Thursday, June 4, 2009

Use What You Have: Strawberry Leaves

The strawberries here are done and gone. We did actually get a few this year, but the birds and rabbits got the majority. I think I want to pot them up next year, but that's a discussion for another time. What we're talking about today is not the yummy, juicy, ruby red berries of yesterday (can you tell I miss them just a little?). What we're talking about now is the LEAVES.

Once the plants have fruited, I move right on to harvesting the leaves. Most people say that the leaves are most flavorful when the plant is in bloom, but you can (and I do) harvest them all spring and summer. They get bunched and dried and, for the most part, made into tea. It does, surprisingly enough, taste quite a bit like the berries, which means it's y-u-m-m-y. It does, of course, have added health benefits (iron, vitamin C, calcium, and other minerals). I'm finding that it really helps to boost my milk production, very important in these early months of nursing.

As with any summer tea (lemon balm and mint are among other summer favorites), I like to drink it iced. I've also been using it to make popsicles for the kids.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Homesteading Legos

We went to my in-laws' house this past weekend since we didn't get out there for their Memorial Day celebration. It rained, so we were stuck inside. The boys decided to dive into my brother-in-law's old Legos. Not to be outdone by their spaceships and boats filled to the brim with guns and lasers, I spotted a horse and inspiration struck!

There's a rain barrel, windmill, compost bin (actually a treasure chest) and garden (they had only one plant, so use your imaginations here, folks!). The work horse is there for manure, of course. ;)

I'm SO pitching this to the Legos people... :P

What's Blooming in My Garden-- June 1, 2009

The buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) cover crop is coming into its own and beginning to pull in the beneficials.

Two species of Stellaria here. On the left is Stellaria graminea, otherwise known as Lesser Stitchwort. On the right is the much more common and far tastier chickweed (Stellaria media).

A second unidentified peony (Paeonia spp.).

Here you can see the lesser stitchwort growing under our front maple. That's Annie's hand in the background to give you some idea of just how teeny tiny the flowers of this particular herb are.

Still blooming from last week: raspberries, onions, chives, sage, unidentified yellow flower.

Friday, May 29, 2009


My poor, poor catnip.

Apparently, cats aren't the only critters who love catnip. I walked out to the garden a few days ago and noticed that my catnip, which has flourished unscathed for the past three years, was nearly gone! My immediate thought was to heap the blame on the neighborhood felines who frequently climb our privacy fence to hunt in our yard, but later that day I was standing at the backdoor and noticed a little ball of fur by the devastated catnip patch. Long ears, twitching nose, cute little cottontail... It was a rabbit! I've rarely seen them in our garden, but we always find bunny prints in the backyard snow during our winter nature walks. They've never bothered the catnip before though. It must have been a particularly lovely crop this year.

Buns love catnip. Who knew.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Rain Romp

Yesterday was far too rainy for gardening, so:

LOVE warm springtime rains...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Hot Peppers

Last year, my pepper crop was a dismal failure. I think I got only one measly pepper from the few plants that actually germinated, so this year I decided to add a little something to my scheme and see how the plants reacted. Unfortunately, our gardening budget for this year has been maxed out. I had to think of something for less than cheap... something free.

My version of the cloche: repurposed baby food jars. Don't mind the wonky spacing. In real life, they are actually evenly spaced, but the camera was at a weird angle.

I was hoping that my improvised cloches would provide enough heat retention that I 'd get a higher germination rate and faster growth of pepper plants than I did last year with no added protection. So far, the germination has been quicker but not higher. I'm leaving the jars over top of the seedlings until they outgrow them. We'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Not Alone

I really didn't have any plans for Memorial Day yesterday beyond cleaning the house. (Can you believe I'm STILL decluttering this place!?) The Husband was working overtime, so the kids and I were on our own. Right away, though, I knew this day was going to be better than I'd planned...

About 8am, I walked onto our front porch and heard chickens clucking. I honestly thought I was going crazy, so I called the kids away from their play and asked them if they heard it too. Annie, my ever-attentive nature girl, heard what I heard. I suspected my neighbors on the other side of the street (I've long admired their garden) but didn't have the nerve to knock on their door at 8 in the morning. Callie spent the rest of the day clucking every song she sang. LOL!

