Wednesday, January 16, 2013

it's that time again

It's the time of year, when I sit down with a nice hot coffee or a glass of wine (and one year, super sick, sat drinking hot toddie after hot toddie. There were a lot of surprises that spring!) and pour through the seed catalogs, make notes, dream big, scale it back, and place my orders.

I have wonderful (huge) visions for this little acre of ours. Expanding the vegetables out of our beds, creating pathways and arbors and lovely edible landscaping.

The problem is, I am a lazy gardener. And more than that, I have no idea what I'm doing. Landscaping does not come naturally to me.

I've got this lovely pile of books to help me through, and they help a little, but the truth is I also find it quite overwhelming. Especially since I want to do it all right now and time, energy and most of all budget just don't really allow.

Preparing this land for planting is not an easy task. First I have to plan where to expand, and then convince one or more of the boys to do the digging for me, then listen to the whines of how hard it is. Haha. Really though, we have incredibly rocky soil and while it's actually been fantastic for growing, it's not so fantastic for getting ready to grow.

So, there's the lack of knowledge, the lack of energy and better tools for expansion, and the lack of money.

Yet, every year when I sit down with these catalogs, my list just goes on and on and on. Sigh. Someday.

Usually once I make my big dream list, I'll go back and narrow it down a bit.

I am trying to find a way to fit in a couple of new things. I hate to wait on things that take several years to produce, which is why we planted asparagus and apples our first summer.

This year, the newcomers will hopefully include; cherry trees, pears (this one I'm still iffy on), elderberry bushes, replacing the raspberries we accidentally killed through pretty awful neglect and the lawnmower, grapes (I REALLY want these in this year, but the prep work might be more than we can do) and rhubarb.

While there are so, so many other  permanent or semi permanent trees and bushes and plants I want to add, I think that's a decent task list for this year.

We may rebuild the raised beds in the backyard, I need to reassess the plot we used for corn last year and decide if I'll replant there. I plan on expanding the side and front beds, and planting some veggies and herbs. I want to start the process of permanent pathways between the raised beds.

As for vegetables, I'll probably stay (mostly, ahem) with my tried and true. We're lucky enough to live near a pretty fantastic farmers market, and I work in a community garden to supplement.

But, oh, these seed catalogs. They do make it quite difficult to keep those big dreams contained!

What about you? How do you plan each years gardens?

Friday, January 11, 2013

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.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

small comforts

For a long time, I was not a bed maker. What was the point? You were just going to mess it all up again in several hours (which is a silly excuse, really. Why do you mow the lawn or do the dishes or wash the laundry?) Unless I was cleaning my room, the bed stayed as it was when I rolled out of it. The kids beds might have been made slightly more often, but still not regularly.

Then I had my third child. Oh, that boy. That demanding, needy, sweet boy. All of my plans for getting so.much.done that summer went out the window. He had other plans. Plans that included lots, and lots of being held. Plans that included not so much sleeping. So there were days that pretty much nothing besides snuggling and nursing a baby got done. Dishes went unwashed. Floors went unswept. Laundry piled up. Showers were not had until late in the afternoon, if at all.

It wasn't long before I was feeling very sorry for myself and very overwhelmed. And that's when it began. I started making beds, everyday. Because nothing looked better to me at the end of those very long days, than a nice, cozy, made bed to climb into. Because even if I got nothing else done for the entire day, I could get this done and reap the rewards every evening. Because for something that takes five minutes each day, the impact is so significant.

Now there are certainly days they still go unmade. There are days that I rush up at 6pm to fix the blankets and fluff the pillows.

 18 months into this third child thing, it's gotten a little easier, but the truth is there are still days that all I get done is snuggling, nursing and making those beds.

18 months into this making the beds daily thing, my 14 year old says to me a few weeks ago "hey, have you been making my bed?" Um, yes. "Thanks, I really like it". Maybe a little slow to notice, ahem, but when your 14 year old son says thank you and he appreciates something - you keep on doing it!

