Thursday, December 23

Bye-Bye Empty Rolls???

If the kids can't manage to replace the
paper on this holder, they're going to
Aunt Libby's common courtesy boot camp!!

Tuesday, December 21

The New Fireplace...

... is almost complete.

This morning --

And this evening --

Wednesday, December 15

Root Cellar

My greatest wish when planning the house addition was to have a root cellar. My sweet hubby gladly gave up some square footage from his workshop and I did a lot of canning to prove I'd really use it.

I have anxiously awaited the day I could use it to store my jars and some root veggies. It's not quite done but it's very close. For the shelves, we'll be using barn wood from a outbuilding at my parents' house. Can't wait to have another reminder of my carefree, blessed childhood in my own home.

Monday, December 13

Snow!

A few inches of snow fell yesterday. We don't normally get this much this early in the season but I'll take it and the two days out of school! I hate to say it but I hope they go back after tomorrow so I can finish my shopping... :) 

Anyway, we had fun playing outside and I snapped a pic of the addition side of the house. The section left of the chimney is new.

Thursday, December 2

Anyone Out There? :)

Well, I'm going to slink back into blogging just before the year ends...we'll see if anyone is still reading!

We are at the very end of our house project. We've been blessed to work with wonderful, funny, smart people throughout the process and, even with the bumps along the way, it's been a good thing. It all looks so great and I can't wait to share the before and after pics.

Unfortunately, our current situation is one I'm finding very, very stressful. Until a week or so ago, the work (and mess) was largely confined to the addition and basement -- outside of our living space. We were crowded and a lot more cluttered than usual but it was workable.

However, now we have tile being installed in our master bath at one end of the house and the two near-complete doorways to the addition on the other end. Those doorways enter into the kitchen and the living room so the house is lightly covered in drywall dust at both ends. Between that and the workers making umpteen trips through the house means everything looks dirty. And I do mean everything. I try to clean it up everyday but this isn't like dirt tracked in from the yard. It's like ultra-slingy super dust!

I recently gave up worrying about what the men working here think as my very kind project manager advised me to do long, long ago. It's so messy, cluttered and truly dirty that I cannot possibly keep up. My focus has become keeping the kitchen, bathrooms and beds clean and attempt to keep us in clean clothes. That's less than the bare minimum, don't you think? It makes me feel like a complete failure as a wife and mother but my mantra has become 'it's only temporary, it's only temporary'.

Anyway, the final test of my sanity comes next week as we have hardwood installed in our entire current living space (except the bedrooms). I want to cry just thinking about it. I have no idea where I'll put anything much less everything.

And, yes, I know that asked for all of this and we know what a tremendous blessing it is to be able to do this. I only ask to keep my wits in the week to come...

Hey -- for anyone still reading, thank you!!

Thursday, September 16

'Here In The Real World'

Not that I've been a very good blogger lately but I'm afraid it's going to be worse before it gets better. One of my best friends is returning to artist management. I worked for her for ten years in our first run and am excited to get going again. What exactly I'll be doing I don't know but, as with most small companies, mostly whatever needs to be done.

So, while I was busy already with our house project, I now need to help get a complete office set up ASAP. Thank you for reading my blog. I hope you'll check back soon!!

Monday, September 13

Summer CSA - Week 18


I was delighted to find some early summer favorites in our share this week. Green beans, beets, greens - oh how I missed you!!

Wednesday, September 8

Addition Update


Here's what things look like today!

Friday, September 3

Plums, Plums And...Hey, Did I Mention PLUMS??

Last week, I bought a thirty-pound box of plums. Why? Because we have fallen in love with plum jam and it's going to be such a long time before they're are in season again. I have to do my part to make sure my dear husband doesn't go without this delight for the next ten months. After all, he makes sure I don't do without...well, most everything else in the world.

Now having clean water again, I've been on a canning frenzy lately trying to make the best of a waning growing season. Unfortunately, some escaping steam left me with a nice second-degree burn on my thumb. (Did you know those hurt?) Apparently, you shouldn't can with such potential distractions as ringing telephones, sword-fighting children or the need to breathe. Of course, my super-supportive hubby chimed in with, 'Hey! You might lose the whole fingernail!' Great. Thanks.

Anyway, the plums needed a bit of ripening so I laid them out on the kitchen table for a couple of days. When ready, I weighed out three pounds and looked at the remaining pile. I thought to myself, 'This can't be thirty pounds because I just filled a big bowl. They're not going to go as far as I thought.'

But, alas, after two additional batches of jam, I looked at the table again and thought, 'My word!! Are they having babies over here?! Where are all these plums coming from?!?'

Clearly, I didn't need that much jam so I went off in search of recipes. I found a plum chutney recipe that looked intriguing were it not for the fact that most people seem to use chutney as a topping for meat. Um, I have enough trouble eating meat, thank you, without adding fruit to it. Besides, it has raisins and I want no involvement whatsoever with those. Blech!

I decided to can a few quarts whole in a honey syrup with vanilla beans. They'll be a welcome taste of August on some cold, winter night. As for the rest of the pretty little fruits...well, maybe I need more jam after all.

Happy holiday weekend to you and yours! 

Wednesday, September 1

Homemade Pizza

Every woman who aims to cook supper everyday needs a few tricks up her sleeve. We all have days where everything seems to go awry and dinner needs to be something you can make without too much focus. For me, those days mean one of two things...breakfast-for-supper (which revolves around hot biscuits) or pizza. Fortunately, those are sure-fire crowd pleasers around here. 

What I like most about making homemade pizza is that I can make the dough right after school and move on to other things while it rises. I got this recipe from my mom. Growing up, we always loved pizza night!

Pizza Crust
makes 2 regular or 3 thin crusts

1 1/2 c hot water
3 1/2 - 4 c flour
2 t yeast (or one package)
1/2 t salt

Mix half the flour, yeast and salt. Add water and mix for three minutes. Gradually add flour and mix four minutes. Turn out dough into greased bowl and let rise until double in size - about an hour. (To hasten the rising a bit, I place the bowl of dough in the oven with a small pan of boiling water on the rack beneath.)

Turn dough out onto a floured surface and cut into 2 pieces (3 for thin crusts). Roll out onto lightly greased stones or cookie sheets. Add sauce, toppings and cheeses of your choice*. Bake at 350˚ for about 20 minutes or until cheese begins to brown. 

*Instead of tomato sauce, I melt three tablespoons of butter and spread it on the crusts. I sprinkle generous amounts of whatever spices I'm in the mood for (usually sage, oregano, black pepper, pressed garlic and parsley as well as fresh basil leaves) and whatever chopped veggies I have on hand. If I have leftover taco beef or sausage, I'll throw that on, too. With all those flavors, I've really cut back on how much cheese I use. I used to put 8 ounces on each pizza but, these days I'll only do four of mozzarella and add a couple grater turns of fresh parmesan.

