Thursday, November 18, 2010

Until Spring

Well, both our chickens are gone now. One died a few weeks ago and we have no idea why. We watched the other one thinking maybe they were sick, but she seemed to be fine. She stayed in the hen house for two days though. :( She also started molting and stopped laying eggs. Apparently molting is normal for this time of year, although why their feathers thin when it's getting cold, I don't know! So Thelma is no longer with us. We decided to find an adoptive home for Louise because I thought she might be lonely all winter alone. We do want more chickens, but I don't think getting chicks right now is a good idea. So, we're waiting until spring and we'll try again. Louise is now among a medium-sized flock of other Rhode Island Reds and will hopefully find herself at home soon, free-ranging on the large property.

Sigh. I miss them though. Every morning I go open the back door blinds and peek out to check on them only to remember they're not there. I also really miss the eggs! I had to start buying eggs this week again - bummer. But hopefully we'll get our yard re-fenced the way we'd like and our chicks in the spring will have a nice range for hunting bugs and other chicken goodies.

Plus, the sooner the yard is re-fenced and partitioned, the sooner I can let my two little monkeys run around outside without worrying. Right now, I always fear they'll run in two opposite directions! They stare out the back window at the swing set and ask now. It would be nice to let them run off some energy - that's for sure!

Things have been busy, but it seems they always are. When one thing ends, something else replaces it. I've decided it's just my season of life and I'll have to deal with it. On a positive note, it has helped me learn better about prioritizing, and what is really worth the time sacrifice. Some things just aren't worth the energy compared to the money I save - lol!

We never got a chance to plant a fall garden, so I'm disappointed about that. The beds needed to be tilled and there just weren't enough free weekends. I can't really work out in the yard during the week anymore because the boys won't let me! We took the play-yard down, which has been nice, but it's also meant there is nowhere safe for the munchkins to be contained. But, once they were learning to climb out, it was time...

I did take some time over the last 2 months to collect pinecones and sweetgum balls to use as fall/winter decor, which has been fun. The last of our okra dried lovely, so I saved it too for decorating. When we put up the Christmas tree, we're not doing all the glass ornaments this year. We're just doing lights and I'm going to put pinecones and other natural elements on it so the boys don't get in too much trouble. :) I think it will be pretty...I'll try and include some pictures when it's up.

And now it's feeding time at the zoo...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A little of this, a little of that

Just so you know, I'm okay. Since my last post warned I might get pulled under the garden vines, only to be followed by months of silence, I thought I'd let you know that right off the bat. Things haven't really been crazier than normal I suppose, and I have plenty to talk about, so I have no reason for being bloggy quiet other than I just didn't make the time. But anyway...

We have 2 chickens! Thelma and Louise. They are wonderful and each lay an egg a day, which is plenty when I'm not baking for market. I still haven't figured out what breed they are though. Here's Jacob talking to them. Caleb was unsure about the new squatters...he kept his distance. We have a new larger home planned for them in the next week or so.

I've still been busy cleaning house and simplifying, which has been so satisfying. I would pick something up, think it was still possible I would use it, and then realize I hadn't in 5 years, or 8, or 11. Ridiculous. So I got rid of it. But, of course the inevitable happens and I discover an actual need for it the next week. At first this might seem like a reason to slow down, but I refuse to let one or two incidents be an excuse to remain bogged down with stuff. This journey has been so amazing in the spiritual effect it has had on me. I want to be the best steward of what God has given me and my family, and responsibly take care of and appreciate our things. However, I refuse to live in fear that if I donate something I have no current use for, that I may happen to need it one day. I think I am being a better steward by not surrounding myself with things so numerous I can't keep up with them. I need to actually be able to find something when I do happen to need it. I'm enjoying this season very much.

On a completely different note, I baked some amazing chocolate toffee cookies yesterday. I think they may be my new fave. (At least for a few months. I'm so fickle with my baking.)

Oh! And something very exciting for our family! I am officially a Pampered Chef consultant! I love their products and have been using them for years, and well, we could use the money. I don't know why it never occurred to me before now, but I'll just consider it God's providential timing. We're going to give it a few months and see how it goes. Hopefully it will be amazingly perfect for our little family, but if not, at least we're showing God we're not burying our talent and actually trying to work and be profitable. So, if you are at all interested in booking a show, contact me! I would be happy to help you earn some free and discounted product for you home. (Or possibly help you get some great deals on Christmas presents?) I'm really looking forward to this venture.

Those are some big things in the last few months here on our home front. The market is done for the year, and I think I'm glad to be taking a break. My garden seems to be making a rally, however. I have green tomatoes and a fresh round of okra coming in...we'll see what happens there. I also have some carrots that aren't quite ready for harvest too. It's possible I have forgotten some other large event, but I have 2-year-olds, and by 5 o'clock, I'm pretty tired. Hence, the 'break' where I sit here and blog for the first time in months.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

If You Don't Hear From Me... the next couple months, it's because I was innocently harvesting squash when my pumpkin vines pulled me under.

If there was a vegetable I would recommend for first-time gardeners, it would be anything from the cucurbit family. My squash, zucchini and pumpkin are out of control! If you walk out in the garden, you can actually hear them laughing at my raised bed frames, trellis and fencing. I'm pretty sure I will need to weave my pumpkin back in through the fence to keep it from crossing the driveway. Plus, it's grown right over the little lantana I planted outside the fence to invite some beneficial insects.

I have some climbing zucchini, the rampicante, and it is fantastic. It is very interesting because it is so unusually shaped, and it's delicious! Very appropriately named too, because they are prolific. Between the pumpkin and rampicante, I won't be able to get through either side of my garden soon. I let one get away from me on the vine because it's so densely vined and it is umm, quite large.

