Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Ramblings

I had posted this quote that I really loved last night :The Paradox of our Age: by Bob Moorehead. It's really wonderful and inspirational. Then someone pointed out that he was a pastor who had 17 members of his church allege that he sexually assaulted them. Well, now. That kind of ruins that happy little quote for me.

: /

So I deleted it.

I mean, the words are the same but it seems wrong now to appreciate them. Does that make sense? I wonder how often I do that without realizing it. Disregarding someones words because of how I feel about them?

It was cold when I woke up this morning. It's often cold in the mornings because the wood stove simmers out overnight and the radiator is set to come on at 56. But it felt unusually cold. Coming downstairs we could see that's because sometime overnight the strong winds flew open the back door, wide open. So our radiator located not far from the back door was running as hard as it could, but it was still 42 in the house. So glad I've been keeping the radiator off during the day and set low at night to save fuel. Just for it all to be run in the 4-8 hours the door was probably open. I have it running now just to get the house back up to temp, then I'm going to have to be even more conservative with it.

We used to get free heat in some of our apartments, and we always kept it set to 68-70, which I thought was comfortable. Now our house often hovers around 62-66. It never feels that cold though. Maybe we've gotten used to it? Maybe it's the difference in wood vs forced heat? Sometimes I think my friends are cold when they come over. I try to keep  it at a comfortable temperature for guests, but I get hot and uncomfortable at 68-70 now.

I love this house so much. I mean, there are some changes. I'm going to paint and change around the mudroom a little. We have plans to build a playset and a deck and down the road a garage. I wish our basement was usable space, but it's cool in it's own way. Sometimes I look around and can't believe I actually live here. Can't believe how blessed we are. And the person renting/selling us the house thinks we're a blessing to him. He loved this house so much too. I'm just so, so glad my kids finally have a permanent place to call home.

The kids have a half day today. I kind of wish they had a full day. I kind of feel guilty for thinking that. I just need a day. I need a day to putter around and clean up. Do some sewing. Maybe finally take a bath in my huge awesome bathtub that I've never used.

The Husband is at school today too. His last semester  - finally! It's been a looong time coming. He has student teaching after this so it's another year before he'll get a job. And he still has to get his masters, but he has 5 years to do that and can teach in the meantime. I'm so ready to move on to this next phase of our life.

I feel like I'm getting old. I'm not, I know. But I'll be 30 this year. I know it's just a number, but it's weighing on my mind. I did a lot in my twenties. Finished college, raised children , got a real (kind of) job, got married, got a house (kind of) but I still feel like those years just flew by and there was so much more I should have done.

I think we finally have enough snow to go skiing. Yay!

Enjoy your weekends and don't forget to visit me at 365

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


 I have so many thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head the last few days. Food. Family. Traditions. Heritage. I really want to share a few of them here, but every time I try it's just too much. So I guess I should take it in pieces. And the best place to start is usually the beginning, yes?

My first year of cooking from scratch was born from necessity. I was young. We were young. Even with my (now) husband and I both working, it was often difficult to make ends meet. We were working opposite shifts to avoid sending our youngest child to daycare. I'm not against daycare. My oldest went to an amazing in home daycare for several years. But I didn't have the choice then, as a single mom. With my youngest born into and raised by a two parent family, we did have choices - though they often came with sacrifice. So for years, we worked opposite shifts, seeing each other maybe an hour a day. It was a hard couple of years.


When my (now) husband was laid off and I got a permanent position where I had been temping, we took that opportunity for him to go back to school.

Our first year living together, my idea of home cooking was adding chicken to a frozen meal. Perhaps a jar of sauce with spaghetti and purchased frozen garlic bread.

I didn't grow up in a home where recipes and memories were passed down. I don't know if I would have had interest if they were, back then. My mother cooked often when I was little, but as I got older she became ill. My father worked long hours and as a result we relied on convenience and fast food a lot. 

So, when it was time for me to start cooking for a family, that's what I turned to because it's what I knew. As we all know, convenience food is expensive, so when it came time to trim costs one of the first places I looked was my grocery budget. At the time we were spending around 100-150 a week on groceries. Initially, I cared only about cutting costs without paying a lot of attention to nutrition. It worked, I cut our bill at our lowest to 40 dollars a week. That's a huge amount of savings. But it didn't take very long before my focus turned to nutrition. The more I cooked with recipes, the more I took interest in fresh ingredients. With two growing young boys, I began to make sure what I was making was not only affordable, but nutritionally sound.


This was about when I began my years long love/hate relationship with making bread. It was supposedly so easy. And so cheap. And so much more nutritious. Only it wasn't easy, not for me.

From there my interest in food and nutrition was shaped again. I started paying more attention to how my food was produced, where it was grown, if it was in season. I read everything I could about these topics. Whole foods, Real foods. Slow food. Local food.

I'm still learning, still growing, still exploring. I'm pretty passionate about food. About food culture. About a food revolution. 

For the past few years, we've been making attempts at growing some of our food. It's not easy, since we've had to grow mostly in pots and we have a very, very short growing season here.

This year we have land. We have a place to plant and stay and put down roots, literally. We're going to take it slow. I don't know much about gardening. I don't want to get in over my head. Plus, now we have to worry about wildlife. This year will be an experiment in our soil, our surroundings. We'll stick with what we know. Lettuce, peppers, tomatoes.

We plan on this being our forever home, or at least our very, very long time home. So we have many years to learn and expand and grow here.

