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Thursday, August 29, 2013

so this happened again

Where we all were having a rough day so I stepped out on to the steamy hot deck and ignored the world to paint for 20 minutes. 

The results:

(Oil paint attempt #2)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

you are seven

My baby is turning seven. 

Something about the first baby's birthday is sacred to a mama. It was there, in that hospital room, that my identity was transformed. I went from Sara to mama, a being I didn't know I had in me, one that holds in the need to pee for fear of waking the newborn asleep on her chest, one that thinks in terms of naptimes and bedtimes (and they aren't your naptime or bedtime) a being that without hesitation hands the last sip of orange juice to her 4 yr old, who needs some juice bad mama. 

It is sacred. 

An identity that so many shrug off "oh she's just a mom."

There is no just. There is only everything. 

Every tear, every smile, every whimper, every magical laugh. It is everything. 

And everything else, that is all "just".

Little man, you gave me this gift, this mantle of sacred mama. 

Thank you. 

You are everything to me.

Monday, August 26, 2013

goooood moooorning mommmmmies... attempt number 2

If you first don't succeed....try, try again...right?

I tried this past winter to wake up with dada when he got up, in the dark, to catch his train to work. Did I mention he wakes up when its dark? Really, super, duper early.

I managed for about a week.

Then baby toddler dear kept on waking up with me, which defeats the whole purpose of getting up early, so I stopped.

So here I am again. The house lovely and quiet. Dada made coffee for me before he left. And I write and I think, maybe even do some morning yoga. Not so bad, and yes this is just the first day. Talk to me again in a week and I may be singing a different tune. HA.

Especially if the babies start getting up with me. I hear their beds creaking in the other room. NOOOOOOOOOO! SLEEEEEEEEEPPPPP!

Mama needs some time to think.

I have been scheduling out our homechooling day this past week. Finalizing plans for curriculum, etc. It feels like a lot, but I am excited. Little man is going to be seven in a few days. SEVEN. And I am stepping up his work a bit. Science and History twice a week, and Math every day, along with language arts and French and circle time. I am thinking of throwing in some German too, in circle time, maybe some Spanish, to try and expose them to languages early on.

Never mind, you don't want to hear about all this. HA HA.

I plan on mapping out an actual schedule and taping it to the fridge, to also include things like meal ideas for the week, activities, and dada and I have decided we each get "a night off" once a week, even if it just means me down in the study writing (which is what I am hoping it will mean).

How do you mamas handle organizing your daily schedules in the new school year? Any tips?

I like the schedule on the fridge thing. I might do a month at a time. This might encourage me to actually plan ahead for 1) new recipes to try! Maybe I will finally be that girl that cooks a month of meals in a Saturday afternoon for the freezer! 2) projects to do from Pinterest! I just grouped past pins by month on new boards, one for each month of the fall. Mostly things for the kids I want to try, new recipes, projects around the house, etc. Otherwise I tend to lose all these great pins because of my, well, binging approach to Pinterest (PIN EVERYTHING PRETTY AND YUMMY!!) You can see my boards if you click the link on the side to follow me. I'm even thinking of going bananas and scheduling out what day I clean the bathrooms, the floors, etc. CRAZY ME! (ha.)

I'm really hopeful for this new approach. Getting up early. Writing. Yoga and quiet time. Diving into school by 8:30. Having projects and crafts planned out for the kids that correspond with what we are studying. Mapping out meals for the month so as to avoid the 4pm panic hour (WHAT TO MAKE FOR DINNER???).

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.

But, first thing's first. Time to make another pot of coffee!

Are you excited for the new school year? Lets talk getting (and staying!) organized!
Friday, August 23, 2013

random thoughts on what is next and the august garden

I'm in a strange place the past few days. Lots of "what ifs" and "what is next" type questions rolling around in my brain. I told my mom I feel like I am juggling, throwing lots of balls up in the air, waiting to see which comes down first...for the first time, ever, I will have a two year old and not be pregnant. This is... Different. Very. Different.

The possibilities are endless!

Think of all the energy!

All those afternoons when, after school, I can say, GO PLAY, and they DO, and I can sit and...write! read! Do some work! Paint! Volunteer! Heck, maybe I will find a yoga class! (No, too ambitious perhaps. HA.)

It feels almost magical.

Of course, they will have their new sets of issues. I am seeing from little man that turning seven brings about a whole new level of parenting. His awareness is so much greater, his understanding too. Today, after a frustrating playdate I knelt down and hugged his little chest and smothered his face with kisses. You and me boy? We can do this! We can do seven!

And baby too of course, no longer baby, but still very baby.

And little miss, doing that transition year from four to five, which really is so dramatic.

Ah, yes, maybe not so much energy left over after all. HA HA. But a girl can dream, right?

