Monday, December 30, 2013

This Past Year

The new year is just about here and now is good time to look back over the accomplishments of the past year. I have had the opportunity to learn many new skills, climb out of my comfort zone and create some great memories with my family. Here is list of some of the things that happened around here this year.

1. This blog was started so that I could keep up with all the things we have done.
2. I started learning how to crochet and made some wonderful Christmas presents.


3. I made some homemade candles for the first time in years from old bits of used up candles.


4. The garden was expanded. It was in this area that I learned the most. We had bugs and animal problems all season that really put us to the test.


5. A fall garden was attempted for the time. Cabbage bugs pretty much destroyed everything no matter how diligent I was with picking them off.


6. Most of the plants in the garden were started by seed. This was the first year that we used seeds rather than transplants purchased at the garden center. The kids were so excited with each little bit of green that poked up out of the dirt. I felt great knowing that I could grow things on my own.


7. Canning. Never canned a jar in my life before this year. I was scared and excited at the same time. We can salsa, tomatoes, peaches, radishes, pickles and peppers. 


8. We grew watermelon. Heirloom watermelon. The biggest watermelon ever. Well maybe not ever but these things were huge. These melons fed the whole neighborhood and several family members.


9. I learned how to make homemade bread. The family learned to like it. Now if only I could make it happen more often.


Over all we learned a lot this year. I learned a lot and share the results with my family. Our lives have slowed down even though we are always moving about and being busy. There is a contentment that has surrounded my soul and warmed my heart thanks to our new outlook on life. What a difference a year can make and I am excited for what the new year will bring. 



Thursday, December 26, 2013

Keeping Up with the...

Christmas was a success in our household. They day was filled with gifts and homemade foods including pumpkin cinnamon rolls, stromboli, and turkey with all the fixings. I managed to stay in my pajamas all day long, it was Christmas after all. Late in the evening I did shower and put a clean pair of pajamas. I felt great to sit around and not really do much of anything. We played games, watched moves, played music together and just hung out in general. Now getting back to real life is a must and unfortunately not everyday is a wear your pj's and play games kind of day. 

Since altering our lifestyle there has been one quote that haunts me. I will be going through my day and it will pop into my head it makes me feel guilty. The quote is, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” I try so very hard to live a life that can be reflected in this quote but it is so hard for me. Sometimes it is just easier to go to the store and get what I need and move through my day. The store is two minutes away, maybe 10 if I walk and more often than not spending a couple dollars is no issue. Take bread for example. I could get up 15 minutes earlier in the morning to get it prepped before the kids wake and then spend the rest of the morning finishing up the loaves in between the other household tasks. Or I can just run to the store and within a half hour at most have a loaf of bread, I would go as far as to say I could have a fresh loaf of bread baked by a local baker with quality ingredients in that period of time. So I guess that is what I struggle with the most, the desire to be this awesome homesteading, homemade marvel but I can't even force myself to make bread every week.  I have these huge goals for our home in the future and my husband, bless his soul, is on board with all of them but when I get hung up on the simple tasks I feel like our goals become that much more unobtainable. 


The internet does not help this feeling of inadequacy. I look to a lot of blogs to learn new tips, tricks, and find people who think like me, it can be inspiring. On the other hand when these blogs are a source of income for the writers, some of the posts almost become inconceivable to readers. I am always left with the impression that they jump out of bed before the sun, no matter how cold, to milk the cow, bake their bread and cook breakfast for their kids. Then they write their blogs, sew a dress, make butter, and make a fabulous home cooked dinner then sit by the fire knitting until bedtime. Yes, I know that in real life the aforementioned routine might be completely fictional yet believable due to the disconnect of the internet with reality but dang namit I really want to be like that awesome homesteading marvel. So tomorrow I am going to get up a few minutes early and start that bread! Or maybe I'll just try to get through another day hoping that the dog stops trying to attack her new bed, the kids fight only a little bit, and the house is some semblance of clean by the time my husband walks through the door.  Simple living is similar to pulling a thistle from the garden. With time and patience the thistle is entirely removed and the garden able to flourish yet by trying to remove the weed too fast the roots snap from the rest of the shoot allowing the thistle to continue growing. Simple living= time + patience - keep up with others. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas

