Tuesday, December 27, 2011

:weekend scenes:

what a wonderful holiday weekend filled with squishy baby cheeks, handmade toys and goodies, good food, wine, family and a little brother eager to keep up with his big brothers. It was lovely (even with no snow).

Hope your weekend was just as magical!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

christmas countdown::satisfying soups::

Clearly I am not in blogger mode, because I did not snap one picture of any sort of soupy goodness.

Also, this post has been sitting half finished in queue for close to a week. "I can only do what I can do" is being muttered by me several times a day. Sometimes as a gentle reminder, sometimes as a peaceful acknowledgement and sometimes in exasperation or despair. There are only so many hours in the day and so much money in the bank (both seeming even less this year, with adjusting to me being home and a new baby).

So, I can only do what I can do. Which means that several things are scratched off the list of things we wanted to give, only two cookies out of the couple dozen on my list have been made, multiple surfaces in my house are filled with various crafting items so I can move back and forth between what I have time for, dishes sit in the sink longer than I'd like, and easy dinners are a must.

A close friend of ours just had a baby last week, so we brought by some soup for dinner.

This was one of the first crockpot recipes I ever made, and it was an instant keeper. The cookbook I got it from was passed on long ago, but the recipe remains in heavy rotation during the fall and winter months.

Double Thick Potato Cheese Soup
  • 2 lbs  baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes ( I didn't bother with peeling this last time and it was fine)
  • 2 (10 3/4 ounce) cans condensed cream of mushroom soup (I use a make your own cream soup mix base and add it to sauteed mushrooms or celery, though the recipe does work best if you use at least one condensed can)
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped green onions, divided
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder (I add more though)
  • 1 dash ground red pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (an 8 oz block works fine)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup milk 
  • black pepper to taste 

In crock pot combine potatoes, cream of mushroom, 1 cup of green onions and spices. Mix up well.
Cook on low 8 hours.
Add in cheese, sour cream and milk, stir until cheese melts.
Add the remaining green onions before serving.
 We like this served with a nice thick crispy bread, usually a Wegmans bought garlic tuscan loaf.

Of course, no dairy for me. I needed a substitution. I wasn't expecting much with no cream and no cheese - but was very pleasantly surprised at how this turned out!

Dairy Free Potato Chowder

minced garlic
red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
chicken broth (2-3 cups or so)
2-3 baking potatoes
coconut milk
bacon grease or oil

Saute diced celery, onions, garlic and carrots in bacon grease. Add diced potatoes, pepper flakes and seasoning and cook about 5 minutes on high. Add chicken broth, bring to a boil Turn down heat, cover and let simmer about 20 minutes or until potatoes are soft.

Add coconut milk (about 1/4-1/2 cup)

Blend with an immersion blender until desired consistency (I pureed most everything, but you can leave some veggies whole)

Delicious and best of all easy!

Friday, December 9, 2011

{this moment}

inspired by soulemama

A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

christmas countdown::the goodies::

We have yet to get started on any real Christmas baking, though I have outlined my list of, um 23 different things to make. Yeah. I should probably get moving on that.

So, it makes perfect sense that last night I decided to make something that was not on my list and that I had no real need to make - other than I decided I needed to make it.

Homemade dairy free "nutella". Oh, yeah.

It's adapted from the recipe in Cooking for Isaiah and can be found in it's entirety here: Silvanas Kitchen

I hear you can get already ready hazelnuts. I had nuts still in their shells, so cracking them all with a handheld nutcracker got sort of old and painful quickly. I ended up with about 1/2 cup nuts.

1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts (spread on baking sheet and toast at 350 for 8-10 minutes. Rub on towel to get skins off, most mine stayed on - I left them without a problem)
1/8 cup cocoa powder
just over 1/8 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp almond extract
1/8 tsp salt
3 tbs olive oil

In a food processor, grind the hazelnuts, scraping down the sides, until smooth, this took me about 45 seconds to a minute Add rest of the ingredients and process until combined, about 2 minutes. Taste and add more sugar or oil if desired. Refrigerate.

Now, I just need something to put this on, other than a spoon!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

christmas countdown::deck the halls::

We pulled up four boxes of Christmas decorations the other day. Four boxes. That's simply too many. With my bags project still going on (very slowly), I hope that the boxes that return will be cut by half (ok, maybe one small box allowed for lights).

I've already managed to get rid of one small shopping bag of decorations. The box that is still sitting unpacked in the living room is all ornaments and lights and odds and ends, so I hope to thin that out as well.