If your gang likes cold pizza, the leftovers are great for lunches. It's my kids' favorite!

Monday, August 30

Why, Oh, Why?


Is it just me or does everyone have days when they obsess over their actions? I very rarely do that over things other people do but I'm a no-holds-barred self-critical type. It's my least healthy habit, for sure. 

For reasons I won't bore you with, it's been a emotionally-grueling day, packed with self-doubt and worry. I hate it when I'm like this. Fortunately, I have a little escape valve I use when I'm obsessing. It's both comforting and amusing in a self-deprecating sort of way...

A few years back, someone sent me a link to a Briggs-Myers personality test which C and I took it just for fun. I have no tolerance for psychobabble, but the results were really uncanny. We sat laughing and amazed as we read to each other the description of our 'types'. I'm telling you, my marriage got easier that day. Things about him that used to drive me nuts now seemed almost endearing and began to take on a logical quality (and when you read about my type, you'll see that things need to make sense to me!)

So, now when I'm doing my obsessive, the-sky-is-falling-and-it's-really-really-all-my-fault, I go back and read about 'myself'. If you know me, you'll get a few chuckles out of it.

So, enjoy at my expense! What's your type? :)

Thursday, August 26

Great Guides for Parents

Every parent knows the uncomfortable feelings of indecision when a child wants to read a book or watch a movie or TV show that you haven't read or seen yourself, especially when the child is feeling pressure from friends. There are two great sites that I use to maintain a good balance between our family's values and cultural and peer pressures. 

Common Sense Media covers all types of media -- books, movies, TV, video games, apps and more. You can find both objective and subjective information. It's rating system covers messages, violence, sex, language, consumerism and drinking, drugs & smoking. Any time I'm told a show is appropriate for my kids, I'll check it out here. If there is something I object to, I still may let them watch it but at least I'm able to talk with them afterward and provide balance with our beliefs. To me, those discussions are the foundation of teaching them how to make good decisions in the difficult, high-pressure situations that lie ahead for them.

The Internet Movie Database covers film and TV episodes. This one is less parent-oriented but it does have  notes for parents and stresses that its reviews be factual and not generalize with comments like 'not too much violence.' Like CSM, it provides great details so that you can determine if 'potty language' is okay but stronger four-letter words are not or how prevalent kissing scenes are.

Monday, August 23

Bye-Bye, Mainstream Healthcare

Well, we're taking the plunge. After looking at how much we spend for health insurance (more than $1000/month) and knowing how little we actually use the benefits, we are dropping the coverage. A major-medical-only policy costs a fraction and even provides some preventative care benefits.

Can you see the cream line? Shake and drink - YUM!
As time goes by, I am more and more convinced that most health problems can be eliminated or diminished by changing our eating habits and the quality of our food. What cannot be helped by dietary changes could likely have been prevented with better nutrition.

One of our biggest concerns about not having traditional health insurance has always been S's asthma. After several months of drinking raw milk, though, his dependence on his maintenance medications is almost nil. (We do keep them on hand in case he sleeps over with a friend with indoor pets and for allergy season.) This wouldn't be at all possible if he were younger and less able to communicate about his breathing, so we are very thankful for the opportunity to wean him off Western medicines.

Another note on raw milk -- we have discovered that three ounces of raw milk is both a powerful pre-workout snack and the perfect recovery aid. I'm not sure why that is but I would guess it's the ratio of protein and carbs as well as it being a 'living' food makes the nutrients more available as well.

Summer CSA - Week 16

Here's what we got last week. I also scored at the farmer's market over the weekend -- I've made a habit of asking farmers if they having any canning tomatoes (slightly bruised or overripe) on hand that they'd sell to me. One man sold me fourteen pounds for $5!! I think he was as happy about the deal as I was since he was just going to throw them away. It wasn't enough to break out the canner for but it made for a nice batch of spaghetti!

Friday, August 20

Food Co-op



A local CSA farmer introduced me to this natural food cooperative for Middle Tennessee. In addition to listing sources for local farmers, they offer some non-local products as well. Check out their selection of grains, nuts, oils, fermented/sprouted baked goods, seasonal fruit and much, much more!

Thursday, August 19

House Decorating and Design



I recently came across Houzz. It's similar to looking through design magazines minus the paper waste. After creating an account, you can save photos to your 'ideabook' and add comments on what you like about the pictured space. It's provided lots of interesting ideas on how to use our new space.

Wednesday, August 18

Honey Wheat Pan Rolls

I'm not a fan of television and have maintained a fairly strict policy with the kids over years. Now that they're older, there are a couple of evening programs we (more or less) enjoy watching together. So eating dinner in front of the TV one night a week has become a habit since C gets home to late to sit down together before primetime. 

Last night was the last straw for me. With a sick child in the house, preparing dinner took a bit more effort than usual and included two new things I knew everyone would like. As we sat in the living room, the food was left to cool on the kids' plates as they focused on the program. Now I'm not one to expect  praise for making a meal because the act of nourishing my family is reward enough but I believe that food provides adequate sensory stimulation. To shovel food in one's mouth and not enjoy what we eat is just wrong. 

So the pain of forced changed is ahead for my brood. That's okay, though, they'll gain much more than they lose...

Here's one of the new things I tried. They were delicious with freshly-made honey butter!

Honey Wheat Pan Rolls
    makes two dozen
1 c water
1/4 c honey
1/4 c butter
3/4 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c old-fashioned oats, uncooked
4 t yeast
1 t sea salt
1 large egg
2 1/4 - 2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
  • Combine water, honey and butter in small saucepan: heat until butter melts. Remove from heat and cool to 120˚.
  • Combine wheat flour, oats, yeast and salt in mixing bowl. Stir well. Gradually add hot mixture. Beat at low speed for 1 minute. Add egg. Beat 2 minutes at medium speed. Gradually add enough flour to make a soft dough. 
  • Turn dough out onto a heavily-floured surface. Knead dough until smooth and elastic (about eight minutes.) Shape into 24 balls and place in a lightly-greased 13X9 pan. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place (85˚) until double in size (about an hour). 
  • Bake at 375˚ for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Monday, August 16

Coming Clean...

Well, over the weekend, I was bellyaching to my long-suffering husband about our water woes since our faucets' output is still not suitable for drinking and cooking. Then, a strikingly novel thought occurred to me...what if I just Let. It. Go???

I mean, even I am tired of fretting over the delays and inconveniences we've encountered so far, so I know that everyone else is tired of hearing it.

Soooooo.....I hereby proclaim that last week will now officially be known as 'Week One' of construction. Bygones be gone already!

This week we are scheduled to have a new water tank installed, have the slab poured for the workshop/root cellar and receive our first order of lumber. Framing and land clearing may begin as well.

So, cue that incessant 80s hit, 'New Attitude' and check out last week's progress!