I've found that a made bed has become a small comfort to me. When my days are hard, when perhaps things get left undone a wee bit longer than I'd like, when maybe the air conditioner is still sitting out in January, when someones sewing stuff has expanded not very neatly off the sewing table, when the folded clothes are piling up and the kids are yelling and dinners late and the toddler wants up, up, up. . . Knowing that that little bit of comfort, of coziness and peace is waiting for me? I'd say it's worth every second of time it takes. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

making dinner

Once upon a time, I was quite organized when it came to meal planning for the week and shopping sales and preparing dinner.

I had to be, since I worked 4 nights a week. I thought it would get easier once I stayed home full time, but the truth is, I've gotten lazier. Why plan?! I'm here!

I would sort of sketch out a plan here and there, and in the summer it was quite nice to let the harvest decide our dinner. But now, with one child in every activity we'll let him in, and another one in track 6 days a week, and a husband doing tutoring on top of teaching 5 days a week, well our days have gotten a little crazy and I'm finding meal planning to be essential again.

ok, so this is two weeks ago, shhhh. 

I've been meaning to get back into it for a while. Truth is we eat better and spend less when I'm on top of it. But, you know, sometimes it's a pain to do. Other times, I love it. But I find myself being quite uninspired quite often. So, it's a work in progress I suppose.

For winter though, on top of the crazy schedule we are keeping right now, I also want to keep our grocery bill to $50 a week for our family of 5. Which should be do-able, since we have a pantry and basement full of homecanned goodies from summer and two full size freezers, one of which is full of our bulk orders of local beef and pork.

So with some reluctance I started my old method of meal planning a couple weeks ago. Planning meals for a week, checking sale ads, shopping our pantry before the store.

Last week our bill was $56. This week it was $22, though I still have a couple of things to grab.

Last night, I found myself looking at my dinner plans wondering what the heck I was thinking. Since we are currently a one car family and I had an appointment in the morning requiring the car, that meant I played taxi in the afternoon, which was not going to leave any time for preparing the meal I planned.

What delighted me, was the realization that at 3:30, I could change my plans, easily. I could start a from scratch meal (minus the pasta) and be out the door at 4:30, get home at 5:45 and still have dinner on the table just after 6.

All I had to do was pull out some sausage, some cans from the shelf, some frozen veggies from summer - and perhaps the most delightful thing of all, just knead some bread real quick. Bread was a battle for me for years, and as I kneaded it last night it dawned on me how far I've come that I didn't blink at starting a scratch bread at 3:30 for dinner.

In fairness, it is a very, very simple bread recipe (French Bread from Chickens in the Road) but simple is good.

All I had to do was knead the bread, put it in a bowl to rise, saute some sausage and veggies, add the sauce and put it on the wood stove to simmer (more on that later, I've become quite adept at using our wood stove for cookery) and out the door I went. When I came home all there was to do was cook some noodles, put the bread in the oven - and dinner! Ok, so it was only noodles and sauce and bread - but a from scratch meal on the table, with little effort, in no time. Fantastic.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Oh, knitting.

My knitting "journey" started 7 years ago. I remember my now 9 year old being a toddler and unraveling the few rows of practice I had started (and that had taken me forever). I shoved it all in a bag and put it away.

I've come back to it several (dozen) times over the years. I've been convinced I just don't get it. I think I didn't get it for a long time, but a few years ago when my oldest spent a week in the hospital, I spent a lot of time in the hospital with him while he slept, watching videos and learning.

I went to my mother in laws yesterday, to have her help me, and while I was grabbing needles and yarn I came across things I forgot about. A washcloth from the set I was going to make when I was pregnant with my youngest, and a ribbed hat I started even before that. They actually looked good. What was this? I knit something and it looked good?! How did I forget about this?

I think that I have had myself so convinced I can't knit, or didn't understand it, that I just kept assuming I couldn't do it. When clearly I could, and I had! So, I've decided that all I need is confidence. I am a knitter. I knit. The end. I CAN DO THIS.

I may not be delving into Elizabeth Zimmerman anytime soon, but I think I can start with a half dozen dishcloths to gain confidence, speed and learn different techniques and stitches.

Truth is, I need this. With a very active and curious toddler, sewing has become very difficult. Not having a studio means it all gets pulled out and put back each time. With said toddler about, I am simply not comfortable using the rotary cutter or even the machine with his tiny fingers and interest in everything. After bedtime could be an option if I had any energy left after his bedtime, haha, but I don't.