Our house was built in the mid 1800's. It's been gutted and remodeled and the only (sadly) original parts are the balloon structure and the root cellar. I really want to take advantage of our cellar for food storage. I have several thrifted books on the topic and that's one of my goals for next year. I don't know much about it, besides the very basics. I'm so excited to move into that direction. I'm really drawn to the idea of being self sustaining and I think it would be interesting to see how well we could fare relying on food we grow/preserve.

My husband has been resistant in my food evolution. He likes the idea growing food. He likes that I cook from scratch. But he's a very traditional meat and potatoes guy and it's not always easy to get him on board. He's reluctant to try new things, as are the kids.

And that's a topic for another day - getting a reluctant husband and children involved and interested in a family food revolution.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Food Revolution.

I've been saying for years we need a food revolution. And it's been happening. Slowly. Quietly. There have been mostly murmurs, a few shouts.

And now, here, is a Food Revolution shoved right in our faces (which are, of course, right in front of the TV)

I don't much about the show other than what I've seen here. It looks interesting. At the worst, it gets people thinking. America desperately needs a wake-up call. I don't know if we have time for a slow, quiet revolution. Maybe this will help?
You can sign an online (I know) petition here for better school lunches

Homemade Poptarts

I first saw the idea for this over at this site. I kept it saved on my tumblr to remember to try it one day. Then I forgot, and remembered and forgot. So the idea has been bouncing around for several months. Then, while making Grandmother Bread I saw another recipe for it. So decided to try it with what I had on hand.

I had frozen pie dough from a killer sale I couldn't pass up a couple months ago. Too bad I don't like the dough. I didn't like it as a pie, and I didn't like it with these either. It was Pillsbury, and I've never tried pre-made dough like that before. It wasn't terrible, but it tasted heavy, dense, oily and well, not homemade. It just wasn't right.

I also used up the last of my blueberry jam to make one batch, and made another with brown sugar and cinnamon. Aside from the dough being not quite right these were simple, easy and the kids loved them. I'd love to try freezing some to have on hand for a quick snack. I think with homemade crust (and of course homemade jam) these would be awesome.

Mine don't quite look like pop-tarts. More like jam pastries I guess, but they tasted pretty good.

I used the recipe over at Chickens in the Road and I think next time I'm going to follow the steps at the first site I posted. It's a pretty easy, basic idea but each site had a slightly different way of trying it. And definitely homemade crust next time.

Friday, January 22, 2010

What's with Today, Today?

I think I need to watch Empire Records again soon it's been on my mind. (the title posts).

I did end up deleting my profile from the online communities that I mentioned the other day. It's kind of bittersweet. In many ways, I'm glad I did. It's freeing. It's relieving. It's just a really nice feeling to have it gone. In other ways, it's sad. That community has been a huge, huge part of my life for most of my twenties. It's where I went for support. It's where I turned to share good news. It's a very, very strange feeling to not have that anymore.

I was antsy this morning. I think partly because of some of my thoughts still lingering on everything around my decision to leave that community. And I think partly because I've just been doing a lot of nothing lately. A lot of sitting.

So even though I felt like doing nothing but sitting on the couch and catching up on a favorite TV series we picked up on DVD the other day, I got up and got moving. Made some Grandmother Bread again.

While that was rising I sewed up some bread bags really quickly. I have some great ideas to make some nicer bread bags and some more grain/produce bags but I just whipped these out really fast.

I also made a couple new curtains just using some fabric from my stash. I've been having a lot of fun changing out the kitchen curtains every few months.


While the bread was on it's second rise, The Husband and I hiked the hill behind our house. The weather was really beautiful today and felt more like March or April than January.

I am so out of shape. It's maybe a 3 mile hike up to the top. It's pretty steep and I was having a hard time with it. Not so much my body, my lungs. I had the same problem running this past summer. 15 years of smoking, I suppose. It's been a year since I quit, though I have had a couple here and there. I need to build up my lungs though, I really want to run again.

This was the first time we made it to the top of the hill, we found a neat stream and a pond at the very top. It felt so, so good just to get outside and get moving for a little while.


It was just what I needed.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Finding Rhythm

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. I find it entering my conversations and tossing the words around in comments and posts.

I don't know that I've completely found my rhythm yet, but I think I'm getting there.

For a long time, I thought that routines didn't work for me. That it was best if I took things a moment at a time. I spent a lot of years stressed and frustrated and always scrambling for something.

Over the last few years, I have been falling into a sort of rhythm in my life. It's still shaping, it will probably always be changing - liquid. Flexible. But I am feeling it, definitely. I become more calm, more centered, more productive.

This past weekend, I wasn't feeling that way. My work schedule had changed a bit, a few of us were ill, I just couldn't seem to get things together. Couldn't get motivated. I've just felt out of sorts, emotional and tired. I fell out of our rhythm, out of our routine.

It's nothing written down, no guidelines really. It's like a groove, a dance with life. It's the continuity of the every day tasks. Gathering wood, stoking the fire, preparing food. The kids showers before breakfast, packing lunches. It's morning coffee, afternoon tea. The sun filtering through the front windows in the late afternoon.

I think that maybe the more you go through your day aware, instead of just through motions - the better chance you have of falling into place with things.

What do you consider the rhythm in your life? Is it your routines, are they strict? Is it the freedom of not having routines? What makes you feel present and aware and in tune with your life?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Warren! Where do you get all this hostility from?

I have another post in que, that I was writing earlier. A nice post. A peaceful post. But I'm not really feeling nice or peaceful. I'm feeling tired. My heart is heavy.

