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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Dear 7th grade Sarah

Dear 7th Grade Sarah,

Please read this in its entirety and resist the urge to roll your eyes until you've finished.

Life is going to be pretty rough for you for the next few years.  I'm telling you that now so you'll have the opportunity to prepare yourself; time to toughen up and get ready.  I want to tell you a few truths so that you have some nuggets of hope to keep in your heart while you get through the living hell that is known as Junior High.
  • For the next few years, you're going to look like Bambi walking on the ice.  Don't worry, you'll eventually figure out how to move with some grace. Some.
  • It's hard to be 5 foot 8 at 12.  It doesn't help that you're only like 95 pounds.  Please keep your head up whenever you hear someone yell "string bean" down the halls.
  • That boy that you're so obsessed with as a 7th grader?  The one who thinks you're super weird and won't even talk to you?  Ironically, you end up dating him senior year in high school.  And this time he pursues YOU.  So um, booyah.
  • The people you aren't very kind to, actually really deserve your respect.  I know it's a pecking order and you're just trying to figure out where you fit.  But being rude to someone else because someone has been rude to you is just beetleheaded.  Knock it off.
  • You're going to keep growing.  Please just be prepared.  You'll be 6 foot by 10th grade.  Don't worry, eventually you'll find clothes that fit.  It's a process, so please be patient.
  • Enjoy your gorgeous skin.  You'll want it back when you're an adult.
  • All of the things you stress over; the things that cause you angst?  Well, in a few short years, you'll be hard pressed to think of what a single one of those things are.  
  • You will lose the race for student body president in 9th grade.  It sucks at first, but please still run.  It's an important rite of passage, and helps keep you in check going forward.
  •  Your parents are amazing and deserve your respect.  They care for you more than you will ever know.
  • Learn to forgive yourself for not being perfect.  You'll never be really popular.  You'll never get bigger boobs (sigh).  
  • You'll always be kinda quirky and weird (but oddly enough, you'll find as an adult that random strangers appreciate your weirdness.  You don't know the term "blog" yet, but you will.  Oh yes, you will).
  • Be gentler with the hearts of two nice boys you'll date in 10th and 12th grade.  
  • The harder you try to make things work with that boy in 11th grade, the more things fall apart.  Do yourself and your heart a favor, and just stay friends.  It will be better for everyone in the long run. 
  • You are not perfect in your eyes.  But you still deserve kindness, because you have worth as a human being. 
So, 7th grade Sarah, please take these things to heart.  The next few years won't be so great for you, but it's important that you look towards the future - the time after Junior High.

But...we need to talk about this:

Your hair.  I mean, come on already.  What the hell is up with that?  Your hair actually goes out of the photo frame.  You look like the chick from Dilbert.  Get that taken care of, and then we can talk about moving forward.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Wonder Twins

My friend Kat has two of the cutest girls in the world.  Made from the exact genetic mishmash, they couldn't be more unique or different from each other.

When Kat was hunting for quilts for the girls, she was having trouble finding something that captured the qualities of sameness and uniqueness of her spawn.  I stepped in and offered to help because little girls need quilts as special as they are.

I was sent some materials that had sentimental value to the family, as well as a mishmash of other pieces.  I added a few pieces of my own to tie the whole thing together, and I feel like the quilts capture these Wonder Twins - sameness and individualism all at the same time.

This quilt is my traditional style of quilt, and belongs to the little blonde.

This one is from a really cool book called Patchwork Style.  This book is worth the $13 just for a randomly crazy photos of the woman in the book having her eyes closed in almost every picture.  And for the fact that she eats apples with spoons in the book.  I mean, really.
Also, get used to this style, because like my old style, I'm going to use this one a ton.  It's by far the easiest way to quilt.  You don't have a to measure any of the fabric.  Sign me up please!

Same components.  Same material.  Completely different look.  Wonder Twins, activate!
Technically this is part of the Homemade Holidays series because each quilt took just 1.5 days to make.  And one of those was a weeknight.  I'll be posting next week on how to make the quilt on the right.  Anyone can make one of these quilts, and still get it done in time for the holidays.
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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Kicking off the "Homemade Holidays" season - dish mats

It's officially after Thanksgiving, so now we are morally obligated to speak about the holidays.  If you've been in any store since the Fourth of July, you've already seen Christmas decorations, but I prefer to let the turkey have it's day before flapping my mouth about Christmas, Hanukkah, etc.

Do you need a project to ease you in to the holiday season?  Did you just get a sewing machine and barely know how to operate it?  Do you only have 15 (ish) minutes to devote to making a gift?
Then this is the project for you!

Jack and I went to visit my bestie Anne in August.  She pretty much has my dream kitchen, so I spend a lot of time in there whenever we visit.  Being in the kitchen a lot means creating a lot of messy dishes.  Anne has what might be seen as the silliest set up in the history of kitchens.  I've already made fun of her for this, so please don't worry that I'm making a mockery of her on the internet.

Their dish strainer just sits right on top of the counter with nothing under it.

Beetleheaded, right?

Before we left, I knew I'd come home and make something to fix it, but I couldn't find a tape measure in her house.  Using my purse as a guide, I noted the approximate measurements of her dish strainer, and then started thinking of a solution.

I wanted to send this to her as a "thank you for the awesome visit", but I'm a horrible slacker and didn't make this until last week.  Go me.

Easy Peasy Dish Strainer Mats
-Piece of terrycloth, cut to your desired size
-Piece of fabric, cut to your desired size (I used cotton)

1) Lay out your ironed fabric on top of the terry cloth, placing the "pretty" side of the fabric on the terry.

2)  Pin the fabric together on all sides.  Leave about 5 inches of one side unpinned.  We'll discuss why in a bit.

3) Using a basic stitch, sew the edges together.
Sorry, it's dark in the basement!
4) When everything is sewn together, except for that 5 inch opening, remove the item from the machine.  Cut the corners off of the fabric.
You're digging my pajama pants, right?  Don't lie.  Jack picked those out for me.
5) Then, slowly turn the item inside out.  This process takes some time.  While you're doing it, it's going to look like Amanda Bynes - a hot mess.

