Saturday, July 28, 2007

Grown-Up Chores

A sultry Saturday here on the Gulf Coast. Across the pond right now is a gathering of the white birds. Wood storks are farther up on the bank, ibis are in the pond below and one great heron is standing tall above them all in the water.

Well, I don't have a chore chart, but I do have a list! It seems everywhere I look today, I see something that needs to be done. Hubby is out working in the heat, poor dear. He's just finished mowing and will be starting to put together a new fence for around the garden! Hurray!

My list includes bathrooms that need to be cleaned, a bird cage that needs tending to as well, a front flower bed that needs weeding (the rain we've finally gotten has kicked them all into high gear) and ferns that need trimming in the front and back.

I should get to it, but first, here's just a couple of photos of a small lesson in tomato canning we had the other day with the girls and some friends. They all just loved helping and watching the skin pop on the tomatoes. Peeling them seemed to provide the greatest thrill all around! We didn't put up very much: just a few pints, but it was more for the experience. If your haven't tried canning with your children (if they are at least 6 or 7, I think), you really should. The more hands helping with the canning process, the faster it all goes!

One last note: I made mustard for the first time last night! Mmm. Fun and super easy! It is so delicious... and is currently mellowing out in a bowl on the counter, as it was exceptionally spicy. There are many delicious-sounding recipes to try online: Apple-Maple Mustard is one that sounds tempting to me. If I find something I really like, I may just have a new specialty to share at Christmas!

Off to the chores now. Hope you all are enjoying your weekends!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Pleasures and Value of Homemaking

Some rosemary I trimmed from one of our bushes this weekend.

"Our family members will carry the atmosphere we create in our homes for the rest of their lives." ~ Miriam Lukken

I got a little (too?) excited recently over the number of books I was finding through interlibrary loan and was selecting up to my limit of 3 a week. You just never know when they will come in and they all have individual due dates: sometimes 2 weeks, sometimes 3. And then, there are some that can be renewed and some that can't. Plus I was on the local library's waiting list for Barbara Kingsolver's newest book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and, it being so new, I was sure I'd have a long wait.

So, guess which one came in first?

Yes, the Kingsolver book came in with a 2-week (as opposed to our regular 3) limit, since it was new. And then... all the interlibrary loans arrived within the next 3 days. Everything is due either on the 2nd of August or the 8th. So, I have been reading as quickly as I can and prioritizing as much as possible! It is a bibliophile's dilemma, to be sure, and not too terrible a problem to have.

One of the books I've acquired is Miriam Lukken's, Mrs. Dunwoody's Excellent Instructions for Homekeeping: Timeless Wisdom and Practical Advice, published in 2003.

I am not too far into the meat of the book, but the preface is quite lovely and loaded with quotes I'll need to be adding to my own "Little Book of Quotes," which I keep. That's the trouble with all the reading I do - and especially when I don't own the books! It is rare that I simply read a book and then sigh a great sigh of pleasure at the end and move on to the next book. No, I generally work my way through a book, it seems, sticking little sticky notes all over it for referencing later: quotes, future books to read, resources to look up on the internet, etc.

Mrs. Dunwoody's... is, so far, proving to be a very charming book (those are some of my favorites!) filled with much practical advice, yet much of it I, so far, already seem to know. I can see that it would be a lovely, lovely book to give as a gift to a new bride who was interested in being a homemaker. For me, the philosophical points of the book are the ones that I am enjoying. Lukken puts into words, often in the guise of "Mrs. Dunwoody," many of the sentiments I hold about home, what it means, and the importance and value... and honor I place on my role as keeper of it and the goals I hold within.

Simple, peaceful setting

Some quotes from the preface of Mrs. Dunwoody's...

"Even the common articles made for daily use become endowed with beauty when they are loved. We must strive to see the goodness or usefulness in all things, taking nothing for granted. And we must approach every task as a blessing to be received, never as a chore."

"In her notes, she wrote that homekeeping wasn't just a matter of cleaning a house; it was a matter of presentation, hospitality, entertaining, etiquette, organizing, letter writing, caring for loved ones, cooking, sewing, and just plain general information that made for a thoughtful, meaningful and considered life."