Later on, I noticed the woman of the house I suspected of hiding the feathered friends planting some flowers out front, so I gathered the littles and headed her way. Apparently channeling Ned Flanders, I said something like "Excuse me, Neighbor" as my ice breaker. Yeah, I've been cooped up in this house alone for FAR too long. She was polite regardless as I awkwardly asked her if she was keeping chickens. I didn't want her to think I was going to be some nasty neighbor telling her that I was annoyed by their clucking or something.

Anyway, she confirmed that they had seven chickens and a duck in their backyard, Buff Orpingtons and Rhode Island Reds. I forgot to ask what type the duck was. I was astounded! I've been living here for nearly 4 years now and had never noticed this before! Neighbor invited us to go around the back and look at the chickens, so we did. Annie was especially thrilled with them, as I knew she'd be. We only stayed a minute or so, then headed back home because we were setting every dog in the neighborhood to barking.

I suddenly don't feel so alone.

Monday, May 25, 2009

What's Blooming in My Garden-- May 25, 2009

Happy Memorial Day everyone. Be safe and keep our brave ones in your hearts.

If you thought I had it all figured out in my garden, you'd be wrong. I'm not actually sure what this flower is. It showed up right next to my lavender, and it's too pretty to pull.

The first flowers of sage (Salvia officinalis) in my garden. These blossoms are on a three-year-old plant that I started from seed. Yes, I'm a proud mama! :)

These lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis) actually bloomed last week, but I forgot to photograph them because I'd cut them all and brought them indoors. They are one of the few flowers in my garden that I almost always cut because the scent reminds me of my grandmother.

Still blooming from last week: raspberries, onions, chives.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

2 Months Just Flies By...

I could not be more in love.

Monday, May 18, 2009

What's Blooming in My Garden-- May 18, 2009

Yes, it's that time of year again. Time to start recording what's blooming when! Here we go...

One of the unidentified peonies (Paeonia spp.) planted by previous owners. I couldn't adore them more! The smell is divine and can permeate my house even after the blooms I've cut and placed in a vase have returned to the compost pile.

The blueberries (Vaccinium, sect. Cyanococcus) are in bloom! Now we just wait patiently...

The latest bloomer of all the random tulips (Tulipa spp.) previous owners scattered throughout the garden beds. This one is nestled right beside a blueberry bush because it had previously been so shaded by the overgrown bushes I removed to replace with the blueberries that I didn't even know it was there. This is its first year blooming since I've lived here.

Star of Bethlehem, Ornithogalum umbellatum, which is enormously prolific here in my garden, also planted by the previous owners. They now grow beneath the raspberry bushes.

Raspberry (Rubus spp.) blossom. A homely flower which begets a gorgeous berry.

Bloomin' onions (Allium cepa)! I left these onions, planted last spring from seed, in their bed overwinter to see what would happen. Here's the result.

The purple, globular flowers of the common chives (Allium schoenoprasum) always make me smile. Such a soft, delicate bloom for a robust smelling herb. These are third year chives which have bloomed for the first time this year because I commanded that Annie not eat them completely to the dirt this spring.

Okay, okay. I didn't grow these. These blooms were my Mother's Day gifts, one from my husband and children and one from my best friend. I'm not much of a cut flowers type of gal, but it's always good to know someone cares. :)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Free Labor! (or Dave, You'll Have to Suffer Through More Ugly!)

Nothing I love more than something for nothing. Did that make any sense? :)

I'd been on the fence for a long while (like, over a year... you all know I'm a Virgo, right?) about what to do with the Spiraea fronting our bungalow. They were here when we moved in, but there was always this very awkward gap between the bush right next to the steps and the rest of the hedge. When we had our fence put in, I tried to transplant two of the Spiraea's that were in the back of the house into that gap, but they promptly died on me. I don't think I got enough of the root. Those suckers were HUGE and well established. So, the gap stayed. And stayed. And stayed. And drove me nuts.

