Friday, October 17, 2008

Two little bluebirds.

Aren't they cute? They're little salt and pepper shakers I picked up at a gift shop a few years back. I'd forgotten I had them! I recently came across them again when we did our kitchen update. They were still in the and sound...but hidden away. I decided that they were too cute to be tucked away in a drawer and decided to display them proudly in my hutch. I just love them...

Cranberry beans...

The lady who waxes my eyebrows (yes, one of my little indulgences) gave me a recipe for Cranberry beans...the likes of which I'd never heard of. They sell them at our local fruit stand so I decided to give them a try. First of all, they're beautiful. Gorgeous. My photography..or lack thereof...does not do them justice. The color is amazing...I'd like to try and grow them next season for drying. I have to find out if they're heirloom or not...I'm not sure I want to grow anything that isn't. I'm pretty sure I don't...but I'm still doing the research on that one.
If they taste as good as they look, I'll share the recipe with you next week! It's a good weekend to do some cooking!

Friday, October 10, 2008

This is about as "mistreated" as you can get!

There's a blog I visit now and then, Nesting Place. She has this technique for window treatments called "Mistreatments". She's referring to inexpensive, easy ways to dress up windows...and she does a beautiful job of it. As I was photographing my kitchen the other day, I realized that *I* had a mistreatment.
This is the door in my kitchen that leads out to the back deck. As you can see, it's plain. It needed something. Some color. Some pizzazz. I achieved the color but I'm not so sure about the pizzazz part! Either way...I don't mind it.

Let me share how I did it. Since my door is metal I took two metal, magnetic clips and spaced them evenly above the window. I then took a cute tea towel I had purchased in a packaged set and folded it in half evenly (pretty much, anyway!). Then I put the folded side of the towel into the clips and...voila! An inexpensive valance. Major mistreatment...but I still like it.

It also appeals to my sense of frugality... which alwas makes me happy. I love a good deal!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The last of the Roma tomatoes.

Yesterday I preserved the last of my plum tomatoes. I only had about a dozen but I wanted to try an idea I saw in a book on preserving. I cut the tomatoes in half and placed them on a wire rack on a cookie sheet lined with foil. I then sprinkled them with kosher salt, a bit of sugar and a drizzle of olive oil. I set the oven to 200 and forgot about them for 8 or 9 hours. When they were just about done I sterilized one jar and one lid. I cut some fresh rosemary from the backyard and placed it in the bottom of the jar, along with a small clove of slivered garlic. I then placed the warm tomatoes in the jar and then covered them with olive oil. Voila! Dried tomatoes in olive oil! How pretty are they? (Keep in mind I'm still working on the ol' photography...thoughts of white balance and ISO are running through my head.)

As I thought about this project I thought that it would probably be more beneficial to dry the tomatoes in my dehydrator next time. And I would also make sure I had other foods to dry, as make the use of energy worth it. For this particular batch I ran my gas oven all day on low...and it wasn't even full. Next matter how I do it...I'll dry more items at once. Maybe more tomatoes...some figs...maybe some apples and orange peels...and whatever other great recipes I come across in the meantime!

Kitchen Update: Before and After

In june my husband and I finally had the opportunity to give our kitchen a much needed update. We put in tile floors, granite countertops, a new stainless dishwasher and a new built-in hutch. What a difference it's made! I love it.

Before: Old hand-me-down hutch from my aunt. Cute. Yes. But not my "style", per se. In the old kitchen we had cheapo white linoleum that was WAY past it's prime and hideous white formica countertops that were stained and peeling up around the edges. Definitely not the showcase kitchen of a cabinet maker! (I was like the cobbler's kids...everyone had nice cabinets but me!) The island is now facing the other way...notice it's complete with the plastic bag of recycling hanging off the knob? Fancy, eh? Like The Pioneer Woman says, "I'm just keepin' it real."

After: Nice new hutch that my hubby built for me! I absolutely LOVE it. It holds a TON of stuff...and the bottom portion is deep enough for roasting pans, cookie sheets, food's perfect. I requested glass doors so that my cookbooks could show through. Something about the colorful covers peeking through the Seedy glass doors is so cozy and comforting to me. I love being able to see them. Notice the island is now turned the other way...which fits better and makes more sense. When we installed it originally 7 years ago we didn't have the hutch so it was fine. Once the old hutch came along it was quite cramped! You can't see the ugly lino floors in the old picture...but here you can see my nice, new, neutral floor tiles. I went with the 18" and I love it. I also love the warmth they bring. I know they say tile is cold...but the color and texture, in my opinion, add a warmth to the room that it didn't have before. Granted I haven't had them during the we'll see what I think in a few months! (Edit: In looking at this post I am realizing that my cabinets seem to have a blue tint to them. They are not blue...they're white. I'm just still learning how to use my camera and obviously didn't get my white balance set correctly!)

After: Stove area. Obviously my kitchen is tiny...10x10 on a good day. Then I had to go and fill it up with cute cabinets and useful islands. What was I thinking? Actually...I love it all. And although my husband doesn't "feel" me on the whole island thing...I find it indispensable. I use it ALL THE TIME. I chop there, can there, make lunches there, bake there...breakfast, lunch and dinner, I'm there. I love it. And yes, it takes up space...but it would be otherwise useless space if not for my beloved island.