We had a yard/garage sale last weekend, and I had several people comment on the garden. *insert proud grin* One guy said he's been gardening for years and his squash have never gotten as large as mine. I think I may have talked him into raised beds and heirloom seeds. (Not that I have more than one year's experience here, but so far so good.) Isaac had one couple ask what the okra were because they were from the north and had never seen it. Haha. Now in all fairness, my okra is quite mammoth. My dad's are about half as tall but already producing. So, I can't really be too prideful about how big mine are if there's no okra yet! I'll just keep waiting.

My cucumbers are producing heavily already, and I hope to make pickles in the next week or two. Very exciting! I have 2 varieties, poona kheera and delikatesse. The poona kheeras turn this wonderful russet color when very ripe - I thought there was something wrong at first, haha.

So that's the update on our garden for the week. I've been wanting to blog for awhile now, but every time I thought about it, my pictures were outdated because of the fast growth. Oh, and this saturday will be my first week at the Midland Avenue Produce Jam in Monroe. I'll be selling some of my artisan breads, baked goods, and whatever surplus produce I have this week. Come see me!

Friday, June 18, 2010


Giveaway at Keeper of the Home!

I know. It's shameless. I would really, really, really love this. Feel free to enter yourself. Or, because you love me so much - enter, win, and get it for me!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Oh Vinegar, How I Love Thee

I really do. I didn't for a very long time though. When I first started my journey towards a healthier lifestyle, I kept reading about vinegar everywhere. Cleaning, laundry, pest control, weed control, yada yada yada. I tried cleaning with vinegar and thought I'd never get over the smell. But you know what? I did. And now, I absolutely love the stuff. (I mean, not for a perfume or anything) Because, you really can use it for everything! It's great for a fabric softener, general disinfectant, conditioner, and my most recent discovery - a fantastic weed killer.

I kid you not - it's great. I buy vinegar by the gallons, and I used one, undiluted, in a flo master gallon spray jug. My dad got this one for me at Sam's, and I'm pretty sure it was less than the $20 on this site. (Now, I personally think one of these is a must, because unless you only have 1 or 2 weeds to get rid of, your hand will hurt from a regular trigger handle.) I also added a little powdered citric acid (a.k.a. sour salt) because I had some left from my failed dish detergent recipe. There are a multitude of weed killer recipes, but I went for the no-fail method and didn't water mine down. I don't have time for 2-3 applications if the first didn't work, thank you very much. You could also add lemon juice, which is basically citric acid. One gallon will go a looooong way. I spray first thing in the morning on a very sunny, hot day. They basically fry in the sun. I have found that this works best when there's no chance of rain for a couple days. One time it rained within 12 hours, and I think the weeds recovered from their burning :)

So here is a nice before shot of the enemy:

And the after:

Pretty impressive, huh? I thought so. I really love that I can use it around my garden beds without worrying about leaching chemicals into the ground right where I'm trying to grow organic food! So this only deepened my love affair with vinegar. What about you? Do you use it? If so, for what?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Garden Progress

The garden is coming along beautifully - and I couldn't be more proud! Ok, well maybe I could, and I probably will be when I actually begin harvesting. *grin* It should be soon too, because I have cucumber, squash, zucchini, and okra blossoms - woohoo! I'm really looking forward to picking some produce, because, quite honestly, I've only been picking grass and wild violets from the garden. Not too rewarding...

The tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, carrots (pic below) and peas seem to be coming up rather slowly.

As I did everything from seed though, I'm not entirely surprised. I'm consoling myself with the fact that what does come up will be very hardy, and if I save some seeds this year as I plan, next year's plants will be perfectly tuned for my yard. The asparagus is looking rather cute, like a mini pine forest keeping the tomatoes company. They won't be ready for about 4 years. (Talk about a long-term investment!)

I saw a rabbit in the garden *gasp* and I went to chase him out only to watch him squirm right through the fence! Isaac finished putting the tighter gauge section on the bottom rather quickly... I thought we might not have to do that part at all - but I was wrong. Hopefully he'll finish the gate this weekend. We're still planning on putting an electric wire around the top to deter deer, because our fence is just under 5 feet tall, and deer can jump 8 feet.

The garden seems to be buzzing with life whenever I'm around, which is a wonderful thing. I have inter planted marigold and nasturtium to encourage some beneficial insects and discourage others, and it seems to be working. I would like to put a few morning glories on the corner posts too. I planted 7 lantana bushes right outside the garden by the driveway too, because lots of bugs like those. The only negative bug problem I seem to have had was a specific little black and green caterpillar munching happily on the okra. I have since seen his variety on pretty much everything else, including the grass. Apparently, he's not too picky. I have been hand-picking and squishing them, and that seems to have taken care of it. While a little holier than I prefer, the okra is once again thriving.

As I survey the garden progress, it seems clear that I will be tweaking the balance next year. The squash, zucchini and pumpkin need much more room! We eat squash frequently, so I want plenty of it. My celery is quite pitiful, I'm not sure how many plants I have, but the 3 in question aren't even in the celery section! (They were a teeny tiny seed I just sprinkled hopefully.) I also wish there were more carrots, but I can't start those early to transplant because they don't like to be moved. The cucumbers are going crazy, so between that and the okra, I plan to do some pickling. Next year I hope to be prepared enough to start some seeds indoors to transplant and get a head start.

I am very pleased with our trellising system! I found it here, and it's also in the book, Square Foot Gardening. I didn't buy into that whole idea, but I loved the trellis plans. We made a variation and didn't buy the netting. I strung twine up and down over the piping, attaching the bottom loops to the ground with landscape pins. I do think the netting would be beneficial for some veggies because my climbing zucchini is very strong and pulled the pins right out of the ground! (Here's a close-up of ours.)