6) Once it's mostly turned inside out, use a chopstick or knitting needle, and push the corners out as much as you can.

7) Find the end that is not sewn together, and turn the ragged edges inside the item.  You're just pinching them in there with your fingers.

8) Sew the pinched edges together.

9) You're all set!

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Homemade Mondays, Week 4

Homemade Mondays is a series for people that are on a journey to better living, via healthier eating and a more natural lifestyle.  We realize that there are different paths that we all take to get to that place, and this bloghop celebrates that.  Whether you’re a seasoned raw foodist who has banned all things unnatural, or a rookie who is starting out by cutting out junk food, we’d love to hear from you! Link up with your favorite recipes, projects, crafts, or rants and raves.

The Hosts

Aubrey of Homegrown & Healthy 
How to
Homemade Mondays will open every Monday. You have until Thursday to make your submissions. We will share our favorite posts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and shout it from the rooftops.
  • Link up. Use the submission form below to add your blog posts to our gallery below. You can add as many links as you’d like, as long as they’re on topic. What’s eligible? Recipes, crafts, DIY projects, gardening, fitness, green ideas or just plain old advice. We’re pretty open.
  • Tell us about yourselves. Leave a comment telling us a little about your site and what you’ve shared. Of course this isn’t mandatory, but it’s a good way to stand out.
  • Link back. Share the love by adding a link back to this party with your readers so they can see all of these great ideas as well. 
PS, we're updating our subscription, so there is a good chance that the linky tool might not be working when this post is live.  Be patient with us, and feel free to link up in the comments section.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Meal plan for November 26th - December 2nd & weekly download

Phew, busy week!  Thanksgiving holiday and sleep study for Jack; all in a matter of three days.  Jack was a freaking champ during the sleep study.  Like, if they need a textbook pediatric example of the best boy ever for the sleep study manual, they could use this photo.

What a good boy.  I was so proud of him!  It took over two hours to set everything up, and he wasn't asleep until 10 pm; he usually goes to bed at 7 pm.  He didn't cry or fuss at all, and his tech was a rock star and kept him distracted the whole time.  She even built him an Angry Birds slingshot out of tongue depressors and stretchy tape.

Thanksgiving was at my in-laws this year, and I was honored that my parents decided to come, because I have so much to be thankful for this year with my mom's health.  So very much.

Jackster and I hit up Goodwill yesterday and scored an old school Hulk shirt, and a great new basket for organizing his books/comic books/magazines in the car.

Jack is currently obsessed with The Boxcar Children series, and he introduced me to everyone he met at Costco yesterday as "my big sister Jessie.  And my name is Benny".  He's been referring to Troy as Henry, which would make Troy technically my big brother.  I wonder if Jack is secretly also reading Flowers in the Attic?

We also went to Target yesterday and bought two new indoor clothes dryers.  I had made up my mind yesterday to get a new one so that I'd have a total of three.  Yesterday was the day that my 8 year old rack broke.  Naturally.  So I ended up buying two of their new "compact" 20 sq foot racks which were $10 cheaper than their 25 sq foot ones.  With the smaller ones, they're easier to move around the house to catch the sun/bright rain.  And to move around to heat registers.

All Thanksgiving leftovers are gone, so here is what we're having for dinner this week.  Just a reminder (because I often get questions if I don't mention it) that breakfast is always smoothies, eggs, or oatmeal.  Lunches are leftovers from the night before.  We drink water kefir soda for our dinner meals.

Monday:: Ginger and Cilantro baked fish.  We can't get enough of this dish.  It will be wild cod that I purchased from Trader Joes yesterday.  We'll serve it with steamed edamame and fruit.

Tuesday:: Working late.  Jackers will eat at my aunt's, and I'll have something when I get home.

Wednesday:: Soup from the freezer, quesadillas, and fruit.

Thursday:: Eating at my parent's.

Friday:: Popcorn dinner! Yes, we really have popcorn for dinner.  It's served with fruit, veggie sticks, sliced cheese, and whatever else gets put out.  We watch a movie from the library, and no one leaves hungry.

Saturday:: Lasagna from the freezer, salad from the garden, and fruit.

Sunday:: Family dinner at my parent's.

This week I spent $29 at the grocery store, $31.30 at Trader Joes, $7.50 at the farm for raw milk and eggs, and $57 at Costco for a total of: $124.80.

How about you?  How was your week?  What are you having for dinner next week?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Reminder: Black Friday sale on Thrive

Teresa, our newest sponsor is having a huge sale on Thrive by Shelf Reliance items today!

Check out the huge sales!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankful me

Thanksgiving - also know as "Thursday" to anyone other than my American readers - is the day we're supposed to say what we're thankful for, etc.

However, I'm thankful each and every day for the gifts in my life.  My health, my family, my friends, and you knuckleheads.

Life is not all about money, but my blog focuses on it a bit.  I wanted to say a giant thank you to anyone who has purchased something I've recommended from Amazon, or were interested in a product, and clicked on my ads.  We've been hemorrhaging money since February because Troy was at the fire academy (unpaid) for three months, and then only working part-time after that waiting for his full-time position to open back up. And some months those contributions that you might deem little, made all of the difference for my family.

We've had a streak of good luck in the last week, and some day I'll tell you about it, but today I'm just wanting to say thank you and hope that you are all spending time with people you love, and people who love you back.

And to anyone who is going out for Black Friday, godspeed and good luck.  I'll be staying home baking bread and working on Jack's Superhero and Star Wars Christmas quilt (I know what you're picturing in your mind.  Now multiply that by 1 bajillion, add infinity.  Plus one.  And that is what his quilt will look like).  I'd rather get a pap smear from Edward Scissorshands, than to venture out in that cluster (bleep).

From my family to yours, have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Introducing our newest sponsor: Thrive, by Shelf Reliance

You guys, this is such a really cool concept!

Thrive, by Shelf Reliance offers delicious shelf-stable (some up to 20 years!!!) products that are wonderful to have on hand for emergencies, natural disasters, etc.  My whole goal for stocking up our home-canned goods is that we won't be forced to rely on hand outs and FEMA assistance should zombies attack there be some sort of disaster that prevents us from getting to the grocery store.  Shelf Reliance products are like an insurance policy for your family.

