Archives for category: Homemaking

Welcome. We are glad to meet you.
We welcomed 2014 with fires indoors and out. Gathering the wood for the outside fire was especially soulful for me. While not the same, it is similar to taking food from Nature. I am grateful for the trees.

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We enjoyed our traditional meal of ham (baked this year), hoppin’ John, and greens. I don’t know that any of us really believes that these foods will bring us health, fortune, or wealth. I do think we each enjoy knowing what to really expect a few days a year, New Year’s Day being one of those.

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We began our Three Kings Day conversations. We welcomed our newly made kings to the table with some folded stars and the Christ Candle from our Advent Spiral. We are grateful for the Light that led those Kings to honor a sweet baby king. We’ve only talked (and occasionally baked) about the day in the past years. I’m hoping it is something more memorable as we move into this new year.

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Rest is where our bodies and hearts are headed now. Rest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Our Christmas seasons can be fraught with gift needs and wants, places to be, people to see. There are gifts wants and needs and people we would like to see, but no fraught (fret?). Not this year.

 

I grew up in a family with faults far too numerous to count and far too in the past now to dredge. But there were some really cool things, too, that I have chosen to carry into this moment in my life. Like the sincere appreciation for homemade gifts. So, many years I make some if not all of the gifts even when I know they are not appreciated. I had the recipient in mind through the process and so the gift is a piece of me on behalf of my family.

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This year there are not so many homemade things. I don’t know why. There just isn’t. And it’s OK. I’m not in the least bothered by it as I would have been in the past. I don’t know why. I’m OK with not knowing why.

 

My Husband comes about the holidays in a different way than I do. He likes to go and look a half dozen times and then pick up a few things here and there. Stealing a piece of a text with my Sister …

That’s a big part of what gets his mind in the right place for the holidays. Funny how I just want to be home and bake and make while he wants to be out and about. This year, for the first year, I am perfectly OK with whatever. I have no stress. So odd and awesome at the same time.

And I am OK with that. This year. Typically I get my granny panties all wadded up over it. Not this year. I don’t know why not this year, but not this year.

 

As I type this I am just laughing at myself. There is a brief squabble over what color the next loom band ornament should be. There is a science experiment debate over proper microscope management and there is a miniature schnauzer in desperate need of a good grooming on my lap. It’s comical. And I’m all good with that.

 

I am grateful for the odd and awesome.

There is naturally a buzz here with the anticipation of celebration and gifts. But it is a pretty chill buzz this year. Chill by all of us. There isn’t a flurry to do this, make that, buy things. Sure, we’re picking up here and there and making with our minds and hands, but it isn’t rushed.

 

It feels so good.

 

The highlights are times with friends, the advent spiral, and lots of just being.

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Even the most perfect tree we just picked up yesterday sits in its most perfect spot sans lights and ornaments. Only a stand full water.

 

And this calm, this peace, this moment is just right as solstice nears and I prepare my heart for the gift of Christmas.

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So the thing about new ferments/cultures is this … most of the time they are awesome but sometimes they suck.

 

Villi yogurt – awesome. Easy. Requires little thought. Tangy. Perfect. When it’s cold.

Milk Kefir – whoa. Not sure how to strain those grains yet, but the stuff is good. Feel free to tell me how to strain the grains without having my hands all in it. Delicious when cold. Excellent quickie smoothies. Cold.

Fermented Cranberry Sauce –  A hit on the extended family Thanksgiving table. My pickier-than-usual-adult Father-In-Law liked it. Seemingly a lot. I’d say it passed. Best room temperature.

Desem Sourdough Starter – just getting going, may be able to make bread by the end of the week. It prefers to sit on the mantle, nice and cozy.

True Pickled Eggs – SUCK. Now, in all fairness, I followed the video example of how to boil eggs in the link and I think this was the issue. I should have boiled them as I always do – one minute hard boiled, cut heat, cover pan, let sit for 15 minutes. Because these eggs SUCKED. I vomited after eating them. The yolks were barely set and saturated with salt. Nasty. So I take full responsibility for the fail. My first ferment fail. It happens to everyone. Right?

 

(Please do not forget to tell me how to separate the grains from the milk kefir without digging with my fingers.)