"In a letter to a grandchild Mrs. Dunwoody wrote, 'Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. [Giving a nod to the famous William Morris quote, I presume.] Home is a sacred place for you and your family. Home interprets heaven. It is heaven for beginners. Take the time to come home to yourself, every day.' She taught that home is where you came to rest, and so it should thereby be restorative. It should be a relief to come home at the end of the day, close the door behind you, and find things as they should be (and always have been). She taught that comfort and security are found in sameness. She truly believed that our own inner peace and happiness could be worked out by organizing our physical surroundings."

So, if I can continue to speed read my way through this book, I think I shall continue to enjoy it very much! :)

In line with Mrs's Dunwoody's seeing the goodness and usefulness in all things, I was quite excited to find this very pretty cutting board at my grocery market this weekend. I had just been thinking that I wanted a new board. The flexible plastic one I'd used for a while bothered me. I was concerned about all the cutting and the plastic in contact with my food. I thought I would be on the lookout for a new wooden one. Much to my pleasure and surprise, I came across this one while on a quick errand!

Bamboo is an easily renewable resource and is being used in all sorts of things now from flooring, to yarn, to... cutting boards! Best of all, it was local! So, I snatched it right up and am quite pleased with my purchase.

Hope you all have a wonderful day!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Local Food and Chore Charts


We finally, finally have had the regular, afternoon showers that the rainy season in Florida is supposed to bring us. Ear-splitting, sky-tearing lightning and thunder storms! The geraniums' heads droop with the water weight and the grass grows so long so quickly that it wets your ankles as you pass by. It needs a mowing, but the ground is pretty wet. But this is good. It is not enough, but it is good.

While the majority of you U.S. gardeners are bringing in your bountiful, summer harvests, this is seed catalog time for us here on this southernmost peninsula. I am currently reading Barbara Kingsolver's, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which I've noted many of you are reading too. It's a wonderful book, isn't it? Much of the statistics and science that she weaves through her narrative are things that I already knew, but, then again, this is a passion of mine, and I'm sure the information will be shocking news to many. Her literary gift is so strong that I hope others who love her fiction will pick up her non-fiction account of her family's life as they moved through a year of eating only locally-grown food for a year. There are others out there who have done the same thing - and have written about it and were published this year (I am thinking of the book, Plenty) - but they do not have the same name-recognition as Kingsolver and I don't know that the potential for their audience being as wide is as great. ANYway, the book is wonderful. Check it out - at the library or otherwise.

It is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and the thick, cut-it-with-a-knife summer weather that has me thinking of my autumn garden. In the meantime, we too, have been making greater strides in this local-food movement. Though not a lot is growing in the fields right now around here, organic, hydroponic farming is another story.

Have any of you been to Epcot at Disney World in Orlando? Did you take that boat ride where you ride through this greenhouse where they have beautiful and enormous fruits and veggies growing? Well, they do that hydroponically, and the guy who invented that system lives about 6 miles from our place. It was his farm that we visited and from whom we purchased the fruits for that pretty fruit salad that Maia made for dinner last night. Only the organic bananas and organic leeks for the soup were not local. The rest of the produce for our meal last night was.

Maia's menu:

Potato and Leek Soup
Buttermilk Biscuits
Fruit Salad

(I never mention a drink, but we always have water with our meals.)

A wonderful and delicious meal it was too. We'd never had leek soup before. I found a basic recipe online and altered it some to fit our tastes and diet and will share it with you all next post.
Notice the authentic, "bakerly," floured face? :)

A tired-looking, but happy chef.

Eating locally, we have noticed, has us planning our meals a bit backwards from the way we have done it for a long time. But that seems to be the way it is for so many things when you enter onto a path of living with more voluntary simplicity and with the earth in mind! In the past, we would think of what we wanted to eat for the week and make out our list accordingly. Now, we think, what is available right now? What can we make with that? As I said, the leeks and the bananas were not from her, but we are just beginning on this path and are learning as we go. Habits take time to form, but good habits that you want to integrate into your lifestyle are worth the time and effort to try and try again, even if it means you fall down sometimes along the way.

Our chore charts were born out of this same desire. A reader had asked me about them about a week ago and I am finally getting to an answer! The charts are not anything special in and of themselves, but I think what is good is that they really work for us and have lasted.

I have used the charts to develop good habits and to avoid always playing the heavy! I don't like being a nagging mother and the charts have helped me to avoid that on the whole.