Many decorations have sat in those boxes year after year anyway. My tastes have changed a bit in the ten years since I started my own holiday collections. Out with the old and unused and in with the new (and handmade!)

You might recognize some of  these pictures from two years ago. Our camera/external drive is still misbehaving, so this these were pulled from this blogs '09 post.

I prefer a simple, natural style. Some santa thrown in for good measure, but I'd like most of our decorations to invoke excitement and joy for the upcoming season, an appreciation of nature and the change around us, and things that will stay lovely and usable for most of the winter.

How simple and lovely to tuck some greenery into baskets or boxes.

This years decorations are still in progress. I have a couple of crafts planned for this week that I'll share with you soon, and the tree comes this weekend! It never quite feels like Christmas to me until the tree is up.

If I could knit with any sort of ease, these stockings would be mine.

I can't though, so I've been brainstorming some fabric ideas, with the baby - I think it's time for a family set of stockings

What is your holiday decorating style? Do you have one? Is it ever changing or traditional?

Friday, December 2, 2011

(this moment}

inspired by soulemama

A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christmas Countdown!

I tried, really I did.

I started brainstorming handmade Christmas ideas in August. Attempted to get going on them in September. Now here I am, December 1st and all I have are a few pieces of fabric cut out.

Somethings never change, huh?

A friend of mine has a friend who follows this little mantra for Christmas:

Something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.

I love it. Love it.

We're sort of adopting it this year. It's perfect - especially with my decluttering attempts. No sense in bringing in unneeded things!

It's not as catchy or as simple, but I'm adding a couple of things in there.

Something they want,
something to do, something they need,  something to wear, something handmade and something to read.

Since Santa still comes here, we won't be down to just one of each thing, but we hope to keep it reasonably close.  

elving in '09

For the first time in our home, the boys have been instructed to make something for each other, instead of buying. They've both come up with wonderful ideas and I'm pretty excited to see how it'll play out!

I plan on doing a couple of fun holiday/craft round ups in addition to handmade holiday posts - let the countdown begin!

Tomorrow: deck the halls!



Tuesday, November 29, 2011

36 to go - eek!

The bag project has been a little slow going, due to the holiday last week. More time spent out and about than in and bagging.

I've managed to get all of the 'comfortable' stuff packed up. The easy stuff. The surface clutter. Things that don't fit. Paper clutter. Old clothes.

Now it's time to dig deeper. To start getting uncomfortable. I have a couple of easy spots left. The basement (easily 5 bags), the crawl space (hello size 5's that I haven't worn in 8 years. Hello size 2's that haven't been worn in almost a decade! Oh, my.)

I do have two very large bags of kids clothes and 3 medium boxes of baby clothes that I'm not yet counting since they are still in the house. Can't count it until it's gone ('cause sometimes those things have a way of sticking around for quite a while).

I have a couple of overwhelming areas too. Namely, sewing stuff. I have a very hard time parting with craft items. I have much too much for the space in our home though. If I haven't used it in a couple of years, I won't be using it and it's time to go.

I feel like I should cull my cookbooks even further, but I've already gotten rid of a couple dozen (yes, couple dozen!) and I'm having a very hard time finding any that I am ok with letting go of. As I get closer to the end of this project, I may need to come back to them though.

funny, cause it's true

And board games. Our cabinet is full, full, full. And we're getting more. But I love the ones we have! We have weekly board game night, so these things get used. I may need to assess these more at the end. If I keep them all, then something else somewhere else has to go in it's place.

The house is feeling breathable again. I already feel like I'm cleaning less. Giving the cranky eye to less clutter. But it's just comfortable enough. I feel like it's teetering and one extra item will send it back spinning into clutter chaos.

What is lovely is that my oldest seems to have joined in, on his own. He spent last week working on his room and cleared out one bag of his own!

I think that with just a couple weeks to go, it's time to start some hot spots. I plan on doing these in parts, since they can be overwhelming and I'm attached to many of the things. My sewing area and the kitchen get started this week.

Have you been bagging up too? How's your progress?

Monday, November 28, 2011

on the fritz

Computer is misbehaving, pictures are lost in a stuck  drive and I'm recuperating!

I'll be back in a day or two with updates on bags and a handmade holiday 2011 countdown.

Hoping your holiday was wonderful and filling in many ways.
See you soon!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

a week in gratitude:: day three

Following along with Earth Mama this week in sharing just a little gratitude each day

today I am grateful for:

:dishes in the sink
:laundry in the hampers
:toys on the floor
:groceries to put away
:beds to be made
:diapers to change
:homework to check
:dinner to make
:wood to stack

because it means that we have so much. We have food to eat, and blankets to keep us warm. Toys to play with, books to read, clothes to wear. We are so very blessed.

