black bean salad

This meal has been one of our staples this summer.  It is an easy way to use up what we have a lot of right now; peppers, onions, tomatoes, corn.  I am trying to figure out how I can convert this meal from a summer dish to a fall/winter dish using roasted veggie and warm black beans.  I will let you know once I figure something out!

This feeds our family for a couple meals.

1/2 lb of dry black beans sorted, rinsed, soaked, cooked, cooled and rinsed again - or you could probably use 2 cans of black beans rinsed
2 large tomatoes chopped
2 medium cucumbers chopped
2 green peppers chopped - you could use any color, green is what we have
3 ears fresh sweet corn sliced off the cob - we don't cook it, but you could if you want
1/2 medium onion finely chopped
1-2 chipotle in adobo, chopped fine - or dried chipotle seasoning to taste - or you could leave this out if you don't like spice
juice of one lime
good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil - maybe 2 Tablespoons
salt and pepper to taste

Mix it all in a big bowl, and then serve as is or over rinsed and cooked quinoa

This is a great meal, lots of protein and veggies, and it is very filling, not to mention relatively cheap since we have all of these veggies in our CSA basket these days.  My kids really enjoy it, even with the spice.  Actually, my kids enjoy spicy, and I think it is because I eat so much of it and nurse.  We are all about strong flavors in this household!

Do you have a black bean salad variation?  Or a warm black bean salad recipe I could try for the fall?

simplify my kitchen

I have a pretty large kitchen.  I love it.  Lot's of counter space for me to do whatever I need to do cooking wise.  Lot's of cabinets and drawers to hold everything in.  A HUGE french door fridge, that is pretty much awesome since I usually have so many vegetables to store.  I don't have too many appliances, the all important coffee maker, a KitchenAid, and a blender.  All but the coffee maker are in the cupboards.  I don't own a lot of cookbooks, I have problems with recipes - meaning I cannot follow them to save my life.  I do have a binder that has some recipe inspiration from magazines, and I also have my box of recipe cards which holds some of my most favorite recipes, mainly from my mama and Nana, and those I typically follow to the T, wanting to recreate my childhood memories and all :-)

So why do you need to simplify your kitchen?  Well, I do have a lot of a couple of things.  I have a lot of Pyrex bowls and casserole dishes, and I have a lot of prep bowls.  Most people would use one or two of these things for an evening meal.  However, I am not most people.  In fact, I have the uncanny ability to use every bowl and pot for one meal.

Now, don't get me wrong, I am fully capable of making a one pot meal, but I typically only do that once a week, and it is usually a soup or chili that I then serve for several meals.  I'm talking about my other meals, when I feel the need to be creative.  You know the meals, the quinoa with black bean salad, regular salad, roasted veggies and steamed green beans kind of meals.  Yes, we will eat all of that in one setting - apparently we are a hungry bunch.

Back to my problem.  Do I really need to have 12 bowls?  While I like the convenience of quickly moving through my meal prep, I do not like the fact that I have to run my dishwasher 3 times per day.  Maybe the bowls and pots I use are just too big.  Maybe I need a second dishwasher.  Maybe I should learn to use fewer bowls and just clean them in between uses in the sink.

One of my goals for the next week or two (because I am not a fast mover on these organizational projects) is to clean out my kitchen.  Do you have any tips?  If you prepare a lot of your own food from scratch, how do you manage the cleanup without running the dishwasher all day everyday?  Inquiring minds would like to know :-)

electricity

Our electricity is up this month.  It was bound to happen.  Night is coming a lot sooner now than it was during the summer, and no matter how much I want to go to bed at 7:30pm, it definitely is not happening!  I was a little surprised at the jump though, until I remembered all the canning I have been doing.

We have an electric stove, I wish it were gas, or better yet one of those old wood cook stoves - although that would not be a pleasant canning experience in August.  Not only is it electric, but it is a glass flat top.  I think that technically you are not supposed to can on a flat top stove.  I do it anyways since we have a very large front burner.  But, it takes FOREVER for it to actually come to a boil.  Add in all of the cooking of tomatoes/apples/salsa/etc. on the other burners, and it adds to an entire day of the stove on...for multiple days.  I was thinking that it might be nice to have some type of outdoor stove for canning, but I have no idea how that would work.  How do I keep the jars sterilized, and get them outside without dumping everything?  I'm not that coordinated.  Any ideas?

I need to be more diligent about unplugging as well.  I have most of our electronics on surge protectors, but I have these awesome surge protectors that have "always on" jacks.  Hmmm...I was curious why my computer would continue charging even after I turned the switch off.  So now I have to unplug from the wall, and that is a little more complicated because, if you have read any of my posts about the children that live in this house you will already know why, I have furniture covering just about every outlet...in addition to those lovely outlet protectors.

