Friday, March 28, 2014

An Early Spring Photo Tour

Here is a quick look at our home as spring takes it's time warming up. 

Dinners full of color.

Swapping out dark winter fabrics for light, airy spring ones. 

Plants everywhere. 

Cauliflower is looking great. 


The garden expanded 10 extra feet.

A robin looking for worms in the freshly dug area.

The daffodils will have flowers soon. 

The ever expanding woodpile.
 Have a great weekend! I hope you find time to relax and create memories with those you love.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Liebster Award Nomination

I have been nominated for the Liebster Award. What is that? It is a shout out/meet and greet for bloggers. It is a great way to find new blogs and learn a little more about some of your favorites. I have never participated in one of these before so it has been exciting to compile my post. 

Thank you so very much to Taylor Made Ranch for nominating me.

The Liebster Award is simple:
  1. Acknowledge the blogger who nominated you and display the award.
  2. Answer eleven questions that the blogger gives you.
  3. Give eleven random facts about yourself.
  4.  Nominate eleven blogs that you think are deserving of the award (that have less than 200 followers)
  5. Let the bloggers know you nominated them.
  6. Give them eleven questions to answer.

11 Questions that were given to me

  1. Chili:  Beans or no beans? Definitely with beans.
  2. What’s your favorite quick dish to cook when it’s suppertime & nothing’s been planned? Salad and grilled cheese sandwiches
  3. Who gave you the biggest push to begin your blog? I guess myself. I felt like a black sheep in our neighborhood and I wanted a place to share all the thoughts that were going through my head and maybe meet others who felt like me. I was also feeling like I could not always see the changes that I was trying to make happening and blog allows me to gauge how far we as a family have come. 
  4. What’s you favorite leisure activity? Reading 
  5. What’s the favorite post that you’ve written?  (be sure to include a link!) Lessons From the Week
  6. What feature do you most admire in others? Honesty is very admirable. I like knowing where i stand with people. 
  7. What was the best gift you ever received? An empty box with a beautiful gift wrapping and a tag that reads: 
    This is a very special gift,
    That you will never see,
    The reason it’s so special is
    It’s just for you from me.
    Whenever you are lonely,
    Or even feeling blue,
    You only have to hold this gift
    And know I think of you.
    You can never unwrap it,
    Please leave the ribbon tied,
    Just hold the box close to you heart
    It’s filled with love inside.
  8. If you were a superhero, what would your superpower be and why? Healing. As a mom sometimes I just wish I could make my kids feel better immediately. Bumps and bruises are necessary but anything more serious like flu, stomach flu, asthma I wish I could make disappear. Also, as a nurse I see some people in such great suffering and while I can sometimes take away a symptom the underlying cause will never go away. 
  9. When you were in grade school, what did you want to be when you grew up? A pilot for the Blue Angels or a writer, 
  10. What is your favorite charity? I don't have a specific organization that I favor. I really am more of the one on one charity kind of person. Some times we come across people at their time of need and we happen to have just the thing they need. The trick is keeping your eyes open enough to see the opportunity before you miss it. 
  11. Do you have any tips for someone new to blogging? Always remain true to yourself. Your readers will get to know you and when you start changing the tone of your blog  to be more mainstream, or to make money they will notice. 
11 Random Facts about me 

1. I am left handed but only when I write or use a fork any other time I am right handed. I would say ambidextrous but I think confused is more like it. 
2. For a brief period in my life I was a firefighter. Then the kids came and so went any ability to jump up and help others at anytime of the day or night. I miss it greatly. 
3. I have a scar under my left eye where I was hit by a hockey puck that split open my face. 
4. I am named after Princess Diana
5. I like dance parties in the living room, they  make life exciting. 
6. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE bad jokes and puns. My all time favorite is: Why is there always a fence around the graveyard? Because people are just dying to get in there. My oldest tells me this joke anytime I am in bad mood because I can't help but giggle.
7. I love to travel. Near or far it doesn't matter. I have a restlessness about me that just calls me see and experience new things in new areas. 
8. I caught a tuna that weighed close to a hundred pounds all alone while the mate of the boat help some guy aka my cousin pull in a fish that weighed half as much. I enjoyed every single bite of that fish for months on end. 
9.I am an only child. 
10. I take a nap almost everyday even if it is only for 5 minutes. 