The past few days I have been ridiculously productive. This is no good. I am confident I am setting myself up to feel like a  failure when I do nothing. Probably today. No. Wait. Today starts Hanukkah! There is surely some crafting to do. Here are some of the ideas I have gleaned. And this is my favorite take on a menorah EVER. We’ll probably use leftover glass rather than buy anything. I don’t think God cares. I think He is joyful.

 

And there went my feeling of failing … I don’t know that experimenting with floating wick prototypes qualifies as doing nothing.

 

No. We’re not Jewish. We’re not pagan, either, but the children have celebrated Samhain before. And we’ll probably enjoy Muharram towards its end. I think it is fun and we learn. All of us. And not always things we wish to know. Knowledge, no less.

 

As for the fermented cranberry sauce? I will open it for a taste this afternoon. It *looks* like it “worked.” Monday, I started a gift for my Husband: true pickled eggs. They’re still sitting in the dark. The ones I made for him last year…eh.

 

The Villi yogurt has made a full quart. Eh. Not so crazy about the taste. But perhaps as the tang develops in the starter. In the meantime, I have a batch in the crockpot right now.

I like my milk like I like my tea – cultured.

 

This week I introduced a new ferment to our collection – milk kefir. I also started a new-to-me ferment of  Villi Yogurt and a new-to-me Desem Sourdough sponge. All were purchased from Cultures for Health. I add these to my ongoing attempts at Living Foods which includes kombucha , of which I have now proclaimed myself a master.

And the day after the fresh starts… guess what I receive from a darling friend? This recipe for Fermented Cranberry Sauce. Yes! I did get cranberries for this recipe and YES I will begin the ferment today. Right after I drain my yogurt for its whey… Of course, I don’t use the canned stuff that Thug Kitchen warns against. (Read that post. It is freaking hi-larious!)

 

And, oh yeah. I also read Sandor Ellix Katz’s Wild Fermentation. (Be cool. Buy it from the publisher, won’t ya?) Watch out dear family. Kraut and kimchi are next on the list. And I may even start miso.

 

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In need of a brief and slow and deep breath of the woods, the younger children and I ventured to the best groomed trail – the racetrack in the woods. We brought back treasures to add to past gathered goodies and resurrected my need of a deep breath of Light. We made a usually-too-stacked-and-packed magazine table into our Nature table. I am grateful.

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Yes. I begin this post at 444pm on a Wednesday with a full glass of wine. See, I am an optimist.

This morning, on facebook I believe, I saw this post about Ten Things You Should Know about Homeschool Moms. It is clever and cute and, like the author says, a general summary and not about all homeschoolers. I really enjoyed it. In fact, I tried to “share” it several times but the stoopid facebook app wouldn’t let me. That facebook app fail actually gave me time to ponder the list. I am grateful.

Now mind you, my favorite part of the post was actually all her disclaimers in the beginning, so know that I am heeding those and not taking any of her comments too seriously.

But this thought of mine (to her number 7)I have pondered seriously much of today: I do not lie awake at night worrying that I am ruining my kids. I am, uh, well, you know, like, the most confident homeschooler EVER. I mean EVER. For me, I figure, if the kids ever feel like they haven’t learned what they wanted to or needed to learn, well, that is their problem to reconcile, not mine. Once an individual can read, that individual is capable of learning anything and everything he wants to learn.

To suggest that any institution, public, private, or home could ever teach all that a person should or could know is infantile. It suggests that there is an end to knowledge. That once the word “cat” is mastered in understanding, writing, spelling, and concept that there is nothing more than cat. But really there are dozens and dozens and dozens of felines. If I choose to stop with cat, well, I chose to stop. Nothing is in my way but my infantile awareness.

My kids are responsible for their own accomplishments. Those wants are not on my shoulders. If the six year old wants to become proficient in reading, well, she has to choose to stop playing veterinarian and practice her reading. I am not going to choose for her as I feel her compassion and logical sequencing when playing veterinarian is as important as spelling and reading “veterinarian.” She is wise enough to know when she is ready.

If the thirteen year old chooses to listen to Journey play “Don’t Stop Believin'” and not actually practice the song himself but would rather whine and complain about how he’ll never master the piano piece, well, it’s his choice. He must not really want to master it. No one has barred him from the keyboard.

