June 25, 2013

What I've Been Doing Away from the Computer

I haven't disappeared, I just haven't felt like being on the computer much, or being connected to the world. Do you ever feel like that? Like it's just so much work to leave comments and keep up with everyone? (Not that I don't love all of you and I think you are so wonderful, it's just a little overwhelming sometimes.)

So I've been checking in when it feels right and it's been really nice to be a bit more disconnected from the wires.

We also had a sickness run through the house last week, which certainly doesn't leave time to be on a computer when sick babies need snuggling. (Can I just say, Munchie is a TERRIBLE patient. My goodness that child is whiny and irritable when he's sick! All the others will just sit and snuggle quietly.)

I feel like I've been very busy in the fiber and textile world.

The yellow striped table cloth you see under the flowers is actually a twin size bed sheet I found at Goodwill and cut down. I had to chop off about 8 inches and just re-hemmed one end. I've been having such a hard time finding cute, natural fiber table clothes that don't cost a ridiculous amount of money. I saw the sheet and thought "Bingo!". I love it. I will be looking for more sheets. :)

I finished knitting the Woodburne cardigan. I'm just waiting for it to dry so I can sew the buttons on. I'm very excited about the buttons, but I will share them with you later when I show you it all done.

I've been embroidering on my violas (you know, the ones I started forever ago...) and today when I went to the craft store to get more purple, some tea towels and a few iron on transfers jumped into my arms and demanded I take them home with me. Terribly pushy little things.

I've cut about half of the fabric stack I got for my quilt. I decided I am just going to do squares to start out with and not do anything crazy. I'll finish cutting stuff out and then start piecing.

Duder turned 4! Gosh, 4 already. I remember being very pregnant with him... in the summer... in Southern California... And him taking his own sweet time and coming a week late. And he's still stubborn.

It was a good day. The birthday person gets to pick all their meals for the day, so we had pancakes for breakfast, fast food for lunch (gasp!), and of course, Daddy BBQ'd a tri-tip for dinner. :)

Munchie enjoyed the cupcakes. 

Duder loves to drive cars and trains all around the house, so I decided to make him a road/track mat. I took a canvas drop cloth that I have around for fabric and just used acrylic craft paint to paint some tracks and roads and things, leaving blank spots for them to build buildings with their blocks. Don't laugh at the dead end road. I ran out of paint.

I have almost enough tomatoes to make and can a batch of salsa. All my other veggies are coming along pretty nicely, albeit slowly.

Oh and Ben changed jobs again. Haha. To make a very long, disappointing and frustrating story short, what we were promised from the new place is not what was delivered, so he went back to the previous place (yeah, the one with all the crazy hours) and while it's a bit different right now because they had to hire two people to replace him (and still couldn't get all the work done...have to admit, I'm a little proud of that fact hehe) which means his exact position isn't available at the moment, we're making it work. Hopefully things will settle out soon and get back to normal. But he quit Wednesday and went back to the old place on Thursday and this was all decided in a 24 hour period on Tuesday... I feel like my head hasn't stopped spinning yet. But it's all good. Actually it's really good, because he's happy again. :) It was a long 6 weeks at that new place. Ugh.

Anyhoo. Time to go make dinner.
Happy Tuesday y'all!

June 18, 2013

The Next Thing

Last week I posted on Facebook that I had been seeing my cousin and my sister pinning quilts to pinterest, and in the spirit of not being outdone, it was time for me to start quilting. 

I've been avoiding looking at quilts and patterns because I had a feeling that if I went down that rabbit hole I would wind up buying a lot of fabric... a lot... (have you seen my yarn stash? Goodness...). But I can't help what other people pin and... well...

I ordered a cutting mat, a cutter, and a stack of fabric. It came last night.


Looks like I'm going to try my hand at quilting.

I'm not promising much. I'm not even promising I'll make a whole quilt.

But I'm excited to try.

As soon as the camera came out Munchie started laughing like a crazy person. Apparently all my kids are hams for the camera.

Happy Sewing!