Our Tree from Last Year 

Good morning, it is Christmas Eve! Our home is buzzing with excitement and we have everything all prepared so we get to just hang around the house all day. I love Christmas time so much. The lights, decorations and food make every day leading up to Christmas Day feel special. An added bonus which is making me very excited this year is that for the first time in years I will not have to go into work on Christmas Day. I look forward to spending the day together in our warm house sharing in the excitement of open gifts and then having a wonderful spread of food to share with just the four of us. It will be a day were getting dressed is not required and the most important thing to do is enjoy each others company. No stressing about cooking big meal, no maintaining a perfectly clean home and no driving from here to there. The kids don't have to get stuffed into their good holiday clothes and be on their best behavior as they have been for weeks on end for all the Christmas parties, dinners, and visits. I love entertaining, especially during the holiday season. There is nothing like gathering everyone around a table and sharing a big meal and memories of Christmases past and making new memories to look back on but December is a marathon month. It is always important to me to take Christmas Day to ourselves and get our priorities in line again, to rest and recuperate. For four weeks we have lovingly given food, company, gifts and time to all of those around us that we love and care for. Now it is time for us to relax.

Homemade gifts by my daughter

I hope that everyone is able to enjoy some down time this holiday and spend time with those that they love. Create wonderful memories and enjoy that wonderful feeling that is in the air on Christmas.

Merry Christmas from Such a Lively Life!

Monday, December 23, 2013

5 Days of Cookies (Day 5)

The last day! Well, I showed that I am not able to commit myself to a blog series that lasts several days, without prior planning and scheduling. It didn't help that I chose the week before Christmas and the same week as the family Christmas party. I am sorry for my terrible ability to keep up and hope that you will stick with me as I attempt to salvage the series here with the very last cookie recipe. I thought very hard about the last cookie I would share and decided that I really wanted to share a cookie bar recipe. It is terribly bad for you, yet so rich and yummy that it is irresistible. Without further  adieu I present....




Seven Layer Magic Cookie Bars:
Ingredients:
1/2 cup margarine, melted
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut
1 14-oz can of sweetened condensed milk
Directions:
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Pour melted margarine into a 13x9 inch baking pan. Spread graham cracker crumbs evenly across the pan. Add semisweet chocolate chips and butterscotch chips. Then pour condensed milk covering entirely.  Top with coconut and then walnuts   Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the top is a light golden brown.


Day 4

I am rapidly falling behind on my cookie recipe sharing as we have been busy baking them in our home. The cookie I chose for today is a simple sugar cookie. This is such a fun cookie to make because they can be decorated so many different ways. Add sprinkles or icing or candies. What ever you have lying around that would make a good cookie topper would go great. The recipe itself is very simple and mixes up in about 2 minutes.

Oh the Joys of Holiday Baking

Expert Cookie Maker at Work

Sugar Cookies

1 cup of butter softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
Cream together butter and sugar
Add egg and vanilla
Combine flour and baking powder in separate bowl
Add dry ingredients to wet
Mix until combined
Divide dough into 4 equal parts and shape into disks
Cover the four disks and refrigerate for about an hour
Roll out dough on a flat surface sprinkled with powdered sugar to prevent sticking until about 1/3- 1/4 inch thickness.
Transfer to greased cookie sheet and bake until lightly browned about 5-8 minutes
Decorate!

My mom always rolled our sugar cookies out on flour. This year somewhere I heard about using powdered sugar and gave that a try. It added an extra layer of flavor to the cookie that I really liked so I will use powdered sugar from now on.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

5 Days of Cookies (Day3)

It would not be Christmas without having snickerdoodle cookies on a platter. This recipe came from my mom's copy of Joy of Cooking. She tweaked it a bit to make it her own. This is one of the cookies that my mom loves. I remember my dad used to tease her about her love for snickerdoodle cookies and she used to tease him about his endless quest to perfect the holiday eggnog. She hated his eggnog and he hated her snickerdoodle cookies. Last year was the first year that I baked these for my own family and friends. Many of the people who had some were so happy to have one of their favorite cookies that seems to have fallen by the wayside. This is a fun recipe for the kids to help with as this is another recipe they can use their hands to make a dough ball. 