After: The sink area...just because I have a picture of it. And you may notice that this counterspace and the bit of countertop near the stove, are the only bits of counter space that I have. So you can SEE why I NEED my beloved island! You may also notice in the dark corner there (the lighting in my kitchen is horrible) my giant zucchini. I found it hiding the other day and I was so excited! My zucchini plants last hurrah...

Because I'm not always focused...

Today I've decided to post a Haiku. Back in April, I believe, I read somewhere that it was National Poetry Month. So in honor of that I decided to TRY to post a Haiku a day on my old blog, The Frugal Feast. It was fun...and I was somewhat successful at posting them daily. I didn't always hit the mark...but I did create 30 Haiku, even if two were on the same day!
So here goes...

Morning breezes blow

Clearing my thoughts, fresh new day

Cool air on my cheeks

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I made pickles!

Over the weekend I made the short trip out to the local vegetable stand, Larry's Produce. This place is hoppin'. It's always packed. The parking is always a nightmare. The other shoppers are always rude. And the prices are always GOOD. Not to mention the quality of the produce...gorgeous and delicious. So it's worth the minor inconveniences of being elbowed, shoved and having my toes stepped on.
My main goal was to pick up some pickling cucumbers because I was determined to learn how to make pickles. The selection was beautiful so I stuffed a bag full and moved on. And because I can never just get what's on my list, I looked around for more. I came across some Cranberry beans I'd heard about so I loaded a bag full of them. I bought green beans, lemons, limes, garlic (in case I decided to go Kosher..and I did), onions and some Asian pears...just because I love them.
After dinner on Sunday night I scrubbed cukes, stuffed jars and boiled vinegar and water and before I knew it I had (9) pints of homemade cucumbers! Some are cut in half...some are in chunks...some are in slices...some have garlic...some have chile flakes...some have both...and they ALL have dill seeds! And to add the cherry on top...every lid popped with that sweet sound we all wait to hear after removing our hard work from the hot water bath. I set the processed jars out on the counter on a clean towel and went to sit down a while (canning is hard work!) and to listen for those wonderful sounds. After about 30 minutes I'd heard all (9) *pings* and I knew it was a success. Now...for the real test...the taste. And from what I've read, we have to wait a week or two. I don't know if I can wait that long!
The picture below is of everything I've canned so far: 16 pints strawberry jam (minus about 7 or so that we've eaten or gifted!), (9) pints pickles, (5) pints peach halves. I know we can't "survive" on this small larder of preserves...but you've got to start somewhere, right? I've got a few plum tomatoes I'm going to dry and store in olive oil and I'm still going to do some Dilly Beans...I found a recipe I think sounds good on Recipezaar...I'll let you know how it goes!

Friday, October 3, 2008

A gardener is born.

Two weeks...and before I know it time has gotten away from me.
Winter is's in the air. I'm ready. Nothing better than rain and gray skies! The only down side of winter is not being able to garden. But I'll just do like the other gardeners do and PLAN, PLAN, PLAN! I've got my stacks of catalogs and garden books and graph paper and colored pencils at the ready...just waiting for that dreary, rainy day that I can stay in my jammies and design away. Admittedly, this may be my favorite part...what can I say? I'm a dreamer!
This past summer was my first real attempt at gardening. I dabbled in the past but was never really serious about it. I've always loved digging in the dirt...that's thanks to my grandmother. When I was younger I'd stay with her for a week or two during the summers. She loved to off we'd go. One summer she bought me five little .49 cent, 4-inch potted plants. I was in heaven. My love of gardening was born. For my birthday that following year she bought me a book about growing houseplants and a set of miniature gardening tools, complete with a glass mister. I think it was my 10th birthday...I felt so mature!
Fast forward 30 years...and my love of plants and gardening remains. (Further maturity is questionable! Sometimes I still FEEL 10!) I will admit, my green thumb in the houseplant department is lacking. Or maybe it's just the lack of good, bright light in my dark little hovel of a house. I don't know. Either way...the love of plants and gardening has evolved to fulfill my desire to feed my family good, organic food and my desire to work toward a more self-sustained lifestyle. It's interesting to trace back to the origins of see where it all started and why. And I'm so glad that it started with my grandmother. I will always consider her when I'm digging in the dirt and encouraging things to grow...we will always have that link. I love that she birthed that in me...that we will always have that connection...even after she's gone. Thank you, Noni. xo
(amazing photo by Shaun O'Boyle...I LOVE his photography)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The season comes to an end...I think.

This weather has been so fickle! I don't know what to expect. Yesterday I wore flip flops, jeans and a t-shirt and I thought the cold wind was going to blow me into the next town! Today I thought we might get more of the same so I wore a sweater and jeans and sneakers...and now, I'm HOT. I can imagine how my poor vegetable plants feel...they don't know what to make of it either!
I guess what we'll make of it is that this season is coming to a close. My tomatoes are still going pretty good but everything else is telling me it's time to call it a day. And I'm OK with that. I didn't do anything about winter crops...I barely got a grip on summer crops! I am looking forward to planning next year's garden. I've got my seed catalogs dog-eared and highlighted, my gardening books piled high next to my chair, sticky notes on every other page...I can't wait! I'll have to be careful though...I can see how gardeners get bombarded with gorgeous vegetables come harvest time, it's hard to pick just one kind of anything! You need at least 2...or 3...or more! Not to mention how many plants you get from a packet of seeds. Oh my...I see trouble in my future. And, is it wrong to want to grow eggplant even though I can't stand it? I do NOT like the taste or the texture...but they're so beautiful I want to grow one! We'll husband says, "Only grow what we will eat." And I agree, it makes sense and I'd hate to be wasteful. Actually, only growing what we'd eat was the original plan...MY idea, too! But looking at those gardening catalogs...oh my, it can be dangerous. Everything is so pretty!
After a long, hot summer the air is beginning to feel like autumn...that cool, brisk crispness that always makes me happy. I'm ready. And I'm so thankful for my garden for helping me get through the summer. Summer is hard for me...but a garden makes it worth it. Definitely. As a matter of fact, I may even look forward to it next year...I never thought I'd say that!

