Monday, August 30, 2010

Sewing Monster

 Every time I sit down to sew, my daughter wanders into the room and asks ever so sweetly, "Mommy? Whatcha doin'?" Being the novice that I am, I require complete and utter silence when my foot is on the pedal. I can pin, cut, press and measure while she jabbers away but once I'm sitting in front of my machine I cannot be disturbed. I get tense. I hunch my shoulders. I think my eye starts twitching. Inevitably, the seam is crooked and I have to fetch Ruby the Seam Ripper while I lecture K about how Mommy needs her to go find something to do. Sometimes she protests, insists she can watch "very quietly" from a designated spot on the floor but usually, she puts her thumb in her mouth, balls up her filthy pink blanket called Lovey, and slowly, sadly, shuffles out of the room. I turn back to my machine but am feeling like such a crappy mother for sending my inquisitive child out of the room that my seams continue to stray and I usually end up calling it a day not long after I start. 

Sewing has quickly become an "after the kids are asleep" activity. I hate that. And I hate that I dismiss her when K just wants to help. She wants to be like me. What's wrong with that?  I've tried keeping her busy with sorting scraps or holding a measuring tape but I think she suspects that the tasks are just that....busy work. She often declares that she has completed her job and is now ready to sew. I want to sew like you Mommy, she says. But I shake my head and try to think of some other thing to engage her with. Her four year old fingers are NOT ready for a sewing machine and I am not nearly competent enough to teach her even if they were.

On a recent trip to the fabric store (that she loves as much as I do) I came across a little learn-to-sew craft kit. It contained two projects; a heart pillow and a bear pillow. The kit consisted of felt pieces that were pre-punched with guide holes, a blunt plastic needle, yarn, stuffing and all the glittery, sparkly embellishments you would need to jazz up the creations once they had been pieced together. After seeing the actual contents of the kit, the $6 I paid seemed a bit steep but the confidence she gained by finishing completely negated the price.

She started with the heart. I showed her how to thread her needle and we practiced knot tying. We'll be needing lots more practice on that one. I started her with a running stitch that by her own hand, morphed into a wobbly whipstitch. Slowly but surely she managed to get the felt pieces sewn together and stuffed.

And then of course she had to add a little glamour....

And in about half an hour, my baby girl had finished her very first sewing project. All by her sweet self!

I've turned my little girl into sewing monster. She wants more. We still have the bear to complete but now she's asking if she can make herself a new shirt and  is raiding the linen closet for pillowcases to make new dresses! Whoa little one. One stitch at time. I don't think I'll buy anymore kits but I may try to make something similar on my own. Felt and yarn are easy enough to come by. My biggest obstacle would be the holes....what would you use to punch tiny round holes? I also found a cute tutorial for printable sewing cards here but I'm not sure how long they would keep her occupied. She wants to create something, not just practice stitching. That is certainly one trait we share....impatience!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Two Years

Little boys come in all shapes and sizes,
Shy and adventurous, full of surprises,
With misshapen halos and mischievous grins,
Small, dirty faces, and sweet, sticky chins.

They'll keep you so busy, and yet all the while
Nothing can brighten the world like their smile.
And no greater treasure has brought homes more joy
Than a curious, active, and lovable boy!

Only two short years ago, I was blessed to become the Momma of a sweet baby boy. You bring such joy to my life. You are kind and loving, rowdy and rambunctious. I can't believe how fast you are growing. You are more precious to me than you'll ever know....covered in mud, hands sticky with jelly, cheeks streaked with crayons. My cherished boy. I love you more and more each the moon and back. Happy 2nd Birthday little J...

Friday, August 27, 2010

This Moment

{this moment} 

A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words- capturing a moment you want to remember. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Because of This Blog

Because of this blog...

-I have international pen pals

-I have a new wool hat that I adore, courtesy of reader and now friend, Homestead Girl.

-I have backyard chickens and more requests than I can count for eggs.

-I have friends who have never set foot on a farm considering livestock.

-My most citified of friends is learning to can. And make her own cleaning products. And grind wheat. She's awesome.

-I have a dehydrator and a 24 quart pressure canner that barely fits on my stove. But I can't live without them.