I want to write. I want to travel. I want to teach. I want to maybe do a PhD program? Huh??? Maybe, I don't know. Then I had this idea yesterday. What if I published my "Alphabet Journey" first grade curriculum as an E-Book and sold it from here?? Would you buy it?? For a few meager dollars?? I've got it sitting here on my computer and it feels like, huh, that could save some mama a TON of work. Maybe.


Lots of maybes.

Lots of balls up in the air. I keep on throwing more and more up there, thinking eventually one will fall and I will catch it and it will feel right in my hand, and I will run with it. RUN FOREST RUN.

Lets hope they don't all fall on my head and knock me out. HA.

Here are some pretty pictures of my garden. Which is lovely. And with all these balls up in the air I go out to my garden in the bright morning sunlight of late August, a time of year when the light green of summer changes to golden gleam of a ripening world, and I sit in my swing, and I pick some string beans. And, life is good, even with all the maybes.

my girls think their job while I pick veggies is to pick all the marigolds they can.

we made our first caprese salad the other day. it was divine.

its only a couple flowers mom! but they are so pretty! they are for you!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

anti-recipe #66 pickling all the things

One day, I suppose, likely years and years from now when I have grey dreads down to the floor, I will proceed with cooking new things in the proper fashion 1) have an idea to cook something 2) look up the recipe 3) make a list and go to the store 4) buy all the things required to make that recipe 5) come home and follow the recipe 6) and actually measure all ingredients, put them in in order, and prepare/cook/can as per instructions.

Doesn't that sound boring though????

Commence canning season with Sara, take #4. (Is this my fourth year of canning recipes on this blog? yes, I believe so.)


So I have, in my little garden, loads and loads of cucumbers. We cant seem to get the tomatoes to turn red, the squash and zucchini have nary a fruit anywhere to be seen but, oh my, we have cucumbers.

Last time I posted about pickles, as you may recall, (click there to read the post, super funny to reread actually) I was two weeks away from having baby #3 and was very very cranky.  I made refrigerator pickles after being unable to get my act together to can pickles. The pickles sat and sat, we ate a few here and there, but they were floppy and nobody likes a floppy pickle. This year I was determined to DO BETTER.

And yet I proceed as typical, crap, I don't have enough apple cider vinegar, I fill up the giant canning pot with water and realize I don't have time to can! And the kids are nagging at me and little man says his ear hurts and starts wailing and somewhere in all that, here is what I did.

Of course, being me, I did manage some research. I cant follow a recipe to save my life but I do like knowing the "why" behind it. Proper pickle making is, it appears, an art, a refined art that requires experience and a certain level of intuition about the process.

According to a few sites I read the key to a crunchy pickle is alum or, as in times of old, grape or cherry leaves, because they have tannin in them.

Wait, hey! I have a whole ton of grape vines! Perfect!

So I decide to try old school pickles, fermented pickles, made without vinegar, a different beast altogether really. Okay, and I didn't make this recipe up myself. I looked it up in my great Nourishing Traditions cookbook which has all kinds of crazy cool ideas like fermented ginger carrots and pickled beets and so on.

So, here is what I did.

Random chops of cucumber, of varying sizes, in a jar with a sealable lid. I have a collection of these babies on top of my kitchen cabinets from thrift stores. Stuff them all in a jar.

Next, douse with liberal shakes of salt as you are adding in the cukes. Maybe 2 T per large jar. I also added a bit of whey, leftover from making cottage cheese the other day. Just a tsp or so. Next distilled water. Fill to top of jar. Next some minced garlic. I buy mine already chopped at Costco. Now some sprigs of dill, flower and all, straight from the garden. Or some dry dill. Now some chops of onion, if you like. And of course, stuff in that grape leaf. If you don't have grape vines growing around your house, well, find some? Or a cherry tree? Can I mail some to you? Ha. You can use alum too. But I gotta say my mom and sister were both over yesterday and as their teeth sunk into one of these crunchy pickles they were both amazed. Most home made pickles are kinda limp sad things, totally unlike store bought pickles. But these, oh my. THEY ARE CRUNCHY HOME MADE PICKLES! Both my mom and sister have tried to use alum in the past and the grape leaves just do it better.

Can I confess, I felt a bit of pride?

And the bonus with this technique, no canning involved!

Just let it sit in the brine in your covered jar for a few days on the counter. Then when it tastes pickly enough stick it in the fridge. I let mine sit for four days I think. VOILA. Pickles.

I then tried to do a sweet brine but I didn't use enough sugar, because I wasn't in a measuring mood, or apple cider vinegar, as I was out, so they are kinda-sorta sweet pickles.

Okay, I said, I...what else can I pickle?? MUST PICKLE MORE THINGS.

