Sunday, March 30, 2008

Becka


Small busy space constantly cosmically evolving
Tall lady who grows green things
Mother, teacher, lover, friend; not afraid

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Perfect Pizza

Pizza Friday comes along with a movie, and is the kids favorite day of the week. They all love being able to watch the pizza dough rise, and cook and then finally, put the toppings on and watch the cheese melt. Cyan loves to help with the dough, Alex grates the cheese, and Logan is just happy to be underfoot in the kitchen.

This week the pizza turned out particularly good... so I decided to take a picture.

Pizza Dough

Preheat oven to 400*

Put these ingredients in a bowl and mix:
1 1/4 cups flour
1 package dry yeast
1/4 tea salt

Then add:
1 cup of warm water (not hot, you'll kill the yeast)

Mix in a mixer with a bread hook on low until blended and then on high for 2 to 3 minutes.

Add another 1 1/2 cups of flour and continue to mix.

Roll out on a floured counter top or board and kneed for 6 - 8 minutes until firm but elastic. Put in an oiled bowl and turn over (so the oiled side is up). Let stand for 10 minutes. Roll out on counter top and turn onto cookie sheet. Press the edges until they are just slightly thicker than the middle. Cook in the oven for 10 - 12 minutes, until the sides are risen and slightly brown. Take out of the oven, and add sauce and toppings of your choice. Bake for 10 minutes again, take out and enjoy.
~~~~~~~~~~
Edited to add the measurements. Sorry about that!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Why yes, I am.

I am Elinor Dashwood!

Take the Quiz here!

One Day...

I have always said that one day I would have the perfect dog. I think I found the breed I was looking for. Today, in a very cool and amazing pet store called "Wild Things" up near Puyllup, I saw this dog:

She was a Jindo Gea dog, a Korean breed. She was so sweet, and fine with other animals (as this pet store had a duck, two mini chickens, and about 5 cats wondering freely about the store) and just the right size. About 40lbs full grown, this dog is between a small dog and a big dog. Perfect for me. No yippy bark, and no 200lbs of dog to shed all over the house. A good sized dog to have forever. Jindo Dog Rescue.

The only other dog I have ever thought to pay money for is a Rhodesian Ridgeback. Ridgeback Rescue.

But Don has a thing with dogs with long muzzles... he just can't get over how long the face of the Ridgeback is. So we never pursued it. Not that we will now, in a rental house, but I love fantasizing about having my own space, with chickens roaming freely over a portion of land that won't leave us walking in poo, and a dog that can play with the children (who, of course, because we have land, can throw a ball as far as they can without hitting our neighbor's house) along side my acre sized garden, complete with stone fence, like in old English films and a driveway lined with Poplar trees.

Awww... to dream.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Shepard's pie

It is a thrown together, easy sort of dish. Not one I make often, but it is at least whole foods, and yummy on a cold winter night (or a spring night when it snows like the last two days).

Shepard's Pie

1 lb ground meat (turkey or hamburger work best)
1/2 an onion diced
6 cloves of garlic minced
1 cup water
2 Tbs flour
1 bullion cube (beef)

~~~
2 cups frozen corn
3 carrots diced

~~~
2 lbs potatoes
(baby red or russet work best, but I have even seen this dish done with yams and it works)
1/2 cup sour cream
2 Tbs butter
milk to thin
salt and pepper to taste

~~~
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Peal and chop potatoes, and place in a pot for boiling until soft enough to mash. Mash potatoes and add sour cream, butter, and milk to get a good consistency. Salt and pepper them to taste. Set aside.

Brown meat, and toss in onion and garlic once the meat is browning. In a small measuring cup, mix water, flour and bullion. When onions start to clear add in the flour water mixture.

If you want this dish to cook really fast, warm up the corn and carrots in a sauce pan or microwave until corn is hot and carrots are tender. Then layer the meat on bottom, carrots and corn in the center and the potatoes on top. Top with the cheese and put in a 400* oven for 25 minutes. The cheese should be nice and bubbly and the meat mixture should have a nice creamy consistency (which will bubble as well).

Serve with crusty bread and a big Cesar salad.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Country Capitan Chicken

This is a recipe that we loved from Kitchen Muse. It is a southern flare dish, with a bit of curry in it that brings out the flavor of everything. It is very nice over brown rice, or couscous. I always side it with a green salad, but you can honestly side it with any veggie dish, or make it a one pot meal by adding in 1 1/2 cups of couscous right into the pot! (We have done this too... it was a hit, but Don likes to pour his sauce over his starch).