In case anyone's wondering how I manage doing any of this with the's what I do: I usually spend about an hour 2-3 times a week out in the garden. I do it in the morning, before it gets really hot, but after the boys eat breakfast so they're happy and full, but not nearly tired for nap time yet. They play in their play yard and I put in a DVD of Elmo or something. Then I take the baby monitor outside with me and garden and they are perfectly happy with this arrangement. There are definitely some days where I could never pull this off, and all last week was just that! So, my gardening this morning involved some heavy-duty weeding. Only one time so far did they start fighting so badly that I had to take off my muddy shoes and run inside to break up the craziness.

So that's the update on our gardening project. I got some blueberry and raspberry bushes for a steal, so I'm trying to decide where to plant those. One more step towards self-sufficiency!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

I'm sitting here, drinking a canned Creme Soda, which is my all-time fave soda. I know I shouldn't, but...I am. I'm sleepy. They're there. They normally aren't there, because I had stopped buying them as a baby step in trying to be healthier family. We had actually gotten pretty good about it. I had maybe a caffeinated drink or two on the weekends, and Isaac was really cutting back on his coffee, sometimes even going days without it! But, I sorta fell off the wagon a little. So it got me thinking as a I sit here, getting ready to make my meal plan for June. (I know, this is a big detour, but I've gotten much quicker at meal planning!) How far have we come? Have I really made changes? Or am I still eating just as badly as before?

Now, I have tried to take it one day at a time, and not let myself get so discouraged by little failures that I just throw in the proverbial towel. I think I've done pretty good about that. And, in all honesty, I think that attitude has made all the difference. I'm allowing myself this small failure of soda at the moment (no justification!) yet I am still planning healthy meals simultaneously. I'm forging ahead, continually choosing whole, real foods to our ever-maturing diet. I decided to do an encouraging assessment of progress.

We no longer buy processed snacks - even if they're on sale.
We buy only organic milk and eggs.
We buy only whole grain pastas and breads.
I cook with lots of beans.
I try to make our meal 2/3 veggies - and our taste buds are following quite nicely!
We buy more locally, when possible.
We buy grass-fed local beef.
We buy organic when possible. (Now, organic=expensive, but there are certain foods where it's important, and others where it's not as important, so I cut corners for now.)
I make a monthly menu plan and cook every night we're home.
We drink lots of water.
We started recycling.

Now, these represent a lot of big changes to me. We used to eat convenience foods, and we hardly ever cooked. If we did, it was nothing great. I disliked most veggies, but have come to crave them! Your taste buds really do change (thank goodness!). We love the flavor difference in organic dairy, and have fallen in love with rye bread. There are still so many things I'm striving towards, but I know it will be a process. This is not an overnight change, and it will require many small steps.

I'm about to embark on baking my own breads. We have a large veggie garden that I plan on canning/preserving from the harvest. I want to start a real compost bin. I want to find a local farmer to provide us with chicken. I want to begin making our own cheese, yogurt and kefir. I want to soak more of our foods to aid digestion. In the distant future, I'd love to have our own chickens and maybe even a dairy cow. (Raw milk!)

I am enjoying this part of our self-sustaining journey very much, even with its ups and downs. It's so satisfying to know I'm changing my family's health for the better. Plus, I love that I'm becoming a better cook! It's also been interesting to see what God has shown me in this process. I began to be overwhelmed initially because I felt like I had so far to go, and that we'd never make it there. But then I realized the baby step process I needed to follow, and that, if I allowed it, eating healthy could become an idol. I decided immediately I would not allow myself to be overwhelmed, burdened or stressed by this process. I would enjoy it, learn and probably fail along the way. But as long as I pick myself up, and keep going, I think my effort is worthwhile. Now, it's time to finish my meal plan, but first, I'll go put this soda can in the newly used recycle bin.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Our Experiment in Under-Estimating

So here it is, halfway through May, and I'm just now getting to a blog post about our garden. You know why? Because we just got the seeds in the ground. Yup, that's right. I'm gonna go ahead and suck it up and admit that this was definitely bigger than we ever thought. Now, in all honesty, part of that is because I'm somewhat of a perfectionist. I wasn't gonna just throw some seeds in the ground and see what happened. I figured if we were going to invest time and money (both of which we possess sparingly) I was going to count the cost and be good stewards. I have read, researched, and read some more. Fortunately for us, we live in Georgia and have a luxuriously long growing season that will be very forgiving to our late start.

Our first delay was the raised beds. I know they will pay off in the long run by increasing the quality of our soil tremendously, but phew! They were a lot of work. (Which, yes, I'm sure was magnified by the fact that we built 9 of them.) We were so wonderfully blessed to have all the topsoil we needed given to us. It was, indeed, a lot of scoopin', however. A lot. And Isaac would add, A LOT. Thanks also to my physical therapist friend who worked the 3-week kink out of my neck from the whole experience. (Apparently, neck muscles have a good memory. No kidding.) Here are our beautiful raised beds.

As you can see, the mulching isn't quite complete surrounding them. I'm laying down a layer of newspaper, followed by a thick layer of (free-yay!) mulch to help minimize the weeds. We'll see how that goes. :)

Next up is the fencing. We already have the 4x4 corner posts in, and also the metal posts too. This has been another big delay in planting the seedlings. I really don't want to get anything going before our fence is complete because we have major wildlife, and I'm not particularly interested in an open buffet for all our hard work. The first night we decided to start our garden, we had to wait to pull in our driveway for 7 deer to cross. Seriously. There are also lots of bunnies. Cute, but stay outta my garden.

Hopefully the fencing will go up this weekend, as we already have little seedlings emerging. I had been waiting and waiting, because our life schedule just doesn't lend itself to concrete planning. All you parents of small children know what I mean! I didn't want to bank on the fence going up and not get to it. But, I finally gave in for fear of too late a harvest. Our weekends are busy, and hubby doesn't get home until 7. The boys go to sleep at 8, so him doing outside work when he gets home means he doesn't see the boys really, and none of us enjoy that. We've sacrificed a night or two to get some things done though. They have 'helped' by sitting in the stroller outside while we worked a little. They particularly enjoyed when Daddy hammered in the posts. (They aren't really able to play/run around yet. Soon though.)