My Liebster Award Nominees

 Below are my nominees. I was asked to select blogs that have less than 200 followers. I have a wide array of blogs that I read and I have nominated some of my favorites so please pay them a visit. In no particular order:

Ivy Nest
The Chicken Mama
Suburban Homesteading
Our Simple Life SC
Chickadee Homestead
Katie's Farm
The (mis)Adventures of a Born Again Farm Girl
Linn Acres
Stilettos to Cowboy Boots
Homestead in Africa
Gray's Farms

11 Questions for those I have nominated to answer.

1. Coffee, tea or other in the morning?
2. Who inspires you?
3. What is your favorite part of the day?
4. What do you look for in a friend?
5. What did you eat for breakfast?
6. What was the last book you read?
7. Least favorite chore?
8. Why did you start blogging?
9. My passion in one word is...
10. What is one thing you cannot live without?
11. Did you tell someone you love them today?

That wasn't too hard. Thanks for stopping by I hope you learned something new and now have some awesome blogs to explore. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Spring has Sprung

Spring is officially here and I could not be happier. We have been living seasonally, I think that is what they call it. For the length of winter we have been eating roasted root vegetables, potatoes, soups, and stews. The time has been spend crocheting, reading and cuddling up under blankets. Most days we passed time inside with what feels like very little social interactions. Hope is finally here though. There is something about spring that is truly like waking up. The soul stirs a little and the heart tends to race a little faster. With the day light hours now longer the days themselves feel longer and well and the loneliness of the endless feeling of night is starting to lift.

Spring brings with it a sense of dreaming. Now matter what task I am working on I find myself day dreaming about the coming days when the weather will become warmer and our time will be spent discovering the adventures of everyday life rather than just hoping to survive through the next day. I anxiously peek into the flower bed to note the progress of the flowering bulbs and my spirit swoons at the traces of purple from the crocuses. The slight wind blows an icy trickle against my cheek but no matter how winter tries to interject it's lingering presence I know its days are limited.

It is just about time to trade in the crochet hook for a shovel and to finally put my hands in the dirt rather than the snow.  Soon the days will be filled with sunshine and fresh air and the evenings will be filled with friends and neighbors as everyone begins emerging from their homes. This winter was a tough, cold, snowy one but it makes us all appreciate the little gifts that spring brings us.

Monday, March 17, 2014

St. Patrick's Day

It is St. Patrick's Day but it is also Monday. I would share the wonderful decorations around our home but I forgot to put them up. I would show you really great photos of my kids drinking green milk and eating green eggs but I cannot stomach consuming either of those things green. I would love to share a recipe that shows my irish heritage but tonight's dinner is anything but Irish as we are having sausage with the prettiest peppers I found on sale and leeks that need to be used before they go bad. So all in all I guess my St. Patrick's Day is a flop but I will try to salvage what I can of it.  Perhaps I will have a little Irish whiskey at the end of this cold snowy day. In parting:

May you always have...

Walls for the winds,
A roof for the rain, 

Tea beside the fire,
Laughter to cheer you, 

Those you love near you,
And all your heart might desire.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Healthy Cooking

If you follow on Facebook a few weeks ago I mentioned that my husband's work is having a contest to encourage healthy eating, weight loss and increased activity. This leaves me, the one who usually makes dinner, looking for all the healthy recipes I can find. My definition of healthy varies greatly from my husbands as he wants low calories and I want whole foods with healthy fats and no chemicals. Needless to say the first week has been fun. Thankfully he eats two meals at work and then when he comes home I pump him full of goodness. To help him fulfill his need to have lower calorie meals we have been eating several vegetarian meals a week. I am learning that my weakness is carbohydrates. Oh, how I love a good starchy meal but they are not so great for my body and boy do I feel it when I eat them.

So how have we been surviving? We have been eating some great meals, heathy meals, that give us energy and nourish our bodies.

Meals like this:

Maple Glazed Salmon with Brussels Sprouts

And this:

French Bread Pizza

Some like this:

Cauliflower Puttanesca

One of my favorites:

Roast Chicken

Roast Chicken

I love roast chicken. It is a stand by in my kitchen, we have it almost every week. Here is how I  make it.

I start with a small whole chicken usually around 4-5 pounds. I take the miscellaneous parts out of the inside. The chicken is then set in a roasting pan with the breast side up. I always place 2-3 table spoon of butter under the skin of the breast and legs. The cavity gets filled with an onion, carrot, celery. Occasionally I will make rosemary and lemon chicken and I will place just those two items inside the cavity. The outside of the chicken is sprinkled with salt and pepper and the roasting pan is covered. The chicken is placed into a 350 degree oven for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

After the chicken is finished I removed it from the roasting pan. I set the roasting pan with all the juices on the stove top and bring to a boil. In a small bowl I mix 2 tablespoons of cornstarch with just enough cold water to make it a liquid. The cornstarch mixture is added to the boiling juices while stirring the juices constantly with a spoon. When the mixture has thickened and has cooked for a couple minutes remove from the heat. Homemade gravy! As a child my job was always to make the gravy and to stir it constantly to keep it from burning. Who am I kidding? As an adult making gravy is still my job at any family holiday that takes me back home.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Break in the Weather

There was finally a break in the weather. The temperatures went well into the 60's here making it warm enough for us all to trudge outside in the mud to soak up the sunshine. The kids and the dog played for hours digging in the mud and running around. There is a collection of mud pies curing at the edge of the sand box. Why dig in sand when mud is more plentiful?