What do you do to reduce your electricity usage when it starts to get dark out earlier?  Once it gets colder, I'm sure that we will all be snuggling up in bed earlier since it will be the warmest place in the house :-)

basketweave scarf



I've been talking about my love of knitting on here for a little while now.  It is extremely relaxing to me as a craft.  I am not strict about it, if I make a mistake I usually just keep on knitting, and say that it gives the project character :-)  Or I figure a way to disguise the error as I am going along.  I like knitting because I have very little dedicated time to sit and craft, and it is easy to put a project down if, say, Jack has climbed up on the table and is trying to eat Emma's lunch.  Not that that happens in our family :-)  I also love sewing, but find that sitting down to sew something with littles running around isn't the easiest.  Either they "help" by pushing the pedal, or see previous comment about Jack and Emma.  I am still working on a bag that I started several months ago :-)

But knitting, knitting is something that can be picked up and put down with ease, and I love that.  What I don't love is how damn long it takes for me to finish a project because of the ease of putting it down.  Maybe it is just me, maybe most knitters are able to fly through a project.  That brings me to my current project, a basketweave scarf for Emma.  I decided to use basketweave because it is an easy pattern, and you can kind of do it however you want.

I used a yarn that had two strands of worsted weight twisted together.  Great on technicalities right :-)  And size 8 needles.

Cast on 20 stitches

Row 1 - knit
Row 2 - knit
*Row 3 - k4, p4, k4, p4, k4
Row 4 - p4, k4, p4, k4, p4
Row 5 - repeat row 3
Row 6 - repeat row 4
Row 7 - p4, k4, p4, k4, p4
Row 8 - k4, p4, k4, p4, k4
Row 9 - repeat row 7
Row 10 - repeat row 8

Repeat from * Row 3- Row 10 until your desired length
Knit 2 more rows
bind off and weave in ends

Easy peasy basketweave scarf :-)  There are a lot of variations you can do with this type of pattern, if you want a wider scarf, add 4 more stitches, or if you want larger squares do 5 stitches instead of 4.  The fact that I have worked on this for a few days and only have about 12 inches knit, well, now we know why I start thinking about Christmas in August :-)

The China Study

I read The China Study over the past couple of weeks.  I had heard about it through a few of the vegan blogs that I read, but never made the leap to check it out.  Then, when I saw Forks Over Knives, I knew that I would have to read the book.  Honestly, it was very good.  I thought that the amount of research put into it was great.  I always like to see studies as to why things are a certain way, of course I am sure that the way you research and what you are expecting to find has some bearing on the results...maybe not.

 I'm not going to pretend that it wasn't a disturbing book, it absolutely was.  I am a big cheese girl, and one of the biggest points I took away from this book, and the movie as well, was that having dairy as a main protein source is seriously detrimental to your health.  The evidence they were showing about how cancer tumors grew in rats that had a diet of 20% casein protein (the protein from dairy), made me want to cry.  How do you know what is the right way to eat?  I am less concerned about being a vegan because of the ethical treatment of animals, and more because of the health effects on my kids.

It started with all of the spinach recalls.  I realized that I needed to eat more local foods.  We transitioned to a couple of great CSA's.  I started visiting the farmers' market.  I found local sources of most of the foods that we eat, and more importantly talked to the farmers that grew our food.  There were still many occasions when I would buy stuff from the regular grocery store because I was lazy, because I forgot the market was only open until 6 on Wednesdays and had a job.

Then I watched Food, Inc. and I realized that I couldn't buy meat from the grocery store anymore, I had to get it from Snafu, because I knew how they were raising their animals, and I was comfortable with that.  Of course, that meant a lot less meat in our house.  And changing the types of meat we were buying.  Instead of buying chicken breast, I would buy a whole chicken (at $2.50/lb) and use the. whole. chicken.  When you are paying $15 for a chicken, you decide to learn how to make chicken stock out of the bones, and use every last bit of meat for something - ok, I am not an organ meats kind of person, so maybe not ALL of the chicken was used. And red meat was pretty much out for us.  We still ate a lot of cheese at this point.  I would buy from Cabot because they don't use the growth hormones.

Now, after reading and watching all of the documentaries and books, it seems I am left with a vegan diet, and not a vegan diet that includes soy because I've banned that too, I'm talking a whole foods vegan diet.  Beans, legumes, fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds.  Unfortunately, it gets a little tricky, because I am also committed to eating a local foods diet, and we don't have a whole lot of walnuts and almonds growing around here.  Seasonal eating in March in Maine is not as easy as I would like it, unless I have had the great forethought of preservation...which I never seem to have enough of.  And I am not nearly as strict about it as I should be, but when I buy something from the grocery store, I feel guilty and wonder if my laziness to prepare something local and from scratch is hurting my family.

Does anyone else out there have these issues with food?  Is there something wrong with me?  OK, don't answer the second question :-)  I would love to hear where you are at with food, if you think that all of these new documentaries are full of crap, if you believe animal protein is the best way to get protein, and is it healthy to eat the amount of protein that we, as Americans, eat.

soup!

All of a sudden it is fall.  If you live in Maine, you start to feel it in August I think, maybe it is all of New England.  But this past week it was a shock to my system.  Waking up when it is only 40 degrees out does that I guess!  I figured that it was time to start on my soup craze.

