{31 Days} Back to Basics Introduction

It is that time of year again; the time that the nester opens up her wonderful blog for people to write their own {31 Days} series.  Technically I am posting day 1 a bit early, but as the link up was going to open on the night of September 30th, I figured I might as well get to it!

This year I decided to do Back to Basics as my theme.  Over the past year I have gotten away from a lot of the green changes that we have made in our family and I want to get back to them!  I have always said that living a simple life is not simple.  It is complicated, it is a lot of hard work, and it is time consuming.  I know that it is easy to fall into the convenience trap, but that is not necessarily a place I want to be.

I hope that you will join me and share your own tips in the comments.  I look forward to see what others will be blogging about as well.  And if you are participating in the {31 Days} challenge, I would love you to leave a comment so that I can visit your blog! 

I will be updating the below list with links to all of my {31 Days} posts throughout the month.  

{31 Days} Back to Basics Day 29

Sunday Quotes

If you don't like something change it; if you can't change it, change the way you think about it.
~Mary Engelbreit

what i am eating

I love cooking and eating, and I especially love looking at pictures of food!  If you love food as much as I do, please add your food pictures/recipes/food related posts to the linky below.  All you have to do is link back to this blog post.  I look forward to seeing what everyone else is eating this week!

I would love it if you could grab the what i am eating badge below, include it in the post you are sharing, put it on your link page, or put it on your side bar.  Thanks!

what i am eating

I think that I can safely say it is soup season in my neck of the woods.  The mornings have been so cold, which means the house stays pretty cold.  We are trying to wait until November 1st to turn the heat on.  We will see how that goes!

I make a lot of potato soups in the winter.  The kids love them, and I love that they will eat it!  This is Olive Garden zuppa toscana knock off soup.  It is one of our favorites.  And when we use all local ingredients (including the kale that is STILL growing in my garden), it makes it taste even better.

I am going to have to come up with some new soup recipes because I can see a lot of chili and soup what i am eating link ups over the next few months!

Now for my favorites from last week:

I can't wait to see what everyone is cooking up this week!

homeschool update

where my kids like to go after we are done "school"

I can't believe that we have been in school for almost a month already!  It doesn't seem possible that we are already at the end of September.  I say it every day it seems, but time is flying by.  We are in a good rhythm right now.  The kids know what to expect, and as long as I make sure that there are lots of snacks available during our "school" time, we get a lot accomplished.

We mainly do school in the morning.  I have found that it is the best time for them to pay attention, and also we are able to accomplish a lot in the few hours that we dedicate to our book learning.  My kids are still so little, I don't want to put too much pressure on them.  I want them to enjoy the learning that we do, and I want to allow them the freedom to question things, and learn what is interesting to them.

Emma has turned into quite the little artist in the past month.  She has always really enjoyed drawing pictures.  But, we have gone from stick people at the beginning of school, to houses with people wearing actual clothes.  She especially enjoys taking one of her toys and then trying to recreate it on paper.  I think that is amazing - mainly because when it comes to drawing, I am just about at the stick figure skill level!

Jack is being incredibly patient every day.  I was not sure what to expect from a 3 year old, but apparently I can expect quite a bit.  He is very happy to sit and do his work box each and every day while I work a little more intensively with Emma on math and her reading.  He is mainly tracing letters and numbers as well as doing a lot of coloring.

The newest part of our school day is Emma to read one or two of her readers to Jack.  It is a time where they can sit together and enjoy each other, while Emma is still practicing her reading.  These, of course, are readers that she has already completed with me, not new ones.

Overall I am so happy with how the kids have been behaving and how much we are actually getting done.  I hope that it continues!

How is your school year going?  Are your kids coming home with lots of new ideas and skills?  Are you homeschooling?  How is your rhythm working for you?

apple picking

One of my favorite fall activities is apple picking.  It is something we do every year, and every year we come home with tons of apples.  This year was no different!  We ended up picking a little over 40 lbs in probably 15 minutes.

With all of these apples comes a week of trying to preserve them.  Since I didn't make it out for strawberry picking, I will be making most of these apples into apple jelly.  I also plan to make apple butter.  I made some a couple years ago, and it was delicious.  A thick sweet spread to put on muffins, or to eat with toast.  I have heard that a lot of people will pair apple butter with meat pies or pork.  We haven't tried that before, but it is something we probably will try this winter.