Teresa, a Thrive consultant, contacted me last month about Shelf Reliance products.  I didn't know much about the company, so she sent me a few samples to try out.

Dudes.  YUM.

My family tried the creamy chicken noodle soup, assorted flavors of yogurt, and the whole fruit slices.  The soup cooked up in about 15 minutes, and Troy and I practically licked our bowls.  Jack, my yogurt connoisseur, really enjoyed each flavor.  Per my usual routine of shoving food in his mouth during church to keep him quiet, he loudly declared the fruit slices "delicious.  The BEST mommy".  And my boy knows his fruit. 

Before I introduce you to Teresa, I want to point out that there is a huge sale on Friday (Black Friday), but you can preorder now if you'd like.  Contact her (details below) and reference me.  Pimp me out!

And now, here is a note from Teresa:

All of adult life I have been a closet food hoarder.  I think that there must have been some kind of serious depression era experience that impacted my parents as they lived meagerly.  There has always been a need in mind to "be prepared" with enough food.  So as time went on and my own little family was stable I stored cases of dry goods in our garage.  I learned to garden.  A few years ago a trusted friend who watches market trends and food commodities advised me to store enough wheat to feed my family for a year which amassed a ton of wheat in our garage.  You can imagine my husband's dismay at my take over of the "cave".  But once the wheat was all packaged, sealed, and stacked I sat back a little smug and thought "OK now I am set".

Not long after I had my "stash" as I referred to my collection of food stuff,  there was a bad growing season here in the NW and my garden did not do so well.  That got me thinking about my "stash" and I realized that if I really HAD to live off the "stash".  I would be very disappointed as I did not have any of the things I really loved like broccoli, cauliflower, and pea's, not to mention my favorite asparagus.  I don't care how you try to preserve some of these items there is no way to make them taste good.   I did not have any of the fruits that I love to just eat.  Not to mention what to do about cheese and who can live without butter?

Fortunately at this time I was introduced to Shelf Reliance and their AMAZING & DELICIOUS premium freeze-dried food line of THRIVE which totally knocked my socks off.  The taste of each item is so fresh and clean.  I began researching what separated Shelf Reliance form the rest of the freeze-dried food companies. Aside from taste and appearance the difference that sealed the deal for me is that ALL of THRIVE fruits, vegetables, and grains are GMO FREE and all of the meat & diary are hormone free as well as steroid free.  For a short informative article about freeze-dried food CLICK HERE .  Well you top that with the fact that all freeze-dried food has at least a 25 year shelf life unopened, open it is good and viable for upwards of 18 months to two years.  In my book that is a winner winner chicken dinner!
Well with that it was a no brainer for me, I became a Shelf Reliance consultant.   I began using the food in my every day meal prep and much to my surprise I was saving time and money.  Time, in the fact that I was not spending as much of it chopping, cutting, cooking of food.  I was heating water and simply assembling yummy dishes for my family.  Money in the fact that I was not throwing away parts of the food that I don't use like onion ends, but I paid for them. Nothing was spoiling in the fridge either.  So yet another time saver I don't have to clean out my fridge as often from science projects.  Having THRIVE foods in my long term storage as well as my working pantry gives me great piece of mind that I will never  be without.  I love this product and use it just about every day

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Answers to your burning questions

I had so much fun reading your questions last week!  Most of them made me giggle, and I appreciate the time you took to write them!  Shall we?

1) When will your husband finish his training? When he does do y'all plan on moving? If yes, where. Love hearing about peoples dreams or favorite cities/places to live.

Well this is a tricky answer.  It's a two year (unpaid) internship that I've always assumed started when the training started, but NOT SO as I found out just last month.  It is actually two years, plus.  So instead of it being over in January like I've been holding on to for two years, it's actually over in May.  You can only imagine what a peach I was when I found that information out...

We don't plan on moving.  He is applying for jobs all over the state because fire fighting schedules are pretty interesting.  Generally you work 24 hours on, and 48 off.  He would commute wherever he can get a job.  We'll stay here.  Our lives and our families are here.  My job is here!  And honestly, we won't see him any less than we do now!

In a magical world, we'd be able to buy our rental house from my parents.  We love this home, this town, and neighborhood.  We'd love to be here forever.

2) How do you do it all? No, seriously. HOW? Full time work, canning, housework, errands, etc. You make the rest of us look bad, lol. I'd love to know what a typical day/week looks like for you. And a photo of you looking absolutely haggard. Because then I'd feel better.

Honestly, I don't do it all!  Not even close!  I've written about a day in my life in the past, and you can read about it here

Also, I waitressed for years and learned to be efficient.  I had a manager (whom I hated) who used to tell us "be a semi truck".  It's the only thing the evil broad said that made any sense.  It means, don't walk around without a full load (so many jokes there, eh?).  If I'm in the kitchen and need to take something to the basement, I look to see if there is anything else I can take when I'm headed down there.  And when I'm coming up, do I need to bring anything with me?  It saves me trips and keeps things running smoothly.

Also, I may be the most efficient person you'll ever meet.  I can look at a situation, and my mind will automatically arrange the tasks in order of what is going to make the most sense.  It's a gift, and a curse.  For example, if one night I have to: 1) make yogurt 2) make water kefir 3) do prep work for dinner tomorrow, and 4) do laundry.  My mind will reorganize to think like this:

1) Take the laundry off of the drying racks and throw it in the dryer for 10ish minutes
2) Start the milk heating on the stove for the yogurt
3) While that is heating, do the water kefir
4) Stir the milk
5) Work on prep work for dinner
6) Stir the milk
7) Finish prep work
8) Stir the milk, and make the yogurt
9) Fold the laundry

Troy and I often have issues with housework division of labor (when he is home) because I can't fathom why it takes him two hours to do what I can in 35 minutes.

Also, and this is a big one, my productivity shot up dramatically once we killed the cable.  Holy smokes it's amazing what you can do when you are only watching TV on your laptop via Hulu!