Now, the six year old is working a vet clinic in the big tent outside. The thirteen year old is upstairs practicing the Journey song. Of course, that makes sense. As I am aging I am certainly learning to prioritize more carefully. And I lead by example. As do the children. Reade, since I wrote that last sentence, left the piano and now the ten year old is there working on “Love Story” (Taylor Swift, as if you had to ask). Reade led by example. And Laura Lea will one day follow the example of an older sibling or friend who is captured in a written story. She will decide she wants to join that world. And that will come in due time, with age.

As I progress forward in time with our children, I am choosing to be less authoritarian. It does not mean I do not make my own expectations and limits clear. It means I allow them to make their choices. Including some that would seem odd to others. I expect them to look after themselves.

My kids pack themselves for overnights and long trips. I will sometimes look over what they have packed, but if the kid arrives without a bathing suit or toothbrush, well, she’ll not swim and have stinky breath. If I pack for a child and forget the bathing suit or toothbrush (and realize it) I will make right by the child even at a monetary or time expense. Thankfully I rarely pack for anyone other than myself because I am very forgetful.

If my kids say to me, say at 2pm, “I am hungry, why didn’t you feed us lunch?” Uh? What? Are you serious? I have, more than once, answered, “Wow. I have been busy! Didn’t even think about stopping to eat.” I won’t apologize because these kids can all choose, slice, dice, spread, cook, and clean. They have no problem at all with helping themselves at any time of day without ever saying a word to me about it, so really? If they get hungry, they know how to feed themselves.

So, no. I never worry about ruining my kids. Because they are learning to care for themselves. To think for themselves. They are reminded that they have the tools to learn, do, think on their own and that all choices have good and bad consequences. They also know that I have their backs. That if they have a need it will be met with comfort, guidance, and love. They only have to choose to ask. I am grateful.

Our windows are still open and I am grateful. My body aches to the core when the air conditioning is on.

But our windows open has little to do with dinner on the go. A little. Just not a lot of a little.

It’s baseball season and with two playing in a city rec league (Forgive me Father, I know what we do. We pay our property taxes there, that is my only weak defense.), so with two boys in rec league, we often have several evenings to enjoy games. Add in tennis, golf, or swim team practices beforehand and we are leaving the house at 330p not to return until 930p.

We’re not often going to eat out. It’s not good for us, teaches convenience over value, demonstrates poor time management, and there just isn’t time. So I pack dinner these evenings.

The kids each have a Tupperware Lunch ‘n’ Things container. These are the greatest bento-like boxes ever. Tupperware no longer makes them but there are lots on Amazon and eBay.

I stack these in an insulated market tote cooler with two large reusable ice thingies. It all fits in one cooler just right with a blanket, cloth napkins, and silverware.

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I try to vary what I pack. Last night was grilled herbed chicken with veg strips and a peach. Tonight is rosemary and chive beef patty (aka hamburger steak) with salt and vinegar home fries and, of course, veg strips.

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And I try to have something quick and easy and cool for when we walk in the door so late. Yesterday I made a chicken pasta salad from last weekend’s grilled chicken. It was just right to sit and eat on the deck.

And that is the best part of packing dinner to go. We come home to a clean and calm house with no hurry or worry. I am grateful.

I also keep a snack bin in the truck. Sometimes it is pre-made (goldfish, lance crackers, etc) but usually it is homemade (granola bars, fruit leather, pretzels, protein balls). At this moment it is both. But all those glass and Tupperware containers, while ideal because they cut down on waste, are not always ideal for on-the-go.

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So to combat the commercialism of food, I will be wrapping my own. I bought this FoodSaver today. I hope to give it a try over the next few weeks. I am thinking it will be most ideal for granola bars and fruit leather. I’ll surely share.

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We are in a rainy spell here in central NC. While my sky blanket looks like a return to winter, there really have been a lot of good things.

Today, whenever the rain breaks, the kids will escape outside, leaving experiments, LEGO builds, coloring wherever it was the moment the last few drops were falling.

Lots of mud races and mud contests. And laundry.

And many more of cooler weather’s warming dinners like meatloaf, casseroles, BBQ, and soups.

I am always grateful for rain. Even when I grow tired of it, I am grateful.