“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” 
— William Arthur Ward

a week in gratitude:: day two

Following along with Earth Mama this week in expressing a little gratitude each day

today I am grateful for

: wood and the fire that keeps us warm
: slippers knit by a nana who love us
: frost on the ground, but no snow yet
: a child who still believes in magic, and who lets us sprinkle magic just a little bit longer
: opportunities we have been given
: people who believe in us
: the generosity of others

“You simply will not be the same person two months from now after consciously giving thanks each day for the abundance that exists in your life. And you will have set in motion an ancient spiritual law: the more you have and are grateful for, the more will be given you.” 

— Sarah Ban Breathnach

Monday, November 21, 2011

a week in gratitude:: day one

I'm going to put on pause some of the posts I had planned for this week and instead join in with Earth Mamas week in gratitude

I am grateful for

: sweet baby smiles
: a teenager that still hugs his mama once in a while
: the spirit and energy of an eight year old boy
: time to enjoy the change of the seasons, of noticing the change in the crisp autumn air
: a good cup of coffee in the morning

“Gratitude should not be just a reaction to getting what you want, but an all-the-time gratitude, the kind where you notice the little things and where you constantly look for the good, even in unpleasant situations. Start bringing gratitude to your experiences, instead of waiting for a positive experience in order to feel grateful.” 

— Marelisa Fábrega

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

and the winner is . . .

The winner of both Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture and The Rhythm of Family: Discovering a Sense of Wonder through the Seasons is . . .

with the comment:  I love this picture with the hill and trees in the background. The only thing I miss about not going to work is my drive in the fall. I would drive past hills and cows just like this!

shoot me an e-mail at gardenofsimple.gos@gmail.com with your address and I'll send them on their way!

I hope you enjoy both of them as much as I have!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

it ain't easy

I always thought that if I wasn't working, I'd finally have all the time I needed to get everything done. I would stop feeling like I was barely keeping afloat each day and actually make progress.

Instead, I pretty much feel like I'm sinking everyday. Somehow there seems to be less time in everyday. Of course, I do happen to have a certain beautiful baby boy taking up a fair amount of my time.

                                                        sporting some new mama made pants

 I still haven't quite embraced the art of letting go (of just a few things, each day). I'm starting to have faith that I'll get there though. I'm beginning to believe that it's simply an adjustment period and I'll get just where I want to be.

I'm not home just to keep a clean house, though that is certainly part of it. My goal in being home is to enrich our lives in non-monetary ways. To snuggle with babies who grow impossibly fast, to finally play that game of Stratego promised to an 8 year old (a year ago!), to guide a moody, confused, in-between childhood and adulthood teenager. To grow and preserve and cook food, because it's important to me. To create beautiful and useful things for our home and for our family.  To, yes, keep a neat house - but more-so a happy, comfortable, cozy home. A home that we want to be in and that we look forward to coming back to.

I think as long as I can keep those end goals in mind, everything will be just fine.

Don't forget today is the last day to enter the giveaway - you have until mid-night tonight, and you can enter up to six times!

Monday, November 14, 2011

43 to go

Off to a very slow start on my 47 bags project.

It's a bit overwhelming, honestly. This week I started on very small projects and cleared most of the paper clutter out of the house. Two brown bags full of paper, and two bags of books.

I've been feeling very crabby and I really don't know if it's the clutter, or the removal of the clutter that's making me cranky.

I'm stuck in a spot of being sentimental, of liking things - even those I have no use for. But I also get anxious around a lot of clutter and I definitely get cranky when I'm picking up the same things over and over and over - or washing clothes I know haven't been worn. That's absolutely a sign of too.much.stuff.

For the record, other peoples clutter rarely makes me cranky. I don't judge other peoples homes or their clutter usually. It's just the kind that I have to look at everyday that makes my eye twitchy.

You'd think that I'd feel refreshed after the weekend. I spent several hours out at a concert Friday evening, for the first time since the baby was born. I took some time to sew yesterday. I should be feeling relaxed and ready for the week.

But I'm not.

Part of me feels like I need to stay in today. To bag up more stuff. Clearly it's getting to me and I should push through it and be done with it and feel better, yeah?

I don't think I'm going to do that though. Because, following my attempt at being more mindful of how I'm living, I think what I really need is to get out of the house. To step out, step away and recharge some more. I'm pretty sure, if I'm being honest with myself and paying attention to what my body is telling me, spending a day inside cleaning is only going to make this cranky attitude worse.