I was able to accomplish some outdoor tasks. It felt great to be out in the fresh air basking in the sun and working up a sweat while crossing things off the to do list. The seedlings took a field trip out to the yard where they were gently blowing in the breeze and hopefully building up nice strong stems for their upcoming move to the outside, permanently. I found some onion sets at the local farm stand that needed to get in the ground right away and since the snow has melted and the ground has thawed the task was relatively easy.

The windows to the house were opened for the first airing out of the season and our blankets were hung outside after a quick washing. There is absolutely nothing like falling asleep with the smell of fresh air still lingering in the fabric, especially when it is the first time in months the blankets have dried outside rather than in the dryer.

I am now feeling more energized and ready to undertake spring cleaning. All I can think of is organizing and scrubbing the house. I usually despise cleaning tasks but there is something about crawling out of our hibernation state that makes me want to wipe the slate clean and then scrub it again. Spring was definitely in the air today. It is such a shame that the temperature will barely breaking freezing tomorrow night but I am so thankful to see the light at the end of this cold winter tunnel.

Lessons Learned from the Garden

There is absolutely nothing like a garden to make you feel so power yet so weak at the same time. Months of hard work and painstaking caretaking can result in some wonderful plant growth. The leaves and stem may be absolutely perfect. The dirt may be made of the most perfect homemade compost. You may have the best plant specimen that can be found such as heirloom, non-GMO, or a rare flower growing successfully under your watchful eye. Talk about feeling like you hold life in the palm of your hand, you made this wonderful thing grow. However, when it comes time for the fruit or vegetable to develop you are absolutely helpless to make anything happen. There is nothing that you can do to make that beautiful flower open up. No amount of willing will work. This is the point where you let go and learn that while we have the ability to influence so many of the things that occur in our garden there are somethings that depend on something much greater than ourselves. Talk about humbling. This is why I have my kids help with the garden, it teaches lessons.

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Strange Week Indeed

Things are strange around here for the past week or so. The normal routine has been varying way off course as volunteer events and fundraisers have been taking up time. The slow pace of daily life picked up to a maddening race until the four of us were left collapsed on the couch, exhausted. As with all things, the busyness ceased and we find ourselves regaining our composure and energy as we fall back into our usual rhythm.

With the change in our routine we have also upset the ebb and flow for Stormy the dog who has taken to showing her discontent by shredding tissues from the bathroom trash and completely annihilating her ball. I tried to pacify her with extra walks and playtime in between bouts of alone time, no luck.

It was a ball

My little plastic container gardening experiment has been going quite well with lot of green making an appearance. There is one rouge plant which while the container is tells me should be a green pepper looks nothing like any green pepper I have ever seen. Not to mention that at only 3 days since it sprouted it towers over everything else that is growing, I call shenanigans. I am very curious about what it really is though.

Green! Little Guy is pointing out his favorite little seedling.

Something looks off

I also spent my weekend fulfilling my role as my girl's biggest fan at one of her competitions. She did a great job and I am very proud. I had to take a day off from work to attend this competition and I was discussing this with a co-worker the day before. This co-worker told me I should just tell my daughter that I can't always be there for everything that I have to work and make money so that I can buy her "things". My response was that if I told my daughter that, she would just tell me to quit my job all together because she doesn't want me to buy her "things" as much as she wants me to be involved in her life. I received a blank stare in return. Yes, I am the strange one.

Lastly, time moved ahead one hour but my body feels like time moved ahead several hours and left me behind in the dust.

Any idea what my rogue plant is?

I hope you all have a great week. May your bodies adjust quickly to the time change, your schedules move at a reasonable pace and your animals behave.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

How to plant a seed

I have been spending my time listening to the Food Growing Summit. While I am in no way a part of this wonderful online seminar I am thoroughly enjoying listening to the speakers and learning some new things. I am finding my self very surprised at the fact that a common theme among the speakers is fear, as in many people are afraid of growing things. The reasons vary from fear of trying, fear of failure and fear of the unknown. I grew up in a home where there was always at least a small garden for tomatoes so the fear of gardening is completely foreign to me as gardening has always been something that just happens. I am gaining the understanding of why people find gardening is so intimidating but I want to encourage anyone who has fear about growing things. Gardening can be difficult and yes there may be failures but at the same time the basics are very basic.