Okra - Indian-Style

I made this with the okra I got from the CSA last week. It was such a hit that T loaded handful after handful of okra into a bag at the farmers' market on Saturday.

Indian-Spiced Okra

3 T butter
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 lb fresh okra, sliced
1/2 t ground ginger
1/2 t ground cumin
1/2 t coriander
1/4 t black pepper
sea salt 

Melt butter in skillet. Add onion and sautée over medium heat until tender. Stir in the okra, then seasonings. Cook and stir for a few minutes, then reduce heat to medium-low and cover pan. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until okra is tender. 

(Note: I'm out of cumin so I substituted garam masala which was delicious. Also, we thought the called-for amounts of seasoning was too little. So, if you like strongly-flavored foods, add more. )

Friday, August 13

Summer CSA - Week 15


This week's share included cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, peaches, okra, bell and hot peppers and eggplant.

Wednesday, August 11

House Addition Update

Well, it's not much for almost twelve weeks of 'construction', but it's something and for that we are so thankful!

Today, the wall is much higher than this, enough to  require some scaffolding. I'm loving watching the root cellar take shape!

The crew we have out here now is awesome.  I had to leave the house today while they were taking a lunch break. I told them to feel free to laugh as I unskillfully backed down the driveway because, honestly, I'm not sure how a reasonably intelligent person like myself can go off both sides of the concrete so many times. It's pathetic! One of them looked at me and said, very seriously, "No, we will not."

Maybe he has issues with our crazy drive too...

Check it out eleven hours later! I promise I'm not going to post pics every time someone moves a shovelful of dirt but I'm pretty wowed by these guys.

Monday, August 9

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks


I read this book at the beach this summer. While it's a sad story, it's one of those I'm glad I read because it should be known. 
The author, Rebecca Skloot, meticulously researched the story of Lacks, a poor black woman from Virginia, who after moving to Baltimore, was treated at Johns Hopkins for cervical cancer. The book details the emergence of cellular technologies using Lacks' cells without her or her family's knowledge. The cells, known as HeLa, are still cultured and sold today. The family has never received any compensation and precious little recognition. 
Skloot's persistence in trying to obtain interviews with Lacks' family paid off as she gained the trust of Henrietta's children, one by one. Her relationship with them reveals a heartbreaking story of a family who just wants to understand...and to afford health care. 
It seems a mind-boggling conspiracy story, though there was no real conspiracy, just the hospital systematically taking advantage of the poor community just outside its doors. Sadly, this was not uncommon practice at Johns Hopkins for many, many years. 
Lacks' story is one of a wrong that cannot be made right, but knowledge is power against the repetition of such things. 

Saturday, August 7

Who Knew?

I was given an amazing gift today -- a gift of time, friendship and physical ability. Toss in a generous portion of beautiful weather and it really just doesn't get much better!!

When I got a text last night that today's trail-running route was fifteen miles, my signature self-doubt reared it's ugly head but after a tough week, I was mentally amped to give it a go. I ate my tried-and-true carb-rich foods yesterday and went to sleep early. I woke before the alarm and headed out. I knew I wasn't ready for the full fifteen yet but knowing all the bailout points on the trail made for a low pressure situation.

After only two miles, I fell behind but certainly wasn't spent. (I really wanted to run nine.) I urged my friend to run her best, pulled out my pepper spray (probably overkill but better safe than sorry) and was alone for the next two plus hours.

Little did I know that I had a twelve-miler in me! And, boy, was it just what I needed. That much time alone gives you lots of space to think (much like shelling peas). More than that for me, it's just the unique thrill of beating myself up and pushing past the barriers my mind sets for my body. It was a glorious moment when I became aware that two miles had passed without any awareness that I was running -- ahhhh -- the wonderful high!

Before now, my longest trail run was eight miles so this is a big achievement for me and is fabulously close to my longest road run of 18 miles.

On a related note, my buddy, Julie, and I have decided that the 50K race is not in the cards for us this year as I had purposed. I can't express how much I've looked forward to meeting that challenge but with the flood and her resulting broken ankle, it's just not wise to run the required miles in two months. I've stubbornly run injured through the last half of a half marathon before and paid for it with five months of no running at all. It wasn't worth it.

God willing, we'll be able to train properly next year and collect that 50K medal. Until then, I've got my heart set on a race about half that distance. After today, I know I can do that....

Friday, August 6

I'm Thinking Maybe Not

We are having water issues again. The word (over the phone) from our well company guy was that it was safe to drink and use for cooking. Maybe he should come out and see it first. What do you think? I know what I think and you can bet your buttons that my 'babies' won't be ingesting a drop!

No explanation yet as to how dirt is getting into our in-ground tank but it really puts a damper on cooking, bathing and cleaning around here. The toilets look especially embarassing...like they've never been flushed.

I'm usually of the mindset that we'll look back and laugh on most troubles. Can't wait to get this particular one far enough behind me to do so!

Summer CSA - Week 13 & 14

Last week, we got tomatoes, peas, corn, melon, bell peppers, potatoes, squash and eggplant. This week (below), our share contained corn, cucumbers, peas, potatoes, okra, zucchini, blackberries, jalapenos, and bell peppers.

Thursday, August 5

Quiet Time


Yesterday, I spent 45 quiet minutes shelling field peas for freezing. It was a simple task and I was surprised at the introspection and calmness it brought to my day.

As I opened the pods, I studied their structure from time to time appreciating (yet again) the artistry and beauty of God's imagination. Other than that, I didn't really have anything on my mind. As the minutes passed, I noticed that my thoughts weren't on the worries and strivings of this world, such as material things and scheduling, but on simple pleasures and God-centered contentment. I was very relaxed and, thus, wondered if I should save the remainder of pods until right before bedtime!

Of course, it then dawned on me that this is what we're missing these days. Menial tasks that allow us time -- time to appreciate, time to reflect, time to be at peace. I thought about the things we use to 'relax', for example, watching television. If you really think about it, though, watching TV is not relaxing but stimulating. It makes us 'hungry' and think we 'need' things that we really don't.

Long ago, I learned something about T. Very often, when watching a movie or show, she would ask for something to eat. And, very often, she had just had a meal. She wasn't allowed 'screen time' everyday which gave me the chance to see a pattern. If she sat in front of the TV, she was 'hungry', if she was playing (busy hands), she wasn't. She quickly learned that if she asked for a snack during TV time, she would have to turn off the TV to prove to herself that she wasn't really hungry. That bad habit was quashed quickly!

What I learned from that is that none of us is immune to the pull of suggestion or boredom. So when I apply her behavior to myself, I could see all kinds of pitfalls. After all, I'm the one who (mostly) controls what foods come into our home and what habits/behaviors are allowed.

My husband pointed out that the many efficiencies of our culture rob us of so much. I think he's right. One of the things that so often gets in the way of spiritual fulfillment is the lack of stillness. Now, for everyone, that's not going to be about shelling peas but it worked for me.