Friday, September 12, 2008

My new favorite place is...

...the library. Oh my gosh. Why didn't I take MUCH more advantage of this resource a MUCH longer time ago?! I am loving it! I have been borrowing books from the library weekly. Books on canning and preserving, green living, sustainable living, raising chickens, cookbooks by my favorite FOOD Network chefs. I've also been perusing the magazines while I'm there...usually while I wait for my sons to find their books and play a game or two on the internet. It's MUCH cheaper than buying the magazine...which I have to admit, I have a bit of a problem with. My husband says I have an addiction...and I'm not so sure he's wrong! But I've been trying to be good and just look at them at the library. I look at the decorating magazines mostly...mainly because I've been noticing that when I buy them it takes me about 30 minutes to go through the whole thing. And more often than not I'm disappointed. By looking at them at the library I can be disappointed for free!
Well, that was a whole topic I didn't mean to cover...but there is it...out in the open. I feel a weight lifted...! I did want to write about this book that I found at the library...Preserving for All Seasons by Anne Gardon. It's a beautiful book...with recipes that look delectable. What I like about it most is that the recipes are unique from the typical recipes you'd find in your popular canning and preserving books. I can't wait to try some of the recipes. I think that this book is worth owning. And that is the beauty of the library...that you can borrow a book, check it out and then buy it KNOWING that you're going to love it and use it! What a concept...I tend to catch on slowly.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Playing favorites.

Squash is my favorite vegetable plant. At least thus far as I've only grown a few things...squash, cucumber, tomatoes, beans, melons and herbs. The squash plant is amazing...huge deep, dark green leaves, sturdy stalks, beautiful orange-yellow flowers...just gorgeous. I was surprised to see that the inside of the stems are hollow! As strong as they are I thought they'd be solid. But they're hollow...which adds to their amazing-ness. This year the squash was the best producer. It blessed me with beautiful, gigantic zucchini. And the plants are still healthy...unlike the melons and cucumbers...they're goners. I'm not sure what got to my cukes but it wasn't pretty. And the melons...? Well...I think it was just a matter of not enough sun. Oh, and not enough room to stretch out. I'm going to have a learning curve on that one. While beans are lovely and easy to grow, they didn't produce for me. They got overtaken by my beautiful, yet invasive, squash plants. I sowed a second batch of beans but I was too late. They grew fast, and flowered, but no beans. Tomatoes...easy. And good producers. The Sweet 100 is making me happy on a daily basis. I gather so many tomatoes from that plant that it makes me feel like an official gardener. If only ALL of my plants could have produced like that.
I knew that this first garden experience was going to be experimental...and that I'd have to learn as I went along. So I expected some failures. But expectation doesn't make it any easier to swallow. I wanted immediate success and instant gratification! But it's not like that with's a slow, patient process. There's a lot of waiting involved. And I don't know about you, but I am NOT good at waiting! Looks like this whole gardening thing is going to teach me a lot more than I thought! It's not just about food. It's about life. Sow. And wait. I just wish it were easier! In the meantime, I'll wait...expectantly.
Psalm 5:3
3 In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.

Monday, September 8, 2008

All work and no play.

I have been substituting in child care positions for our school district for the past couple of weeks so my computer time is almost nil! So of course...what gets neglected? The blog. But that's OK. I told myself when I started this thing that it wasn't going to own me...I was going to own IT.
See my one, lonely little watermelon? It's been the same size for a few weeks now. I'm assuming it's done doing whatever it is that it's going to do. I "thumped" it yesterday...and it sounded like I think it's supposed to sound. But to be honest, the whole "thump the watermelon to test it's ripeness" has NEVER worked for me. I picked up my little watermelon yesterday...and it's quite heavy. I'm hoping this means quite JUICY. There aren't any yellow spots will it not be as sweet as I'd like? Will it not be sweet at all? Either way, I'm going to release it from the vine today and open it up. This was my first attempt at growing melons so I'm feeling fortunate to have even this one little guy. My cantaloupes did nothing. Nada. Zilch. The vines were pretty. And so were the little flowers. But no melons. Maybe next year. I hear they're picky about soil. Plus I don't think I had them in a place where they got enough sun. Gardening has such a learning curve, doesn't it? Maybe by the time I'm 90 I'll have it down.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Back into the work force.