I participate in several online communities and forums. I work long hours, and it's often slow. It helps pass the time and I've made some really wonderful online friends. I enjoy debating. I love passionate topics. I do get exhilarated over a passionate debate.

But lately, it's been wearing me down. Haiti has been a huge topic. I can understand not being able to donate, not everyone can. But I was hearing responses like "I don't care, it's not my problem". And that was common response. People don't care. They blame Haitians for "spending 200 years doing voodoo instead of building stable structures". I get angry, I get sad. I can not comprehend such a dismissive attitude towards human pain and suffering.

But it's not just Haiti, it's the less fortunate in general. People on food stamps and welfare are "lazy", they are "thieves", they are "scum".

I've been in these online communities for almost 6 years now. I've had the same debates over and over. And I'm starting to wonder why.

It never changes, no one ever changes their mind. And it just creates ugliness and hate and hurt. It's so negative, and it makes me feel negative. Sometimes I get angry, sometimes I get sad, but mostly I just start feeling helpless.

When did we stop caring about our neighbors? Were we always so unconcerned about the plight of those less fortunate than us? When did we stop building front porches and start putting up fences?

I think to a certain point, it's human to judge other people. We all do it. I do it, though I try not to. But where does it stop?

I've been considering leaving most of my online groups. They used to be a source of fun and inspiration and some good natured debating. Now it just seems like it's sucking up my time and energy. It's become mean and spiteful and I'm in the middle of it.

I've been leaning more and more towards blogs in the last few weeks. I know it's only snippets of life, but the ones I've been coming across are still peaceful and soothing even if they aren't always upbeat and perfect. They aren't cruel just to be cruel. It reminds me that there are like minded people out there. That we can share thoughts and inspire each other and be nice.

Edit: I was thinking about deleting this post this morning. It was written last night quickly, without proof reading and when I was very tired. But I think I'm going to keep it. It is what it is. I have seen some wonderful, wonderful things in online communities. I've seen women banding together to send gifts, money, support to other members who have lost children, have cancer, given birth. I've seen amazing moments of love and support. It's not all bad. It just seems in some of these groups, there's more negativity than not. And I really think I need to start separating myself from it. I found myself being pretty harsh on someone the other night (the one actually who made the comment about Haiti not being her problem). I was condescending, sarcastic and rude. And I don't know why. That's not me. I am not by nature a mean person. But I've found after several years in some of these groups I have become a little bitter and quick to drop a sarcastic half insult. Because that's normal behavior for these groups. And I am not that person. I don't know. I've thought about taking a break from some of these communities for a while and I think maybe it's time. So, I'm going to leave this post. If nothing more as a reminder to myself.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Grandmother Bread

 Edit: I recently realized that the wrong pictures were on this post. I can no longer locate the correct pictures. They seem to have disappeared from my computer and from Picasa and my blogger account. In the meantime, I've taken down the wrong pictures, and will hopefully be able to put the right ones back up soon. If you happen to notice any other posts askew, please contact me. My e-mail address is located under the where you may find me tab at the top of the page. Thanks!

For years I tried to make homemade bread. I tried and tried and tried. And it never worked. My loaves always came out flat and heavy. After about 3 years I caved and got a bread machine. I used that until last year, when I came across the 5 minute bread. I haven't used my bread machine since.

The 5 minute bread was great for dinner loafs and for pizza crust. It was not so great for sandwich loaves, and just ok for cinnamon rolls and things. And, the fact that I still hadn't successfully made a kneaded loaf really nagged at me.

For a while I've been reading Chickens in the Road. Suzanne has a post on Grandmother Bread, and I've been eying it and shying away from it for months now. After all, I can't make yeast/kneaded bread. I just can't. I've tried and tried and tried.

Well, I tried one more time. The other day I mixed up my weekly batch of 5 minute bread - and decided to go ahead and give Grandmother Bread a try.

The recipe is very similar to the 5 minute bread recipe. It didn't look scary.

So, I started. I kneaded it (the best I know how)

I left it to rise (in my pretty cold kitchen)

Punched it down, kneaded it again, and set it to rise in the pans (a little unevenly, dough wise - oops!)

And baked it.

And waited.

And peeked through the window.



(ok, the pictures a little blurry - I think I had olive oil on the camera lense!)


Ok, so not quite perfect. But the best I've ever made!

And, the best part is, it's good! Like really, really good! And easy! It's a little bit denser than store bought, but I think that's my kneading, which will get better with time.

My family is pretty picky about their bread. I love whole grain breads, they don't. And even though I can often find sandwich bread without HFCS, there's still always a long list of ingredients. I can't pretend this bread is full of healthy stuff - it's white bread after all. But it's homemade. And to me, that's pretty exciting!

I have the smaller loaf in the freezer as an experiment to see how well it freezes. I know, the point of homemade bread is to have it fresh - but I work some long hours, so if I can have fresh and frozen I'll be super happy.

So seriously, if you've ever had problems with homemade bread like I have - give this recipe a try. It's so easy and so wonderful.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday Gratitude

Today, I am grateful for slippers.

I am grateful for tea.

For bread rising on the counter.

For a husband who fixes the oven door when I somehow break it clean apart.

I am grateful for an 11 year old who wants to play scrabble with his parents.

For a 6 year old who is still cheerful, even when dealing with a stomach bug. For easy to clean floors :/

I am grateful for my comfy couch and cozy blanket. For it being Friday.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


I have none.

I stayed home sick from work yesterday. I don't know about other people, but I get restless. I couldn't relax. I kept feeling like I should be cleaning or sewing or cooking or something. I don't know where that comes from. I used to be able to chill out in the middle of anything. Now, I get fidgety. I got a couple loads of laundry done and a shower and that was about it. Every time I stood up I just felt nauseous. The Husband even made dinner last night.