Snickerdoodle Cookies

1/2 c butter
1/2 c shortening
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 3/4 c flour
2 t cream of tartar
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt

2 T sugar
2 t ground cinnamon 

Directions

Preheat over to 400 degrees F
Cream together butter shortening, sugar, eggs and vanilla
In a separate bowl combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt.
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients
Shape dough into 1 1/4 ball with hands
Roll into remaining sugar and cinnamon 
Place 3 inches apart on ungreased baking sheet
Bake 8-10 minutes until lightly browned  

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

5 Days of Cookies (Day2)

In addition to these wonderful Chocolate Chip cookies, we also make a Peanut Butter cookies for Christmas. These cookies were made in my home as a child for me to take to parties or school for snacks. I loved rolling the dough and then using the fork to give the cookie it's classic criss-cross design. Nowadays with so many children experiencing allergies to nuts we are unable to use this cookies as a contribution to kids parties. Instead I make them at Christmas time so that we can enjoy them at home. Oh, and I also make them at this time of the year so I can give them to a co-worker of mine who tried to take the whole box home for herself when I took them to work for the first time. These are a fun cookie to make with the kids as there is really a lot of hands of cookie forming that they can do. Drop cookies tend to be a little difficult for the small guy but he can roll these into a ball is no problem and the smashing with the fork is his favorite part.



I don't have the original recipe from my childhood but I found a close match several years ago. So that is the recipe I will be sharing. The original source is here.



Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar packed
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
Cream together butter, peanut butter and sugars. Add in eggs and mix.
Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and until thoroughly mixed.
Refrigerate for 1 hour
Roll into one inch balls a place on baking sheet flatten each ball with a fork making a criss-cross pattern.
Bake at 375 for about 10 minutes.

Some of my own notes: I use salted butter. It is usually what I have on hand, doesn't bother me.

I almost never sift the dry ingredients. I have tried it when I first got my sifter and it didn't seem worth
the effort but if you are a sifter go ahead and give it a go.

I never refrigerate the dough. By the time I make these cookies I want them right away and I am not waiting an hour. I find that the just made dough rolls easier into ball shape. If I did follow the rules 3 other people would be digging the dough out of the bowl in the refrigerator while leaving the door open.

I use all kinds of peanut butter creamy, crunchy, natural and the cookies are always awesome.

Lastly, I don't measure my sugar perfectly some times I go by how sweet I  want the cookies to be. I always use somewhere around 3/4-ish of a cup of granulated sugar and a very lightly packed cup-ish of brown sugar. As you can tell I am not a very technical baker.

I like to cook these until they are lightly browned. I transfer them to wire rack to let them cool and store them in a sealed container with the scrap end of the bread loaf. The bread gets all dry and crunchy while keeping the cookies soft and wonderful. I use this little trick for all of my cookies.

Monday, December 16, 2013

5 Days of cookies

One of the items on this weeks to do list is the annual Christmas cookie bake-a-thon. Over the next 5 days I will share a recipe for one of my families favorite Christmas cookies. The recipes I use are handed down and they are very basic. They each feature real ingredients from scratch. That's right real butter, real eggs, real treats for the holiday season. The first recipe I am sharing is my go to cookie recipe. It is a basic chocolate chip cookie. We tend to make these any old time that we are in the mood for a cookie and the kids are always requesting these. My mom found this recipe probably about 20 years ago on the back of an off brand bag of chocolate chips (I don't have any idea what brand it was) and it has been one of my favorites ever since.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup of butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups flour
1 to 2 cups chocolate chips (semi-sweet for me)

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.
Cream together first 5 ingredients.
In separate bowl combine baking soda, salt and flour.
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients.
Add chocolate chips.
Drop 2 inches apart on greased cookie sheet using a teaspoon.
Bake at 375 for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned.
Makes about 5 dozen cookies

We change the recipe up depending on our moods. More often than not I use 1 cup of chocolate chips rather than 2. Sometimes with we throw in chocolate covered candies instead of chips or walnuts. These cookies without a doubt always end up being set out on Christmas Eve for Santa. I think they may be his favorite too.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Kids at Christmas

Christmas preparations are in full swing in our household. We have been crafting and decorating for weeks. The family will be having a Christmas dinner in our home so the menu has been planned and any additional food has been purchased. We are planning to serve a lot of things that we grew and put up over the summer to share with our family. The cards have been mailed. It is such a busy time but we are enjoying the season so much. It is hard to keep grounded and keep things in check while those around us spend money like it is water. The roads are crowded and so are the parking lots, I try to avoid both as much as possible. The kids have been carefully selecting the items that they want on their Christmas lists and amazingly the lists have been very short (5 or 6 items each) and humble. There are some toys on the lists but thankfully my children have avoided being sucked in by marketing and have chosen items they truly want rather than the seasons hottest toys. I leave the toys to Santa. The kids know all year long when they want a toy that they should just store it in their memory for Christmas time because I very rarely, if ever buy toys. I tend to be the parent who gets all necessities for the kids like socks, pajamas, underwear, and sports items. Oh, and books, I LOVE books. New books, 2nd hand books, big books, small books, fiction, non-fiction.... I could buy and buy but I control my self. Honestly, these kids have such imaginations that what ever they are given will most likely be turned into something else sooner or later. They can turn anything into a toy, they are very resourceful.

