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Monday, September 1, 2014

September and organizing and sunflowers

Oh, September. I could sing a song about you.

I won't though.

Someone else should though, definitely.

Cool mornings. Soft breezes. The occasional storm shower. The garden is at its peak of glory. And finally my sunflowers and zinnias are blossoming. (Yes, these pics are those flowers. Aren't they GORGEOUS?? I love September.)

And then there is the organizing.

Because, as you may well know from past posts(here, here, here, here), September is my official GET SHIT ORGANIZED month.

No more of the summer chaos. Throw it in the closet! Deal with it later! Quick, get outside and absorb that sunshine! Get to the lake! The zoo! Camp! GO GO GO!

No. We are done with that. Because now we are putting up cans and cans of produce. Jellies and jams and pickles and three bean salad. And we need room to can. And to put the jars up. And plants start coming back inside. Some ferns. The tall quirky aloe. Its a little too cold at night for some of them.
And I start to think about winter. Not without a twinge of dread. But only a tiny twinge. And I cast on stitches for a fuzzy winter hat for baby Green. And school is underway. Bringing rhythm to our day.

And I am ready.

And. Fall. Winter.

And I am ready.


Do you do this? I've already talked about why I do. I think. Years and Years and Years of SCHOOL. Fall is new classes and new ideas and professors and experiences.

I think a lot about daily routine in these months. What I want to accomplish. And a list starts forming in my head. Because I am list girl.

Here is what I have so far.

1) Become adept at making gluten free bread. Bake more. I need to take Green in for an official diagnosis but I am pretty sure she is celiac....ehhhhhhh.
2) Get up early EVERY MORNING. I still struggle with this. Getting up before the kids makes a WORLD of a difference in my attitude to take on the day. But, man am I tired. So tired. Zzzzzzzzz. Still, I gots to try. Gots to gots to gots to.
3) Finish revising book. Send out book to agents. Get rejected. Send out book to agent. Get rejected. Repeat ad nauseum. (Fun times ahead!)
4) Start next book. (OOOOOO. Such a good idea for my next project. I mapped it out this morning actually. Writing fresh stories is much nicer and funner than revising and getting rejected.)
5) Get kids into 4H/Cub scouts/and etc. (This is part of Operation Don't Sit at Home and Be Lonely All Winter. I read somewhere this winter is going to be just as harsh and long as last year. Must. Find. More. Friends. I suck at this.)
6) Um. Join a gym? I hate to write that on the list but. I need to not be a jellyfish by next spring. Which is how I felt this spring. Also. See above.
7) Paint. Knit. Sew. Create. This is part of Operation Be Happy.
8) Geez. I think that is probably enough. I should probably put something here about school ambitions. I've got other lists for that though. HA. One more thing might be a new resolution. Stop stressing out about stuff I can't control. A lifelong item on the list perhaps. For certain. But, my gosh, entering into fall and a new school year this stressed out about stupid things beyond me is really....stupid....oh yes...
9) Blog twice a week. I am going to start a book-ish section, with my sisters, EEEEEEEEEK. I am excited about this one. "The Johnson-Sisters Talk Books." Also old time anti-recipe attempts from my favorite new cookbook. Also. More crafty things. Fall is for crafty, for me anyway, not so much summer.

That is all I can think of.

I feel like I need a number 10. To round out the list.

10) Oh yes. Um. ORGANIZE. Purge crap. Fabric scraps exploding out of the closet. Clothes I "might wear some day." Baby things. Old kid toys. Books in boxes. Random kitchen things we never use. Clean. Efficient. Simple.

So. Yes. A year of peace. Creative energy. Writing. Simplifying.

This is the year I need. So I am gonna make it happen. You know?

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand GO.

Except maybe later. Because its gorgeous out and we are going to the lake. Quick! Drop everything! Cut up that watermelon! Get in the car! GO GO GO!