I want to make some applesauce as well, because there is nothing like homemade applesauce.  Unfortunately, my kids are not big fans of applesauce.  I think it must be a texture issue because they both love cinnamon and sugar and apples.  And honestly, I don't like apple pie for that very reason, texture, so maybe they have inherited that issue from me!

My final plan is to make a rhubarb apple chutney that I found a recipe for in my canning book.  I spent some time in the spring freezing the abundance of rhubarb, with the plan of making strawberry rhubarb sauce.  But again, I didn't pick any strawberries, so I needed another idea.  This sounds like a good sauce for a stir fry over rice.

I hope to go back and pick another bushel of apples for storage.  Although, I have a feeling that we will end up eating a large portion of these just picked apples fresh, and my second trip to the orchard will be for the canning.  The kids haven't had fresh apples since the last of the storage apples last winter, so I think they are ready to gorge themselves on them.  And honestly, so am I!

Are you picking apples this year?  Do you preserve them in a specific way, or do you mainly store them for fresh eating?

Linking up with Clever Chicks

Sunday Quotes

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.
~Albert Camus

Happy 1st Day of Fall everyone!

what i am eating

I love cooking and eating, and I especially love looking at pictures of food!  If you love food as much as I do, please add your food pictures/recipes/food related posts to the linky below.  All you have to do is link back to this blog post.  I look forward to seeing what everyone else is eating this week!

I would love it if you could grab the what i am eating badge below, include it in the post you are sharing, put it on your link page, or put it on your side bar.  Thanks!

what i am eating

Last weekend we were at a lobster feed.  I absolutely love lobster, I have since I was little.  I think maybe because I live in Maine, it is a requirement?  Although, my husband grew up on the coast...and doesn't like it.  Go figure.  Anyways!  I ordered 3 lobsters because my kids have tried, and liked, lobster.  Of course, when it came time to eat said lobsters, I was the only one excited about it.  I think I knew, deep down, that the kids wouldn't eat the lobsters and I would be able to bring the extra home.  And that is exactly what I did!

So technically a lobster roll is supposed to actually be in a roll.  Unfortunately, I didn't have any rolls in the house, so a lobster sandwich it was!  And honestly, I think that it tasted just as good.  I did it up right with toasted and buttered bread.  It was delicious, and I wish that I had a good contact for those crazy off the boat prices of like $2.50/lb.

Now for my favorites from last week:

Now lets see what everyone is eating this week!

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Barani Farm Etsy shop feature and giveaway!

Do you read Our Neck of the Woods?  I think I have been reading since she started her blog.  It is always a great thing to find like minded people out in the blogosphere.  Tammy is one of those people for me!  Writing about her simple living journey and life on her farm.  Plus, I absolutely love her pictures of her adorable chickens!  I was so excited to find out that Tammy opened up an Etsy shop, Barani Farm, to show off her beautiful photography.

I am incredibly drawn to nature photography.  I feel like it is so peaceful to look at pictures of flowers, or chickens and other farm life.  I know I spend an awful lot of time taking pictures of those things in my own life, and it is always wonderful to see someone else doing it - and doing it so well!

About Barani Farm:

My husband and I live on a secluded homestead in the middle of 20 wooded acres and we love it! We are living the life we've imagined. We have chickens, guineas, cats, honeybees, and a guard dog to watch over everyone. We blog about our journey to self-sufficiency over at ourneckofthewoods.net. Feel free to stop by and say hello!

Tammy has offered to give one of her beautiful photographs to one of my readers!  If you are interested in winning, please just leave a comment below saying which photo you would most like to win!

You can also find Tammy on Facebook and Twitter

Pillsbury Grands! Biscuits feature

I think that I can safely say everyone is back to school at this point, even us homeschoolers!  This is the first year that we are really involved in activities during the evenings and weekends, and man what an adjustment it has been.  I think when I put Emma in activities in addition to the church activities we have and other general commitments, I did not realize how busy we would actually be.  Thinking that because I am homeschooling, and my kids are not in a building all day, they will be fine with lots of evening activities was not necessarily accurate!