A homemade "loom" for rubber band bracelets

A sword 

With a world that seems to spin out of control around me for the whole month I keep pausing to take in what is around me and focus on what really matter this time of year especially when it come to the kids. For years now we have been slowly building our own family traditions as we go. We always put up the tree on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and let the kids choose what ornaments will go on the tree and let them hang them while we dance around to Christmas music. The kids love to hang all of the ornaments they have created and they really like all of the wooden ornaments from my childhood. In December we bake cookies and go to the local park to look at the lights.


Little Guys ornament he made last year.

Wooden ornament (a family favorite).

We create a lot of memories without even realizing we are doing so until the next year comes around and the kids keep saying, "Remember when..."  and "I can't wait to do _______ again". While helping out in my oldest daughters class yesterday I saw posters the kids made displaying the most important thing about Christmas. Some of the answers: my elf on the shelf, toys, Santa, gifts. My kid wrote being with  family and friends. You get it little one, you really do! Only one other child had an awesome answer, Jesus, straight from her heart.

I think this may be the last year with my oldest believing in Santa. So many kids her  age have already decided that they no longer believe and are more than anxious to spread the news with their peers. Santa has always been a wonderful addition to the holiday in our home. We'll see what happens. I know this post maybe a little hokey and might seem like we are living an ideal Christmas movie life. Nothing could be further from the truth. The post comes from a moment when I forced my self to give up on the holiday that the commercials tell me I should have and look at all the things that are happening around me. I took a reflective look of our life at Christmas time. Our tree is overfilled with ornaments in some spots with huge empty areas in between. The ornaments themselves are old, chipped, and painted by the unsteady hands of children. The songs we sing are often sung at the top of our lungs and way off tune and the cookies usually include at least one batch that are too dark. During our trip to see the lights we are freezing despite being bundled up and you know what? We love it all... eventually because as my smart kiddo said, " The most important thing about Christmas is being with family and friends".




Black Fox Homestead




Tuesday, December 10, 2013

At it again



                                               

More snow this morning. So far we have had more snow in the past two days than we had all winter last year. I had a feeling in the early fall that this winter would have either a lot of little snow storms or a few major storms. There was something about the way the leaves were falling from the trees. The weather this fall was mild and the vegetable plants lasted longer than usual but the trees seemed to know what was in store as the leaves jumped from the trees. I am no weather person so we shall see as the winter goes on if it really is a rough winter for us.


Today's snow is the light fluffy kind that clings to everything it touches turning our small suburban neighborhood into a true winter wonderland. The trees and bushes look like they were painted white. The neighbors were out again in full force shoveling snow and lending each other a hand. The kids were "helpful" as they tried to help clear side walks with gardening trowels or any shovel they could plead an adult into giving them.


Once the work was done the warm house seemed to be calling us in. After a quick attempt at a snow man we headed in for some warm hot chocolate and bowls of soup. There is nothing like a snow day where there is nothing to do and no where to go. A check of the mail revealed my favorite seed catalog.  The Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Don't you love when your favorite seed catalog arrives? I love this catalog as it is filled with colorful photos, unusual seed varieties and recipes. I can't wait to pour over the pages picking out what I want to grow in our garden this year and get ideas for future years.


 Just when I feel like I am settling into winter this catalog is a reminder that before long time will march on and a new season will come. The cold will be replaced by warmth and the garden trowel will replace the snow shovel in my hand. Thus is the life of gardener always looking ahead and planning for the future.

How is the weather where you are?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Snow


We had a snow day yesterday. It was supposed to be an inch tops according to the forecast but we have  about 8 inches of the white stuff in the yard. We were out on the roads during the worst part of it (thank goodness for four wheel drive). We thought that it would stop before it got too bad but it just kept coming. The kids enjoyed playing outside once we were home and I kept my thermos filled with hot chocolate to keep the family warm in between bouts of being outside. The neighbors were out in full force helping each other dig out. I am so thankful for the wonderful people who live around us. It is nice to have a group of people who help each other and take care of each other.

