Friday, April 24, 2009

Coming Home

I had a great day today. I got to hang out with one of my best friends and work on a sewing project. The project went well, and we had a great time. Then I got to make a couple of t-shirt dresses for Hosanna & her cousin. And they went well too. It all came together, my machine behaved, it was all good.

Sitting at my sewing machine felt like coming home after a long absence. I haven't done much sewing since Christmas and it felt great to sew again. Putting fabric to machine is such a relaxing activity. I need to do it more often.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Homemade Mayonnaise: FAIL

Just so you all don't think everything I touch in the kitchen turns to gold (so to speak), I wanted to share today's disaster.

I was trying to make bacon mayonnaise because well, I like bacon and I like mayo and the two combined sounded mighty tasty. (Read the recipe. It will make the rest of this post make sense.) I had bacon grease left from making baked beans on Monday that I had saved for just this purpose. I got out my blender and set to work.

Problem 1: When I started the blender, the egg & stuff that was in there splashed immediately up onto the sides, making it impossible to see what was actually going on in there (other than splashing).

Problem 2: I wasn't watching the clock. Since I couldn't see whether of not my egg and little bit of bacon grease was emulsifying, I just sort of guessed that it had been about 2 minutes, and started pouring in the rest of the bacon grease.

Problem 3: It hadn't emulsified yet. So adding the rest of the bacon grease just assured my doom. It will not now emulsify and turn into mayo.

I tried another method. I put the mess into a wide mouth jar and tried this method with my stick blender. My hand was numb by the time I gave up. It will not emulsify. So no bacon mayo for me.

Bacon Mayo: FAIL

I Could Be a Vegetarian

For the record, I am not a vegetarian. I never have been. I never will be. I like cheeseburgers too much.

But there are days that I contemplate becoming a vegetarian and making my whole family suffer with my veggie ways.

Like yesterday.

I was ill-possessed of mind or something, and I decided to cook a whole chicken. I don't know what I was thinking. I don't like cooking meat at all, really. Not because of any misguided love of animals or anything, I just think it's kind of icky. The cooking part. Not the eating part. Because I love a good roast any day of the week.

So here I am, with a whole chicken. I took it out of the freezer Monday, with intent to cook it Tuesday. Tuesday morning comes along, I pull out my chicken, and it was pretty firm for a thawed chicken. I guess I should have gotten it out on Sunday. It was still awfully frosty. I knew I had to take the giblets out of the middle, but which end were they on??? The whole thing was frozen shut anyhow.

Henny Penny took a warm bath while I made a few calls to try and determine a course of action. 2 mothers later, I had enough information to continue. Lots of prying, wiggling, dunking in water, wretching noises, and hand-washing ensued and I finally got the bird in the cooker.

The good news is... we had delicious juicy chicken for dinner. My carnivores were happy. I was happy. The bad news... I'm too frugal to pitch what's left, so I have to spend today picking the carcass and making chicken stock.

I could be a vegetarian. I really could.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Fingers in the Dirt


(Can you tell I'm excited? Because I really really am!)

Spring has finally sprung here in the great white north of Wisconsin. The snow is melted and gone and little green things are finding their way through the dirt. And my fingers are finding their way into the dirt!

I spent yesterday raking out the flower beds in front of the house and raking along the edge of the fence. Ruby helped me load up the leaves in the wagon and take them to the compost pile. Then I started raking around the edge of the rock garden. But I couldn't finish that because the pile of wood chips we took to the garden last year was still spilling out into the yard. They had never gotten raked into the garden like we wanted. So Teagan raked them out over the garden. A few of the rocks on one side had gotten moved last year (to dump out the wood chips) and never got put back in place. Well, we started moving rocks, and pretty soon we had almost doubled the size of our little garden! It's amazing, but when we rearranged the rocks, we had enough for a much bigger circle! We raked up the piles of leaves from last year's raking (which were mostly decomposed) and put that in the new garden area. Then we spread out the wood chips over that. We will add some more something to the new area of the garden, but we've got a good start so far!

Today I went out to re-consider some lilies that grew around the edge of the garden. They were beautiful, sure, but I got tired of pulling lilies out of the eggplants. I dug up all I could, about 40 little lily shoots, plus as much of the root system as I could get. Those things are tenacious! We worked up a little dirt on the edge of the woods and threw them in there. I didn't go through a lot of trouble for them. From what I've heard they will grow anywhere. I lightly spread dirt over them and threw leaves on top. If they grow great, if not, oh well.

All in all, I am growing to love my yard & garden. I love going out there and digging around in the dirt. It's very satisfying.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

We Be Jammin'

Remember the strawberries I got last week? They became jam yesterday!

5 pints, and 4 half-pints, plus a bit more

In my quest to improve the nutrition of the food we eat, I chose not to use white sugar to make my jam. I used raw honey instead. I had tried to make peach jam with honey last fall, but it never jelled. I wanted to try again.

Tanna gave me some Pomona's Pectin that she had bought but never used. Pomona's is a different kind of pectin which can be used with low-sugar, no-sugar, honey, any sweetener or none at all! It's a great product for those of us who want to ditch the white sugar. This was my first time using it, and I was very pleased with my results! All of the jam jelled perfectly as it cooled.

Another great thing about Pomona's pectin over traditional pectins... you can double or triple the batch! I used 12 cups of mashed berries and 2 1/2 cups of honey to make my jam. And I did it all at one time.

It tastes wonderful on hot pancakes!

