Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Kids and Table Manners

Maintaining a close knit family is hard work as it requires some creative thinking and much deliberateness. No time of day is more challenging than meal time, especially dinner. By the end of the day everyone in my home is tired and hungry as I am sure is the case in most homes. All I want to do is rush through the meal preparation and get dinner on the table as quickly as possible thus keeping the peace and my sanity. However, it is also important to me to include the kids even if it means I have to slow the process down to kid speed. We have always been pretty good about letting the kids help here and there but now that they are getting older I want to give them more free reign in the kitchen. My girl has been tackling some more of the actual cooking and is quickly gaining confidence around the stove. Little Guy loves to help with peeling and chopping vegetables, mixing is a big favorite of his always.


Husking Corn
I was recently inspired by an article I read to carry this kitchen attitude to the dining room table. In the past we have served the food on the plates while in the kitchen and then carried them into the dining room. My husband and I would use our Corelle plates while the kids used reusable plastic plates and cups. We have since started serving meals family style and giving the kids real plates like The Man and I. The kids really like being able to serve themselves their own helpings of food. They are learning about portion control and making sure their plates have at least a little bit of each item. The kids also feel grown up by being able to have a place setting that looks like ours. Each night at dinner they set the table together with My Girl setting the plates and Little Guy handling the silverware. After the meal is over one of them clears the table and the other wipes it down, I usually let them decide who wants to do which chore. Table manners have been improving since implementing these new ideas. The children must ask for someone to "please pass the ______" and they also must asked to be excused from the table. Dinner time while more structured is still a fun time for all of us.

Table set for Christmas (even the baby gets a place setting). 

Family Style Breakfast

Dinner time is a great time for us all to sit together and talk about our day. We can share big news and accomplishments or gather support after a bad day. We learn about each other while we nourish our bodies and reaffirm our place not only at the table but in our own family.

Shared on :

Monday, February 24, 2014


So now that the rest of my family has been showcased it is my turn. Who am I? Well, I am a wife to a great man and mom to two awesome kids. I am an introvert and as much as I love people I am more comfortable with being by myself. I blame it on being an only child. Often times in public I find myself observing the things that are going on around me, people watching is a favorite past time. I would like to think that I am perfect but I know that that is not true and my self doubt tends to be my own worst enemy. I find that I am at my best when doing things that are physically demanding because then the tiredness makes my brain slow down. In college I had to take philosophy and I was surprised to find that my text book read a lot like my daily thoughts, I tend to be a bit deep. Not to say that I am very intelligent or intellectual  but I do have my Thoreau moments where running off it to the woods seems like the best idea ever. I guess this thinking is how I ended up where I am with trying to live a simple and intentional life. So now that we went there lets lighten up:

Favorite food: I love homemade pizza and country fried steaks with green beans, mashed potatoes and milk gravy.
Favorite color: Blue
Favorite movie: Life is Beautiful, or La Vita Bella as it is otherwise known. It is very sad.
Likes: gardening, camping, dancing, crocheting, cooking, adventures, hiking, pushing my limits
Dislikes: lima beans, dishes and laundry
Currently Reading: Little House in the Ozarks by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Happier at Home by Gretchen Ruben and The Permaculture Handbook by Peter Bane
Loves: family, books, and learning
Career: Nurse and I love it.

Anything else you want to know feel free to ask in the comment section.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Photo Friday 2/21/14

A beautiful sunset after a particularly stormy day.

It is remarkable how much a gorgeous scene can improve ones attitude and outlook.
Have a great weekend! 

Digging Deep

I am not a pioneer. I do not sit by a fire nor do I own a cow. My land totals less than one acre and is in a well-developed area. I do have dreams and I put forth the effort to make them a reality. I have limits set by town ordinances and my own personal limits yet I can be relentless and stop at nothing. When mother nature reaffirms that she is boss by sending a brutal winter or unexpected late frost I will dig in deeper and work harder because that is what I do.

I am not a pioneer because what I am doing is no different from the things others before me have done. The elders around me find my lifestyle to be reminiscent of their youth while people my age think I am crazy. Most often I find the path I walk to be a lonely one. Yet every once in a while my path will cross with others who have similar ideas. I am so proud to see my neighbors starting their own gardens and having success. I love the friends who I can call and say, "hey the local farm is selling apples 20 lbs. for a dollar, lets can some".