-I feel happy, with purpose, and connected to like minded people in a way I've never been before. My ideas and values may not be what the mainstream dubs "cool" but because of this blog, I know now that it's okay. It's okay to want less and have more, to make do, or make my own. 

-I know that this way of life isn't a passing fad. It's a quietly building revolution.

-I have you dear readers. Your thoughts and comments warm my heart. I draw more inspiration from you than you'll ever know. Here's to our shared journey...

Live Simply, Be Humble,

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Night Night.....Sleep Tight!

My husband is an insomniac. He never sleeps. I don't know how he does it. He goes weeks at a time surviving on little more than three hours a night. He slogs away like a zombie, surviving on coffee and a prayer. Although he always managed to be sawing logs when there was a crying baby or a poopy diaper to be changed in the dark, sleep often eludes him and the poor man seems to do nothing but toss and turn. 

I, on the other hand, have NO problem with sleep. Quite often, he sneaks into bed and I don't even know he's lying next to me. I sleep long. I sleep hard. And when I wake up bright eyed and bushy tailed only to see my husband about to drown in his coffee cup, I can't help but feel a wee bit guilty. Why is it that I can sleep like there's no tomorrow when my man couldn't buy a good night's sleep? He's tried everything. He's tried prescription pills, he's tried homeopathic remedies. He's tried knocking himself out with Tylenol PM. He did a sleep study where they hook you up to a million wires and machines and demand you sleep under the watchful eye of several cameras and one bored lab technician. Of course they wanted us to invest in several thousand dollars worth of medical interventions, to which my husband replied thanks, but no. He has simply resigned himself to the fact that he never was a good sleeper and he never will be.

That's why I was so shocked when he asked if I could perhaps invest in a new pillow for him. A pillow? After all the tests and drugs and sleep charting and you think a pillow is going to fix it? Let me be clear. My husband has NO trouble falling asleep. He's usually snoring two to three minutes after his head hits the pillow. It's the staying asleep that is difficult. If he can't get comfortable in the first place because of a flat/lumpy/hot/smelly pillow, how is he going to add up all those minutes and get his requisite three hours? 

And the search began. And much like every other product we come into contact with, most pillow are laden with chemical residues and are produced in some of the most environmentally damaging facilities you can imagine. Next time you lay down, think of  all the pesticides and insecticides your cotton cover was grown with.  Think about the bleach that was used to whiten it. Think about the dyes, which often contain heavy metals and chemicals. And that's just the cover. I could go on about the synthetic fillings but I won't. I don't want you to lose any sleep! I would love to replace all my pillows and bedding with organic, eco-conscious products but unless you kind folks would like to donate to my "Get Rid of the Chemicals" fund, I'll have to replace things one at a time as they wear out. My hubby's request for a new pillow is the perfect opportunity.

So what are the options?

  • Organic Cotton- offers firm support. Prone to compression over time.
  • Down-flufftastic! Prone to dust mites, and mold. Also traps moisture leading to stank on the pillow. No one likes stank.
  • Wool-Springy and resilient. Available in soft, medium and firm. Will compress but breathes.
  • Latex-comes in shredded and block form. Shredded latex is soft and supportive but can be punched and bunched into whatever shape you like. Block latex pillows are very supportive but can be a little hard to get used to. You're sleeping on a block of foam for crying out loud.
  • Buckwheat or Kapok- Kapok is a natural fiber made from flower seeds and feels a lot like silk. It's lush, durable and supportive. Buckwheat pillows are very firm and are filled with the hulls of buckwheat. Kind of like sleeping on a big beanbag.
After much research and deliberation, my hubby chose a shredded latex pillow. I was leaning toward wool but he said wool+desert heat=neck sweat. I protested and showed him my carefully researched pillow descriptions. Breathable or no, wool is best known for keeping you warm. Warm is something we could do with a little less of.  I get it. It's his pillow. Shredded latex it is.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


And so it begins. The coop was built, the waterers purchased, the organic feed paid for. And now, the chickens are home!

It's been quite a journey. I've had more chicken drama in the past two days than I care to have in a lifetime. For one thing, I seem to be having trouble keeping my numbers up.As you know, Minnie and Olivia have been living down the road with a dear friend. Unfortunately, poor Minnie met her end when a dog burst through the coop and though he didn't eat her, he pawed her to death. Rest in peace dear Minnie. That left me with one chicken, Olivia, and far from my desired flock of four.

