Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Cost of Preserving: Strawberries

In line with my goal to track the cost of my preserving this summer:

Product: Strawberries

Obtained: U-pick

Amount: 14 lbs

Cost: $22.00


5 half pint jars strawberry jam
5 half pint jars strawberry vanilla jam
2 quarts frozen sliced berries
1/4 cup dried berries
2 sheets fruit leather
1 strawberry cream bread

If you count each item as 1 thing of equal value, the breakdown cost for each is $1.37 (only counting for the price of berries). You can see what I do not include here.

Lets go ahead and count lids though since I used almost a full pack and those are not reusable. I'll also count a portion of the sugar used - jam was 3 cups and bread was 1 cup. So we'll call it half a bag. I'll even count in a few dollars for the bread ingredients.

Strawberries: $22.00
lids: $2.50
Sugar: 1.50
Flour, cream etc . . . $2.00 (I warned you I was not going to be exact!)

Estimated cost: 28.00

Estimated cost per item: $1.75

I would absolutely consider that a significant savings over store bought!

Thoughts? Anything I should be adding that I'm not? How do prices vary in your area?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Home Preserving - is it worth it?

I recently stumbled across this article from 2009. It was not the first and I'm sure it won't be the last time I've heard that preserving is not economical.  That it's women who have the luxury of time and money indulging in a hobby. The truth is, it's not the first time I've wondered myself if it's all worth it.

I got into home preserving several years ago the same way I find myself getting into most things. As a frugal necessity. Not because I wanted to be hip. Not because I was bored and looking for ways to fill my days. But because we don't live on much and anything I can do to make living this way more comfortable for us, I'd like to do. I don't feel like living on less means that you need to sacrifice the things you want. It just means you need to work for them. And what's so wrong with that? When did we become so opposed to the idea of spending time and effort creating our lives instead of purchasing them?

At any rate, I've been wanting to track my preserving efforts for a while and I never do. I want a log of what I made and when. I've decided that perhaps the best way to do this is right here, on this blog. It's not like I've been doing much else of anything on the blog anyway, heh.

I plan on tracking each preserving endeavor this year, beginning now with berries and likely ending with peppers in the fall. My aim is to record what I am preserving, how I obtained it (growing, market, U-pick), how I preserved it (canning, freezing, drying), and an approximate breakdown of cost (I am not exact, just to warn you now).

I do not plan on including the cost of the tools used - the HWB canner, the pressure canner, the dehydrator, or the freezers. Yes, they are an initial investment. I also do not plan on including the cost of jars, bags, gas or electric used. I do not count the depreciation on my van every time I drive to the grocery store as part of my grocery bill. I don't count the breakdown of cost on my market bag every Saturday when I go to the farmers market. There are tools you use when you do things. When you cook dinner. When you wash your laundry. There are tools in every hobby and in most aspects of your life. Yes, they cost money, but the breakdown of cost over the life of these items ends up being pennies per use. With care, you can easily get 10 to 30 years or more out of many of these items.

I do not plan on counting my time as cost. I am not running a business and I am not charging for my product. I do not calculate the cost in my head when I bathe my children or read to them at night. Not when I hang laundry on the line or shovel the driveway. These are things that I am doing in the process of living my life. That's what home preserving has become to me, another thing that I do in the process of living my life.

The biggest thing that stands out to me in the article above, is that she spent 16 dollars on 2 quarts of strawberries. That is clearly not a frugal way to preserve food. If you are preserving food simply because you like to do it, because you find joy in making strawberry lavender preserves, because you like knowing what's in your food - that is fantastic. Who am I to begrudge you spending 16 dollars to make a couple of jars of jam? Have a blast! However, if you are doing it to save yourself a few dollars, that is clearly not the way to go!

Aside from the monetary savings, home preserving is something more. As I mentioned - it gives you control over what you are eating. You are saying no to GMO's. You are saying no to high fructose corn syrup. You are saying no to cheap labor and poor working conditions. You are taking a stand, no matter how small, that food matters to you.

Home preserving, for me, is a way of staying in tune with nature and the world around me. I know when strawberries are at their peak. I know the taste of a blueberry just picked. I've planted seeds, helped them grow and worked hard into the night to put them by for my family to enjoy in the middle of winter. I know that the green beans I eat in February, were harvested at the perfect time and promptly put up. That these foods were grown in New York soil. They were harvested if not by me, then by New York farmers, My money is supporting the local economy. That is important to me.

And more than that, it creates memories. Memories of a home being created. Of a life being lived. What do you think of when you open a jar of strawberry jam from the grocery store? The way the florescent lights hummed overhead? The background music the store was playing that day? Anything at all? For me, strawberries will forever be linked with the birth of my third son. How I was standing, mid jam and kitchen explosion on the the afternoon of the summer solstice when my water broke.