Of course, I have days where I want to give up. There are days I just want to order a pizza and sit in front of the tv and forget all about growing food, cooking meals from scratch, and all the other meaningful things I try to fill my days with. These are the days when I have to dig extra deep and get that meal on the table and  bring my family closer. I don't want to just live life, I want to FEEL it. If what I am doing does not make me push my limits a little further then I am not doing enough.

No, I am not a pioneer and for that I am thankful. I have the knowledge from those who have done all this before me to inspire me and to remind me that anything I want can be possible if the effort is put in. It is good to know that at one time or another they all felt like failures or thought of giving up but due to their tenacity did not.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


We have been composting in our home for about a year now and like everything else we take a laid-back, wait and see how it does approach. When I first decided that I wanted to start composting I looked to the internet for how I should go about getting started. The results were overwhelming as most internet searches are. We could use worms or we could opt to leave them out. There were also the millions of options for containers, everything from plastic quick rolling bins, plastic stacked bins, fenced in areas, recycled pallets and wooden structures. Then there comes the option for your indoor compost storage, mini cans, bins, container, etc. I was beyond confused before I even started to gather supplies. I wish I could say that once I figured out what type of set up I wanted things got easier but they didn't. Everyone, from expert composters who are aiming to achieve specific temperatures and balance to those who really have no clue have different opinions of what can go into compost and what absolutely cannot.  A year later I still fall into the latter group and I am okay with that. So if you were looking to start composting and felt overwhelmed like I did let me share how we got started.

Outdoor Compost Bin

Why compost? We wanted to compost because we thought it would be a good way to add nutrients to the garden. I was also getting tired of taking out the trash making waste of such useful material i.e., our food scraps. 

What set up? Whatever your heart desires. Are you low on time? Do what we did and purchase a large plastic tub and drill holes all over the bottom and halfway up the sides. Feeling handy? Recycled pallets can also make a great compost bin, we made one but it was very terrible to look at in our little suburban yard. I have a feeling the neighbors would have been none too happy to look at it everyday either. We instead used the pallets to stack our firewood on. If you want a really clean and polished look and don't mind spending a lot of loot there are many options at lawn and garden centers. We have yet to over fill a bin it seems to break down quick enough for our needs. 

What do you do? Here is the part where I fly by the seat of my pants. I use a large tupperware bowl that never saw any use and collect all of the fruit and vegetable scraps during meal preparation. I do not use anything that has been cooked or has been coated in oil or butter. I do not put meat, dairy, mushrooms, or weeds in our compost. Most common items in our compost include raw fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, tea and egg shells (rinsed). Once my large bowl is filled I take it out and dump it into the large container. If it looks like I have more food items (greens) than dry items (browns) I grab a handful of dried leaves or non-colored shredded paper (usually newspaper) until it looks to be a pretty even amount of both. If it looks dry or the particles of food and leaves run through my fingers very easily I add a bit of water. If it gets too wet where everything clumps in together in big clumps I add more paper or leaves. We chose not to add worms to our container but tell that to the worms. Somehow the worms find there way into the container and add their own little miraculous workings into pile. I always love free help.

Inside food scraps bowl

What if you get it wrong? If you get it wrong you fix it. Compost is pretty forgiving. If it does not decompose it will rot and rotting smells and attracts critters. So if it starts to smell add leaves and paper and give it a stir and if you keep your compost from stinking chance are everything will turn out. 

Tips? Be prepared to wait, we have 2 bins. One for the current year with finished compost and one for the next year with compost in progress. If you are going to put weeds in your compost make sure that you have a pretty good handle on how to keep your compost consistently cooking. If weeds are added to the compost and they are not broken down properly they will survive and no one wants their compost spread through the garden to be filled with well fed bits of weeds.

In conclusion, I think you will find that composting is not as difficult as it may seem and like anything else once you do it for yourself it will make sense. In the beginning is was comical to see our family interactions while we all adjusted to the fact that we were not throwing out our food scraps. "Why is there an apple core in the trashcan?" I would ask while promptly pulling it out and adding it to the bowl. Over time my husband, kids, and I changed our habits and it is now second nature to place things in the appropriate receptacle. It is also fun to use the compost bowl as a determinant of our eating habits. The days when we eat healthy foods consisting of mostly fruits and vegetables (especially in the summer) the bowl fills up quickly and requires daily emptying. If we have a busy weeks where our diet strays off track with more carbohydrate consumption the bowl will remain relatively empty.  So go on, give it a try.