Pick a seed. Try to pick something that grows in your area. Beans and peppers like mild weather. Tomatoes can tolerate warmer weather as long as it's not too dry. Herbs are by far one of the easiest to learn with. You can plant anything you want that can tolerate your climate.

Take a small container, grab any old container you have near by. Your yogurt cup from your breakfast will work perfectly. Fill it with some dirt to the top, preferably potting soil or seed starting mix, whatever you can find at the store. Try to get organic.

Once you have completed that take your finger and poke a hole in the dirt and put your seed in the hole.

Cover the seed with dirt lightly. Do not pack the dirt on top. Take a spray bottle and spray the dirt until it is moist. Place your cup with your seed safely nestled in the dirt near a window that gets a lot of sun and keep your seedling warm. House temperature is perfect.

Now here is the important part so listen up: look at your seedling several times a day. If it looks dry, spray it with water. If it looks to wet, leave it alone for a while. Just get used to peaking at it to see how it is doing.

Learn when the last frost date is for your area, the farmers almanac online is a good place to look. After your last frost date you can move the plant outside for a couple weeks. Continuing watering and watching your plant. After your plant has been outside for about 2 weeks you can plant it in the ground or in a larger container outside.
For planting in the ground dig a hole that is about the size of your cup and add water to the bottom of the hole just until it takes a few seconds for the water to absorb into the dirt. You don't want a puddle in the hole. Take your plant out of the container and place it into the hole and fill the hole back in leaving you little plant stick out from the dirt. Give it a drink of water again until it takes a couple seconds for the water to absorb but not long enough to puddle. To plant in a container follow the same steps as for planting in the ground except use a five gallon bucket or other larger container.

The dirt quality assessment manager hard at work. Hence the need for organic soil. 

There you have it planting a plant broken down into very simple steps. Yes, the plant may die. You might over water, under water, some critter might eat it or some other unforeseen event COULD happen. On the other hand the plant may live and you could be eating something from a plant that you grew yourself. I always tell my children that you never know what could happen if you never give it a try. Without trying there is only one outcome.

Now you should be feeling very confident. Let me share my most recent failure with you. I brought in some of my herbs when the weather turned cold and I was doing such a great job at keeping them going. Then suddenly I noticed that the herbs were drying out despite my frequent watering, I have a feeling it may be due to the very low humidity in my home but I don't really know. On the bright side I now have some freshly dried oregano to add to my cooking and I am sure I can find a use for dried lavender leaves. So sometimes failure is an opportunity waiting to be seized.

A big special thank you to my Little Guy for being an expert model for all of my photos. Even if he couldn't understand why he had to plant the seed in s-l-o-w motion.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Garden Journal

Every year I plant a garden and sometimes I try new things. Last year was my first time trying to start most of the garden from seed rather than from plants purchased at the garden center. I had a pretty successful season but there were times that I was unsure about what my plants should be doing or when they should be ready to harvest. Half way through the season I started keeping a garden journal, better late than never I guess.

I drew a very simple garden layout so that I could remember where the plants were located and keep track of rotation. I keep notes about the weather, mainly big events such as flooding, drought and excessive heat. Tracking production is a very important part of the garden journal. When a particular plant is producing well I note how much it is producing and what I have done to influence production. For example, I add plain Epsom salts when watering once in a while and have noticed an increase in production of peppers afterward.

On occasion I have to make note of unfortunate garden events. Last year our cucumber plant suffered from powdery mildew. I ended up losing the cucumber and the zucchini was contaminated as well. I think that it was from me moving the cumber leaves that were covered and then touching the zucchini plants to harvest, lesson learned. Fortunately I recognized the problem in the zucchini plant quickly and was able to try several sprays that worked wonderfully to help me save the pants. My detailed notes in my garden journal include the recipe for each spray that I tried and whether or not they were effective. I hope to not have the same problem again this year but if I do I will be several steps ahead this time.

This year I utilized the garden journal much earlier. I wrote down every seed that I planned on starting and made a chart of sorts that keeps track of the date that the seeds were started. The area also contains a column for when the plants should be transplanted and when I actually transplant them and the final column is for me to write the date of the first harvest. I hope to use the garden journal more often this year and to be able to use the notes from last year to help me make improvements. 

Have you kept a garden journal before or have plans to start one this year?

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