I'm already seeing some tomato and asparagus babies, and it's very exciting! I know we won't see much by way of the asparagus for about 4 years, but I'm really looking forward to the tomatoes :) Ooh! And the bell peppers too. Yum.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Carrot-Zucchini Bread and Apple French Toast

This bread is delicious! The Apple Cinnamon French Bread is more like a casserole/cobbler. The boys love them. :) These are both from the Pampered Chef More Stoneware Sensations. Yummy!

Spiced Carrot-Zucchini Bread
2 1/4 C flour
1 C sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
3/4 C carrots, finely chopped
3/4 C zucchini, finely chopped
1/2 C walnuts, coarsely chopped
2/3 C vegetable oil
1/2 C milk
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350. Spray loaf pan with nonstick spray. Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices. Add remaining ingredients and stir just until moistened. Bake 57-70 Minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes, remove to rack to cool completely.

Apple Cinnamon French Toast

1 loaf french bread

6 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
8 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/8  tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
4 Granny Smith apples
2 tbsp butter or margarine
Maple syrup

Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray. Slice bread into 1 inch think slices and arrange closely in baker. Beat eggs with a whisk and add milk, three tablespoons of sugar, vanilla, and salt. Pour over bread. Combine the 5 remaining tablespoons of sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Peel and core apples and make thin slices. (You can use the PC Apple Peeler/Corer/Slicer for this, and I really love it.) Slice down one side of the apples to make rings. Arrange 1/2 over french bread. Sprinkle with half of the cinnamon/sugar mixture. Repeat. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour or over night. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut butter into small pieces and arrange over apples. Bake, uncovered, 35 - 45 minutes or until apples are tender and eggs are set. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Serve with syrup.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Coconut Cake and Frosted Peanut Butter Bars

This week was Poppy Seed Chicken week, so there's always more to bake because everyone loves the Poppy Seed Chicken. I made a Coconut Cake, a double batch of Triple Chocolate Cookies, Ooey Gooey Chewy S'more Bars and Frosted Peanut Butter Bars. I had never made a coconut cake before, and, like most layer cakes I've made in the past few months, it tasted much better than it looked. Even after I threw coconut shavings all over it, it was still rather umm, messy. I think I need to chill the icing more, even though the recipes rarely say to do that... Check out the recipe at Food Network for Coconut Cake - it's delicious! Well, if you love coconut shavings and buttercream cheese frosting. The flavor was great, and I'm not a big fan of the afore mentioned.

Now, I do really love me some peanut butter. So these Frosted Peanut Butter Bars have claimed a spot on my top ten faves. They truly are awesome.

Frosted Peanut Butter Bars
(From Taste of Home Best Loved Cookies & Bars 2008)
1/3 C shortening
½ C peanut butter
1 ½ C packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 ½ C flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¼ C milk
2/3 C creamy peanut butter
1/2 C shortening
4 C powdered sugar
1/3 to ½ C milk
1 C mini chocolate chips

In a large mixing bowl, cream the shortening, peanut butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture alternately with milk. Transfer to a greased 15 x 10 x 1 baking pan. Bake at 350 or 16-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. For frosting, in a small mixing bowl, cream the peanut butter, shortening and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in enough milk to achieve spreading consistency. Frost bars. Sprinkle mini chops on top. Cut into bars. Store in the fridge.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Hello Dolly!

(Note: This is actually an older post...I thought I posted it awhile back, only to discover it was only a draft!)

My new All-American pressure canner came and I am really looking forward to using her! (Yes, it's a girl, and her name is Dolly.) I won't degrade my children by saying she's a new member of the family, but she will definitely be loved, respected and cared for. I chose the 21 1/2 quart because it seemed like the most practical for the cost. I can do 7 quarts at once, or 19 pints. It can also be used as a water bath canner, and as a pressure cooker for roasts and such. I didn't know that you could cook multiple foods at once in a pressure cooker without them taking on each other's flavors, did you? Interesting...

Anyway, I am planning a few pre-harvest recipes to familiarize myself with the canner. I don't want to be working out the kinks and have a learning curve when there's 20 pounds of tomatoes on the line. I would much rather mess up a small batch of strawberry preserves. That is the first thing I'm going to can. (Now, I know that my purpose in this is preserving in-season, yada yada yada, but I'm not concerning myself with that right now. I'm just learning. Plus, the only thing technically 'in season' right now are greens.) I also need to select something for regular pressure canning, because the water bath is a different technique, and I want to have tried both at least once.

Garden plans are in the works, news and pictures to come very soon!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sweet Potato Burritos

So, this one isn't a baked good! Well, I mean, technically you have to put it in the oven. But it doesn't have chocolate or sugar or butter...oh, wait! Now I've lost your interest! Come back, it's a delicious recipe, I promise. Plus, it's super easy, and that doubles its point value in my book. I've made it twice now, although not exactly according to recipe. (I do that a lot, don't I?) Anyway, it calls for kidney beans, and I used great northern the first time. And this time I had bought a bag of kidney beans with lofty plans of beginning the soaking journey. But, then I forgot. So...I used black beans, because I had 20 cans of them I got for 16 cents. (Yes, I love the Grocery Game.) Well, I'm sure kidney beans are all well and good, but I loooove me some black beans. So, I still plan on trying the recipe as is one day, but I have a feeling I'll keep using the black beans.

I got this wonderful recipe from, which is fun. I'm always looking for new things to try. I've read the average family cooks the same 21 meals over and over again. I don't fall in that catagory... I also like,,,, and

Sweet Potato Burritos

Oh, and it supposedly freezes well too. We've got a half dozen in the freezer right now, so I guess I'll find out soon! Hope ya'll enjoy this one as much as we have :)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Where's the Butter?