This snow fall also means the end of my garden. With warmer temps this week and a little rain I uncovered the vegetables and of course in my complete lack of preparation I failed to cover  them before the storm. So now they are buried in snow and unprotected. Lesson learned. While growing your own food you can't afford to be lazy or forgetful you have to be prepared and always thinking ahead. It is hard to adapt to that mentality when there is always a safety net, in this case a grocery store that will be able to provide us with all the items this lapse in judgement cost us.

While we had snow here other areas in the country were facing terrible ice storms and even worse snow conditions than we saw. I hope that those people stay warm and safe.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Lessons From the Week

Lesson #1: Beagles are hunting dogs. My beagle reminded me of this fact by bringing me a dead mole that she had caught after snapping the metal hook that attached her lead to the house. The doggy sweater that she whined until I put it on her really added a special touch to the moment.

Lesson #2: In the eyes of a 7 year old girl you, as the mom, are always wrong. Until you are proven right, which in her eyes just says that you are less wrong than she is.

Lesson #3: Sometimes a three year old just has to spear his chicken nuggets with his miniature toy fishing pole in order to eat them. While not politically correct, within the walls of the home sometimes a moms gotta do what a moms gotta do.

Lesson #4: Tucking your vegetables in for the night under a layer of plastic makes your neighbors think you have really gone off the deep end.

Lesson #5: Filling homemade door draft  blockers with sand is a wonderful idea to keep the heat in. That is until the aforementioned 3 year old or hunting dog rips one end open. Then its kind of like Florida came to visit the living room.

Lesson #6: A chicken roasting in the oven and quilts on the couch are the perfect touches for settling in with the family as the cold threatens to make the first frost outside.

Friday, August 23, 2013

It is a busy time

Time has been flying by. As the change of the seasons approaches we are doing all kinds of preparations. I am happy to say that for our first time ever we have been good about staying ahead rather than procrastinating to the point that we never catch up. Over the last week we did a bit of fresh fruit picking at a local farm, 20 lbs. of peaches and 10 lbs. of tomatoes later we had to find something to do with it all. We did our first batch of canned peaches and salsa using recipes that we really liked. I am  just hoping that they last on shelf in the pantry. The seals have formed properly but the peaches have floated a little above the syrup so I am prepared for them to change color or do something. The salsa looks amazing in the jar and we will be taking it out when we have guest over to see if we are biased to the flavor because of all the hard work we put into the finished product, or if we really have learned how to create something wonderful.


 One would think that a kitchen filled with heat and steam that is cranking out pint after pint would be enough but we had some very big plans this week as we also planted our fall garden. We planted cauliflower, brussel sprouts, cabbage, and broccoli. The broccoli wound up in our front "flower bed" because we ran out of room in the garden, so we have officially moved up a rung in the crunchy, garden people world. I have to admit I kind of like it. The front used to be wasted space that served the purpose of making things look pretty. Now while the plants will still look pretty they will also allow me to provided my boy with one of his favorite foods.

We are also making the final back to school preparations. The supplies have been bought and uniforms are hanging ready. The children have been kept up to date on all their learning for the summer and they are excited to see what the new year brings. The little guy with be dipping his feet into the world of school a couple days a week while his sister will spend most of her time in the classroom. I really love when they are home in the summer and don't want them to leave but they are pretty free spirited children who love to venture into the world on their own. I also know that the teachers at their schools are much better suited to teaching them than I am. I like to supplement throughout the school year but leave a lot of the guiding up to the teachers. It works for us.