Friday, August 29, 2014

whilst ignoring the children

Mom. The girls are fighting. 

I can hear that. 

Shouldn't you DO something about it?

Hmmm. How does that cloud look?

Fine. Mom. Come on. They're probably gonna kill each other. 

Nah. They won't. Hmmm... I know more grey! 

Shrieking ensues. 

And more grey totally helped. 

I think I'm getting the hang of clouds.

I'm also digging the artsy mama thing. 

When it rains all day, paint a blue sky, right?

PS. They totally happily played after this conversation (for ten whole minutes) and did not in fact kill each other. At all. 

The inspiration photo...I made the horizon too high so the road is too central. Otherwise I like it. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

eight journeys around the sun

Eight years ago today I was pacing my basement study, wringing my hands, crying, wanting to go into labor (I was in labor) for REAL, unsure of when this boy child of mine would finally emerge into the sunlit world.

The next day, by 6pm, he had. Finally. (Birth story here if you are interested)

And I had passed into that magical mystical ageless realm ... of motherhood.

And so this day, remembering that version of me. That scared girl with the swollen belly who later had to undergo a c-section. Its an emotional day for me. Its my day. Tomorrow is his. The first day of his ninth year around the sun. Today. This day. When I began entry into that realm. This is my day, our day, really. For he made me mama. And there is something so sacred about that.

Entering my ninth year of motherhood.



I want to hug that scared girl. Tell her its okay. Tell her her body will figure it out. Tell her to trust herself and the process. What's more. I want to tell her about the journey ahead, already unfolding on that hot day, pacing the basement. I want to tell her about the pure delight. The maddening frustration. Mostly about how her heart will still melt, eight years later, at those big brown eyes. Mama, please, can't you read one more chapter?

I want to tell her the amazingly heart wrenching unforgettably monotonous journey ahead. Mostly though, how its okay, how she is gonna kick ass at it. Breathe. Through each contraction, through each year, each bruised knee and fever and lost tooth and long day. Just breathe. Love it.

Kick ass.

the day before little man appeared, wringing of hands and pacing followed this picnic
meeting little man for the first time



Monday, August 25, 2014

finding your footing

I spent my teenage years living on the Central Coast of California. Flannels shirts, cut off shorts, long hair. My uniform. Riding my horse. Lots of time at the beach. But we didn't lay around in bikinis. We hiked cliffs and donned wetsuits and jumped waves and tried to stand on our boogie boards.

The power of the ocean overwhelmed me more than once in those years. The hazy California sun overhead. Fog more than likely. Daring the cool water you head out, trying to stand as the current sucked the salty water back out to sea. A few steps. You stop. Crabs maybe, a shell, catching your attention, you wiggle and feel the sand pulling in your feet. Now, feet stuck into the sand, you see the wave coming, you wobble, take a step back, let the wave wash over you, maybe splashing up your leg, then, energized, you step out again, the sand gushing down between your toes once more, ready, more than ready, for that next wave.

Where am I going with this?

I was contemplating my birthday coming up this fall. Not THE big one, but close. (Those flannel shirt wearing days were the grunge years of the 90s, you do the math) And really, my parenting journey. Little man is about to turn 8. There is something significant about 8.

And, well, suddenly this image came to my mind, as these milestones and the emotions they bring were swirling around today, out in the garden, picking yet another load of beans which are now on my counter, staring at me. Help me Sara! Put me in a jar with a yummy brine! To which I say, LATER, damn talking green beans!

Where was I.


This was all swirling in my mind and that image suddenly came to me. This foot, sinking in the sand, that step back as the wave comes, the pushing out further as you suddenly find yourself no longer timid. Feeling out the ocean, understanding its strengths, your weaknesses.

Finding your footing.

Something about this birthday, mine and his. And I feel like, yea, I feel like I have found my footing.

Who I am.

What I want.