I'm truly interested to see the breakdown over the summer of the cost of putting food by. I really don't know what the final tally would be, but I'm willing to bet there will be significant savings. If you'd like to follow along, just post a comment or link to your blog - I'd love to see the difference in different areas!

Friday, April 27, 2012

sleep like a baby

In the case of my baby, that means "never sleep at all. ever."

I have been, um, blessed with a baby who doesn't sleep.

I don't mean only takes two one-hour naps. I don't mean wakes up two or three times a night still.

I mean, his naps are about twenty minutes. I mean, a good night is him waking up every three hours. A bad night? Every 1/2 hour to 45 minutes. Those are lovely nights.

He's 10 months old.

There is a reason there are very few pictures of this boy sleeping and even fewer pictures of him sleeping blissfully on his own. And that's because it hasn't ever happened.

This boy of mine came into the world ready to go. He always preferred to stretch his legs and body. He was very vocal and very particular about how he was held. He preferred motion, though hated the car. He's my little monkey and it's going to be very interesting to see what sort of little boy he'll be.

I almost didn't post this. I annoy myself with all the whining about this baby not sleeping. If I wasn't living it, I'd think I was full of it, exaggerating and clearly doing something wrong.

If you run in any of the same online social forums I do, you might be rolling your eyes right now. You've seen me joke about it and try and take it in stride and you've seen me (mostly) cry and whine and moan about it. You're probably more than a little sick of it. But I'm putting it out here anyway.

Here's why:

It.is.exhausting. to have a baby who doesn't sleep. And I don't mean in the "exhausting 'cause you aren't sleeping either" sort of way, though that is certainly true. I mean exhausting in the "ON" all day and night sort of way. I mean exhausting in the way that the thought of nap time makes you want to sit down and cry because nap time has become such a battle.

And you know, you have the well meaning friends and family and support. Especially when you perhaps talk about it OVER AND OVER AND OVER (not that I do that or anything, ahem) and people are really, sincerely trying to help you. It's appreciated - the feedback. It really, truly is. But sometimes it can get frustrating too. you just want someone who understands. Who knows what you are going through. Who realizes you really have tried all the tricks.

Yes, I have tried wearing him. I wore him and wore him and wore him when he was an infant. Now that he is just about 30 lbs, wearing him for several hours a day while he naps can be painful., though I do often still put him in the carrier when I'm desperate for him to sleep. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not. Also, sometimes I just don't WANT to wear him (gasp!) I just don't. Sometimes I just want him to sleep, soundly, by himself. This does not make me a terrible person.

No, I have not tried Crying-it-Out. Though we did set up a crib finally, and just last week I had to put him down for about 5 minutes and just walk away. He cried. I took some deep breaths, came back in and he nursed right to sleep and admittedly did sleep for probably his longest nap ever, waking twice to nurse, but sleeping for nearly 3 hours. Sometimes he nurses right down, without a fight (for his 20 minute power nap!) and there is no need or reason for him to be left alone to cry like that though. If I need to do that I will, but I'm not going to create a situation to do it in. The truth is I'm just not okay with it. Perhaps in a couple of months, but right now he's just a baby still. He is not doing this to manipulate me or to drive me crazy.

I've read No Cry Sleep Solution. I understand that clearly he is not cycling though sleep. The suggestion there is to catch him at the transition and settle him back down before he fully wakes up, thus allowing him to enter deep sleep and nap like a normal baby. I've done that too. It usually gets me another 5-20 minutes of nap time.

Yes, he actually does need to nap. No, he is not one of those babies that just don't need naps. Just trust me on this one. I mean, really, I'm looking forward to the day that he doesn't need naps anymore. Spending literally hours a day to get him to sleep, only to be rewarded with a 20-30 minute nap is certainly not my idea of a good time. I'm not doing this for fun. In fact, it's the least fun thing I can think of right now. Yes, he actually does need longer naps. There are times he'll take them. Sometimes in the car (though driving around is no guarantee he'll fall asleep, even when he's tired). Sometimes if he's being worn and most often if he is being held.

No, I did not spoil him. No, I do not believe that this is my fault. Yes, I wore him often, held him for naps and rushed to him when he cried. That is because that's what babies need. Babies need to be held, they need to feel secure. He has never liked to sleep on his own. Not even the day he was born. He protested, very loudly, from the start. He has never liked the swing. He has always preferred the warmth of someones arms. Wouldn't you?

Honestly, the night times would be bearable, if only there was nap time. Or perhaps the nap battle would be less exhausting if there was night time sleeping happening.

My next step is a pediatrician and chiropractic appointment.

I don't know what the answer is.

I am not putting this out there to give answers or advice.

I am not putting this out there to get answers or advice.