I started working yesterday...I'm doing childcare in the nursery at the continuation high school for the teen moms' babies. It's actually fun! I get my baby fix then send them home with their mommies! The only down side is that I am TIRED when the day is done. T.I.R.E.D. The hours are from I can drop my son off at school and I'm done in plenty of time to pick him up after school. It's ideal. I also have time to continue doing the books for our cabinetry business. I think I'll take Thursday afternoons to do the books...I'll come here right after work and my husband will leave a bit early to pick our son up from school. I'll stay here at the office doing my work until around 6 or so then head out to grab a coffee and go straight to bible study. Hubby agreed it would be good to have a Boys Night...he and the kids on their own for dinner. They can handle it! I think it will work...we'll make it work!
In gardening's still hanging in there, aside from being a bit neglected. Since school started and since starting my job I haven't been going out each morning to fawn all over my beautiful plants...and they're getting watered whenever I have time...but they're still producing. My cucumbers aren't looking so healthy...I wish I knew what their problem was...yellowish leaves, crispy's not that mildew stuff I don't think. I'm not sure what it is! I took this picture of the Sweet 100's last week...aren't they so pretty? The color variation is amazing...
TGIF...but the weekend is busy. Seth has travel baseball Saturday, Sunday AND Monday, I have a women's ministry meeting tomorrow at 8:30am, Ian has baseball practice at 9am...not to mention the house is a disaster, the dog needs a bath, we need a new toilet seat and it's 107 stinkin' degrees outside! I think I need to do a brush up over at! Maybe while they're all at baseball I can do an overhaul. Sounds like a good way to spend a 3-day weekend eh?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What I'm reading now.

I just started it last night so I don't have much of an opinion as of yet. I do know that it's kept my interest so far...which says more about it than the other 5 books I've got sitting around from the library. I'm such a picky reader...if it doesn't grab my attention's outta here. Either way...this one grabbed me. So far!

Not even close to a "peck"!

My one, lonely little bell pepper...I was so excited to have it, even if it WAS only ONE. The day before we left for Donner I went out back to give everything a good watering and to my poor, lonely little bell pepper had a HOLE in it! Something got to it before I did. And obviously enjoyed it! I was so sad. I think I was so attached to that dang bell pepper because the plant wasn't doing all that well. Actually, the plant was fine, I just had it near the zucchini (need I say more?)...and well, you can guess the rest. SO...I moved it...into a pot, actually...and it really responded well. And started growing and flowering. And then produced a bell pepper! But...then...the bug ate it. And now the pepper itself is compost...
The plant has a few more flowers on it...and some look promising. We'll see...I may just have to wait until next year to see what a REAL homegrown bell pepper looks...and tastes!!

Monday, August 25, 2008

A good read.

Well, I finished Plenty. It got better toward the end...and more light hearted...and happier. All was well. I came to the conclusion that Alisa, the female voice, is a really good writer. She got me to feel her discomfort...and her uneasiness. While I didn't like the feeling..I've got enough discomfort of my own thankyouverymuch!...I was impressed with her ability to take me "there".
I promptly returned the book to the library this afternoon. I didn't want to tempt myself to toss it in the back of the car, only to forget about it and return it late and then get a silly fee. So...I took it back, along with another book I borrowed that I didn't read and borrowed four more! I have never really been a big user of the library...but that's going to change. I stopped at the thrift store today and almost bought a Kingsolver book for $3. But then I thought, "Why spend the money when I could borrow it for free?" Especially on fiction. I rarely read a book twice. Unless it's a how-to book...or a those are worth the money to B UY them. But from now on, I'll be borrowing anything fiction. I will also borrow how-to books...then if I love them and feel I need them in my personal library, I'll buy them used from Amazon.
Saving $3 has made me very happy today. It made up for the splurge on lunch with a friend!

Sunday, August 24, 2008


I borrowed this book from the library a couple of weeks ago. We were going on a family trip to Donner Lake and I thought it would be nice to have some reading material. Well, we were so busy that I never had time to start a I started it when we got home last Tuesday. I've hardly been able to put it down. It's a bit wordy for me...and sometimes I find myself skimming over certain parts. I think that's just my ADD kicking in.
Even with skimming I'm enjoying reading about their efforts in sticking to a 100-mile diet. It sounds a lot easier than it actually is...and makes me realize even more that I am more of a chartreuse color in my effort to be "green". And really, I'm fine with that. I am not trying to be completely green. I'm trying to be more self-sustained. And with that comes a certain level of green living...but I've decided that I'm not going to be fanatical. I'm going to do what I'm comfortable with...what I can afford...what works for my family...what makes me feel like I've done something worthwhile that day. I will continue to use toilet paper and feminine products...I will continue to drive my SUV (until I can afford my beloved Kharman Ghia...and I WILL, someday!)...but even then I'll probably still have my SUV. On the other hand, I will continue to grow my own food and to learn all that I can about growing it, preserving it and doing it again in the years to follow. I will buy local whenever possible. Because unlike the author's of Plenty, I'm not ready to give up flour and sugar. Actually, they weren't necessarily ready for it either! I don't think they realized the magnitude of eating local, either. It's been interesing to read their go on their journey with them...even if, at this point in the story, it is a bit depressing. I keep finding myself comparing this book to Animal, Vegetable, Miracle...which is, quite possibly, my favorite book ever. It really focused on the food and life and how it all related to each other..and it did it in a more positive light.
I have to say, I never thought I'd be interested in reading books about sustainable living...or local eating...or homesteading. Never. This is a total surprise to me. And it all started last year at our annual women's retreat. I was given the scripture on my main page...1 Thessalonians 4:11-12. Me? Lead a quiet life? I am hardly a quiet person! And I thought God would know that the best! But...I tucked it away in my bible and let it sit a while.
Months later I'm researching sustainable living, homesteading, canning, gardening...I'm reading blogs and web sites and books about people taking a more simple approach to life. And I'm loving it...I just didn't really know why. Until one day I'm thumbing through my bible and I happen across that little slip of paper, "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life will win the respect of outsiders...and so that you will not be dependent on anybody."