But one day, one fine and glorious day when I realized that the rest of my yard and house were in shambles because of my indecisiveness, I made a decision. *enter the heavenly chorus* I posted my Spiraea to Freecycle. If they'd dig 'em up, they could have 'em.



All the twiggy looking stuff you see there is mown English ivy, the bane of my garden. And yes, I'm still frantically trying to convince The Husband that ripping off that dreadful dun-colored aluminum siding would be a good thing.

I got an amazing number of willing volunteers and actually had to hold specific bushes for people. It was pretty crazy!

Do I have any regrets? No. Well, okay, maybe one. Nearly every house in the neighborhood has these same bushes somewhere on their property, so I kinda feel like I'm outta the club or am breaking some sacred neighborhood vow of unity. But then again, every house in the neighborhood has these same bushes. The truth is, these bushes were taller than me, which made it very difficult and dangerous for me to try to trim them. The Husband sure wasn't gonna do it. Oh, and those bushes collected garbage like you wouldn't believe. Never OUR garbage of course. Just whatever was tumblin' down the street on those fine blustery days here in good ole O-H. You wouldn't BELIEVE the amount of trash I found lurking under and behind them. They really look their best when they can run wild and free too which just made our house look sloppy. Their blossom laden boughs were always gorgeous, but I'd rather have something useful there (and there will be something useful there... someday).

I have big plans for the space, but they won't get done this year. I've bigger fish to fry, as always seems to be the case with old houses and young gardens. I'm okay with that though. I finally made a decision in under two years! It's a miracle!

And did I mention that I got people to dig out my pain-in-the-rear bushes FOR FREE!?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

More Neighbor Troubles

All winter I was researching and drooling at the prospects come this spring when the white mulberry tree on our property burst into all its fruited gloriousness. Alas! There shall be no white mulberries for me this year and probably not for several years to come.

Why, you ask?

Because the neighbors on the other side of me (not the neighbors with the foul kennel) decided to chop down half of the humongous white mulberry tree at the back of our property before mysteriously vanishing from their home. Here's what it looks like now:

Why they cut down only the top half of the tree is beyond me. It is already beginning to put out some new branchlets (no, I don't know the technical term), so it will need to be cut again someday. Um, over my dead body.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Goin' to the Dogs

Last summer's garden

Believe it or not, I AM putting things in the ground this year. I didn't really know how much I'd actually get to with such a new babe around the homestead, but I decided to take it in slow, small increments and see how I fared. I'm trying to get one bed planted a day, and it's been going well (not counting the rain... oh! the rain!). I am truly the sort of dame that revels in having her hands (and feet and knees and face) dirty, so it's been blissful tying the baby to my back and setting about my work in the garden. Unfortunately, there's one thing ruining it all for me.

Dog poop.

And I don't even have a dog.

For whatever reason my neighbors, whose yard is actually smaller than my teeny yard (you can see their house in the picture above), decided to get not one, not two, not three, but FOUR dogs. Whaaa? They got a puppy last year shortly after they moved into the house, and the poor pup spent all his time outdoors in the kennel come rain, shine, snow, hail or whatever. No dog house. It was dreadful. Now they have all four of the dogs in the kennel! Everytime I go out to do my garden chores, I am beset by the foul fecal smell of those animals. Now, I love dogs. I may be a cat person, but I love dogs too. But come on! Four medium-sized dogs in a kennel meant for one? And no poo cleanup!?

In a neighborhood as closely packed as this one, there has to be a little consideration for your fellow human beings, don't you think? I mean, I asked them before I decided to bring bees onto the homestead, and I nixed the idea because my canine-lovin' neighbor is allergic. Where's the love?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

On The Fence

Annie climbing our privacy fence on the first warmish day of the year in February.

I'm on the fence about this blog. I love having a place to come to to talk about... whatever, but I also feel a little bit silly putting my stuff out there sometimes. There may be no reason for it, but it's the truth. Should I also mention that I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by life in general since the addition of baby #4? Oh yes, I am. The Husband was home for only one week before he had to return to work after the baby was born, so I've been flying quite solo with this one. Sure, I'm an old pro by this point. I swaddle without thought, breastfeed in marathon fashion, and know exactly how well I function on less sleep than you can imagine (the twins took care of that my first time around). Still, it's been quite an adjustment, this wee little babe. Did I mention here on the blog that I was diagnosed with Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction during the pregnancy? No. Fun. At. All. Unfortunately, it hasn't completely disappeared either. I still get a moderate amount of pain on a regular basis, and laundry day KILLS me.