Enter my sweet friend Courtnie who offered me two of her chickens free of charge. They have more than enough eggs for themselves and their neighbors and were looking to downsize. I loaded up the kids and drove over. What a sight to see. If someone would have had a video camera, I think I could have won some money. I wouldn't say they were feral chickens but they were quite wild. Picture this:  Two full grown women with their youngest babies on their hips, trying to corner and chase chickens with their free hand while the older children cheered from outside the coop. We finally managed to catch two of them but we were muddy, feathered and sweaty for our efforts.

The trip from Courtnie's house to mine is a mere ten minutes. I carefully carried the box to the backyard and placed the hens in their new home. My daughter (who has unofficially become the namer-of-things for our family) dubbed the black one Glitter and the white one Daisy. We made sure they knew where their feed and water were and left them alone to acclimate.

My new coop is within view from my living room window. An hour or so after we brought Glitter and Daisy home, I peeked out the window to see if I could see them. What I saw was an egg! An egg! Only had them an hour and I got an egg. It had slipped between the nesting box and the wire. I pulled on my shoes to rescue my first backyard egg and hurried out into the heat. And there she was. Glitter. Dead as a doornail. Crap. I called Courtnie and she explained that chickens are easily stressed. The chasing, grabbing and transport in the 110 degree heat proved too much for poor Glitter and after drinking the entire contents of our two gallon waterer, she croaked right beside it.

Daisy, on the other hand, is fine and dandy. There was an egg waiting for me this morning so I figure if she's relaxed enough to lay, she's going to be okay. I went and picked up Olivia and my two survivor chickens seem to be doing just fine. I still want four chickens. But after this weekend's drama, I think I'll just stick with two, at least until Olivia starts laying her much anticipated blue-green eggs.  I don't know if I can handle another dead chicken quite yet. I forgot that life on the farm (or a track house in the middle of Phoenix) can be. My daughter was devastated at Glitter's passing which I certainly didn't expect. We literally had her in our possession less than two hours so I didn't think she would be bonded to the hens quite yet.  I was wrong. Explaining death to a four year old certainly wasn't on the agenda...

So... they are home. And I am happy. I like peeking out the window and seeing them strut around. I liked scrambling the egg Daisy gave me and eating it for breakfast. And with the massive egg recall and salmonella scare going on right now, I  feel so lucky that I know exactly where my food is coming from: my backyard. You can't get more local than that!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Bend and Snap

I broke my sewing machine. I didn't mean to, I swear. I was making a potholder, the one out of SouleMama's book Handmade Home in fact. Instead of batting, which I would have to buy, she used a thrifted towel for the filling. Brilliant! I snatched an old towel we had been using as a dust rag (I washed it first!) and went to sewing.

What the multi-talented SouleMama didn't take into account was my novice abilities and my minimal sewing machine knowledge.I managed to get everything cut to the proper lengths and my seams were straight. But the layers were very thick. Two layers of towel, two layers of fabric. I got two sides sewn when there was a loud snap followed by a piercing, grating grinding noise. My machine beeped at me several times and flashed E6. Do you know what an E6 is? Motor seizure. It's the equivalent of getting a blue screen on your laptop. It's over. It's done. Better call in the troops. Finito.

I tried to remove my project from the machine but the bent and broken needle (and the only needle I have) had it pretty well pinned down. I had to remove the foot and manually wriggle the needle up and out, ripping the fabric on the top of the potholder with the needle's jagged edge. I guess that potholder is going to the scrap bin. I un-threaded the machine, took out the bobbin and tried to figure out what was wrong. Nothing. Grinding, beeping and more E6.

Tears ensued. Phone calls were made. Bearly Stitchin', the local sewing center said they were sure they could fix her up. They're running about a week out on repairs so I'm looking at seven long day without a sewing machine and that my friends, makes me very grumpy indeed. Not that I'm sewing everyday or anything but I'm still learning. I can't learn if there is no machine with which to do it. And I was just about to start Christmas present #3!! Boo!

The old consumer driven me resurfaced, urging me to just buy a new one. Images of Singers and Brothers danced in my head. I started lusting over the Husqvarna Vikings in the current circular ad from my local craft store. But I won't. My machine may be down but it's not out. Who actually takes things to get repaired nowadays? We throw it away and get a new one. But not this time.What's that saying? Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without. The machine is too young to be used up. And with a little love, hopefully, I'll still have many years before I wear it out.