Soup is one of our staples during the winter.  It seems like I make soup every week and we have it for days.  Maybe I should work on variety...or maybe freeze some so we don't eat it for a week straight.  Although, I have to think about the many people in this world that don't have many options as far as food goes - or anything for that matter - and eat beans or rice pretty much every day without variation.

I make my own vegetable stock, and chicken stock.  I always tried to make chicken stock whenever I roasted a chicken, but since we are eating a lot less meat these days, and veggie stock seems to be used in more than soups, I started making my own.  Probably the easiest thing that I can do, with the least amount of effort.  All I do is take 6-8 carrots, a few onions, a bunch of garlic - literally I will use an entire bulb - and celery if I have it on hand.  Chop it up, throw it in a big pot with olive oil.  Saute for a few minutes, and then pour in a lot of water.  I think I usually do 12-16 cups.  Probably I use too much water, but you know what?  It is cheap, and I find that a little veg goes a long way.  I add some salt and pepper, and then just let it simmer for a couple hours on the stove.  It ends up reducing by a third maybe.

At this point, most people tell you to strain out the veg and then just use the liquid, but I just use my hand blender and blend it all up.  Apparently you have already sucked all the vitamins out  at this point, but I think it gives a little texture, and am too lazy to strain it out :-)  My daughter will eat this for days if I let her.  But, I try to add some potatoes and other veggies, a jar of crushed tomatoes and you have an amazing veggie soup.  Add some beans, and there is a good bit of protein.

This past weekend I made a lot of veggie stock.  I was planning on just freezing half of it, but for whatever reason I didn't.  I decided to make a roasted squash and apple soup.  I roasted a couple delicata squash and several apples that I had cored at 400 until I went to check on them and realized the apples had all exploded into mush (maybe 20 minutes???).  I then added it all sans skins to my HUGE pot of veggie stock.  I knew that I had way too much stock at that point, but I tried to make the best of it.  I blended the whole thing up, made some brown rice, and then pretended that the soup was curry and just served it over the rice.  Add some red pepper flakes, and it ended up being amazing, and not at all what I was expecting.  Also, a pretty damn good way to stretch 5 carrots, 3 small onions, 2 delicata squash, and 4 smallish macs :-)  Now I have 2 quarts of this soup in the freezer and enough to last us 3-4 meals this week.  Amazing what a few root veggies and water will do :-)

What about you?  Do you like to make soup?  And do you make your own stock, or buy from the grocery store?

chocolate

Do you want to hear something funny?  I am not a fan of chocolate.  I know, I am a female, and as a woman I should like chocolate, right?  But, I don't.  Chocolate chip cookies?  Nope, not a fan.  I prefer peanut butter cookies, or snickerdoodles.  S'mores?  I would prefer to just roast marshmallows.  Dark chocolate?  Absolutely never.  Don't get me wrong.  I do like chocolate.  A good melted hershey milk chocolate bar?  Yeah, I like those, I think that has held over from my camp days.  Peanut butter cups?  Absolutely, who doesn't like peanut butter (well...besides those who are allergic).  But plain old chocolate does not do it for me.

I have been thinking about this recently because my daughter is IN LOVE with chocolate.  You may or may not realize that we are in the midst of potty training.  My daughter turned 3 in May.  She was completely potty trained for 6 months...and then I had my son Jack...and that was a year ago.  So my newest thing?  Chocolate chips if she uses the potty.  She actually has been really good for the past month, no accidents except at night once in a while.  But, honestly, if she wasn't getting the chocolate chips I'm not sure she would be doing it.  She is very good about reminding me that she deserves a chocolate chip for using the potty.  Granted, I don't always give them to her, not before 10 am, and not after 4pm, but she does end up with a chocolate chip bank and then seems to get several for a "snack."

I don't think I have ever met another woman who did not LOVE chocolate.  So I have to ask, is it all about chocolate in your life?  For me, I am rather fond of savory, and would typically choose that over sweet.  My daughter is clearly the opposite...as is my husband - can we say hershey's chocolate syrup directly in the mouth???  Do you LOVE chocolate?  Or do you prefer something different.  Don't get me wrong, I love sweets, but would rather have a sugar cookie or frosting over anything chocolate related :-)

creating goals

Is it something you do?  I'm not necessarily talking about the ones we all come up with on New Year's Eve to then ignore 2 weeks later (or sooner), although those are good as well.  I am talking real goals.  Goals that you will set a path to completion.  It seems so silly to talk about sometimes.

Do couples really sit down and have serious discussions about their schooling philosophy?  Or about where they want to be in 10 years?  Do they read books together to better themselves as a couple and individually?  Perhaps it is just me.  Maybe I am jumping on the adult band wagon a bit later in life than most people?  :-)

Recently, I have been all about the goal making.  My poor hubby.  He never knows what he is coming home to.  Sometimes I wonder if I have too much time to think during the day.  I found this at simplemom last year...I'm still trying to work through all the questions.  It is interesting to see where my goals lie in regards to how my life currently is.  Not that I want a complete 180, although reading back through some of my blog posts it certainly seems that way.  But, to be able to make real life decisions, and to put myself on that track of accomplishing what I set out to accomplish...it seems unattainable most of the time.