Black Fox Homestead

Monday, February 17, 2014

Meet 2/17/14


Last week we celebrated another birthday this time my baby turned 4 years old. This is such a bittersweet birthday for me as I love watching him as he grows and learn but I am not ready for my last baby to stop being a baby. I wish there was a button where I could pause life for a bit and enjoy certain stages a little longer but I guess that the inability to do so is part of what makes life so special. I try to take it all in as I go through the days knowing that all too soon I will be wondering where the time has gone. My little guy still spend most of his time with me everyday. He does go to preschool for a couple hours a week but it is more for him to play with kids his own age than anything else. While he is with me at home I find myself laughing more than anything else. He has such a fun personality and he is so charming. He is always looking for fun things to do and when he gets in trouble he can bat his eyes and  make the most charismatic ploy to escape punishment. It is tough resisting the urge to let him get away with everything. This little guy is the most lovable person I have ever met as he is always looking to either give a hug or get a hug. He will randomly stop what he is doing and come to me saying, "I love you mommy" while collecting a hug or kiss. He also likes to hold hands while he talks, he will grab his teachers hand, my hand, daddy's, anyone's, really while he talks about what is on his mind.  His sweetness is awesome but deep down he is still all boy. He make questionable decisions on a daily basis like jumping off of or climbing on top of things. He likes to do "work" which includes everything from housework to yard work. Right now his big fascination is to "cut" the grass with his toy lawnmower because the grass "must be getting pretty big underneath all that snow".  He also uses a stick as a weed wacker, which may be my favorite toy he has every imagined and it has been around for about 2 years now.


Now that he is 4 I am seeing the independent streak come out in him. He has always been more interested in doing things on his own than with help but now things are a whole new level. I hope I survive this age without going completely gray.

I asked him some questions and he gave honest answers:
Favorite color: green
Favorite food: chicken nuggets
Favorite movie: Frozen
Favorite song: "Let it Go" from Frozen
Favorite animal: Lion
Likes: tools, outside, camping, fishing and snow ("I really like to eat the snow, it's yummy")
Dislikes: sleep, zucchini and pony rides

Helping start the garden last year

These were the answers I could get before he ran off to fight bad guys.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The 2014 Garden and Trying New Things

Seeds Started
The last frost date for our area somewhere April 1st and April 10th thus the time for starting some of our early spring vegetables has arrived. In the area where we live the spring weather can be very unpredictable. I remember one year we had our Easter dinner outside because the temperatures were in the 80's already. Other years there has been snow on the ground well into April. It was decided after looking at the planting recommendations on the back of the seed packets and comparing calendar dates that today was the day to start broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and leeks. We are trying a lot of new things this year and I hope that they work out as planned but with gardening there is no assurance that things will work out. So what is new? Well, first I have never planted these vegetables for a spring crop, we usually grow them for fall harvesting. I have also never planted leeks before. So with all of my supplies ready I set everything up in the kitchen to start planting. There is about a foot of snow in the yard and it was snowing again as I set up, so outside was out of the question and the kitchen is the only room without carpeting.

The Kids at Work

I am trying to put all of our seedlings in an under the bed storage container to create a greenhouse type environment for the plants on our 2 season back porch. I got this idea from Pinterest (check out my Garden Board to see) where regular size totes were used but I thought that an under bed storage container would give me more room to fill. I let the kids take turns filling the trays with soil, placing the seeds, and spraying the water. They had fun getting their hands dirty and comparing the different seeds. The dog enjoyed stealing mouthfuls of dirt at any chance she got so that she could pick the tiny sticks out of the potting soil. That crazy beagle is always into something.  I used a mix of organic potting soil and homemade compost to plant our seeds. I am planning an up coming post about our compost system.

Can I have that tiny, little stick?

Under the bed storage container as greenhouse.

Trying all of these new techniques makes nervous about how successful our garden will be but I am hopeful that we will have a good outcome. I  also found some really awesome old windows in the trash last summer that I am going to try build a cold from with very soon. I still have to figure out exactly how to do that but I have some ideas. Are you trying anything new in your garden this year? Are you planting yet or still planning?

Black Fox Homestead

Friday, February 14, 2014

Not Just an Ordinary Day

I know it's just a commercial holiday made to influence us all into buying more useless items to prove our love to those we hold dear but...