All that said (and, sorry, but I needed to say it), there is a good reason for all of this pain and adjustment:

That's her! My beautiful new daughter, Bea (not her full name). And no, though I love the name Beatrice, that's not her name either. :) I didn't get the birth I wanted (still trying to come to terms with that too!), but she's here, and she's healthy. Oh, and I can't stop kissing her. And smelling her. And rubbing my cheek along hers. I'm totally in love.

Welcome to the world, baby girl. We're so glad you're here!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

In Case You Haven't Noticed...

I'm taking an extended blogging vacation. Maybe I'll be back, maybe I won't. The combination of being nine months pregnant and the month of March (always the most depressing month for me) has just got me... down. Nothing big, but I have absolutely nothing to write about. Time for me to hunker down, force myself to prepare those last bits for the baby, and just keep moving forward.

Thanks to all of you who have read this blog. I will miss you.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Great Backyard Bird Count

For those of you interested, don't forget that The Great Backyard Bird Count starts tomorrow!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The First Greening

Here in Ohio, we know that the warm temperatures are probably a temporary thing. There's likely to be another big snow or a batch of freezing rain or some other weather phenomenon to send us slinking back into our warm homes. Still, I can smell spring in the air and am reveling in the little bits of green beginning to poke through. So much to look forward to...

Primula poking through the leaf mulch

Moss in the fairy garden

New leaves sprouting on the Quinault strawberries

Come back to me green! Oh, how I love thee!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

I can't believe I forgot to do my Menu Plan Monday post last week! I'll blame it on pregnancy brain and a sick 5-year-old. ;) We're getting ever closer to D-Day here, so I'm making extras with every meal and popping some into the freezer. Only 6 weeks to go!

Monday: Breakfast-- Cheesy Scrambled Eggs on Buttered Toast
Cinnamon Applesauce
Dinner-- Spaghetti with Meat Sauce, Mixed Greens Salad

Tuesday: Breakfast-- Banana Pancakes
Dinner-- The Husband's Choice

Wednesday: Breakfast-- Baked Oatmeal
Dinner-- One-Pan Chicken Dinner

Thursday: Breakfast-- Breakfast Burritos
Dinner-- More-Peas-if-You-Please Penne

Friday: Breakfast-- Chunky Monkey Oatmeal
Dinner-- Chili and Romaine Salad

Saturday: Breakfast-- Apple Cinnamon Muffins
Dinner-- Yummy Broccoli Soup and Homemade Bread

Sunday: Breakfast-- Baked Oatmeal
Dinner-- Homemade Pizza

You can check out what everyone else is eating over at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Those Elusive Snow Faeries!

I've been trying all morning, quite unsuccessfully, to get a picture of the dazzling snow effect taking place in front of our house this morning. There is no new snow falling, but the wind has taken to blowing about a very fine dusting of the snow that has until now been blanketing our roof. I think the sun was a bit jealous of the play taking place between wind and snow, and so he decided to add his own element, causing every single snowflake being blown about to sparkle in the most ethereal way. As soon as I opened the shades this morning, I gasped and ran to get the children thinking that this phenomenon might be short lived. It's been going on for hours, though, and we've all been pressing our faces unflatteringly against the windows to absorb the beauty of the day. When the bus comes to pick up Annie girl, the two of us will swirl about and pretend we're snowflakes too.