Do you have a specific way to work towards your goals?  I think for me, I would need to concentrate on one at a time.  Maybe take one month to really work on eating well and only buying whole local foods.  And then the next month work on playing the piano more.  The problem is that my list is too large, and I don't know where the right starting point is.  Is it more important to eat well, or to read more books, or spend more time on "fun", or to make sure that my daughter is learning music or dance?

I would love to hear what you are working on.  And if you have a strategy for goal setting...please share it.  I never seem to be able to do one thing at one time...maybe that is my next step!

cool weather means knitting



After realizing that fall is here, I decided it was time to pick up my knitting again.  Jack needs a new hat for the fall/winter.  Imagine my surprise that the hat I made him last year, the hat that I made extra big to tide him over an extra season, is too small for my baby boy this year.  So, what is a mama to do?  Well, knit a new one of course.  I am hoping that I can make a matching hat for my hubs as well.  We shall see how long it takes me to knit this one...since Emma deserves a new one as well :-)  I have a lot of hats in my future I guess.

Actually, I have a lot of knitting in my future...I need to start working on my list for Emma.  I also have a few special projects that I am working on for myself...imagine that...in the years I have been knitting I haven't made myself anything except a cowl last year.  And that was mainly because it was freezing out, and I needed something to keep me a tad warmer :-)

Do you knit?  Do you have any projects you are working on?  And are you able to craft for yourself?  Or is it mainly for other people?

hot and cold

It is definitely feeling like fall up here in Maine.  I was expecting it.  It is Maine after all, and our summers are oh so short, but it still seemed like it came up pretty fast!  Everything is fast these days though, I think it must be the kids, because my days fly by, and I am constantly in a whirlwind!

With fall comes my thinking about heat for the fall/winter.  This is the first year in a while that we have not had tenants, and since we are the ones that control the heat for the whole house, have not had a lot of opportunity to freeze our buns, or even wait to turn the heat on.  Typically, my tenants will call me the last week in September to let me know that they are "freezing" and need some heat.

This fall, I vow to be different!  I am determined to not turn my heat on until November 1st this year.  That does not mean that we will not turn on space heaters, but that is usually just in the morning, and usually just to take the edge off.  And actually, it is less likely that I will turn them on at all because I spend a lot of time cooking and baking in the kitchen in the fall, and that definitely helps to heat up the house...is that cheating?

I also want to keep the heat relatively low in the house.  At night I usually turn the heat down to 58, and have come to realize if it is much warmer than that, I can't breathe.  For some reason breathing the cold air helps me sleep.  We have lots of down comforters and quilts and blankets, so we are no where near cold...until we get out of bed in the morning...plus I have the human heater that sleeps with me, so that helps!  During the day, well that is kind of up in the air.  I try to keep it around 62 and dress in a lot of layers.  I have fleece buntings for the baby in just about every size up to 2T, and Emma pretty much stays in fleece pants and sweatshirts.  We all have hats that we can wear too.  It may sound extreme, but it seems normal to me, we always were bundled up when I was living with my mom.  Our house had THE draftiest windows/siding imaginable.  I was always cold, so I learned to wear sweatshirts instead of t-shirts in the winter :-)

What about you?  Do you wait to turn the heat on until the last possible minute?  Do you keep the heat low, or have you ever thought about turning the heat down?  With the price of oil the past several years, heating is always at the forefront of my mind.

apple season!

Last week I shared my go to muffin recipe.  It really is my go to muffin recipe, and shows up in my home on a weekly basis, especially once it starts to get cool outside...and let me tell you fall is definitely knocking at my door right now!

Apple season just opened for pick your own up here last weekend.  We haven't made our way over to our favorite orchard yet, that is on the agenda for Saturday, but my local grocery store happened to have the same apples that we will be picking next weekend, albeit at a slightly higher price.  I picked up half a peck to bring home to my apple loving daughter - she will eat about 4 macs a day if I let her - with the promise of apple muffins.

There is something so satisfying about apple muffins to me.  They are super easy, and such a treat.  Typically I try to make them relatively healthy, I never ever put a streusel topping on my muffins.  However, for the first apple muffins of the season, I felt it absolutely appropriate.  Not to mention we have one sick little girl, so something a little special to cheer her up was in order.

I was able to take this:


And turn it into these:


You may be asking yourself, where are the rest?  Well, these three muffins are all that are left from my batch of sugar muffins this morning.  My family devoured them so fast, I was almost not able to take any pictures of the final product!  Matt dubbed them the best muffins he every had, and then promptly went into diabetic shock :-)  Perhaps next time I will make these for an afternoon snack, instead of a 7am breakfast!