I'm off to visit a friend for coffee. I'll do a little grocery shopping and I'm thinking I just might stop by a favorite used bookstore with a cup of coffee. Just for browsing, of course!

Are you following along on 47 bags? Working on your own piles of clutter? How are you doing? How does it make you feel?

Don't forget to enter the giveaway  - just one more day to enter!

Friday, November 11, 2011

{this moment}

inspired by soulemama

A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Don't forget to enter the giveaway!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

worth talking about

I started blogging in part to help me take notice of all the little moments in life, the ones that have a way of getting buried in the busy-ness of each day.

Yet, yesterday I had nothing to say.

Today I was going to post on meal planning, but then I got to thinking - how is it I did nothing worth talking about yesterday? I did things after all - stacked wood, went for a walk, household chores, nursed a baby 1000 times - and then somehow the day was over ( when I tumbled into bed at 9pm totally drained!) and there was really nothing worth mentioning. How is that? What kind of life is it when you have entire days just go by and not one thing is "worth" sharing? Not the sort of life I want to be living, though I feel I often am.

There's nothing wrong with spending a lazy day, nothing wrong with talking about homemaking, or meal planning - I enjoy doing those things (usually) and enjoy talking about them. But I've fallen back into the bad habit of letting my days float by without noticing those little things - those moments worth remembering- or with getting so caught up in what has to be done that I rarely get done what I want to get done.

So today, I'm scrapping my  to-do list. I'm grabbing my camera, and I'm headed into the woods to enjoy this gorgeous day with my gorgeous baby.

don't forget! 6 more days to enter the giveaway!

Monday, November 7, 2011

47 bags in 47 days

We have too much stuff.

It kind of just sneaks on in. My love of thrift stores, old books and good deals, generous grandparents, school work and paperwork, 5 people and their veryimportantthings, saving odds and ends for future crafts, kitchen gadgets . . .

It's incredibly easy to end up with stuff just spilling out of everywhere.

And now that I am home all day I am noticing it more. And cleaning it more. And it's just got to go. In my efforts to be more mindful of how I live my life - unnecessary clutter is a huge problem.

There are 47 days until Christmas - at which point we will get more stuff (though we have, and our families have done an amazing job of paring down the last few years)

So my plan is to get 47 bags of stuff out of the house in 47 days (or less) it can be trashed, or donated or sold - but it has to be gone.

That sounds like a sickening amount, but I bet it adds up easy. I know of many hings hanging around our basement that we don't use or need. At the end it might be a little painful to get rid of some things, but I've got to be ruthless - if I don't love it or need it, it's gone.

I'm going to start easy this week and do the obvious things. Clothes and shoes that don't fit and surface clutter in each room.

I plan on posting progress each Monday. If you are inspired to do the same please comment or link to your blog in the comments, so we can support each other!

 don't forget to enter the giveaway!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

quote for the week

Fewer and fewer Americans possess objects that have a patina, old furniture, grandparents' pots and pans, the used things, warm with generations of human touch, essential to a human landscape.  Instead, we have our paper phantoms, transistorized landscapes.  A featherweight portable museum.  ~Susan Sontag

Friday, November 4, 2011

{this moment}

inspired by soulemama

A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Don't forget to enter the giveaway!

Thursday, November 3, 2011


After yesterdays post - the ideas of balance and rhythm were bouncing around my head for the rest of the day. I was thinking of ways to best find these things  - like a list of several things to do each day: fresh air, clean, etc . .  .and while the thoughts tumbled around my head I realized that the more I tried to simplify these ideas, the more complicated they became. Should I have a day for meal planning? For mopping? I know at the very least I want to make the beds every day. If there is nothing else I get done, the beds should get made every morning because then no matter what the rest of the day brings, there will be an inviting, comforting, cozy place to retreat to at the end of the day.

Lots of great thoughts. Lots of great ideas. But that's the problem. Lots.

Maybe it's more simple than that. Maybe all I need to do is simply be mindful of how I want to live my life. Just spend a few minutes once a day, or twice, or as many times as needed - paying attention to how I'm living my life and how I want to be living my life. Are those two things in harmony?

Maybe if I just keep in mind the life I want, eventually that will be the life I have, as I slowly and naturally make the changes to get there.

I think that for everyone, it's easy to lose sight of the little everyday moments that make up a fulfilling life. I know for me, time online steals time from other areas of my life on a daily basis. If I'm really being mindful of how I want to spend my moments, my days, my life - online time will naturally be cut significantly. I'll spend less time cleaning if I simply stay mindful of unnecessary clutter in my life - get rid of the things we don't need or don't love and take the same approach to bringing things into our home.