I dropped her off this morning. It turns out that the cost of fixing her is almost as much as purchasing a new one but I'm sticking to my guns. I like the machine I have. I don't really want another one. It's like we "grew up" together, ya know? Sigh. I miss my machine. Only 6 more days to go!


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Look What I Made!

Operation Handmade Christmas is well underway. Again, I'm not making every present, just five or six of them. This is a huge step for me as I have never made a homemade gift.  Well, I did make a couple but they turned out so horribly they never even saw the wrapping paper. But this year will be different. I have two, yes two presents nearly finished! Hooray! And guess what? They don't look that bad. I'm actually looking forward to giving them away rather than anticipating the blinding shame and embarrassment that my elementary attempts at crafting usually inspire.

Unfortunately, I can't really tell you what they are. The recipients read this blog and they wouldn't be very surprised if they read about their gifts here, now would they? I can give you a vague sneaky peek though. I'm like a proud mother hen, displaying my chicks out for all to see! My first gift allowed me to experiment with patchwork. I've been just itching to start quilting and this small project was the perfect intro. I selected my own fabrics (no pre-selected packs for me!) cut my own strips (no airborne rotaries this time) and arranged the layout. It's not perfect....My 1/4 seam allowance was a little more, sometimes a little less. Some of the seams aren't quite straight. But the imperfections add a whimsical touch and I'm quite pleased with how it turned out. Here's a picture: Can you guess what it is?

The second gift is a crocheted one. I picked the softest yarn I could afford and it's really turning out lovely. I didn't use any fancy stitches. I still need to practice those by making dishcloths. It's mainly double crochet which may look a little utilitarian but it's still quite pretty. Here's an abstract of that one:

I just received the pattern to begin gift #3 today so it's off to pick out my fabric and buy some fusible interfacing, whatever that is! I like the pattern so much I may just make one for myself too. For gifts # 4, 5, and 6 I've been searching the internet for inspiration. There's a great wide world of sewing blogs that would suck up my entire day if I let them. Whilst searching for new ideas, I came across a tutorial for a 20 minute skirt on Whipstitch Modern Sewing. The skirt as actually made for a little girl out of a fat quarter and was RIDICULOUSLY easy. I mean really. Even a bonehead like me could do it. So I thought I'd whip one up for myself since my daughter has more than enough skirts.

I adjusted the pattern as necessary. It took me about 45 minutes instead of 20 but hey, who's counting? I used an old sheet that was thrown in a batch of gifted fabrics from my grandmother. It's one of my favorite shades of blue and I thought the color would be versatile. Not to toot my own horn but wow. This is the best stitching I've ever done. My casing was darn near perfect. I've never got my stitching that straight or that  close to the edge. And I did a decorative stitch around the hem which I've never attempted and that looks pretty rockin' too. The only problem is....I am a woman. The skirt tutorial was for a girl. Girls do not have hips widened by babies. I do. The skirt is not "tight" per se, just much more form fitting than I expected but totally wearable. In fact, I wore it today. In public. And no one pointed or laughed. Success!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Doing it Old School

I think it's safe to say we're getting this home canning thing down. I'm still nervous about the pressure canner. I just know it's going to explode and take me out. But I can practically water bath can with eyes shut. Not only is it a practical way to save what we reap but it provides a tremendous amount of personal satisfaction. Plus, hubby usually helps and we have a good time together in the kitchen, sort of like a "date night" over boiling water and bubbling fruits and vegetables.

Ever the doomer, Hubby likes to point out that to be a well rounded, sustainable and prepared family, we should explore other food preservation techniques. He's not a pessimist per se....more, he sees the direction the world is headed and believes that we should be as prepared as possible for what may come. It's a good combo: he's a survivalist, I'm an environmentalist and proponent for simple living....we're getting prepared, treading lightly on the earth and becoming happier people in the process! Anyway,Hubby thinks that at some point in time, there may not be canning supplies to be had. Whether flood, or famine or whatever, what happens if we can't get canning lids? How would we preserve our food? Aside from buying out the stores, we have turned to the book Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning. This book details food preservation old school style. We're talking drying, lactic fermentation, alcohol, vinegar and oils. Any of these methods can be used to save your harvest and you don't need canning lids or electricity.