What is your favorite apple variety?  Mine is the Cortland, it stores pretty well, and makes delicious apple sauce.  Or are apples not a local fruit for you?  And why is it that we have apples from Washington State in the store right now even though it is apple season in Maine?  Probably the same reason the Idaho potatoes are here...even though Aroostook County has some of the best potatoes I have ever had...hmmm...food for thought.

waking up early

I never used to be a morning person, and sometimes I still question whether or not I actually am a morning person.  What I do know is that early morning seems to be the only time that I am able to get some time alone. Do any other mamas have that problem?  It seems like I am always with my kids, not that I don't love them to pieces, but once in a while it would be nice to get up and drink a HOT cup of coffee, instead of the lukewarm cup I often get.  And since we have no microwave...yeah...the coffee continues to get cold.  While I love iced coffee, lukewarm is definitely not my favorite!

I always thought that in college I was a night person.  I would stay up until all hours of the early morn with my roommate watching cheesy movies (which I absolutely love by the way!  Bring It On...Yes please!).  And then I would turn around and set myself up with 8am classes.  I was convinced that if I could get all my classes done  by noon I would have a much better college experience :-)  But here I am, trying to now wake up when I used to go to bed in college...

I've joined in on a little challenge that you can find more about here.  I am really excited about trying to have this alone time in the morning.  Not that I haven't tried before, but now I am signed up and have a group of people to be accountable to...and my husband is finally on board with me waking up SUPER early to have some alone time.  I wish him luck.  We co-sleep with our kiddos, and when one of us gets up, it tends to wake up the entire house :-)

What about you?  Do you like to wake up early?  And how do you keep the kiddos in bed if they hear you waking up?

Pinterest



Have you joined?  I have.  I have to say that I love it.  It is such a fun bookmarking tool!  I think in recent years the quality of pictures on the internet has really exploded.  Everyone has a fancy DSLR camera, and takes beautiful pictures of what they are blogging.  I constantly bookmark; bookmarks for homeschooling, bookmarks for food, bookmarks for crafting.  Often times I can't remember where the bookmark for such and such a project is, so I have to go through them all.  This is a much better system.  You find something you like, and pin a picture to a board.  Perhaps I should be looking into a new camera for blogging...

I think my favorite category would be food.  There are so many beautiful food pictures out there on the web, with equally delicious recipes attached.  And when I am in a rut to find something for dinner, it is easy to plug in a couple ingredients I have on hand and then get gorgeous pictures of something I could quite possibly make, although potentially not as pretty.

Throughout my entire "organize my home" process, I have been finding inspiration on this little site.  Especially when I was thinking about setting up my school room and craft room.  I love to look at what other people are doing in their own homes, and this is a perfect way to do just that!  And of course it starts me to dreaming about so many other projects I would like to start...even though I have others that have yet to be completed...

If you would like to follow me, you can here. And if you have a Pinterest page, I would love to follow you as well! Please leave a link in the comments so I can check out what you are pinning these days!

talking in their sleep

My husband talks in his sleep.  He has as long as I have known him.  I remember one story of when he was in college that in the middle of the night he started to have a conversation with his roommate - and they taped it.  I think the entire suite that he lived in had sleep talkers actually...there may have been a little too much booze going on in those days...

There have been occasions, since we have been married, of Matt talking to me in the middle of the night, and I think he is awake.  And other occasions when I am completely in the deepest sleep humanly possible, and he starts yelling about some war that he is fighting in...again...maybe too many video games...and I almost have a heart attack in the process thinking that someone is trying to kill us.

It seems as though my little Emma has developed this tendency to talk in her sleep as well.  And it is insanely cute to listen to her dreams.  "Nana!  Wait for me!  I'm coming, I will take Nala!"  Nala is my mom's dog.  Or "Jack!  Stop taking my toys!"  That's a fun one too :-)  From my experience with Matt, I know that there will be times when she will be yelling non-sense in some made up language that only she knows - or perhaps it is the same one that Matt uses on occasion.  But, for the most part, it seems like she is talking just as she would when she is conscious.

Do you talk in your sleep?  Or have a spouse or child that does?  Is it mainly gibberish, or do you find yourself responding to them because you think they are awake?

finding time

I think my mantra this week will be all about finding time.  Finding time to cook whole foods for my family.  Finding time to play outside with the littles.  Finding time to read the books that I keep requesting from the library even though my stack from the previous week has yet to be touched.  Finding time to work on my crafting.  I am constantly trying to find time to do all of the *things* that I want to do.  How do I prioritize?  It seems like everything is important.

When Matt was traveling last week, I spent a lot of time thinking about goals I have for our family.  I got my trusty notebook and a pencil (you just can't use the computer for these types of things), and I had a brain dump.  I sat up in the craft room with the kids, they played with chalk and colored on the floor - literally the floor - and I sat down in my old lady recliner and started to write.  I have always liked to sit and write down everything I am thinking about on paper, but was inspired to do so last week by project 19 in One Bite at a Time.  Granted, she used one sheet of paper and made kind of a web of information. I am a list maker though, so mine was all about categories with bullet points.  After writing 8 pages front and back, I realized that I needed to sit down with Matt and talk.  Maybe I am spending a little too much time thinking and not enough time doing!