I just know that I've spent more time than I'd care to admit, scouring the internet for ideas, tips, tricks, solutions. I rarely find it. Not that I'm unsympathetic, because I realize all pain is relative, but coming across  information on how to get your 4 month old to sleep through the night, or posts about your baby only taking two one-hour naps a day - well, those things just are not the same. I'm sympathetic, really, but if this boy was taking two one-hour naps a day, I would be an elated mama.

I am putting this out there, for those other exhausted mamas, who might be googling furiously each day - looking for something, anything, to help them out.

I'm putting this out there to say that while I don't have the answers, I understand. There is a girl  I know, who understands me, and while it doesn't solve the issue, man oh man does it help. Just to know there is someone else out there who gets it. (thank you so much for listening to my constant whining!)

So I'm just here saying that I understand - I get it. And I do really, honestly believe that it will get better. It really will.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

see how we've grown

Before we moved to this house, the family before us had marked their history on their wall. 

They didn't just pencil it in. Oh no, they carved their lives right into the wood. I found this fascinating. This was not to be painted over. This was the story of their lives, permanently etched into their walls of their home. 

They were all height marks, as you see in many homes, but these were like none I had ever seen. There was the year their sons voice changed. Significant accomplishments, girlfriends, life stories. It was more than how they were growing upwards, it was how they were growing UP. 

When they moved out and we moved in he cut that section of the wall right out. Brought it with him and placed it in his families mountain cabin. We go stay in that cabin one beautiful weekend out of every summer and watch as new memories are added to it every year. 

I think it's the most wonderful thing I've ever seen. 

When we moved in, we started doing the same, in the very same spot that their history was once etched. 

It delights me to think of the stories our wall will someday hold. 

The most noticeable so far, is how Evan has grown from a boy to a teen. The year he surpasses his mama in height, and how even at 13, he's still several inches shorter than a dear family friend was at 11.

As i sit here I think of the stories we've already missed or didn't think to record. Colin losing his first tooth. Kevin turning 30.

The most wonderful thing about this wall, to me, is the sense of permanence. After moving from apartment to apartment to townhome to townhome - here we are, finally. In the home where our children will grow to adults, where they will remember as home when they are on their own. Where we can tell the story of our lives on the walls.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

::right now::

I am . . .

~ wondering what has kept me from this space for so long (I have a dozen or so posts in queue, but none that I've felt motivated to hit publish on)

~ trying
to just go with the flow of this crazy Spring we're having. 91 degrees a week ago, yesterday 12 hours of no power and a snow day (!) for the kids!

~ watching and paying extra close attention to these fast growing boys of mine. A teenager headed into high school next year (and taking college credits in engineering classes already!), an eight year old who by the day seems to be shedding his little kid looks and showing us more and more glimpses of older boy he's becoming. Oh, and this baby of mine. A full 10 months already. Six whole teeth. And getting braver and braver with letting go and moving on his own. Oh, my.

~ smelling the full, rich scents of stocks simmering on the stove, doing some last winter time canning in anticipation for the busy summer ahead.

~ thankful for the slow ease back into sports season. Just baseball practice for one boy twice a week for now. The quiet before the summer storm.

~ learning to let go. There will be many days when not everything gets done. There will be more days when almost nothing gets done. Trying very hard to learn the balance of what is important now and what can wait. And wait.

~ realizing this post will be mostly picture-less since mama's camera seems to have crawled away to who knows where.

~ reminding myself that things that are done are better than things that never get done in attempts at perfection.

~ listening to a baby who is quite done with his mama typing away and is very ready to an early morning snuggling.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

one good thing 2/29

in a new year effort to be more mindful of how I am living my life and to be more joyful with my life, I've decided to post one good thing a day. One good thing, everyday.

If you feel inspired to do the same (and I hope that you do!) please feel free to leave your good thing, or a link, in the comments below.

This leap day was one of those days in which good things just do not come naturally. By dinner time I was racking my brain on what was just one good thing for the day. I was coming up empty. It was one of those days that starts with an overnight baby leak onto your freshly washed sheets. A day with a teething, no napping, whining baby. One of those days when the well runs dry in the middle of the hot shower you are taking to relax.   So as I was doing the dishes while dinner was cooking (and of course, on this day cursing the daily housework) I was struggling with what I might post for this days one good thing.

Which is sort of the whole point of this (supposed to be daily) exercise. Even on days like this, when it seems nothing is good, there are good things. Sometimes I just have to look for them. And right there out my window, was a good thing. It was after 6pm. The sky was still light. The silhouette of the trees on the darkening sky. I've always loved that. 

So I stopped everything I was doing and went outside to look at the trees. 

And after that, things shifted. It may have been me and my reset in thinking. It very well may have been the baby (finally!) napping on daddy's chest. Suddenly I was surrounded by good things. A home-cooked meal on the table. A healthy family. A warm home. Yes, there are plenty of good things in everyday. 