Friday, August 22, 2008


Gardening is quite possibly one of the best things I've ever done. It never ceases to amaze me how much joy and contentment and sense of accomplishment it provides me. Even as small as it is. And as small as my "harvests" STILL makes me feel like I've done something worth while.

The Romas are doing well. I've picked three so husband ate one of them like an apple!
I'll be able to pick a few more tomorrow or Sunday...they're just about red enough. The photo on the right is from over a week can see they're getting nice and big!

What are YOU harvesting this weekend?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Nothing like it.

Armenian cucumber and Roma tomato fresh from my garden, sliced and chilling on a plate in the fridge. These were a delicious accompaniment to our dinner last week.

I'll call this one, "Satisfaction on a plate".

Funny how something so simple can make me so happy.

Satisfaction in a jar.

You know how people say, "If I could just bottle such-and-such.."? Well, I've decided that satisfaction can be bottled...or jarred in this case. There is such an amazing sense of satisfaction in canning food...or "putting food by". This is the gorgeous box of peaches I wrote about a couple of weeks ago (and for whatever reason couldn't get photos to upload at that time...). We ate some...I froze some...and I canned some.
This was my first attempt at canning, other than making jam, which I don't count as "canning" per se. I'm not sure why? Maybe because it's not whole food? Or it wouldn't be something that we could actually survive on should the need arise? Either way, I felt like the true test of my abilities to store food and provide for my family rested on putting by actual food. And so far, this is the closest I've gotten! The peaches are floating a bit...I'm assuming (after some reading) that it happened for a couple of reasons: (1) I didn't pack them in tight enough and (2) I processed them at too rapid of a boil. I'm not sure, really. But the next time I do some canning I will pack the jars tighter and process at more of a slow rolling boil. It's all about technique...right? Or luck!
Either way, I think they're beautiful. My family can't wait to give them a try but they're determined to wait until winter. Slowly but surely they're getting the idea of this whole sustainable living thing. I love it! I hoped it would rub off on them eventually.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Up for a challenge?

Hemingway was once challenged to write a story in only six words. His response? “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” He is believed to have called it his greatest literary work ever. Can you write a story in six words?

This was posted on and I thought it was interesting. I don't usually read all of the little Home Page blurbs but for whatever reason, this one got my attention. Maybe the word "Hemingway" caught my eye...? Isn't it amazing, though? Six words. That's it. And what a sad story they tell.

Since I read this my mind has been doing its best to string together six words that mean something. Six words that tell a story...that make sense...that take you somewhere. I think that will be my challenge today...a story in six words. Wanna join me?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Don't be a chicken.

I really really want chickens in my backyard. There is a whole movement for backyard chickens. My city doesn't allow chickens in backyards. But...well...what they don't know won't hurt them? Or me? The worst that could happen is that they'd make me get rid of my chickens...but I know two people off the top of my head that would, more than likely, take them should I get busted for smuggling chickens into my backyard. They are so beneficial...fresh eggs, manure for your garden, pest control...oh yeah, I need me some chickens.

I don't know why simple living is such a radical concept. Why am I not ALLOWED to have some dang chickens in my OWN backyard? Why is it weird to grow vegetables in your FRONT yard? Why are you so different if you want to make your own cheese or can your own food? If you think about it...and talk to your grandparents about it! wasn't that long ago that having chickens and gardens and knowing how to preserve food was a way of life, a necessity. My grandparents talk about making their own cheeses and salami and sausages...growing gardens...milking grandfather made shoes for himself and all of his siblings...all 11 of them! All of this was the norm less than a hundred years ago. In the scheme of things, that's a relatively short time. Yes, I get that life was harder...the work was hard...but if you think about it, it was also much more simple. And that's what I'm looking for...simplicity. Purity. Truth. I want these things in day to day everything.

I think my grandmother thinks I'm crazy for wanting to do things the way she did them. She always complains about how hard life hard she worked...she blames her ill-health on all of her hard labor as a child. And she did work hard. Her story is an interesting one...maybe I'll share a bit another time. I admire her a lot...and respect all that she endured to make it to where she is today. I only wish that she and my grandfather had the desire to pass on everything they know...or knew, now...about gardening and preserving and digging root cellars and making cheeses and baking breads...I wish they had valued that way of life enough to pass it along to me. Unfortunately, they were sold on the idea of convenience and ease. I can't blame them. But...they sold out to it...and taught my mom to forage for her food in a grocery store...and she taught me the same...and now all of that old country knowledge is gone. All of the recipes and techniques for making your own food is nothing but a blurry memory in the minds of my 90 year old grandparents. I feel robbed. Oh, the irony...

Friday, August 8, 2008

The only thing better than growing it yourself?

Getting it local! I have been wanting to go to a local peach farm since I heard about it last summer. Well, today was the day. I was out running errands and decided to take back roads home and took a detour down one of my favorite country roads. Along the way was the big "Peaches" sign I'd been seeing since last summer! I turned left and there it was. The little old lady had two customers ahead of me and two behind. This place was hopping! I got the 2nd to the last box...thank goodness! Can you guess what I'M doing tomorrow? You got it...canning me some delicious peaches!

The latest.