P.S. A lovely, sweet friend of mine is going through a rough time right now and could use some prayers, if you would be so kind as to send some her way. :)

June 12, 2013

How We Homestead - Part 5: Looking Into the Future

This is Part 5 in a 5 weeks series called "How We Homestead" hosted by Staci at Life at Cobble Hill Farm.  You can find the other parts of the series here. Be sure to visit the other lovely women, linked to at the bottom of this post. 

Oh how I wish this was our view!

Today, we are finishing up the How We Homestead Series! Today's topic is Looking Into the Future - where we hope to be in 10 years and changes we'd like to make.

Our ultimate goal is to have a chunk of land (I'm thinking 5 or more acres if we can) where we can raise our children "in the country", have animals, and grow as much of our food as possible. We like the idea of being as dependent on ourselves as possible, but are realistic in knowing that we probably can't sever the ties completely.

To be specific, I would love to have chickens for eggs and meat, and goats for milk and meat. (I would love a cow for milk, but I think that might be more milk than we need.) I would like to have some kind of fiber animal, be it rabbit, sheep, or alpaca/llama.

We'd like to have a stock pond for fish, and a water source for ducks. Oh the plans we have....

I like the idea of solar and/or wind energy to get us off the grid and providing for our own energy needs.

We'd also like to have enough land to just play on for hiking and exploring and maybe even camping out in the back. Perhaps a wood lot as well for firewood.

I'd love to have our piece of land by the time the boys turn 10 - which is in just 4 years so we might not make it. Land around here is painfully expensive, and Ben wants to still be close-ish to a hospital in case of emergencies, so unless we get really lucky on price it might take awhile.

We've also gone back and forth on buying raw land and building, or buying land with a house already on it, which I think is what we're leaning toward for ease of finances.

I like to dream about all we could do on such a piece of land. And having the wide open spaces to breath and run and play.

But until then, I'm hoping to at least add some kind of food and/or fiber producing animal to our Little Homestead here in suburbia.

Thank you so much to Staci and the other wonderful women who have participated in this series. I have had so much fun, and it's been a great way for me to get back on track. I've also loved learning about everyone else and making new friends. And I'm a little sad it's over now. :)

~ * ~
 Visit the other women of the How We Homestead series:
Daisy from Maple Hill 101
Tammy from Our Neck Of The Woods
Amber from Making A Home 

June 11, 2013

Today, I am...


...Thankful for the break in heat that allows me to open the windows until the afternoon. I love the fresh air.

... Realizing just how big my little man is getting. Daddy put him in a pirate costume last night. :)

... Adding Zucchini Pickles to list of things I have accomplished! They're really tasty too.

... Enjoying how my pantry is slowly filling up with home canned goods.

... Proud of my sister for making her first batch of strawberry jam with me this weekend. I made her do it and she did a great job!

... Happy that the lilies have finally arrived. It's the only part of June that I like! Well, and Duder's birthday.

... Glad that I weeded and mulched yesterday.

... Wanting to buy yarn. But then again, when am I not? :D

Happy Tuesday!

June 6, 2013

Things I've Been Doin'

I've done a lot of stuff lately that I just hadn't blogged about because... well I forgot.

The memory's the first thing to go!

So, in no particular order I've been....

Pickling cherries. Aren't they pretty? I've never had a pickled cherry and I'm very curious about them. I will let them sit a few more days to pickle, then I will try them.

Making Laundry Soap. For the first time, unbelievably! The stuff I've been buying has been going up and up and up in price. What got me to finally do it was my sister, who was going to make her own and was asking me about the ingredients. Well I told her she couldn't make laundry soap before I did! So she got the stuff and came over last Saturday and we made a big batch and split it. We used Staci's recipe for dry soap, and it works AMAZINGLY well!

Makin' more jam! After the apricot jam I made a batch each of Strawberry and Boysenberry. I'll make at least one more batch of each to keep us and family members stocked through the year. I love how quick jam making is.

Making Sauerkraut. I'm not sure how to make funky cabbage look appetizing... I set it to ferment at the beginning of last month and let it go for a few days before I put it in the fridge. Ben finally got around to trying it with bratwurst the other night and said it's very salty, but good. I told him we could just rinse it next time. I haven't tried it.... I'm kind of scared of it. I know it's kind of silly since I made it, but I wasn't super fond of the store bought stuff either so this... Kinda weirds me out! Haha.