One chart I posted on the fridge for a while was one that addressed video viewing and computer time as well as "treat days." A couple of years ago, my girls developed some habits that I wasn't fond of. Every day they would ask me for a treat every other hour or so! And, of course, if they stopped playing a game, they would ask me if they could play a computer game or watch a video. Now, I have always had time limits on these activities. We don't have cable and watch very little television ourselves. The girls were too young to understand a discourse on why sitting at the computer or in front of the tube didn't exercise their brains and they didn't seem to understand why I would hem and haw and have to think, "Now what have they done today? What would be fair? Can they have a cookie? Can they have those suckers the lady at the bank just handed them? How much time have they spent playing that computer game already? Should I tell them to get off? And, of course, they're always 'in the middle of their game' when I tell them to." I didn't like always looking like I was the one "ruining" their fun, so I let the charts take that credit!

So the treat and computer/video chart went up:

30 minutes of a video OR a computer game every day. Friday night was long movie night with the family if we wanted. No computer or TV on Sundays.

I organized treat days around days they were likely to have them handed out. For a while that was Thursdays, because there were Brownie meetings with snacks. Currently, we have Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays.

There are exceptions to these occasionally, of course, as when we want to watch a program together as a family. Or we have company and there might be more snacking happening. But for the most part, the days stick and I don't look like the "wet blanket" ruining everyone's fun.

Those charts aren't posted anymore. They were needed for a time, until the girls knew them by heart. It was a simple design with days of the week colored in certain colors to let them know if it was a treat day or if it was long-movie day. The timer always accompanies them to the computer. There are no arguments about any of it; it just is what it is now. Recently, we've added 2 one-hour days for computer time and they appreciate this new privledge.

The other chart with their chores has continued to develop over time as new responsibilities are added. Everything that I got tired of reminding them to do every single morning went onto the chart that needs to be checked off every day. For a while this even included things like: "take your vitamin"! The key to success with this has been that the majority of these things must be completed before they can sit down for breakfast or begin playing anything. Obviously, brushing teeth comes afterwards! And if it's during the school year, they just may run out of time to eat or have very little time. This has not ever actually had to happen! I think my kids like their breakfast too much! And, lest you think this is too harsh, know that we always have a mid-morning snack with school and they would get fed! :)

My main responsibility, before printing up new charts (I do a simple, colorful table in Word) is to think of everything I need to have on there that I don't want to keep reminding them to do, because the beauty of it is that I only have to say, "Did you check off your chart?" Penalties to allowance come when they are goofing off and playing before morning chores are done. That had been a problem early on and school would end up starting later or jobs would be left undone. That doesn't happen anymore! Obviously, it hasn't been all smooth sailing and reminders and talks have had to happen, but for the most part the charts really work for us!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

She Really IS Mine

If an expectant parent were to ask me what kind of supplies they would need for their new arrival, I would say, "Oh, a few blankets, diapers, onesies, booties, a place to sleep comfy-cozy, people to love him/her, books.... and, of course, craft supplies. :)

When my children arrived on the planet, I just assumed that craft supplies were vital to life, and so I have always had them. I mean, I had them even before they arrived, of course, but once they were on the scene, I would now have two little ones to do crafts with me!

And they have.

But for Maia, for the most part, art and crafts haven't been her "thing." Sure, she gets excited when I bring out all the Valentine supplies, or the brightly colored tempra paints, or begin making another batch of home-made play dough. And she is excited for a while as she begins whatever project we might be working on, but her interest wanes after an hour and it's often been hard to get her "back to the drawing board" if a project lies unfinished.

If the girls ever begin wandering around the house with that glazed look of boredom in their eyes, I'm always quick to suggest a craft project. "Go look in the craft closet, " I'll say (A whole craft closet!! What I would have given for a craft closet!!). "See what looks interesting to you in there." Or, "Why don't you finish that crosstitch you bought?" So often I am met with, "Nah." Especially by Maia.

In fact, recently, I even heard her utter the words, "I'm not really into crafts."

Ohmygosh. Did those words come out of my child's mouth?!

Thankfully, she is into drawing. But I still had to retreat to a quiet place in my room for a while and lick my wounds.

The girls had the neighbor girl over Sunday night for a sleep-over. K had a new Tamagatchi. A V4 Tamagatchi. My girls, heaven forbid, only have the V3's!

Now for those of you who don't know what a Tamagatchi is, it is a little hand-held virtual pet that grows from a baby to a teen, to an adult. In the meantime you can visit other any Tamagatchi's that your friends have (a very clever marketing ploy) by connecting them, play games with them, earn points for prizes, and then have new baby Tamagatchi's and start all over again.