Monday, August 2

Just For Laughs

I recently visited with one of my cousins and his family. They told us about this comedian who is so funny!

Learn how to avoid such everyday hazards as dirt naps, crashing into a pier and those dreaded upper thigh fishing injuries.

Hope you enjoy this as much as we did!

Thursday, July 29

Road Trip Food

Our family loves road trips but the highway's readily-available foods can leave us feeling less excited about the adventures ahead. Our favorite road meals and snacks don't require too much prep work but they really save money. Plus, without lots of grease and sugars, keep the drivers alert and happy. 

The cooler is normally stocked with chicken salad (recipe below) or egg salad, hard-boiled eggs, apples, raw veggies and cheese or yogurt. Another bag holds bread and crackers for the chicken salad and almonds. Our Klean Kanteens full of water make it easier to not give in too much to soda requests and keep the car free of a bunch of empty bottles rolling about. 

I learned the hard way that thick paper plates are a must and pre-made sandwiches just aren't worth the complaints of smushes and sogginess. I keep a bag stocked with plates, napkins and utensils so the parent not driving can serve as chef. 

While I'm usually able to pack enough snacks to last the whole trip, the drive back home usually involves a meal or two out and we almost always give into the temptation of milkshakes. Between that and heading to our home sweet home, we're a rolling band of happy campers.


Chicken Salad
(Note: I'm not big on measuring, so these amounts are approximate. Adjust to suit your own taste.)

3 c shredded chicken (I roast mine with thyme, basil, pepper and sage for this recipe.)
1 c halved grapes or chopped apple 
3/4 c chopped celery
1/2 c chopped pecans
1 - 6oz container plain yogurt 
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all but yogurt together. Add yogurt gradually to get the consistency that you prefer. 

Serve as a sandwich, wrap or with crackers. 

Tuesday, July 27

Kitchen Project

As usual, my decision to paint the cabinets turned into more. I also painted the walls and took out the microwave which we'll replace with a range hood. I'm so glad this task is done!

Before:


After:



Wednesday, July 21

The Blueberry Farm

Earlier this week, the girls and I visited a pick-your-own blueberry farm and pick we did. Even though it was super hot, we picked sixteen pounds!!
It was a very nice farm with seven acres of non-sprayed bushes. We were told that there were several varieties of blueberries and that we could sample as we went. I never would have believed that blueberries could taste so different. There was one that, blindfolded, I would have guessed was a small grape it was so sweet.
I have frozen about half of them for muffins and breads this winter and will can my second batch of jam tomorrow. How many have I eaten? I really can't say...a lot but I've enjoyed every single one!!

'All Food Is A Vehicle For Butter'*

If you haven't noticed the new tab I created for food sources, please check it out. I was excited to learn today that the company we order ghee from was recently featured in the New York Times. Check it out here.

*My husband's favorite saying seemed like a fitting title here. 

Tuesday, July 20

Summer CSA - Week 11 (or Yes, I Do Know That I'm The World's Worst Blogger)

Well, I've made good progress on my kitchen project to the neglect of most everything else in my life. (Except running. This is week three back on the trails!!) I'm hoping to paint the walls this weekend so I can post a pic.

Last week's share included lots of deliciousness...corn, heirloom tomatoes, lemon cucumbers, carrots, bell peppers, pattypan squash and potatoes. With the kids gone all week, we didn't eat much of this until the weekend. Sunday, we grilled out and the girls made some skewered veggies. I chopped up the leftovers for tonight's pizza.

I'm gonna share an embarrassing little fact because it epitomizes the week I had last week. I just grabbed a bunch of stuff out of the refrigerator for the grilled veggies, not realizing one of them was a cucumber. I was so exhausted I took it for zucchini. Grilled zucchini? Delish! Grilled cucumber? Not so much. So check out my poor, little desecrated cucumber below and laugh...I am.




Tuesday, July 13

Good Times

For the first time, all of the kids went to church camp. I know they're having lots of fun but home just isn't home with their silliness, needs and crises. I'm not good at relaxing without them around. (And, yes, I'm aware that I need to work on that in the next few years!)

To beat feelings of aimlesness, I decided to take on the most daunting house project I could think of -- painting the kitchen cabinets.  It's exactly as much fun as I thought it would be. Which is to say...none. But I've wanted them painted for a long time so, this week, my mantra is 'good things come to those who do.'

Hopefully, by the time the kids get home, the living room won't look like the kitchen threw up in it and I can share some pics!

Friday, July 9

A Day In The Life, Vol 1

Today finds me with my 14 and 12 year-olds in a house that could use some serious post-vacation straightening. After trying music and humor to get them moving, I summoned my most authoritative 'boss' voice. I told them they were 'hired!' for the day and they had five minutes to get dressed, brush their teeth and hair and report to work.

They had all kinds of questions....

  • What?! Oh no! Why!? Ack! That's not fair!! As your very wise father has told you since birth, life's not fair. For anyone. Get over it. Move on.
  • What if we don't want to work? You don't eat.
  • What if we are late? You get fired.
  • What if we don't show up? You get fired.
  • What happens if we get fired? You are hired back at a lower rate of pay.
  • What if my zipper is stuck? You get fined for indecent exposure.
  • What if my co-worker puts stickers in my hair? People will point and laugh. 
  • What if my co-worker won't get out of the bathroom? There a port-a-john outside. Hardly used.
  • But I'm almost done with my book! That's what lunch breaks are for.
Later....

Lunch break has rolled around. The house is starting to look great! And the kids are in good moods. Which may or may explain why my son has decided to speak eliminating all vowels from words. The afternoon should be FUN!!


More to follow...

It's now 2 pm. They are finished! Of course, I'm not but they accomplished more than I thought they would. Woo-hoo!

I must share that when it came time to carry trash and giveaway stuff downstairs, E wrinkled her nose at the trash part. I asked if she thought she was too good to carry garbage. Her reply was this, "Well, I am wearing purple, the color of royalty."

A little stank eye took care of that. After all, she may be my princess, but royalty we are not.

Green Bean and Cherry Tomato Salad

My sister-in-law hosted a tomato-canning workshop last night and asked attendees to bring a seasonal dish to share. I found this easy and delicious recipe over at Smitten Kitchen and adapted it. It went over well and is so pretty. As usual, I forgot to take a picture. I'll have to add that later...

Green Bean and Cherry Tomato Salad


1 lb green beans
1 lb cherry tomatoes
1/4 onion
2 T red wine vinegar
1/3 c olive oil
2 ounces fresh mozzarella (optional)
salt and pepper


Trim and cut beans into 2" pieces. Parboil until just tender, about five minutes. Remove promptly from water and spread on cookie sheet to cool. Halve tomatoes. Cut mozzarella into small cubes.


For the vinaigrette, mince the onion and place in a bowl with the vinegar, salt and pepper. Whisk in the oil. Taste and adjust to your preference. 