Country Capitan Chicken
(with happy Val modifications)

4 Tbs butter
1/2 diced onion
1 diced carrot
1 diced bell pepper (color doesn't matter, but green works best)
6 cloves garlic (minced)

~~~~
3 lbs chicken peices (I like theighs)
2 Tbs olive oil
1/2 c flour
salt and pepper to taste

~~~~
2 cups diced tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
3 tea curry powder
1/4 c slivered almonds
1/4 cup golden raisins

Melt butter in a large skillet. The skillet should be large ebough to cook the chicken in one layer. Add the onion, carrot, pepper, and garlic and cook until tender. Transfer to a bowl.

Mix flour and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Roll chicken peices in the flour mixture. Put oil into the skillet you just pulled the veggies from, and add the chicken, in one layer, turning until well brown on both sides.

Add veggies back in, along with tomatoes, stock and curry, mixing well. Stir in raisins and almonds. Simmer for about 10 minutes or until all chicken is cook through well.

Serve over couscous or brown rice.

It is very good!

Notice the new bowl plates. :) I love them. I am trying to get a eclectic set, but this set will be my salad plate/bowls, and my cereal bowls. The plates will come from somewhere else, and I don't need mugs (just ask my husband). I have been waiting for new dishes for about two years, and have been sitting on the money to get them for two months. I was ready for the perfect set to fall in my lap. And they did... while I was looking for Easter basket stuff for the kids.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

March 22nd to March 29th

We spent the morning at an Easter egg hunt at Lattin's. (Did I mention we have been there a ton lately? The baby goats are OH so cute, and now they have bunnies, and chicks... it is just getting cuter!)

There was face painting, a rubber ducky race, the egg hunt, carnival food, and a live Easter bunny. It was so cute! And so crazy full! There were people packed in that place, every inch of the farm was covered with people. The Easter egg hunt was nuts! They had 4 different sections split by age... and three of them were for 6 and under. So you can imagine how crazy the 7 'and over' section was (in their credit, it was also the biggest). Cyan was in the 5 - 6 yr old section, and that was crazy enough for me.

Poor sweet Alex is sick. He doesn't have any symptoms except a fever. A fever that he has had for three days now. His eyes are starting to glaze over... poor sweet guy.

Easter brunch is at my house this year. I really enjoy doing Easter morning becuase I like the egg hunt. :) My backyard is always speckled with eggs, scattered in the back yard with the fresh new grass... like colorful flowers. I have been cooping the poor chickens for the last week because I didn't want a ton of poo in the yard. They are not too thrilled with this.

Easter Brunch Menu

Crepes with berry topping

Strawberry Salad

Scrambled Eggs

Bacon

Coffee (french press... yum!)

Pastries (from Dad)

Juice (from Dad)

Below is a picture of the Lattin's big kids (7 and over) section. This is a small bit of it. Isn't it beautiful?

I have also been working really hard on making menus and sticking to them. For the last month I have been part of Kitchen Muse menu planner. But it just doesn't work out for our family. The food is seasonal, and most of it is really good, but many things (like asparagus pasta stir fry and baked lemon salmon) are things we just don't eat. So I have made a list of things we eat regularly, and I have picked 5 for each week. We always have pizza and a movie on Friday night... sometimes it is bought pizza but most of the time, we make it ourselves. So that covers 6 days a week... the other can be eating out (like this week we have a birthday dinner to go to at the place with the rat), or we have left overs.

Dinner Menu for this week


Easter: Country Captain Chicken with couscous

Pintos and Rice

Shepherds Pie and Salad with our baking from that day

Stir Fry and Jasmine Rice

Kale linguine with sough dough loaf

Friday night homemade pizza and a movie

I will be posting recipes as I go, and hopfully I will be able to keep up the manu thing for a while.

Check out my new blogs on the side. I set up a couple new ones lately, one for nutrition (which I posted about two weeks ago) and one for our homeschool process. I am really enjoying being able to share the things about homeschool that I hadn't before.
Take care all and HAPPY SPRING to everyone!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Oh Glorious Spring!