Not my favorite toy. But then, I'm really not into electronic gaming, really, of any sort. So, we have time limits and all that as to how long these things can be played with. Anyway, after a night and day of hearing these things beeping all about the house, I was trying to think of something we hadn't done for a while that might interest everyone. And then I remembered polymer clay.
Somehow I had forgotten Maia's perpetual glee over the stuff. So we grabbed 6 packs of new colors yesterday, since the old colors had been completely used up. After lunch, Maia set to work making a poly clay feast (using a Klutz book I got at a garage sale a number of years ago called Clay Creations) for her little Calico Critters Lamb family that has moved into the doll house recently. She sat there for hours and didn't give up when the peas in the pod just seemed too tiny to make. She just kept giggling and squealing over how cute everything was. She was setting up the food in the house last night before bed and she said to me, "Tomorrow I'm making them dishes, Mama!"

*sigh* She really is mine, after all. :)

Meanwhile, in the kitchen for big people, Eve was making supper. Her menu for last night was:

Blueberry Pancakes

Yep, that's a 7-year-old's menu for you, but it was really great!

Notice Lucy down there hoping for something to drop? :)

Marianna tagged me for 8 Random Things:

1) My favorite season is Autumn
2) My husband and I were married in October under the first full moon. We celebrate our anniversary whenever that first full moon rolls around - our lunaversary. :) We may not always know the date, but we always have a full moon! Very romantic!
3) I have a Quaker Parrot named Pistachio that I've had for 8 1/2 years.
4) I have somewhat of a Dr. Doolittle effect on animals. No, they don't talk to me, but for the most part, they really seem to like me.
5)My favorite cake is carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, but...
6)An exceedingly rare treat for me to have is doughnuts from a bakery and I'm thinking of having those for my birthday this year instead of cake!
7) I often confuse 7's and 4's when I'm trying to remember a number, but
8) I put frequently-used, longer numbers to memory including my 16-digit credit card number for online orders, my 14-digit library card number plus 4-digit pass code, and my 11-digit phone card phone number plus the 12 digit code number plus the 10-digit phone number itself in order to make a grand total of a 33-digit long-distance phone call!

So, I will tag: Laurie (and check out the video of her baby finding her voice! Precious!!), FiddleMama, Kate, Kelli, and Reeve

Play along if you'd like! :)

Monday, July 16, 2007

(Not a) Yarn Snob

Below is the ATC I made for my swap partner in this month's CMP exhange. The theme was, "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

I am not a yarn snob.

This past Friday, after Maia's dentist appt., I decided to check out a couple of yarn shops in Sarasota. The first one was beautiful, with highly-creative, finished pieces all about the shop. The owner - and crafter of the pieces - was there and she was extremely sweet and helpful. But when she showed me some of the sock yarn I was looking for, I don't think she quite understood when I told her that my purchases were partly going to depend on pricing. So, she did show me some terrific yarn at about $11.00 a skein, of which I would need two, in order to do both socks. Knowing that these were going to be a gift, I didn't think that too bad... When she showed me the beautifully hand-painted yarn for $58.00, though... and then proceeded to tell me that I would get at least one pair of socks from this... perhaps two depending on how tightly I knit and that she thought that was quite economical, I knew that we were not on the same page.

The next shop I went to was one that looked as though its been there a while. It had more yarn and didn't present itself in such an artful manner, but was lovely, nonetheless. There was a table at the back and there were 5 or 6 elderly ladies sitting and working on their projects and just laughing and chatting and having a wonderful time. I wondered how often they met there. It seemed to me that a yarn shop is a much better place to be than a bar "where everybody knows your name."

This second shop had a bit better pricing and I can see myself going back when I have a bit more time to look and want to make a gift for someone.

Mostly, though, I had a pattern from Knitty for some cute, feminine tank tops that I was going to try for my girls. This was sort of a "whim" purchase and, needing 6 skeins of yarn, I wasn't prepared to lay out $50.00 or more.

Now someone might tell me that $25.00 for a hand-knit sweater is a good price, which is true. But, frankly, I just don't look at it that way when 90% of our clothes are second-hand and I am used to paying $2.99 for the same type of sweater.

I love to listen to knitting podcasts and hear about all the sumptuous yarns and fantastic designs that are out there and I'm sure that some day I will splurge on some special yarn. Perhaps when my children are parents themselves and I will be bringing in an income to our household again, then I may spend some more money on lovely yarns.