We are slowly finding a way to move ahead though, finding a routine, and having a lot more rest in the afternoon.  One of the hardest parts for me has been dinner.  Emma has practice at 5:30, which makes dinner a little challenging.  I want it to be something quick so that it does not take me all afternoon to make it, and more importantly, I want my kids to eat it because they need the fuel for being out and about running around for an hour or longer.  My kids are not always good at eating dinner.

I have been trying to do more meal planning, which helps.  There are still a lot of days where I need a quick meal.  Enter Pillsbury Grands! Biscuits.  We had these a lot when I was growing up, but I didn’t realize how many different meals you could come up with using these delicious biscuits.  We decided to try the simple Grands! Mini Pizza recipe, pizza being a main food group for my kids.

These were incredibly easy to make, especially with the kids.  I think that my kids are 100% more likely to eat something if they help to prepare it.  We love our pizza with fresh tomatoes from the garden, and any other vegetables that we can find!  But, you can really top it with anything you would normally like on a pizza.

The kids were so happy to have a “personal” pizza all their own.  And using the Pillsbury Grands! Biscuits for the crust was amazing!  The kids immediately asked for seconds, that to me means a definite winner in the recipe department!

You can find this recipe and other amazing recipes by downloading the Pillsbury recipe booklet.  Which recipe would you most like to try?

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective. The content and opinions expressed here are all my own and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of General Mills. Compensation was provided by General Mills via Clever Girls Collective.

breaking jars

I have been making my own vegetable and chicken stock for several years.  I love it!  There is something about knowing I can easily pull together a soup or stew in the winter by just opening up the freezer.

A couple weeks ago I roasted chicken for dinner.  Of course, the next day was spent simmering stock on the stove.  It always ends up being a long day because I am constantly watching the pot.  I have heard of people using their crockpots to make stock, but mine is not big enough for the amount of stock I make at once.

I ended up with 7 quarts of stock at the end of the day.  It was a good day! 

I always freeze my stock.  I don’t have a pressure canner – although I am definitely considering it now.  Imagine my surprise when I opened up the freezer to make soup last week, and half of my jars were cracked.  It was a complete surprise to me!

I have never had a jar break on me until this year.  It was also the first year that I had a jar break while canning.  I’m not sure where I went wrong this time either.  I always make sure to leave enough headspace.  I also make sure to cool the stock before I put it in the jars and then transfer it to the freezer.

This time I used some regular mouth quart jars that we had gotten from our winter CSA last year, where I typically always use the wide mouth jars.  But, I also used some wide mouth jars.  Both of my regular mouth jars were cracked, and so was one of the wide mouth jars.

Is it possible that I have used the jars too often to can goods, and then also freeze goods?    I am planning on making more stock this week, and crossing my fingers that the jars do not break.  It is incredibly sad to have to throw away good food for fear of glass shards in it!

Linking up at the Homestead Barn Hop, Clever Chicks

Sunday Quotes

To me, the smell of fresh-made coffee is one of the greatest inventions.
~Hugh Jackman

what i am eating

I love cooking and eating, and I especially love looking at pictures of food!  If you love food as much as I do, please add your food pictures/recipes/food related posts to the linky below.  All you have to do is link back to this blog post.  I look forward to seeing what everyone else is eating this week!

I would love it if you could grab the what i am eating badge below, include it in the post you are sharing, put it on your link page, or put it on your side bar.  Thanks!

what i am eating

You know those weeks where you just do not feel like cooking?  Well this week has been that week for me!  Which is also evident in the fact that I only posted on Monday.  I guess getting into a good routine has been a little more difficult, after starting homeschool this year, then I expected!  But, I have to say, not cooking does has its benefits.  These nacho chips are absolutely amazing, a definite favorite.  Paired with some super hot salsa, and you have a delicious meal (well at least I do!).  My family has been eating a lot of salads, and pasta dishes, as well as sandwiches.  Hopefully next week will be more relaxed for me (ha!) and I will do a little more cooking.