Tomatoes and cheese can be tossed with the vinaigrette ahead of time but the beans should be added just before serving as the vinegar can discolor them. 


Optional: Garnish with fresh herbs such as basil, parsley or chervil. 

Thursday, July 8

Gotta Let It Go - A Rant

Today, I'm really frustrated. As I've mentioned before, we are adding on to our house. Our excavator has proven himself to be a dud. It's a shame - I had hoped my intuition about him was wrong. We are weeks and weeks behind and nothing is happening until we find someone to complete the job. Our fence has been disassembled so our dogs are in a little pen. Our yard is a ridiculous mess. I'm going to take the weed-eater to the small patches of grass that remain so I don't feel so ashamed when I look out the windows. The back deck is covered in dying plants that I moved from the garden for regrading. We can't drink our well water due to an excavator mishap; if you've been reading here very long you KNOW how I feel about drinking from plastic bottles - ugh.

So, I think when he shows up to load his equipment, I may just accidentally trip and dump my dead asparagus (a three-year crop) that I could have harvested next spring into the cab of his truck. And gasp with wide-eyed-wonder when he finds a running garden hose stuck in through the window. That or I'll be waiting with my underfed dogs....

So, dear reader, I still hold out hope of posting before and after pics of the lawn and garden beds that I have so carefully planned. And I know that there are people in the world with actual problems of which this is not one and all this will pass and I really, really will forget all about this stress but, today, I'm just ready to give up.


I'll be back to sunshine, butterflies and ain't-life-grand tomorrow. Promise!

Wednesday, July 7

Summer CSA - Week 10

We had a great relaxing beach vacation last week with C's high school buddies. We were five families with eighteen kids ranging from 14 years to 2 months...never a dull moment, for sure. We shared a huge house on the beachfront which made things so easy. The kids could run back and forth for water and the restroom and it was easy to station adults to supervise both at the beach and the pool. The men cooked supper every night and handled all the cleanup. I really, really missed being in the kitchen but I know it was a lot easier for the mothers of the younger ones.  I got my fix by making breakfast a few mornings and desserts at night.

Another thing I missed was our CSA delivery. The uncertainty of what we receive is a highlight of my week. Not sure what that says about the excitement factor of my life but oh, well...

This week our share included a sugar baby (I think) watermelon, tomatoes, patty pan squash, summer squash, cucumber, carrots, red potatoes, yellow cherry tomatoes, rattlesnake green beans and corn*. Would it be awful if I cooked this all at once for the yummiest feast ever?!? I bought some extras off the truck - two large watermelons, two cantaloupes, three pints of blueberries (one of which I ate half of for dessert--oops) and more cherry tomatoes. I forgot to buy green peppers which have become our new raw veggie of choice and should have bought more cucumbers. Those don't last long around here either.

*If you find a worm munching on the top of your ears of corn, count yourself lucky. Apparently, that's reliable indicator that your food hasn't been sprayed with pesticides. They normally only work their way through the tiny kernels at the top which are hard for us to eat anyway. So, bring on the worms!

NOTE: I'm having issues with transferring photos to my laptop. I'll update with the pic when I get that worked out.

Tuesday, July 6

Homemade Cough Medicine

The story goes that once while visiting my grandmother, who I had dubbed Grommie, I had a persistent cough. She offered to make me some cough medicine but, after my mom asked what the ingredients were, was told that I would never take it. And who could blame Mom? It's weird. As mothers of any age do, though, Grommie made it anyway and they both watched as I took it, licked the spoon and asked for more. (Sorry, Mom. I sure know how that feels...)

It stopped the coughing, though, so it's a remedy I've used with my own kids. The song-and-dance remain the same. With each kid, it's been...

'Oooh, That's gross. I don't want to try it.'

'Well, think about how bad store-bought cough medicine tastes.'

'Umm, yeah. Okay. I'll try it....Okay, that's not bad.'

To make some yourself, all you need is an onion and sugar. I'm not big on measuring while cooking so you may need to adjust this a bit.

  • Take a bit of onion, a little less than 1/4 cup. 
  • Place it in a small bowl and crush it until no solid pieces remain. I use a little tart-shaper tool. You could also use the back of an ice cream scoop or a spoon. 
  • Mix in a scant tablespoon of sugar. 
  • The mixture will look like a thick liquid with visible sugar grains.
  • Scoop it up in a large spoon and administer. 
I should add that I've used this successfully for both cold/infection coughs as well as the seasonal allergy type. 

    Friday, July 2

    Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

    C gave me this book for Christmas; I wish I'd read it sooner. After reading so many books on the food industry and its politics, this was a delight!

    Written by noted novelist Barbara Kingsolver, this nonfiction work reads like fiction. Chronicling her family's commitment to eat locally for one year, she leads the reader through the bountiful joys and surprising lessons learned as well as the struggles and hard decisions they faced along the way.

    Kingsolver's husband, Steven Hopp, contributes sidebars on food issues and her college-age daughter, Camille Kingsolver, provides recipes and a younger person's take on the journey.

    Thursday, July 1

    Sunscreen Recommendation

    Well, we have tried out some new sunscreens lately and have a couple of new favorites.

    For waterproof needs, we love Soleo by Avalon Organics. I found it locally at The Turnip Truck. I purchased a few bottles for our beach trip. I'll warn you - it is pricey. One tube was $19.99 but it spreads a lot farther than other lotions we've used. One tube covered four of us for four long days (including reapplications) of swimming in the ocean and pool. If I remember correctly, one bottle of aerosol runs about $8 and never stretched that far which helps justify the price.

    Further, it has gotten rave reviews from C and the kids on how it feels. None of the stinging eyes and skin I used to hear complaints about. I have been really pleased with how it holds up in the water but I think it helps that we've put it on 15-20 minutes before getting wet.

    The other brand we like is Badger. I actually found this at Publix ($13.99, I think) but they haven't restocked since I bought the two they had. I'm sure there are more reliable sources around. Again, this one feels great and goes a long way. It will hold up during a sweaty run or outdoor work but is definitely not water-resistant, though, which is a big complaint of most 'healthy' sunscreens.

    What blocks the sun's harmful rays in both of these products is titanium so you will be 'white' when you put it on (think of a lifeguard's white nose). If that bugs your kids, just keep rubbing it in. If they're like mine, though, eventually they'll say, 'Okay, nevermind, I just wanna go play.' :)

    Thursday, June 24

    Hiccup!

    I won't be posting for a few days. Work has finally started in the yard. However, in the process of excavating for the addition, a severed cable has rendered us internet access-less. :(

    Hang in there with me and I'll be back soon!

    Wednesday, June 23

    Sunscreen Safety

    I admit...I've long been a worrier over sun exposure. I'm fair skinned and I don't want more freckles. I couldn't care less that tan 'looks healthy' or was 'in'. If God wanted me to have darker skin, He would have made me that way. Besides, I'd rather not look like a leather purse when my 40s and 50s come along.