But I don't want to have to wait for that day to start knitting. And I'm certainly not going to go into debt for my hobby. Nor do I want to not be able to have money to give away in one form or another. I do wonder about some of these podcasters who seem to have an infinite supply of yarns containing mohair, silk, and cashmere. Who gets paid that well to have such a stash that so many of them talk about - a stash that they often laughingly admit would take them a year or more to knit through and will provide them with enough socks for a lifetime?

So, much as I loathe chain stores, and as much as I like to support local businesses as much as possible, I headed over to Michael's and got a few soft, acrylic skeins in pretty colors, that the girls got to choose and some cotton for that gift that I'm working on.

And no, the sweaters won't be heirloom quality. And no, they won't last forever. But nothing does. And my girls will only be this size for just a wee bit longer and though they may not be able to - or want to - pass these tops down to their own children some day, they will know that their Mama still knitted for them, that they got to pick their own colors, and they got to wear something that (I'm hoping!) will be pretty to them for a season.


The promised salsa recipe is not really a recipe, because I do it differently every time. The basic ingredients are:


Onions (any type, including green)
Lemon or Lime juice

I would say to use what you have available locally for the freshest, most wonderful-tasting salsa.

I blend everything up in my food processor and use right away or freeze. I usually use about 3 or 4 tomatoes depending on size. This last time, I kept one out to dice, so that it would be a bit chunkier.

a bit of chipotle (fresh or from a can) lends a smoky flavor (it also lends a lot of heat, so tread lightly depending on your taste!)
pinch or two of salt

Give it a try and see what you think! Don't give up if it isn't just what you like right away; keep fiddling until you come up with something you like!

Have a happy Monday ~ Welcome to the week!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Further Adventures in Cooking

Last night it was Maia's turn to cook supper. Maia loves soup (which is really quite funny, because for a number of years I could hardly get her to touch the stuff! So for those of you with "picky eaters," there is hope for you - and them - yet!) and so, last night she chose one of her favorites. Maia likes potatoes in her soups, so she added those to my recipe. Here is her menu:

Italian Lentil Soup
Corn Muffins
Fresh Cantaloupe

Italian Lentil Soup

2 c lentils, rinsed clean
8 c water
4 T Instant Veggie Soup Mix (recipe follows)
1 med. onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
2 or 3 med potatoes, diced (we used Yukon Gold)
4 cloves garlic
2 c fresh or 1 can diced tomatoes
1 t dried mustard
1 t thyme
fresh, ground pepper, to taste
2 T red wine vinegar

Place cleaned lentils in a large pot. Cover with water and whisk in soup seasoning. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer, covered, for 30 min while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Add the rest of the ingredients - except for the wine vinegar - , as they are prepared, to the pot. Total simmering time should be about an hour. Just before serving, add the wine vinegar.

Note: Another yummy addition is to add chopped kale or swiss chard to the pot about 5 minutes before serving, adding the vinegar, again, last, after the greens have had a chance to cook down for about 3 minutes.

This soup freezes well and leftovers are just as yummy the next day!

The meal doesn't ordinarily take too long to prepare, but Maia received lessons in using knives last night, under my close (close, CLOSE) supervision! Hence, a 1-hour-to-prepare meal, finished in about 2 hours! But,

a) we are learning!
b) we now know to start earlier next time
c) everything tastes even better when you are really hungry!! :)

The beat-up, kind of icky looking bucket in the photo here is our compost bucket. It has a lid and resides in our freezer to keep fruit-flies away. When it's full, out to the pile we go and then start all over again. We've had this same , inexpensive bucket for about 6 years now.

A few tips when cutting with knives:

*Always make sure your blades are nice and sharp.

*Curve your fingers, as though you are "clawing" the food, to keep finger tips away from knife blades (Maia is showing this well in the first photo).

*When you want to slide ingredients away from you on the cutting board or from the cutting board into the pot and you use your knife, be sure to flip your knife over and scrape with the top of the blade to avoid dulling your knife.

My Nutritional Yeast Instant Soup Mix was a "Works-for-Me-Wednesday" post last year.

This is my first "Works-for-Me Wednesday" post and...

how's that for a gorgeous picture, eh?

But truly, the little contents of this jar have saved me many-a-meal or trip to the grocery store, have changed lackluster soups or savory pot pies into, "Mama, this is SOOOO good!", and is used so often around Golightly Place, that I thought it should be the premier item that works for me!