Working on my sweater. The sleeves are attached and now I am decreasing for the neckline and working the yoke. After that is just the collar and then blocking! I'm really excited, and my sister has already said she'd like one too if this turns out well.

Finishing school. Today we finished our first year of kindergarten! I'm not quiet sure how I feel about it. Not the school itself, that was great! But the fact that my little boys are now out of kindergarten and next year we start first grade.... Probably doesn't help that on Sunday I put away all the little baby clothes and we set aside all of our baby things for when my sister starts having babies.... I won't lie, I cried. And I still cry a little bit...

My mom-in-love came by yesterday and brought me all of her first grade curriculum, plus some cool books for boys. I'm all set up and now I just have to plan when we'll be starting, and our breaks and such. 

I've also been planning a giveaway, in honor of this being my 600th post (wow!) and I now have 55 followers (super wow! You guys are so sweet!).

Things have to settle down a bit, so I will probably announce it next week!

Happy Almost Friday! (I'm in denial that this week isn't over yet.)

June 5, 2013

How We Homestead - Part 4: Our Daily Life

This is Part 4 in a 5 weeks series called "How We Homestead" hosted by Staci at Life at Cobble Hill Farm.  You can find the other parts of the series here. Be sure to visit the other lovely women, linked to at the bottom of this post.  

Pruning and staking and babying has given me a decent tomato outcome so far! Now if only they would ripen...

This week's topic is Our Daily Life - a look at how our days work related to homesteading and how we keep everything balanced.

My homestead related chores really change depending on the season. If I had posted this a month ago, I would have said something along the lines of "Well... I did laundry, and made some bread..."

But now that summer is here and the produce is starting to flow, and the canning jars have come out of the pantry, my life just got a lot more hectic. But I'll try to give you the general idea of how our little homestead works.

We don't have animals (yet, I'm working on convincing Ben to get ducks, since chickens are out while we're in suburbia....), so I don't have the chores associated with that. But there is still plenty to do!

Most of my chores are food related, but I still have the cleaning of the house as well (which is a constant battle with 4 very messy little boys).

Typically our day consists of getting up and doing our morning routine. Then one of the boys empties the dishwasher while I make dinner (or shortly after breakfast). This is one of the very important facts about homesteading to me - if you have children I firmly believe they need be participating and helping in the chores. Actually, they should be doing that regardless of homesteading, and I think the severe lack of making children do chores is a huge contributing factor the degradation of our society and a nation that would rather be on welfare than get up off their butts and work for their food... But I digress.

Anyhoo, we do our chores and eat breakfast (hot food, not sugary cold cereals!), and then we will do school. After that it is on to whatever is on the list for the week.

For this week, and I'm sure a lot of the weeks during the summer my lists looks like this:

Make Strawberry and Boysenberry Jam
Make Firestarters (I'm trying them out with lint. I'll let you know how it goes)
Make dryer balls
Scrub kitchen floor
Make bread
Pickle cherries
Dry apricots
Dry Zucchini
Put away winter cothes
Freezer inventory

The food items will be more in number as the summer goes on.

I also go around my garden every other day or so and pull weeds, tie up the vining things that need to be tied up (cut up pantyhose from the dollar store work great!), harvest what's ready, reseed what hasn't come up or has been munched, etc.  During the spring a lot of my work includes digging and prepping beds, mixing in compost, starting seeds, setting up trellises....

During the winter/spring the list consists of things such as planning the garden, purging things we don't use/need, stocking up on the holiday sales (like hams and turkeys), and making things like mittens and blankets. Our winters are actually very quiet as far as homesteading goes, since we are still in civilization sans land and animals to take care of.

I try to stick to the "Monday is for..." list, mine being Mondays are for washing, Tuesday is for folding, Wednesday is usually some sort of scrubbing activity, and then I try to get our baking done on Fridays before the weekend so we have bread for sandwiches and dinners. I will usually need to make bread again on Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on how much we're eating it. I also make snacks like muffins and cookies and granola whenever there is a request for it, or I've run out of things to feed the natives.