Spring is here! Finally! I have never felt the releif in seeing birds come back, or tulips pop up as I have this spring... it was a very long winter.
Already today I have seen a falcon on our fence, and a humming bird trying to feed from the empty feeders. I need to refill the feeders. Not sure what to put out to attract falcons though.
I am letting out a huge sigh of relief that spring is finally here!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Homeschool Blogs

Because what I needed was MORE to do. LOL... but I have to admit to really being inspired with the new homeschool blogs I have been keeping my eye on (if you want to see them, they are listed to the right under "homeschool"). One blog with great ideas, leads to another blog with great ideas, that leads to a blog with ideas that I absolutly HAVE to have in my school week... and well... you get the idea.

One of the best ideas I have found so far is the Green Hour Challange, which we will be adding to our Ecojournal days. This was found by going to Mom Is Teaching, which by herself, she has worlds full of great ideas and stories, and most of all, information.

Currently, our homeschool schedule is starting to be a bit full. Next year, with Alex home as well, will be even more full. And trying to find ways to implement studies that fit both children will be a challange... but one I am looking forward to.

The types of studies that Cyan and I are doing now, especially the nature studies, will be easy to add Alex into. And he also needs a refresher in things like phonics and spelling, but that is about where the similarities of the two grades will end.

I will have my work cut out for me... but I think it will be wonderful.

And why is it that creative videos make me think homeschoolers? It feels like there can't be that much creativity an institution. Just for a whole lot of fun, here are two perfect examples:


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Latin's Cider Mill

Spring never ceases to amaze me.

We go to Latin's about once a month, at least. In the case of this spring, we have been nearly every week, watching all the babies grow. It is so amazing to watch the baby goats that were just born, then the next week, they will be jumping all over the place in the big pen. And in that same amt of time, the baby chicks will be getting their big feathers, looking like they have been plucked alive, and all of a sudden they are in the laying pen with the other hens, producing eggs.

We have been going there for about 5 years now... watching the babies each spring, and the harvest each fall. This is where I got my eggs before I had chickens, and we always buy their cider... it is the best around.

But of course, the main attraction this time of year, is the babies.

Logan's first time on the ride. Alex even paid for him to go on it (mom was fresh out of quarters). The look on Logan's face was precious, but not as sweet as the proud big brother look on Alex's.

Alex took this picture as we went inside for some hot cider and doughnuts. I brought home enough to share. At only $3.50 a dozen for fresh made doughnut goodness... well, I dont' think I had a choice. ;)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands


Ok, so this book, right from the get go, is information from a radio talk show hosted by Dr Laura. If you have never heard Dr Laura here is where to find her:

about half way down this page she has a streamed set of radio stations that play her show.

Anyhoo... it was filled with good information, and tons of insults to women who had crossed the line a bit too much in a perhaps otherwise 'healthy' relationship... but the message is clear. Women need to be nice to men, just like men are required to be nice to women. It is funny how in our society, a bitchy woman can be "strong" but a bitchy man is "weak" and a mean man is an "asshole". Women get a lot more room in this category lately and she addresses that very clearly in this book. She also addresses the issues of being over worked, trying to do it all, and how that can effect your marriage.

The message I got over and over is that as a married couple you have to be a team, be a pair, and have a good set of communication and intimacy habits laid down. Then you have a good chance of being happy. I think she is probably right in a brutally honest, strait forward, I-wouldn't-have-put-it-that-way kind of way.

The Alternative Kitchen Garden

When it rains here, all gardening stops. Espically in March. We are coming up to the Ides Of March and I am usually planting peas by about now. For the last 4 days however the weather has turned to rain... which of course, is common, so the act of planting peas on the Ides Of March is usually more of a 'goal' than an act. In these times of rain, I usually research the new things I want to do with the garden on whatever given year I am in. This year, it is all about production. I would REALLY like to produce as many of my own canning tomatoes, freezing snow peas, and freezing green beans for the winter as I am able. There are other things I could grow, but I have resources that I get many of our other winter veggies from, and I still want to support them (plus, it is just impossible for me to raise 30# of blueberries this year. lol...). So those three things are my goal.

I thought that the raised beds would work, and two of them will, the other two areas where I wanted to put them, I would loose more space than I would gain in soil retention, so I am going to top dress the soil with some mushroom compost and some green matter, mix it all in and call it good.

As I was researching chicken poo as garden fertilizer I came across this lady. Emma Cooper is her name and she has a bunch of sites that work of the basic premise as I do... Sustainable living as much as you can, no matter where you are.