Every Tuesday I have the opportunity to bake several desserts for the Wednesday night dinners for the church where my dad heads up the food ministry. It is so much fun to try new things! I really enjoy baking, but I don't get to nearly as often as I would like. This is a fun day for me because I can fine-tune my baking skills. I find myself discussing new recipes I've liked quite often, and I have shared them numerous times. So, I thought this might be an ideal place I could send people to when they request one.

Now, just a few explanations. Isaac and I are trying to shift our lifestyles to a healthier, more self-sustaining diet and lifestyle. I haven't bought processed food in awhile, and I'm trying to fix meals focused on whole, real food. Now this is a subject I could go on and on about, but I'll save that for another posting. Basically, I want you to know that in general, these are not low carb, low fat, low food, fake butter, fake sugar, processed baked goods. (As a matter of fact, if a recipe calls for 'Bisquick' or 'boxed mix cake' I pretty much snub my nose and keep on looking. Because really, how am I supposed to learn how to bake using those? But I digress...) My basic motto is 'everything in moderation' and I don't think real butter is what's making our nation fat - so I use it.

That being said, the church buys my supplies for their baked goods, and well, they're on a budget. So that stuff is made with the cheapest of everything, including using margarine. Therefore many of my recipes I've tried with various ingredients. I rarely have something bomb so badly I'm embarrassed to serve it though. Anyway, as you peruse any of my recipes, the modern-day person may guffaw at how fattening some of these things may sound, but in moderation, I really don't think a lot of this is as bad for you as McDonald's/Hamburger Helper/Trix/Ramen Noodles/Soda...blah blah blah.

Basically, make your own call, use whatever type of ingredients you prefer (processed or real). I've pretty much used them all when it comes to baking these recipes. In the end, I try not to let even eating healthy become an idol, but to be a way of living that brings glory to God. Now, without further ado, here are a couple recipes I tried this week:

Peanut Butter Cookies
(from Fabulous Cookies, by Hilaire Walden)
  • 1 Cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 Cup butter
  • 3/4 Cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 Cup crunchy peanut butter
Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt and set aside. With an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. In another bowl, mix the egg and vanilla, then gradually beat into the butter mixture. Stir in the peanut butter and blend well. Stir in the dry ingredients. Chill for at least 30 minutes, until firm. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 baking sheets. Spoon out rounded teaspoonfuls of the dough and roll into balls. Place balls on the prepared baking sheets and press flat with a fork into circles about 2 1/2 inches in diameter, making a criss-cross patter. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until lightly colored. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

*I thought these were awesome! This is about the 3rd pb cookie recipe I've tried, and it wins hands-down. Also, I used creamy pb instead of crunchy and they were still great.

Peach Cobbler
(Paula Deen, Food Network)

This was soooo good! Now, I haven't baked that many cobblers, but it was wonderful. It was fairly easy too. (As easy as peeling peaches gets, anyway.) This week I substituted 4 cups of mixed frozen blueberries, strawberries and raspberries. The first time I made it I had less than 4 cups of peaches, so I used a flat 2-quart rather than the 3-quart she recommends. It turned out great. Then, when I actually had the 4 cups of fruit, I used the 3-quart and it didn't cook quite right. There were too many variables to know what went wrong, but it seemed to take forever to cook. It tasted fine, but wasn't nearly as pretty as the first one in the flatter dish as opposed to the deeper one. Just an fyi.


Saturday, March 13, 2010


So after much deliberation...we placed our seed order with Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. I am so unbelievably excited. I can't wait to start the garden! I think we made some wonderful selections, even though this incredibly long list was so difficult to achieve because there were 4 or 5 times as many that we wanted. But without further ado:

Mary Washington Asparagus
McCaslin 42 Pole Bean (They were out of stock on Dragon Tongue - so sad)
Rattlesnake Pole Bean
Waltham 29 Broccoli
Long Island Improved Brussels Sprouts
Green Macerata Cauliflower
Amarillo Carrot
Snow White Carrot
Tendercrisp Celery
Poona Kheera Cucumber
Delikatesse Cucumber
Listada De Gandia Eggplant
Thai Long Green Eggplant
Small Warted Mix Gourd (I love these little guys in the fall!)
European Mesclun Mix (So many types...I just went with a big lettuce mix)
Perkin's Long Pod Okra
Red Creole Onion
Wando Garden Pea
Emerald Giant Pepper
Orange Bell Pepper (We love bell peppers)
Quadrato D' Asti Giallo Pepper
Crookneck Early Golden Summer Squash
Zucchino Rampicante Squash (Zucca D'Albenga)
Zucchini Black Beauty Squash
Candy Roaster - North Georgia (Pumpkin)
Emerald Evergreen Tomato
Brandywine Tomato
Black Cherry Tomato
Boule D'or Turnip
Basil - Genovese
Dill Bouquet
German Chamomile
Oregano, Vulgare
Petite Mix Marigold
Dwarf Jewel Mix Nasturtium

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Garden Layout Plans

Well, we finally finished! Arranging the vegetable garden, that is. Technically, we haven't even ordered the seeds yet, but we're working on it. The plan was to have them ordered by March 1st...but last week was a rough week. Caleb and I got a bad stomache bug. Twice. Jacob had it once, and fortunately, Isaac never did. But anyway, we're selecting items and will hopefully order in the next couple of days. I'll share that list with you then. :) We've decided (after much deliberating) to order from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. There were several wonderful companies to choose from, but I wanted to order from one that not only supported what we believed, but actively didn't support genetic modification. They do just that, so there is no second-guessing when ordering! I know whatever we choose will be a wonderful selection that is non-hybrid (we could save seeds), non-GMO (Genetically modified), non-treated (chemical free) and non-patented (seriously, there are some crazy laws, check out the Food Inc. movie if you're ready...fair warning).