This busy time is going to keep going even though the tasks will change. The main goal will be to keep family time going as we settle into the new routine. How about you? Is your household going through a busy time as well?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Community

The value of community becomes clearer by the day. Living a life that is more simple does mean more time at home working with the family towards a set of common goals. It is easy to lose oneself in the chores that are required by the home, especially now that the garden in getting into high gear and the fall planting is approaching. Some times it does seem as if leaving the home is an inconvenience when there is so much that here needs attending. But while all the work in our home seems important the work outside our home is important also. It is important to be a part of the community, to know those who surround you and all of the things that they may have to offer. For ages we have been very close with those that work in our library now we have been forming relationships with others in our community. We are frequenting small locally owned stores and getting acquainted with the people who own and work there as well as their products. I am starting to form relationships with those that I work with. We have in the past couple weeks held fundraisers and showers for several of my co-workers, this does not mean that we are very involved in each others personal life but for the first time I am getting to see some of them as human beings with lives outside the work place. The over abundance of zucchini that are coming from the garden have made there way to neighbors and friends so that they may feed their families. All of these experiences have given me a feeling of community that I have never felt before. We are building stronger relationships with those around us and we are helping not only ourselves but others as well. Our community is a living, breathing and growing thing. It is a cycle of people that help and support each other and it is great to see so many people involved and I am proud to be taking on a bigger role in my community.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Bonding with the boy

Well, with one child out of the house it was just my boy and I yesterday. We did a lot with our time together. We learned that zucchini is not always an offensive vegetable and when mixed with chocolate and sugar it came become quite wonderful to the taste buds of a toddler. Once again the transformation of food has made me magical in the eyes of my child. Since yesterday between the two of us we have eaten half a tray of zucchini brownies. We also spend the morning blanching and freezing the excessive amounts of zucchini from our garden. Seeing the vegetable in it's various states had been quite fun for him. He enjoying helping to harvest the vegetable from the plant, then watching as I cut and blanched it. He was able to help lay the slices flat and put them in the freezer and was surprised by how their texture had changed when they were removed from the freezer.


We also made a potato salad for dinner (the potatoes can be seen peeking in at the edge of the picture). We sure did make a mess and a whole lot of dishes but we had such fun together. We spent the afternoon outside working in the garden and shared a book under the shade of an old tree. He had a chance to see what it would be like if he were an only child, with the attention of both parents centered directly on him and decided he didn't like it very much. I don't think that I have ever seen a boy so happy to see his sister come home so he could tell her about all the fun he had while she was away. He hugged her and let her settle back into home life then shoved a brownie in her face and said, "Here have a brownie, I made them, there is zucchini in it and I love zucchini".

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Canning

I have stumbled into the world of canning and once I got there I fell flat on my face. I walked into the store to buy my supplies knowing exactly what I would need and had a game plan set. My recipes awaited on the counter for later in the evening when I had time to devote to the task at hand. I was so excited to get started. I figured I would start with my very least favorite vegetable in the garden, the radishes. I only eat them in salad and try to get out of even doing that when I can so when harvest time came and I found myself looking at 20 radishes I knew I had to come up with something quick. So that is how I arrived at this idea of canning. I decided I would pickle the radishes for the husband. After I was finally able to get the kids in bed for the night and clean up the mess from dinner all that was left to do was chase the husband from the kitchen. "I am going to start canning", I announced and boy did he disappear. I set up the pots. One for boiling the rings and seals and another that would function as the water bath. I made my pickling brine according to the recipe, going back and forth to the recipe every two seconds. While looking at the time constantly to make sure the jars were in the water long enough to be sterilized. I packed the jars, added the brine and applied the seals and rings. Then I put those cute little jars into the water bath and processes them for the exact time the recipe stated and set them on the counter for the night. I cleaned up my mess and felt so smug and proud of myself. I had done it! I had really done it! I went to bed feeling satisfied and as I lay there I replayed all of the wonderful events over in my head. Then with shock I remembered something. SALT! I never put the salt into the brine! I measured it out and put it on the ledge of the stove then got distracted by my husband, who had passed through the kitchen and asked how it was going. I got out of bed and went and looked at the stove ledge and there was my salt. The jars certainly were cute but the radishes they contained were definitely not pickled.