So she has a blog for her backyard chickens, and she has a blog for "armchair gardening" which I think is really cute, and then she has this podcast which I just started listening too;

The Alternative Kitchen Garden

I am not a postcast listener... but this one may hook me in. :)
Happy gardening everyone... even if it is only research.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

I loved reading this book. Basically a fundamental story of one families story of local living. Kingsolver's plucky humor and realism was wonderful. She and her family had a go-getter attitude that I believe fueled many of their well planned dreams come reality. Again, it took years worth of planning to create this dream of local living. But she says many times, it is the small things that count. The asking questions that no one else asks, doing tasks like making your own cheese, and selling your extra eggs to neighbors... the caring about things that others dare not care about. And in the end, she writes about a very satisfying life, with no level of deprivation, on a mostly local diet. And in the process, she becomes part of a tight knit community as well.

It was a wonderfully inspiring read, and, aside from the intimate interludes into turkey sex, it had wonderfully digestible and easily do-able information.
Reviews, recipes, and many more joyous pictures can be found at their website:

Books on families or individuals going local are popping up for all over the globe and I hope they continue. It is wonderful to be able to read all of these books and glean what I can pull into my own personal life. Setting goals for a more local existence and getting off 'the oil' is a huge part of the environmentalist movement now-a-days and being able to take a bit from Pollan, a bit from Kingsolver, a bit from Cockburn, and a bit from Fine... well, I have a working plan in my head that evolves each time I crack a page in one of these library borrowed legacies into local living.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

My whole family is in love with pumpkin bread. This is a great recipe, being a bit more dense, and a bit less sweet than most, so the mini simi sweet chips really stand out and give it an amazing flavor. The recipe came about when I had less of some ingredients than I needed for a pumpkin cupcake recipe and went ahead anyway. I am so very glad I did.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

"wet"
1 cup pumpkin puree (or cooked pumpkin mashed with a fork)
1/2 c vegetable oil
2 eggs
1/4 c water
1 c sugar (raw works fine)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp all spice

"dry"
1 c all-purpose flour
1 c spelt flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Mix 'wet' list together in a large mixing bowl. Beat together until well blended and smooth.

Mix dry together by sifting into another bowl, stir and then add to wet mixture. When well blended, mix in 1/2 c of mini simisweet chocolate chips.

Add batter to a well oiled baking dish (or 24 muffin tins with paper cups), and place in a 375* oven for 45 - 60 minutes.

As with all quick breads, these are done when tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool at least half way before you dig in.... I have gotten a couple burns that way.

I wish I had a picture of Logan tonight... covered in pumpkin bread and chocolate smudges here and there, standing next to the counter with his little hand reaching for the bread oh-so-cutely.

Sigh... the pictures that are only in my mind.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Life is budding everywhere... beware lots of pictures.

One of the wonderful things of homeschooling, is that you have the time to research things, much more indepth than you would if you had 35 kids to follow. With only the three (and technically only two because Logan is just along for the ride at this point) I don't just have time to talk to them about owl babies. I have the time to take them to Nisqually Valley Refuge and watch the fledgling Great Horned owls, sitting in the trees,

watched closely by their mama, jumping from branch to branch, stretching their wings. All from only a few hundred feet away. (This is one of those moments when I REALLY want a better camera.) Here was some of what we read as prep for this trip.

After we had watched the owls for a while, (it took that long for some of us to see them. Camoflage is an amazing thing.) we walked around the refuge and saw the rest of what the wetland forest world has to offer during this time of rebirth.

You could see the life budding everywhere. From the bracken ferns on the trunks of all the trees,

to the musrat, building her nesting home, to the ducks;

A mating pair of Malards.

Some other kind of duck. I think it is a variety of wood duck.

After a while, we wandered on from the wooded wetland area to the more open wetlands. There is a look out, about 500 yards away from where the owls are, looking over the whole wetlands. We saw thousands of geese, a handful of ducks, and a beautiful red tailed hawk. He was SO close to me, soaring under the platform I was on, but I missed him with my camera until he was farther away. It was one of those breathtaking moments, where you are almost not sorry you missed it on camera, because there is no way film would catch how stunning it was to be standing right next to a soaring raptor. It was amazing!

Yet another wonderful homeschooling moment. No matter what days off my husband is given, we are always ready to go on an outing with him. We can always "do school" on the days when he is not home. That makes our weeks flow by so much nicer than when we had one set of days, and he had another. We have a lot more family together time.