And finally, all day long, whatever I'm doing, I'm thinking of this blog and you knuckleheads.  It fills my mind and my dreams to the point where when I sit down to actually write, the blog post is already written in my head.

I had Jack take this photo Saturday morning.  No make up, sweaty bed head, eye boogers, and natty bathrobe.  Enjoy!
That is a toy cowboy gun behind me.  And targets that Troy made out of paper plates.  They're not modern sculptures of boobs.
3) First of all, move back to LA b/c I miss you. Second-what's your favorite homemade dressing/marinade and please provide examples of how it is versatile. Also, if you don't have a yard and don't like nasty smells, any advice for creating a compost pile whist living in an apartment? 

Sorry love, I'm never moving back!  But I do miss you!

For the dressing, I'll have to do a separate post because I'm still waiting on my aunt's permission to post her recipe.  For a marinade, I have my friend Elaina to thank for this - olive oil and Montreal Steak Seasoning.  It's perfect on red meat, chicken, and vegetables.  You can get it pretty cheap at Costco (under $7 for a year's supply).  We love it on everything, and have gotten my in-laws addicted to it.

Do you have a balcony?  You could do a small worm bin out there, or a small indoor composter.  Compost only gets really stinky if you don't have the proper ratio of dry items to wet items.  For all the veggie scraps you put in, you need something dry in there.  Since you work from home, you probably have a shredder at home.  You can put in a handful of shredding every time you put in food.

4) I found your blog because I was interested in getting my "can on"! LOL! I have only just tipped my toe in canning with just jams, apple slices/sauce, and pear sauce so far. I would love to know how many jars you use throughout the year to have on hand to can your food to feed your family of 2 and a 1/4 (we are the same here!)? Oh, and one more...freezing you have to seal them first in a water bath or just finger tight? Sorry, that was 2 questions...oh just sue me! :)

Oh goodness, I honestly don't know how many we go through.  I've doubled what I canned last year, so I had to invest in more jars for sure.  I went and counted them, just for you!  I currently have (filled):
  • 152 quart jars (~13 dozen)
  • 55 pint jars (~5 dozen)
  • 49 half-pint jars (~4 dozen)
I still have 1 pumpkin left to can, and, um 50 pounds of potatoes.

For freezing, you just put the lid and ring on and freeze!  Make sure you only use the wide mouth jars for freezing; you can't use regular mouth jars.  And leave an inch of headspace for the stuff to expand as they freeze.  When you go to use the jars, you need to let the food inside defrost as much as possible.  Trying to heat a jar with frozen stuff inside is a recipe for breakage.

5) Do you ever say, screw it, I REALLY want a Big Mac? ;) 

Ha, no.  But it's not because I'm a saint; I do eat Costco hot dogs!

I don't like Big Macs because I just don't enjoy burgers from any restaurants.  When we lived in Los Angeles, and I wasn't really in to healthy eating, I'd still order a grilled cheese from In and Out Burger.  My father, and Troy both make the greatest hamburgers in the world; eating anything else is like chewing on cardboard.

When I want fast food, my preference is Quiznos.

6) Do you ever get really strange looks from family and friends when they hear about your water kefir? And what do you do with your extra grains.

Not really.  I've learned to "know my audience" and not bring up weird hippy stuff amongst people I know will think it's too weird.  My family is used to my shenanigans, and are generally interested in my new weird stuff.  My aunt and uncle were true "back to the landers" in the day (we're talking outhouse and everything), so there is a sense of "been there, done that" in my family that doesn't make me feel weird.

My grains haven't reproduced in awhile now (they're almost 18 months old), so I just keep using the same ones without having to pawn them off on others.

7) For your garden, I remember you having lots of tomatoes. Do you fertilize? How many plants do you have? I want to maybe can some sauce next year but my tomato growing skills apparently stink - I think I got maybe 5 all year off of 3 plants.

I had 8 plants last year, and 14 this year.  I'll probably stick close to 15(ish) going forward.  You're going to hate me for this, but my secret to growing heavily producing tomatoes is to ignore the hell out of them.  I put straw down as mulch, and I water them maybe once or twice a month, and basically just forget they exist until they're ripe.  It's always worked for me, and I'm pleased with the results and the lack of time I have to spend on them.  Because I don't use chemical fertilizers, I let my plants grow organically.  Some times this takes them longer to ripen or put on growth, but when they do, they're extremely strong and hardy.  We rarely, if ever have pest damage, and I do absolutely nothing to prevent pests.  We do have the neighborhood peacocks who help out with pest control, but really strong plants are the best barrier!

In order to do that, I have to start with strong seeds.  I grow my own and have had wonderful results with Baker Creek, and Territorial Seeds.  The seeds are more expensive and you get fewer, but honestly the quality is worth it to me.  If you don't have a desire to grow your own, seek out a farmers market.  I get a few plants from a woman who grows her plants organically at the bargain price of 3 for $12.  They're always wonderful and strong producers.

8) How do you get all that canning/gardening/DIY stuff done with your little guy around? I can barely get basic housework and cooking done with my kids running around undoing things! Maybe you should add some parenting tutorials to the canning ones! 

I do most of my canning and DIY stuff when Jack is asleep.  Gardening is done when Jack is awake.  Our yard where our main garden is located, is fully fenced and has a lot of paved area.  Jack can play with his toys, draw with chalk on the sidewalk etc.  He also likes to race his little cars down the wheelchair ramp we have on our front porch.

I once observed Jack (through the one way mirror in his preschool classroom) stab a girl in the hand with his breakfast fork. I don't feel comfortable telling other people how to parent their kids.  HA!

9) So my question is...when do you sleep? Or is like, not sleeping your secret to accomplishment?
My son didn't sleep through the night until he was 13 months old.  I used to sleep 90 minutes at a time and commuted 2.5 hours a day.  It's amazing I didn't crash the car.