So, how does it taste? In a word: Fresh! Instead of being overly sweet, it tastes like fresh delicious strawberries. We ate it on our pancakes this morning and it was delicious! Without all that sugar, you could actually taste the pancakes, the butter, and the strawberries. The flavors swirled around each other, doing a little dance on my taste buds. Mmmm...

Bottom line: I will be using Pomona's again. It worked great. I plan on making more jam this year with honey or other alternative sweeteners. I have some Bing cherries in the freezer that would be delightful and Teagan has requested that I try raspberry jam this summer. We'll be jammin' again soon!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Our Easter

Happy Easter! He is Risen!

I hope you all had a wonderful time celebrating the Resurrection with your families. We were able to attend church on Sunday - everyone was mostly healthy- and then we spent the rest of the day with Teagan's parents & brothers and their families. It was a very nice day.

Here are a few pictures from the day...

All dressed up for church

My poor children had to pose for pictures outside in 32 degree temps with no coats and the early morning sun blazing into their eyeballs. Because I'm mean like that.

This is my favorite. The 3 older kids were all looking down at Hosanna telling her to stand still and look at Mommy...

While we were at Noni's, Hosanna got her first real haircut. Mostly to attempt to blend in Ruby's haircutting job. It kinda worked.
Would you believe I forgot to save a lock of her hair?? What kind of mom am I anyway?? Oh yeah, the busy distracted kind...

And in case you're wondering what happened to Hosanna's nose...

She fought the sidewalk. And the sidewalk won.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

My Presentation

I didn't talk much about it here, or anywhere really, but I gave a presentation yesterday. It was kind of a big deal. To me anyway.

Our parent's support group asked me to give a presentation on Jade's diet. We invited people from all over the area. I baked and bought food and researched. I'm a little obsessed with food (if you haven't noticed) so it was pretty fun for me.

Last night was the night. We had 17 people in attendance, not including me. 3 parents of kids with autism, and 14 therapists and staff from local schools. I talked for a little over an hour, covering the basics of how the diet works and talking a whole lot about food.

I baked peanut butter cookies, spice cake (with sprinkles!), strawberry-banana muffins, and brownies! I made a lot. There were leftovers....

Jade spent the whole weekend eyeing up my tote full of treats. I promised her that on Wednesday she could eat her treats. She's been snacking all day. Breakfast, lunch, and 2 snacks worth of treats so far....

I think I may have gotten a bit carried away with the food part of it. But I really wanted to give people a feel for what the diet is really about. Going into the natural foods aisle for the first time is daunting, and I wanted people to be armed with information. I also sent everyone home with a list of resources and some recipes.

It went very well. I was a little nervous going in, but this really is a topic I know well. Once I got going, it was all good. Those in attendance said they learned a lot, and I was able to encourage one mom to keep trying... the rewards are worth it. My whole intention was to inform and encourage, so mission accomplished.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Strep & Strawberries

Yesterday was interesting. I woke up with a familiar feeling...

A visit to the doctor confirmed my suspicions. I have strep throat again! For the third time this year! And Ruby has it too, for the second time. What in the world?! Craziness.

On our way home from the doctor, we picked up 16 lbs. of fresh strawberries. My fruit co-op friend called Sunday night with a great deal on berries. I didn't know I would have strep throat the next day, so I ordered 2 flats! They were really gorgeous, and a really super deal. But they needed to be done up right away. If I were to wait until after my presentation and do them on Wednesday, I would have had a lot more go south. As it was, I only had about 4 berries that I couldn't use.

Look at those beautiful berries!

I ended up just capping them and running them through the food processor. I put half of them in a big bowl in the refrigerator. They will become jam on Wednesday. The rest I measured in 1 cup increments and put in baggies to freeze. The plastic boxes that the berries came in worked perfectly to hold the baggies of puree. These will be perfect for smoothies, strawberry bread & muffins, and who knows what else!

I was super-duper excited about the strawberries, because I just last week used up the last of my berries from last year. I was expecting to wait until the end of June for good fresh strawberries, but the Lord blessed us with these right after we had run out. What a good God!

Friday, April 03, 2009

Popcorn for Breakfast

The kids & I had a new taste sensation for breakfast today.

Popcorn Cereal.

I popped up some popcorn, put it into bowls and poured milk on it, just like cereal. We topped it off with sucanat & cinnamon. It was SO tasty!! It tasted like Corn Pops, but not quite as sweet. I wonder if that's how Corn Pops started? Hmmm...

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised with how good this was. Cheap & easy. And more nutritious than any box of cereal (especially Corn Pops).

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Look Closely...

Something's different about Hosanna. I didn't notice at first. Look closely...

If you click on these you can get a closer look...

The second picture is pretty telling...

See that bare patch in the middle?

Unbeknowst to me, Hosanna got her first haircut. Courtesy of Ruby. And I didn't notice until the next day.

We met Noni in town and went to lunch. As we were waiting for our food, Noni looks at Hosanna and says, "She looks different. Did you cut her hair?" No, I say, it just looks different because it's laying down. After her bath last night it hasn't been sticking up anymore. No, she insists, the hair is shorter on top. I look again. Sure enough.

Suddenly, I have a flashback to Monday afternoon. I had picked up a pair of scissors from the kitchen table and put them in my pocket. I didn't know where they had come from. I figured Ruby got them out of Kordell's room.

I turn to look at Ruby. Ruby, I say, did you cut Hosanna's hair? Ah, the mischievous smile told all. She did indeed cut Hosanna's hair. Thankfully, she didn't cut it quite to the scalp. It's still a whole half inch long. Noni said to just leave it and we'll gradually blend it in as she gets haircuts.

No more fountains for awhile. I'm sure glad I took pictures of it while I had the chance.