Our basic plan follows Eliot Coleman's suggestion for crop rotation, which teaches that plant families are impacted by being in the same location year after year, and by what precedes them when you do follow a crop rotation. Very interesting theory. He suggests an 8 crop rotation: potatoes follow corn, which follows cabbage - peas - tomatoes - beans - root crops - squash. And so on through a circle. Now, this is just an easy starting point of one all-inclusive rotation that works. He's very clear that you're not limited or required to have exactly 8 planting locations, but the general rules apply. Crop rotation is important in the prevention of disease. For most plants, keeping them in the same location every year will drastly increase your chances of fighting a disease and decrease your yield. There's some debate about tomatoes, as they don't show a yield reduction, and some suggest there's actually an increase when they are left in the same location. He states that he includes them because it works for him. We have chosen to exclude them from our rotation and give them their own bed with asparagus, basil and lavender. I'm including some pictures of our layout that we arranged with index cards. It made it really easy to visualize how much we had in one bed, and to rearrange to suit companion planting. (The idea that certain plants together can inhibit or encourage healthy growth.)
Now, I know that's hard to see, but I wanted you to see the big picture.
Now here are some close-ups.

I have tried to intersperse selected herbs that will complement some veggies. Chamomile seems to help everything - except other herbs! Who would've known? The onion family helps ward off harmful insects, as does mint, but mint tends to take I'm leaving it out.

As for the physical design of the beds, we're following Ed Smith's suggestion for wide rows, with raised beds to create deep topsoil which will improve the overall health and yield of your plants. We're doing nine 4' x 12' beds, and we're opting to support them with a double row of non-pressure treated landscape timbers. They will be about a foot apart. In addition, we will be using supported trellising for all vine plants, including indeterminate (continually fruiting) tomatoes. Here is the trellis system that most resembles what we'll be building. (I'll include pics of that once we're up and running here on the homestead - lol) We're still discussing materials, but it's the general idea: vertical twine.

More details to come...happy gardening!

Friday, February 26, 2010

List Plan It

One of my favorite blogs, Passionate Homemaking, is hosting a giveaway for and I would love to win! Because, let's face it, I'm a list-making fiend. So by posting this on my blog, I receive another entry to win. Woohoo!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Envibum cloth diapers

This post is purely so I can have an extra shot at winning this adorable cloth diaper over at Passionate Homemaking; one of my fav blogs!

Envibum giveaway

Monday, February 15, 2010

Giveaway winner! (And award)

Thanks to all who entered, I had fun with my first giveaway! And the winner is...


Congratulations Rachel! Let me know which item you prefer so I can order and ship it to you. I hope you enjoy!

On a totally different note, I won the Honest Scrap award from my friend Lauren over at Thread by Thread. I have never won a bloggy award, nor have I even seen them awarded :) So I will participate and have some fun too.
She said she loves the way I share my heart and become vulnerable. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to share openly about the things that matter most to me, and I hope they are an encouragement to other women on the same journey, wherever on the road they may be. Now, the catch to this award is that I must now share 10 unique and honest things about me. So here goes...

1. Ever since my divorce, God has really taken me on a journey of discovering where my roots are. I have found I had much fewer in Him than I desired, and He has repeatedly helped me to understand why I believe what I do. I have learned it is okay to question things, and I'm not sinning when "because I said so" isn't a satisfactory answer in my heart. This is an ongoing journey, and I often find myself realizing anew that I don't know much at all.

2. I used to wonder if I'd ever even want children, or be ready for them. Now that I have 2, it's hard to imagine life without them. I have never been happier or more fulfilled in my life.

3. I'm a homebody. I probably am a bit antisocial. I can go days being at home and having no one over and be perfectly content. I like my nest, and I like nesting. However, I think getting out at least every few days is good for me. Also having some time with just me and Isaac on the weekend, even if for just a few hours, is pretty critical to my sanity.

4. I have a serious book addiction. It doesn't matter how many books I have to read on the shelf, I want new ones. I have an outlet for this addiction because of the online book hold at the library. I can check out dozens at once (which sort of feels like buying them) but then I feel guilty because I rarely read one cover to cover. And, if I do, it requires several renewals...

5. I love the piano. I have played since I was 5, but I really don't have easy access to a good piano anymore. So this makes me very sad, sometimes to the point of tears because I miss playing so much. I have a small electric, but I grew up playing a 7 and a half foot grand, so I admit, I'm spoiled and nothing else is as fun. It's kind of like eating amazing food from a chef everyday for your whole life, and then, after 24 years, having to eat plain rice for every meal. Seriously. That's how different it feels to me.

6. I am constantly rummaging for things I can sell on Ebay.

7. I'm trying to minimize. I have too much stuff and too many things to dust. I seriously don't need it if I haven't used it in a year...or 5 years. I just donated some ski bibs. When am I going skiing again? And my guess is they don't fit anymore anyway. It feels good. It's very freeing emotionally to get rid of stuff. I'm really enjoying the book Isaac got me for Christmas, From Clutter to Clarity. Good stuff.

8. I wish I had more time to crochet. I wish my wrists and arms didn't bother me so much when I did. I also wish I liked knitting. I love the beautiful things my married-in family knits, it has a different look than crochet. It's just much harder...and it hurts more. :(

9. I adore photo editing! And graphic design. Photoshop CS3 is my friend. My good, good friend.

10. I have 5 more classes and I'll have my degree. (The boys interrupted the plan a little.) I really loved going to school, especially once I was taking online classes. It was great when I went back for my own satisfaction. My heart was really in it and I enjoyed it so much.