I had today off since I'm back on my regular schedule. I'm feeling a little bit better, but just couldn't get motivated. There are a couple things I really wanted to sew, but just wasn't feelin' it. So I just did another load of laundry, put away clothes, cleaned the kitchen, mopped the floors. Kevin just laughed when I told him I wasn't motivated to get anything done after I finished mopping the floors. He apparently thought that was enough, but it was only 10. What a waste of a day. He helped me clean the kids play room. I still feel like I should have made a grocery list for next week or maybe worked on the household binder. I was just blah. Blah, blah, blah.

Hopefully tomorrow will be better, I hate feeling like I didn't get anything accomplished.

Is anyone else like that? My husband isn't. I know he has zero issues wasting the day away doing nothing. I think I would mind it less if my doing nothing was productive. I know, that sounds silly. But I spent most of the day watching TV, playing Dr. Mario, drinking tea and eating soup. I mean, I could have wasted the day and still made a few phone calls that I needed to make, or started my taxes or something. TV makes my mind feel mushy.

I used to love doing that. Lying around, being a bum. Maybe finishing a book in a day. It was pure bliss to spend a long, lazy day doing nothing. Maybe sometime I should try sitting back and enjoying it again, huh?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

We do not remember the days . . .

We remember the moments.

How true.

I do remember the moments. My father often worked long, long hours when I was growing up. He also worked a rotating shift so the hours were always changing. Even after becoming management, he continued to put in the same hours often 10-12-16 hours a day. He worked hard to provide for our family so that our mother could stay home.

But what I remember about growing up is not him being gone. I know he worked long hours. I know he was often gone or sleeping while we were awake. But that's not what I remember.

I remember him reading me bed time stories when I still had Smurf sheets, I was probably 4 at the time. I remember trips to the zoo. I remember him bringing us ice skating probably every week in the winter. I remember that once he used to ice skate with us, but as I got older and brought a friend, he would just sit and read the paper while we skated. But he was there. I remember sledding with him and going the the Brooklyn Pickle after for sandwiches and hot cocoa. I remember loving to go to the grocery store with him. Vacations to Road Island, camping every summer (even though we camped close to his work so that he could go back and forth between work and camp) I just remember him being there.

Now that I'm grown, with children of my own and I find myself trying to balance 10 and 12 hour days at work, with raising kids, keeping a house, being a wife - I often wonder how he did it.

I think it's just that it was important to him. He was one of 12, and his father worked 2 jobs. I know that he has some resentment towards his father, mostly for not being there for my sister and I. My father is also very involved in my childrens lives.

I mean, I guess what it comes down to is that it was just a priority for him to spend time with us. And it's a priority now for him to spend time with my children.


You can't force memories. I mean, I try to create traditions. I try to capture moments. Sometimes I wonder what my kids will remember about growing up? Will they remember the long hours I worked, the time I spent away? I know they miss me, they tell me. But maybe they'll remember coming in with Chinese food on some of my 12 hour Sundays and having dinner at work with me. Maybe they'll remember how I had a home cooked meal on their table every night, even when I wasn't there to eat it with them. They tease me about having to make everything from scratch, sometimes they are jealous that their friends get store bought candies and fruit roll ups, but hopefully someday they'll look back and be glad about that. Hopefully someday they'll do the same for their families. Maybe they'll remember camping every summer and hiking waterfalls. I hope they do.


Sometimes I get discouraged and sad over my idea of what I want life to be and the reality of what it is. I hope that if I keep living intentionally, living slowly, that it will all come together. That someday none of us will look back and remember the days and the daily grind, we'll all just look back and smile over these moments.

I've been doing a lot of thinking and reflecting these last couple of weeks, thanks for coming along with me while I sort through it all.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Slow Living.

I was having a conversation recently with a co-worker about just life. And how people live. And she commented that we live in a microwave world. We want everything, and we want it 5 seconds ago. And it's so true. I've been making changes over the last decade. I've been exploring local eating, slow food, moving towards a (very basic) kind of homesteading. I made a promise to myself in the spring to begin living intentionally.

I don't want to live in a microwave world. We try not to (well, mostly I try not to and my family just follows along) but it's still easy to get caught up in that isn't it?

Most things, we (as in the royal we) can get instantly. We have credit cards, so we don't need to save our pennies for whimsical purchases. We have our central air and our on the grid housing. We have two or more car households. Fast food drive-throughs, pre-frozen meals at the supermarket. Stores upon stores upon stores of clothing and gadgets and items to be had at a moments notice and for cheap too.

Our family has made some changes. We cook most everything from scratch (though we do rely on some convenience items regularly and some others occasionally). We recently moved to a house that relies primarily on wood heat (though we do supplement with oil). We are also now on a well, which has made us very aware of our water usage and how to stagger showers and laundry and dishes, because we will (temporarily) run out. I'm working on growing more food, and what I don't grow I get much of from local farmers. Where we live now, there aren't any quick trips to the store (25 minutes one way) so we've been working on food storage and inventorying. 

I'd love to continue on this path. I've always called it "simple living" because that's what I've always heard it referred to as, that kind of returning to the earth, to the older ways of living. Moving away from the consumerism and microwave kind of world.

But, "simple" living isn't really simple at all. It's work. A lot of it. For the most part, I find it enjoyable work. I find that I like rhythm of this sort of life.