How I don't give a shit about some things, I thought I would care about immensely in my 20s. How I DO give a shit about things that seemed so unimportant at one point in life.

The knowingness of self is the best part of this phase of life. A growing wisdom to see faults (too many on some days), yet the energy and will to still try to overcome those faults, put them to rights. The energy to dream, big, but now, the balls to go out and DO. Yes, I said balls. No, I don't usually say that in real life, but it works here.

Also in parenting.

I kind feel like I got the little kid parenting thing kind sorta sorted out. I know whats what. Not to say I don't have HARD DAYS (read, TODAY) but that, I have seen it. Been hit by that wave a time or two, and I know that as I take a step back, to find my footing once more, I will be able to step down, sink my toes in the sand, and move on out into the ocean again (awaiting the sharks of the teenage years, no doubt. HA HA)

It was a good realization. Even amidst a hard day (allergy suffering children who are snuffly and grumpy and angsty about birthdays and presents and etc etc.) Even when things in my own life feel rather wave crashy. (Trying to make my little book project REAL whilst home schooling and picking up client work and the green beans mocking me......)

Even so. Even when. I know that step back doesn't mean moving back. That big wave crashing doesn't mean the end of it all. It means, once again, stepping back, finding your footing, so you can step forward again, enjoying the waves and all that comes along with them, the sun, the sparkle on the water, that salt smell, the breeze, the cry of the gulls. All of it.

 Look at that beach! So perfect!

Here is me in those years. So, I look exactly the same, except I am more tired now. And I don't tie up my hair in scrunchies. HA. I always had a baby in my arms in those years too. This is my little sister Molly.

I am honest to God SO FLIPPING THANKFUL I did not exist as a teen in the years of the selfie and social media. Otherwise you would have seen shitty photos like this of me EVERY DAY for years. I took stacks of these, my sisters and friends and I, but they only exist in a shoe box in the closet and NOT ON SOCIAL MEDIA. Except for this one. Er. Um. HA.

My effort at a sexy pose, apparently. THAT HAIR. I want that hair again.

THIS PICTURE MAKES ME LAUGH OUT LOUD. HA. This is how we went to the beach. Halter top. Cut off jean shorts. Ball cap. Ray Bans.

No seriously, why don't I live there anymore??? Honey. Time to pack up. Winter is a'coming!!!

Now, listen to this song and smile. How can you not smile listening to that voice?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

putting away the harvest in pics and anti-recipe #72 AMAZING sweet pickles (and tomato figs)

I sound all Laura Ingalls Wilder writing this, but its the truth. The garden is EXPLODING. And its not at the unmanageable "PLEASE-TAKE-SOME-ZUCCHINI" point yet. But it still takes work.

And with school now in session it takes massive organizing of my brain to make it all happen.

Curious what that looks like?

Here is my day, yesterday, in pictures, in case you wanted to see...

Oh, and I am having "More Thoughts" (yes in capital letters) about this blog for the next year. I am thinking of some Bookish type things to start doing and some anti-recipe experiments from my new favorite cookbook (see below).

Any input from you all??


Also below, the best sweet pickle anti-recipe EVER.

Here is what my day was yesterday, dealing with garden produce and children. Ha.

So, we begin the day by making pickles. I have this amazing sweet pickle recipe, anti-recipe truly, that is in my estimation the ONLY pickle recipe worth making.

Here is the link. My sister was aghast when I shared it with her. A recipe that takes EIGHT DAYS??? How is that an anti-recipe. Ah, but, I say, it takes five minutes a day, for 8 days, and I have totally guessed proportions and they always turn out great. So. Here is how I do it:

1) DAY 1: slice up cucumbers as above.
2) put in a metal bowl
3) cover with boiling water
4) cover with a cloth
5) let stand until the next day (don't let the foam on top scare you!)
6) DAY 2: drain off water (do not rinse!)
7) add boiling water with pickling salt, roughly one cup of salt for one gallon of water
8) pour over cucumbers, cover, let stand
9) DAY 3: drain off water (do not rinse!)
10) add boiling water and a tsp or so of alum or, if you have wild grapevines like me (!) add a few clean grape leaves, then cover with boiling water. This step gives the pickle its CRUNCH.
11) DAYS 4-7: drain off water, take out leaves etc.
12) boil the same amount of apple cider vinegar and cover the slices with the ACV and a little baggie of pickling spices in a bit of cheesecloth (I use a coffee filter tied up) You can buy pickling spices in most grocery stores, walmart, etc.
13) let it sit for the next few days! I have bottled them at day 6 and they were fine.
14) DAY 8: bottling! clean out (I use super hot water to sterilize) several wide-mouthed jars and lids and rings. Drain off vinegar, take out spices. Now, layer slices in the jars with a goodly amount of sugar over them. Keep layering until the jars are full. You will use more than a cup of sugar per jar, closer to two cups. Put on the lids. So, the sugar sucks the vinegar out of the slices and makes a syrup. If after sitting for a few hours the syrup isn't covering the slices add more sugar. You will have to turn the jars several times to get the sugar off the bottom. Now they can be stored in a cool room for up to several years! That is right, no canning involved!! Amazing right. And so good once chilled in the fridge. (below pic is the ones I started yesterday, in the bowl, finished pickle, ready to store, from the batch I just finished.)


So far, I was just ignoring the children as they messed around...

Which gave me time to read my favorite new cookbook. A how-to for everything under the sun to run a house, in the late 1800s....FASCINATING. How to kill a chicken (which I er, referred to when we "processed" our meat chickens last week...a process too traumatizing for me to document here, although I have to say, new respect for women who had to daily for food, and I also must add how little man was so good handling the process, truly a farm kid in the making!) How to launder, medicinal advice, how to make a proper lemon syrup, how to...seriously anything... This book is part of my grand plan for my blog this year. Taking one recipe every few weeks, trying it out, and sharing with you all. Today I give you....TOMATO FIGS. No, seriously, turning tomatoes into figs.

They look weird but honest to God they taste like figs! I used gorgeous black cherry tomatoes for this, almost purple in color.

I also dried some cherry tomatoes in the dehydrator, coated with olive oil, and now have them stored in the fridge in olive oil.

Little man working on a thrilling story about Martians. I chopped and helped him with spelling.

I did up one cucumber according to Nourishing Traditions fermented pickles recipe. TASTY.

Fuzzy picture. Drying mint leaves from the garden for tea. SO AMAZINGLY FRESH AND BETTER THAN STORE BOUGHT TEA. No really, I had to write in all caps. That good. I simply pick, stalks and all, wash and leave this out sitting around my kitchen until the leaves are crumbly dry, then store in a glass jar. Throw some in hot water. LOVELY.

Lest you think I am superwoman, I started to lose my mind at one point. DADA TO THE RESCUE.

The below is starting some sauerkraut. Also now sitting in my kitchen. Layer of finely cut cabbage, sprinkle of salt, pound pound pound. That is it.

boy is happy because he is doing Ipad flash cards for math. HA.

Little miss is doing math with the good old gnome story. (To explain the four math functions, in story, gnomes with gems.)

Writing out the first five Roman Numerals with number writing practice.

Here is what little man was doing. His appetite for reading is rather frightening.

And, then, the inevitable, I started losing my cool, so the girls did some water color painting and I did this tiny oil painting of a geranium in a pot. I kind of love it.

This is what happened as I wrote this post (which took ALL MORNING) he read...THE ENTIRE BOOK. Lord have mercy. This child.

So, that was my day. Frankly I am exhausted just blogging it for you! HA. I totally ran away to the library for two hours of writing while dada kid-wrangled and made dinner. AHHHHH....

Okay. My house is a rest and geography lesson is calling.

Happy Wednesday mamas!

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