Well, there ya go. I thought of several other things, but I tried to limit it to what you don't usually hear from me. You already know I love gardening, blah blah blah. :) Thank you all my wonderful friends and family for visiting my corner of the web, and hearing my heart.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

My favorite things (giveaway)

As you know, I love to bake. I have recently begun cooking more creatively and this has been a fun venture! There are a few things I just can't do without in the kitchen, and I thought you might like to know what they were. After all, I consider them indispensable.

First and foremost is my beloved KitchenAid Mixer 600 Professional. This is one of the best gifts I have ever received, hands-down! It mixes sooo much batter without blinking. (Well, if it had eyes.) I have made quadruple cookie batches in it, which is one of the reasons I wanted one so badly. I rarely make a single batch of anything, so this comes in quite handy. Believe it or not, I own no attachments, and I don't have any I'm dying for. I wanted this mixer for its brute mixing strength. :)

Second is my collection of stoneware from the Pampered Chef. I don't even own any metal bakeware. (I don't think...I need to go through my cabinets and get rid of what I don't's on The List.) I currently own 16 pieces and my 4 cookie sheets of various sizes are my faves. Well, I do like the muffin and loaf pans for banana bread, which the boys love and I bake often. They are heavy and slightly cumbersome (I really loathe the way they scrape when I have to dig out a less-used one from the bottom of a stack.) but the baking quality and consistency is well worth any trouble in my humble opinion. These are available from other manufacturers, but I've never used one and don't know much about them.
Now, I don't know how much any of you roll out dough, but if you do, you need this. The flour/sugar shaker, once again from the Pampered Chef (no, I'm not a rep, nor do I know one) is wonderful. I have 3, actually. One for flour, one for powdered sugar when I'm dusting, and also one for cinnamon and sugar. It sprinkles nice and evenly, light or heavy, so when you're rolling out dough you don't have big globs of flour that will dry it out or just look ugly. *gasp*
I've mentioned the cookie scoop before (yup, from PC again) and they come in 3 sizes. I use the smallest one for cookies usually, but the medium and large are nice for special occasion, giant cookies. I also use them for just about anything that needs consistent measuring. Muffins, cupcakes, name it. They take so much work out of baking cookies. I seriously wouldn't bother if I had lost my scoop. They just wouldn't get made until I bought another one! Once you try it, you'll wonder how you lived without it. I've seen these other places and by other brands, but I've never tried them. I imagine a good quality one would still be satisfactory, but that's just an assumption.
Pampered Chef also has 2 micro cookers. I have both sizes and these are great for quick cooking. I use them constantly for the boys' lunches. And for dinner. And veggies. And melting butter. There isn't much you can't do with these and they're wonderful because you don't have to babysit something in the microwave.
And last, but certainly not least is my Rada peeler. This little baby will make peeling fruits and veggies fun - seriously. Ok, well maybe not if you 20 pounds of potatoes, but it would definitely bring less insanity that using a knife! I've never - never- used a peeler this good. Maybe it's because it's a patented design, who knows, but this tiny thing is fantastic. I use it for everything, soft or hard, it doesn't matter. The only think I don't love is that it's not dishwasher safe. :( But I consider it a small price to pay...

Ok, everyone, now here's your reward for reading this entire post! I'm having my first giveaway! I was going to do the Rada peeler, but then I couldn't decide if I should do the cookie scoop instead. Sigh. So I'm not deciding - you are! Enter to win by leaving me a comment, and the winner gets to choose the peeler or scoop. I will select a winner this Sunday, February 14th at midnight, so enter by then!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Can't wait to play in the dirt!

Whoa! I can't believe it's been almost a month since I last blogged! Well, time flies when you're...researching. Yup, that's what I've been up to. Isaac and I have massive plans for our yard this year. We're adding at least 8 garden beds, taking up over half the fence, and looking to level and fill some holes. Needless to say, this will be a big undertaking. We haven't been able to do nearly what we'd like with our yard since the boys were born so soon after we moved. So we are looking forward to this spring because we will actually be able to get our hands dirty and be productive!

Hence the researching. I'm a researching addict, I fully admit it. So the last month (Isaac says 2) I have been placing lots of holds at the library, picking up and dropping off lots of books, and pretty much spending all my free time reading about gardening. I know I'll learn many things through only experience, but I like to know what I'm jumping into. Especially when there's money invested. :) My favorite book has been The Vegetable Gardener's Bible. Super easy and fun to read with lots of great info, but also not overwhelming. (I found a few of those, and trust me, they went right back to the library!) So much I have to learn... I've also used the Mother Earth News site and Grit a lot for referencing, short articles and book suggestions. I've requested some organic and heirloom seed catalogs too. There are so many varieties out there and our local grocery stores offer so few! It's going to be hard to narrow it down, even with a whole 4 x 12 bed for each plant family. Did you know there are over 3,000 varieties of apples? Who knew carrots came in purple, red, striped, white and yellow too? It's crazy, I tell you.

Oh, and I've also been researching canning, preserving, freezing and drying. Isaac wants to build a solar dehydrator. (Seriously, if you'd told me 10 years ago that I'd be here, I would have laughed...) We're purchasing a pressure canner and supplies and building a pantry to store the jars. I'm also trying to win a grain mill because it turns out they are rather expensive. I can only enter the drawing once, so please feel free to enter yourself on my behalf. I would be beyond excited...because really, how fun is harvesting my own grain going to be this fall if I can't do anything with it?