This is a picture of my jar of soup seasoning. The recipe is adapted from a couple of different cookbooks. The salt has been lowered and could be lowered still. It is completely vegetarian and contains no msg. The ratio for use is simple: 1 1/2 teaspoons for every cup of water you use.

Try cooking your brown or wild rice in this broth for a rich, savory side dish with sauteed mushrooms, onions and garlic. You can even use it just for broth when there are upset tummies in the house. Starting with a few sauteed onions, carrots, and celery, you can add this broth, toss in a few noodles of choice (my girls like the little alphabets), and you have a healthy, quick, homemade soup at lunchtime.

If you are vegetarian, like me, this is a great substitute for chicken broth in any recipe that calls for it. So, try it out. Play around with the amounts you add to recipes. You can multiply this recipe easily, since the ingredients will not go bad and it does not need refrigeration.

The first ingredient, Nutritional Yeast, is easily found in healthy food stores - usually in the bulk foods area. That is the only ingredient for which you may need a special trip. So, buy a bunch and put it in a big, air-tight container for this and other recipes that call for its rich, almost cheesy flavor.

I hope you enjoy it if you try it. It definitely works for me!

Nutritional Yeast Instant Soup Mix

1 1/3 c nutritional yeast flakes
1 T onion powder
1/2 t turmeric
2 t garlic powder
1/2 t celery seed
2 t dried parsley
2 T salt
1 T paprika

Blend on high in blender or food processor until ingredients are fine. Let it sit for a couple of minutes to let the ingredients settle. Keep in a jar or other covered container and store wherever you keep your other dry goods

Maia's Corn Muffin recipe came from Mollie Katzen's wonderful cookbook for children, Honest Pretzels.

The muffins were crisp on top and sooooo yummy! It was a terrific meal! Maia was pretty tired after her 2-hour stint in the kitchen and sat down at the table with a very similar sigh to the one I often give once you actually get to sit down. :) Similar to getting to the end of a race sometimes, I think! I know the girls are gaining an appreciation of the things I do every night and may be more inclined to hold their tongues if everything doesn't always suit their taste buds! We actually haven't had to deal with that for some time now, but there certainly was a period in which this was an issue. I'm sure many of you can relate. Their little taste buds change, though, as they get older and I am always doing a little victory dance inside when dishes once refused are now enjoyed with pleasure!

We have a dentist appointment to get to this morning, so I will have to share the chore chart ideas and the salsa recipe in my next post. But I haven't forgotten!

Hope you all have such a nice day!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Food Factory

Today has been one of my favorite kind of days: very productive! I'm not driven to complete a list of tasks all the time, but I do like when I really feel up to something and then just do it!

After the farmer's market yesterday and because a recipe Eve wants to try tomorrow morning for breakfast calls for yogurt, I decided to have a "kitchen day." I do enjoy "putting food by" and making my own dressings and such. So today I:

- cooked up 4 pints of kidney beans that are now in the freezer
- soaked 3 cups of dry garbanzo beans (chick peas) for cooking and freezing in just a bit here
- made a quart of yogurt
- made some of my Carrot Muffins (much to the girls' delight!)
- and made two pints and an extra cup's worth of fresh salsa for freezing

I don't know how well Paul will like the salsa, because I threw a bit of cilantro in there (he's not such a fan) and the flavor came through a bit more than I'd expected. We'll see. I also put some fresh, Georgia peach in one of them too. We are all great fans of Newman's Own peach and mango varieties of salsa, so I thought I'd try my own version.

The only thing I didn't get to today was making up a batch of Ranch dressing, but I can do that tomorrow.

I do like getting a lot of cooking done at once and, thinking of our current water shortage here, I kept the sink filled with sudsy water. Doing dishes is much more delightful and uplifting to my spirits when I have a lovely, eco-friendly detergent to use, such as Mrs. Meyer's Geranium- scented dish soap. Their Geranium fragrance is my absolute favorite! I must be in a good deal of company with this, because our local Whole foods always seems to be out of that variety first. The hand soap was out this time and last; I picked up the Lavender (also terrific) instead last time, because I was out. I'd intended to get some of the hand soap this time, even though I'm not yet out of the Lavender - just to have it... figuring they'd have a new order in, but the hand soap was already sold out this time as well. I went ahead and bough the dish soap, which I can use interchangeably anyway. I actually have a new, unused bottle of Seventh Generation dish soap under my sink too. It also smells great and the price is about half that of Mrs. Meyer's (about $2.37 to MM's $4.99), so I have that on hand to use more frequently. I just prefer Mrs. Meyer's because many natural soaps use lavender (as is the case with the Seventh Generation) and the MM Geranium is so unique. I think of Mrs. Meyer's as a special treat, to lift me up in the midst of a grumpy day or, in this case, a long "kitchen day." I can still smell the geranium/rose blend on my hands right now as I type this and it's just so nice. :) They also have a Lemon Verbena fragrance in their line too. You should check them out!