The first experiment was radishes. I've begun to look at radishes like I look at zucchini. Tasty for the first couple weeks and then you are so overrun you don't know what to do with them. Hubby decided he would used lactic fermentation to preserve them. He filled the jars with clean, trimmed radishes, occasionally adding salt and packing them down tightly. Thinking the radishes might be bland, he tossed in a couple of cloves of raw garlic for good measure. Then, he covered them with boiling salted water and put them in the pantry to do their thing.

All was well for few days. The water had turned a lovely pink color and the radishes bobbed happily in their brine. I don't quite remember when I started noticing the smell. I would catch faint wafts of something I couldn't quite put my finger on every time I opened the pantry. Then, after about two weeks, I came in the house after a morning of errand running and when I breezed by the pantry, I was overcome by the pungent stench of something rotting. I tore the pantry apart expecting to find a moldy potato or a dead rodent. But no. I took one whiff of those jars of radishes and nearly passed out. I didn't even save the jars. I threw all six of them in the trash, unopened. Lesson learned. Radishes are best eaten fresh, straight from the garden. Save the lactic fermentation for something else!

After the radish disaster, you would understand why I might be hesitant to try any more of these "stone age" preservation techniques. However, we had a sizable carrot crop which we harvested so as to make room for fall plantings and not a lot of freezer space. So....hubby decided we should try preserving them in oil. The carrots were scrubbed, trimmed and sliced. The spears were blanched in vinegar, packed loosely into jars, sprinkled with herbs and spices and covered with olive oil. That's it. And though I was skeptical, they are the BEST carrots I have ever eaten. They are supposed to cure for couple of weeks but they are already bursting with flavor. I've never seem my kids eat so many carrots in one sitting! Really. I'm not a big carrot fan but these would be great as an appetizer, chopped in a salad or straight out the jar. And work was minimal. No hot boiling pots, no timers....easy peasy.

As happy as I am that the carrots were so much more successful than the radishes, I still think the classic canned good is my preferred method of preservation. We will continue to experiment but just in case....I think I'm stocking up on jars and lids!! 

Monday, August 16, 2010

Peachy Keen

One of the best things about summer is the fruit. Never are strawberries sweeter, watermelons juicer,  or peaches plumper. During these sweltering months, I consider myself a "fruitarian" since most every meal includes some of nature's sweetest treats. Speaking of peaches, I happened to come across 20 pounds of summer beauties which I whisked home to be preserved for my snacking pleasure. We spent the better of the day blanching, peeling, smooshing and stirring and produced three peachy keen treats I can't wait to partake of.

The first was peach butter. I had planned on making peach jam but after reading a post over at Handmade Life, I decided peach butter sounded better (and easier too.) We blanched and peeled the peaches, chopped them up, added a little sugar and lemon juice and let them simmer for a couple of hours. I used my submersible blender to smooth it out more and really give that buttery texture. The result: sunny, yummy goodness. We all stood around the pot licking up leftovers. I cannot wait to try it on a piece of toast with my new found crunchy almond butter. Did you know they made crunchy almond butter? Heavenly....

Anyway, we also sliced enough peaches to fill up the dehydrator. Peach chips are one of my favorite snacks. I could eat a whole jar and I will if I'm not careful. I mix chopped peach chips with raisins and almonds for a quick snack mix for the kiddos. We've not had peach chips since we gobbled our last jar sometime around Christmas so I'm really looking forward to having a fresh batch. And my house smells SO good. If only I could capture the smell and put it an (eco-friendly) candle!

And finally, I used the stragglers to make a peach crisp, or as I like to call it, Lazy Girl Pie. After standing all day in the kitchen to make the butter and the chips, I didn't really feel like whipping out a pie crust. Crumbles are uncomplicated and so tasty. Yes, I realize I've posted a few recipes lately but it won't hurt you to look at another, will it?  This is sooo good and you can use virtually any fruit you have on hand. 


