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):
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!