Tonight was Eve's turn to make supper. For her menu she chose:

Veggie "Pigs in Blankets"
Corn on the Cob
Fresh Peaches

I'm not a big dessert maker. We get dessert once-a-week at my mom's when we go to her place on Wednesday evenings and I may make dessert once-a-week myself. Other than that, our fruit is usually the sweet treat of the night.

Along with learning to make the meal, we learn conservation here at Golightly Place (of COURSE!!). So, the water from the dish pans are always saved for the plants outside...

and the paper egg carton is torn and taken out to the compost...

along with the corn husks.

Eve did a terrific job with her meal! Everything was delicious!

We made the "pigs in blankets" using Lightlife brand "Smart Dogs." We used a half batch of Kelli's biscuit recipe to roll them up. Thanks, Kelli! :)

We never boil our corn; always turning it off when it boils and then just setting the corn in the hot water for about 4 minutes. It never gets overcooked and chewy this way; it's always crisp and delicious!

Finally, the crane family stopped by for dinner too. We've been blessed this year to see their chicks, as well as a pair of cardinal chicks, again, being raised in and around our yard.

Marianna asked me about our chore charts and how we keep that going. This is a rather lengthy post already, so I think I'll save that one for the next one! :)

Thanks for stopping by! Have a great evening, everyone!

Monday, July 9, 2007

A Good and Busy Day

A couple of you asked for a photo of "the sock," and here it is. Hee, hee. One lonely sock. Ah, well. It is actually just a bit looser than I would like and, following only the pattern, is a bit longer than what I ordinarily wear... so I am learning. I really think I would have liked a complete pair, but though I purchased the amount of yarn the pattern said I would need, I definitely do not have enough for a second. The yarn shop - The Yarnery in St. Paul, MN - is 1,500 miles away, so this one shall remain a single!

Speaking of knitting, there is a new Meetup knitting group meeting very close to my home tonight at Starbucks, so I think I will go. I used to go to a knitting group at the nearest yarn store, but I was often the youngest person there - which really isn't such a big deal... but it kind of is when you live in Florida and you are often the youngest person... everywhere! In twenty years, obviously, that will not be an issue! And though it's not really an issue now, I honestly have a very, very... very small group of friends around my own age here and I would really like to have at least a few more. So, I'm hopeful for this evening's gathering.

Today has been a good day. I have felt a bit slovenly of late. LOL! Well, really, I still get everything done that needs to be done, but because I have been on summer vacation, I have been staying up later and sleeping in more because of it. I know I needed the break, but I have now felt a need to get back into an earlier routine.

I am definitely not the kind of person who could stay in her pajamas all day. Unless I am ill, I just have to get dressed for the day and up and going. After about 9:30 a.m. if I am not already dressed, I begin to feel a bit irritable, actually. So, last night I made myself go to bed at 10:00 p.m. even though I had just finished saying good-night to the girls... even though I had my knitting sitting there tempting me... and even though I had two wonderful books sitting on my bedside table, I went. to. bed.

So, I've been up since 6:00 a.m. and feel pretty great for it! I love having time before others rouse and being ready to tackle whatever projects I need to or want to do for the day. On showering days - every other day - I'll be getting up at 5:50 a.m. I love the mornings and I like to be able to have my quiet time with God and then be ready in the kitchen to have breakfast going and laundry ready to go when I wake the girls.

The girls have new and greater-duties chore charts now and will be receiving raises in their allowances to go with them. They each have added laundry duties as well as the cooking duties and after-supper kitchen clean-up added to their lists. Work was done cheerfully and efficiently this morning, so I think we're off to a good start.