  • 4 to 5 pounds firm, ripe peaches (10 to 12 large peaches)
  • The zest of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 to 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup quick-cooking oatmeal
  • 1/2 pound cold unsalted butter, diced


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the inside of a 10 by 15 by 2 1/2-inch oval baking dish.
Immerse the peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds, then place them in cold water. Peel the peaches and slice them into thick wedges and place them into a large bowl. Add the lemon zest, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons of flour. Toss well. Allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes. If there is a lot of liquid, add 1 more tablespoon of flour. Pour the peaches into the baking dish and gently smooth the top.

Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, salt, oatmeal, and the cold, diced butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the butter is pea-sized and the mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle evenly on top of the peaches. Bake for 1 hour, until the top is browned and crisp and the juices are bubbly. Serve immediately, or store in the refrigerator and reheat in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until warm.

I am stuffed full of peachy goodness. Every surface in my kitchen is covered in stickiness, my house smells like an orchard and I am satisfied. I'll be tasting summer long after the sun is gone. 

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Knights in Shining Toolbelts

A few posts back, I hinted that I might be participating in a little civil disobedience. Well today my friends, I am one step closer to doing just that. Last weekend was crazy. I had my parents, my in laws, my brother and 17 riled up kids to feed and entertain for my daughter's birthday. But in between the hullabaloo,  the menfolk managed to slip away to the hardware store and had just enough time to build me a chicken coop. Oh sweet farm-y bliss!

It's really perfect. It's an A-frame design with two roosts/nesting boxes. It's just short enough not to be seen over the fence but tall enough for me to get in and do what I need to do. They even built a little door and ramp so I can let the girls out to scratch around in the garden. Buh-bye crickets! The coops is small but since technically I'm not even allowed to have hens, so I figured a flock of four is more than enough.

I'm not ready to bring the ladies home quite yet. I need to make a trip to the feed store for waterers, wood shavings and organic feed. It's on my to-do list today. And since I only have one hen (Minnie had an unfortunate incident with a dog...may she rest in peace) but would like to have four, I'm also trying to decide whether I want to chance getting birds from unknown source (aka Craigslist) and risking diseased/aged/parasitic birds.There is also the option of ordering pullets from a hatchery but then I'd have to wait a bit for eggs. I want omelets now!

I'm also beginning to get a bit scared. Well, maybe scared is the wrong word. Nervous. I just don't want anyone to find out about my contraband birds. I've always been one to follow the straight and narrow. I'm a good girl. A rule follower. And I feel so deviant! I'm not allowed to have chickens but I'm going to anyway. A rebel, I know. You should have seen me when we rigged up the clothesline which we are also not supposed to have. I was a nervous wreck. I was just waiting for the HOA police to pound down the door and demand that I remove my underwear from the line immediately or risk an exorbitant fine. That never happened of course but I still watch over my shoulder when I hang my clothes.

The way I figure it, the only way we could be found out is to be turned in by a neighbor. I've already spoken with one neighbor, the house on the other side of us is an abandoned foreclosure and the two houses behind us are rarely home and have stinky barking dogs giving them little authority to complain of the occasional boisterous squawk. I think we're good. If problems arise maybe I can bribe them with fresh eggs and produce. Worth a shot don't you think?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

This Moment.

{this moment} 

A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words- capturing a moment you want to remember. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
I must cheat and give a little explanation. His grandfathers were teaching him how to use a remote control car. Precious!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I Mint To Do That

Being the novice gardeners we were at planting time last year, we heeded some advice and other we ignored completely. I had been warned by book and person that mint will take over your garden and never let it go. Eh. I thought. So it gets a little out of control. I can handle it, right? WRONG! My itty bitty mint plant is now more of a mint tree. The Asian eggplants and red bell peppers that share it's space are struggling for light and growing room. Dear husband began the clearing and the turning of soil necessary to facilitate the fall plantings taking place at the beginning of September. As he ripped up sun scorched cucumber vines and withered crookneck squash,  he warned that my over abundant mint was next to go.

Before he could hack my precious plant to pieces I cut as much mint as my largest kitchen bowl could handle and brought it in to dry. The last time I dried herbs, I hung parsley in my kitchen window. That method worked just fine and brought a homey aesthetic to the kitchen. But the leaves got a little dusty and as the herbs dried, they slipped out of their bundles and made a big mess in my sink. But this time around, I have a big, bad, brand new dehydrator! Bah-bah-baaaaaah....