I don't know about you but I am not one who gives my family unselfish love on a regular basis. I love them dearly and show them daily but there is always something I stand to gain from my tokens of affection. If I make them a wonderful homemade meal using a favorite recipe I hope that at the end of the meal their tummies will be full and they will tell me that they enjoyed the meal. As much as the act of making the meal satisfies my need to make them feel loved I also need affirmation that the message of love, in this case food, was well received. I try to give a hug and kiss to each member of the family every time we come and go but also at interval in between, just because I can. To be honest, the times when I get a hug or kiss back make me feel so much better than the times I get pushed away or told to wait a minute.

I love them because loving them makes them happy and when they are happy I tend to be happy. Of course this goes both ways. My daughter at time will surprise me by giving me a hug out of no where or adding an extra chore to her daily that is usually something I handle. She does these things to show me love and my reaction to her action makes her feel happier.

There are also times when we do things to show love that result in negative consequences for us. For me it usually involves giving up something I want to do so that another member of my family can feel loved. For example, when making that wonderful homemade meal I might skip roasting the vegetables (my favorite way to eat them) for the less detested steamed vegetable, thus making for some happy children.  I know love should not be selfish or self-serving but I feel that by loving someone there is always something to be gained. Their happiness and feeling of being loved due to my love or sacrifice makes me happy.

With all that said yes, today may be a commercial holiday but I will make a stupid heart shaped card, and there will be an extra treat at dessert time. This day says that I should do it and if my three little valentines dislike my cards and dessert well then I guess I will blame it on this crazy Valentine's Day. It's a freebie day to put yourself out there and tell someone you love them and in this crazy world today is it really so bad if millions of us profess love to each other? It may not be the most sincere love for some of people but it's a step in the right direction.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What I learned Wednesday-Not so good

I used some of my free time to make butter mints. They are supposedly ultra satisfying by fulfilling cravings for sweetness but also adding the fat that sustains longer than sugar would alone. It sounds reasonable to me, not that I would recommend eating too many at one time. I went into to this very excited about how good this could be. In my mind I had imagined that the taste would be very similar to the creamed sugar and butter base used for most cookies or like butter cream icing with more of a butter flavor rather than sweet taste.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Meet... Part 3

Just Playing Around
 Hey there it is time to meet the person who has changed my life in so many ways. My daughter was my first child and she taught me so many things about who I am. She has always been a very energetic child, she walked at 8 1/2 months old for goodness sake. Over the years it seems like she pretty much raised herself and allowed me to take the credit for it. She decided at a little over a year old that she couldn't sleep unless it was in her own twin bed, at 2 that she was ready to bed potty trained and was night and day trained by 2 and a half. She knows her own limits and how far she can push herself. Sometimes it is hard for me to remember that about her in my quest to keep her safe and secure in the big, crazy world, but I know that if she says she is ready than she is. She has an adventurous spirit that flourishes in the fact that there is always a safe place where she can return to and recharge. Her laugh is contagious and she may, in fact, be the silliest person I have ever met. If I didn't have to be her mother she would probably be one of my greatest friends, unfortunately that line is drawn in the sand. I do however get to share her with others around her and watch the affect she has on their lives. She makes her whole class laugh, her friends and family feel loved, she inspires and encourages her teammates. Her brother, who is not on her good side at the moment, longs for the time she comes home from school. They hug and cuddle and of course they fight but they always make up. Here are her stats:

Frick and Frack

Favorite color: baby blue
Favorite food: granny smith apples
Favorite book: The Indian Paintbrush and The Giving Tree
Favorite school subject: art
Likes: game night, gymnastics, playing outside, camping, snuggling under blankets, music, dancing, crafting
Dislikes: her brother (right now), squash, splits in gymnastics

Loving the Great Outdoors
A few years ago when I went back to college I had to write a speech for my public speaking class to commemorate someone special in my life. I chose to write about my daughter. It is currently collecting dust in a document folder on my computer so I thought, why not share it here. So you can read in after the jump should you choose.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Friday Photo 2/7/14

Ice on the Trees

We spent much time this week dealing with the weather. First there was snow then there was ice. Many  
people in our area have been without power for 2 days now, luckily we were spared this time. It is so crazy how we made it through okay but just a mile away had so much more ice and damage than we had. People have been coming together in such amazing ways to help each other. Our home was open to those who needed a warm place, fortunately many of the people we know had their power back within 24 hours. I am hoping for the continued safety of those without their basic necessity of heat. 