It's been way too long since I posted last...I can't seem to keep up with much of anything this summer. I am ready for school to start...I can get back to my regularly scheduled programming once the boys are back in school. Summer just always throws me off. I think the only thing keeping me somewhat sane is my's a good distraction from the heat and jumbledness of life.
Rather than writing IN a blog, I've been reading OTHER blogs for inspiration. I have been researching urban homesteading, chicken raising, gardening, canning and preserving...all things self-sustaining. There is so much good information out there...not to mention cool people who are striving toward the same things that I am...simplicity, purity, self-reliance. I'm only just beginning...but you've got to start somewhere, right?
My garden is doing quite well...the only complaint is that it's too small. We aren't growing nearly enough of our own food. But since this is the first year I've planted food it was a good start...and a good learning experience. I've definitely got some good ideas for next year...not to mention a long wishlist for the heirloom seed catalogs! My 13 year-old son, the one who refers to me "the health freak" because I make them read labels, said to me last night as we were sitting in the back yard, "Mom, next year we should try and grow ALL of our own produce so we don't have to buy ANY from anywhere else." Hmm...I do think I just might be rubbing off on him! My husband even got in on it last night as we planned a larger area for the garden next year. He agreed to build me a few more raised beds, a picket fence to keep the dog out (and, hopefully, some chickens IN) and a cute gated arbor as the entrance. I can't wait. It's going to be a long winter!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Thrift stores rule.

I love thrift stores. One in town, in particular. It supports our local safe house and all proceeds go directly to it. I have been able to get many of my canning supplies there as well as countless items for the house. And the books for FREE. All they ask is that you toss a little something in the kitty.
I happened upon these lovely items on my last visit. I actually got two of these big may recall seeing one housing my gardening goodies in my previous post? I love them. They're so big and sturdy and well made. I thought they'd look cute with lettuce growing in them but I haven't figured out how to line the basket first so that it won't rot out. (Any ideas?) As far as the crate...I haven't figured out a use for it yet...but I mean, really, what CAN'T I use it for, right? Everyone needs an old wooden crate lying around!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

One step at a time.

Slowly but surely I am converting to a more simple and pure lifestyle. "Slowly" is the key word here. It's got to be slow because I know myself, and if I say I'm going to dive head first into an all natural lifestyle, I won't. For me it has to be a process...a progression into a whole new way of life. I have to cut things out one at a time...and replace them with something healthier and more gratifying.
Take this whole gardening thing for instance. Lately I've been reading on organic ways to tend to a garden. This lead to saving egg shells (from the brown eggs I got from my friend Stephanie's chickens...they are gorgeous and delicious!), coffee grounds (that I still buy in a can that was probably shipped from somewhere across the U.S. sucking up tons of fuel and polluting the air) that I could then crush and mix into my garden soil along with grass clippings from the front yard. I did this for the first time the other day, using the egg shells you see in the photo, and it felt really good to till it all into my horrible soil. I felt like I was doing something worth while. I felt like I was giving back to the earth...feeding it, rather than poisoning it with man made chemicals.
Quite possibly the coolest part of it all was that my 12 year-old son reminded me about the grass clippings after he'd mowed the lawn. He came in and asked, "Mom, where do you want me to put these clippings?" I'd forgotten that I'd told him I would like to start saving them. But he remembered! My son, the one who doesn't like to read labels checking for MSG and partially hydrogenated oils. The one who gives me a hard time when I remind him about high fructose corn syrup and Aspartame. The one who will ask for a snack, say a HoHo or Ding Dong, by listing off the bad ingredients it contains. Instead of asking for a HoHo, he says, "Mom, can I please have some chocolate covered partially hydrogenated oil?" (He's an honor student...what can I say...) But like it or not, my 12 year old is even a part of the matter how hard he may fight it.
My 10 year old son, on the other hand, reads labels possibly more than I do! He's caught a few additives that I've missed when purchasing groceries...and is sure to call me on them, too! It's nice to know that even though they still crave all of the junk, they will grow up with some knowledge of what is in the so-called "food" they are offered in grocery stores. It's nice to know that I am teaching them to pay attention and to not just accept that Hamburger Helper is a balanced meal. Ick. My mom believed the lie. I knew better...even when I was 8. And let me tell you, serving it with over cooked frozen corn and iceberg lettuce with Thousand Island dressing did NOT make it ANY better. I bet we all have "those meals" that our moms served that we will never forget...and will NEVER serve! Care to share yours? What's the worst meal that YOUR mom served? Oh wait! I've got TWO! Creamed tuna on toast. What the...?! I cringe even NOW and I haven't eaten it in over 25 years!
So tell me...what did YOUR mom torture you with, uh...oops... I mean, serve you for dinner that made you wish you had a hungry dog under the table?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Summer isn't ALL bad.

I am not a summer person. As a matter of fact, I think I have reverse seasonal mood disorder...or whatever it's called. Summer gets me down. In the winter, just the thought of summer gets me down. Give me winter any day. I love the cold, the rain, the storms, the gray skies, they make me happy. I feel good and refreshed and rejuvenated in the winter.
However, due to my interest in gardening and my desire to grow my own food and preserve it, I am gaining a new outlook on summer. I still don't like it. And will take rain any day of the year. But at least growing a garden and challenging myself to buy local is something to look forward to in these hot, miserable months.
This fruit salad is 66% local. The cantaloupe came from the fruit stand less than a mile from my home. The berries came from my friend Stephanie's farm. And the watermelon...well, that came from Lucky. As far as where they got it, I haven't a clue as I forgot to read the sticker. I'm sure it's somewhere very far away and used tons of power and fuel just to get to little ol' me. What can I say? The fruit stand wasn't open yet and MY watermelon plant was about 4 inches tall. store it was. I'm getting step at a time.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

My beginner's effort to go GREEN.