The trays are loaded and in four to six hours I'll have preserved some of my prolific mint for future use. I'll mostly be using it to make tea (yummo!) but since mint and chocolate go together like toilets and toilet paper, I couldn't resist throwing some in to my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. Get out your stretchy'll want to eat a whole dozen!

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies with Mint
(adapted from Martha Stewart's Cookie Book)

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (about 12 ounces) semisweet and/or milk chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, finely chopped or 2 Tbsp. dried


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter with both sugars; beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low; add the salt, vanilla, and eggs. Beat until well mixed, about 1 minute. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips and mint.
  2. Drop heaping tablespoon-size balls of dough about 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
  3. Bake until cookies are golden around the edges, but still soft in the center, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool on baking sheet 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool completely. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.     

Monday, August 9, 2010


I'm distracted. Fidgety. Can't quite sit still but can't quite get anything done. My house is awreck. There  are unwashed dishes, a mountain of laundry (I've heard someone once call it Mount Washmore), toys in every corner, books strewn on every surface. A complete disaster. And it's so unlike me! I wouldn't say I'm the kind of girl to have a floor so clean you could eat off of it but I do take pride in a tidy house. I wash the dishes as soon as the meal is over. I have the kids pick up before nap and before bed. I make my bed every day. But I seem to have fallen into a rut and my day to day chores aren't getting done. And if I don't do them, I guarantee there is no one else willing to pick up the slack.

This is not to say my hubby isn't helpful. He is. He has his chores and I have mine. His main "chore" is to go to a job he doesn't like that much and bring home the money we need to live. I honor that. His home duties are limited but he never flinches if I ask him to break out the vacuum or fold a basket of clothes. However, I try to avoid asking for his help because 1) I'm too proud and 2) the home is supposed to be my job. And usually, there is no problem with the way things are set up. I like keeping house, if you can call it that. I like making a haven for my family. Do I like cooking? No. But I like providing healthful meals for my growing babies. Do I like cleaning? Who does? But I like that my family has a safe and sanitary environment in which to live their lives.

Simplifying my life has actually led to more work. Not so simple, right? Now instead of whipping out the Clorox wipes I take out my measuring cups and my essential oils, mix a batch of non-toxic all purpose spray, pour it into a recycled spray bottle and finally, proceed with the wiping of my countertops. Or what about dinner? Many nights I'm in the garden figuring out what's ready to be harvested, picking, pulling, washing and finally chopping and cooking. It takes me much longer to do things that used to take me all of five minutes. And though I do gain a heartfelt satisfaction from living my life this way, my already long to-do list remains long, almost never ending. It's when I lose sight of this satisfaction and focus instead on the endless list of things to be done that I get disheartened and overwhelmed. My train derails and things start to pile up. And I start feeling....well...kinda funky.

So here I am. Buried in laundry and dishes and dust bunnies. Finding every excuse I can. Trying to regain the pride and satisfaction of keeping my home running smoothly. Why do I feel that sometimes it is not enough? Does it make a me a terrible wife and mother? I want nothing more than to be here, raising my babies and watching them grow. Why then am I glaring at my mop and resorting to pre-cooked frozen dinners I won't normally touch with a ten foot pole? 

I need to de-funk. A nap, a think, a cup of tea and good cry may be in order.  This is what I want for myself and for my family. I just need to find my balance.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Junkity Junk Mail

I eagerly fished my mail key out of my purse and barreled down the sidewalk toward the mailbox. While standing in the checkout line at the grocery store, I noticed the September issue of my most favorite magazine was on the newsstands. Hooray! That means my paid subscription is on it's way and could be waiting in my mailbox for me to lovingly flip it's pages and dog ear the stories I want to read twice. But alas, no. Plenty of mail, nothing of substance. Flyers, credit card offers, coupons that don't really offer any discounts, things addressed to Staphone Grin....where does this stuff come from? And how did these people get my address? Some days I don't have a single legitimate piece of mail in the bunch. Did you know the average household receives 41 pounds of junk mail a year? Forty one pounds! I'm trying to think of something that weighs 41 pounds so I can make a shocking comparison but I can't think of anything. But 41 pounds is a LOT of paper!