I was able to sit down this weekend and go through pretty much everything that I have been thinking about over the past few months, food, money, self sufficiency, money, food :-)  You know, the usual.  It was nice to hear that we are both on the same page, although not necessarily there at the same time.  We are going to start incorporating a family meeting into our week and also attempting 2 evenings a week for hobby time.  I get a couple hours on Tuesday, and Matt gets a couple on Thursday.  I think it will be good for us to be able to concentrate on something we are passionate about, and it will also allow me to get to work on my list of making for the holidays...it is kind of a long list!

I'm sure I will be sharing more of my goals over the coming weeks, these are just a couple to hopefully get us more connected to each other, and to ourselves.

What about you?  Do you have trouble finding the time for what you want to do?  Is there something that you see taking your time away?  If you had more time, what would you use it for?

one of those days and a recipe

It's going to be one of those days.  You know the ones that I speak of, right?  I think it has been one of those weeks actually...The hubs is traveling today for work.  See he telecommutes, but once in a while he needs to make his way 3 hours down the highway for a visit with his office.  It makes for an extremely long day for me, and him I'm sure, although I don't have the opportunity to go out to lunch with friends for an hour and chit chat about Jersey Shore...

Without fail, whenever Matt travels he gets up early, like 4:30am, so he can make it to the office at a decent time.  Without fail, whenever Matt wakes up at 4:30am my babes decide they should definitely be awake by 5am (and that is with me telling Emma to go back to bed 3 times).  So we drag ourselves out of bed and head down stairs.  Luckily I thought ahead and made pumpkin muffins for breakfast.  I roasted the 2 teeny tiny pie pumpkins we were able to glean from our garden on Tuesday and stuck it in the fridge. Recipe below.

Now I am alone with the kids for the whole day, until after they are supposed to be in bed (although I usually let them stay up until Matt gets home on these days, it seems only fair).  I have my stack of books to read, some crafting supplies at the ready, and a secret stash of never-before-seen-by-my-children movies.  I am hoping for 10am nap time :-)  Did I mention it is pouring outside?  Guess the park is out!

I should mention that having Matt travel once a month isn't a big deal at all, obviously, it just throws off our rhythm, and sometimes it takes a couple days for us to get it back.  Any tips when you have no car for a day, and two very active children that need to run free for large periods of time?

Pumpkin Muffins

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
~2 teaspoons of cinnamon
~1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
~1/4-1/3 cup of sugar
1 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
1 beaten egg
flesh of one small pie pumpkin, or half of a larger one, or one can of one pie pumpkin

Mix all dry ingredients with a fork, then mix milk, oil and egg in another bowl.
Make a well and add wet ingredients, stir until combined.
Fold in pumpkin.
Place in greased muffin tins.
Bake at 400 about 10 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Makes about 12 muffins.  These freeze great as well!

This is my go to muffin recipe.  Take out the pumpkin and add blueberries if it isn't quite fall in your neck of the woods.  These are also good with just cinnamon and nutmeg, or with chopped apples.  I'm not so good at measurements...so if 2 teaspoons of cinnamon seems like too much for you add less, or you can do what I do, add cinnamon and nutmeg to the dry ingredients and wait until it starts to look more like wheat flour instead of white :-)

movies

Over the long weekend I was able to watch a few movies...doesn't happen often...but when I do, I enjoy it!  Without further ado!  My movie watching extravaganza...

First on the docket is the Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.  I have to say that I have seen this movie before, but I don't remember it being nearly as dramatic as it was this time.  I love Ashley Judd, and she played a prominent roll in this film.  Actually, the reason I love Ashely Judd is because of Double Jeopardy which is one of my all time favorite movies, if you haven't seen it you should.  But, back to the Ya-Ya's, it was a really great movie, and I loved the emotion of this movie.  Also, it definitely made me feel a bit better as a mother overall :-)  Although it was highly disturbing and extremely sad, it was still a nice movie, especially ending so happily.  I like a movie that comes full circle and feels like it is complete, unlike Arlington Road which I am convinced was created just to make me hate it. :-)

The next movie I want to talk about is Nursery University.  Even though I have no intention of sending Emma or Jack into the public school system, I still enjoy watching movies about the process/about school in general.  This movie was extremely eye opening in the fact that parents in NYC seem to get so involved and out of control about what pre-school their child goes to.  I understand that what pre-school your child attends leads to grammar school and eventually high school, which obviously will effect which college you are able to attend.  However, it seems completely ridiculous to 1. spend THAT MUCH MONEY on a pre-school, and 2. that you get so concerned about whether or not it is the "right" pre-school.  I feel like as long as you are an involved parent, whether your child goes to public school, private school, or is homeschooled, you still have the same opportunity as long as you stay engaged.  Of course, I have absolutely no experience with anything school related as my oldest is only 3, but it still seems crazy to me.  I wish they would do a follow up to where these kids are now...highly unlikely, but it would be nice to see what privilege these kids experience due to their option of going to a pricey pre-school.  Although, to be fair, not everyone went to an elite school, some did not get in, and some chose another option.  A couple other school docs I have watched recently are Waiting for "Superman" and Race to Nowhere. Both were excellent documentaries on the charter option that some kids have.