I apologize for the pause in posting here. As usual, life intercedes. Airius has contracted strep throat and an ear infection, so I've been busy playing nursemaid. This is the first ear ache any of my kids have ever had, and I'm glad that I caught it right away. I had chronic ear aches as an infant/child, as did my brother, and I remember the agony that such a thing can cause. One of my most comforting memories involves laying my aching ear against my aunt's very pregnant belly (at her bidding, of course) and just absorbing all that life-giving heat. I think I fell asleep there. Airius has been partaking in the same luxury here, but his unborn sister isn't quite as accomodating as my cousin was. She squirms and kicks all day long, so there are only very short windows of time where it's comfortable enough for him to rest on my belly. We have other warming, comforting things for his ear of course, but what could be better than skin-to-skin contact with Mama?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Into February

(Photo taken last February)

Today is a holiday for us, but there will be more posting about that tomorrow (hopefully). I just wanted to send out a reminder to everyone that February is National Bird Feeding Month.

Birds are a vital part of the homestead, whether it be urban or way out in the country. These beautiful feathered creatures are the natural predators of many of the insects that gardeners consider pests, but they're also plant pollinators, though they leave the limelight of that subject to bees and bats. If you're a wildcrafter, birds are often responsible for the spread of wild plant species, especially berries. If all that isn't enough, birds are just plain mesmerizing and relaxing to watch. They are often the centerpiece of therapeutic gardens for those with Alzheimer's, Autism, and other diseases or disorders.

The children are already keeping their eyes open for that first robin of spring, though I'm sure it's still at least a month or two away. For now, we delight ourselves with the songs of the mourning doves, sparrows, and starlings. And oh! That dash of red as a male cardinal darts in to pick at the sunflower heads we've hung out for them... Gorgeous.

For more information on the proper way to feed birds and attract them to your yard or homestead:

The National Bird-Feeding Society
Audubon at Home
Wild Bird Feeding Industry

Friday, January 30, 2009

Stovetop Popcorn-- Frugal, Fast, and Fun

We're still just buried in snow here, and we've been having fun with it. A kid gets thirsty? They open the back door and scoop some snow into their cup, take it to the table, watch it melt, then drink all that cold goodness down. Somehow, water always tastes more magical when it started as snow, don't you think?

Along with our free and fairydust-imbued drinks, we decided to pop some popcorn on the stovetop. The truth is, Mommy hasn't been out to the store in nearly two weeks now, so we were running low on "snack foods." We've been keeping popcorn in the pantry though, so out it came! Heather did a wonderful tutorial on stovetop popcorn over at The Simple, Green, Frugal Co-Op (the rest of that post is wonderful too!). I know that it sounds as if it takes a lot more time and effort than popping a bag of kernels in the microwave, but it really doesn't take much time at all. I use bacon grease to pop ours in and test to see if the oil is hot enough by dropping in just one kernel. When that single kernel pops, I pour in enough popcorn to cover the bottom of the pan with a single layer of kernels, usually about 1/2 cup. This 1/2 cup of unpopped kernels makes enough popcorn to split into two batches for my three littles.

Which saves me from having to head to the store for yet one more day. ;)

There are a million and one recipes for jazzing up your popcorn. Just type "popcorn recipes" into search engine and you should be able to find something to suit any occassion. I grew up in the land of bland popcorn though, so we don't add anything at all to ours. The bacon grease alone gives it enough flavor to suit us (well, except The Husband).

Can anyone guess what we'll be munching on while watching the Superbowl? :)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Snow Day

The snow is piling up yet again. On top of the previous big drop we got, we are expected to have up to 11 more inches of accumulation by tomorrow. This is the perfect situation for spotting the tracks of wild (and not so wild) critters out of doors. They're all out there gathering the last bits of what they can scrounge from the cold, frozen earth. It's amazing how they always seem to sense the changes in weather, isn't it? We spotted the tracks of birds (probably sparrows), squirrels, and even a rabbit. I'm hoping we get very lucky with some raccoon tracks tomorrow, but we never seem to find them, even when I spots the raccoons in our neighbor's garbage the night before. Tricksy, tricksy beings they are!

Other snow day antics:

Playing round after round of One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Go Fish.

Drinking more hot chocolate than is probably good for us.

Keeping our hats on indoors to stay warm.

Cuddling Papa (aka The Furnace) to stay warm.