This year I planted a few things in my backyard. It's my beginner's effort to live a more self-sustaining lifestyle. My goal is to grow much of my own food, as well as enough to preserve for over the weekend...eventually. But for now...this is a good start!
Here we have a dwarf Meyer lemon. I love Meyer lemons...a LOT. I got a dwarf so that I could grow it as a patio plant...and take it with me when we move.
Here we have some beans we grew from seed. So far they seem pretty happy and comfortable.

This is my little melon patch. Apparently, the words "little" and "melon patch" don't really go together as these vining plants really like some room to spread out. But, this is where they are...hopefully they'll "bloom where they're planted"!This is a close up of one of my squash plants and more beans in the forefront. I love how the sun shines through the pretty.
This is a view of my raised beds along my deck. You can see the melon patch in the distance back near the shed. The pots on the steps to the deck are full of herbs...basil, thyme, rosemary, sage, parsley, cilantro, marjoram...beautiful.
You may have also noticed the dead grass in the background. Soon, soon, soon this will be replaced with beautiful green sod.
There are some things I will do differently next plant the beans near the cucumbers rather than by the squash. I grow the cukes on upside down tomato cages so that they'll climb. Doing it this way will leave just enough room for some bean plants in the same raised bed. This way I can grow the squash in the other raised bed, plant two plants right in the middle and let them sprawl to their hearts content!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Kitchen Project. Before.

By now you may have noticed that I am easily distracted. I lovingly refer to this problem as Adult ADD. This would explain why I am beginning a new series, The Kitchen Project, before doing anything with the aforementioned "series", The Nightstand. I'm going to do it. I am. But, I don't have it all together yet so in the meantime I'm going to share with you the progress of my kitchen update.

This is my kitchen as of yesterday...notice the bag of recycling, papers and junk on the countertop and, if you look real close, a filthy floor! The basket on the island os overflowing with fruit and snacks and chip clips and heaven only KNOWS what else.

As you enter into the kitchen the sink area is on the right. Notice the crowded counter top and the sink full of dishes. Typical day at my house. My husband and I are trying to find a new sink we agree on. He wants stainless, I want porcelain. He wants single bowl, I want double bowl. His argument for the single bowl is a good one...but the idea of having two bowls, one open for use and one for the inevitable dirty pot or pan I just can't seem to ever get rid of...this is what works for me. And I can't help but remind him that I am the one who uses it the most and cleans it the most. Therefore, I think I should be able to choose what I want to look at for the next however many years we'll be there...don't you think?
Now, if we pan around to the left...we'll see the biggest problem area in my tiny little kitchen. Are you ready? It's a bit if you are squeamish, you may want to close your eyes. Ready? OK...I warned you...

This, my friends, is the area behind my island. As you can see my hutch is overflowing. Literally. You will also notice that this is the pet feeding center. Dog food in the big bag, cat food in the plastic bucket. Dog feeding area on the floor, cat feeding area on the hutch because if we don't do it that way, the dog will eat ALL of the food and then the cat will get very irritated and bat the dog around with her paw. It's not pretty.

Eventually this whole space will be replaced with a beautiful white pantry in a hutch style. I am so excited about it as it will provide some much needed storage space. And it will look neat and orderly doing it. It will have enclosed cabinets along the bottom to store my larger appliances such as the Kitchenaid and Cuisinart and even my new (to me) food dehydrator! This is going to free up my counter space immensely...this alone makes me one happy woman.

The top will hold serving dishes and platters, cookbooks, a few little things the boys made in school...all in the two middle cabinets that will have glass doors. The outer two cabinets will be solid doors and will house pantry items such as canned goods and baking supplies. It is going to be amazing and I can hardly wait for it to be a reality.

The stove area is quite small, as you can see. Fortunately, once the storage hutch is built it will house much of what you see on these counters...platters, cookie sheets, the Cuisinart. The crocks will stay on the counter since they hold my utensils. But it will be a huge improvement once the BIG stuff is stored away.
This project has been a long time coming. It's almost unbelievable that we are actually going to DO it. It's been a tough decision as this is not our forever least we would prefer it wasn't. So these improvements are for us while we are still here as well as for resale improvements for eventual sale. But, if it turns out that we live here forever, I'll be OK with that. There was a time that I wouldn't have been. But I can honestly say that I could live with that...happily. Especially with a cute, spiffed up kitchen.

The fruit of my labor...

Here it is! My first attempt at homemade apricot jam! Isn't it beautiful? I love it. I have to admit, it came out a bit thicker than I'd like. But it tastes good...and that's the important part. I can work on the consistency as I continue making more and more jam.
I've already given away a few jars of the apricot and we're down to two jars left of the strawberry. My younger son went into a minor panic that we were running low. I assured him we'd make more...soon!
Next on the canning list...peaches and pickles. And jam, of course!

Monday, June 23, 2008

The road to you-know-where is paved with good intentions.