And while my original post intention was those trees, by the end of the day it most definitely was the after dinner clean-up dance party. 

Every day may not be good, but there's something good in every day.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Braised Beef with Rich Gravy and Rice

I'd love to show you a picture of this instant favorite, but the truth is my picture taking abilities leave much to be desired and instead of beautiful shots of bowls of fantastic deliciousness it looks more like steaming bowls of dog food.


We came back from our Georgia vacation into cold and blustery Central New York (though this winter has been especially mild, we still managed to land home on a quite bitter and windy day).

We have a small side of beef sitting in our freezer (local friends, it's from CNY Beef in Homer - I haven't used much of it yet, but have been very impressed with what I have used so far!) so I have several cuts of meat that I am unfamiliar with.

I have quite a few packages of cube steak, which I had never heard of before. After some quick internet research, I realized it would work just fine for this recipe. I was slightly concerned, since the consensus was either Love it! or Hate it!

I'm thinking I'm in the Love it! camp.

The kids devoured second and third helpings (next time, no almonds mom!) and the simple rice made a fantastic leftover side dish for a second night.

I got the recipe from The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook: in which it is attributed to Marcia LeClair from Rocky Meadow Farm, but I see it on several other websites as well so I'm not sure where the original recipe originates.

on my counter this week

Braised Beef with Rich Gravy and Rice

  • 2 lbs round steak cut into 1-inch cubes or stew beef
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced into thin wedges
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms (optional)
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 3 cups beef broth plus 1 cup, if needed for gravy
  • 4 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • ¾ cup ice water
  1. Sprinkle the beef cubes with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet. Add the meat and saute until well browned; remove to a bowl, and keep warm. In the same skillet, saute the onions, mushrooms, and garlic until the onions are translucent.

  2. Add 3 cups of broth and bring to a simmer, stirring the mixture often and scraping up any browned bits. Return the beef to the skillet, cover tightly, and simmer for 1 hour or more until the beef is tender. If the liquid starts to boil over, turn the heat down slightly.

  3. Periodically check the stew to make sure there is ample liquid for cooking the meat and for making the gravy afterward. If too much has boiled off, add the fourth cup of broth. If you still need more liquid, add a cup or two of water ( you'll want nearly 2 cups of liquid left in the pan after the meat has cooked). During this time, prepare the rice and vegetables.

  4. Once the rice and vegetables are ready, in a separate glass, whisk the flour into the ice water until smooth. Gradually stir this thickener into the simmering beef and broth. Bring the mixture to a slow boil and cook for a few seconds, stirring, until the gravy thickens. Serve over the rice with vegetables

     Rice and Vegetables

    • 2 cups brown rice
    • 2 cups warm water
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 2 Tbsp butter
    • 3 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
    • 1 onion, finely chopped
    • 3 carrots, scraped, shredded
    • 2 sweet bell peppers, green or red, diced (I omitted these)
    • 2 Tbsp olive oil
    • ½ cup blanched almonds, sliced
    1. Bring rice to a boil, skim off any residue that rises to the top, stir in the salt and butter, cover, lower the heat, and simmer until all liquid is absorbed, about 30-45 minutes.

    2. Just before all the water is evaporated, saute the vegetables in the olive oil until crisp-tender. Stir them into the cooked rice and add the sliced almonds. Keep warm until you are ready to serve.

one good thing 2/28

in a new year effort to be more mindful of how I am living my life and to be more joyful with my life, I've decided to post one good thing a day. One good thing, everyday.

If you feel inspired to do the same (and I hope that you do!) please feel free to leave your good thing, or a link, in the comments below.

These two, actually getting along. Even if it means I'll be finding the socks they are supposed to be matching under and behind furniture for weeks. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

all the good things

in a new year effort to be more mindful of how I am living my life and to be more joyful with my life, I've decided to post one good thing a day. One good thing, everyday, most days, some days, every great once in a while .

If you feel inspired to do the same (and I hope that you do!) please feel free to leave your good thing, or a link, in the comments below. 

Somehow, February got away from me. I'm still not quite sure where it went. There was seed ordering, a 10 year anniversary and a 3000 mile round trip to Georgia. And now here I suddenly am at the very end of February wondering how it managed to go by so quickly!

The same can be said of this strange, mild winter we've had. I don't know if we've seen more than 6 inches at a time and it certainly hasn't been more than once or twice if we have. 
I spent much of the last week offline completely, and realized how very wonderful that feels. 

There have been many, many good things sprinkling the past month here. Most notably (or at least the most everyday in our faces noticeably!) is that we now have an 8 month (8 months!?) old baby who has grown in leaps in bounds. A baby who is standing, who is walking along furniture and climbing stairs (oh my).