Gosh, I wish I could tell you I get up and feed the goats and collect the eggs every morning, but I don't and I kind of feel like a poser homesteader with my sad little list. But it is what it is, and hopefully we can add more as the years go on.

~ * ~
 Visit the other women of the How We Homestead series:
Daisy from Maple Hill 101
Tammy from Our Neck Of The Woods
Amber from Making A Home 

June 1, 2013

What's Cookin': Zucchini Bread & Apricot Jam

Sorry this is not a sexy picture. And yes, it's half eaten. My sister helped. :P
My brother's girlfriend's sweet and always smiling mama asked if I could share my recipes for zucchini bread & apricot jam, as she is also drowning in produce. Because it's southern California and that's what happens in June. By July we are sick of produce! Haha. So here are the recipes for her, and anyone else who would like them!

The zucchini bread recipe is from my mom, who made it my entire childhood and we're all kind of attached to it. The apricot jam recipe is just from the little insert that comes with the liquid pectin.

I made a few modifications to the bread and the jam, so I will post the recipes as they read, and then give you my notes at the end.

Zucchini Bread
3 C flour
1 1/2 C sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 C olive oil
3 C shredded zucchini
3 C raisins
1 C chopped nuts

Heat oven to 350*. Whisk together first 6 ingredients. in another bowl beat together the eggs, vanilla, and oil. Stir in remaining ingredients. Pour the wet mixture over the flour mixture and stir until thoroughly mixed. Pour batter into a greased and floured bundt pan. Bake 50 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

You could also divide the batter into lined or greased & floured muffin tins and bake about 25 minutes. 

~ This time around I used 2 C AP flour and one cup of whole wheat. I think I might use 2 cups whole wheat next time. I also only used 1 cup of sugar, as well as only used 1/2 C olive oil and used apple sauce for the other half cup. (Did you know you can use apple sauce in place of the oil in most baked goods? Some things turn out a bit denser, and some don't, but either way it's very tasty!)  

Apricot Jam - makes 7 cups (I got 5 half pints, see my notes)
3 1/2 C finely chopped apricots (about 2 1/2 pounds)
1/3 C fresh lemon juice
5 3/4 C sugar
1 pouch liquid pectin

Wash your jars and boil them in your water bath canner to sterilize. Place lids in a saucepan. Leave jars in the hot water until ready to fill. (I just turn them down to simmer after about 10 minutes of boiling.) Ladle enough of the boiling water onto your lids to cover them.

Add chopped apricots, sugar and lemon juice to a heavy, 6-7 quart pot and bring to a full rolling boil (one that won't stir down), while stirring. Add liquid pectin, return to rolling boil and boil for 1 minute.

Ladle jam into hot jars to within an 1/8th inch head space. Lid and band them, tightening bands to fingertip tight. Process 10 minutes.

~ I have this little naughty voice in my head that says it's really wrong to put more sugar than fruit into a recipe. I'm a terrible person. So I only used 3 cups of sugar, and that's why I only got 5 half pints. I know that this means my jam will probably not set, especially since apricots are particularly low in natural pectin. Shame on me. I guess I'll just have very tasty apricot syrup! :)

When I finally get around to making strawberry and boysenberry jam (hopefully this week, if I can get to the store and get more pectin), I will post the recipe for those as well!

** Ok funny story before I go. Ben left when I was starting this post to go hang out with one of his buddies. I needed a picture of the zucchini bread for the post and since the lighting in the kitchen was giving me a yellow tinge, I decided I would go out into the garage where there is better lighting... Well while I was standing there the garage starts opening and I freeze, holding my camera (he had forgotten something and came back to get it). He hops out of the truck, starts laughing and asks me what on earth I'm doing.

*ahem* I am NOT taking pictures of the zucchini bread on the washer.... You saw nothing. Get back in your truck... (now I feel really weird!)

Happy Eating,

P.S. For those of you who go to the recipe page, I am working on relinking everything and redoing the list since it all broke when I changed the blog name. Please be patient with me as I (slowly) try to get it all back to normal. :)
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