This is a perfect way to use up those end of summer veggies, a few random beans, some tomatoes maybe, or maybe a turnip or some baby carrots that got pulled too soon. (Carrots really need to wait till colder weather, when the sugar starts to accumulate in the root....something like that...ha.)

Stuff them all in a jar. Add some kind of brine. Stick them in the fridge. Or better yet, heat up the brine, adding spices and all that, and heat up your canning jars, and do a 20 minute water bath (or so) and do a proper canning job of it, to make June proud. Eh. Maybe next week. HA.

The whole fermenting veggies is fascinating to me though, as a way to keep veggies before refrigeration. We went to an historic farm yesterday and they were doing preservation techniques, including sweet yellow tomatoes soaked in vinegar, rubbed in salt, and then layered with a ton of brown sugar, all in a big crock that was then covered and stuck down in cold storage.

I think we have enough cherry tomatoes ripe...hmmm...No, honey, no dinner ready, but look, SWEET PICKLED TOMATOES. Ha.

ETA: a reader pointed out that messing with proportions in a brine for fermenting veggies probably isn't smart. I would like to point out that I did actually follow the Nourishing Traditions recommendations, which are 2 TSB of salt or 1 TSB of salt plus 4 TSB of whey. I used a little under 2 TSB of salt plus 1 TSB of whey. The other brines for pickling which were admittedly too weak went straight into the fridge so, no worries. Happy pickling!

Friday, August 16, 2013

zen parenting moment

I am a lazy blogger this week, soaking in the end of summer, the last warm days, gearing up for canning efforts, a quick vacation up north and then school starts! 

And so, I pour my second giant cup of coffee and pile the kids in the car. 

To the lake to the lake! Baby chants as we drive, wind whipping our hair, Yay mommy! Good job mommy!! 

And she claps her hands. For me. And really that is all the praise I need today. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

and so on and so forth plus anti-recipe #65 gluten free crepes

I have reached a milestone, I've just realized, that all mothers of young children dream about. I seriously remember longing for this moment, years ago, and here we are.

I have just uttered the words...

"Go outside and play!"

And they go...

And I am still inside...


Of course, I will check on them. The windows are open and I can hear them playing under the deck. All is well and safe and such. And of course, they will be in and out all morning. But still, I am here, and they are there, and no one is going to eat sand or wander into a road or anything.

You understand the exquisite nature of this moment, right???


In any case.

I have had the kind of past few days where I am needing to DO. DO MORE.

I pulled apart the newly arranged family room so I can paint one wall with chalkboard paint. (Won't that be fun???)

I sanded and oiled a stump to use as a coffee table in the room.

And now I'm digging around on the internets, looking for writing gigs.

I am feeling this intense need for this writing thing I do to "mean something" to "be towards an end" other than just me amusing myself. (Which is fine too I suppose...)

Magazine articles? Ugh. Lots of research and work. And we all know how lazy I am.

Literary journals? I find these so complicated and then half of them charge a fee to send something in.

Finding agents for book projects? Maybe? But, this is like winning the lottery. The chances are that remote anyway.

Entering contests? Well, this feels good and proactive of me, but the odds are just as remote I suppose.

Eh. So I just blog. And. Maybe I need to actually do work? And not be lazy? Perhaps. Yes, sure, this is what I need to do.

Like with my running jag. I get up to a couple of miles, easily, and then, break my toe, get a summer cold, and now the idea of running is like, not appealing.

I am lazy.

But I need to shake myself out of it. Stay up a few nights a week writing, sending out queries, DOING IT, MAKING IT WORK (as dear Tim Gunn would say.)

Do you do this? Find yourself searching for more? What is next? Maybe something different? I know lots of talented moms doing the photography thing on the side, or selling things on Etsy, I guess I need to find something like that.

Or, maybe its just time to rearrange some furniture. Ha.

All that to say, I posted on Facebook the other day about the yummy gluten free crepes we made for dinner. They were so fab I had to share (PS I never use the word fab in real life, only in writing).

Here you go.

Combine 1 cup of GF flour mix ( I use the kind by Namaste flours) and maybe 3/4 cup of almond meal (dada finally got to Trader Joes to get some, yay!), 3 eggs and dash salt, sugar, vanilla (more sugar if you are going for sweet. we were going for savory so I barely added any) and a tiny pinch of baking powder. Now, here is the anti-recipe just winging it part, keep adding milk until you have the "right" consistency. I'm sorry. Dada and I both kept adding milk as each new attempt came off the skillet and I have no stinking idea how much milk we actually used. Two cups maybe? Total guess. As to the cooking on the skillet part. Like with pancakes, the key is the right temp of the skillet and the right amount of butter. Only trying and trying again will get you good results. (Dada is the master of this at our house, not me.)