A baby who is quicker than we imagined and had a small encounter with a wood stove that required a trip to the ER (though luckily, not a very serious one!). A baby who now has one full tooth and several more in the coming. Who has decided that he very much likes food, but only if he can feed himself
thank-you-very-much. A baby who babbles and smiles and as of last week has even started a magical little trick of napping - alone! I must admit that I might like that part the best. 

The Husband and I celebrated 10 years together mid month. Funny how that both feels like a very long time and no time at all. 

We spent some time in Georgia visiting my husbands brother and his family, they recently moved back from Germany. The car ride went surprisingly well considering we had a 13 yr old, 8 yr old and 8 month old. We had a lovely, lovely time - though I can't say I'd be anxious to spend that much time in the car again anytime soon! 

Evan shot his first gun at a military shooting range. I'm not very much a fan of guns, at all. He is apparently an excellent shot, hitting the bulls-eye quite easily. I'm supposing that if he is interested in guns, and shooting, it makes more sense to have him be trained by responsible people in appropriate atmospheres. He's not interested in hunting, but I can't say I'm not hoping that maybe someday he'll provide his mama with some venison. 

I'm beginning to feel Spring creeping in. Getting ready to start seeds, planning another garden bed, dreaming about fresh fruits and vegetables. Though our winter has been incredibly mild, the markets are always bare this time of year. I'm looking forward to the first signs of the harvest. Asparagus. Rhubarb.
Soon, soon. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

homemade takeout :: sweet and sour chicken and crab rangoon

I used to make chinese food once every couple of months. More recently it's been pretty much every week.

I actually worked in an Asian Wokery at Wegmans for several years when I was younger (if you don't have a a Wegmans I am so very sorry for you). I didn't cook though. I loved (who am I kidding -LOVE, still love!) the wokery food at Wegmans, even though it's totally Americanized. One of the cooks I used to work with would cook 'real' Asian food for us sometimes and would tell me how "American" all the food was they cooked for the bar. Too much sugar, he said. Which I'm sure is true, but it's still totally delicious.

So my homecooked Chinese simply doesn't compare to Wegmans. But it's pretty darn good for homemade 'takeout.'

I find that it's a pretty good process. Chinese night means a good 1.5 hours of food prep and cooking, so I try to only do it on nights that The Husband is home as well.

I also find I probably do too much frying. I baked eggrolls last week. Not as good. I justify it by saying that we probably eat less fried foods than the average american family getting fast food several times a week.

For a few weeks I was just doing a quick pork and veggie stirfry and eggrolls. But the last couple of weeks we've been branching out a little more. I'm thinking I need to get us some chopsticks and some authentic asian recipes.

Last nights dinner was sweet and sour chicken, veggie stirfry, rice, and crab rangoon (um. sans crab so just rangoon?)

Colin told me it was better than Wegmans. That's one heck of a compliment around these parts!

Sweet and Sour Chicken 
6 boneless skinless breasts cut into 1 inch cubes
2 cups flour
1.5 tsp salt
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1 1/2 cups water

Combine dry ingredients and slowly add water until a thick batter forms. Add the chicken pieces and mix to coat.

Drop one by one in fryer preheated to 350 degrees. I did 4 batches total, each one taking about 10 minutes. You'll want about 1 quart of oil (vegetable, coconut, peanut  - whatever you want)

Keep finished chicken pieces on baking sheet in 200-250 degree oven to keep warm and crispy will frying additional batches.

1/4 cup pineapple juice (or 8 oz can crushed pineapple - use all the juice and about 1/2 the pineapple)
1 3/4 cup water, divided
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar
red and yellow or orange food coloring if desired to look like takeout sauce

In a saucepan mix 1 1/2 cup water, sugar, pineapple, vinegar and food coloring if using. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Mix 1/4 cup cornstarch with 1/4 cup water and add to saucepan (I would halve those amounts next time) - stir until thickened (I kept this on simmer while everything else cooked up)

Serve sauce over chicken

Non Crab Rangoon. 
1 8oz pkg of cream cheese, softened
garlic powder to taste (I used around a tablespoon)
1/2 tsp paprika
dash of pepper
green onions, sliced (as many as desired)
1 pkg wonton wrappers

Mix all ingredients except wrappers (obviously)

spoon mixture into center of wrappers (about a tablespoonish)

wet edges of wrappers with water, fold in half and pinch closed

Fry at 350 for about 5 minutes. Can keep warm and crispy in oven on 200-250 on baking sheet.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

one good thing 2/1

in a new year effort to be more mindful of how I am living my life and to be more joyful with my life, I've decided to post one good thing a day. One good thing, everyday.