I have so many plans and ideas and desires and things I want to do and need to do and plan to do...but inevitably, life takes over and before I know it my day is gone.
I have lots to write about here. I still want to do My Nightstand. I have pictures of my very own homemade jam that I want to share. And pretty soon, I will have before and after pictures of my newly updated kitchen! I won't say remodeled as I am not going to change my cabinetry. They were spruced up a few years ago and are still cute. I am, however, replacing floors and countertops and I can NOT wait! My husband and I purchased beautiful new granite (what a bargain that was!) and some nice, neutral coordinating tile for the floor. I think it's going to be gorgeous. My husband is also going to build me (it's already half done actually!) a large pantry/hutch for one wall in my tiny kitchen. Right now I have a hutch there...a hand-me-down from my aunt years ago...and while it's cute and provides some's not all that practical. The unit my husband is going to build is way more utilitarian and way more cute! I'll definitely share before and after pictures. I'm hoping this will all take place in the next few weeks...we'll see. My husband is a cabinet maker by trade...we own our own customers come first. I'm like the cobbler's child...the last to get shoes! Good thing I don't mind going barefoot!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Love is a bird's nest and a box of apricots.

Over the weekend our church held a bazaar. I sat and peddled my art while others sold fudge and tamales and jewelry and sewn goods and plants...there was tons of stuff! But my favorite table was my friend Stephanie's. It was overflowing with fruits and vegetables and brown eggs...all from her garden in the country. I had no idea she was into this kind of life! We talked and talked and talked...about eggs and chickens and jams. We were kindred spirits right then and there. It's strange, I've known her for several years now and never knew she lived in the country and gardened and canned...all of the things I long to do! When the day was over we said our goodbye's, exchanged numbers and emails and promised to exchange recipes and talk about this amazing way of life sometime again, soon!
Well, on Sunday she called to let me know she had a big box of apricots from her tree for me. She left a message on my machine saying she thought sure there'd be enough for a batch of jam and that they were waiting in the garage for me...and for me to feel free to come on out and grab them. She and her hubby were going to be out of town so she allowed me in the "secret entrance". I was so excited as I listened to the message and was having visions of apricots dancing in my head when I heard her say, "Oh, there's also a beautiful little bird's nest in the box. I found it this morning while trimming the roses and just knew that it was for you. I felt it was a reminder of a promise that God has made to you."

Huh? Whuh? A bird's nest? For me? How did she know? She couldn't have known. There's no way. There's no way she would know that I love birds...and birds nests...and that I have a small collection. There's no way. And she definitely doesn't know about the promise.

Wow. I was stunned. And I listened to the message with my mouth hanging open, tears streamed down my face. My husband and boys were watching me and one of my boys said, "Um, is there something you're not telling us?" And my husband replied, "No. It's fine. God is just telling Mom that He loves her."
It was an amazing moment. I was blown away. And I couldn't get out to her place in the country fast enough to gather my fruit and my promise! The box is BIG, and the apricots are plenty. And the nest? It's beautiful...and intricate...and delicate...and complex...and perfect. God is in the little things...that's for sure.

Monday, June 16, 2008

What's on Your Nightstand?

I was getting ready the other morning and caught a glimpse of my nightstand. It's brimming over with books, magazines, lotions, potions, journals, sticky notes...and yes, some dust! One look made me think, "Wow, a person could just come in here, take a look at everything on my nightstand and really get an understanding of who I am, what I like (lotions), what I don't like (dusting!)..."
Because of that thought process, I've decided to do a small series on the contents of My Nightstand. I'll talk about what's on My Nightstand and what I think it says about me. In doing so, maybe you'll be able to learn a little bit about me. Heck, maybe I'll learn a little bit about my SELF.
Stay tuned...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Taking recycling a step further.

Today I will stop in at my favorite local thrift store, The Opportunity House. My new friend, Francine, who works there (that's where I met her actually and we're not really friends but it's fun to say anyway) is bringing in a stash of used canning jars for me to buy. I am so excited. I have no idea the sizes...I only know they're "wide mouth". I wonder if she's implying something?
Shopping used is not a new concept to me. I have been a thrift store, yard sale, flea market shopper for a little over 20 years now. I was first introduced to the flea market by my friend, Melissa. Her father owned a junk yard (that I actually worked at for a time...but that's a whole other story!) and they would go to the flea market looking for used auto parts to sell at their shop. Occasionally I'd go along, finding treasures like vintage women's hats with moth-eaten netting, wooden shoe forms, old mirrors and fire extinguishers...all of which I still have today. I was definitely bit by the bug...and it stuck.
What I'm finding is that recycling is more than tossing paper and plastic into a big, blue bin. And don't get me wrong...this is good, too. I do it everyday. I am just challenging myself, and you if you're feeling up to it, to take it to the next level. And start small. I am. Every little bit helps, right? Instead of running to one of the large home centers for a flower pot, try the local thrift store and use your creative eye to find something unique to hold those flowers instead. An old willow basket? An old rubber boot? An old rusty pot? The possibilities are endless.
And while you're doing that, I'll be picking up my boxes of used canning jars...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Give a Girl a Fig.

Welcome to Give a Girl a Fig. Join me in my quest to simplify my life and the life of my family. I will be learning to grow my own vegetables, preserve food for the winter and challenge myself to buy (whatever I don't grow myself, of course) as much as I possibly can from suppliers within a 70 mile radius of my home.
I am just getting started...and will chronicle my adventures, experiments, mishaps and successes here, at Give a Girl a Fig.