It's really like slow living isn't it? Everything comes slower. The food comes slower, the heat comes slower, you're living your life just a little slower. And as a result you notice more, don't you? You pay more attention to the seasons. You pay more attention to your consumption. And in a round about way, you pay more attention to your family. Instead of several nights a week of carting kids around and eating dinner in the car or working multiple jobs to pay the bills, you find yourself gathered around the family dinner table, lingering over your home cooked meal. You find yourself playing card games or board games with your children and enjoying every second of it. You find yourself drawing up plans with your 11 year old on how to build (from scratch!) the play set planned for your yard next year. Or searching seed catalogs with your family to decide what you're going to grow to eat next year.

You find yourself spending hours picking strawberries and dandelions to make your own wine.

Finding joy in bottling your own beer.

You find that there is an overwhelming satisfaction in making what you once thought you could only buy.

I'm actively trying to live a slower life. I'm not there yet. But I'm getting there. I don't want to live a microwave life. I don't want to grow children in a disposable world. Even when it seems overwhelming, even when I feel exhausted and cranky at the end of a hard long weekend, I know that this is right where we belong. You only get one life, and I intend on really living it, really enjoying it, really savoring it . . . slowly.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Pantry Inventory and (ahem) cleanup

This is embarrassing, it really is. I go on and on about homemaking just days ago, and now I'm going to show you this.


So, I started on our household organizer this weekend. I did make up a quick budget (which is, yes, what inspired the binder idea to begin with) but since that's not the fun part, I spent most of Saturday making up an inventory of our food storage. I divided it into Spices (I have a lot) pantry and freezer.

I tried to take a screenshot to show you, but I can't quite figure it out. So no pictures, booooo.

For spices I inventoried them by name (brilliant!) date purchased, a column for checking if I need more and where it's located (I keep about a dozenish or more in my kitchen cabinet and the rest in a basket in the pantry.

Pantry I have the name of the item, the measurement, a dozen boxes to check off for amount on hand, a column for additionals, a column for partials and a column for notes. Hopefully this will stop me from having seven jars of mayonnaise and no tomatoes when I thought I had 4 cans. I think it will also come in handy next year during canning. The problem is going to be remembering to add in and check off when I use or replace something.

The freezer is set up almost exactly the same as the pantry.

But the pantry. Oh, that pantry. When we first moved in we made a couple of changes to it, nothing drastic, some extra shelves and some paint. I still haven't gotten around to painting the walls white, though I will.

And since then I've kept it pretty neat and in order. Until the holidays. I was off for two weeks, but organizing the pantry wasn't near the top of my list of things to do. And as a result things just got piled and shoved in there for about a month. Until it looked like this . . .

It's so bad

It really is

Oh gross


It was really awful. I could barely fit in there, I had a stack of empty egg cartons I kept forgetting to take to the lady at the market, bags full of recycables (we really need a better system and a drastic reduction, but that's another post). It was just shameful.

So, when I went to inventory it yesterday, I had to clean it out.

And now it's so, so, so much better.

Yay! I can walk in there again! I'd still love to get one more low shelf against the left wall, and I have a couple of plates I'm going to hang on the right wall (and I still want to paint over the tobacco colored paint) but I'm feeling much, much better about it. And now I actually know where things are and what I have. Hooray!

This week for the household binder (which, like I said is going to actually be two binders) I hope to refine our budget, finish the freezer inventory, make copies of insurance documents and birth certificates, and create a sheet of who our wood and fuel vendors are, electric, cable etc . . . and bill pay information.

I've been pretty cranky this weekend. Organizing makes me cranky, but getting things accomplished feels so nice. I've got ribs roasting in the oven, homemade barbecue sauce simmering on the stove, tea in my hand and a nice clean organized pantry. Ah, it feels good :)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Handmade Holidays - review

In December I outlined the list of things I wanted to make for Christmas gifts. I also mentioned how uncooperative my sewing machine was. Oh, and she was. I ended up borrowing my mothers machine to finish, just in time.

I had planned to make pajama bottoms for my two boys and our nephew, robes for my boys, new flannel pillowcases for us all, a dollhouse for our niece and a table runner and cloth napkins for my sister in law (which I tied together Perfect Recipes for Having People Over). I also wanted to make felt food for Colins Kitchen.

Proudly, and surprisingly, I did accomplish most of that, with no help from my cranky sewing machine. I had to give up on the felt food and bought a small package of Melissa & Doug wooden food to get us started, and I didn't have the time or patience or energy to finish the robes, though the pieces are cut.

And not so proudly, and not so surprisingly, I forgot to take pictures of all of the finished items.

I got some snapshots, sort of to share though - and will ask for better pictures of the gifts that were given.

The boys pillowcases and heating pads (an extra project I threw in last minute when I knew I wouldn't get the robes done). The white Target box on top of the kitchen set is what The Husband built, along with some rubberband guns. Pretty sweet kitchen set for 16 dollars huh?

A not very good picture of two of the 3 pajama pants. The one on the left, our nephew - the first pair I made I did all wrong and when I had Colin try them on for an idea on size they just barely fit him, so I had to make a bigger pair. I sent The Husband to get 2 new yards of fabric, which he didn't get on sale, so in the end that pair of pajama pants cost me 50 dollars to get right. Even the kids pants, with on sale fleece were almost 12 dollars a pair. But they were fun and easy to make and the kids LOVED them. I don't have a picture of Evans pants, but I'll be sure to get one.