If you feel inspired to do the same (and I hope that you do!) please feel free to leave your good thing, or a link, in the comments below. 
Clearly, I haven't been posting everyday - as sniffles and coughs made their way around the house these last couple of weeks I count it a success just to make it through each day without collapsing. 

We're still a bit foggy headed and congested, but things are clearing up a little bit. 

Now. Let me tell you about my very good thing. I'm not even waiting until the day is done. 

You may remember I have a baby who does not sleep. He rarely naps - and if he does at all it's for about 45 minutes in someones arms. Then he's up, on average, 10 times a night to nurse. He's 7 months old and so this makes for a very sleepy mama. 

Luckily, I have a kind of awesome husband who gets up with the older kids and gets them on the bus before heading out to work himself. Little guy sleeps his longest stretch from about 5-7am each morning. 

Naps have become increasingly frustrating for me. Most days I suck it up, hold him in my arms and smile while I watch him sleep. But some days, I am desperate for an hour of mama time - no baby attached. 

As I write this, baby boy has been sleeping mostly soundly BY HIMSELF for a whopping 50 minutes. Oh.my.goodness. 

I started to clean. I did a quick tidy. Then I grabbed a handful of trailmix, plopped down and got online. It feels a little dirty. Sort of like sitting home and eating bon-bons. 

It's not like I don't spend time catching up on blogs, pinning and googling around while I'm nursing. I do. But it's a whole new level of luxury to do all this baby free! Guilty pleasure, for sure!

I don't suppose if napping becomes a habit, that vegging out online will become a habit for me. I'm anxious to dig into some projects. But man, this little sliver of time has felt absolutely refreshing.

And as I type that I hear someone stirring. And for the first time in quite a long time, I'm not feeling too bummed out by that!

A very good thing, indeed. 

my nap-time companion


Monday, January 30, 2012

oh, hai.

it's been a little longer than I intended. The sickies have made their way around our home this past week. That's always a ton of fun.

So I've been doing a little more pinning than blogging, since it's quick and mindless and yet somehow makes me feel super creative even though I've only sat at my computer with a baby attached to me.

I used to be a die hard tumblr fan, but pinterest has finally won.

Andrew has learned a bunch of new tricks this week. Clapping. Real crawling, instead of scooting. Standing. And moving a few steps along a table while he stands. What?! That seems like an awful lot for one week. Slow down baby!

It's almost time for seed ordering. I find this hard to do right now, because the weather is simply too nice. I like to curl up with some seed catalogs, a glass of wine or a mug of tea, snow piled 5 feet high outside the window, and dream of spring. It's simply not as inspiring when it already feels like Spring out!

Monday, January 23, 2012

good moms and dirty houses

This post has been sitting, half finished in queue for almost 3 weeks. I vary between indifference, anger, sadness, annoyance. So I imagine this post will have all of that. I wasn't sure I was going to post it at all, but when I woke up with this on my mind this morning, I figured I would.

I'm about to be a little judgey here.  And then I'm going to omplain about people who judge. 'Cause thats how my mind works.

I've been seeing this posted all over the place.

I want to like it. I really do.

But I don't.

I totally, totally get the sentiment behind it. Your children are more important than a clean house. The dishes will wait while you show the child the rainbow and all that. Lovely thoughts.

Part of me feels like it's people just wanting to give themselves an excuse to be slobs. Yeah. That's the judgey part of this post.

Part of me feels like it's very similar to the real women have curves saying. I won't go off on a tangent about that - but it's along the same thing. You have to be curvy to be a REAL woman? Um, what? Yeah. You have to have a messy oven to be a good mom? Come again?

Look, I understand there will be days when the laundry waits while you nurse a growing baby. There will be days the dishes sit while you go enjoy some sunshine on a spur of the moment hike. There will be weeks all of you are sick and you spend time snuggling and reading and lazing instead of cleaning. I get it. There is life to be lived outside of cleaning a home.

I used to be one of those people. I did. Clutter didn't bother me. Messes didn't phase me. In fact, if you've known me any part of my life until the last couple of years - you know I was one of the messiest people out there. Then 3 or 4 years ago, a switch flipped. These things bother me now. And I'll tell ya, when I was working, one sure way to set me on edge was for there to be dishes in the sink when I walked through the door.

Here's the thing. It doesn't take much to do a quick clean up. I'm not saying you have to be Martha Stewart, but taking 20 minutes out of your day to straighten up makes a big difference. Just 20 minutes. (judgey).

I have found that I am a better mother when my house is tidy. I feel less flustered. Less crabby. More happy. A messy house makes me feel unsettled. Not calm. I get snappy.

Do I think my children care if the house is clean or not? Judging by their bedrooms, I guess not. But I also believe that they do better in a tidy house. They can find the things they need, like library books and art supplies and pants and socks. And I'm sure having a happy mama in a clean house helps.