    My recent reading about cancer, though, actually really helped temper my paranoia about skin cancer concerns for both me and my children. (My husband will lay out and bake to a beautiful brown any chance he gets. That and his Diet Coke consumption are the only things we haven't 'worked out' yet. ha-ha) After all, people lived skin-cancer-free for centuries before sunscreen was created.

    Then, this news comes along that most sunscreens contain oxybenzone, a proven endocrine disruptor. Now, I'm not terribly school in the workings of my endocrine system but I don't think I need lots of help being a 'disrupted' person and I sure don't want chemicals messing with my growing kiddos.

    I thought I'd share with you a website that tests and ranks not only sunscreens but tons of products that are used topically. Considering that skin is our bodies' largest organ, it's worth knowing what I'm slathering on every exposed inch of my family.

    Other recommeded reading -- this list of sunscreen facts.

    Monday, June 21

    A Different 'Motivation Monday' - Aspartame

    For several weeks, I have taken time off from my weekly exercise posts known as Motivation Mondays. After twelve weeks, there is a good variety of workouts to choose from and, without a lot of time invested in photos or videos, I feel limited on what I can include moving forward.

    So, I now offer a different focus for inspired living. This series will highlight food and nutrition issues you may not be aware of but that could be affecting your health. I will not aim to give a comprehensive account of each but rather present facts to get you thinking about ways to achieve greater health through what you eat. 

    Week One - Aspartame

    What it is: an artificial sweetener commonly known as NutraSweet or Equal
    Where you can find it: Lots of places inculding the obvious -- 'diet' soft drinks and reduced-calorie/reduced-sugar foods -- and the not-so-obvious such as pharmaceuticals, vitamins and toothpaste
    How it came into use: Read the troubled timeline of its FDA approval here or the wiki here and here. Remember, it is customary for products to be approved based only on manufacturer-submitted research. 
    Why you may want to avoid it:
    • As referenced in the first link above, the National Soft Drink Association lobbied in 1985 against aspartame's approval for beverages because it converts to formaldehyde at temperatures above 85˚F. Trusting that the chemical was kept cool at every step of the production chain is a leap of faith I just can't make. 
    • Further, it is noteworthy that as aspartame (and other artificial sweetener) use has sky-rocketed, so have the ranks of overweight and obese populations. Certainly, this is not to be blamed on these chemicals but it sure hasn't helped either. If there is no benefit to the risk of consuming aspartame, then why accept that risk? 
    Honestly, the gross negligence and corporate greed evident in the approval process and the artificial-ness of the product is enough for me. But I don't drink soda and am very willing to be active enough to afford to indulge my sweet tooth on occasion. That that may not be enough for you is certainly understandable. As always, dear reader, my aim is to be, and help you be, an informed eater. 

    Friday, June 18

    Oven-Roasted Kale


    My friend and blog reader, Steffany, sent me this recipe. I had heard people rave about kale chips before but had never made them. That was my loss - they are awesome! My son did all the work himself with the exception of adding the salt. Wouldn't you know that I messed up that tiny task...I put in too much. Oh well, they'll be fabulous next time! :)

    Oven-Roasted Kale - serves 4 as a side dish

    Ingredients

    2 bunches kale
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    2 to 3 large cloves garlic, minced
    Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

    Directions

    Preheat oven to 375°F. Rinse kale and pat dry thoroughly. Remove and discard thick ribs and roughly chop leaves. Pat leaves dry again. Toss with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Spread on a large rimmed baking sheet. Kale does not need to be in a single layer, as it will shrink in volume as it cooks. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every five minutes or so, until leaves are tender, crisp on edges and slightly browned. Sprinkle with sesame seeds before serving.

    Nutrition: Per serving (About 3oz/83g-wt.): 100 calories (80 from fat), 9g total fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 3g protein, 5g total carbohydrate (2g dietary fiber, 0g sugar), 0mg cholesterol, 160mg sodium

    Friday Challenge


    This weekend, take your kids (or just yourself!) to a farmers market. (Go here to find one.) I can tell you it has really become a sticking point on our calendar. If your kids are picky eaters, please let them surprise you. Just as children love petting zoos, they will be charmed by the array of offerings and knowledge that is available. Wander, talk to people, taste samples if they're offered.


    You might be surprised at what your kids ask you to buy. A powerful sensory relationship is forged when a child hand-packs a vegetable and then helps prepare it for eating. A green bean means something completely different to a kid who has dug his/her fingers into a basket and selected handfuls and then snapped them for cooking. When my youngest asked me to buy Shiitake mushrooms a few weeks ago, I thought silently that she'd never eat them unless they were smothered in a sauce of some sort. Shut my mouth because she loves them sauteed with garlic and olive oil! She looks forward to making that purchase herself every Saturday.

    Creating a powerful connection with food and the people who labor to bring it to you, though, is only part of the benefit. When you trade your cash for food, know that you are literally voting for a better way of life for our culture. You are sending a message that paying taxes for subsidies on mass-produced, chemically-treated and genetically-modified crops is bad enough. But then paying taxes for the health care of those who get fat and sick on the products those very crops are turned into is preposterous. It's no way of life for anyone but the bigwigs who think patenting seeds makes sense.

    Food is an undeniable component of a population's culture, no matter where it is geographically. What is America's, really? McDonald's? General Mills? Whatever is on sale? Seriously??? Look at the cuisines we borrow from around the world and realize they were born of what was in abundance in that region, not a year-around selection of low-quality versions of every fruit and vegetable known to man.

    And, as for what's on sale, check out your local farmers market. Begin to build a food culture for your family. Your body, your budget, and, quite possibly, your kids will thank you. I know the farmer will!

    (Don't forget to take your own bag/basket and a cooler if you plan to purchase dairy or meat.)

    Thursday, June 17

    How To Make Fabulous Biscuits

    For Southerners, making mean biscuits is a source of great pride. It's not hard but it's very nearly an art. The tradition of making something so comforting out of so little runs deep in my blood. It's a task where I notice my hands and wonder how they will look as I make such foods with grandbabies running around my kitchen.
    But, as usual, I digress. The following tutorial contains all I've learned in my many years of biscuit-making. May exploding Pillsbury cans and Bisquick never reside in your shopping cart again...