Two Different Worlds

I find myself living in two different worlds at the moment. There is the one world where everything is convenient. The food comes already made and the children are sent from one place to another thus keeping them occupied and happy. The work outside of the home is hectic yet satisfying and provides all of the worthwhile praise in a persons life. There is this other world where children stay home, meals are prepared from scratch each day and the mother stays home receiving all the acclaim that the need from the smiles on her families face. I would like to believe that the later is the type of life that I live but I keep feeling the pull of the former. There are times when taking a box from the cabinet and adding water seems like the best idea ever for dinner for connivence sake, no matter how disgusting that whole idea actually is when you think about it. It always sound like a good idea to keep the kids involved in activities so that they can be with their friends doing things that they like to do but then when they are gone I miss them so much. As crazy as they make everything I really do enjoy the time we spend together. I enjoy all the time that I get to spend with people when we ignore the easy way and instead opt for the slower pace. Theses little changes in my life have brought such great satisfaction and gratification. My outlook on those around me has changed so much. People that I once found so old fashioned (my Mom for instance) are now the people that I respect more. My mom tells me about her childhood more frequently and all the time spent helping her grandmother with the canning and bread baking.  My husband has relatives that live in the country and I find myself asking for tips on canning and gardening. As I get a little more practice crocheting I feel more connected to some more of my husbands relatives and look forward to the skills that they maybe able to teach me. These are exciting times for me. It is like finally opening your eyes to a world that has been around you the whole time. I still will feel the pull of the convenient lifestyle and will have to fight the urge to buy everything in sight and microwave all my meals but I will have all the reminders of what really matters when I look at the people who are around me. The smiles on my children's faces and the skills that my relatives and I share and the memories that we make when we get to do those things together are all I need.
Enough of the deep stuff. Now back to looking up homeopathic treatments for a dog with hot spots and boiling beans on the stove for tomorrows dinner, not exactly a lively day here.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Best Laid Plans

This year we tried something new with the garden and started just about everything with seeds. Everything except the cucumbers, we took the safe route and bought cucumber plants. Now here it is July and the garden is finally starting to flourish. The cucumbers though are having some trouble. I think they have a mildew. From what I could find it looks like we are dealing with powdery mildew, something we should have been trying to prevent but now we are stuck with trying to treat it. It appears that we are going to lose the plant.


Thankfully I was able to get a few cucumbers off of the plant before this showed up. I really hope the plant makes it. The kids are so excited about cucumbers each summer. This is one of the challenges of gardening and I am sure this is only the beginning but wish that this is as bad as it gets.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Priorities

Once again life has taken over and while I struggle to maintain control I find myself being swept into the whirl wind. It is almost like being in quick sand, the more I fight against becoming engrossed in the hustle and bustle, the further and faster I find myself running to keep up.
The kids are doing their summer activities which is great because it keeps them social and busy. Unfortunately it leads to me running around a lot more and stressing out about all of the details required of me (washing soccer socks daily being my least favorite). With all of the additional activities in our home I feel like the summer is going so fast and soon enough it will be time for school to start. I wish that I had a pause button so I could just enjoy these warm days with the kids for a little longer. We have spent some quality time together. We have traveled and seen friends and family that we usually do not get to see. We have sat by a campfire sharing stories and we have cooked meals together, laughing at the mess we've made in the process. I guess life has been busy but we have had some great times together. Sometimes just stopping and taking a few minutes to think about how things are going is enough to center the mind. Now if only thinking could help center my house, the chores are piling up. Maybe I can wrangle the kids into helping, all in the name of quality family time.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Slow down



This week brought us a surprise day off from school, make that a surprise to me since I have not been as up to date with our calendar as I usually am. Nonetheless, with the big kid home from school and a long weekend of having to work behind me, I was glad to have a day to reconnect. We headed to a small local zoo and enjoyed a day in the sunshine marveling over the animals. We got a chance to swing on the swings, laugh, and create special memories. It is really great to just step away from life for a few short hours and really connect with my children. It was a shame that their dad was at work and could not be a part of this day but we will be taking a weekend together soon where we can all take a break from life, head out into nature, and really get to spend quality time connecting as a family. It really is so wonderful what a few short hours or a weekend can to for a family and I encourage everyone to take the time no matter how short it may be to create a memory with the family. Step away from the chores and schedules. Look at each other and really see the people around you. You may be surprised at the wonderful things that you over look during the daily grind but get a chance to see when you slow down, step back and just live.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Enough

I think that the first time I ever considered simplifying was after reading an article about looking around and seeing that what you have is "enough". Many of us have enough stuff. The closets are full, cupboards are bursting and surfaces are cluttered. We are constantly looking for new and better ways to organize and decrease clutter. This article went through how to analyze your home through a different perspective. How many pairs of black pants does one person really need and of the ones that are "needed" how many actually get worn. The one fundamental argument is that we all purchase most items on a whim because we are told to. From the moment we walk into a store everything from the music and lightening to the product placement and ads are aimed at making us buy certain items. This argument stuck with me as I read the article. I kept going over in my head how true it is. I started looking at these tactics and made up my mind not to fall for them anymore. I resolved to buy only what I needed in amounts that I knew I would use. All purchases would be planned ahead of time reducing the spur of the moment splurges. These changes have been happening in our household for awhile now and have become routine. Since starting the most recent changes in our home I began to look and other areas that I could apply these principles to. I have evaluated working outside the home numerous times and I think that I have finally reached a happy medium. I work enough to pay for the extra things that come up such as sports for the kids but I am home enough to really play the role in their lives that I want. I enjoy working and doing a job that at the end of the day makes me feel really good but work is not my life.