Now for my favorites from last week:

What do you do when you don't feel like cooking?  Looking forward to seeing what everyone is eating this week!

tomato canning 2013

Every year, for the past four years, I have purchased 100 pounds of tomatoes from a local market in town for canning.  I always hope to grow enough tomatoes in my own garden for my canning, but I haven't quite perfected that yet.  Instead, my tomatoes typically go to salads and eating fresh from the garden.  The tomatoes I buy from the market go to all of my canning needs.  Last year I was able to make salsa all from vegetables in my garden, but not this year!

In fact, I haven't canned any salsa this year.  I'm not sure if I will get to it or not.  I love my home canned salsa, but it is an awful lot of work for very few jars of salsa.  Instead, I decided to take my 100 pounds of tomatoes and make crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce.  It was definitely a lot easier to do this.

I spent a good portion of last Saturday cutting up tomatoes and throwing them into a pot.  And then once they cooked in their own juices for a bit, I used my stick blender to blend them up into crushed tomatoes.  I canned 14 quarts of crushed tomatoes.  And then I did the same thing for tomato sauce, although I let the tomato sauce simmer for quite a while to reduce and make a thicker sauce.  I ended up with 13 pints of thick tomato sauce.

I don't season my tomatoes at all.  I find this makes it a lot easier for me later on.  I am able to grab a jar of tomato sauce and use it for pizza sauce, by adding the appropriate herbs, or I can make pasta sauce, with different herbs.  For the crushed tomatoes I can make soup, chili, use it to cook chicken.  I just like the options and it is less labeling!

This day it took me from about 10am to 11pm to prepare and then can all of these jars, which unfortunately doesn't look like a lot in the picture, but I am happy with the amounts that I ended up with.  I don't know if this will satisfy all of our tomato needs for the winter, but I am hopeful!  It might be time to up the amount of tomatoes I buy from the market...and perhaps having two days to can all of these tomatoes would be appropriate going forward!  It was an incredibly long day of chopping and hot as anything!  But definitely worth it.

My goal every year is to put up all the tomato products we may use, and every year I fall short.  Do you have something that you work to preserve more than anything else?  How does that stack up year after year?

Linking up at the Barn Hop, Clever Chicks

Sunday Quotes

Greatness lies not in being strong, but in the right use of strength.
~Henry Ward Beecher

what i am eating

I love cooking and eating, and I especially love looking at pictures of food!  If you love food as much as I do, please add your food pictures/recipes/food related posts to the linky below.  All you have to do is link back to this blog post.  I look forward to seeing what everyone else is eating this week!

I would love it if you could grab the what i am eating badge below, include it in the post you are sharing, put it on your link page, or put it on your side bar.  Thanks!

what i am eating

I have been eating a lot of zucchini noodles lately.  I heard about zucchini noodles several years ago on another blog, but never tried them myself.  But then, this past spring during 30 Day Vegan, I tried my hand at making zucchini noodles, and they were delicious!  Now, my "noodles" are not nearly as thin as some that I have seen, but that is because I cut them by hand, with a knife.  I am thinking about getting a spiralizer though, obviously it takes a while to cut them with a knife.

After I have my zucchini noodles, I sprinkle a little salt on and then set them aside.  The salt helps them to soften up.  They I went about making my favorite topping for any pasta - tomatoes, basil, garlic, and mozzarella cheese.  We have a lot of tomatoes in the garden now, so I am making an awful lot of tomato dishes, but I am happy about it.  Especially after not knowing whether or not the tomatoes would ever ripen at all this year!

Have you tried zucchini noodles before?  If you haven't, you definitely should.  If you don't want to trade out all of your pasta, just replace half of the pasta with the zucchini!

Now for my favorites from last week:

I can't wait to see what everyone else is eating this week!

yarn along

It has been a few weeks since I have written about any knitting here at Townsend House.  There has been a good reason for that, no knitting has been happening at all!  Several weeks ago my carpal tunnel started acting up in my right wrist.  I'm not entirely sure what set it off, but I think that a few games the kids and I had been playing may have had something to do with it.  I happen to have a wrist guard for such occasions.  But, let me tell you, trying to knit with a wrist guard on my right hand was definitely not working out.  My stitches were all over the place.  And although I am a slow knitter anyways, adding in the wrist guard was not moving me in the right direction speed wise!  So I took a break.  And now I am thinking that all of those projects I had planned to get to in August, since clearly this shawl would be done, need to be scaled back.  Perhaps some sewing for Christmas this year instead of knitting?

