and one bin (or less!) of recyclables.

7. More canning. I learned this year, a couple of jams and lots of apples. Tomatoes next year. And after that . . . I already have my eye on a pressure canner . . . ;)

8. Donate things I no longer need. I'm a bit of a pack rat. I need to let go of things that our family and our home don't have a use for anymore, and pass them on to people who do.

9. Kevin is (supposedly) going to learn to hunt (with a friend of ours who does). Not really my goal - but I'll cook it, so it counts!

10. Use leftovers. I am so, so, so bad at planning leftovers.   ok, this could still use a little improvement - but it's gotten much better. I have a shelf designated for leftovers, and we have been using them much more.

Things I do already that I am pretty proud of

1. Grow a portion of our own food

2. Have learned to can

3. Have HE appliances (ok, they came with the house, but I'm still claiming it!)

4. Have started the compost

5. Watch our water usage (mostly because we'll run out our well, but hey - I'm still aware of how much water we use! We have had to make adjustments!) This includes less flushes, like Sara over at Handy Hooker.

6. Are using wood heat

7. Are conscientious about electrical usage. (ok, also because NIMO is charging us double our bill for "delivery charges"!)

8. Eat a mostly local diet most of the year. Make continuous efforts to buy from local farmers and businesses with humane practices.

9. Use a Diva Cup

10. Buy most items second hand. Books, clothing, toys etc . . . (of course, this tends to contribute to the aforementioned clutter. I'm a thrift store junkie)

11. Handmake various items, clothing, toys, blankets, pillows, decorative.

12. Make our own wine and beer.

13. Use energy efficient bulbs throughout the house.

14. Only buy recycled toilet paper

15. We don't buy paper towels or napkins. On the very rare occasions that we do use them, we buy eco-friendly brands.

Things I may never change

1. Gas usage. We don't live close to - anything. The Husband is in school an hour from where we live. We travel fairly often for music- either for The Husbands band: Boots N Shorts or to see live music/festivals.

2. Long (ok, not as long with the well) hot showers. I loves them.

3. Stop my magazine subscription. Know what's a little ironic about that? I subscribe to Mother Earth News. I can't help it, I really like physically having the magazine to look through - it's just not the same online. I already do so much online, it's nice to break away and have some tea and read a magazine.

I've come a long, long way from that 23 year old just looking to stretch her meager dollar a little further. What started as a way to save pennies has turned into a lifestyle for our family. Again, the choices aren't always cheaper - but most times they are and when they are more expensive, I find they are more than worth the cost in the long run.
The move we made this summer has increased our foot print in some ways (like gas for travelling) but overall will lead to us living a more sustainable, simple lifestyle. It's going to be an adventure for sure - and I'm so looking forward to it.

I'm glad Sara posted this blog when she did, with the holidays and the new year coming, it's a great time to get your goals set back in line.

What about you? Any plans or "green" goals for the next year?

PS I've never been a fan of the term "green" and hate that it's become so easy to use. It seems like such a marketing ploy, a trend, doesn't it? And we all know what happens with trends . . .

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The newest member of the family

I've never been a fan of pets. We had a cat and dog growing up, but I was honestly never that attached. The dogs my parents own now annoy me to no end. I mean, cats and dogs and other pets are usually cute and all - but I've just never been a fan. Never had a desire to have a pet.

But for some unexplainable reason I really pushed to have this kitten come live with us:

The Husband says he hates cats (though cat's love him. If there is a cat anywhere around, it will find it's way to The Husbands lap) He's a dog person. I definitely do not want a dog. At least with cats you can still go out for a weekend if you need to. Dogs are more like kids. I'd rather just have more kids.

But since I'm rapidly approaching 30, and there are no babies in sight in my near future, I really needed this cat. I can't explain it. I'm sure there will be people who will tell me that's the wrong reason to get an animal or something, or that I should have gone to a shelter to get one, but I don't care. :P

Our friends cat escaped from their house and came home a few weeks later pregnant. We jokingly called dibs on any kittens - the kids have been aching for a pet for years and we always told them when we got a house we could get one. I'm not ready for the work and responsibility of a dog. Maybe in a few years. If we want to go away for a weekend we have lots of people who would love to watch the kids. I don't think they would be quite as willing to dog sit. So, a cat just works for us right now. Even The Husband is warming up to her.

And it helps fill this stronger by the day maternal ache I've had lately.

Kitty is still unnamed though. We've had her since Sunday afternoon. Our friends boys had named her Max. Which I liked until my kids started calling her Maxi. All I can think about is Maxi pads. I can't take it.

I had a list of names, like 20 of them that The Husband says are all dogs names. Like Lucy or Bella or I don't even remember now. He added Jim to the list. I keep vetoing it but he keeps calling her Jim. The kids call her Maxi and I call her Kitty. I think we're going to give her personality disorder. We're having a family meeting to at least narrow it down to two or three tonight - then we'll work it out over the weekend.

For not being a pet person, this kitten has already fit right inside my heart. She's the first thing thing I look for in the morning and when I get home from work. Even The Husband Who Hates Cats naps with her and brings her upstairs when we go to bed. She's managed to soften him right up too :)

I've been looking into some homemade cat food and treats and toys. Any suggestions?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Life is what happens . . .

So. Didn't get the pajama pants or robes or blankets done. (surprised?)

My plan was to spend two Fridays ago getting a few Christmas projects knocked off my list. But Colin stayed home sick. So instead we spent the day making applesauce, snuggling, doing laundry, reading books. I squeezed in some time in the late evening to whip out a couple of quick flannel pillowcases though. I've been sewing for several years and have never made a pillowcase! Why? Soooo fun and easy. I'm hooked.