The final movie I saw this weekend?  Well, it would be something that my Emma managed to find on my iPhone...don't ask me how she found it, because she can't actually type...or spell for that matter.  It was none other than Yo Gabba Gabba!.  I would just like to say WTF?!  And then quote a friend's status on facebook:

I figured out the secret to a good children's show - call it educational, but only teach one of two things:
1- Teach that animals, such as bears are fun animals that are safe to be around (too many shows to name here)
2 - teach them what an acid trip is probably like (i'm looking at you yo gabba gabba)

And just so you know, I did turn off Yo Gabba Gabba!  However, she has since found the old Spiderman cartoons...and I'm not sure that is much better :-)

staying motivated

Do you have that problem?  I do.  I have so many ways I want to live now, that sometimes it is difficult to continue to go against the grain.  I go to the grocery store and want to buy paper towels, even though we haven't used paper towels in a couple of years.  I walk by all the convenience foods, and I think that it wouldn't be so bad if I just bought pre-made bread and yogurt and waffles...Do I really need to explain one more time that my daughter does not like meat, and why I am OK with that?  Sometimes I just want to throw in the towel and take the easy way out.  

Then I start going through the reasons why I eat and preserve fresh food from the garden and farmers' market.  Why I buy a CSA share.  Why we got rid of all the paper in the house (except books of course) a couple years ago.  Why we eat a mainly vegetarian diet.  Why we don't always buy the latest and greatest, and instead try to make toys for the kids.  It is healthier, better for the environment, and cheaper than the norm.

It definitely is not easier. Remembering to soak the beans overnight so that I can have beans the next day.  Remembering to start the bread by 9am or we will not be having it for lunch.  Remembering to get to the farmers' market for eggs, otherwise we will have to make do with the two that are left in our fridge for the next week.  Remembering to get the diapers in the wash first thing in the morning, otherwise they won't be dry when I need them this afternoon.  Hanging my laundry instead of putting it in the drier.  It ends up being an extremely full day.  Rewarding, but full.

So what keeps you motivated to continue on your journey?  Do you have bumps in the road and days where you want to throw in the towel?

Labor Day Weekend

We had an amazing weekend!  It was nice to have 3 WHOLE DAYS together as a family.  Doesn't happen that often unfortunately!  Saturday Matt's brother and sister-in-law came up with their two adorable girls, and the kids seemed to have a blast.  Emma passed out while playing in the afternoon, and Jack was asleep on Matt's back for a good portion of the morning.  The kids all played together so well, and gave the adults some much needed adult conversation...and a little time to catch up on Dr. Who...

Sunday I spent the majority of the day canning tomatoes.  You would think spending all of that time would have created a wealth of tomato products for my winter pantry...and you would be completely wrong!  I spent a good couple of hours chopping tomatoes, boiling tomatoes, and then trying to push said tomatoes through a mesh strainer for tomato sauce.  I had these grand hopes of having quarts of tomato sauce lining my shelves so that we could use it for pasta and pizza this winter...well...I had good intentions.  I ended up with 3 pints and decided that until I could get an attachment for my kitchen aid next year, we will have to rely on store bought sauce :-)  I did make quite a few quarts of crushed tomatoes though, so all was not lost.  Hopefully I will be able to do a little bit more canning this week...we'll see how cooperative my littles are!  Oh, and of course all last week it was pretty cool here, no humidity, and Sunday when I decided to can, hot, humid, sticky and gross.  Add in the heat from the stove and I probably lost 5 pounds just in sweat...yuck...

Labor Day we mainly hung out at home, spent some time playing and reading.  Very relaxing day, very relaxing weekend.  I hope you all enjoyed your weekend!  Here's to the start of fall!

Forks Over Knives

This weekend Matt and I watched Forks Over Knives.  It was extremely eye opening.  I have been eating a mainly vegetarian diet for some time now, mainly because I don't really like meat.  Don't get me wrong, I do love a good filet mignon, but let's be honest, I am not having that every day...or every month for that matter.  I have long let go of non-local meats/eggs/milk, and that makes it a bit more cost prohibitive.  Although we do go through a large amount of eggs each week...and these end up being cheaper from the farm.

There were a few really interesting points in this movie.  The first is a study that Dr. T. Colin Campbell did with rats and milk protein.  Feeding the rats a diet that included only 5% milk casein and one feeding them 20%.  In the diet with the 20%, the growth of cancer tumors increased, where at 5% it went unchanged.  That made me take a few extra breaths, mainly because I eat A LOT of cheese...

Another point was that Dr. Esselstyn had looked at the health of the people of Norway before the invasion of Germany.  He had a very nice graph which showed the mortality from circulatory diseases.  It was at its highest in 1939, and then Germany came in and confiscated all of the animals to be used as meat to feed their army.  So the people of Norway ended up going on rations which were mainly plant based.  The next year the graph shows a nosedive on mortality, and it continued to go down until 1945 when Germany was gone...and then the line shoots straight up again.  I know that I am not explaining this nearly as well as the movie, but it was shocking to see actual data.

They also talked a little about The China Study, which I had heard several vegan bloggers list as one of the reasons they eat they way they do.  I definitely will need to be reading this book.