Since jumping into a simpler lifestyle head first I have put so much stress on getting things done, done well and on time. If laundry is not folded and away I start to feel myself feeling bad. I have found myself uninspired when cooking dinner because some nights make all our food from scratch seems so impractical when the children reach their "witching hour" and I reach my breaking point. Some days it seems so silly for me to force all of this extra work on not only myself but the entire family when I could just buy bread that is perfect rather than eat our latest experiment or just hang out at night and watch TV rather than plan gardens and learn to crochet. Again tonight I found myself thinking back on the whole idea of having enough. Maybe it doesn't only apply to the amount of items coming in and taking up space in our home. So now I am applying that idea to our new lifestyle. I can only do what I can in one day. I want to spend enough time with my children to really enjoy them and watch them grow. I want to hear about their day and the things that they care about. Sharing time with them learning new experiences that they can look back on with fondness is also really important. I want to work with my husband as a team to make our home our greatest accomplishment.


I also hope to stop being so harsh about the house. We are in a state of transition where we are venturing away from the only lifestyle we have ever known. I have never made bread or laundry soap before. I have never started our entire garden from seeds before either. Sometimes the things that we are doing have a big learning curve and take so much more time than the way we have previously done them. I need to to find the satisfaction in the journey we are taking rather than in a destination that doesn't exist for us yet. The laundry can pile up, the dinners can be a bit boring once in awhile and the blanket that I planned to crochet may just be big enough to cover a doll but we are learning together. We are sharing experiences. Taking time to laugh at our blunders and celebrate the little successes will only make these experiences more enjoyable. Some days we will accomplish great feats (potty training completely?) and others like today I will just have to be satisfied with accomplishing just enough.

Monday, April 22, 2013

New Challenges


We have been homemaking bread and it has been a blissful bonding experience. Okay, in my daydreams it has been blissful. In reality it has been more like C offering to stir and pour while I squint at the recipe, look at the bowl, look at the ingredients, then back at the recipe hoping that I got everything right. We have done it a couple of times now and we have learned one very important lesson. You need to knead. Not just a little bit and not just until your arms hurt but until the the job is done and your bread has really come together. I know you can also make bread that does not require kneading but working the dough is what makes bread making so much fun. Home made bread has been one of the first steps towards our simplified lifestyle where we provide for ourselves, make what we can, and spend more time with each other.   


However, this whole simple life thing is turning out to be not very simple. There is a lot of learning required plus things that used to just happen now require extra effort and time. It is kind of cool though have my daughter so excited to help out and she thinks that I am magic as the dough rises. The rest of the family is equally excited about bread making. The dog is running around the kitchen covered with flour and the three year old is alternating between brushing flour on to the floor/dog and shoving handfuls into his mouth. So while bread making might not always go as smoothly as I have planned it is still over all a great experience. Now if only I could decide that I am going to start making bread before I sweep and mop the floor rather than after.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

So it begins



 We are starting out on our path to a simple life. What does that mean exactly? I am not sure yet. For some people it means vegetable gardens and raising chickens. We have had a garden for several years now but chickens are beyond me at this point in my life. I don't know where this journey to a simple life will take us. I guess that is what is so special about simplifying, no two paths will ever be the same. Our main goals are to enjoy family more, this means all the family, the ones that are close by and those that we rarely see. I also want my children to be involved in our home so that they can know how much they are needed and how capable they are. I want to place less value on the things we surround ourselves with. We have always owned the newest and coolest things, while it has made us happy I am sure we could enjoy each other just as much without all of this stuff. The last thing I want to tackle is eating better. I would like to purify our diet by eating more whole and raw foods. Eliminating processed foods from our diet shouldn't be too difficult as we already have a pretty healthy diet and rely on these types of foods rarely. I think that this will be enough for us to work on for now. I want to make this a fun eye opening challenge, not an insurmountable challenge.