Junk mail isn't just annoying, it's ridiculously harmful to our planet. According to blogger Adam Bjerk, over 100 million trees are used annually so that we can be made aware of "Insanely Low Interest Rates." Of the 40 million tons of junk mail produced each year, almost half is directly deposited in landfills. Not recycled. Trashed. Not only that, Bjerk says that junk mail contributes to the obscenely lucrative business of buying and selling your personal information. Can we say identity theft? 

We will never be able to stop junk mail completely but I for one am tired of lugging it all home and sorting through it.  I don't know about you but I'm willing to sacrifice my 2% off carpet cleaning coupon for the life of the few trees we have left. Bjerk lists some ways to lighten the load on both your mailbox and your mind:

  • This will stop junk mail resulting from Equifax, Experian, TransUnion, and Innovis giving out your credit score and history. Buh-bye prescreened offers!
  • Registering with the Direct Marketers Association, who represents hundreds of companies, will keep you off their mailing lists for five years.
  • Completing a U.S. Post Office Form 1500 is a great way to get rid of junk mail from specific organizations. Fill out the form, attach the opened piece of offending mail and take it to the post office. Bam!
  • Feeling lazy? This is the option for you. For a fee of 30 smackeroos, 41 Pounds will contact all the above agencies on your behalf and in so doing claim to reduce your junk mail by 85-90%. Plus, a portion of your fee goes to the eco-charity of your choice. Super informative site too!
I'm thinking the lazy woman's choice will be the one for me. 41 Pounds seems like a good deal. I like that while I pay someone to cover my bases, the money I gave them will be helping those who are stewards of the environment. And I really like that when I open my mailbox, my Martha Stewart magazine will be easily visible, unsullied by unwanted catalogs and mortgage refinance offers; a shining beacon of homemaking goodness waiting just for me.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Over the weekend, our hens laid their very first egg! So exciting. I'm not sure which one did of the Barred Rock hens for sure because it was brown and Americaunas lay blue-ish ones. It was teeny and tiny but perfect. I'm hoping the eggs get a bit bigger or I'll need a months worth for an omelet.

 The FIRST egg!

As many of you know our two hens, Minnie and Olivia, do not live with us. Our homeowner's association prevents us from having them here with us. So, they live about a mile down the road with a generous friend of mine where chickens are kept and welcomed. My friends are on vacation and so it my responsibility to care of the girls while they're away. I welcome the chore. I love talking to them and I always squat down and stay awhile so they're used to me. Anyhoo, it's has been raining like crazy lately and there's a leak in the coop roof. When I went to check on them yesterday, I had a coop full of wet hens and no eggs. Wet hens are angry hens and who wouldn't be? If I had to slog through the mud and endure drips on my feathers, I might spite you by withholding an egg or two.

I went to the feed store and bought a gargantuan bag of wood shavings to spread around and soak up the mud. I also purchased two nesting boxes so the girls would have a nice place to lay their eggs. Buying nesting boxes is really unnecessary. They can be made from a number of scrapped or recycled materials but I panicked. I'm a first time chicken owner with angry, soggy, just started laying birds I didn't have time to make something! I paid the $15.85 and was on my way. And my reward for my panicked impulse buy? An egg. Perfect. Dry. CLEAN. Just waiting for me today when I went to feed.

 Minnie checking out the new nesting boxes

Now that Minnie and Olivia are of "laying age," the desire to have them here on my property is overwhelming. I want my girls here, with me. I want my kids to become more familiar with where their food really comes from and for them to share in the responsibility of caring for the hens. It's a hard lesson to teach when your chickens live a mile away and we aren't really involved in the day to day care. I think I might just have to break the rules. Chickens are no louder and no smellier than that yapper dog who lives in the yard behind us. Yes. I think it's time to bring the girls home. HOA be damned! Stay tuned...

Monday, August 2, 2010

Four Years

There's magic in a little girl,
In shining eyes and tossing curl,
In winsome smile and dimpled cheeks
And music when she laughs or speaks
From a little girl so very small
How and when'd you get so tall?

 Fours years ago, I became a mother. Into my life came the most precious creature I could ever imagine. Every day with you is a blessing my sweet girl. It saddens me that you've grown so fast but I am consoled with lovely little person you are becoming. I love you more and more each the moon and back. Happy 4th Birthday little Bug...