One of the very few pictures I have of the dollhouse. I really need to see if she can send me some. The Husband also painted 4 little peg people for it and I have no pics of that. I followed this tutorial. The original measurements I thought were too small, so I upped everything by 2 inches, which did give me a little bit of a headache later on, because I must not have cut everything correctly and so things didn't line up exactly right. But overall the project was pretty simple and super cute.

I'll have to see if I can get a picture of the runner I made for my sister in law too, because I really love how it came out. I just did different size strips of 4 different fabrics, the main fabric being the flower border fabric from this wall hanging I made her a couple years ago (which, judging by her pictures from her apt in NYC, she has hanging in her kitchen)

I loved being able to give more handmade gifts this year, and hope to do even more next year. But I think the planning and beginning of projects will start in June instead of November!

Thursday, January 7, 2010


What happened to home making? I mean, most of us do it, in one way or another. But very few people call themselves "homemakers" anymore.

When I was growing up, a homemaker was another word for stay at home mom. But not all SAHMs are homemakers. And not all homemakers stay at home, or are even moms.

I like to collect old cookbooks. I find that in most of the 1940's and before books it always begins with homemaking tips. How to wash dishes. How to store foods (before modern refrigerators!) How to set a table. How to clear a table. And some of these books have basic homemaking skills too, aside from food and food preparing/storage/cooking/cleaning. How to press clothes, darn socks. Basic new wife skills I guess.

I don't know how many women found these instructions charming as opposed to assuming or condescending or annoying, but as a gal growing up in a "modern" world I do find it charming. And I wonder what happened? When did homemaking go out of fashion? Was it when women went out to work? When tv dinners made their first appearances? With the feminist revolution?

I do not think that women should be expected to be homemakers. I don't think that women should be expected to love homemaking. I don't think home-makers need to be women at all.

But, I do think it's a little sad that over the past several decades we've been losing what makes a home "made".

It's not the cleaning or the pressing or the sweeping or the cooking. None of those things by themselves or together make a home, really. I don't know that I can pin-point exactly what it is.

It's the feeling of home. The scents that trigger emotions or memories (bread baking, a wood stove, pledge!) It's the hazy memories of what feels like home. The way the sun came through the window onto the couch while you read, the scents and sounds of your neighborhood through an open window in the spring or while laying in the grass watching clouds.

But I believe at the root of all that is the peace in your home. Not that it's spotless, but that it's tidy and comfortable and inviting. That it's filled with laughter and home cooked food and acceptance.

I work full time outside the home. But I still consider myself a homemaker. I didn't always. When I was a young, newish mother, on my own for the first time (and second time!), our home was always a mess. I was tired and stressed. At the end of the day, the last thing I wanted to do was the dishes. For a long time (and still sometimes I'll admit) we struggled on chore division. Chores, what a dirty word.

And, to me, a home-cooked meal was something that started with a frozen kit that I added meat to. Yes, really.

I worked outside the home too, you know? And I'd be damned if the chores were going to fall on me just because I happened to be the woman. But they still did. And they did disproportionately. And they still do in all honesty, though it's gotten better.

But not much has changed, really. There is still laundry and cooking and cleaning and dishes. What's changed was my attitude on it.

I'll admit, I am a natural slob. I just am. Over time (and still happening) was that by changing my attitude, I changed the way I did things. Honestly, I never really notice "cleaning" anymore. Once in a while we'll have a hard core clean day, or I'll look around and declare the house a disaster and sometimes it IS a disaster. Our home is rarely dirty, but often messy. But that's been improving too. And cleaning has just become second nature for the most part. For some people that's natural I guess. For me, it was effort.

First, I stopped looking at things as chores. As something tedious and monotonous and to be suffered though. I started making a conscious effort to look at them as things that bless my family. And they do. Our family functions noticeably better in a tidied and semi-kept  house.

It also helps that I started delegating. No more poor mom that does everything and feels sorry for herself about it. The kids each have responsibilities. They don't get paid for them. They will sometimes get paid for going above and beyond, but these are family responsibilities: things that have to be done to keep our home running smoothly. And because we are a family, we all help out. My oldest does the dishes and sometimes the laundry. My youngest sets and clears the table. Each of them is responsible for cooking (assisted) one day a week and for keeping their rooms presentable, they aren't always *clean*, but they don't look like a landfill.

And I'm learning to let go. I never considered myself a perfectionist, ever. But in some ways I am. If it's not "perfect" I'm not satisfied or I just wouldn't do it. I've learned to step back and let things be imperfect. Like the dollhouse I made for our niece for Christmas. It's fine. It's nice, but it was driving me insane because it wasn't *perfect*. It didn't need to be. She's 2 and she loved it.

And of course, homemaking isn't just cleaning and cooking. It's creating memories and traditions. A warm and safe place for you and your family. There are many, many things that make a home.

I just wonder when people stopped "home-making". . . I know it's something that I had to actually go out and learn, and I wonder how many other people have had to do the same. It doesn't seem to be something handed down over the generations anymore. It used to be necessary enough that it was included in cookbooks and now . . .?

It does seem there has been a bit of a resurgence, since the recession. People have been coming back to their homes and centering in. We've stopped eating dinner in the car on the way to the next practice or recital. We're coming back to the home, back to the table.I think that's a good thing. For us, for our children and for their children.

I'm under no illusions that "the good old days" were really that good. Homemaking was hard, tiring, often thankless work. I know this. But, why have we gone so far to the other extreme? There can be balance. 

What are your thoughts on homemaking? How do you define it? Do you think it's necessary in todays world or something that should as minimal a part of life as possible?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Household Organizer

As I mentioned in yesterdays post, I want to put together a binder (or two) as a household/bill/emergency organizer. I've been collecting ideas and thought I'd share in case it's something other people were interested in doing too.