Poor Cyan. Soon after we left the hawk, got a lesson in 'why we stay on the path'. She stumbled off the pathway, and landed with her left hand in stinging nettles. This tragedy (becuase they REALLY hurt for a while) along with the fact that it was the coldest day we had had in weeks, sent us home a bit ahead of schedule.

We were on the way back to the car, dh, Cyan, and Logan up ahead, and Alex and I laging behind. And out of the corner of my eye I saw this:

A Great Blue Heron, about 25 ft away from the path. She (I honestly don't know the gender, but...) was watching us pass. Barely moving, just watching intently, ready to move if we got too close, but obviously used to humans in close quarters. If not trusting, and still very wild.

And oh so beautiful!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

What's better than a hayride?

A hayride with a chicken of course! LMAO!


Logan was having so much fun he didn't know what to do with himself. Cyan has been giving him a daily 'hayride' for about four days now... she loves it, and Logan loves it... but like all farm kids, they have to add something into the game that involves their critters. I guess it was the chickens turn.

Poor Lilly. I didn't think she would stand for it for long. But she put up with their carting her about the yard in this kid made hayride for about 8 minutes before she decided the was done. She was such a sport!

"It is ok to 'love' your pets, just not to love your pets"

Here is Logan, giving the chicken some 'love' and kisses.

Here is Lilly, just before she flew the coop, as it were.

You can see her little mind is working "Ok, how do I get out of this without them coming back and putting me back with this creature here?"

Contrary to what it looks like, she wasn't tied down. lol... Those were the "reins" that Cyan made Logan. They are just on Lilly's back. Did not stop her from getting away at all when she wanted to. I still am amazed at how much they put up with from Cyan. But heck... she feeds them... so when she goes outside, they come running to be with her.

My favorite mug

I haven't decided if it is bad or not... but I am drinking coffee. Just one cup a day... nothing serious. But enough where I won't go to the espresso stand anymore because I am doing it too often to justify the huge expense per cup. My mom has been here for a month now, and she drinks coffee... maybe that is it. lol... but it has been ok for my stomach so far this time. Maybe it will end next month when mom isn't here to tempt me each morning with the wonderful smell and sound of french pressed morning goodness... maybe I will become a coffee drinker. Who knows?

This is my favorite mug. It is good and heavy, and holds about 18oz. For me, this is perfect. A little hazelnut soy creamer... and we are set for the morning.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Pumpkin Custard

Pumpkin Custard

2 cups of cooked, cooled pumpkin (cheese, or pie pumpkin work best)
3 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs brown sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 eggs plus 2 egg yolks
2 tea vanilla
1 tea cinnamon
1/2 tea nutmeg

Beat eggs, yolks, and sugar with a whisk until mixed well. Add pumpkin and heavy cream and transfer to blender. Blend until very smooth. Add the other ingredients and blend for a moment to mix well. Transfer to small ramkins, and place them in a 9X13 baking dish. Fill the dish with hot water about halfway up the outside of the raminkins and bake for 45 minutes in a 350* oven. Cool completely before serving. Top with whipping cream dashed with nutmeg.

This recipe has been modified from the original becuase that one lacked sweetness. So I added another Tbs of each of the sugars, but you could easily leave that out if you want less dessert, more breakfast fare.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

So our address says the city...

But we live a country life. It's messy, productive, lived outside half the year, and there is constantly either hay or dirt in our shoes.

This is our list of events for the last two days:

The care and feeding of chickens:


Removed a stump out of our produce garden with my mom:

A hay ride (child powered of course):



I even went to a sewing convention. lol...

So who says you can't have a country life in the city?

One down!

It may sound silly, but I am super excited. Our Best Buy card is gone!
Look out, Discover... we are on a roll now.

Sustainable Living For Dummies


Lots of good information, too much for me to finish actually, but I got some wonderful ideas about how to build cloches and a few other great gardening tips, and over and over again it had off articles and tables and stats about how the world is changing and what we can do to help.

It is based in Australia (at least the one I got was) and I would love to see an American version of this, as it would be a much bigger help to me with all the resources lists and graphic tables. But it was easy to see that this type of book is going to help a lot of people get on a more sustainable path. It would have been great to have when I started this journey. I am no where near the where I want to be on a sustainable living path, but I had found most of the information in this book somewhere else first.