    Biscuits
    makes 10-12, depending on circumference of cutter
    2 c plain flour, preferably unbleached, plus enough for kneading/cutting
    1 T baking powder
    1 t salt
    6 T softened butter or lard
    1 c milk, warmed

    1. Preheat oven to 450˚. (If you'd rather not heat up your whole kitchen, these bake well in a toaster oven if you reduce the heat to 425˚. You may have to bake in two batches.)
    2. Warm milk in a small saucepan over medium low heat. (Remove it from the heat when you see a bit of steam rising, well before boiling.)
    3. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.
    4. Using a pastry blender or fork, cut the butter into the dry mixture until it's in small crumbles. 
    5. Add milk and mix well, erring on the side of under-mixing. The dough should seem a bit sticky.
    6. Turn out onto a floured surface. (Tip: I use a large rectangular stone, kneading/cutting at one end and baking the biscuits at the other end. Makes for one less thing to wash.) 
    7. With floured hands, turn the dough over until all sides have gathered a bit more flour. If it's really sticky, the milk was too hot so just add a small handfuls of flour until the dough doesn't cling to your touch.
    8. Gently pat the dough into a circle. Don't worry if you see bits of flour or butter. The kneading will take care of that.
    9. Pick up the top of the circle at the 12 o'clock position and fold it down to the six o'clock position. Gently pat out to a circle again. 
    10. Knead three more times, folding in each direction...three o'clock to nine, six to twelve and nine to six. Use a very light touch; this is what makes all those flaky layers!
    11. Pat dough out one more time into a circle about 3/4" thick. Using a floured biscuit cutter or over-turned glass, cut from the outer edges to the center, never twisting as you cut. 
    12. Nestle the little beauties up against one another on the pan.
    13. The scraps from the first cuttings can be very gently rejoined to make more biscuits or bake as is as 'baker's treat'. :)
    14. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned. 
    15. Serve immediately.
    16. Leftovers may be stored overnight in an airtight container. 
    I've learned a lot in my many years of making biscuits. First, practice makes perfect. This is never more true than with the lightness of your touch. It needs more TLC than yeast doughs. Patience and time will yield tall, beautiful biscuits with endless layers to welcome your butter, jams and sorghum! 

    Tuesday, June 8

    Gardening 2010, If You Can Call It That...

    Yes, that's it -- a few lowly basil, oregano and sage plants. Until I planted these, though, I was feeling very bummed about not having a garden this year due to the house addition. Funny how three pots of herbs can improve one's outlook!

    We break ground tomorrow and the earth-moving should be done within a week or so. The upside to this year's losses is that I'll have three times the growing space next year. I've got a lot of work ahead to build the beds and get them healthy and full of worms again. Can't wait, though, my hands have missed the dirt!

    And who knows? I may put a few tomato and pepper plants in after all!

    Wednesday, June 2

    Summer CSA - Week 5

    I love the weekly deliveries but I am beginning to learn just how much work this is. Now I really understand why housewives in the 40s and 50s jumped on new convenience foods as they appeared on grocery shelves. If only they had exercised a bit of restraint (or food marketers were idiots), that wouldn't be nearly all that's available anymore and our nation would be healthier.

    I pick up on Wednesday mornings which means those afternoons are spent googling for recipes as well as washing, chopping and preserving what I can't use right away. The upside is that the kids and I have the most fun lunch of the week on Wednesdays!

    This week we received red leaf lettuce, kale, broccoli, orange and white carrots, fennel, beets, peas and kohlrabi.

    Tuesday, June 1

    Farmer's Market and a Delight I Almost Missed!

    After the craziness of the past month, we purposed that the long weekend would be one of recovery and time spent together for our little family.

    I had planned a few things. Simple things like homemade ice cream, a trip to the climbing gym a cookout with grandparents and our first family visit to the local farmers market. I have frequented the downtown one in years past, not knowing that I was bypassing one half the distance from home!

    It was a hit for all of us. We wandered about, asked questions, tasted things and left with three bagfuls of local sensory overload. When your kids pull you aside and ask if we could please buy some of those Shitake mushrooms and a shaker of bee pollen from that other man, it just confirms that kids have perfectly-working taste buds, too. Given a choice between Doritos and spreadable garlic-herb goat cheese, you don't need to tell them which one is healthier because their bodies tell them which is better (in every sense of the word.)

    We left with salad tomatoes, mixed greens, garlic scapes, cucumbers, baby potatoes and the aforementioned mushrooms which are grown about 15 miles from us. We also bought some locally-made treats such as gazpacho, rolls, chicken black bean ravioli, goat cheese feta and the herb cheese mentioned above.


    I'd recently read about garlic scapes and was thrilled to be able to talk to someone about ways to prepare them. Scapes are the plant portion of the garlic plant which is cut off to send more energy to the growing garlic bulb. (This explains why scapes are only available for a few weeks each year.) This trimming allows the bulb to become the plump little fellow we are accustomed to seeing. They are fanciful curlicues with a moderate garlic flavor.

    I made a pesto out of them which I tossed with the handmade pasta we bought. Yum.

    Friday, May 28

    A Highly Recommended Read

    I recently finished reading Anti Cancer: A New Way of Life by David Servan-Schreiber. I cannot recommend it highly enough. 

    The author was just beginning his medical career when, by accident in his own lab, he discovered he had brain cancer. He readily admits his attitude was that of the stereotypical doctor -- a stubborn reliance on Western methods of healing and health management. As the doctor became the patient, though, his eyes were opened to a frustrating world of downcast eyes and grim adherence to outdated treatments in spite of other promising options. 

    The path he discovered, and followed, changed his life...quite literally because it almost certainly saved it. He has become a 15-year brain cancer survivor (wow) by caring for his so-called 'terrain' which involved changes in diet, exercise, stress management and spirit. 

    Granted, that's a lot of the stuff I yammer on about all the time so maybe that's why I loved it. The book teaches so much about cancers, though, and how they take root and flourish in our bodies. Despite that part being nearly all-new to me, I found it a very easy read. If you have a family history of cancer, or even a personal one, I daresay this book will make you feel hopeful and powerful. 

    Lest you fear that it will overwhelm you with the need to change everything about your life, I'll leave you with this excerpt from the final chapter:

    Fortunately, we can begin to protect ourselves against the biological mechanisms of cancer without adopting all the methods that have a positive effect. The body is a huge system in equilibrium, where each function interacts with all the others. Alter just one of these functions and the whole is inevitable affected....Every situation, every person, is unique; each person's way forward will be too. What matters above all is nourishing the desire to live. Some will do it by participating in a choir or by watching comedies, others by writing poetry or keeping a diary or getting more involved in the lives of their grandchildren.

    If you read it, please let me know what you think!!  

    Summer CSA - Week 4

    The only new thing we received this week is a different variety of lettuce. I'm not too educated on types of lettuces but it's green and yummy.

    One month into our first CSA summer, I'm thankful to have learned so much. Last year, I read Carrie's CSA posts with feelings of great curiosity and possibly greater intimidation. I didn't know what a lot of it was and wasn't sure how she ever used those things! Would my gang even eat it???

    As it turned out, though, I've found delicious and healthful uses for things I've never purchased before (kohlrabi, beets, kale, radishes) and discovered that I should throw out my opinions of what my kids will and won't eat. I told you yesterday about the radish green soup but not about the broccoli stalks (the florets were cut off for snacking/lunches) I steamed for myself because I couldn't bear to toss them out. Little did I know that everyone would eat stalks-only. Awesome!