I figure what makes the most sense is to use (surprise!) a binder, tab dividers and page protectors. I happen to already have all this at home, so bonus points for not "needing" to buy any of the supplies.

Once upon a time I followed flylady and had a cleaning binder then, and one of the things was to use dry erase markers on the page protectors on certain sheets, so you could change or check off info without needing to print the sheet new each week or month. I like that idea and will probably incorporate it with some of the task lists.

Know what's scary? The more I read on organizers, the more detailed I want mine to get! This happens to me a lot. And then the project never gets done. So I'm going to start pretty bare bones and basic, and can create more binders or add on over time. I'll start with a more general list and move it around and narrow it down over the next few days.

So far the ideas I have are:

Phone list. Just for basics and emergency. No need for take out numbers or kids friends. Not yet and maybe not in this binder at all. Right now we'll do The Husbands cell, my work, grandparents home and work, police, poison control, kids school, maybe 2 family friends as emergency contacts.

 "Events Calender" We keep a wall calender, but maybe a year calender of maybe not noted things. Not appointments etc . . . but school vacations, standing information like birthdays or other events that aren't as subject to change. Maybe I could put on here basic house maintenance schedules, seasonal chores, etc . . . too. I don't know, this one needs some refining.

Money and Finance  I'm still deciding if this should be it's own binder. Things like: budget (the one that inspired it all!), bills, online bill pay and sign in information, insurance info, copies of vehicle information

Another category I found in my searches (that I never would have thought of) is

Health and Fitness: family medical information, medical authorization form, medical insurance info etc. . . .

There are so, so many resources (as I'm finding) for creating a home-keeping binder.

Some resources I've found:

*Mom Advice: Printables
*Organized home has a section of printables for your viewing and printing pleasure as well (and more)
*Chore Charts, Daily Schedules, etc . . . here

The more I think about it, the more I'm leaning towards doing a "facts" one (bills, maintenance etc . . .) the things don't change as much and can be put on the bookshelf or in the filing cabinet and doesn't need to be referred to on a regular basis and doing more of a family binder that includes school activities, chore lists, frequently used phone numbers etc . . .

I see that many people include meal planning in their home books, and well, meal planning is really a whole project in itself for me and I kind of already have a messy little system. I don't mind refining it and I'll add the basics  to the binder (like a weekly meal sheet and pantry and freezer inventory and *maybe* often used recipes) but for the most part, meal planning and recipes need to stay separate for me.

I don't know where the binder system will take me. I do know that one giant family binder won't work. I've seen some sites where people have several binders:Home, Garden, Family, Holidays, Ideas etc . . . I don't really want to get binder happy either. For this week I'll start with one (which is where it all started) and that's the budget and bill binder. And I'll go from there.

Does anyone else use these, or have used them in the past? How does it (or did it) work for you? Any suggestions or tips?

And now, how about another years old picture I love, just because?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Living (on less)

Funny, how somethings never really change I guess. In July I posted about recommitting to living intentionally and frugally again after dealing with a broken car and maxed out credit card.

Following the holiday season, the same has hit us again. Another car repair (gotta love used cars. Ok, actually I do love used cars, just not the inevitable repairs) and that freaking credit card again. It sounds stupid, but I really don't know how that happens! I rarely use it, and thought that I tracked The Husbands charges well enough. I hate credit cards so, so much. I really do. They are a necessary evil though, huh? Did you know no credit is often worse than bad credit? It's so stupid. Anyway, we only have one credit card (because I hate them so) and so our debt is never unmanageable. Just annoying. And in my way.

We have plans to sit down tonight and get started on a new budget. It has been probably 3 or 4 years since we've gone over it together. I don't even really have a budget right now. I mean, I know what my bills are. I know what I make. But I don't have it all worked out to see at a glance. And I should. Otherwise money has a way of just sort of disappearing. I mean, I have a freaking accounting degree. You would think I would be on top of the household budget, right? Nope. So, time to look at that again.

It's probably a good time to re-evaluate where we are anyway. Pay off anything outstanding we can and really be aggressive on savings, since The Husband will be finishing school soon. I'd like to be completely ready to shift into those new roles and his paycheck when it happens.

I'd also like to make a household book. We can include our budget and bills in there. Household maintenance schedules. Maybe a chore list. Meal planning (I'm ashamed to admit I still haven't gotten full swing back into that yet) Pantry and freezer inventory. That sort of thing.

Because, it dawned on me recently that I take care of a lot around the house. Which is fine, really. And The Husband is not a stupid or incompetent man. But . . . what if? What if I was in a car accident today on the way home? Would he know where to pick up? Where to find the bills, who to pay them to? There should be a system, that if something were to happen to either or both of us, our household could continue running as smoothly as possible.

I haven't completely formed it all out yet, and it's something new I've been thinking of, but it makes sense.

So, in addition to all the other goals I've given myself (heh) I'd like to create a household system/plan. Um. Not sure what to call it yet. Something clever. I don't know.

Anyway, I'm thinking the book, probably a binder should include:

Household budget
Bill schedule and folder for bills
Bank information (maybe??)
Basic Information on insurance policies and retirement funds
Contact List - Kids school, doctors, work, our parents etc . . .

Maintenance and (um?) household continuing to run smoothly stuff (?!)
Basic pantry list
Basic freezer list 
Maintenance things like when wood gets delivered, when to add softener, when to use dehumidifier etc . . .
Names and contact information of wood and fuel supplier
How to run the washer and dryer and dishwasher? (is that too much?)
Basic chore list (who does what and when?)