Making watercolor art for the kids' rooms, thanks to Amy's inspiring post. We didn't have any contact paper, so I just used clear tape to make the initials.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

Unfortunately, I didn't get to make most of the dinner dishes from last week's menu because two of my littles got sick, and when my kids are sick there's only one meal that they'll have: homemade chicken noodle soup. So that's what we had for dinner Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I did manage to sneak the Tortellini in Broth with Escarole into their bowls, but none of the kids would touch the escarole. I thought the dish was delicious though! If you can't find escarole or just want a substitute, spinach or nettles would be wonderful.

I'm sure Monday at least will be another chicken noodle soup day, but here's the plan for now:

Monday: Breakfast-- Cheesy Scrambled Eggs on Buttered Toast
Cinnamon Applesauce
Dinner-- Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

Tuesday: Breakfast-- Walnut Pancakes
Dinner-- The Husband's Choice

Wednesday: Breakfast-- Baked Oatmeal
Dinner-- Pork and Green Bean Stir-Fry with Rice

Thursday: Breakfast-- Breakfast Burritos
Dinner-- Roasted Chicken Breasts with Carrots and Onions

Friday: Breakfast-- Chunky Monkey Oatmeal
Dinner-- Chili and Romaine Salad

Saturday: Breakfast-- Raisin Oatmeal Muffins
Dinner-- Spaghetti with Meat Sauce and Italian Salad

Sunday: Breakfast-- Baked Oatmeal
Dinner-- Homemade Pizza

Don't forget to join us for Menu Plan Monday!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Let It Snow (In My Garden)!

Lavender sustaining itself through last year's snow.

It is still snowing a bit here, just a few scattered flurries to top of the inches already on the ground, and that's just fine by me. For the cold climate garden, snow really does have its benefits. We'll ignore the horror of collapsed greenhouses or blacked out cold frames for now, mainly because I don't have either (heh!), and concentrate on the good points. 'Kay?

As I see it, snow has two wonderful upsides. The first of these is its insulating properties. Snow isn't just a poetic, metaphorical blanket. It really does provide protection to the soil. While I do typically mulch my beds, snow is always welcome added insurance that the roots of my trees, shrubs, and other perennials will not freeze. Without snow, all that cold seeps right into the ground. Soil can freeze to amazing depths and cause plenty of damage to both flora and fauna, but just a couple of inches of snow cover is usually enough to prevent the most significant and damaging soil freezes. A couple inches of snow can also be especially beneficial to small compost piles, acting as an added layer to aid in the continuation of the thermal process happening within.

The second benefit to snow cover is the added moisture. This can be both a blessing and a curse, depending on just how much snow you get and the annual precipitation of your area overall. In my garden, it's best if the snowfall takes place in the earlier months of winter, specifically November, December, January, and early February. This provides more time for the inches and inches of moisture provided by the powdery white stuff to incorporate itself into the soil. Yes, we still have wet, mushy springtimes, but they generally don't last quite as long as they do when our snowfall happens after early February. This earlier moisture absorption allows me to work the soil just a bit earlier. When the snow comes in March and April, as it did last year, it can be as late as June before the soil is really workable. No fun at all.

In the compost pile, it's always important to control moisture. By the end of summer, my compost pile is usually getting pretty dry, so I'm eager for the snow to compensate later on. I deal with the possibility of a waterlogged pile by building all of mine with rounded tops, allowing the moisture the run down the sides. If topped off in the autumn with a "brown" layer (I prefer shredded paper), that will suck up the moisture that your pile needs. The rest of the melted snow will soak into the bottom layer of compost and the soil around it. If you don't build rounded piles, you'll need to ensure proper drainage in your setup so that the excess moisture from inches and inches of snow doesn't soak your pile.

Honestly, I can't imagine a winter without snow. Even if it wasn't beneficial to my garden, and that argument can certainly be made, there's just something magical and oh so gorgeous about it. For me, snow makes winter complete.

Frugal Babywearing: How to Carry a Baby in a Bed Sheet

(Video from Magic City Slingers Blog)

Babywearing may be all the rage now, but it's hardly new and really, truly does not have to be expensive. A simple bedsheet will do in a pinch, as the video above shows you. It'll take some practice, but nothing more than the Moby Wrap or the Ultimate Baby-Wrap Carrier requires.