We had a big market day today. Somehow, we were low on just about everything, so stops were made at the nearby conventional market for pet food and some canned tomatoes, a donation stop at Goodwill, then a stop at the bread store, on to Whole Foods Market, a book drop-off at the library - and then a final stop for fruits and veggies from a farmer's market. So many stops, but there is reason behind them all. One example, is that I find that the conventionally grown produce offered at Whole Foods is WAAAAY more expensive than at the conventional grocery store - sometimes as much as a dollar a pound more. And then, I'm trying to purchase more things locally, so I look for the farmer's markets. Unfortunately, I find that not everything there is local, but I am doing what I can.

The girls were extremely helpful today, loading and and unloading groceries. They are such good girls and I am sure to tell them that regularly! At Jessica's recommendation, I will be photographing some of the girls' meals they will be doing and printing recipes as I can along with them. Eve's meal is first up tomorrow! She was happy to pick out some of her necessary ingredients at the market today and is excited! Stay tuned! :)

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Back to Old and New Routines

My sweet brother (here a bit pink from our day at Busch Gardens!) and his twin boys

are in the air as I write this - on their way home to Minnesota. *sigh*

We had a terrific week together at the beach (the girls here hunting shells with Grandma)

playing games

enjoying traditional Independence Day fare (though that's a "veggie brat" on her plate!)
and, of course, fireworks!

While they were here, I finished my first knitted sock. I have done tube socks before, but this was my first sock with the heel flap and everything. It turned out really well and was a lot of fun to do! The only problem is, I don't have enough yarn for a second one and I purchased the yarn in Minnesota when I was up there this spring. It's okay, though. I figure this is my prototype and now I know how to do it and have already cast on another sock - this time for Eve. I should have enough for two and if not, I know where to get more! :)

Now that our family visit is over, my mind is shifting more toward some home and school organization projects before the new school year is upon us. We tackled Maia's bedroom closet today and will be working on her desk this week.

Another project I will be hoping to put into regular practice is the weekly meal preparation with each of my daughters. Tomorrow I plan to sit down with each of them and have them help me design a menu for one supper for each of them. We will add the needed ingredients to the list for market day on Monday and they will help with the preparation of their chosen meal on each respective day.

This will be more work for me,initially, plain and simple. But I am sure most of you are familiar with Proverbs 22:6, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."

I want my girls to know how to prepare healthy meals for themselves and their future families and I want them to learn it from me, instead of books, the way I learned much of what I know about cooking today. Books are adequate, of course, and I am grateful to the ones that taught me what I know, but the time spent with them does not contain the love and the stuff of which memories are made that time spent together provides.

My goal is to train them well enough that they will begin to develop their own repertoire of favorite meals and will be able to create their own, complete meal for our family once in a while, to begin with, moving on to once-a-month, and eventually to once-a-week.

These cooking lessons, in addition to some laundry and sewing lessons are new things I am hoping to integrate into our routines and hopefully maintain them as we move into the school year.

Of course, you just never know how the school year is going to go until you actually get there. Some of my lofty summer plans end up a bit dashed once things get going. But every summer I take a little time to motivate and refresh and inspire myself for the coming school year. This year the book that is doing this for me is Lorraine Curry's, Easy Homeschooling Companion that I have checked out of the library via an interlibrary loan (I love that service!!). She has written another called Easy Homeschooling Techniques, that I also want to be sure to check out. But for pure inspiration and encouraging words, this is one that I am enjoying immensely!

Along the lines of books, I am wondering if some of you can help me. Could someone tutor me or link me to a tutorial that will explain how I might post pictures in my sidebar that link to the books I am reading? I have seen this on many others blogs - usually with a link to - and have wondered how I could do that too. I haven't been able to figure out quite how to do it yet on my own. Any assistance would be appreciated! :)

Finally, I am also looking for some yummy jam/jelly recipes. I have been making my own peanut butter with great success, simply in my food processor. I've been experimenting with adding just a bit of canola oil to smooth it a bit. This last batch, though, I went without the oil and tried adding agave nectar in lieu of sugar and the oil, and I think I've hit upon a good blend!
I started doing this to avoid the continual additions of containers in our house. Now I'd like to do the same with jam, so if you have a good recipe your family really enjoys, please do share it with me!

I will be stopping by many of your blogs in the next few days. I've been a bit out of the loop with our company. Thanks for stopping by here today!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Happy Fourth of July!

Image courtesy of
A happy Independence Day to all of my American friends! Like many of you, I will be busy the next few days with family and friends, so I don't expect to post for a few days. May you all have a lovely day tomorrow celebrating the birthday of our nation and remembering and appreciating the ideals upon which it was founded. Happy Fourth of July!
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