    Thursday, May 27

    Good Eatin'!!

    Life has seemed almost normal this week. What's been really odd about school ending a whole month early is just the sense of waiting. Waiting to hear about how grades will be determined, waiting to hear about field days and awards ceremonies and waiting until friends are finished with school has made May a month of uncertainty.

    We finished all that up this week, though, and now we can really relax into our summer. We've already been to the library a few times, had garden-hose water fights and had lazy mornings which stretched into lazy days. Maybe a month-long warmup to summer is just what we needed!

    For me, normalcy means hours in the kitchen and, boy, has this week been fun!

    I made hummus which we all love and is a great alternative to dressings and dips for fresh veggies. It's also a wonderful spread on sandwiches.


    Hummus
    Put three cups of cooked and drained chickpeas in the food processor. Using a garlic press, add garlic to taste. (I use 5-6 cloves for a moderate 'garlic-ness' but if it's just for our family, I'll add a few more.) Turn on the processor and slowly pour in one cup of extra-virgin olive oil and process until smooth and creamy. 

    Other highly-recommended things we've enjoyed this week:
    Pork Blade Steaks with green onions, oven-roasted beets, Green Onion Hash Browns  and  Radish Top Soup which I originally made for C's lunches. It uses the radish greens which I thought the kids might balk at. I was completely wrong. They love it! Of course, with ingredients like homemade chicken stock and raw heavy cream, what's not to like?

    Wednesday, May 26

    Artsy Girl





















    My girls love to paint. The last time E mentioned she couldn't think of a gift to make for someone, I asked her to paint a bin for my pantry. I was just thinking of a couple of pretty colors in a striped pattern, but this is what she came up with. It's certainly much better than I could have done!

    Monday, May 24

    Summer CSA - Week 3


    Trying to catch up on these posts -- with food coming every week instead of every other, I can't keep up!

    Our box this week contained swiss chard, lettuce, spinach, carrots, green onions, beets, radishes, cauliflower, kohlrabi, strawberries, bread and eggs.

    The exquisitely odd-looking kohlrabi is new to us but was an instant favorite. A member of the cabbage family, it can be eaten raw or cooked. It's flavor is similar to a broccoli stalk but milder and sweeter. So far, we've just added it to the bin of chopped, raw veggies we snack on throughout the week. 

    As for the greens, our share includes a LOT more than I normally buy. Fortunately, I love salad and I've been warming the kids up to it over the last few weeks with small side salads. So far so good on that front. 

    Unfortunately, I wasn't prepared to use so many greens the first week and some wilted before I got to them. After dreading throwing them out (and accompanying guilt), I had a flash of inspiration -- vegetable stock!

    Among the things that had seen better days were...bits of bok choy, kale, swiss chard, celery and green onions. I washed and chopped them and added carrots, garlic, peppercorns and bay leaves. After simmering for a couple of hours, I removed the vegetables and seasonings and returned the broth to the stovetop to reduce further. In the end, I had two quarts of dark and delicious-smelling stock to stow away in the freezer. No waste, no guilt!

    Sunday, May 23

    Kefir Tutorial

    Now that I've been making this wonderful beverage for a few months, I thought I'd post an actual how-to.
    Your grains live in a glass jar with 1-2 cups of raw or organic milk and you'll know when your milk is fermented when you see both solids and liquids in the jar separated by a thin yellow liquid (whey). Depending on the temperature of your home, this can occur in as little as 12 hours or, in colder months, 36-48 hours. During the winter, I keep my jar in the pantry which is less subject to drafts than the counter. 


    To separate the grains from the kefir, stir or swish them in the jar to loosen the surface and pour them into a stainless steel strainer placed over a bowl. Do not use other metals as they will melt your grains. 


    Often, a thin liquid will drain first and your grains will retain liquid as shown above.

    Kefir is a thicker beverage, though, similar to 2% milk. You have to shake the strainer to completely separate the grains. You may even need to use a spoon to move them about.

    Dump your grains back into your (washed) jar and cover with milk. Cover the jar with a cloth napkin and set aside. (Never set the jar in direct sunlight.)

    Place the kefir in another glass jar and cover with a lid. Store in the refrigerator; it keeps for 3-4 weeks. It addition to drinking it, you can use it as a buttermilk substitute in recipes. It's super handy when you you're running low on milk!

    Other tips:
    To grow your grains, add a larger amount of milk. Adding two cups at a time should double the grains in about six weeks.
    Similarly, if you have a large volume of grains which produce more kefir than you can use, add just enough milk to cover. (They will, of course, consume the available lactose very quickly.) 
    To share grains, put two tablespoons in a baggie with enough milk to cover. 
    If you will be away for a weekend or just have too much kefir on hand, place your grains jar in the refrigerator. The colder temperature will slow the activity. 
    Taking care of your little grain friends is important, but they are very forgiving. I've left mine a day too long and the top surface darkened a bit and looked dry. After straining, though, they were no worse for the wear. 

    Thursday, May 20

    Mom

    Today is my mom's birthday. The kids and I (along with my sister, her youngest and my brother's two little ones) took her and Dad to the mountain where she was born. We had a picnic overlooking the valley.

    I wanted to do something different to celebrate with her and I can't express how much fun we all had. The weather couldn't have been more perfect if we had sent God a special request.

    It was all so simple -- egg salad, veggies and fruit on a few blankets followed by swinging the kids (even the big ones!) in a blanket and Mom's favorite schoolyard game, Red Rover -- but almost magical, as we were on top of the world and time stood still just for us. The unfortunately reality was, though, that the time absolutely flew by. I was so sorry when it was time to leave.

    We've all promised to do it again very soon and I'm determined to make it happen. Nothing I could have done today would have meant more than celebrating the birth of the person who loved me first and, even now, loves me more than anyone else. (No offense, Dad and hubby but I'm a mommy too so I know the deal...) :)

    Thank you, Mom, for being who you are. You are beautiful, talented, generous and have more imagination than most kids I know!

    (NOTE: The above photo was not taken today. It's just one I love. My sis has a fancy-schmancy new camera so I let her take all the pics. I didn't feel like slumming with the point-and-shoot one I brought!)

    Wednesday, May 19

    Summer CSA - Week 1 & 2

    We didn't receive a share for Week 1 due to the flood. The produce farmers suffered little damage but the meat farmer lost 1200 chickens and thousands of dollars worth of fencing. That things were back up and running for the second week was a welcome surprise!

    Our second week's share included bread, eggs, strawberries, radishes, broccoli, bok choy, green onions, kohlrabi, swiss chard and three other types of greens which I couldn't readily identify. They were yummy, though!

    The morning after we picked up our share I made french toast which we enjoyed with raw milk whipped cream and those delicious strawberries. It was a fabulous treat of wholesome ingredients after a weekend of hard labor!