I give you that background to let you know, I refuse to compromise sleep.  I'll leave the house filthy (except the kitchen which I always clean before bed.  I hate the idea of having to clean it in the morning), rather than skimp on sleep.  I typically get 6-8 hours a night.  I wake up at least 3 times a night to pee (small bladder and a love of water).  I don't seem to require as much sleep as most people; I'm quite productive on 5 ish hours.  My friend Elaina likes to say "I don't know how you parent without coffee".  

10) Do you have any hot red headed friends who live in PA?  (from my friend Mary)
As a matter of fact I do.  My yearly subscription to "Hot Philly Gingers" guarantees it!

11) How do you get Jack to eat veggies? My little boy is 2 and my "big boy" is 35 and they both have tantrums if I try to cook a vegetable with dinner or hide it in dinner. 

Frankly, I really don't.  Jack has to take a bite of a carrot stick before dinner, and he's at the point where he just bites it without complaining now.  He'll let me put kale and spinach in smoothies, and I have a few sneaky recipes, but honestly I just don't stress about it.

I was a veggie hater as a child, but eventually I learned to love them as an adult.  I don't stress about his diet because it doesn't seem to help.  I just hope and pray he enjoys them at some point. 

12) I find in order to get everything I need/want to get done I end up cutting back on sleep. How many hours a night do you actually get to sleep? What does a typical week look like? What does your week look like during canning season?

I get 6-8 hours a night.  See the answer to #9 above for a more in-depth response.  I don't have a typical week because it depends on what Troy's schedule looks like, but here is my typical day.  I only can at night, which typically ends up being Fridays and Saturdays unless it's a super small batch (jam, diced tomatoes, etc.).  It depends on what I'm processing, but I'll typically can from 7 pm until midnight including clean up.  Keep in mind that canning really only takes place from August - November around here, with the occasional batch of chicken stock throughout the year.

13) For you, what is the hardest part about living frugally and eating cleanly? xoxo

For me, it was figuring everything out.  These people say "don't eat that", and others say "that is the best thing for you".  I think once you filter out all the noise (and super aggressive and angry foodie people.  Sheesh!), just eat how you think your body wants you to.  Eat what makes you feel good.  I refuse to believe that food is "one size fits all".

And honestly, I don't stress about it.  When I want Quiznos, or a Costco hot dog, I'll have it.  Beating myself up because I'm not eating perfectly in the eyes of others seems like an exhausting way to live my life.

In terms of frugal eating, once I got a few recipes under my belt, and stocked up my pantry, it was pretty easy.  Just like building a house, you have to have a strong foundation to start.  That can be a long process, so I'd encourage anyone just getting started to be patient and forgiving with yourself on this journey!

xoxo right back!

14)  How do you store all your "canned" foods? How big and what is the lay out of your garden (number of what plants in what sq ft.) (wanting to start one next year and pack a lot in a small space). Have you thought of writing a book or at least compiling and organizing posts for publishing?

I have a heavy-duty wire 5 shelf set up from Costco.  My in-laws bought a bunch for their basement and this was an extra one they didn't want anymore.  It looks like this one, but mine has an extra shelf on it.  And they're much cheaper at Costco.

That shelf is no longer enough (I went nuts this year), but thankfully Troy had built a bunch more wooden shelves.  I can't really show you a photo because I've submitted them to an online magazine, and they have exclusive rights to photos for 6 months.  Once the article is published, I'll link it!

I have absolutely no clue how big our garden is because it's so spread out around the property.  We have 1/5th of an acre (but most of it is unused because of lack of sunlight), and I have pockets here and there.  This garden tour will give you a good idea of the layout.  My new garden boxes are planted very intensively, and I'll be posting about them in the next few weeks.  Stay tuned!  Planting a lot in small places takes some wonderful compost, and good planning.  Look up "Square Foot Gardening" at your local library.  A man named Mel Bartholomew wrote a great book about it.  Why reinvent the wheel, right?  Even if you're not doing raised beds, his ideas still have lots of merit.

To your last question, wow, thank you.  It's very cool that you would think of me in that capacity.  The answer is yes, I think about it.  Often.  Like all the time often.  But, I don't have the time right now to devote to doing it properly, and I don't believe in doing things half-assed.  Maybe once Troy gets a consistent job, and our schedule is more flexible (i.e., I don't do EVERYTHING around the house), I'll re-examine it.  I currently have about 30 minutes a day to devote to this blog.  I couldn't imagine adding deadlines on top of that.  It wouldn't be fair to Jack for me to pursue anything until our lives are more settled.

However, I do publish a monthly recipe to U.S. Kids, Parents and Teachers which has been so much fun!  And, I'll be announcing another fun collaboration project very soon.

15) From when you moved from LA to Washington do you have any cheap or special organizing techniques for the big move? My husband and I are planning a move from LA to Boston later this year and the packing is already making me nervous.

Organizing - have a huge garage sale and get rid of anything you don't want to have to pack and then unpack!  I also bought colored index cards, and assigned each room in the house a color (it was a very very small apartment).  I'd tape the index card to the outside of the box and list what was in there.  When we unpacked the moving truck, you could tell immediately where that box was supposed to go.  And for the next few days as we unpacked, we knew where stuff was if we were searching for a particular item.

Also, this is my favorite tip and I have no idea why everyone doesn't pack like this.  Use your clothes, towels, and linens to pack dishes and other breakables.  Why waste space on newspaper, when you have to pack your clothes anyway?  This kind of screws up the "what's in the box" theme with the index cards, but as long as you have a few staple clothes items with you, it's ok if you don't find a few shirts or towels for a week or so.

Once we priced everything out, it was cheaper for someone else to drive our stuff for us.  We had two cars, and would have had to tow one using a Uhaul, and someone would drive the other one.  Between gas, and frustration of having to drive a giant moving truck, I had no desire to get home like that.  From Washington to Los Angeles, and Los Angeles back to Washington, we used Upack and I highly recommend them.  They drop off a semi trailer to your house (it was a challenge to find parking for it in LA, but we made it work), and you have something like 48 hours to pack it.  Once you pack it, you build these temporary walls in front of your stuff.  The walls are kind of like suctioned to the wall; they provide them, and they're very easy to set up.  Then they fill the rest of the trailer with commercial stuff.  In effect, you're only sharing in the cost of driving it, so it makes it much cheaper than doing it yourself.