The "carrier" featured in the video does not require any sewing, but if you'd like to get a little more tailored with your bedsheet:

Sling Article and How-To
Karma Baby's Sling Pattern

And if you've already got mini-mamas at home, like me:

A DIY Child's Pouch Sling @ Chasing Cheerios

Oh how I'm looking forward to the days of having a baby snuggled against my chest... *sigh*

Sunday, January 18, 2009

First Menu Plan Monday

One of my goals for last year was to begin planning our menus to cut down on grocery costs, junk food purchases, and pantry nonsense overload. It's really transformed our grocery bill, and I love the stress relief that comes from not having to hunt for something to make each meal. This year, I thought it might be fun to participate in I'm an Organizing Junkie's weekly Menu Plan Monday event. Not only might I pick up a few new, yummy recipes or menu planning tips, but I hope to pick up a few new friends too!

So, welcome to everyone that is visiting from the Organizing Junkie's blog. Please feel free to comment! I can't wait to see your menus.

Just a note on my menu method: I will include breakfast and dinner items, but not lunch. We generally eat leftovers for lunch, so there's no need for me to plan for it. If there are no leftovers (happening a little too often with this pregnant mama around *ahem*), we have either harboiled eggs with whatever fruit/veggies are available or peanut butter sandwiches with aforementioned fruit/veggies.

Monday: Breakfast-- Cheesy Scrambled Eggs on Buttered Toast
Cinnamon Applesauce
Dinner-- Cheese Manicotti and Romaine Salad

Tuesday: Breakfast-- Banana Pancakes with Peanut Butter
Dinner-- The Husband's Choice

Wednesday: Breakfast-- Baked Oatmeal
Dinner-- Tortellini in Broth with Escarole

Thursday: Breakfast-- Cheesy Scrambled Eggs on Buttered Toast
Cinnamon Applesauce
Dinner-- Pork and Green Bean Stir-Fry with Rice

Friday: Breakfast-- Chunky Monkey Oatmeal
Dinner-- Roasted Chicken Breasts with Carrots and Onions

Saturday: Breakfast-- Apple Cinnamon Muffins
Dinner-- Chili and Romaine Salad

Sunday: Breakfast-- Baked Oatmeal
Dinner-- Homemade Pizza

Friday, January 16, 2009

Thrift Tip:

Even thrift stores have sales!

The key to taking advantage of these sales here in Marion (and probably other small towns as well) is to make regular visits. I try to make a thrift store trip once a week during my regular grocery shopping excursion. Will I miss some sales this way? Certainly, but I'm okay with that because I'm shopping when I need something, not just for the sake of shopping. If you're an eBayer or just enjoy looking for deals, you'll want to stop by a couple more times in the week.

The sales for my local stores are posted inconspicuously on the interior entrance doors of the building, for example, "All purses 25% off." There are almost always sales right before the holidays as well, just like any other retail outfit. I've called all the thrift stores I know of here in Marion to ask if they had periodicals or newsletters or any other form of notifying customers of their promotionals, but I got a "no" from all of them. The lady I talked to at Goodwill, in fact, insisted that they do not run sales because of their "everyday low pricing," but I happen to know that isn't true. Instead, I'll keep stopping by and pay attention to the postings.

If you're in a large city, you may be able to find sales postings for your local thrift stores online because these stores have more sales competition, but even many of these large retailers have no outside promotional postings.

Keep your eyes open!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I Love...

Neighborhood kids who will shovel a pregnant woman's walkway for free. A blessing indeed!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Out in the Cold

Snow on Echinacea seed heads

There are only 69 days between now and my due date. I'm hard at work during the day feathering my nest and shouting out frustration at how slowly things are going. Why can't I decide on curtains for the bedroom? We need double doors on our closet for real efficiency! How am I ever going to fit two girls into one room, let alone three!?