Once they come off the skillet thin enough to roll try this combo - bacon, goat cheese and fresh rasberries. Seriously. SO GOOD. The almond meal gives it great texture and balance to the gluten free flour mix (didn't I just sound like a total foodie writing that??? HA!)

perfect for this navel gazing introspective post - a picture of my dreads,
but of course ;) (I say that, as a caveat, as all good Midwestern girls should, mean
while I totally support a good navel gazing session every now and then. It is
good and necessary for the soul. Much like sending the children to play outside alone.
so yes, they are super duper long and dready now, and its amazing how many positive
comments I get out here in the country, as opposed to in the city. maybe
just more of a novelty here?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

anti-recipe #64 homemade ketchup

So, dada is from Pittsburgh, which means, if you know the area, we are devotees of Heinz ketchup.

Copious amounts, of Heinz ketchup. And ONLY Heinz will do.

But, you know, the whole corn syrup thing. Which they've taken out recently but, who knows what else gets snuck in there.

And then the whole 212 tomato plants in the garden thing...we've got to use those tomatoes SOMEHOW.

Homemade ketchup was in order. And no, the tomatoes aren't ready yet, but we found a case of organic tomato paste for quite cheap at Costco and I figured we could start transitioning to the homemade taste of ketchup NOW, so as to avoid the shock later (the scenario in which mama cans 72 jars of homemade ketchup which little man declares to taste "terrible" and mama cries and declares herself a gardening failure...and etc.)


Here is how I did it.

Amazingly simple, tangy, tasty, and easy to change according to your taste. Even dada has switched alliances. And little man will use it sparingly on hot dogs. (WIN!)

You won't go back to store bought, I promise.

Take one can of tomato paste, empty into small size mason jar. Add in one tsp sugar, one good glug of apple cider vinegar, a few good shakes of worchechire sauce. Obviously, adjust according to taste, add in half amounts and increase as you taste until you get it just right or you might have to, as I did last batch, add in another can of sauce because of the insane amount of vinegar I dumped in. OOPS. Now some seasonings. I do garlic salt, maybe some seasoned salt, and regular salt. I am thinking of adding kombucha next time.

Now, fill the rest of the jar with water. Stir.

Now grill up some hamburgers and enjoy!

Monday, August 5, 2013

making memories

Do you have really vivid memories as a child? A few that really stick out as defining moments of your childhood?

I do.

Sitting around a bonfire with my sisters and dad out in the back of our property, watching the sun sink behind the cornfields, the willow trees, and my dad says, "remember this girls, this is what memories are made of."

Lying in the field behind the barns, staring up at the blue summer sky, tall grasses on either side of me, listening to the buzz of insect life in the field.

The moment I first saw my baby sister through the hospital glass window. How tiny and wrinkled she was.

Crouching in the dirt of my mother's giant garden, hidden by the giant brussel sprouts, and pulling up the tiny (forbidden) carrots and eating them, dirt and all.

Nature. Family. Peace.

It occurred to me the other night, as we sat around a bonfire after a busy weekend, watching sparrows flit in and out of the barn that these are the moments MY children will remember. Especially little man. We are creating those memories for him now. And I found myself wondering, how will he filter them in his head? Will he remember the sparrows circling after bugs, the screeching sound of their babies calling them back to their nest? Will he remember the glow of the embers as dusk settles around the edges of the sky? Or will he remember the stress of a busy day? How he cried when we told him two marshmallows was PLENTY?

Do you think about this? The memories you are giving your child?

I want them to have memories of family. Love that stretched around them like a blanket, comforting, secure.

I want them to have memories of connecting with nature. The feel of an earthworm in the garden. The taste of peas warm from the sun. The refreshing joy of a summer breeze over a lake on a hot day.

I want them to have memories of peacefulness. A mama who rolls with the punches. Who happily packs up a snack for a late afternoon trip to the lake. Parents who hold hands and lovingly support each other in parenting. Who laugh and joke and read stories under blanket forts and suggest ice cream cones in the afternoon just because. A mama who watercolors on the deck for hours. Who provide support and encouragement and solidity when the world around them is in flux. Who they can come to when they have questions or worries.

And it makes me wonder who I am to them, who they will remember me as. Then I feel insecure.

But I brush it off and kiss my boy on the forehead and get off the computer and cuddle the baby waking up and tell the kids to go get their suits.

We need to get to the lake.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

scenes from a garden

Our garden, to be exact. Ha.

Things are coming along, you know? I mow a little. Grab some herbs. Some lettuce. Pick a cucumber (for this AMAZING salad my sister taught me to do, to be posted later) and then really, that is it right now. The tomatoes are still green, but soon, oh soon, there will be MILLIONS. The squash and the zucchini are still just in blossom, and the watermelon are tiny balls of green. Even the beans are still too small to pick. Waiting, waiting, waiting.

Meanwhile, we sit in the swing, watching the bees and the hummingbirds and munch on the last of the peas, quite contented. 


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