Can you think of anything else that should be added? Should it be two books? A family household book and an emergency plan/info book?

Does anyone else have anything like this or am I becoming a complete control freak?! :)

Aside from all that, it reminds me (yet again) to continue on the path of simple (and frugal) living. I don't want to live in debt. I don't want bigger, better, more. The more one is a constant battle for me!

So, my household goals (I've set a lot this year. Luckily most are easily attainable with a little bit of effort!!) are:

Create binders

Organize and stock pantry and freezer, not only for busy nights and money saving - but for easily available food and meals if emergencies arise. More homemade convenience mixes. More ready made meals in the freezer. INVENTORY!


Create an better organizational system, so that it's easy to find things in our home if I can't be there.

**Apparently they make these household organizers! Who knew??!

And also, there are (again, who knew!?) lots of people with the same (brilliant, ha!) idea. So now I can just borrow and utilize their ideas for organizing a household book. yay!

Like I said, I've set a whole lot of goals for this year. I'm not usually a written goal person, or much of a goal person at all. But these are all (or almost all) really easily attainable with minimal effort. I don't know what it is. If it's the almost being 30, the house, the end in sight for The Husbands school. But I finally feel like I'm ready to just stop shuffling along and be IN my life. Does that make sense?

Whew. That's a couple of really wordy posts in the last couple of days. Maybe it's the new year, but I've been doing a lot of thinking, wondering, planning lately.

How about a totally off topic and really old picture of Colin to close out the post, just cause it always makes me smile?

Monday, January 4, 2010

the day-to-day

This morning my alarm went off at 6am. I haven't seen 6am in two weeks, though I have seen 3 and 4am a couple of times!

Back to work this morning. It's not that I hate my job, really. I'm actually very lucky, I work with wonderful people. My job is not usually demanding (though there are times . . .) In fact, I'm typing this at work right now.

It's not a secret that I want to stay home and have babies and hang laundry on the line and cook dinner every night and the little monotonous things about every day life. I want all that so bad it hurts, really. I don't know when that happened. Once upon a time I didn't want children. Then I had my oldest and I didn't want more, then sometime in the year or so before having my youngest I decided I wanted a lot more. Somewhere along the line strong-headed, stubborn, feminist me decided I just wanted to stay home and have babies. Lots of them.

My youngest is now 6. Six. There are various reasons I haven't had more since then, and all of them are perfectly logical and reasonable. But my biological clock is neither logical or reasonable. It is cranky. And loud, and louder by the year. I'll be 30 this year. I know that's not old, but when you have your first child as young as I did, 30 seems so final. Too late. Seems with every tick-tock the desire gets stronger, but is also followed by a growing resignation, a quiet little voice letting me know that it might just not be meant to be.

The problem is, I don't know where that leaves me. The plan, or my plan anyway, was always to work until The Husband finished school. And then he would get a job and I'd stay home for a couple of years and raise the babies and do the domestic goddess gig and then maybe work part time for a few years, or finally start selling things at the local flea market, or something. And now it's been 5 years. And The Husband is nearing the end of his schooling. And now, for some reason, that dream seems farther away than it was five years ago. I'm not quite sure how to come to terms with that, and I'm not quite sure where to go next.

I don't want to work here forever, at least not in this position as simple and usually enjoyable as it is. I don't love it. I'm not passionate about it. I could go back to school, upgrade on my accounting and business degrees. But that doesn't really move me either. I could go for holistic nutrition or, I dunno, something else. But I'm just not feeling it. It's not that I'm lazy or unmotivated. I'm not interested in climbing a corporate ladder, and I've always been ok with that - but I just don't feel interested in anything career wise. I'm so blinded by wanting to raise a family that nothing else gets me inspired or moving. Even the things I'm passionate about, sustainable food (cooking, nutrition, budgeting etc . . .), crafting etc. . . all of those things have become family motivated.

I don't actually have a problem with that. I know some women don't like the idea of being that centered around their family that they forget outside interests or whatever, but it's not that I've forgotten them, they've just shifted. I'm in the middle of my family life. My kids are 11 and 6. I think it makes sense that they are my center right now, you know?

I don't know. This isn't at all what I meant to write today. But that's okay, I guess. That's part of the reason I started blogging. I don't often take the time to write this stuff down anymore, to journal. And really, it helps me get it all sorted out in my head or even if it doesn't, it feels good to let it out.

Friday, January 1, 2010


I have decided to do a separate 365 blog after all, check it out here

Snapshots: Series Four











We spent a very family intense holiday vacation. We've all been off of school and work for the past two weeks and have spent most of our days with each other, reconnecting. The Husbands brother and his family were in from Germany for 10 days as well as his sister from NYC so we also spent a lot of time with them.

We're entering our last weekend of our vacation and I'm trying to focus on these last few days instead of the dread of going back to work and our everyday life. I've really enjoyed this slower pace.

We rang in the New Years with just us last night, for the first time in 8 years. It was wonderful. We didn't get a chance to see the Blue Moon, but we did enjoy some wine, champagne and playing in the snow as it edged closer to midnight. Kevin and I wrote down a 2009 worry to toss into the fire (the kids said they didn't have any!) as the tree burned. I see this becoming a new tradition. Something else I hope to continue was our 2009/10 favorites and goals artwork.

In the spirit of the 365 goal, I'll be posting a picture a day, but otherwise will be spending some time away to enjoy these last few precious days at home.

I hope your holidays were wonderful as well!