More Ice on the Bird Feeder

The Rosemary Bush

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

What I have learned-February 5, 2014

Stitch by stitch for two months I have been steadily working on my first big crochet project and yesterday I finally completed it. With many small items like wash cloths and ornaments under my belt I felt confident as I undertook this larger project. Two friends of our are expecting their third child and I wanted to make a blanket as a gift for the baby because during my pregnancies I was gifted with such beautifully knitted and crocheted blankets and booties from family. It is so special to receive something homemade and I think I appreciate these gifts more now that I have embarked on my own blanket making journey. When I started the project I thought it would be a nice way to push myself a little without having to take on a full size afghan. I started with much enthusiasm shortly before Christmas and was enjoying sitting down with my husband in the evening and working on the blanket while conversing or watching tv. As the baby's due date got closer I felt the panic of not finishing in time. I pushed myself to continue even when my doubt about how much they would really like another baby blanket kicked in. It was a relief to complete the blanket and I was proud when I gave it to the expecting parents.

Pattern: Granny Square edged with single crochet then double crochet

Now that I have the project behind me my hands feel a little lost without the feeling of working the blanket on the hook. For months I have thought about the life that blanket would have as I slowly worked the stitches. I reminisced on the sweet smell of babies, the late night feedings, and the early morning cuddle sessions with a wee one. I thought of the family, the children who would gain a sibling and the mom and dad who would soon have three children instead of just two. I wondered whether the baby would have dark hair and dark eyes of perhaps be a bit fairer. I wished for the baby to be healthy. I hoped for the family to have great moments together. I imagined seeing the baby wrapped in the blanket I was making during her early months and carrying it in her arms as a toddler. I feel like each time the hook twisted the yard to weave the blanket I was weaving a story as well. 

A gift of warmth

This is what makes homemade gifts so special. A trip to the store for a baby gift is a momentary stop before moving on with life. Store bought gifts are useful, necessary and always appreciated for the thoughtfulness of the gift giver. Homemade gifts take gift giving to another level. They are created with the receiver in mind the whole time, with each stitch on a sewing machine, row on a knitting needle, cut in paper or however the gift is made. I know this now. My work on the blanket over the last two months helped teach me that. I look forward to embarking on this journey again as I begin another blanket for my very first niece due in a few months. I may even try a new pattern.

Does making someone a gift make you think about them throughout the process? Have you ever received a homemade gift that you absolutely loved? Please share your homemade gift experiences with me in the comments below. I would love to hear from you.

Shared on The Yarn Along

Monday, February 3, 2014


Here we go again, time to be introduced to another member of the family. I have chosen my husband for today's post. This guy is incredible! Over the weekend we held a birthday party for our little guy and my husband was my hero. While I finished my last work day he was home cleaning and prepping for the party, while taking care of both kids and the dog. That is one of the things I love most about him, he picks up where I leave off and vice versa. He is really like a completion of me he is everything that I am not or cannot be and when he has an off day I naturally fall into his place. 

Favorite color: red

Favorite food: steak (which he rarely gets) and anything with south western of mexican flavors. Oh, and salad this man eats more salad than any woman I have ever met, especially in the summer when all the stuff comes from our garden. 

Men at Work

Favorite past time: Tinkering. He loves to take things apart and put them back together particularly cars. He has raced cars in the past (this is probably his favorite hobby), playing guitar, off-loading, and there is an app game with a toy army that I lose him to for a solid hour every once in a while. Spending time with his family.

The old race car

Dislikes: Snow, especially shoveling snow. He has this thing with New Jersey recently, something about gun laws. Not much else he's pretty easy going. 

One of his guitars, can't find any photos of him playing. 

Goals: He want to move to a place with no less than 30 acres, preferably in Montana for some reason. I guess it's the adventurer in him. Too bad he married a person who hates change would never consider Montana, ever. I would love to visit, I hear it's beautiful but my roots are in this area and so is our extended family. He would also like to one day play his guitar on stage. He plays around every campfire we have and for every guest that comes over but he still has this burning urge to perform for real. 

So that is a little about the yin to my yang. He's not a perfect man but he is perfect for me and he's a great dad. He cooks, cleans, and does laundry if needed but would much rather split wood, build fires and do work with his hands. He's pretty important around here and I think I'll keep him, forever.