We did pay $200 to have two guys pack the truck in Los Angeles.  I was 6 months pregnant, and Troy had just thrown his back out, so it was money well spent!

16)  What was the pin that made you famous :)
Hee hee, I'm giggling at "famous".  Back in March, someone pinned something to Pintrest, and overnight my readership grew pretty dramatically.  It was my homemade Vicks Vapor rub disks.

17) Will you teach me to can?
Of course!

Thanks everyone for submitting questions.  I had such a great time answering them!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Homemade Mondays, week 3

Homemade Mondays is a series for people that are on a journey to better living, via healthier eating and a more natural lifestyle.  We realize that there are different paths that we all take to get to that place, and this bloghop celebrates that.  Whether you’re a seasoned raw foodist who has banned all things unnatural, or a rookie who is starting out by cutting out junk food, we’d love to hear from you! Link up with your favorite recipes, projects, crafts, or rants and raves.

The Hosts

Aubrey of Homegrown & Healthy 
How to
Homemade Mondays will open every Monday. You have until Thursday to make your submissions. We will share our favorite posts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and shout it from the rooftops.
  • Link up. Use the submission form below to add your blog posts to our gallery below. You can add as many links as you’d like, as long as they’re on topic. What’s eligible? Recipes, crafts, DIY projects, gardening, fitness, green ideas or just plain old advice. We’re pretty open.
  • Tell us about yourselves. Leave a comment telling us a little about your site and what you’ve shared. Of course this isn’t mandatory, but it’s a good way to stand out.
  • Link back. Share the love by adding a link back to this party with your readers so they can see all of these great ideas as well.
 My favorite post from last week is "Why mama why"?  Loved it, and I kinda want to be neighbors with this woman!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Meal plan for November 19th - 25th, and the weekly bout of the word runs

Oh boy, sickness has hit our house again.  It's Troy again (no surprise there), and it's some sort of tummy thing that is going around the fire station.  He started getting sick last night; after Jack and I had spent the whole day with him.  I'm just praying we didn't catch it.  I want to take Jack away from the house, but I feel like going anywhere would only infect others.  We're staying home from church today, because Jack's favorite part of the service is when we all greet each other in the morning and shake hands.

His second favorite part is when they hand out the snakes!

Ha, just a little organized religion joke for you all.

In happier news, we found out this week that Troy got his full time job back as an EMT!  He was working full time until he went to the fire academy from February to May.  They dropped him down to part time (which was super generous to even let him keep his job), and between not working during the three months in the academy, and then part time after that, we've been hemorrhaging money.  Such a blessing for him to go back to full time!

Any BareMinerals (Escentuals) users out there?  I've been using it for probably two years now.  It's more expensive than drug store make up, but I am willing to spend the money for a few reasons:
  • It has a pretty good score from the SkinDeep database.
  • It lasts forever.  Like forever.  The little $27 container lasts me a year.
  • It doesn't make me breakout.
  • This one is the most important - they make a pale enough shade for me.  I can't find any drug store make up that comes in "butt white".  This stuff doesn't give me the make up line, and blends in well.
Anyhoo, I went to Macy's last week to get a new container, and they have these huge jars of the original foundation available for the holidays right now.  It's easily 2.5 times the size of the original one, but it's only $11 more.  I bought it because it will last me well over two years.  The upfront cost is worth it to me for a larger supply.  If you use this make up, check it out because it's a great deal compared to the original price.

Yesterday we met up with another local blogger for lunch, and an introduction to our butcher.  We had a great time!

Now, you know me, and know that this is not a political blog.  Back in June I wrote about Batman and Robin's right to be happy.  Other than that, I keep my mouth shut about politics.  Generally.  Until like now.

Everyone has a very personal opinion about gay marriage, and it's not my place to tell you how you and your family should feel about it.  But, this is my blog and I tell you about my family and myself, so that's that.  It may lose me a few readers, but to them I say, what a boring world to live in if you only choose to read things written by people who you agree with.

I couldn't be more proud of my Washington State neighbors for legalizing gay marriage during the last election cycle.

When I was younger, my dad was driving me home from school one day.  I asked if I could stay up late to watch 20/20 that night (I was really cool from a super early age) because Elton John was going to talk about being gay, and "OMG dad being gay is so weird".

My dad slammed on his brakes and pulled the car over to the side of the road.  I was then treated to a 10 minute lecture about how being different from others is not weird.  And that people are people and need to be treated with respect regardless of their differences from me.

Message received dad!

And on that note, let's talk food!

Monday:: this was supposed to be roast chicken, skillet potatoes, and fruit, but I think I'm going to make that tonight for dinner.  Originally we were going to my parent's house today, but I don't want to infect anyone with whatever Troy has.  I'll probably make breakfast dinner tomorrow.

Tuesday:: Hot dogs (the Trader Joe's nitrate-free ones), Brussels Sprouts, and fruit.

Wednesday:: Taco soup from the freezer (we never did eat this last week, because my amazing mother-in-law cooked one night!), quesadillas, and fruit.

Thursday:: Thanksgiving coma!

Friday:: Popcorn dinner.  I get a lot of questions about our popcorn dinners.  I make popcorn on the stove, we have sliced fresh fruit, veggie sticks, slices of cheese, and whatever else I feel like putting on the plate.  We watch a movie from the library, and just chill.  No one leaves hungry, and it's limited work on my part.

Saturday:: Pizza (this didn't get made last week either), salad from the garden, and fruit.

Sunday:: Family dinner at my parent's.  Unless Troy gets the plague or something.

I still need to run to the farm to get raw milk ($3.50 for a half gallon), but we spent $50 at the grocery store this week.  Organic cranberries were on sale, and let's just say I went a little nuts stocking up on them.

What are you guys having this week?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Burning questions with your blogger

Good morning!  I have what I think will be a fun exercise for us.

I'm asking you to comment or email me directly with a "burning question" you might have for me.  I'll comply them all for a post next week.  Something like:

Don't you ever...
How do you...
Do you seriously...
What is up with...
Why do you...
(your question here)

As long as they don't impact my family's safety, I'll answer each one to the best of my ability!