I'm sure there are just as many counter points to this movie, but I never seem to hear them, only from what the USDA puts out, and like I have mentioned before I don't actually trust what the USDA says.  I think that my main issues with a vegan diet is the reliance on soy products.  I am not completely sure how I feel about soy.  Well, right now I think that the evidence of soy acting like estrogen is enough to make me not want to eat it or feed it to my kids.  If anyone has some information on soy, I'd love to hear it!

Overall, I was freaking out about what I am eating.  And I think that I eat pretty well!  I get nervous about eating a vegan diet because I don't want to be so heavily reliant on grains and end up gaining huge amounts of weight.  At the same time, eating the amounts of vegetables we would need to feel full (for Matt to feel full), would cost an arm and a leg I think...especially because I try to eat a local/organic diet.

So if anyone out there has any experience with eating a local seasonal non-soy based vegan diet, I would love to hear about it!  Or if you can convince me that soy isn't as bad as I think it is, I can get local organic soy, so it would be fine to include :-)

tomatoes!

I am getting my tomatoes this weekend, well a bushel anyways.  I don't think I can handle much more than that in one day, I have too many crazy children...oh...only two?  I guess sometimes it appears to be several more than two children...maybe my eyes need to be checked again...

I am actually really looking forward to a good canning session this weekend.  I will pick up my bushel from the Fish Monger (strange, I know), and then can the additional 20 pounds that I have from my garden waiting to be turned into something delicious.  I am planning to make just a basic tomato sauce, crushing the majority, and if I can squeeze a couple more batches of salsa, I will be happy.  I need to buy more quart jars though.  I don't have nearly enough...and I also need more lids.

I am not entirely pleased about using the disposable lids.  One, they are disposable, do I can because I want to throw more stuff away?!  Not so much.  The second part is that there is BPA in all of those canning lids.  I don't know how much BPA actually gets into the food itself, but one of the big reasons I can to begin with is so that I know what is in my food, and BPA is not one of those things that I actually WANT in my food.  I have read in various places that because the lid is not touching the food the exposure is minimal, but I don't know how reliable that is.

One option I have come across is Tattler reusable canning lids, but I'm not sure how well these work, if they are safe etc.  I have read that SouleMama uses these lids, and that seems to be a good recommendation to me.  I have read mixed reviews though, and am not entirely sure they are recommended by the USDA for canning…although…I am not one to really listen much to the USDA…they seem to think that raw milk is bad for you, and agree that Monsanto should own just about every variety of seed gene there is…so they are kind of up in the air to me as far as reliability goes ;-)

Does anyone else have any good canning lid recommendations?  I would love to hear if there are other options out there.  Perhaps I need to get a book on how people stored food before canning was an option…but I would seriously hate to lose my ability to preserve tomatoes…and I’m not sure of another option that doesn’t require some form of energy (I’m talking about you deep freezer!).

Meal Planning

I've never been great at meal planning.  I will either not make a plan at all and then end up ordering take out at the last minute because my entire day has gotten away from me (ever happened to you?!), or I will make an elaborate meal plan, and end up only making a couple of the meals on it because I make too much food.  I guess that isn't an entirely horrible position to be in, unless you are not a fan of repetition!

Yesterday, prompted by Simple Mom's new book "One Bite at a Time: 52 Projects for Making Life Simpler," I attacked meal planning.  She is very much high tech about the whole thing, scheduling meals into her Google Calendar, which is then e-mailed to her every morning; opening up all kinds of recipes online.  It really sounds great for her!  And I may implement a meal planning calendar into my own Google calendar.  Not having to think about what to make in the morning, or search for my list, might be a good idea.  What I did though, was list out every meal that I typically make.  Some are seasonal meals, like soups for fall/winter and salads for spring/summer, but most of them are meals that I regularly make all year round.

I was able to list 31 meals, although I am sure there are more that I make less frequently, and those may get thrown into the mix every now and again.  I then typed up this list in Word and after each meal I wrote down every ingredient that I needed for that specific meal, and I mean every ingredient - down to what type of oil I use.  I would like to organize it in a better way, maybe all the soups together, all the recipes that require milk and cheese, that sort of thing.  I was pretty impressed with myself to do that though.  Now I can easily pick meals from this list, know exactly what I need to buy, or be able to look in my cupboards and know what I have on hand and try to make something from what I have.  Most of my meals are pretty basic, and need a lot of the same ingredients, so that helps in simplifying for me.

As far as actual meal planning, I think the best thing for me will be to list 14 dinners, and then repeat them, so each month we have something 4 times (since we eat leftovers for lunch mostly).  I don't think that is too much repetition, but we shall see what the rest of my family thinks.  I also think this will help me stay on my little itty bitty food budget for the month.  You may have guessed that we eat a lot of bean and rice variations :-)  Now you know why I have to can so much salsa!

What about you?  Do you meal plan?  Do you find that you can stick to it?  And if you do, is it weekly, monthly?  If you are interested in learning more about Tsh's new e-book, click here to visit Simple Mom.