As we begin these activities, it's been amazing the things God has begun to show us. Isaac said he had always thought of stewardship in terms of money. You know, if you can't be trusted to handle 10 dollars well, why would you be given 10,000? But then he realized we both have mentioned countless times how much we'd love to have a large parcel of land but have yet to do much with our 1 1/3 acres. Now, I don't think we were being disobedient this last year while the boys were young, but we are going to make our land fruitful and use it for more than just lots of mowing. I'm not hopping on the anti-government conspiracy theory wagon that I have to be completely self-sustaining and off the grid, but I think being less reliant is good. I mean, sure, we could go a couple days should a disaster strike, but beyond that, well... Basically, we just want to have more control over our lives and health. Plus, we both think it would be really good for the boys to grow up in an environment where it's normal to provide for yourself and also to question where their food comes from. They could learn how to garden from a young age, and that will give us many opportunities to teach them life lessons. Next year...chickens. Seriously :)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Supermom (Cape not included)

Occasionally someone will comment on how well I do everything, or how I seem to be successful at all I do. This is of course makes me blush, laugh hard and also cringe a little too. I certainly try to do all that God desires of me, and I hope this is seen by others to bring glory to Him. However, I hope I never cause discouragement in others because they think I am perfect or have arrived. By no means! There is much I would love to do or that I would like to do better. If I portray perfection, I am not being transparent enough.

It seems everywhere I am turning lately, I hear (read) of another awesome mom who realizes anew that she just can't do it all. And people, these are what I consider great moms! Great women, God-fearing women at that. So it has had me pondering (and praying) quite a bit recently. What is it we're supposed to be doing? What makes us successful? How can I possibly come close to a Proverbs 31 woman? While I certainly don't claim to have it all figured out (please insert a big belly-laugh here) I do want to share some things I believe God's showing me.

We can't do it all. That's a big one, because, let's face it, we try. Really, really hard. And then we're stuck looking at all we have managed to not do. There's a reason Solomon asks in Proverbs 31, who can find this virtuous woman? He proceeds to list off all that counts towards this perfect woman. Well, she doesn't exist. Before the fall, before we began living in a fallen world, God did have a perfect family plan. But that's not the world we live in and the truth is we all have fallen short. No matter what we do to make it all happen, it just won't.

Don't worry, I'm not being Debbie-Downer here, because once again, God has provided a way out. (Phew!) One of my favorite passages is in Romans 12 (MSG) and has continued to edify me in many, many circumstances.

"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you."

I love how simple the grace of God is! I like to complicate things and get overwhelmed with figuring out every little detail so I do (or think) something perfectly. God may be mysterious and more than we can comprehend, but one thing is for sure: He wants how much He loves us to be very clear.

This passage helps narrow my focus. (Sometimes it's good to be narrow-minded.) When I get bogged down with an endless to-do list or all that I am falling short in accomplishing, I remember to narrow my focus to pinpoint exactly what I'm to do next. I re-submit my life (walking, talking, breathing) to God and remember what is most important. He measures my success by how much I love Him and am submitted to Him. He doesn't judge me on how pretty my home is (although He gives us creative spirits) or how clean my kitchen is or how well-folded the laundry is (if it's folded at all). I believe that the Creator of the Universe has within His power to allow us the creativity to get done all that is most important when our lives are laid down before Him.

And what is most important? While I believe the details vary from person to person, it's not what we're generally hearing from the world. We are to be different! Now, I know I'm going out on a limb here, but we are not 'less-than' for not having a career, my fellow stay-at-home-moms. Giving our entire lives over for the raising and nurturing of our children to be strong, confident, secure and morally-rooted adults is an amazing task. And if you work, hear my heart, I'm not judging you. It is between you and God how you best submit and live out your life before Him. My point is, when we take the time for the most important (loving God, loving our families, and loving others) things in our lives, that is when we feel successful. That's when we can lift our eyes to God and feel approval. Sure it's nice to have a clean, picked up home. (Believe me, I love it on the rare occasion every room is least I think I would.) But sitting with my little boys and playing with them because one just has to be in my lap and have mommy-time makes my heart feel full.

I hope God does give me the grace to get many things done. I pray I have the creativity of time to can, clean, launder, cook and most of all, love as much as I desire. But I also focus that in my future I will never sacrifice what has eternal value so that you see a tidy living room. I will strive everyday towards being all that He has for me, but I pray that my occasional disarray will represent right priorities to you and also that we are all in progress as He perfects us through His grace.

Now, to be transparent, and hopefully encouraging, here is a tour of my home at this moment. No holding back, or picking up, I promise! Welcome to my work in progress...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Italian-Style Pot Roast

I made this yummy recipe the other night and it was delicious! Isaac really enjoyed it, and I like that it took me about 5 minutes to make. : ) Since my friend was looking for some good recipes, I thought if I was going to type it up, I might as well share with all of you! It's from a little boxed set of recipes available from avon (enter Belinda Perpall as your rep!). I made some adjustments per my taste, which I will put in parentheses next to the original amounts. I like lots of spices...

Italian-Style Pot Roast

2 tsp minced garlic (2 Tbl)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried basil (2 tsp)
1 tsp dried oregano (2 tsp)
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (1 tsp)
1 boneless beef bottom round rump or chuck shoulder roast (about 2½ -3 pounds)
1 large onion, quartered and thinly sliced (I just used diced frozen ones that I always have on hand)
1½ Cups tomato-basil or marinara pasta sauce (I used plain tomato sauce that I added basil to.)
2 cans (15 oz each) great northern beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 C shredded fresh basil

1. Combine garlic, salt, basil, oregano and pepper flakes in small bowl; rub over roast.
2. Place half of onion slices into 3-7 quart Crock Pot slow cooker, cutting roast in half if necessary. Top with remaining onion and pour pasta sauce over roast. Cover; cook on LOW 8-9 hours or until roast is fork-tender.
3. Remove roast to cutting board; tent with foil. Let liquid in slow cooker stand 5 minutes to allow fat to rise. Skim off fat. (not sure how successful I was at this part.)
4. Stir beans into liquid. Cover; cook on HIGH 15 to 30 minutes or until beans are hot. Carve roast across the grain into thin slices. Serve with bean mixture and fresh basil.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Hope you enjoy!