Can't wait to see what you come up with!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Speedy homemade Spanish Rice

I won't say this is true, legit Spanish rice, but I did get the general recipe from my friend Elaina, a Jewish woman married to a Mexican American.  This is my interpretation of her interpretation from her mother-in-law.  It's like Telephone, but for recipes.

I love this recipe because it allows me to use my dutch oven (our cast iron love runs deep), and it saves well in the fridge for a few days.  The actual cooking time is long, but the hands-on time isn't much.  I always use the cooking time to do other prep work for the week.

Spanish Rice
1/4 stick butter (mmmm)
1/2 onion, sliced
2-3 stalks of celery, diced
2 cups of rice
2 cups of chicken or  veggie broth
V8 or something similar
Garlic - go nuts.  It's up to you

1) Heat your dutch oven and the butter over medium heat, until the butter is fully melted.

2) Add the rice.  Stir and cook until the rice begins to "toast" and brown.  Add the celery and onion, and cook for a few more minutes.  Add the garlic at the tail end of cooking the celery and onion.  If garlic cooks too long, it can burn and be nasty!

3)  Add a splash of your vegetable juice of choice.  Elaina and I had a good giggle when she told me to add a can of V8 to it and then the chicken broth,  I was thinking of the huge cans of V8 plus the chicken broth, and was picturing rice soup.  She meant those tiny little cans.  I just used a splash of the bottled stuff.  Maybe a scant 1/4 cup.

4)  Add the chicken broth.  Put the lid on, and cook for 20 minutes (stir once or twice), or until the rice has reached your desired texture.

This is the base for my "taco bowl" dinners.  Start with the rice, add black beans*, sliced avocado, salsa, sliced green onion, maybe a few tortilla chips (seek and devour Juanitas brand if you can find them.  Amazing) and a little cheese.  Delish, and ohhhh so inexpensive!  I rarely add meat to these bowls because between the beans and chicken broth, you're getting a good deal of healthy/filling protein.

*About every three months, I make a huge batch of black beans in my giant crockpot, and then freeze them in wide mouth pint jars.  Put them on the counter in the morning, and they defrost beautifully by dinner.
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Monday, November 12, 2012

Homemade Mondays, week 2

I'm super excited to introduce the newly "revamped" Mostly Homemade Mondays.  I hope you like the changes!

Homemade Mondays is a series for people that are on a journey to better living, via healthier eating and a more natural lifestyle.  We realize that there are different paths that we all take to get to that place, and this bloghop celebrates that.  Whether you’re a seasoned raw foodist who has banned all things unnatural, or a rookie who is starting out by cutting out junk food, we’d love to hear from you! Link up with your favorite recipes, projects, crafts, or rants and raves.

The Hosts

Aubrey of Homegrown & Healthy 
How to
Homemade Mondays will open every Monday. You have until Thursday to make your submissions. We will share our favorite posts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and shout it from the rooftops.
  • Link up. Use the submission form below to add your blog posts to our gallery below. You can add as many links as you’d like, as long as they’re on topic. What’s eligible? Recipes, crafts, DIY projects, gardening, fitness, green ideas or just plain old advice. We’re pretty open.
  • Tell us about yourselves. Leave a comment telling us a little about your site and what you’ve shared. Of course this isn’t mandatory, but it’s a good way to stand out.
  • Link back. Share the love by adding a link back to this party with your readers so they can see all of these great ideas as well.
My favorite post from last week is Stephanie's Better Than Quaker Granola Bars - yum!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Meal plan for November 12th - 18th, and the weekly bout of verbal diarrhea

Happy Sunday!  Troy is sick, so I spent last night on the hide-a-bed so that I wouldn't catch his plague, and so I can get some sleep.  Troy snores and is annoying to this light sleeper on a good day.  When he has a man cold, I pretty much spend the night awake, plotting to murder him.

Jack and I are hanging out on the hide-a-bed eating breakfast and watching cartoons.  It's a nice way to spend a morning before we head off to church.

Something super silly happened a few weeks ago and I totally forgot to write about it.  I'm taking Cultural Anthropology through a local college this term.  My plan is to eventually go to grad school in a few years, and I'm taking a class each term to beef up my GPA.  I don't really want to go to grad school, but I've pretty much reached the top of where I can go in my field without further education.  If only I could become a professional blogger...HA

Anyhoo, my instructor gives us a practice essay before the real test and lets us write up a sample and send it to her for review.  Last test focused on the founding of cultural anthropology, and had a ton of names and terms that needed to be included.  I received my essay back with her comments, and I giggled so hard at one of the comments.  I had written about Daniel Radcliff-Brown, and she made a note that said "he usually goes by his first initials A.R.".  After looking at that for a second, it hit me.  Daniel Radcliff is the kid who played Harry Potter!  Whoops!  Good thing my instructor has told us she doesn't watch TV or movies, or she would think I'm a huge idiot.  I ended up getting a 98% when I wrote the formal essay for the class, but I still laugh about including Harry Potter in my practice essay.

Tuesday, Jack and I set up his little table (which belonged to my sis and I when we were little) to watch the election results.  I don't think he really "got" it, but he didn't yell for me to turn it to cartoons, so that's a win.
The drinks are our favorite flavor of water kefir soda - blackberry!

Thursday we took Jack to the pediatrician because of his really loud snoring.  His doctor looked in his throat and yelled "oh my gosh"!  Homeboy's tonsils are touching his uvula.  We've been referred for a sleep study so that they can test to make sure he's not losing any oxygen when he is snoring.

Jack is 75-90th percentile for height and weight.  She said he has the spatial ability and vocabulary of a 5 year old.  And apparently the tonsils of one!