If you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that housework and balance has always been an issue for me. I often feel like I can't do it all and I get cranky trying.

Having a new baby added into our family has certainly forced to me give up a few things. I'm embarrassed at the amount of laundry piled up right now. I've delegated the cleaning of the bathrooms to our 13 year old (which I'm sure you can imagine means that the bathrooms are not currently sparkling) and I turn a blind eye to the boys bedrooms more often than I'd like.

That is why I really want to like that saying. I'm certainly struggling here. I could use the 'permission' the have a dirty oven!

But I still can't get behind it.

I really just see it as another way to pit mothers against each other. If you stay home, you're worth less than someone who works. If you work, you chose career over family. If you formula feed you are giving your children poison. If you breastfeed you need to cover up. If you have a clean home you aren't spending enough time with your children. . . .

I wonder what a good dads house looks like?

Friday, January 20, 2012

one good thing 1/19

in a new year effort to be more mindful of how I am living my life and to be more joyful with my life, I've decided to post one good thing a day. One good thing, everyday.

If you feel inspired to do the same (and I hope that you do!) please feel free to leave your good thing, or a link, in the comments below.

A houseful. babies. noisy children. a friend. a sister. food cooking. a house full of energy and life.

and at the end of the day, just a few moments in quiet, while we transition into sleep and dreams.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

one good thing 1/18

in a new year effort to be more mindful of how I am living my life and to be more joyful with my life, I've decided to post one good thing a day. One good thing, everyday.

If you feel inspired to do the same (and I hope that you do!) please feel free to leave your good thing, or a link, in the comments below. 

I am feeling very full of gratitude and very much humbled by the generosity and kindness of strangers and community today. It is a very good thing.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

one good thing 1/16

in a new year effort to be more mindful of how I am living my life and to be more joyful with my life, I've decided to post one good thing a day. One good thing, everyday.

If you feel inspired to do the same (and I hope that you do!) please feel free to leave your good thing, or a link, in the comments below. 

It took me a long time, a very long time, to learn how to make bread. I love making it now and this winter I've been especially interested in trying new kinds. I find it very easy to do with a somewhat high needs baby, since most of the 'prep' work is leaving it alone! 

Monday, January 16, 2012

snowy day jam cake

Using up the preserves that sound so amazing in summer, isn't always as easy as I think it will be come winter. After a while all that spreading on toast and biscuits gets to be a bit boring. I always imagine while I sweat over a boiling stove in the middle of summer, how each jar will be like a slice of sunshine in the dreary days of winter.

And it usually is almost exactly like that. But sometimes, I want something a little more.

Which is how I happened upon jam cake. I wanted a coffee cake. But I also wanted to use a jar of sour cherry jam that had been hanging around very patiently in my pantry. I found this recipe over at framed cooks and figured I could easily adapt it to what I wanted.

While pulling out the ingredients, I remembered an open jar of black forest jam (which is cherry and chocolate) in the fridge. Um, perfect.

I wasn't sure I liked it at first. But then I had 3 pieces in about an hour (shhhh!)

I think the recipe could still use some tweaking. I'd definitely add a splash of vanilla or almond extract to the wet ingredients - and while I considered adding cinnamon to the topping this time, I didn't - and next time I definitely would.

Also, more jam. I used a full (1/2 pint) jar of sour cherry and 3/4 jar of black forest and they just didn't shine through the cake at all. It's yummy, for sure - but the cake overpowered the jam. I also made mine in an 8x8 dish, so a larger dish (thinner cake) would probably help.

I will absolutely make it again. In fact, I've already decided that next time I will use blueberry maple walnut conserve and blueberry jam - with extra cinnamon and sugar in the cake and cinnamon. sugar and crushed walnuts in the topping. I'm pretty sure it is going to be divine.

Jam Cake

2 cups whole wheat white flour
1/2 cup raw sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup milk (I used coconut- and now that I'm thinking of it I recall only using 1/3 cup milk . . .?)
1/2 cup sour cherry jam
1/2 cup black forest preserves. 


1/3 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
3 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons butter

1. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in butter to make fine crumbs (I used a processor)
2. Add egg and milk; stir just until dry ingredients are moistened.
3. Spoon batter into a generously buttered 8x8 square pan. Spoon both jams over the batter, then swirl through the batter with a knife. If I was to do the cherry and black forest mix again, I might add some powdered cocoa here too. 
4. Mix topping ingredients until crumbly and sprinkle evenly over batter.
5. Bake at 400° for 25 to 30 minutes, until done. Tastes best warm.

um, it looks better than this is person. I took like 10 pictures and this is the best of the bunch :/

Sunday, January 15, 2012

one good thing 1/14

in a new year effort to be more mindful of how I am living my life and to be more joyful with my life, I've decided to post one good thing a day. One good thing, everyday.