The change in my plans had me a little frustrated at first. Not just because I couldn't get done what I had planned, but because I had specifically and decidedly swore to myself that I was going to get it done. To stop my cycle of procrastination.

But, sometimes life is what happens instead. So I took some time. Slowed down. Got some other things done. And am back on track this week. I did take the time to pick up some supplies for a couple other projects - so that I'm ready, when I'm ready.

This weekend, there wasn't time either - since my uncle was in town staying with us - and my husbands band - Boots N Shorts had their CD release party

I found the time to be talked into doing something drastic (for me!) with my hair though.


I know. That was just over a week ago. So it has faded quite a bit into a nice strawberry, coppery kind of shade.

I had bought a darker auburn dye to go over it because it was sooo intense and very "Look at me!"

It's been about a week, and it's faded nicely and I like the strawberry copper it's faded to. I don't know how to maintain this shade though - I've heard red is really hard to keep up. So we'll see.

It was not a color I would have chosen for myself. It's not a color I loved at first.

But, it was kind of a big deal for me. Yeah me - who used to switch hair colors on a practically monthly basis. Who went florescent pink in high school. Who used bleach - like actual Clorox - on my hair.

Since the birth of my youngest son, I've changed a little I think. I've matured. Grown up. Gotten a real job (sort of).  I've stopped taking risks - in even the safest of things - like hair color. For the last 6 years I haven't strayed too far extreme on either side of blond or brunette. For 6 years I've worn it long, usually straight, and parted down the middle.

Doing this shook things up a bit. It was refreshing. It was freeing. It was really, really nice to not feel so - muddy - anymore. It wasn't anything big. Just hair. Just a normal shade - a little bright. Very red. But normal. It was just - something - to do it though. I wouldn't have, if I hadn't been slightly coerced by my friend and husband. But I'm glad I did. Even if I don't keep it, it was fun to try. 

My plan (yeah, yeah, yeah) is to have some gift projects to share later this week! Hope your weekends were good ones and your holiday planning is moving along (better than mine!)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Weekend Scenes

Stacking wood, exploring the hills behind our house, getting in a little bit of fresh air and some sunshine while we still can. And even a little bit of sewing (I'll share this week!)


I took 3 pictures along the path at little clearings - each at a different spot and time. And every one came out with this blue spot on the bottom - only the clearing/view pics did - I wonder what caused that, anyone know?


Friday, November 6, 2009

Gratitude Friday

Haven't done one of these in a while, and I'm needing it.

Today I am grateful for:

A cozy, warm home during the first real snow of the year.

My Husband. It's been a rough month - so many colds and coughs and fevers. So glad I have a partner in all this.

Help. From many sources, places and people.

This home, and this opportunity. Not one day goes by that I don't feel so lucky and blessed and grateful to be here.

Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Handmade Holidays - Ready, Set, Go!

So. As I mentioned, I procrastinate. Lots. And it's not happening this year. No way.

I figure if I can come up with a plan or mini goals or, I dunno, something -then maybe I can stay on task

I might round out my goals more as the days go on - but I need to start somewhere, yeah?

Mini goal for this week: Fleece pajama bottoms the boys (and The Husband).

Just freaking do it goal: Fleece blankets for the boys.

These are super easy projects to kick off the countdown. I don't want to be stressing in the last couple weeks till Christmas. I want to be relaxing. And drinking eggnog. And enjoying my family. I don't want a last minute rush and flurry of plastic (toys and wrappers and credit - oh my!)

Speaking of no plastic (or paper . . .) if you've been following my tumblr you may have seen this already - but I came across this cool site on how to wrap all sorts of presents in cloth: Furoshiki. They also sell the cloth, but um, I'm thinking it wouldn't be too difficult to cut some fabric on my own.

Alright. I should be reporting back next week with this weekends goals finished. Yell at me if I don't :D

Monday, November 2, 2009

Handmade Holidays

I hate rushing Christmas. I complain when stores pull out the displays earlier and earlier every year. Decorations before Thanksgiving?! No.Thank.You.

For the last few years, I've said I was going mostly handmade for Christmas. Then I don't. Because, well, I'm famous for my procrastination. But also, when you refuse to think of Christmas until a month before - time has a way of flying away. I've done a few handmade things. Lap quilts. Kitchen themed baskets. A small wall hanging. But this year, I want to do more. I'm sick of plastic. I'm sick of consumerism (though I admit, every year I get caught up in the rush and sales and excitement).

The Husband and I have already talked about it (I know! Before Thanksgiving!!) We are determined to make more this year. Now, really, I should have started right around January 1st of last year. But November 1st will have to do.

I'll be logging my inspirations over at my tumblr: A Ribbon at a Time and I hope to be posting my completions here on a semi-regular basis. I hope you'll follow along and also share your holiday journeys.

Happy November!

And so it begins, the road into "Holiday Season'!

Have you started making plans for Thanksgiving? Thought about Christmas yet?

We're doing Thanksgiving at my mothers house this year. I was sort of hoping we'd have it here again, since it's our first real holiday in our first house. But, she wanted it there. And so it is. Last year was my first attempt at cooking a Thanksgiving dinner, or a turkey at all, and it went surprisingly well. I actually really enjoyed it.

And Christmas, how I hate to rush it, but we've begun. We're pledging a handmade Christmas this year.

Evans home sick again today. Seems like every week one of us has something new. No flu yet, but we've been full of the sick for about a month. Which is odd, because we rarely get more than a mild cold or cough. I'm hoping we're just getting a whole winters full of colds and sickies out of the way now :D

Sunday, November 1, 2009

All Hallows Eve - Weekend Scenes

What a busy, exhausting, fabulous weekend!





Hope your weekend was a good one!