Last night we were having a couple over for dinner.  The menu was: roasted chicken, roasted brussel sprouts, dutch oven bread, and apple pie.  So naturally, our oven decided that morning to break.  I was preheating the oven for the bread yesterday morning and heard a weird noise, saw a flash, and watched the element in the bottom of the oven flare, flash, and break.  Sadly, I found out that you can't just buy one of these from Lowes; you have to order them.  Lowes was having a huge sale, and I got a case of the "gimmes" when I found a $1,000 gorgeous convection oven on sale for $599.  I can't believe I was even thinking about it!  I'm much rather have a new fridge than a new stove (our fridge is the devil), but man I was tempted.

We ordered the element and should have a working stove again by the middle of next week.  Total cost, $45.  A bit more frugal than a whole new oven!  And thanks to a well-stocked pantry, fridge, and freezer, we were able to pull a BBQing dinner out of our butts.  Hamburgers with salad, grilled potatoes, dilly beans, and banana splits with homemade whipped cream, topped with cherries that I had canned in the summer.

The irony of all this is that last Monday I told Troy that I wanted to start saving for an eventual wood stove that also had an oven in it.  He laughed at me and said "why"?  Troy is very paranoid and always is looking out the window when he hears a noise.  I like to say "is there a kid on your lawn old man"?  He jokes that "some day my paranoia will save our lives", to which I say "yes, but we'll be able to eat and survive because of my (canning/prepper) paranoia".

I explained that the wood stove would help heat the house, and should (and when) the zombies attack, it would be nice to be able to have some hot food.  So naturally, the oven exploded a few days later.

We have an enormous mason jar the size of a toddler in our bedroom that we used to fill with spare change.  Troy kept stealing it for soda money (major side eye from me), so I stopped putting money in there.  It is now off limits to taking, and we're saving up for the stove of my dreams.  It's the black one in the middle of the page without the soap stone.

Thankfully for this week we have enough food that can be made on the stove, so we can survive being oven-less for a bit.  Despite Washington legalizing pot on Tuesday, our menu for the week is very much "unbaked".

Monday:: arroz con pollo, black beans (from the freezer), and fruit.

Tuesday:: I'm working late.  The boys will have quesadillas, fruit, and if god is on my side, Jack will eat a carrot stick.

Wednesday:: We're eating at my in-laws before soccer practice.

Thursday:: Tortilla soup from the freezer, garlic bread, and fruit.

Friday:: Popcorn dinner!  Popcorn, sliced cheese, fruit, veggies, etc.

Saturday:: Homemade pizza, salad from the garden, and fruit.

Sunday:: Family dinner at my parent's.

This week I spent $55 at Trader Joes for stocking up, $30 at the grocery store, $7 at our local butcher, and I'll be buying raw milk ($3.50) and hopefully eggs ($8) at our local farm later today.

How about you guys?  What are you eating this week?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Canned apple slices

Just when I thought I was done, they pulled me back in.  Who is they?  The evil people that run the fruit CSA that I bought in to in the spring.  They had to know that by November, surely I'd be sick of canning and surely I shouldn't purchase TWO shares from them, right?

They led me astray and cashed my check without a word.

To quote Stephanie Tanner, "how rude".

I've reached the tail end of canning, and I'm so excited that it's almost ever.  For reals yo.  I know I complain about canning a lot on here (you all must be sick of it, but hey, you seem to keep coming back to read, so who is the fool now?  Suckah.), but I had a good motivator/reminder last week about why I put myself through it.  My heart goes out to anyone impacted by Super Storm Sandy, and her devastating results.  The loss of life and property makes my heart ache for the east coast.

However, seeing that people are living without electricity and throwing out tons of food that is spoiling makes me strap on the ole canning shoes and get to work.  Should something happen to our energy supply, my family will be set for a bit, and hopefully be able to help out our neighbors.

Unless there is an earthquake of course.  Glass jars and all.  Then, we're screwed.

As I looked at the 40 pounds of Fujis in front of me, I just couldn't take one more night of canning applesauce.  It's messy, it's time consuming, and I hate cleaning the apple bits out of the food mill screen.  I wanted something easier, and boy oh boy I found it in the canned apple slices recipe from National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP). 

Just a heads up that apparently I either smoked some meth or need my eyes checked because these photos are TERRIBLE.  Late night canning doesn't lend itself to lovely photos apparently.

1) Peel and core your apples.  I use this do-hickey and it makes pretty quick work of it.  Put your apple on it like this:

Then turn the crank and it will peel the apple.

And leave the core.

And give you a nicely peeled apple.

2) Cut the apple in half, and you'll get perfectly sliced apples.

3) Put the slices in water with lemon juice or citric acid.

4) Once you have a bunch of slices soaking, combine water and sugar (optional) and bring to a low boil.  Because the NCHFP says you can use plain water, I felt safe canning these in only the lightest syrup.  I did 6 quarts of water to 1 cup of sugar.  I picked a syrup simply for the color preservation in the jars.

5) Cook the apple slices in batches in the hot water (syrup), and boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

6) Transfer the cooked apples to a crockpot to keep them warm.  From there, put them in your hot and sterile canning jars.  I found that tongs worked the best for this.

7) Cover the apples with some of the hot water or syrup, allowing for 1/2 inch of headspace.

8) Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean rag.

9) Put a sterilized and hot lid on the jar, and secure with a ring.

10) Process in boiling water for 20 minutes.
You gotta put the lid on. After taking a photo, naturally!
11) Remove after processing and allow to cool completely untouched for at least 12 hours.  Label, and store in a cool and dark place.  Well, after you pose them for a pretty picture of course!

One of these jars didn't seal, and I noticed one had a fruit fly in it the next morning (gross).  So, we opened up the one with the fruit fly (oh don't you judge me!) for breakfast.  They were delicious sprinkled with cinnamon!  And that fruit fly?  Exquisite.

My plans for these?  Apple pies, apple muffins, pancakes and waffles topped with apple slices - oh my!  The first true test run for these bad boys will come on Saturday.  Troy just invited a coworker over to dinner after I had already done my grocery shopping and meal planning.  Dessert will be apple pie since I have everything already.

If you're familiar with etiquette, could someone please fill me in on how you politely divvy up a fruit fly?  I don't want to short our guests, but I don't want to miss out on that awesome deliciousness!

Too far? 


Forgive me, it's the meth talking.

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