I have been reading a lot of books though.  My current read is for a review - A Noble Groom.  It is a pretty good story centered in Michigan in 1880.  It follows the story of a young German woman who is trying to save her farm from being foreclosed on after her husband dies.  It is enjoyable, and a quick read so far, and I can say that with confidence because I am 3/4 of the way through the book.

I feel like I have been reading a lot of other books as well, but when I went back to look over my lists, they are mainly homeschooling books.  Books about homeschooling, how do you homeschool, do you want to be an unschooler, how can you include more projects in school, and then also all the books that I read to the kids during our homeschool time.  I guess that is to be expected of a newbie though, right?

I am looking forward to seeing all the other knitting projects people are working on this week!  Hopefully that will give me some motivation to get back into it again!

Linking up with Ginny, Tami, and Nicole

a day at the fair

Last week we had the opportunity to attend a local agricultural fair.  I have always loved going to the fairs in our area.  There is something about completely unhealthy fair food together with cute baby animals that just speaks to my soul!  When I was little I used to show goats with 4-H.  It was such a fun experience that I hope my kids will one day be able to enjoy as well.

When Emma was born back in 2008 we made the trip to the fair.  I was so excited to introduce my baby to something that I loved so much.  That year we decided to take Emma's picture in front of the giant pumpkin display.  It has become a tradition since then to take the kids every year to have their picture taken in front of those giant pumpkins.

It was a little crazy looking back on these pictures of the kids.  When Emma was just 3 1/2 months old and Jack just a few weeks.  And then to see the picture of what they look like today (including Jack's funny face - he wasn't mad but instead trying to make a silly face, and a random Celtics hat that we didn't move!).

The kids had a great time looking at all the baby animals.  We spent a very large amount of time in the poultry building looking at all the different chickens/ducks/geese/turkeys that were there.  The kids were excited about the baby chicks that were hatching at that time.  It is amazing to see how excited they get over the same things I am excited about.  And it makes me happy that we have these common interests - at least for now!

In the afternoon there were fair rides, fresh french fries with vinegar and salt, balloon characters that the kids "won" by playing games.  Overall, it was an amazing day.  By the end of the day we were all exhausted and the kids fell asleep by the time we got out of the crazy parking area.

We still have "the fair" that is coming up at the end of September.  We didn't make it last year, but it is my other favorite of the fairs that we have in Maine (and we have quite a few it seems!).  All Maine produced food and crafts, amazing tents full of information on everything crunchy you could think of.  Yes, it is definitely up my alley!

Do you have any agricultural fairs in your area?  Is it something your kids enjoy?

Linking up at the Hip Homeschool Hop

in the garden

I have had a really good week in the garden this week!  Actually, I am surprised that so much is still going strong.  My tomatoes are finally turning red, and the peppers are coming in daily.  I was a tad worried about the tomatoes.  I wasn't sure they would ripen.  I had gotten a lot of cherry tomatoes, and a couple of red slicers, but for the most part nothing was ripe in the garden.  I thought that our summer had ended and I would have to pick an enormous amount of green tomatoes.  Luckily, last week it warmed up quite a bit, and the tomatoes are ripening every day.

I am also picking more pumpkins now.  I picked a few, and unfortunately broke off the stems of a couple, so I know that those will be used up first.  There are a lot more pie pumpkins in the garden at varying stages of ripeness.  There are some that are still totally green, but most are on their way to that full orange color.

I keep finding zucchinis hidden among the weeds (there are a lot of weeds now!).  And there are a few that I keep saying I will pick the next day just to come out and find out that it is now a HUGE zucchini.  There is a lot of grating and freezing going on right now.  I am excited to know that I have a lot of zucchini for zucchini bread or zucchini crusted pizza or soup this fall/winter.

What have you been harvesting from your garden?  Are you stocking up on extras from the farmers' market for the winter?

Linking up at Clever Chicks

Sunday Quotes

My favorite poem is the one that starts 'Thirty days hath September' because it actually tells you something.
~Groucho Marx