So, instead of many tiny goals - I'm going to try and keep it simple and see if things won't balance out sort of on their own.

Don't forget to enter the giveaway!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

balancing act (a giveaway)

Before yesterday, it appears I haven't posted at all since August. Oops.

Since then, Colin has wrapped up soccer, Evan has finished his first year of cross country, Andrew has gotten huge (19.5 lbs and 27 1/2inches at 16 weeks!) aaaaaaaaaaaaand I quit my job.

I still can't really believe it. I don't feel unemployed yet. And I certainly don't feel the way I thought I would. I feel . . . lazy.

I was always searching for a way to find my rhythm before, almost certain that if only I didn't have to work I would find it. That often work was in the way of my real life. Yet here I am - 2 weeks into what I've always wanted - and I'm lost.

And it occurs to me that maybe it wasn't just rhythm that I was looking for, that I needed. But balance. Rhythm too, for sure - but balance first.

Balance in the things I do. The foods I eat. The way I spend the moments that seem to be moving ever quicker.

I've never been good at creating balance in my life. There is always one thing that wins out over the others - and one thing that loses. Like the fabric I bought for a quilt for Andrew about 10 months ago? Still sitting on the sewing table.

I don't know that finding balance in my life means all things need to be equal. Certainly an infant will take up a larger piece of the day, and rightfully should. But that means that other things will have to be adjusted too. Less canning. Less cleaning. Finding time for more crafting to keep mama feeling centered. Give and take, finding what works for each day.

I really thought I could do it all, once I wasn't working. I came pretty close while I was working. Clean house, homecooked meals and . . . that was it. Even on days I was doing the right dance, feeling calm and peaceful - it wasn't long before something was lacking. Something was pushed away for too long.

I'm always tempted to write lists. To make plans. To be organized. And I have been jotting a list down, every day. But learning that it's ok to cross things off that haven't been done. To add things that should be done, simply because they are enjoyable. And to learn to let go - let go of clutter, of unnecessary tasks, of things I can not control and of the guilt that I somehow always feel when I can't do it all.

One book I have been re-reading, along this line of though, is Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes. I loved the book when I first read it, long before the reality of staying home was anywhere near and I'm reading it today with a new perspective.

In celebration of me quitting my job (haha) I'm doing a giveaway of Radical Homemakers, as well as The Rhythm of Family by Amanda Blake Soule.

The giveaway will run until 11/15 - you'll receive one entry for every new post commented on from now until then, and one entry for every old post that is commented on - up to a total of 6 entries per person.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Hope your All Hallows Eve was enchanted!

Head on over to Handy Hooker to see their amazing Halloween tradition!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

finding normal

We've tried really, really hard to keep this summer as normal as possible for the older boys. That's not always easy with a newborn in tow. Some days were definitely more successful than others!

I think we've done a fair job though, we've been to the beach, we've been for little hikes, we've been to the park and out to eat.

And last week we spent the week in the Adirondacks - something we've done for the last 2 summers now and probably will for many more to come.

We were able to take Andrew on his first (small) mountain hike and even to Enchanted Forest.

Of course since then, I've spent several days doing nothing but nursing (and a little bit of pulling my hair out!) So you take what you can, when you can (and hope that maybe you can even get some canning in!)

And the days that we did nothing at all? I think the kids are ok with it.

yes, i know his straps are loose!

It's been interesting finding our new normal this summer, and I'm looking forward to seeing what winter brings!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


how is it possible that it has been eight whole years since the day Colin was born?

Sometimes it seems they grow a year each time I blink!

Happy Birthday to Colin - my rough and tumble (not-so-little-anymore) boy!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

the garden isn't growing

but the compost is!

Total garden fail this year. I only planted 1/2 of the garden. Then it sat. And sat. And sat still some more. No weeding, no watering, no love at all.

 Poor, sad, neglected garden

I finally ripped it out. Found a tomato plant that I didn't remember planting.

Cleaned it up a little and planted some spinach, lettuce, carrots and kale for the fall.

I noticed something growing in the compost a few weeks ago. Figured it was zucchini, but then as it got larger I saw the leaves were not zucchini leaves. So I waited, and let it grow.

When I checked last week, I found what appears to be a pumpkin!

I may not have done well with what I planted this year, but I'm not doing too bad with what I didn't plant!

And, I'm already planning next years garden. For when I don't have a brand new baby stealing all my gardening motivation!