My nights, on the other hand, are spent in fierce debate with The Husband over where, when, and how to have this baby. Not exactly what I'd planned to be doing at this point, but it needs to be done. I'm doing my best to keep a positive attitude and an open heart, knowing that regardless of the details, this baby will be born and will be loved. And I will recover. Slowly or quickly, I will recover.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Seed Catalogs

Nothing excites a gardener's passions quite like seed catalogs. I think I've actually trembled a bit when pulling the first catalog of the season from the mailbox. This season, the first to arrive was Pinetree Garden Seeds, which arrived well before December. When I first started gardening, I requested every seed catalog I came across. That equates to... a hell of a lot of catalogs and a hell of a lot of waste. I quickly found that I needed to slim down my selection, not just to prevent the waste that comes from having stacks of glossy paper sitting around, but also in order to help keep my seed buying habit on budget and narrow my selection choices. Who can decide what to buy with 50 catalogs full of seeds, plants, and merchandise to choose from? Not me. The fruit and nut tree catalogs were apparently my attempt at masochism because I just don't have room for a large variety of trees. The flower catalogs were pretty to look at, but most of the flowers that I was interested in were edible, dye, or medicinal flowers that I could find in other catalogs, so they were a bit redundant.

After gardening for a couple of years and refining my garden plans, I now receive only four seed catalogs in the mail:

Pinetree Garden Seeds-- They often have choices for plants that I can't find elsewhere.

Seed Savers Exchange-- An amazing source of heirloom seeds for vegetables, herbs, and flowers. Their organization is on an incredibly important mission, and it's so vital for gardeners to support their work.

Bountiful Gardens-- Founded by John Jeavons who wrote the wonderful How to Grow More Vegetables book. Bountiful Gardens is a non-profit that helps to support Ecology Action, teaching people around the world how to feed themselves using sustainable (and often culturally important) methods. Their publications are extraordinary, and they have a pretty good selection of medicinal herbs.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds-- Again, they are a rich source of heirloom seeds with a gorgeous catalog. I've been on the fence about this one for a couple years, debating whether or not to stop getting this catalog, but it's just so dang perdy!

In addition to these catalogs, I also frequent Horizon Herbs online catalog. I don't get their paper version because I usually know exactly what I want with herbs and it's usually the variety closest to the wild herb.

I'm still looking for a great local (non-Monsanto based) seed source, so if anyone has any suggestions I'm open to them! Don't forget that trading seeds with other local gardeners is always a fulfilling and informative way to vary your seed selection.

What is your favorite source of seeds and what made you choose them?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Yummy Broccoli Soup

Yes, I'm the worst food photographer ever. I promise to work on it if I'm going to keep posting food pictures.

Anyway, I promised my lovely readers that I would post a good recipe from my ventures into Rachael Ray menu planning land, and here is my favorite so far: broccoli soup. I actually made this recipe in early December when the weather here was still mild and broccoli was still readily available. Some of you with greenhouses or in warmer climes may still be able to make this with fresh from the garden veggies, but I'll have to wait until the spring broccoli crop comes in. My mouth is watering just thinking about it! I didn't make many changes to the original recipe really, but I like a potatoier soup (how's that for making up new words?), and I didn't have any shredded Swiss on hand so I had to adjust things a bit.

Broccoli Soup (adapted from Every Day with Rachael Ray)-- 4 adult servings

  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 large onion chopped

  • salt and pepper

  • 4 small yellow-fleshed potatoes, finely chopped (I didn't peel my potatoes, though the original recipe calls for it)

  • 1 bunch broccoli, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

  • 3 1/2 cups water

  • In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper and cook until softened and transluscent, stirring often. Add the chopped potatoes and 3 1/2 cups water and bring to a boil. Then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Next, add the broccoli, cover, and cook just until the broccoli is tender, about 7 minutes. Remove half of the soup to a blender and puree; recombine with the other half. Stir in the shredded cheese and then the cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm.

    All in all, it took me about an hour to prepare this soup. Not bad at all. I garnished the kids' bowls with extra shredded cheese and served it with crusty bread (not the "Ham-and-Swiss Toasts" included in the Every Day menu plan because I have an extreme dislike of mayonaisse). Next time, I may puree the portions for the 5-year-olds completely. They are a bit put off by broccoli. The 2-year-old was no problem though, and she happily dipped her bread in and chowed down. I had a much larger bowl than I should have for dinner and an equally large bowl the next day for lunch. The next time I prepare this soup, I think I'll double the recipe and see how well it freezes.