So for now, knitting is calling me. It will keep my hands moving, creativity brewing and most importantly I can pull it out and put it away with ease.

Perhaps soon I'll even work up the confidence to join in the Saturday morning library knit or Monday evening quilt shop knit. But, you know, baby steps.

Hi. I'm Crystal, and I knit.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

finding magic

I never quite got into the holiday spirit this year.

We all ended up with the flu by the 2nd of December, and for me and Andrew it never quite went away. We're both still fighting a fair amount of congestion. Because of that, nearly all of my handmade plans got shelved. There are several in progress projects from before the holidays, for friends, that are yet to be completed as well.

I find sometimes, that it's work to keep a family moving and doing and enjoying the seasons. Perhaps it shouldn't be, and wouldn't it be lovely if it just always fell together organically? But I know, that in my family at least, it often requires some motivation and planning and definitely unplugging.

And this  I just didn't have the motivation or the energy. Not to say it wasn't still a very lovely holiday season, it was. Any holiday that you get to spend with the people you love is a wonderful holiday in my opinion. It just felt like it was missing a little something.

I know that no one can do it all, I certainly don't come close, but I think that sometimes digging a little deeper, finding that motivation, creating that magic - well, maybe sometimes it needs to be just as important as learning when to let it go, you know?

I think there's got to be a way to put a little magic in everyday. Ways that maybe sometimes take great effort, but more often take very little.

what do you do to keep your days fresh, inspired, magical?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

we're still here!

Oh, my.

It has been quite a while!

Partly because my laptop charger broke, and it took me forever to order the replacement (well, truth be told I never got around to ordering the replacement, my husband did). And, in part, because my needy baby has become quite the little needy monkey toddler.

But here we are, in a new year. And with a way to type on something that isn't mobile or with a touch screen keyboard.

And I miss it here.

I don't know why I make resolutions. Its sort of laughable, since anyone who knows me at all knows I am just awful with them. Heck, I can rarely keep a goal from the morning to the evening.

But I make them every year anyway. I rather like the feeling of so many people, all at once, making better choices in their lives. Being healthier, more kind, more generous. I do like the feeling of so many people, all in it together, if only for a little while.

So I've made them yet again for this year.

1. Less time plugged in. This seems to be an ongoing struggle for me. And now with so many mobile devices, it has becoming so tempting and easy to just "hop on for 5 minutes" several (dozen) times a day. I don't watch much television aside from a fair amount of prime time, but I certainly spend enough time online. I'd like to scale that way, way back.
2. Mail things! I am simply terrible at mailing things. I've written thank you cards and never sent them. Our family out of state regularly gets their Christmas presents in February. I recently had an issue with a bill I swore I sent out months ago, nope. Sitting in a pile of mail in the mudroom. I have a mailbox at the end of my driveway for goodness sake. I'm gonna use it!

3. Get Healthy. I have been pretty overweight since having my 2nd son 9 years ago. Having my 3rd son has only made it worse. While the weight is the outward issue, clearly over time there will be internal issues too. I'm carrying a good extra 60 lbs. It's time to change that. Small changes. Less snacking. Less wine. More walking.

4. Notice the small things. I thought things would be so much easier once I wasn't working 10 hour days, but the truth is they are harder. Whether I am working or home, if I am not actively taking the time to notice and enjoy the little things, it's very easy for the sameness of everyday to roll together. I'm hoping that blogging semi regularly, perhaps restarting the 365 project and being conscious of these things will help. Life is too short, and this time with my children is simply too fleeting to gloss over the little, everyday joys.

There are more, of course. More garden expansion, more food preservation and security, more crafting. But I think that if I can stay on top of the above four things, all the other things will find their way out as well.

I'm hoping to create new habits, one being spending my internet time more wisely. So while I enjoy some computer with my morning coffee, instead of playing level 106 in Candy Crush or refreshing facebook once again, I plan on spending it blogging and reading blogs that I miss. Of course, I'll still have to be careful to keep the time spent on that under control!

What about you? Do you make resolutions at the New Year, or treat each day as an opportunity? Are you specific or general? Are you good at keeping them?