If you feel inspired to do the same (and I hope that you do!) please feel free to leave your good thing, or a link, in the comments below. 

my 13 year old, and 7 month old - 11:16pm

Sometimes, the very best thing about a day, is the end of it.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

one good thing 1/13

in a new year effort to be more mindful of how I am living my life and to be more joyful with my life, I've decided to post one good thing a day. One good thing, everyday.

If you feel inspired to do the same (and I hope that you do!) please feel free to leave your good thing, or a link, in the comments below.

The snow finally came. We sat happily through November, while the ground stayed clear. A little disappointed through December as Christmas came and went with barely a flake. Then a week into January, with 50 degree days. Two weeks, the temperatures still delightful. Finally it came, blustering in on Friday the 13th.

The kids had their first snow day of the year. The first snow always makes this mama happy too. Feeling quite cozy inside I started planning what delicious things we could bake, what board games we could play, what movies we could cuddle up on the couch and watch. 

Andrew had other plans. Plans that included a whole lot of whining and screeching. Insistence on being held all day long. Total resistance to any sort of sleep at all. Clearly tired, he kept on fighting it and fighting it.

This baby will never be described as a good sleeper. It's just not who he is. At almost 7 months, I can count on one had the number of times he has napped by himself (and not being held, in the car, stroller or wrap). This makes for a very exhausted mama and one who is finding herself very much in need of some baby free time.

But, what this mama needs and what this mama can do are sometimes very different things. My list of things I wanted to get done on the perfect snow day - well, didn't get done. Instead, mid day a very tired baby and a very cranky mama laid down to nap. The only way this baby was going to sleep was with someone. So for two and a half hours baby slept soundly and after a brief nap of my own (and still half pinned by sleeping baby) I thought about how much this little one can (and does!) teach me. Sometimes my idea of a lazy day (baking, board games, cleaning, reading, laundry) isn't lazy enough. Sometimes even though it's the last thing I want to do, maybe the first thing I need is to stop everything and just take a nap. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

One good thing 1/12

in a new year effort to be more mindful of how I am living my life and to be more joyful with my life, I've decided to post one good thing a day. One good thing, everyday.

If you feel inspired to do the same (and I hope that you do!) please feel free to leave your good thing, or a link, in the comments below.

:ahem: just realized that for several days, with a copy and paste, I've been posting Oterine good thing. Apparently a career in proofreading is not in my future, eh?

While washing dishes after dinner and thinking about the day; some good things and some not so good things, I realized that perhaps the best thing today was not something for me. My sister has had a little bit of turmoil in her life as of late, and she got some news today that helps just a little. There's still some things to be worked through, and this was only one piece of a much larger puzzle, but I think that I felt just as much relief as she did.

Things haven't been so easy for her lately, and I hope they are looking up. She deserves something good.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

one good thing 1/11

well, it didn't take me long to fall off that wagon!

I have good things, complete with pictures, for each day I missed. But I feel playing catch up defeats the purpose. A day or so behind - fine. More than that and it's time to move along. My goal was to use this as a way to reflect a little each day on the good in that day, not rack my brain matching up pictures and days, you know?

So, today.

in a new year effort to be more mindful of how I am living my life and to be more joyful with my life, I've decided to post one good thing a day. Oterine good thing, everyday.

If you feel inspired to do the same (and I hope that you do!) please feel free to leave your good thing, or a link, in the comments below.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

one good thing 1/7

in a new year effort to be more mindful of how I am living my life and to be more joyful with my life, I've decided to post one good thing a day. Oterine good thing, everyday.

If you feel inspired to do the same (and I hope that you do!) please feel free to leave your good thing, or a link, in the comments below.

A day sunny enough, and plenty warm enough, in January to hang laundry on the line.

one good thing 1/6

in a new year effort to be more mindful of how I am living my life and to be more joyful with my life, I've decided to post one good thing a day. Oterine good thing, everyday.

If you feel inspired to do the same (and I hope that you do!) please feel free to leave your good thing, or a link, in the comments below.

a little boy who is so perfectly little boy.

Friday, January 6, 2012

one good thing 1/5

in a new year effort to be more mindful of how I am living my life and to be more joyful with my life, I've decided to post one good thing a day. Oterine good thing, everyday.

If you feel inspired to do the same (and I hope that you do!) please feel free to leave your good thing, or a link, in the comments below.

It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. From the minute I rolled out of bed on the wrong side until the minute I fell asleep. It was just one of those days.

While falling asleep, I racked my brain to think of one good thing. Anything? There is something good in everyday, yeah? 


Burger and fry night. Oh yes. It's become a twice monthly tradition. A plate full of bacon barbecue burgers and homemade fries. And the very best part is that my husband cooks it all.

I'd say that's a very good thing. 

image from 8/12/11